Greater NW Pride: LGBTQ+ Missionary Pilgrimage in Southern Idaho, 2019!


LGBTQ+ Missionary Pilgrimage in Southern Idaho, 2019!

By the time I got on my Alaska Air flight back to Portland via Seattle and sat down, I knew I was tired from traveling many miles.  Yet a big grin came across my face as I leaned against the window side of the small prop plane. What an incredible, short pilgrimage I went on across the southern, broad, part of Idaho! I called it the LGBTQ+ Missionary Pilgrimage, although on Facebook I called it the Queer Missionary Pilgrimage, spreading the love of Jesus who called us to love one another: by this they will know you are my disciples because you love one another (John 13:35, paraphrased).
On Sept. 25, 2019, my first day in Idaho began in Boise, when I have time to chat over coffee with Reconciling member Debbie Mallis, member of Hillview UMC, a Reconciling congregation in Boise. Then I went to the home of Jenny Hirst and the folks of a new Reconciling group, Rainbow Connection. After a delicious taco dinner, twenty people gathered together for a book discussion focused on the book Other Wise Christin: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation,by Mx Chris Paige. We had an interesting discussion on Genesis 2, a.k.a., the second creation story, and the formless, gender free earth creature, a-dam,and its relevance to today’s world.
On Thursday, Sept. 26, the sun was out and the sky was blue when I awoke in Twin Falls, ID. I was picked up at the Red Lion Inn by local pastor Mike Holomon with time to talk about LGBTQ+ issues in the denomination and OR-ID Annual Conference with Mike (Twin Falls) and Amber Gayle Reed (Gooding) at a local eatery, Idaho Joe’s. This was followed up by a trip to Wendell, ID and a fascinating Bible study on Genesis 3 at the local UMC church, in which we read that Eve and Adam both bit from the fruit in the garden. We then discussed this Scripture in light of the presence of LGBTQ+ people in the Church today, and discussed who do we think we are hiding from in our gardens today?
Another high point of my time in Twin Falls, and on the pilgrimage, was the Drag Queen Theology night at Yellow Brick Road Café! Hosted by First UMC Twin Falls and their pastor Buddy Gharring, we had forty people in the café, with fabulous drag queen talent galore: Chaise Manhattan, Temperance, Lavender, Darla, Amelia, and Cloaca! In between each drag queen performance, there was time for Chaise, Amber Gayle, and I to read and respond to 3-by-5 cards asking questions, like “Who was the original drag queen hero in the Bible?” (Priscilla, “Queen” of the Purple Cloth in Acts of the Apostles), and “Is LGBTQ+ fixed or fluid?” (Fluid). Good fun, great talent, and wonderful fellowship was had by all.
On Friday morning, Sept. 27, another sunny day, I met with folks from St. Paul’s UMC and Trinity UMC in Idaho Falls, in which we discussed the beginning of a new Reconciling group between the two churches, along with discussion of the current state of the UMC in light of the February, 2019 specially called General Conference, and hope for the 2020 General Conference. The group informally celebrated the first meeting of a newly-being-created-Reconciling group in Idaho Falls on this very morning!
On Saturday, Sept. 28, I was back in Boise, along with Izzy Alvaran (point person for the Western Jurisdiction of the Reconciling Ministry Network) and Karen Hernandez (District Superintendent), to gather together for the first Rainbow Town Hall, held on the lovely Amity campus of First UMC, Boise. 15 people showed up for a powerful gathering, in which we discussed the current state of affairs of the UMC, as well as the future of individual UMC churches. One of the most powerful parts of the day was framed as such: as the UMC is coming out of “its closet” into a new form of Methodism, let’s share our stories of coming out of our closets or our epiphanies as to when we knew we were LGBTQ+, or straight? 
The ride home to Portland was smooth and lovely, as the sunset was bright orange, gold, and yellow, parts of the rainbow flag. Thanks to all who helped make this an incredible missionary pilgrimage. There is something fun, new, and queer happening in the UMC churches in southern Idaho, and I look forward to continuing the queer pilgrimage there next year, returning and seeing new growth, and delving deeper into what the Spirit is doing as we learn to love one another.

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!