Recently, I spent a weekend in community and conversation with an inspiringly sizable number of my fellow queer Presbyterian leaders. We were all either recently ordained, or hoping to be in the future, and we spent our weekend talking about and dreaming on behalf of the church that we love, even as it still struggles to fully love us.
It was a hard conversation, one of raw wounds and deep pain and anger, but it nevertheless left me feeling hopeful. Early in the weekend, we were discussing privilege as it plays out in the queer community and people kept challenging ideas and calling out flaws and after a short time we had coined a new term–“complexification”–to describe our process of analyzing and naming problematic assumptions in our thinking and engaging in active suspicion of over-simplication (particularly in regard to binaries, polarities, and one-dimensional categorizations). Instead, we offered up nuance and personalizations. It was challenging, but ultimately essential and liberating. This is so much of what it means to inhabit queer space and queer identity, and I am beginning to realize that it is so much of what it means to be church.
As people we’re drawn to classifications and simplifications to help us understand and unify in our likeness. But so often this effort can lead to reduction, dehumanization, and division. In our effort to understand and define God’s creation we often deny ourselves the chance to bear witness to its full wonder. Our possibilities are infinite just like our Creator. Our truest unity comes from our intentional and universal particularity—by the fact that we are each too complicated to be reduced to common denominators.
Being queer and learning to navigate a world that tells one that they must not be forces a person to embrace complexification. And as the church struggles to reconcile with its own problematic history, its increasingly diverse body, and a reputation of obsoleteness in constructing a more just world—it too is being forced to embrace complexification.
I am glad that the queer community is slowly but surely being invited into church leadership. I’m glad not only because I am a part of that community, but also because I’m a member of the church – and the church needs queer leaders to help it evolve and grow into what God is calling it to be.
The church is in the process of coming to terms with its shifting identity. It is being called to embrace and engage with those who disagree with it. To embody and encourage mutual vulnerability at the risk of rejection, hate, and violence even by those it loves. It is called to uplift individuals standing in the full and unique truth of who they are, all in the name of uplifting the full truth of a complexified world. The church is called to empathy, resilience, and solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed. It’s being compelled to take action and make hard choices in the name of truth.
Who better to help the church embrace the queerness of a complexified reality than those who have been through this process themselves; those who understand queerness intimately?
Here we are.
So I am hopeful. It’s not a simple hope. It’s complexified. Thanks be to God.