This Lent, St Bride's Liverpool hosted a a six-week course to explore the 'queerness' of the Christian tradition.
Participants read and discussed Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (Beacon Press, 2016), written by the American Episcopal priest Elizabeth Edman.
At the launch of the study guide to accompany her book, Revd Edman said:
'Authentic Christianity is and must be queer. This isn’t about sexuality, it’s about Jesus’ demand that we challenge - or "queer" - simplistic, black and white thinking that pits us against each other. The world badly needs to hear this aspect of our faith, now more than ever.'
The six-week course guided participants in exploring queer ethics as a model for progressive Christian practice. The book Queer Virtue explores several aspects of queer experience, including Identity and Pride, Risk and Coming Out, Scandal, and Adoption. These experiences forge an ethical path that is deeply resonant with the ethical path that Christians are called to follow. Each session explored one or two steps on this path. By paying attention to queer experience, Edman asserts, Christian communities can learn a great deal about how to live their faith – how to be the church more effectively and with greater consequence.
Reflecting on its suitability for study as a Lent course, Revd Edman said:
'Lent is a crucial time to explore these queer aspects of our faith. During Lent, we pray, repent, and ponder the courage that Jesus showed and that he demands of us. Reading Queer Virtue together can help church members prepare to walk with Jesus through the strenuous events of Holy Week, and emerge into a new and even more powerful understanding of what Easter means.'
Good for @StBridesLpool - offering a Lent course called Queer Virtue "to explore the queerness of the Christian tradition". Too far to travel from East Anglia sadly.— Sarah Maxwell (@drsarahmaxwell) February 24, 2018
Thanks for this. How refreshing to read the sentence "Rather than asking what Christianity has to say about queerness, Edman turns the lens around and asks what queerness can tell us about Christianity".— Sarah Maxwell (@drsarahmaxwell) February 24, 2018
At each session, participants watched a short video together, followed by prompts for individual reflection, one-to-one conversation, and small or large group discussion.
The short videos which introduced each session are micro-sermons on the virtue that queer people possess and what Christianity can learn from it. They proclaim a robust, theologically-grounded, queer-positive Christianity. The core message is: Queerness is a gift, and authentic Christianity is extremely queer.
Week 1 was on the theme of Identity: Whether you are queer or Christian or both, knowing who you are is the first step to living a good life, to being the person God created you to be:
Week 2 was on the theme of Risk: Abraham and Sarah left everything they knew to follow God’s call. This kind of risk is the verb form of faith. Queer people live this kind of risk every day, all over the world, simply by being the people God created us to be:
Week 3 was on the theme of Touch: Love - including divine love - involves touch that both wounds and heals. Queer people take on this paradox openly, modeling what it means to push past fear and find the love we all need:
Week 4 was on the theme of Adoption: Queer people create communities that, for many of us, become adoptive families. Christian community is supposed to be like that: an inviting home, not an exclusive club:
Week 5 was on the theme of Scandal: Queer people have long been cast as scandalous, just as Jesus was in his day. Like Jesus, queer people know: embracing scandal creates an ethical vision that frees us from shame and affirms the dignity of every human being:
For Week 6, in Holy Week, we met for an agape meal, a simple commemoration of Jesus' last meal with his friends before he died (known as The Last Supper). Before the meal, we offered an act of loving service to one another by washing each other's hands (a variation of the traditional Maundy Thursday ritual of foot-washing, echoing Jesus' ministry to those who followed him to his death). We also heard the earliest known record of the Last Supper at which Jesus blessed and shared bread and wine and commissioned his disciples to 'do this in memory of me' (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). During the meal we reflected on the whole of the Queer Virtue book and course, considering what images had struck us, how it had articulated something new or different, how it challenged us and how we would challenge it, what we would ask the author, and where we would take what we learned over this course into our lives.
St Bride’s Liverpool is a creative, progressive, inclusive Anglican church in the heart of Liverpool, which hosts Open Table, an ecumenical Christian worship community which offers a warm welcome to people who are: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer / Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) and all who seek an inclusive Church.
Warren Hartley, LGBTQIA+ Ministry Facilitator at St Bride’s Church, said;
'Open Table aims to create a safe sacred space for you to explore your faith and what it means for you. The Queer Virtue Lent study group is an excellent opportunity for us to do this together in a supportive community.'