Union Theological Seminary

Where faith and scholarship meet to reimagine the work of justice.

Coming out as gay was my first call. It was not one big epiphany for me, but a long struggle, with periods of confusion, stumbling, and uncertainty. When I finally came to a place of knowing and accepting myself as a gay person, it was a revelation. Coming out opened me to be able to receive other invitations from God — to marriage, to creating a family, and eventually to hearing a call to be a priest in the Episcopal Church.⁣ ⁣ I need to bring all my gifts, and all that I am, into my current and future ministry — queer person, wife, mother, physician. Vocation demands nothing less than full honesty and offering our whole selves. I am praying for the day that the Church will embrace the vocations of everyone called to serve, in the fullness of all our identities.⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
Ministry, to me, is a fundamentally queer calling. We live in a society that is structured around violent systems of oppression – white supremacy, heterosexism, patriarchy, cisgenderism, and ableism, just to name a few – and we can not adequately care for one another without confronting these systems. My own queer identity forces me to confront these systems by challenging the expectations around gender and sexuality that are imposed on me daily. My calling to ministry forces me to confront these systems on behalf of those to whom I will be ministering, many of whom will be queer. Queerness, though, is about more than just sexual orientation or gender identity. Queerness is about refusing to conform to society’s narrow definition of what constitutes an acceptable relationship. Queerness is about resisting power structures that aim to control our bodies and what we do with them. Queerness, ultimately, is about choosing to love in ways that challenge the status quo.⁣ ⁣ The way I understand it, this is also the task of ministry. As people called to ministry, we must be willing to call out that which does not affirm the multitude of ways in which people choose to love one another and themselves. We must call out so that we – as a society – can come out… of the racist, heteronormative, cisnormative, patriarchal closet that is preventing us from being able to love one another well. Ministry must be queer, because in order to responsibly care for one another, we have to be willing to resist the structures of power that are harming us all, particularly queer people.⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
The Psalmist says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Embrace it. Own it. Live it.⁣ ⁣⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
The tangle and winding path that is my hybridity — of self from spiritual identity to my gender and social identity — exists as I live and breathe, enmeshed, enfleshed. Within this complexity I exist as both oppressor and oppressed. I am insider and I am other. I am Christian and I am queer. I am calloused and raw. I am neither male nor female. I exist in between spaces, I am a twilight person seeking bridges and compassion within one’s self and between the self and others. Christianity and those who speak on its behalf have perpetuated harm and violence on the bodies, minds, and spirits of my queer spiritual siblings. Through experience and revelation and prayer and mourning and lament and joy I exist, and I desire to exist for Love, to provide a healing balm to the wounds particular representatives of the faith seem to keep opening up.⁣ ⁣ It is important that we take seriously the healing of inherited traumas from our families and traditions so that we do not perpetuate harm down our own ancestral lines. I feel Christ’s love in this work, in the rooms of gathered queer folx forming new familial bonds, in the love of self that blossomed from soil previously watered with shame and hidden tears. I desire to see a world where queer people (and all those “othered” by the hegemonic, exclusivist, white, hetero-patriarchal, Christo-centric fetish) are no longer beaten down by defending their humanity and have the time, energy, and resources to flourish.⁣ ⁣⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
One thing that you should know about me is that I am always in church. It has always been that way since I was little. I was raised in the church and it wasn’t as bad an experience as some might think. It was a silent one though. My pastor at my hometown church and congregation never said anything about LGBTQ issues. I thought that meant they were affirming, but silence is just as bad. I am grateful that I had that religious experience, though, because it brought me to a place like Riverside Church. The faith community that I fostered there and the love they have shown me has no words. Now, I know that when I have kids, they too will also have a church to be in all the time.⁣ ⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
As the newly baptized is bathed in water and anointed in oil, the Pastor reminds that person that every single part of them is claimed and loved by God. Every part of their being is sent out into the world, called to love God and neighbor.⁣ ⁣ I spend a lot of time thinking about baptism, as a candidate for ministry and as a queer person of faith. I marvel at the liberating power of God’s grace, which calls each of us to live boldly, freely, and authentically in the world, as vessels of God’s creative and redemptive love. Coming out as a queer woman has empowered me to live my baptism more fully. My baptism empowers me to live my truth as a queer Christian more fully.⁣ ⁣ Our baptismal liturgy first calls us to renounce the forces of evil in our world. I renounce the powers of evil that infect the church with hateful anti-queer and anti-trans polity. I renounce the sinful lies that claim these policies are biblical, theologically sound, and even loving. I renounce the powers of fear and shame that for far too long kept me from loving my whole self and living boldly and authentically in the world and the church. I renounce the powers of evil that kept me from fully living out my baptism. I renounce the powers of sin which tell any beloved child of God that they are not worthy, just as they are, of God’s unspeakable love for them.⁣ ⁣ Every day I remember my baptism. I rise to new life as the person God calls me to be—a faithfully queer, beloved Child of God.⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
I am a queer person of faith seeking ordination in the United Church of Christ. I send love and light to my UMC brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings who are feeling the effects of a recent decision to strengthen homophobic and transphobic restrictions on queer Methodist clergy and people.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I have the privilege of being able to say that my sexuality and gender identity are things that I have always felt balanced with what God envisioned for me. In my experiences, the challenge lies when queer people’s humanity becomes up for debate. Queer people are valid, and this is not debatable.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Prior to attending seminary, I led my home church through the Open and Affirming process, or the conversation towards becoming a welcoming and inclusive congregation. Combined with my Old and New Testament classes, these experiences gave me the opportunity and intellect to engage with clobber passages in sociohistorical context. Despite a few poorly interpreted and translated verses, I often remind myself of some deeply meaningful, theological messages throughout the Bible. For example, we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28), and we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). Since there is is no male or female in Christ (Galatians 3:28), the Body of Christ is inherently queer and non-binary.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ As a queer person of faith, I hold the Bible in the tension of being both sacred and problematic. Part of Jesus’ ministry was engaging with marginalized people and bringing them into community. In my personal theology, Christ is the divine embodiment of love and justice, and I hope to follow that example. I remember that even God came out of the heavenly closet and revealed themself as Jesus Christ.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
I’m generally suspicious of religious institutions, especially those with banners that proclaim “all are welcome!”. I wonder, what might this welcome mean, what might it feel like? “All” is in the eye of the beholder, do you see me? Will your theology be as open as the banner outside, or will it be quickly straightened and narrowed out? Ministry is queer when it relentlessly interrogates cultural normativities like gender, or marriage. When it centers those voices and expressions pushed to the outermost peripheries. Queer faith is the unshakeable knowing that our bodies are divine and welcomed, not just in your church, but on Earth and in Heaven simultaneously. It is the knowing that we need no one’s permission to get close to God.⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
I’ve never come out publicly before. Partly because I’m a pretty private person and partly because, as a bisexual man married to a woman, I didn’t have to—a privilege I want to name. Mostly, though, I haven’t come out because venom spewed at queer folk led me to hide a core part of myself. And, I lived the best-case scenario: I attended a church that celebrated LGBTQ people, and have an amazingly supportive family who I knew would love me for all of who I am. But I grew up breathing the same toxic air, hearing the same voices that said my attraction to men was sinful, impure, deviant. I internalized that shame—shame that was the world’s, not mine—and covered something beautiful.⁣ ⁣ But, in the words of Dr. King, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal,” and for me that time is now. I never feel queerer than when I watch churches reject LGBTQ people; tell us we are something less than God’s wondrously created children. Watching Christians wrap bigotry in biblical veneer breaks something in me; it perverts the gospel into pain, places violence in God’s mouth.⁣ ⁣ Church is an opportunity for something incredible: We get to tell people that they matter; that they have sacred dignity and worth; that they are loved, wholly and completely by God; that they belong in a community. We get to look people in the eye and remind them, “You carry the divine spark, God delights in your love and joy!” We can proclaim a God who breaks through every fixed border we create, a God who is fundamentally queer. Let’s tell that story instead.⁣ ⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
Those of us “who are called by God” understand the power of this divine call. Our call is to ministry, not to be gatekeepers. Our call is “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freeing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19). That is the call we all share. And like the blind man in John 9 who was blind since birth for God’s glory, we —queer clergy persons are also born this way for the revealing of God’s work in us. We are a test in love that sadly some denominations fail.⁣ ⁣ To be called is a blessing and to be gay is a gift from God. Sometimes we will be rejected, as Christ was rejected. And in those times, I am encouraged by Psalms 118:22: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” I believe that rejection is just divine direction, and God directed my feet to Union Theological Seminary.⁣ ⁣ UTS validated my call, connected me with an affirming space and the tools to exercise the call, and empowered me to go out and become a cornerstone in my community. Union didn’t ask me “who sinned,” instead Union welcomed me, and together we rejoiced. Because as Paul responded to the Philippians, “What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way…and in that I rejoice.” (Philippians 18:1) So I encourage you, when you are rejected, to remember the call, utilize its power, and to continue to proclaim the good news of Christ, both in season and out of season. Go out and become the cornerstones in your communities. For in this way, God is glorified.⁣ ⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
One of the most profound privileges in my life was being born a Unitarian Universalist because it meant for me, when I decided to pursue my call to ministry, my queerness was the furthest thing from my mind. I was much more preoccupied with paying for seminary than figuring out how to navigate a church which didn’t accept my full self. And this is not to say I haven’t experienced homophobia and misogyny in my role as a queer minister, but the fact that my denomination’s public stance and theology is one that embraces, celebrates, and validates the love between me and my partner makes it easier to bear. Whereas I might have to expend enormous energy loving on myself, celebrating my queer self, in order to better withstand the tides of queer-phobic oppression from my church, I can spend that energy on my congregants and on fighting for justice.⁣ ⁣ And that fight for justice? It’s to ensure that others have that sense of entitlement to the pulpit, that sense of joy at pursuing their call, that feeling that being queer is a blessing. Because you know what–it is.⁣ ⁣ I don’t identify as having been “born gay”—I chose it. And I wouldn’t change my choice. It was my holy and sacred choice to make about how best to live a life that fulfilled me. To those of you who feel their relationship to God, to the Divine, to the Sacred, is jeopardized by being queer, I’m here to tell you it is not. It is there to sustain you, to hold you, and to love you into being.⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
My name is Hannah, I’m a queer person of faith currently discerning ordination in the United Methodist Church. I fell in love with the Wesleyan quadrilateral, which urges Methodists to consider tradition, reason, and experience alongside a deep respect and love for scripture. The UM communities I have been a part of are fiercely committed to creating justice and joy in their congregations and in the world.⁣ ⁣ But my heart is currently breaking for a church that I know and love.Recently, the institutional church voted to uphold and further restrict LGBTQ inclusion in the church, in all ministries, including ordination. The institutional church is leaving out a crucial part of the Church, it is distancing itself from its commitment to lived experience. Queer ministry, as a queer United Methodist, looks like working for justice and full inclusion of all people in a tradition that is working to leave out people like me, and committing to recognizing the sins of racism, colonialism, and white supremacy in our church. It is working to fulfill the faithful promise of my baptismal vow to accept the power that God gave me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms the present themselves, especially within the church I call home. Queering faith means trusting in God when systems fail to assert the worth of all peoples. My faith in God keeps me going when institutions and denominations fall short.⁣ I have taken a soft hands approach to my faith, I let everything I cannot control fall away, and what is left in my hands is my faith in God and my call to work for justice. My queer faith means bringing all of who I am to the table, knowing that the love and grace of God is our hope, and that everything else is sinking sand.⁣ ⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyqueer #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
After the United Methodist Church voted to entrench its rejection of LGBTQ people, the pain in our community was palpable. We knew we had to respond. We could talk about how homophobic theology is damaging. We could condemn bigotry masquerading as God-talk. But that’s not the story we see every day at Union. We see a vibrant queer, community of faith—alive and flourishing. We see radical love that transcends every sinful boundary humans create. And we thought we’d tell that story instead, in their own voices.⁣ ⁣ If you’re growing up in a Church that isn’t affirming;⁣ if you’ve ever been told that who you love or how you identify is sinful;⁣ if you were taught that God rejects you;⁣ if you struggle to fully love yourself—in all of your God-given beauty:⁣ ⁣ This project is dedicated to you.⁣ ⁣ And we invite you to join us! If you feel called, post a photo and reflection on social media, and tag it #queerfaith .⁣ ⁣ #queerfaith #UMC #faithfullyLGBT #unionseminary #newyorkcity #LGBTQ #theadvocatemag #mohammadmia #newyorkphotography
To celebrate the publication of President Serene Jones’ forthcoming book, Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World, we’re offering you and a friend the chance to each win an early copy of this remarkable work of raw truth, fierce love, and spiritual teaching. Enter by tagging a friend in the comments below! For another chance to win, head over to our Facebook page and leave a comment. … No purchase necessary. Open to US residents only who are 18 and older. Winners will be selected at random. All comments must be posted by Sunday, March 17.
I guess you could say today’s chapel was🔥 . . . 📸 by @mohammadmia_
Join Rev. Dr. Gay L. Byron '92, ’99 at Trailblazers tonight at 7:00 PM! Hear her thoughts on Black Liberation Theology, and how it has nourished Black freedom.
Some snowy seminary sights! . . . . 📸 by @mohammadmia_
Tonight at 7 PM! Rev. Dr. Mikael Elam ’07 will discuss black liberation theology and how it helped shape the field of SGL/LGBTQ theology. Trailblazers 2019 will honor the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. James Hal Cone with four Friday worship services during February at 7:00 p.m. in James Chapel. Trailblazers is an opportunity to honor the powerful legacy of Union’s distinguished Black Alumni/ae, and connect them with our current students through worship services and celebrations.
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