Blog: Welcome Back

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

Classes are about to begin. The telltale signs are around us: the air is a little cooler, traffic has picked up in East Lansing, there are long lines in the store as people scramble for supplies, and if you listen closely you can hear the marching band practicing. There is no doubt about it and there is no avoiding it. Are you excited? Nervous? Eagerly anticipating the parent drop off? That’s all part of the journey. For new students: a new chapter is about to begin. For returning students: the routine is awaiting your arrival. For grad students: the routine, deadlines, and other students anticipate your wisdom. All of this energy creates a buzz on campus that no one can deny.

Photo taken 9/26/15 during game against Central Michigan University

Photo taken 9/26/15 during game against Central Michigan University

For those of us involved in the campus ministry, Q-Cross@MSU, the school year begins with the welcome events Sparticipation and Spartan Remix. We also have a display at Michigan Pride which is move-in weekend. It’s a whirlwind couple of weeks as we celebrate who we are as a campus ministry/student organization in queer, religious, and student-oriented terms.

Our first official gathering as a group is on Wednesday, September 14th at 7:30pm. We are hosting an Open House where people can gather, reconnect, hang out and play games. Our weekly meetings will continue from that point through the semester ending with a meal at a local restaurant during finals preparations.

Photo from our promo video on YouTube

Photo from our promo video on YouTube

Is our group for you? We are a group that meets weekly to support one another, discuss topics relevant to the queer and Christian communities, and we celebrate worship once a month (with an open table for Holy Supper). We laugh, cry, discuss, learn, disagree, and share our lives with each other. It is a space where a person identifying on the LGBTQ+/queer/questioning spectrum and as a Christian/spiritual seeker can have their identity affirmed and valued. We are a space for support in a large community that can be isolating. The routine of classes, papers, and projects can be overwhelming. We offer space where you can be your whole self—whoever that is today or tomorrow.

Blessings on the school year ahead,
Rev. Jenn Tafel

Advertisements

Blog: School Year Reflections

 

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

The final strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” are but shadows in the air now. The cap and gown are put aside. The books are shut and exams are finished. Bags are packed and the campus is quiet. It is the end of another school year and for some the end of an era and chapter in life. Did you do what you set out to do in August?

ExamDesk

At Q-CROSS@MSU we had an amazing year packed with rich content, heartfelt discussions, trips and conferences, panel discussions and guest presenters, and of course—fellowship. It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone.

Books2 green white

I get sad at the end of a school year as I miss our weekly conversations and check-ins. I’m also aware that for some it’s difficult to go “home.” For some, home is campus and friendships become family. Summer can be tricky to navigate waiting for August to come around so that one can breathe again. We don’t always hear about this stress, but I’m aware it exists. My prayers are with each person who’s come and gone through our group—life can be rough but you don’t have to do it alone.

Summer is also a time for jobs, camps, inter/externships, preparing for the next academic year, and hopefully some fun. At Q-CROSS@MSU we spend time during the summer preparing for the upcoming year and evaluating the previous one. Is there something you’d like to see, learn, or experience within our group? Email us: qcrossmsu@gmail.com and we’ll include your idea(s) in our brainstorming sessions.

Sparty1

Blessings on your summer,

Rev. Jenn Tafel

Go Green!

Blog: Gearing Up For the New Year

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

There is a buzz in the air: a mixture of excitement, anxiety, curiosity, and more. A new school year awaits and the MSU campus is beginning to come to life once again. Spartans from all corners of the world will descend on East Lansing in the next couple weeks. Studies and sporting events will begin, parties around campus will spring up (yes, they do happen!), and all kinds of extra-curricular activities will vie for students’ attention.

There are many aspects to college life including time for personal exploration. It is a time to investigate personal goals and values. It is a time for one to figure out one’s identity, passion, discipline, and life path. A question to ask may be, “What will I find at the core of my being?” People in many disciplines of study have been asking this for centuries. Included in one’s identity is gender expression and sexuality. Also included is an understanding of a force greater than ourselves—whether a person chooses to believe it exists and if so, if one will choose to engage it through religious practices.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

“The Thinker” sculpture by Auguste Rodin Photo Credit: Public Domain

This is where Q-CROSS@MSU fits into the equation. We are a student organization at MSU that celebrates the intersection of queer-identified and Christian* students. We come together for weekly events including Bible study, fellowship activities (movie and game nights), discussions on current events in the queer and trans* community, and worship that includes the Holy Supper (denied to many in the queer and trans* community). Our gatherings celebrate the wholeness and holiness of each other. It is a place for those who are questioning various aspects of their identity. It is a place to share stories and reclaim missing pieces of self-hood.

Photo Credit: U.S. Library of Congress

Gutenberg Bible Photo Credit: U.S. Library of Congress

The concepts of sin and abomination have dominated the conversation about the queer and trans* population in Christianity for decades. However, current scholarship on the intersection of queer and Christian invites one to take a different look at how these terms are used in Scripture and how we can find affirming language in the Bible. When the concepts that used to color perspective and understanding are off the table a new life emerges from ancient texts. New life also emerges within a person when they are affirmed on every level.

Photo Credit: Project Happiness (Facebook)

Photo Credit: Project Happiness (Facebook)

We are looking forward to a year of educational opportunities, fellowship, worship, and collaboration with other student organizations. This is another year where anything is possible. We look forward to meeting you. You are invited to our Open House on September 2 from 7-9 pm (location is TBD). Our regular weekly meetings begin on September 16 in the Union building. Connect with us on our Facebook page so you stay up to date on our events. Connect with Religious Life at MSU here for other opportunities on campus. Blessings on your academic life here at Michigan State. Go Green!

Blog: God and the Gay Christian

By Mary Sinnamon

By Mary Sinnamon

In the book entitled, “God and the Gay Christian,” Matthew Vines outlines scripture passages that have caused the gay community severe grief and even death over the past several years. He wrote this book after examining other authors’ research and perspectives, studying scripture in different translations, and after reflecting on his own experiences as a gay Christian. He takes these passages and confirms that there is a better, more sophisticated, and loving way to interpret and understand them. He had collected information on the culture of the time and place in which the books of the Bible were written and analyzed the original language and terminology (e.g. Greek, Hebrew) of which the verses were written. That way, he could discuss the Bible verses appropriately in context with deeper insight, unlike those who have read and interpreted the verses frivolously at face value.

Library
I recommend this book as a good “first read” for Christians who are in the process of coming out and for the family of those who are coming out who are struggling to reconcile their family member’s sexuality with their spirituality. I believe this because it was the first thing I read after having come out myself and impacted my spiritual growth greatly. I also hope to share this with my family eventually. It is a relatively short and easy read while also including all the relevant and compelling arguments surrounding these Bible passages. Vines hits on many of the big topics such as Adam & Eve, the gift of celibacy, Sodom & Gomorrah, the laws in Leviticus, Romans 1, who will inherit the Kingdom of God, a biblical argument for marriage equality, the image of God, the hurts of the ex-gay movement, and the uplifting work & hope of the reformation project. He also discusses the importance of understanding sexuality as an “orientation” and the ways in which it affects how the Bible verses are interpreted. Vines examines all these topics and wards off the misconceptions bridging the gap between Christianity and the gay community.

Book CoverStain Glass

I don’t want to give away too much detail about this book because I want you to read it, rather than reading a giant paraphrase of it by me lol 😉 but I would love to share some of my favorite quotes that I’ve highlighted under various topics from the book. This way, you get a good sample/snapshot of what the book is like!

  1. About the laws in Leviticus & Paul’s idea of natural: “…Leviticus prohibits male same-sex relations, but it uses similar language to prohibit the eating of shellfish. And while Paul did describe same-sex relations as ‘unnatural,’ he also wrote that for men to wear their hair long was contrary to ‘nature.’ Yet Christians no longer regard eating shellfish or men having long hair as sinful.” (and there are many more laws that aren’t valid today!)
  2. Vine’s reflection on same-sex relations relative to sin: “…as I became more aware of same-sex relationships, I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them. With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause. Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse. Lust objectifies others. Gossip degrades people. But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern. Not only were they not harmful to anyone, they were characterized by positive motives and traits instead, like faithfulness, commitment, mutual love, and self-sacrifice.”
    “Sadly, negative attitudes toward gay relationships have led to crippling depression, torment, suicide, and alienation from God and the church. I suggested that, if for no other reason, those destructive consequences should compel Christians to take a closer look at the relevant Scripture passages.”
    “There was no word in ancient Greek, Hebrew, or Latin that corresponds to the English work for ‘gay,’ as the concept of an exclusive, permanent same-sex orientation is little more than a century old.”
  3. On sexual orientation: “…sexual orientation is not a choice, and it is highly resistant to change.”
    “If you are a straight Christian, I invite you to think about your own experience with sexuality. I doubt you could point to a moment when you chose to be attracted to members of the opposite sex.”
  4. On celibacy: “We can embrace gay relationships and maintain a traditional view of celibacy, or we can change our understanding of celibacy and keep a traditional view of gay relationships. But we cannot do both.”
    “…the New Testament endorses celibacy as an honored way of life. But at the same time, it makes clear that celibacy should be a voluntary choice, not an imposed requirement…Jesus said celibacy could be accepted only by ‘those to whom it has been given.’ Celibacy is a gift, and those who do not have the gift should marry”
    “…for those who have the gift, lifelong celibacy should at least be possible without causing them grave damage. Sadly, for many gay Christians, that isn’t the case.”
  5. About creation: “…the account of Eve’s creation doesn’t emphasize Adam’s need to procreate. It emphasizes instead his need for relationship…Adam’s spouse couldn’t have been a man any more than she could have been an infertile woman.”
  6. About Sodom: “Sodom’s sin was declared to be arrogance and inhospitality.”
    “…this (requesting Lot’s guests to have sex with them) was not an expression of sexual desire. It was threatened gang rape. In the ancient world, for a man to be raped was considered the ultimate degradation…Aggression and dominance were the motives in these situations, not sexual attraction.”
  7. God’s image: “In Genesis 1:27 ’in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’—most likely means ‘that both male and female are created in the divine image…[and] that all the dignity, honor, and significance of bearing the divine image belong equally to men and to women.’”
  8. About marriage: “In Jesus’s understanding of marriage, covenantal commitment is foundational. The ability to bear children is not.”
    “…and despite the significance of procreation in the Old Testament, infertile marriages were not considered illegitimate.”
    “What seems to me to be the most important in marriage is not whether the partners are anatomically different from one another. It’s whether the inherently different people involved are willing to keep covenant with each other in a relationship of mutual self-giving. Differences in personality, passions, careers, goals, and needs are the differences that require each partner’s self-sacrifice, which reflects Christ’s sacrificial love for us. Those kinds of differences, when valued and sacrificed for, bring the Bible’s basis for marriage to life. Same-sex couples can and do live out that deepest sense of difference.”

Oh my goodness gracious, now I’m writing the whole book. There’s no way one blog post can do it justice, so read it. It’s really great! 🙂

Blog: Pentecost: Using our Gifts to Renew the Face of the Earth

By Steven Kandow

By Steven Kandow

This weekend, the church celebrates the feast of Pentecost, the day in which many denominations celebrate the birth of the Christian church. It’s marked by the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, sent amongst the apostles to renew the face of the earth through spreading the good news.

Photo credit: Parish of Saint Monica

Photo credit: Parish of Saint Monica

Throughout most of Lent and the Easter season, I’ve been pondering these questions: What can I do to help renew the face of the earth?  How can I advance the good news of Jesus’s message of salvation for all?

One late April morning, the Holy Spirit answered my questions of how I could contribute to advancing God’s kingdom using my own gifts.  The arguments for the Obergefell v. Hodges case had just concluded earlier that week and there had been no references in the priest’s homily that morning for the need for society or the Supreme Court to embrace the “traditional definition of marriage,” so I thought I was in the clear from any political commentary for that mass.

However, when the priest began saying the general intercessions, he offered a prayer for the Supreme Court to uphold the definition of marriage as intended by God.  At first, I was taken aback as I was every time a reference to the marriage equality movement surfaced in mass.  After reflecting on the moment, though, I couldn’t help but smile, and I found myself joining in the congregational response: “Lord, hear our prayer.”

For me, marriage as intended by God references God’s solution for the problem of man being alone (Gen 2:18).  For heterosexual couples, that mirrors the first human couple Adam and Eve, but for same-sex couples, their “suitable partner” (Gen 2:19) does not fit this model.  Marriage, therefore, reflects a commitment to a lifestyle in which two suitable partners-God’s words, not mine!-come together to share their lives with one another.

As I sat down after the general intercessions, I reflected on how my personal spiritual journey had led to me viewing scripture in this way.  I had to come to appreciate the scholarly, historic, and contextual way in which God’s word revealed itself to me, allowing me to look beyond the face value interpretation of scripture to see the meaning behind God’s message on how we are to develop a relationship with Him and with others.

I thought of the many other affirming Christians that knew in their hearts of God’s love for the LGBT community, but were forced to hear messages of condemnation, intolerance, or fear from their pulpits.  At that point, the Holy Spirit revealed a way in which I could be a source of affirmation from a scriptural perspective.

Bird Book

Today’s blog post, therefore, is the first in a series of affirming reflections on scripture readings within the context of the Church liturgical year.  It is intended for anyone searching for affirming scriptural meditation.  It will always focus on the readings for a Catholic Mass on that particular day and will reflect through a Catholic lens (for the most part) on things such as Mary, the saints, and the sacraments, but my goal is to write these reflections so they can be used by any and all Christians searching for reflective meditations without fear of condemnation of the movements for full LGBT inclusion in Christian churches.

The feast of Pentecost offers several options for readings between the vigil and Sunday Masses.  One Old Testament option for the Vigil Mass tells the story of the Tower of Babel, in which God created the many languages of the earth to prevent the builders from stretching their tower all the way to the sky.  In the first reading of the Pentecost feast day, the Holy Spirit negates this barrier by allowing the Apostles to share the Gospel with people from all nations, languages, and walks of life.

Photo credit: Catholic Bible 101

Photo credit: Catholic Bible 101

Another contrast between the story of the Tower of Babel and the story of Pentecost involves perspective relative to location.  The builders of the tower sought only to reach God in the heavens.  However, the mission of the Apostles upon receiving the Holy Spirit was very clearly an earthly one.  God desires for us to seek His presence in others rather than simply looking above.

This is a trap that the Apostles fell into briefly when Jesus ascended into heaven.  They found themselves looking up until two angels reminded them of the work they had yet to do here below.  Unfortunately, it’s a trap that many today seem to also fall into.  It’s easy to spend so much time looking to heaven that we forget about God’s creation here on Earth.

The reading from 1 Corinthians for this feast reminds us that “[t]here are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Cor. 12: 4-6).

Today, on this feast of Pentecost, remember that the Holy Spirit has given gifts to you to bring about the realization of God’s kingdom here on Earth.  Take some time to reflect on what gifts you have been given and how you can use those gifts to share the good news of Christ with others.

Photo credit: Pixgood

Photo credit: Pixgood

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus offers peace to his disciples after his resurrection.  It is this very peace that remains at the core of Jesus’s teaching; this is the crux of the message we are to “renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104: 30b) with.  May God’s peace and joy be with you as we celebrate the birth of the Church on this feast of Pentecost.

Special thanks to QCROSS @ MSU for posting the pilot blog for this series of reflections.  For more articles, be sure to visit Affirming Catholic Reflections at:

https://affirmingcatholicreflections.wordpress.com

Dr. Steven Kandow is an alumus of Michigan State University and is former Vice President of Q-CROSS @ MSU

Blog: Narrating a New Normal

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

It was a blessing beyond measure to attend MBLGTACC2015. I was a little bummed to be leaving my partner over Valentine’s weekend, but he and I celebrated earlier in the week—so I wasn’t too bummed out. I also was a bit concerned about the weather, but it held out. Good driving weather, but -25 degrees with the wind-chill once we got there! I was able to put most of these minor worries away once we got going down the highway because this adventure held more opportunity for fun and learning than what would hold us back.

I traveled to the event with one of the members of Q-CROSS@MSU, Mary. We both were looking forward (read: ECSTATIC!) to the keynote speaker, Laverne Cox, and what the workshops had to offer. As someone who loves all things alternative (okay, most things alternative!)—I was also looking forward to being with a crowd who pushes back against the mainstream. It was also an opportunity to connect with a member of Q-CROSS@MSU by learning her life story in more detail. The journey went by quickly as we both shared pieces of our life story and how we found our way into the queer culture and what that means for both of us.

Laverne Cox Collage

I had the good fortune to hear Laverne Cox speak at an event last spring, and I was eagerly anticipating what she had to offer at this event. To hear Laverne Cox speak is to connect with her truth in a profound and meaningful way. She is eloquent and articulate with humor that runs deep. She has traveled to dark places and prevailed. She weaves education and empowerment through her life story like the great masters with grace. She is a model for us all and thank goodness the trans* community has such an advocate and activist. She has away about her that makes a person want to #fixsociety with her. She runs a powerful Q & A—and this time was no different. We are all better people for being in that crowd and bearing witness to the light that is Laverne Cox.

How do you top that? You don’t. You find a way to integrate the learning and shine your light. Off we went to the next event, Vagina Monologues play offers a different form of empowerment—just as powerful. We left the conference center on a buzz.

MBLGTACC Photo collage

The rest of the conference was no less amazing. I was lucky enough to float between student and advisor workshops. The learning and networking opportunities were fantastic. I came away inspired and ready for action. From the plenary session on identity to the workshops for advisors to the closing keynote speaker—the message range out about self-care and authenticity. I took to heart the message, “We need you for the long haul.” I’ve been reflecting on this since I returned home. This conference had something for everyone. The entertainment Saturday night was aw esome. We got a dose of slam poetry with Kit Yan and a drag show hosted by Bianca Del Rio Two completely different forms of entertainment—both were spectacular.

During the closing ceremony we watched the promo video for the next conference to be held at Purdue University. I cried happy tears while I watched it as I felt a renewed sense of call. And while sometimes one can feel a sense of separation among the community, we truly are in this together. Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington imparted the message, “Wholeness is the new normal.” Wholeness within ourselves, the LGBTQ community, and our culture. How will I narrate a new normal? With a sense of corniness (for which I am famous), “This little light of mine—I’m going to let it shine…”

Blog: My Story, Mary Sinnamon

By Mary Sinnamon

By Mary Sinnamon

It wasn’t until I was about 25 and having breakfast with my sister and two friends at The Friendly Toast in Boston that a very heavy burden fell off my shoulders that I had been carrying around my whole life.  I clicked well with our waitress and was talking to her a lot when my sister’s friend said, “Why don’t you just write your number on her hand or something? Woah…are you even into women?”  I faltered over how to respond, and apparently, not saying anything at all is the same as saying yes.  On the plane ride home to MI, my thoughts were running a thousand miles an hour—perhaps faster than the plane.  What will happen when the Baptist churches I would faithfully attend with my family find out? Could I ever go back? Will the Christian fellowship group I’m a part of at MSU kick me out? Let me still be a leader? How will my parents respond? I could feel that burden crawling back onto my shoulders again. Then a funny thing happened.  I realized I had sat in the wrong seat on the plane, yet no one made me move.  I looked at the man next to me and told him my concern. He smiled and said, “I’m sure it’s ok, you can stay.” I then noticed that he was wearing a rainbow bracelet.  I tend to be curious about bracelets because it seems like people always have a story behind them.  I asked him what his bracelet was for and he told me he is gay.  All the way home, we talked about life and the journey of coming out. I even told him my concerns about being Christian & how that would work. He said, “I know it’s scary, but some people will surprise you.” And that’s exactly what happened. I feel like God set up that encounter, and since then, I began my journey of coming out little by little to more people.

Mary (2)

I got mixed responses.  I found out a few of my closest friends weren’t surprised at all, they had always wondered if I was gay, and my family ended up being loving toward me. However, I did get some harsh messages from people within the Baptist church, and wasn’t allowed to become a leader for the college Christian fellowship group which hit me hard. But like my friend on the plane said would happen, a few people from my church and old college group came to me in support which surprised me a lot. However, it wasn’t enough to make me feel welcome at the Baptist churches and that small amount of support couldn’t change the fact that I couldn’t sign the contract (which blatantly condemned homosexuality) to be a leader for the fellowship group.  I then desperately wanted to belong somewhere, so I began looking up LGBT+ groups on campus, and luckily MSU is extremely friendly in that criteria. They had a lot of groups, and I was ecstatic when I realized that a club existed for Queer Christian people—QCROSS.  They happily welcomed me into their group and introduced me to affirming churches in the area, and I never before felt more at home.

All the way from kindergarten through high school graduation, I had attended a small, private Christian school in Troy, MI.  They were against a lot of things—homosexuality was towards the top of the long list.  My first crush was on girl in my sister’s class in elementary.  As I grew older, I came to the conclusion that my attractions were abnormal, even sinful.  Shame began to build within me till I felt like I could burst. I began to pray to God to be different, I kept praying those magical salvation words and getting re-saved over and over, and on multiple occasions I even asked God to take me to heaven because nothing I tried was changing me.  I ended up dating men only to get hurt or hurt them which struck my life with a lot of strife and anxiety.  After having come-out, I realized my relationship with God has grown exponentially stronger.  I finally felt whole.  However, attacks did come my way.  The most difficult thing to hear from people in my old church is their opinion on my walk with God.  People would write to me over the social media, and because I’m lesbian, they would “assume” I no longer go to church, that I never pray, that I’m promiscuous, that I’m just “confused,” and nothing could be farther from the truth.  The best piece of advice that I have from that experience is:  Never let anybody tell you how your relationship with God is.  Your walk with God is yours and yours alone.  I feel like God is for me, and even though I may not have realized it growing up, he has always been for me and has always loved me just the way I am. God wouldn’t have made me this way and will that I be alone.  That goes against His character and His entire reason for creating more than one human in the beginning (Genesis 2: 18 “And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone…”).

I recently attended MBLGTACC in Normal, IL.  It was a complete culture shock for me, but I learned so much there.  I remember at the opening ceremony, Laverne Cox saying, “Hurt people hurt people.” Then at the ending ceremony, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington said, “Self-work, healing, forgiveness, & self-love are necessary for acceptance of others.”  When you accept yourself for who you are, you are more capable of loving and accepting others, and others are more capable of loving you as well because you let them.  I think this is why my relationship with God grew so much stronger. The feeling of disappointing Him and feeling judged by Him ceased when I came to realize that I am just the way He made me to be and that I am worthy of his love.  So, it’s better.

Mary (3)

On a final note, Easter is approaching.  Remember, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. He didn’t just give His life for some people. He gave His life for you, for me, and for everyone who wants to know Him!