Greater NW Pride: Happy Pride and Happy Pentecost!


Happy Pride and Happy Pentecost!

This coming Sunday is Pentecost, the day the Church celebrates the descending of the Spirit upon the earth. This was no ordinary event, by any stretch of the imagination! With Jesus having ascended into the heavens, there came not a quiet breeze, but the sound like the “rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where (the disciples_ were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:1-4).
Pride is like Pentecost in the LGBTQIA+ community, especially for those of us who are people of faith as well. After all, flames—like that of Pentecost—had all the colors of the rainbow, and if there is one thing that has lit up on my Facebook and Instagram accounts are images of rainbows all over the website. A rush like a strong wind blows through the entire LGBTQIA+ community this month of the year, in which the words we are so happy to repeat are, “Happy Pride,” and “We’re Queer, We’re Here!” As the flames of Pentecost set ancient tongues wagging, so Pride causes people to burst out in too-many-to-count postings from friends, colleagues, family members, and acquaintances from around the world who are sharing the good news of Pride! I see so many rainbow flags, rainbow bunting, tie-dyed rainbow t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants, head-bands, toy-unicorns, head scarves, sunglasses, socks, clergy stoles, swimsuits, bubbles, and underwear. I am getting ready to be in another LGBTQ+ Pride march, having attended my first one over 25-years ago with my young children, and joining in the fun of marching in Pride Parades over 15-years ago in Durham, North Carolina. Pride parades, and the festival-like atmosphere around them, are truly a celebration of life, without apology, from the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride celebrations began with as both a celebration but also protest, honoring and recognizing the Stone Wall Inn riots in June 1968, which I covered in a recent blog post. While police were responsible for terrorizing the LGBTQIA+ patrons of the Stone Wall Inn bar in 1968, today, there are many LGBTQIA+ police officers throughout this country. Progress! In 1969, the first Pride Parade was held in New York City.  Since then, Pride parades and festivities have been held around the world as both a celebration and a political statement and protest, to let the world around us know that we, who are LGBTQ+, are here, queer, and staying here. https://www.umoi.org/blogdetail/greater-nw-pride-pride-parades-and-your-church-12822792
And it seems like the Holy Spirit has descended upon the United Methodist Church! I am marveling at the movement of this very same Spirit that surprises us in Acts is moving without delay within the United Methodist Church as more churches, conferences, Sunday school classes, youth groups and individuals are joining up with the Reconciling Ministry Network, as well as re-writing their “Welcoming Letter” on the first page of their websites and re-designing their street-front signage. Individuals are either slowly or quickly coming out of their respective closets as well, with more out-LGBTQ+ candidates, along with straight allies, are being received in the track of ordination for being a deacon or elder and fully ordained as a deacon or elder in the United Methodist Church, with church placements as well, from the Mid-Atlantic Baltimore-Washington Conference, to northern Illinois, to northern Texas! Meanwhile, delegates are being voted upon for the General Conference 2020, with many Conferences being represented by delegates who do not support the so-called “Traditional” plan, as these very same Conferences came out against the Traditional plan, with many academic institutions of higher education connected with the United Methodist Church disaffiliating with the denomination. This is such a different place and people than we were pre-February 2019! It’s like we are living in the days of the prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophecy…Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2: 17-21).
What surprised me a little and caused me to pause amid the hoopla of Pride and Pentecost was a reflection on LGBTQ+ Pride Parades and Pride by a person on my Facebook feed. This person wrote that he had never full embraced “Gay Pride” for many years (he recently married his husband). He wrote: “In a way, I myself was practicing the same judgment of the stereotypes of Gay Pride, the rainbow flag, and the parades because I, myself, wanted to be seen as ‘normal.’ As a kid, I was bullied for being different, acting gay, holding my wrist a certain way, and not wanting to play football.  I can’t tell you how many times I pled with God to make me like the other guys. I spent most of my youth trying to hide who God made me to be, hiding my passion for interior design, laying about what made me happy, and longing to please God because I didn’t believe our Creator loved me the way I was. What has taken me a very long time to realize (along with a bit of therapy) is that everyone deserves to be proud, and we should celebrate our differences.  We are all created to be individuals who have different desires, passions, and sometimes love that looks different from how the world says it should be.”
“One of the most inspiring moments (came at the end of an episode of) RuPaul’s Drag Race, when RuPaul asks each contestant: ‘What advice would the person standing here today say to the kid pictured here (a picture from the contestant’s youth)?’ I think about that this question often and invite everyone to think about what (would be your) response?”
His response? What my Facebook friend realized is that he is created exactlyhow God wanted him to be created, and that he need not waste another minute pretending to be someone that he is not.  He quotes Jeremiah 1:15: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
In the end of his post, my friend suggested that those of us who are out of our respected closets now take time to “pay it forward”: to talk to kids who are being bullied and tell them “it gets better,” and to love one another. As Jesus love us, we should love one another (John 13:34-35). 
Friends, the Spirit of God is moving in the Church in general and is moving in and among the lives of LGBTQIA+ people of faith in particular! It isn’t a gentle breeze, but a rush of wind that is moving the minds, hearts, bodies, and doors of the Church, including the United Methodist Church, wide open. Happy Pride! And Happy Pentecost!

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!