Called to Be Who We Are

I wonder sometimes why it’s so hard to simply be the person I long to be,feel called to be.

I’m happiest when I’m living fully into all my gifts. I’d like to think that’s true for all of us. And that for all of us, that involves a myriad of possibilities.

Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin, Bishop-Elect of the Southern California Synod, ELCA
Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin, Bishop-Elect of the Southern California Synod, ELCA

Today I’m thrilled with the news that my new friend and Proclaim colleague, Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, has been elected Bishop of the Southern California Synod of the ELCA. He brings rich gifts to that role, as an openly partnered gay man (Rob Flynn is his partner), as an active member of the Osage Nation, and a well-respected theology professor at California Lutheran University. You can read about it at Huffington Post, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, and GLAAD.

He told GLAAD,

I know that many will see my election as a significant milestone for both LGBT people and Native Americans, and I pray that I can be a positive representation for both communities. There was a time when I believed that I would not be able to serve as a pastor in the ELCA. Our church has now recognized the God-given gifts and abilities that LGBT people can bring to the denomination.

We all bring gifts. Some of us to the church. All of us to the world.

And yet, sometimes we are afraid. Sometimes we’re afraid for good reason, sometimes not. Sometimes we lack confidence. Sometimes we shy away from our gifts because we’ve been told we’re not good enough, or that our gifts aren’t gifts.

But in one of my favorite Bible verses, Paul says this:

…for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice (fear), but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

And just to be clear, because I know many of us hear “self-discipline” as “you can be gay as long as you don’t act on it,” that is NOT how I hear those words here. I hear them as a runner who knows she has to train before a race. I hear them as a guitar player who would play better if she’d practice. As a chaplain responsible to show up faithfully and fully each day at the hospital, prepared to listen, to love, to witness, to accompany.

And there will be times that our gifts will be challenged. Criticized. There may be times that we are put down in relation to the gifts we bring. But we still are called to serve those gifts. In one of my all-time favorite essays, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” Audre Lorde says:

What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself – a Black woman warrior poet doing my work – come to ask you, are you doing yours?

For my 40th birthday, a group of my dearest friends created this work of art for me, to remind me who I am, who I am becoming, the work I am called (and delighted!) to do.

tree at 40

I hope you also have reminders of the beautiful collection of gifts that you are growing into, sharing with the world.

And as we kick off Pride month, please join us for an Interfaith Pride Service,Sunday, June 9th at 1 p.m. at the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (3201 Turnagain Street). All are welcome – we anticipate people from a wide variety of faith traditions.drummer girl

We’d love to see you there! And if you’d like to join in the choir, Tamara McCoy, music director at AUUF, is planning two rehearsals (come to one or both depending on your time) – Wed. June 5th at 7 p.m at AUUF and/or Sun. June 9th at 12:15 p.m. (just before the service). There will be drumming!

And don’t miss the many events happening all month as we celebrate our Pride. Be who you are!

About me: Susan is a Lutheran (ELCA) pastor, serving as a hospital chaplain, and has for many years been the “lesbian poster child” in her church. She finds the Sacred all kinds of places — in the mountains, in church, at a hospital bedside, in the midst of a heartfelt conversation, running along the coastal trail, in music that makes her cry and stories that make her laugh.

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