Thursday, February 25, 2010

Great sermon: We ARE light, all of us

Rev. Karen Ziegler preached an unforgettable sermon on AIDS, grief, sexism, friendship between gay men and lesbians, and the parable of the “wise and foolish virgins” during the height of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.

I listened to the sermon again recently while duplicating tapes of worship services. More than 20 years later, it is still just as powerful and inspiring!

I have never forgotten the sermon that Ziegler delivered on Nov. 8, 1987 at Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, where most of the congregation was HIV positive, there was no effective treatment for AIDS, and many people were dying. I had just joined the staff as student clergy and women’s programming coordinator. More than 500 MCC-SF members died of AIDS between 1982 and 1997.

Like me, Ziegler was a lesbian whose primary relationships were with women, but she unexpectedly grew much closer to gay men as they faced death. She never stopped challenging sexism in the church, but a “transformation” happened. “My heart has been opened in a way it never has before,” Ziegler said in her sermon. She was pastor of MCC New York at the time.

She urged us to think of ourselves in an empowering new way. Decades later I still remembered this part of her sermon, and now I transcribe it here:

“Keep your light burning. We ARE light, all of us. The light of the world, each of us. We’re all like little lights, like in space suits, you know. That’s all our bodies are, like these space suits. Men’s suits, women’s suits, gay suits, straight suits, different color suits, differently abled suits. They’re just SUITS! We are lights really, that’s what we are. Lights that nothing can quench. But the world needs us, and we need each other to keep our lights burning brightly and clearly.”

Ziegler interacted with the congregation and spoke eloquently about the importance of loving oneself in the midst of the AIDS crisis -- especially because we have been wounded by the homophobia of the church. “Growing up in the church, we learned that our very capacity to love was the thing that God hates,” she said.

Ziegler’s life partner, blues singer Randa McNamara, gave a powerful performance of “Old Devil Time” at the same worship service. The Pete Seeger song brought everyone to tears and we all talked about it for weeks. It still made me cry when I listened to it again recently. If you have never heard this song, it’s a definite MUST, and nobody sings it better than McNamara. You can hear it on Randa’s album “Living in My Heart.”

Ziegler went on to become a nurse practitioner who teaches at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. A preaching prize was established in her honor at New York’s Union Theological Seminary. It is awarded annually to the student who “represents the highest ideals of feminism and liberation theology in the present day by articulating anew a vision for a more just church and world for all God’s people.”

Thank you, Karen and Randa, for helping our light shine.
This post launches a series on great sermons from Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco. Click here for the whole MCC-SF history series.

Photos: Karen Ziegler (above) and Randa McNamara (below)

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Elton John calls Jesus gay

Elton John calls Jesus a “super-intelligent gay man” in a new interview with Parade Magazine.

The openly gay pop music star says, “I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems. On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving.”

Elton John’s interview is the cover story for this weekend’s Parade magazine. The quote about Jesus appears under “web exclusive” at the Parade website at this link:

The interview is getting tons of publicity, and fundamentalist Christians are already denouncing it.

I promote the gay Jesus in my blog, books and website (, so I’m pleased to hear Elton John saying that Jesus was gay. Maybe Elton John has visited this blog!

It’s important to present Jesus as gay in order to counteract Christian anti-gay hate and bigotry. The name of Jesus is being misused to justify hate and discrimination against GLBT people, but Jesus taught love for all.

If you’re interested in whether Jesus was really gay, I recommend “The Man Jesus Loved” by Theodore Jennings, a reputable Bible scholar who argues that Jesus had same-sex attractions. To see how artists envision a gay Jesus, check out my book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.”

To Elton John, I paraphrase one of your hits and say with thanks, “My gift is my blog and this post is for you.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday: Our fast has been imposed by others

Shower of Stoles representing the ministry of LGBT people.

We celebrate Ash Wednesday with an excerpt from “Rite for Lent” by Chris Glaser, published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations. Lent is a time of fasting and reflection in the weeks before Easter.

One: Jesus,
     our fast has been imposed by others,
     our wilderness sojourn their choice more than ours.
Many: Our fast from the sacraments,
     our fast from ordination:
     our only choice was honesty.
One: With the scapegoats of the ancient Hebrews,
     sexual sins of generations
     have been heaped upon our backs,
     and we have been sent away,
     excommunicated, into the wilderness to die.
Many: Yet we choose life,
     even in our deprivation
One: Jesus, lead us to discern our call
     parallel to your own:
     rebelling against the boundaries,
     questioning the self-righteous authorities,
     breaking the Sabbath law
     to bring healing.

Chris Glaser is a gay Christian author and activist. After 30 years spent struggling with the Presbyterian Church for the right to ordination as an openly gay man, he was ordained to the ministry in Metropolitan Community Churches in 2005. He currently pastors at Virginia Highland Church, a progressive Baptist and United Church of Christ congregation in Atlanta.

A valuable resource on ordination of LGBT people is the Shower of Stoles project at:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New film: Lesbians infiltrate anti-gay church

Two lesbian ministers pose as husband and wife to infiltrate a conservative Texas mega-church in a new documentary premiering today (Feb. 16).

Faith of the Abomination” opens today at The Loft Cinema in Tucson, AZ.

Ceil Melton and Han Nguyen got the idea for the film after that particular church rejected them because of their sexual orientation. Lonely and frustrated, the women decided to go undercover and try to win acceptance as a straight couple in the same church.

Their hidden cameras tell the story of how they successfully duped the homophobic pastor and infiltrated the church, becoming members of the church’s inner circle.

“Prior to embarking on this project, we assumed that the hate rhetoric coming from America’s pulpits was a manifestation of self-righteous religion,” Nguyen says on her blog. “The truth points to something much deeper... unrelenting GREED!”

Their film investigation unravels a hornet’s nest of greed, religious persecution, indoctrination of children, and partisan politics from the pulpit. The church has strayed far from the teaching of Jesus.

I’ve been following the “Faith of the Abomination” film project since 2007. I can hardly wait to seeing the completed film.

For more info, visit

Here is a sneak-peek clip from the documentary, showing part of Melton’s transformation from female to male appearance. “Will I still be an abomination in the mainstream church’s eyes to God?” she asks as she cuts off her hair. “Am I really that abomination? Let’s change the outside package and see if my spirit will connect with theirs. That’s what I’m after.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hallelujah: kd lang wows the Olympics

kd singing "Hallelujah" was the highlight of the Olympics opening ceremony. She sounded and looked great!

The Grammy-winning singer came out as a lesbian in 1992 and is a champion of LGBT rights. She is a committed Buddhist.

Click for a wonderful video of her singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”… it’s spiritual, Biblical, but also contemporary and mysterious.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Brothers by affection: Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus: Brothers by affection

Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. © 1995
Courtesy of (800.699.4482)
Collection of the Living Circle, Chicago, IL

Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus were Roman soldiers in Armenia and “brothers by affection.” They are considered a primary example of same-sex lovers in the early church. Polyeuct’s feast day is Feb. 13.

The men had a strong desire to spend eternity together, so Polyeuct converted from paganism to Christianity, the faith of his beloved Nearchus. With a convert’s zeal he attacked a pagan procession and was beheaded for his crime in the year 259. Shortly before he was executed, he spoke his last words to Nearchus: “Remember our secret vow.” Thus Polyeuct is known as a protector of vows and avenger of broken promises, in addition to his role as a probable “gay saint.”

The love story of Polyeuct and Nearchus is told with wonderful historical detail in two books, “Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe” by Yale history professor John Boswell and “Passionate Holiness” by Dennis O’Neill.

O’Neill reports that French writer Robert Dartois recently took the story of Polyeuct and Nearchus from “Passionate Holiness” and turned it into a libretto, which was then set by the Swiss composer Thierry Chatelain as the oratorio “Polyeucte et Nearchus.”

O’Neill is founder of the Living Circle, the interfaith LGBT spirituality center that commissioned the icon above. It was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons. It is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major controversy in 2005. Critics accused Lentz of glorifying sin and creating propaganda for a progressive sociopolitical agenda, and he temporarily gave away the copyright for the controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores. All 10 are now displayed there as a collection titled “Images That Challenge.”

For those wanting to research the saints on the Internet, it helps to know that there are many variations in the spellings of their names, such as Polyeuctus and Nearchos.

This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Conjuring Jesus poems: Homoerotic taste of heaven

A vibrantly alive Jesus, complete with homoerotic desires, emerges from the poetry of Brian Day in his new book “Conjuring Jesus.”

From the very first poem, Day delves into the bisexuality that Jesus inherited from his ancestor King David. Some of the most wonderful poems present what I call a “gay Jesus.” He bonds with his male Beloved, sits beside a near-naked young man, gets trapped in gay love triangle with Judas, and endures the humiliation of being called “faggot.” In “Better Not to Marry” (reprinted below), Jesus praises the “unmarrying brand of men” that God created.

Day, a Toronto teacher, conjures up a Jesus who is both sexual and spiritual, “wholly versatile” and “an unscrupulous party boy” who eats and drinks with sinners. Day distills the essence of Jesus in a sensuous, playful way that remains true to the human spirit and to the spirit of the gospels. His poems liberate the soul with a fresh, unrestricted view of Jesus.

The 49 short poems in this slim volume work both as literature and as devotional reading for the open-minded. They are arranged to follow Jesus from his baptism through his death and resurrection, with parables and miracles sprinkled throughout.

Like Day, I wrote about a queer Christ in my “Jesus in Love” novels. I know how hard it is to “conjure” a Jesus who is erotically alive while transcending all categories of male or female, gay or straight, God or human. I appreciate the deft style with which Day accomplishes the task. For example, in “Jesus, Versatile” he manages to convey Jesus’ own ecstatic union with God, “entering, entered, everywhere at once.”

Day’s best poems, and there are many, focus on emotion and embodiment. Readers will either love or hate the few poems that stray into other territory, such as equating Jesus with Mohammad and Buddha. I personally enjoyed the poem where Jesus and Krishna “meet as bridegrooms long promised to each other.” I look forward to his next project, which will blend homoerotic and interfaith themes.

Since Day writes so well about men, perhaps it is inevitable that some of his poems about women are less satisfying. I do object to his repeated and distracting use of “man” to refer to all people.

I read “Conjuring Jesus” at bedtime, a few poems per night. They sweetly opened my heart before I closed my eyes for a good night’s sleep. It’s also suitable to read “Conjuring Jesus” right alongside the Bible, thanks to a list of Biblical references for each poem at the end of the book.

Day writes of a Jesus who offers “the pleasures of sliding into our own promised land -- this delicious, indiscriminate view of heaven.” I recommend that you taste heaven now by reading “Conjuring Jesus.”
Click here to read the poem “Better Not to Marry” from the new book.

Related links:
Brian Day: Homoerotic interfaith poetry book explores “lust for the holy”
(Jesus in Love review of Brian Day's 2013 book "The Daring of Paradise")

“Conjuring Jesus”
By Brian Day
Guernica Editions
ISBN: 1550712748
Paperback, $13, 96 pages

Poem: “Better Not to Marry” by Brian Day

Special thanks to Brian Day for permission to post the following poem from his new book “Conjuring Jesus.”

Better Not to Marry
by Brian Day

Jesus, speaking to his intimate
circle of friends, assures them
it’s better not to marry
but to wander unfamilied
in the company of men. He calls
his merry band to not-marry
with him, and conceives
of a Creator who, from the womb,
fashions this unmarrying brand of men
and calls them as prophets
in the birth of a kingdom.

Jesus extols the flexible eunuch
who sets aside his masculine habits
and surrenders himself to the wills
of men. He wishes all his followers
to be men and eunuchs, blessed
with that angelic ambiguity
of gender as they are entered
and enter the gates of heaven.

Jesus looks forward to that far
resurrection when marriage itself
will be finally moulted
and all will float freely
as bachelors and boys.
They’ll drift promiscuous
through heavenly forms,
their bodies as permeable
and as shimmering as words.

Biblical references: Matthew 19:10-12, 22:29-30

Related links:
Brian Day: Homoerotic interfaith poetry book explores “lust for the holy”
(Jesus in Love review of Brian Day's 2013 book "The Daring of Paradise")

“Better Not to Marry” appears in the book “Conjuring Jesus” by Brian Day. He studied at Trent University and the University of Toronto. Day is the author of “Love is Not Native to My Blood” (2000) and “Azure” (2004), both published by Guernica Editions. He teaches in Toronto.

Click here for Kittredge Cherry’s review of “Conjuring Jesus.

Friday, February 05, 2010

LGBT “Bible-bomb” photos planned


Self portrait by Justin Monroe

An exciting photo project on the Bible and homosexuality is being planned by Clayton Gibson, founder of, and photographer Justin Monroe (self portrait above).

Gibson says the photos will be “a sexy little Bible-bomb that helps people take religious condemnation of LGBT people far less seriously.”

He hopes to use an irreverent spirit as a teaching tool. “These photos are primarily educational, and will arm LGBTQ people with information to stand up for themselves against attacks on their identity and rights from biblical grounds,” Gibson says.

“People still struggling to reconcile their LGBT identity with Christianity could find this art life-changing. In fact, this first MyOutSpirit photo shoot will be our largest salvo to deconstruct the deeply internalized cultural belief that queer people and families are not whole, sacred, and equal -- ‘because the Bible says so,’” he says.

Gibson is raising funds now for the photo shoot. This is your chance to be an art patron. Click here to go to and make a donation.

While you’re there, check out the many other resources at, a social portal for spiritual LGBT people. I go there often as a frequent contributor to their Gay Spirituality Blog.

Monroe is a world-renowned gay photographer whose provocative images include eroticized views of Christian iconography. A book of his photos, titled “Down the Rabbit Hole,” was published in 2008.

With help from donors, the images will appear online and on posters available everywhere to reveal what the Bible does -- and does NOT -- say about homosexuality.

Monday, February 01, 2010

St. Brigid loved her female soulmate Darlughdach

For a new version of this article, click
Brigid and Darlughdach: Celtic saint loved her female soulmate

“Saint Brighid and Darlughdach of Kildare” by Rowan Lewgalon and Tricia Danby (

Saint Brigid and her soulmate Darlughdach were sixth-century Irish nuns who brought art, education and spirituality to early medieval Ireland. Brigid (c.451-525) shares her name and feast day (Feb. 1) with a Celtic goddess -- and she may have been the last high priestess of the goddess Brigid.  Her followers still keep a flame burning for her.

Raised by Druids, Brigid seems to have made a smooth transition from being a pagan priestess to a Christian abbess. Today she is Ireland’s most famous female saint. Her name is also spelled Bridget.  Legend says that when she made her final vows as a nun, the bishop in charge was so overcome by the Holy Spirit that he administered the rite for ordaining a (male) bishop instead.

A younger nun named Darlughdach served as Brigid’s ambassador and her “anam cara” or soul friend. The two women were so close that they slept in the same bed. Like many Celtic saints, Brigid believed that each person needs a soul friend to discover together that God speaks most powerfully in the seemingly mundane details of shared daily life. The love between these two women speaks to today’s lesbians and their allies. Some say that Brigid and Darlughdach are lesbian saints.

Brigid started convents all over Ireland and became the abbess of the “double monastery” (housing both men and women) at Kildare. Built on land that was previously sacred to her divine namesake, the monastery included an art school for creating illuminated manuscripts.

After Brigid turned 70, she warned Darlughdach that she expected to die soon. Her younger soulmate begged to die at the same time. Brigid wanted her to live another year so she could succeed her as abbess. Brigid died of natural causes on Feb. 1, 525. The bond between the women was so close that Darlughdach followed her soulmate in death exactly one year later on Feb. 1, 526.

Both Christians and pagans celebrate St. Brigid’s Day on Feb. 1. It is also known as Imbolc, a spring festival when the goddess Brigid returns as the bride of spring in a role similar to the Greek Persephone. People still celebrate her day by weaving twigs into a square “Brigid’s Cross,” an ancient solar symbol traditionally made to welcome spring.

Brigid’s main symbol was fire, representing wisdom, poetry, healing and metallurgy. The nuns at the Kildare monastery kept a perpetual fire burning in Brigid’s memory for more than a thousand years -- until 1540 when it was extinguished in Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The Order of St. Brigid was reestablished in 1807. Two Brigidine sisters returned to Kildare and relit the fire in the market square for the first time in more than 400 years on Feb. 1, 1993. The perpetual flame is now kept at the Solas Bhride (Brigid’s Light) Celtic Spirituality Center that they founded there. In addition, anyone may sign up to tend St. Brigid’s flame in their own homes through the Ord Brighideach Order of Flame Keepers.

Two Celtic Christian artists based in Germany collaborated on the sensuously spiritual portrait of Brigid and Darlughdach at the top of this post. On the left is Darlughdach, painted as a fiery redhead by Rowan Lewgalon, and on the right is fair-haired Brighid, painted by Tricia Danby. Lewgalon and Danby are both clerics in the Old Catholic Apostolic Church as well as spiritual artists whose work is online at

"Saints Brigid and Darlughdach of Kildare"
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. © 1999

Brigid and Darlughdach are shown with their arms around each other in the above icon by Brother Robert Lentz. He is a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his progressive icons. The two women are dressed in the white gowns worn by Druid priestesses and Celtic nuns. Flames burn above them and on the mandala of Christ that they carry. It is one of 40 icons featured in his book Christ in the Margins.

The icon was commissioned by the Living Circle, a Chicago-based interfaith spirituality center for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community and their friends. Four Living Circle members took the original icon to Kildare with them in 2000 for the flame-lighting ceremony at the recently excavated site of Brigid’s ancient fire temple.

Dennis O’Neill, the priest who founded the Living Circle, includes the icon and an in-depth biography of Brigid and Darlughdach in his book “Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive People.”

Brigid’s spirit of fun and hospitality is expressed in her reputation for loving beer. She made beer for the poor every Easter. In a well known poem attributed to Brigid, she envisioned heaven as a great lake of beer. Here are some of the words to St. Brigid’s Prayer, as translated and performed by Irish singer Noirin Ni Riain:

I’d sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

Riain also sings a heavenly Ode To Bridget on the video below and on her Celtic Soul album.

Related links:

February 1st: Celebrate Brigit's Day by Diann Neu (WATER)

To read this article in Spanish, go to:
Santa Brigid y Darlughdach: Irlandés santo amaba a su alma amiga (Santos Queer)

To read this article in Italian, go to:
Il fuoco di Santa Brigida e la sua anima gemella. Due monache nell’Irlanda medioevale (


Icons of Brigid and Darlughdach and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.