Monthly Archives: February 2014

Coming Out as Inclusive.

It would seem that a post about this would be completely unnecessary in the pluralistic world of the Army Chaplain Corps. It would seem that the directive to perform one’s own faith and provide for all the others would make such a statement redundant.

Only it’s not.

Somehow, this needs be said.

So, I am going to say it: I am a chaplain for ALL my Soldiers. All of them. The gay ones. The straight ones. The fat ones. The skinny ones. The conservative ones. The liberal ones. The religious ones. The non religious ones. The connected to church and the far away. The reason driven and the faith-based. The agnostic and the Christian. The pagan, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the whatever-you-happen-to-believe right now. Everyone I can think to mention and everyone else.

All means all.

This last summer, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) voted to call all Disciples Congregations to be a welcoming people of grace to ALL God’s children. All is given as “race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective.” Seems patently obvious but then, if we were all doing this already, such a statement would be unnecessary. This is my answer to that call.

A call given by my church but heard by me as a call from God.

I’ve been ministering in this way for well over two years now. I thought it sufficient to just ignore it and not really say anything. I thought it best to let people believe what they wanted about my ministry and be pleasantly surprised when they found out that I didn’t judge them (this is after they got the courage to come into the office for counseling). Over and over I heard my Soldiers, inmates, and family members vocalize that they didn’t expect me to be understanding. They would say something like, “frankly, I was worried about coming but you are different from other chaplains…” Still, I didn’t want to “put it all out there.”

“After all,” I reasoned, “if I make it too well known, I’ll just be labeled as the one who is “ok with the gays” and it’ll be all anyone thinks about when my name comes up. It’s just not that big a deal to me. I minister to everyone but surely, that’s a given.

Here’s the thing: I’ve met those with HIV because there was no safe place to identify as gay so they went to where they could and it was not safe. I have met those who ran from the church only to come to the Army for a sense of community and get rejected yet again. I’ve cried with those who finally say the words out loud, “I’m gay and I can’t tell anyone.” I’ve heard the stories about walking past the Chapel and in isolation, thinking about suicide but thinking there was no one inside who would help them.

It is not enough to just minister by word of mouth.

In a world where state legislators are literally passing laws that would allow them to refuse service to my fellow Soldiers (and everyone else) simply because of their orientation – it is not enough to be silent.

As a chaplain, I do not have a church to challenge with the Open and Affirming process, but I certainly can be exactly that – Open and Affirming.

I’m not saying this to be reactionary or a contrarian. I do not speak for anyone else but me.

I am saying this for the Soldier who is alone and thinks the world has rejected her because of who she is.

I am saying this for the Soldier walking by the chapel thinking that there is no one in there who can hear his pain and not judge him.

I am saying this for the spouse who, in shame, does not feel like he has anyone to turn to because of what he thinks about himself.

I am saying this for the parent whose gay child has just joined the Army and they are so worried that he’ll be abused for who he is.

I am saying this for the chaplains who also are “in the closet.” Truth is, they feel as I do but do not want to say it out loud and experience other chaplains reject them for interpreting Scripture differently from them.

I’m saying this for me. I’m saying this because if one of my children came out and was in the Army, I hope they would have a chaplain that would help them process what they are going through without judgment or condemnation.

I’m saying this for all those I have known, closeted and not, who have experienced great pain because the God they know and love is represented as doing the opposite.

From now on, this sign will hang on my door as a message to all the Soldiers, family members, and other chaplains I run across in my career – You are welcome.

Sign

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How She is different from Me in the pulpit

As an aside to the last post here were a couple of differences between she and me in the pulpit:

1. When She was done with her kids sermon, she told the children to get their coats on before they went to children’s church.

2. She is short. Therefore, when standing on a stool in the pulpit, she totally owned that she stumbled a bit. Congregation laughed warmly. #wearweaknessasarmor

3. I wander, she stands still. Congregation appreciates not having to worry about preachers getting in their personal space.

4. She never once said, “Saint’s of God…” (in that oratorical sort of way)

5. She does not wear a robe as I do. Not because she doesn’t want to, just because they don’t make them in her size and she refuses to wear a child-sized choir robe. #whatiswrongwiththeworld

6. Totally owns knee high boots in the pulpit. Respect.

More to follow…

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Hearing the Wife preach

Last Sunday, I heard Sara preach *in public* for the first time. It was perfect. It was not her first sermon, just the first time I got to hear her. One of the realities of being a two-pastor home is that we do not get to hear each other preach all the time. Sara often covers for me when I’m in the prison, so while I love that I have a dependable preacher every Sunday I am out of my civilian pulpit and in the prison, I also do not get to hear her preach. boo.

Sitting in the pew, I experienced pride, joy, anxiety, excitement. I’ve walked this journey with her for years. I remember our conversations about what to do as the kids grow up, how to pursue a career. One of the things that attracted me to Sara from the beginning is that she was not just about getting married and having babies. She was a strong, career minded woman even though at the time, she didn’t have the theological freedom to embrace that. I sensed that in her and it drew me. I remember exploring all these helping professions with her since it seemed that was the most logical but all of them fell short. She was not fulfilled. I wanted her to find her passion but didn’t know how to help her.

When she acknowledged God’s call in her life, it immediately made sense. It was the most logical, peaceful realization we have experienced together. I didn’t affirm her because she was my wife, I affirmed her because I immediately recognized the truth of her calling. Of course she was called to pastor. Of course!

When she called the kids to come forward for the children’s sermon and they all gathered around, snuggling in to a pastor who also was a mom, it was so right. When she took to the pulpit and began with a brilliant introduction about the elementary school pick-up line that drew the audience in to the text, it was so perfect. When she ended with solid questions and challenges – I watched the impact on our congregation – it was palpable.

Experiencing Sara in the pulpit for the first time confirmed once again to me that the God we serve is about the business of calling the best shepherds to guide the flock.

It was fun preparing the message. Since we have been in Matthew 5, we chose to do a mini series. I preached last week and Sara this week. What I loved about it was that we were able to take different perspectives on the same passage. Our congregation really enjoyed it as well. As we come into Lent, we are going to preach back to back through the season with the same goal.

I have noticed that we take very different approaches to preparing sermons. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s challenging. I may have been preaching for much longer but that does not mean that I get to critique without leave…

I gotta tell you, this is getting fun!…

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“dad, can I preach you a sermon I wrote?”

Sophia looked up with hopeful and expectant eyes. 

“Of course!” 

“Ok. Good morning. Why does Jesus love us? Why is the law? How does Jesus help us?”

As she asked these rather profound questions, she began pacing back and forth. The questions kept on coming. 

Questions and pacing. She, clearly, is influenced by my preaching style. 

Conclusion? Jesus helps us keep the Law. 

There’s even some great theology in there… 

Here’s me just proud to be a dad of a six year old daughter who spent time writing her very own sermon. 

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