I was recently talking to a friend about summer plans, now that June is upon us. He asked if my church would be marching in the Capital Pride Parade. I said, "Yes, and we'll have a booth at the Pride Festival the next day. What about you? What are your plans?" "Oh," he said, "I don't know. I'm really over the whole 'pride thing.' I'll probably just stay home."
June has become a month of pride and celebration for LGBT people and for our allies, families, and friends. Across the country and around the globe, there will be celebrations. While I respect my friend's choice to avoid crowds and follow his own way, I'm definitely not "over the 'pride thing.'" As much as ever, I think there needs to be a parade, and especially as a gay Christian, I need to be a part of it.
I'll be at the parade because I feel safe there. This weekend, there is safety in numbers. Even though I write from a point of extraordinary privilege -- I'm able to serve as an openly gay priest in a friendly diocese, I'm in a relationship that is recognized by the District of Columbia as a legal marriage, and I serve a supportive congregation and enjoy a loving family -- I also know that I live in a bubble. Most of the churches in our country would not allow an openly gay person to be their leader and many people of faith would probably have me stoned or worse. In over half the states of our country, one can be fired from any job simply for being gay or transgender. In some 76 countries around the globe, homosexuality is still illegal. I can preach a Gospel of welcome and salvation all I want, but the reality is that I have enemies. Though I pray for them, it is nice to have a day or two in June when I can let down my guard and breathe freely.
I'll be at Capital Pride events also because I experience real diversity there -- diversity like nowhere else. There will be people of many colors, ethnicities, cultures, opinions, educational levels, languages, and sexualities. The wealthy, powerful, and educated will not always be in charge. I'll be challenged by some of what I see and hear. I won't understand some things and I won't like or approve of everything. But I'll learn and engage, as I ask God to help me grow with open eyes and an open heart.
Finally, I'll be at Capital Pride because I'm compelled to try to convey the love of Christ to the world -- especially to a segment of the world that has so often been derided, misunderstood, mischaracterized, legislated against, prohibited, controlled, abused, feared, and cheated of the liberating love of Jesus Christ. Though I cannot adequately apologize for the sloppy theology and biblical illiteracy inflicted on so many LGBT people, I can stand with others of faith and try to convey the experience and grace that God loves us more than we can possibly imagine.
The scripture lessons appointed for this Sunday have to do with healing and raising up (Elijah heals a child and Jesus raises up a young man thought to be dead). At Capital Pride, I'll be praying that God will continue to raise up, to encourage and empower, to lift up the lowly, fill the hungry with good things, and come to the help of all those who yearn for the fullness of love.