“Our Inclusive Church”
Today is our 57th anniversary. Wow. That’s what Sally and I say when we think about this. Wow. It has been a great and wonderful journey together. We were married for about six years before we decided to have children. Before we took that big step, I called my older sister, Annette. She has always been a mentor for me. She is a person I turn to. I wanted to tell her that we were planning to have children. I also wanted to see what advice she could give me. So it was natural for me to turn to her. I said: “What do I need to know about becoming a parent?” She said: “Once you have kids, you can’t give them back.” Once you are a parent, you are always a parent for the rest of your life. It is a life sentence, or a life-time of opportunity, or sometimes a little of both. But once you have children, you may give them up for adoption, or you may adopt children. Annette adopted a daughter. Sally and I adopted a son.
We adopted Alex soon after he was born, but the social worker had a broken foot and so the paperwork was delayed and we didn’t get him until he was three months old. Then we went to court to finalize the adoption. The judge asked: “Where is your attorney?” We said: “Do we need one?” It was a pretty straight forward adoption. Nothing was contested or complicated. The judge said: “You need one because I say you do.” We walked out into the hallway outside the courtroom and announced to whoever was there: “The judge says we need an attorney. Is there an attorney here?” Peter Deschler happened to be sitting in the hallway and he said, “I’m an attorney. I’ll do it for free.” We said, “Great and went back into the courtroom and completed the adoption.”
Today we have three children and thirteen grandchildren. One-third of our family is bi-racial, which means Black in this country. In our immediate family we are citizens of Turkey, France, Canada, and the United States. We are Christian, Muslim, and None in terms of organized religion. And we are straight and trans. When I think about this constellation of people, I think first of all that I never imagined this when I called my sister over fifty years ago to ask if she had any advice to share. This is not like the family either Sally or I knew as children. My folks could not have imagined this family. But we are not unique. Inter-racial, inter-faith, international, LGBTQAI+ families are not common, but ours is not unique. Maybe you don’t always get the whole package all at once, but some combination of us is not unusual either.
There are a couple of places in the Bible where we are told that “a child will lead us.” That has been our experience. Indigenous wisdom teaches that even as we embody the traditions of the past, we are borrowing the present from future generations. The Pride Flag is one of the symbols that brings together the past, the present, and the future.
Gilbert Baker is the person given credit for creating this flag. He says that he was in the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was a swirl of colors and people and smells and sounds, and the people were free to be you and me–remember that song by Marlo Thomas. There was something about that moment that brought people together to create a new heaven and a new earth–refusing to let the world shame them or silence them. The colors of the flag visually proclaim what the 139th Psalm says in words: “I praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The colors of the flag speak to the fullness of life. Pink is a celebration of our sexuality. It is the antithesis of the infamous Senate Bill 180, which tries to define gender by legislative decree. Red is the color of fire and blood and energy flowing from the heart. In the book, Colors of Hope, published by Chalice Press. I want to put in a plug for Chalice Press. It is the DOC publishing house and one that is not afraid to take a stand on controversial issues. We should take pride in knowing we have a partner like Chalice Press advocating for us. In Colors of Hope, there is a chapter on the color “red.” Nadia Tevera writes in this chapter that being in community is key to our ability to dismantle oppressive systems and move from a state of oppression to a state of liberation. The community does not have to be the church–and not every church will help everyone make this move. But being in a community moving in the same direction you are makes a difference.
Orange is the third color. Writing in Colors of Hope, Andrew Deeb says that “Orange is the color of healing.” Healing is about salvation and wholeness and health that lets us declare love in the face of apathy and keep moving forward. Andrew is trans. When he writes about the color Orange he says: “Take heart. Remember God does not cause suffering for the sake of healing it nor for character development. God does not allow injustice, but grieves with us as we work for justice. God does not test us to see if our love is real.” In all things, God is with us.
Now I am only into the color Orange. There is Yellow for warmth and acceptance, and Green to speak to us about the web of creation, and like the sky, a color of hope.
Brown and black have been added to represent People of Color. The flag is about creating a place with space where everyone is welcome.
Let me close with a benediction from Colors of Hope that talks about this welcoming space:
Hope in color,
Called by name, our rainbow selves are celebrated
Child of God
This is who I am
This is who we are.
Called to name everybody,
To embrace everybody
To affirm everybody
Everybody fearfully and wonderfully made
Of the colors of hope.
We are sent out to transform narratives of injustice
And write the next chapter of liberation
Wave the flags, paint your faces, paint the world
Dance, sing, raise a glass, join in parades and protests
Proclaiming (rarely with words) this is who we are!