My mama, who could fry some of the best damn chicken you ever put in your mouth, never taught me to cook. She taught me a lot of things, but she just couldn’t tolerate a constantly questioning kiddo scrambling around her kitchen as she tended to her cast iron skillets and perfectly sweetened pitchers of iced tea.
Mama did teach me how to assemble pretty outfits, carefully mixing and matching shirts and skirts so that no one would know I was wearing the same things over and over again. She taught me how to apply makeup, with lashes long and dark so that my eyes didn’t look naked and my lips were lined and colored beyond their nearly invisible pink. She taught me how to curl my hair, choosing just the right strands to pull straight away and then slowly wind the curling iron as close to my scalp as I could stand. She tried her best to teach me “the right way” to be a girl, a woman. When I went to University she wanted me to only study secretarial work. When I chose world religions as my academic path, she said college ruined me. And later, way later, when I came out as a lesbian, all of her own self-rejection and fear based faith attempted to persuade me that I was unworthy of God’s love – an abomination better dead that gay.
Fast forward to a recent morning, standing in my Dutch bathroom, when my eyes brimmed with tears as I watched my hands carefully choose just the right strands of hair and gently line my lips with the perfect blend of rose, the old wounds and longing for my mother in ways that she would never love me, came flooding back.
As a queer Christian, who happily left the U.S. with her wife for reasons such as the politically motivated anti-LGBT religious landscape (among other reasons), it is with a wounded but encouraged heart that I watched as a handful of Dutch protestant clergy regurgitate the toxic language of the Nashville Statement here in Holland.
In a nutshell, the Statement, both here and in the States is a theologically negligent and dangerous statement ushered by a handful of religious leaders. The statement makes erroneous claims that reject the sacred worth and civil rights of LGBT children of God. I honestly, in my honeymoon phase with Holland, had thought we’d left behind this ignorance and hatefulness for good.
This flare up of homophobia masquerading as Christianity in this largely secular nation was deeply disappointing. But the good news is how much more encouraging it was to see municipalities across the country, businesses in every town and individuals near and far call out the statement for what it is – backwards bigotry plain and simple. I am particularly and deeply grateful for language such as “radicalized” being applied to “Christian” groups. It is rarely if ever applied to Christianity in the States and is typically reserved for fear mongering against our Muslim brothers and sisters.
I dearly love my life in Leiden and since moving here have felt more at home in my own skin than I ever did in my nearly 50 years in America. Here I have felt consistently happier, safer and more secure than the seemingly false promises of the American Dream. So too have my wife and I been so much freer to be fully and openly ourselves, without fear or apology. Most recently I am wildly grateful for learning more about Wijdekerk and the faithful work being done by so many LGBT affirming Christians in our new home. I have SO much more to learn (including how to speak Dutch) since we both want to call Leiden our home for a very long time to come!
As it turns out, for the past year and half, I’ve had the honor of pastoring a small, English-speaking congregation that is diverse and beautiful and growing in our understanding of who we are as a community. Sojourners’ Fellowship is a small community of people from different spiritual paths who come together to pause and explore life’s great questions through diverse contemplative practices and thoughtful dialogue.
Here is a statement of our guiding framework as inspired by the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity.
As a community we:
1. Believe in the Sacred Oneness and Unity of all life;
2. Affirm that the teachings of many religious and secular traditions, including but not limited to the teachings of Jesus, provide ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;
3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:
- Believers, agnostic and questioning skeptics,
- Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
- Those of all races, nationalities and religious backgrounds,
- Those of all classes and abilities;
4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;
5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;
6. Hope for peace and justice among all people;
7. Hope to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;
8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.