Kenny Pierce

Kenny-Vancouver (1)

“My Great Hunger”

Text: “About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.” — Acts 10:9-16

Excerpt: “On the first night of detox, between tremors and vomiting as I tossed and turned in a bed of my own fevered sweat, I could have sworn that I heard a familiar voice within me once more. I chalked it up to the hallucinations of withdrawal, but its cadence is as clear to me now as it was eighteen years ago: You have never been alone. You were never unclean. And you were never meant to be hungry. I am still here. Now kill and eat, Kenny.”

Kenny Pierce, a native of Southern California, came out in 1985 as the AIDS epidemic raged around him in the Greater Los Angeles area and later during his years spent living in San Francisco. He is passionate about God and about the needs of the changing Church. He is dedicated to building bridges to the survivors and their families and friends, alienated and disillusioned by the Church’s betrayal and silence during the “gay genocide” in those earliest years of HIV/AIDS in America. Pierce lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter (@KennyRayPierce) and on his blog, Tangentials.

Kenny Pierce also contributed “A Remembrance in Two Parts: The Man on the Van Ness Bus and Lazarus.”

Todd McGraw

Todd McGraw

“Prince Charming”

Text: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. — I Corinthians 13:4-7

Excerpt: “I understood that love always protects the truth—that I am attracted to gay men who have had the courage to be their wholehearted selves. Love always trusts in the God who made me not in humankind which wants me to be someone else.”

Todd McGraw grew up in rural West Virginia where his spiritual life was basically nonexistent. His family attended church because, like many other families in his community, they knew that to keep up with the Jones, they had to pray with the Jones. They attended church, but for him God and faith seemed distant and bleak. He was a young, gay male struggling to reconcile a religious teaching that shunned homosexuals with the reality that, in spite of all the bravado and gentility, he was gay and could do nothing to change it. He attended the University of Georgia on a swimming scholarship. After college, he accepted a lucrative corporate job in Atlanta. At twenty-three, God became the epicenter of his life. He left the corporate job to attend Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. A youth pastor at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, McGraw lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Tyler Heston

Tyler Heston

“The Outskirts of Sodom”

Text: “But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. —Genesis 19:26”

Excerpt: “Queer Christians are exhausted from defending themselves against the story of Sodom’s usual clobber interpretations. Having once been lost in the outskirts of Sodom, I am grateful for the ways in which I now live honestly with myself, even though I sometimes do look back at past comforts and familiarities sacrificed in my coming out.”

Tyler Heston is a second-year Master of Divinity student at Brite Divinity School and serves as the Assistant Minister for Middle School at University Christian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated with a degree in Religion in Society and a certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Memphis. Raised in a non-denominational evangelical church in suburban Memphis, Tennessee, Tyler joined Kingsway Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) after coming out as gay while he was in college and now serves as a council member for the GLAD Alliance, which works toward “transforming the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) into a just and inclusive church that welcomes persons of all gender expressions and sexual identities into the full life and leadership of the church.” Aside from school and ministry, he enjoys a variety of things, such as Sufjan Stevens’s music, The X-Files, traveling, and eating sushi with friends.

Ray Jordan

Clergy Photo

“Falling in Love”

Texts

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” — 1 John 4:7-8

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” —Revelation 22:13

Excerpt: “We didn’t see each other enough to have an extensive sexual relationship, but I sure loved him. I genuinely, honestly, sincerely, passionately, unselfishly ‘1 Corinthians 13’ loved him. I was liberated at the very thought! One could almost hear the shackles of shame and guilt fall from my mind and heart.”
What Ray had to say about Rainbow in the Word:

I am beyond honored to be a part of this groundbreaking work. Many know that the Bible has been used as a tool of violence against the LGBT community. This book, however, flips that narrative on its head to present examples in which the sacred text has liberated queer folks. I am one of those examples and I am honored that my story can be read within its pages. Whether you’re gay or straight, male or female or somewhere in between either, this volume can set free any Christian seeking more love in this world.

Ray Jordan currently serves as the Interim Senior Pastor of Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Dallas, Texas, after serving as Central’s associate pastor. He has also worked in the public and private sectors as a public school teacher, university professor, non-profit administrator, corporate trainer, and consultant. Although originally from Oakland, California, Jordan was raised by his grandmother on a farm in rural Arkansas, where he often traversed the intersectionality of his race (African American), class (poor), and sexuality (gay). He holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Education, a Master of Arts in Teaching, a Master of Theological Studies from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, and is completing his PhD (ABD) from Union Institute and University. In addition to pastoring, Jordan serves on the board of directors of the South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ, teaches classes in Interdisciplinary Studies and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, teaches classes in Political Science at Southern Methodist University, and spends time with his three children—Trey, Alley, and Joshua Caleb.

Purchase Rainbow in the Word
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Jeff Hood

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“Queering the Fall”

Jeff Hood holds a Master of Arts, a Master of Science, a Master of Divinity, a Master of Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry. He is an activist theologian and author of fifteen books and numerous articles. In 2013, Hood was awarded PFLAG Fort Worth’s Equality Award for activism and service. In 2016, Hood’s book, The Courage to Be Queer, was named the third best religion book of the year at the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Through consistent media appearances, Hood has been able to share the message of queerness with a broad audience. He lives in Denton, Texas.

Purchase Rainbow in the Word here.

What is Q?

imgresThis article originally appeared in the Faith Forward section of Patheos.com, March 25, 2015.
Several times over the past few weeks, people have asked me, “What does the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ stand for?” One of them, oddly enough, segued into asking, “What is the ‘Q’ source in biblical studies?” I am by no means an expert, but this is how I understand things.

The answer to each question is roughly, “it stands for that which is unknown, indeterminate, or hypothetical”.

The ‘Q’ in LGBTQ stands for either “questioning” or “queer”. Or both. And, according to some people, “queer” is more or less the opposite of “questioning”.

“Questioning” addresses what is unknown. It applies to people who are uncertain as to their sexual orientation or gender, as well as sexual and gender identity.  Sexual orientation has to do with sexual attraction. Many people, including but by no means limited to adolescents, may not have concluded who they are sexually attracted to. They don’t know whether they are straight, lesbian, gay, or bi-sexual.

The term also may apply to those who have questions about their gender.  Western societies break down gender into two categories: male and female. Some wonder whether they fit into either of these categories. Some feel these gender definitions don’t reflect who they are. Hence, the “T” for transgendered in LGBTQ. Others, for example, may feel they are “third gendered” — both male and female at once but not in an inter-sex way. Others may indeed be inter-sex, having gender characteristics of both male and female.

Identity has to do with which group a person identifies. It is possible, for example, to present as female, but identify as male. Those who both present unambiguously to others as either male or female and also identify unambiguously the same way they present are sometimes referred to as being “cisgendered”.

Questioning can address the need many people have for an answer. Typically, someone who is questioning wants, often desperately, to find an answer.

The word “queer” carries the opposite meaning. It addresses that which is indeterminate. Annamarie Jagose has written a helpful little book called simply, Queer Theory. In it she says that one of the purposes of “queer” is to establish the elasticity of gender. Queer is, she says, “less an identity than a critique of identity.”

What I think she means by this is that she sees gender as a construct in much the same way that race is a construct. In other words, “queer” suggests a couple of things. One is that the categories we use to identify ourselves and others is something of a trap. Gender categories can be confining. They can tend to hedge in personality rather than release it.

Another way to think of the “queer” approach to gender and sexual identity is to raise these questions: Where does straight stop and bi-sexual begin? Where does bi-sexual stop and lesbian begin? Where does male stop and female begin?

Steve McCurry,  National Geographic

Steve McCurry,
National Geographic

This is the same issue being raised in race studies. Where does white end and black begin? Is the medium skin toned girl with green eyes shown in this iconic photograph white or black? Technically, according to race constructions, because she is Afghan, she is Caucasian or white. But in the deep South where I grew up, she would not have been considered white. The question being raised in race studies is, “how helpful are these categories? Do they reflect reality? Are they artificial constructions? Why were they constructed? Who decided? Who benefits?

“Queer” suggests the same kind of concern. Gender and sexual categories, some believe, are constructions which are artificial and don’t reflect reality. Like the concept of race, it can set up winners and losers.

Ostensibly, “Q” in biblical studies has nothing to do with sexual orientation, gender, or identity. Ostensibly.

“Q” is short for the German word “Quelle” meaning “source”. It is the label given to the hypothetical source, the Q source, for Jesus’s sayings found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels. There is the presumption, widely held by current biblical scholars, that there was a written source which contained the sayings of Jesus. And prior to the written source, that there was an oral tradition of his sayings. The idea is that both Matthew and Luke had access to the Q source and used it in formulating their gospels.

The Q source calls into question the determinacy, the ability to know once and for all, the origins of Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels. Yet, the Bible as a whole, as well as our readings and deconstructions of it, necessarily have an aspect of indeterminacy about them. We can speculate about the Bible’s authors’ and redactors’ intentions, for example, but we will seldom be able to reach uncontested answers. By the same token, there is an enormous gulf between ancient cultures and 21st century cultures, between biblical writers’s intentions and our post-modern responses to what they wrote, and between God and our ability to comprehend God.

My purpose in throwing the Q source into this essay on “questioning” and “queer,” the Q in LGBTQ, is this: the Bible is being invoked in efforts to silence, marginalize, bully, and discriminate against LGBTQ persons. In my opinion, we would do well to show a little humility when using the Bible to satisfy our fears and prejudices. We would do well to respect our own inability to know once and for all whom God would have us love.