03 February Minister’s Moment

This week I thought about the Boy Scouts of America, an organization I was once part of. The New York Times headline said “Welcoming Transgender Boy Scouts” and explained “Instead of accepting only boys whose birth certificates list their gender as male, the organization will now welcome boys who identify as such in an application form.” The article didn’t sound like a welcome party, more like the end of open hostility.

Transgender boys now have an option to join in large group Scouting activities, a right cis-gender (birth certificate matches gender identity) boys have always enjoyed. Our nation has had so many exclusions, we as a society are evolving past one more. One day, it will be a non-issue. That’s a welcome change.

In 2011 Girl Scouts in Colorado affirmed the national policy: “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.” This was in response to a girl, Bobby Montoya’s rejected application to a Girl Scout troop. As commentary on GLAAD’s website notes, Bobby’s acceptance was not a total victory. Bobby became the focus of American hatred. The long term victory meant a child had to endure hatred.

Way back in 1960, Ruby Bridges, age 6, passed an examination given to African American children, qualifying her to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. A desegregation order allowed her to attend, to be welcomed in the William Frantz Elementary School, but it was hardly a welcome. The story is retold in books, TV specials and a movie. She was insulted, yelled at and completely isolated from the white students, attending a “classroom for one” for over a year. She was the focus of American hatred, similar stories happened here.

And yet, New Orleans is the destination for our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, June 21-26. The segregation of the past has evolved to de-facto segregation. Our churches in New Orleans continue the work of social justice renewal. I hope you consider attending UUA-GA this year.

Last Sunday I mentioned SUULE The Southern UU Leadership Experience, August 6- 11.

On a different note, I visited a non-church friend in hospice the other day. His relatives were in another room and they all greeted me and let me go in to see him. But on the way out I was told that they did not want to talk with me. I am used to being excluded because I am gay – LGBTQ members of our congregation almost all have stories of being left off of things because of their sexual or gender identity. You get accustomed to that. I am also used to being excluded because I am not thin. I am fat. Citing “personal responsibility,” fat people are made to feel unwelcome in many subtle and not so subtle ways. I know that gay men are not immune to this form of prejudice.

As I was heading out one family member said “I hope you aren’t offended, we aren’t religious and don’t want to talk to a minister.” It did not matter that I was there as a friend. Oddly, I get that. I am not like the Catholic priests in the movie “Spotlight” and I am not a wealth gospel huckster convincing elderly ladies to send me their life savings. But I am someone with the privilege of ministry, and have the responsibility of speaking out against bad ministerial behavior and receiving the anger directed against my group. In the same way, Scouting leaders have the responsibility to stand up to hatred, recognizing that other leaders have tarnished the name.

UCNorfolk is a church. To the larger society that has a particular meaning, though we can see “we aren’t like them” we are. What does it mean to remove “Church” from our name? How does it change our identity and role? What is our role here in Hampton Roads?

I’m off this Sunday and we have a wonderful guest speaker, so please come! I plan to be at Fabulous First Friday and might even try to learn some African dances– that’s our special activity for TONIGHT. If you saw me on Facebook, you can see that dancing is more joy than talent for me. Bring the family. Learn and Enjoy.

I love you,
Rev Charlie