I am celebrating the publication of my 10th book, PRACTICING PILGRIMAGE: BEING AND BECOMING GOD'S PILGRIM PEOPLE, published by Wipf and Stock in Eugene, OR: http://wipfandstock.com/practicing-pilgrimage.html
In this book I explore both pilgrimage as a intense, actual event, say to a place like Santiago de Compestela, or in your backyard, rural fields, or urban setting, in which we live out our ordinary lives in extraordinary fashion.
I also cover how "coming out" of one's gay/LGBTQ closet is a pilgrimage of sorts, in which we are always coming out.
I'm off this Sunday for India and Nepal for pilgrimage.
It is time for me to go on pilgrimage.
The life of the openly gay Presbyterian pastor in Oregon needs some time to walk, reflect, think, and ruminate about life.
Everything is well.
It is just time.
It is also time to learn. This is my continuing education. I am fascinated by the issues surrounding the universal nature of the Christ figure. What better way to explore it than going to India among my Hindu sisters and brothers, and Nepal and Buddhists.
This is my testimony against reparative/conversion therapy, debated yesterday at General Assembly of the PCUSA:
For Bill/Motion #11-23
The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell
In Psalm 139: 13-15, the Psalmist wrote, “For you yourself
created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank
you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it
well.My body was not hidden from you,
while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.”
These words from Ps. 139 are my touchstone as I came out of
the gay closet I lived in for forty years and realized that our Creator made
each of us: male, female and non-binary identity, lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, queer, and intersex, and it was good.Nowhere in this Psalm or any Scripture do we
read or hear that God didn’t make us as we are.As one popular poster in the 1960s boasted proudly, “God don’t make
junk.”The Creator created us just as
the Creator wanted us to be in this world.
This positive message of Holy Scripture has been
conveniently forgotten by many in our faith community who promote the misconception
that an individual can change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity
through what was erroneously titled “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, which
implies my being gay, or another person being lesbian, bisexual, transgender,
or non-binary, was a mistake by God, and thus human beings needed to “repair”
we who were created by the Creator. The research on such efforts has disproven
their efficacy, and also has indicated that a person who is a client for one
who practices reparative therapy may be harmed for life.How is one harmed?In this supposedly “therapeutic” approach,
the LGBTQ person is filled with the societal prejudice and family rejection
that many of us experienced earlier in life. Indeed, the very architect of
reparative therapy, psychiatrist L. Spitzer has since denounced this very
practiced and has apologized for endorsing the practice.
I urge you to vote for #11-23 and against any motion that
comes to this committee or the floor of General Assembly that endorses this
rejected form of therapy. After all, the God who beheld my limbs, yet
unfinished in the womb, fashioned me.Therefore, I will thank God because I, as an out gay Presbyterian
pastor, am marvelously made (Ps. 139)
There was a convergence today in my life that I never ever expected: when my being a Presbyterian met my being a gay man, and both are living relatively (yet still some times awkwardly) together.
It doesn't happen often in life when we take two parts of who we are, which were, for a long time, at odds with one another, and bring them together and find peace.
For years, I feared that my ordination, my "The Rev." would be revoked because I would be outed as a gay man, and censured or de-frocked for writing such publications as "On Being a Gay Parent." I was told by my former Presbyter Exec. that I should stay away from plate glass windows in my home and not be seen holding my partner's hand or kiss him in my home or on the streets of Chapel Hill, Durham, or Raleigh.
Today, I walked around the halls of the General Assembly and didn't care who knew that I was gay. I was a ministered, called to be an interim pastor at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, and by being gay was not going to take that honor of serving the people here away.
The Pulse Night Club attack came across my Facebook feed and Huffington Post as I prepared to preach on Sunday morning. At first, the report was 20 were killed, which was a horrific amount. By 9:30 am, it was 50, including the killer, Omar Mateen.
I was shocked. Horrified. Stunned.
I went into the pulpit to preach a sermon that I had eerily titled, "Healing a Broken Community". To say the least, it was easy to weave in the story of Orlando in the part of the sermon that covered the sense of "brokenness."
But then I surprised myself toward the end of the sermon when I recounted that the gun violence towards gays/LGBTQ people is not isolated in Orlando, but also here in Portland, Oregon. There are some streets and areas of this city where I would not kiss a partner because of my fear of violence. And four years ago, I could not be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) if I were an out LGBTQ person. In fact, I know that charges were being drawn against me by another ordained clergy person in New Hope Presbytery because I am out and gay and an ordained clergy person.
Violence: my mom realized by the end of the sermon that I could be a victim of violence because I am gay and live in the USA, where guns and AR15 rifles can easily be purchased.
Friends of mine are visiting from Australia. I asked them before the shooting if they thought we were a gun loving country and they laughed: "Of course! You have guns everywhere, don't you?"
My friend Paul Fukui and I went to one of two vigils in downtown Portland, outside of Embers, an LGBTQ night club. 2,000 people were there.
But there were no vigils near where I live and preach.
So tonight there is a vigil at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. I bought the church's first rainbow flag. I expect 25-30 people to arrive. I touched base with the rabbi in the neighborhood and president of a nearby mosque, but haven't heard back from them.
And I will pray.
We will read the names.
There is a sheet to give people an idea of what to do to curb gun violence.
So my dentist in NC asked me how I was enjoying my short stay in NC. "It's going well!" "What have you done in NC while you've been here?" he asked. "I've gone into every women's bathroom in the state," I said. He laughed so hard he almost fell off his padded stool.
Crazy times in NC.
Hate-filled times in NC.
Time to take the state back to the 21st century rather than the 1950s.
Even though I now live in the state of OR, I must confess that my heart aches for what is going on in the state politics that is NC. I'm not surprised. I am sad. I am not surprised because I remember watching when the General Assembly in 2010 pass a bill to amend the NC Constitution, to deny us marriage equality, watching Dems and Republicans alike sign on with it, knowing that then-Gov. Perdue couldn't veto it (not in her powers). I remember phone bank calls and attending rallies in RDU area, only to drive 10 miles out of the bubble of Chapel Hill to see the pro-Amendment 1 votes to deny us marriage equality. We were the last state in the South to enact something so vile. .
Now we lead the nation in a more vile bill, HB2, that discriminates against a large minority group. The General Assembly Republicans know what they are doing: they are driving out their base voter for 2016. This is all about getting out the vote in 2016, driving out by rallies and phone calls, etc. But voting matters. This is how these men and women got into power: by the people who voted for them.
Dear LGBTQI United Methodist Pastors: As an out gay pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), serving St. Andrew’s in Portland, Oregon, and as a former faculty member of Duke Divinity School (a United Methodist Church seminary), welcome to Portland! There are many out LGBTQI clergy in the Portland area who are praying for a change in your Book of Discipline that will allow LGBTQI people to be out and ordained, or marry the one you love. Here, kissing on a city street is permitted. Here, unlike North Carolina, citizens can use public restrooms without being asked about their gender or gender identity. Here, you can go see a movie and hold hands with little fear of violence; go to a concert and put your arm around your date; and hug each other after a Portland Timbers or Thorns soccer game goal with no one staring. There are so many bars and restaurants that are LGBTQI friendly that going to a specific gay or lesbian bar is unnecessary to find community. If coming to a welcoming city is a new or unique experience, consider trying this: breathe. Set aside whatever remnant of your LGBTQI closet is holding you back from stepping out, and breathe. Go to one of our many beautiful parks and breathe. Walk. Run. Live. Love. Feel free to sing, dance, shout, and tell your story. Be the person our Creator created, and the one that Jesus loves unconditionally. One last word as you make your case with allies for marriage equality and recognition of being who you are? Courage! Pax, Brett
From afar I am watching the "going-ons" in NC, and I am sad and mad. Having lived in NC for 25 years "plus", I came to love the state for its then-progressive ways, the culture of storytelling, food, and the geography. Some of my family members still live in NC.
Today, I am angry in the way that the hate-filled NC Republican and apparently some Democratic legislators are voting in the House in overturning Charlotte's action to practice non-discrimination when it comes to LGBTQ people. Currently the bill is before the NC Senate. I know the outcome already.
From sitting in my office in Portland, OR, with a unisex bathroom or 2 down the hall, the actions of the legislature is hate-filled and seems crazy. Living in a state (OR) in which there is a more libertarian "live and let live" attitude, this incredible move to push NC backwards seems crazy. But, as one of my clergy friends said in a sermon years ago, "When the 1950s come back, NC will be all set for its return."
There is the presence of more gay dads in Portland than there were in NC. While I knew some closeted gay dads in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, I'm still overwhelmed (in a good way) by hearing the story of dads who are gay with kids spoken so, well, openly in Portland, OR.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro, North Carolina, United States
I am a dad, who happens to be gay, with two amazing young adult children who have taught me, my partner, and their mom what grace, faith, hope, and love are all about. I am also an ordained clergyperson in the Presbyterian Church (USA), involved in congregational life, sometimes preaching here and there, and an oblate of St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, MN. I taught at Duke Divinity School at Duke University for over a decade, and I currently teach at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. I teach Ethics, World Religions, and English. And I am the Director of a religious non-profit, "School of the Pilgrim" (www.schoolofthepilgrim.com), in which I take people on actual pilgrimages to break out of the religion of rush hour in order to find their inner spiritual path. I am also glad to work with and be an advocate with people living with disabilities in faith communities, who teach me more about life in all its wonders and quirks. Enjoy the blog! And for more information about the book ON BEING A GAY PARENT, go to www.onbeingagayparent.com. Email contact: email@example.com, and phone is 919-444-9111