Gay Catholic’s Coming Out Is Affirmed by Easter Message

As we celebrate the Octave of Easter–the eight days of rejoicing at the Resurrection that began on Easter Sunday, it might add to our prayers to reflect on a recent coming out story written by a young gay Catholic for his college newspaper.

John Ferrannini, co-Editor-in-Chief at The State Hornet, the student publication at Sacramento State University, used the occasion of the Paschal Season to describe his reconciliation of his faith with his sexuality.  In ” ‘Coming out’ as a gay Catholic,” he writes:

John Ferrannini

“The church has beautiful things to teach about human sexuality — the symbol of the complete giving of oneself to the other. Without a moral guide on this journey, I certainly did some things I regret. I felt as though my choice was between a lonely repression or exciting but lonely promiscuity.

“But I refuse to believe that. And I realized that when, at Sunday mass again for the first time in a few months, I heard Jesus ask his father from the cross in the gospel reading ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

“. . . . He was so removed from his father that he asked why he had been abandoned, betrayed, scoffed at, beaten and left for dead.”

“But as Easter Sunday reveals, Jesus wasn’t really forsaken, because God never abandons his children. Jesus came, after all, to seek out and be with those rejected and derided by the society of his day — and ours.”

Ferrannini described the struggle and tension that he felt as he grew up as a gay teen:

“The religion is based on love, incarnate in the person of Jesus. Yet my love remains designated by the church an “objective disorder.”

“And so when I realized I was gay as a later teenager, I spent a lot of time asking why it had to be me, why this cross was the one I’d been chosen to bear.

“I asked myself what childhood trauma I must’ve gone through that made me this way.”

Despite the obstacles that Catholicism seemed to put in his way, he still found a pull towards the faith, but also began to trust his own experience:

“What attracted me to Catholicism was the certainty of knowing the absolute truth. Christ assured St. Peter that the gates of hell would never prevail against the church, that when the pope spoke doctrine we are bound to obey as though God himself were saying it.

“I was, as many are, content to accept Catholic teaching about homosexuality. But what got under my skin was the fact so many otherwise devout Catholics threw away so many teachings — particularly those championed by Pope Francis — because they were too ‘liberal.’ “

” . . . And in the meantime, the LGBT people I knew and worked with didn’t seem ‘objectively disordered.’ “

Ferrannini describes his acceptance of his sexual orientation, his temporary break from the church, and participation in activities that he did not find fulfilling.  And then the Easter moment described above seemed to break through for him, providing him with insight to be able to live creatively, not destructively, in the tension between faith and sexuality.

He offers an insight that would be important for many church and LGBT leaders to heed:

“. . . I learned that the awkward relationship between the church and the LGBT community hurts both.”

So true.  each group could benefit greatly by the gifts and insights that the other has.  From the time of St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus,  the Christian tradition has always grown from the personal experiences that individuals of faith undergone.  The Church tests those experiences against its values and tradition to see if they are congruent with the faith.  As more LGBT people like Ferrannini continue to testify to the goodness and holiness they experience in the discovery of their sexuality or gender identity, the more opportunity the Church has to see the value that such people bring to the growth of the faith.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 20, 2017

 

Witness to Resurrection! Support Gay Priests!

Tomorrow, Holy Thursday, bishops around the world will be joining in celebrating the Chrism Mass with the priests of their diocese, blessing oils for use in the sacraments and remembering their call to priesthood.

It’s a good time to pause to remember that a good portion of those priests and bishops gathered in cathedrals tomorrow will be gay men,  many of them having to hide their identities from their confreres and parishioners, family and friends.  These situations are often personally challenging and difficult for men who have given their lives in service to others.  What makes these situations even more poignant is the fact that, given the growing evidence that Catholics overwhelmingly support LGBT equality, it would be very likely that many of these priests would be welcomed and supported by their parishioners and friends if they shared their identities with them.

A recent essay on Huffington Post describes a grassroots initiative for lay people to begin to show their support for gay priests.  Rev. Gary Meier, an openly gay priest who works as a mental health counselor describes “The 4th Day Initiative,” the brainchild of Barbara Marian and Jerry Powers, the Illinois parents of a lesbian daughter.  Meier wrote:

“. . . [O]ver a year ago, I began corresponding with Barbara [Marian] and Jerry [Powers] from Illinois. Our communications resulted in what Barbara and Jerry call the ‘4th Day Initiative’ which seeks to promote visible faith allies by encouraging churchgoers to wear white strips to mass which are symbolic of the burial linens that Lazarus was wearing when Jesus tells the community to ‘Unbind him and let him go.’ (John 11:1-14)

“Here’s an adaptation and summary of what they wrote: The church has many faith allies and perhaps they get their inspiration in the biblical account of the raising of Lazarus, found in the Gospel according to St. John 11:1-44. According to the story, Jesus begins his miracle by turning to those mourning the death of Lazarus, and telling them, ‘Take away the stone.’ When Lazarus rises from the dead at Jesus’ command and comes out of the cave still bound in his burial linens, Jesus again turns to the mourners and bids them, ‘Unbind him and let him go.’

Meier describes how this Gospel story can be interpreted to apply to the context of gay priests and their parishioners, families, and friends:

“Lazarus, beloved friend of Jesus and brother of Mary and Martha, represents every one of our gay clergy, trapped and bound by denial and concealment.

“The central action of wearing white strips declares the readiness of people in the pews to support our gay clergy and church employees in their emergence from the tomb of hollow holiness.

“The mourners in the Lazarus story stand in for Catholics in the pews who experience turmoil, grief and anger in response to the rejection, devaluing, shaming, bullying and firing of gay clergy and personnel. . . .

“The wearing of white strips of material is a powerful visual statement of solidarity with their priests and church employees.”

Barbara Marian offered the following comment to Bondings 2.0 to encourage Catholics to support the “4th Day Initiative”:

Barbara Marian

“In every movement towards justice ‘coming out’ changes everything. It always has and always will.  To support our priests the people in the assembly must come out first.

“Catholics coming out at Mass is the most powerful and effective action we can take because it evokes and demands deeper conversation and dialogue about and with our clergy and church employees.
“We must push with all our might to roll away the stone!  We are called to open the Church to Easter’s new life through our show of support for the LGBT community.
“I believe that attitudes and policies in the Church will not be transformed unless and until the people of God come out of the cave into the light as we act together to include, value and embrace our gender- and sexually-diverse brothers and sisters.”
As we prepare to celebrate the gift of the priesthood and the glorious feast of Easter, let us remember the gay priests and bishops in our midst.  To testify to our support for them and to the transforming power of new life, consider wearing some white strips of cloth on your lapel when you go to church this Easter.   You’re sure to spark transformative conversations with your friends and neighbors, and you’ll send a visible sign of support to gay priests, bishops, and all LGBT church personnel.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 12, 2017
At New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,  scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Barbara Marian will co-lead a focus session on “LGBT Parish Ministry.”  At the same meeting, Warren Hall will lead a focus session on “Gay Men in the Priesthood and Religious Life.”  For more information and to register, visit www.Symposium2017.org.    

The Wolf and the Lamb: Coming Out and the Promises of Advent

For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 is featuring lectionary Scriptural reflections by LGBTQ theologians and pastoral ministers studying at Boston College.  The liturgical readings for the Second Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8,12-13, 17; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12.  You can read the texts by clicking here.

bondings-2-0-headshot
John Winslow

Today’s reflection is from John Winslow, a former Jesuit Volunteer and current M. Div. student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

In Advent, we do not only reflect on the coming of Christ in the Incarnation as a historical moment but also as a contemporary reality. We reflect on how Christ is being made manifest to us and for us in the present moment.

We hear today, in a passage from the prophet Isaiah, that the “wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,” that “the leopard shall lie down the kid;” and that “the calf and young lion shall browse together.” We hear the message that a relationship paradigm based on a never-ending cycle of violence and exploitation will end. Christ’s coming undoes one of nature’s most fundamental relationships: that of predator and prey. In Christ, the life of one will no longer depend upon the death of another. In Christ, all of creation “shall be glorious.”

As LGBTQ Catholics, the relationship between the wolf and the lamb is one we know intimately. Growing up, the only feeling I associated with my sexuality was fear: overwhelming, mind-numbing, constant fear. It was closer to me than my bones. It was woven into every word I spoke, like a second language I never knew I was learning but woke up speaking fluently one day.

As LGBTQ Catholics, we often feel pulled in at least two different directions. We do not fit neatly into any of the boxes or categories that contemporary society has created for us. To those who support our God-given LGBTQ identities, our Catholicism is often seen as backward and inexorably tied to cultural conservatism. Meanwhile, our LGBTQ identities are often demeaned and demonized by our faith communities – sometimes the very faith communities that raised us.

And the struggle is not simply instigated by groups external to ourselves. For many of us, the struggle is also a constant, exhausting war of self-attrition: sometimes feeling at peace with ourselves as queer, and sometimes feeling at peace with ourselves as Catholic, but rarely feeling completely at peace with both.

For many people – especially those in the LGBTQ community – the idea that a Roman Catholic priest would somehow be anything other than condemning of my sexuality, much less actually compassionate and helpful, is baffling. Most people laugh when I tell them that the best coming out advice I ever received was from a priest. To be fair, I, too, never imagined I would say, “I came out to my family on Holy Thursday via email because a priest told me to.”

And yet, it is true. I would never have come out without the ongoing love, support, and counsel of many Catholics – women religious, seminarians, lay people, and, yes, priests. The night before Holy Thursday of my junior year of college, I stayed up reading through the journal I had been keeping on and off since age fourteen. I read through accounts of family vacations, and memories of adventures during my semester abroad. I read through my list of firsts: my first kiss with a boy, my first time telling someone I was gay, my first sexual experience. I read through the manic biblical scribblings, the raging prayers and questions. I touched fingers to the tear stains on the poem I wrote about my first crush.

I thought about how desperately I longed for peace–a peace the world seemed incapable of giving.

Of things that would surprise me, receiving “peace” was not at the top of the list. Quite frankly, it’s not something that I ever thought I would find – certainly not after coming out.

And yet, reading through my life, with that priest’s advice on coming out dancing through the back of my head, I realized that coming out was not about doing anything. Rather, coming out was like the wolf and the lamb embracing one another in love, letting something seemingly impossible simply happen the way it was always meant to. And when I did come out, it was the most profound experience of peace that I had ever known.

This Advent is an opportunity for us to remember that Christ’s peace is not just one that will come at the Parousia, the Second Coming. No, Christ’s peace is offered to us daily, a peace that can give us rest. Regardless of the condemnations of the Magisterium, or the sudden emboldening of homophobia and transphobia spreading across the United States after the election, or the vitriol of our families, we are in fact loved in all that we are. When we embrace ourselves in all of our integrity, we find Christ embracing us, too. And it is this embrace that will give us peace.

–John Winslow, December 4, 2016

Amid Increasing Tensions, LGBT Group in Mexico Outs Allegedly Gay Priests

A participant holds up a placard during the Gay Pride Parade in Mexico City
LGBT advocates demonstrating in Mexico City. Using the hearts on the sign to represent the word “love,” the message reads “I am gay and I love myself.”

A leading LGBT organization in Mexico publicly named nearly forty Catholic priests and religious as gay, the latest move in the country’s escalating debate over LGBT rights.

The National Pride Front released the names of 38 priests and religious who are allegedly in same-gender relationships, reported The Telegraph. Front spokesperson Cristian Galarza explained the decision to release these names:

” ‘Everyone deserves the right to be in the closet. . .But when you come out and condemn homosexuality, condemn gay marriage, and try to influence a secular state, you’ve lost the right to the closet.’ “

The Front said they were not condemning the relationships, but the double standards of church leaders in them who then forcefully oppose marriage equality. The list included ranking church officials and, according to Galarza, not only consensual relationships but “also cases of sexual abuse.”

The decision to publish this list has not only been criticized by conservative opponents of LGBT equality, but by LGBT groups who are upset that anyone would be forcibly outed. Enrique Torre Molina of All Out told The Telegraph: 

” ‘They can spin it anyway they want, but they’re ultimately using someone’s sexual orientation as a tool against that person, which is exactly what the LGBT movement is not about. . .If anyone knows how tough it can be to have your sexual orientation used against you, it is a gay or lesbian person.’ “

The list’s publication came ahead of demonstrations against LGBT rights last weekend, organized by the church-backed National Front for the Family. Because some LGBT groups opposed the release of the list of allegedly gay clergy and religious,  the organizations skipped counter-protests organized by the National Pride Front.

Some counter-protestors, however, used the demonstrations as an opportunity to practice a different approach to their opponents: dialogue. La Jornada reported:

“For example, a group of people, young and old, straight and gay, stood in front of the Gate of the Lions armed with posters, water bottles, and benches.

“Two poster boards carried by Saúl Espino, one of the first to stand in place, summed up their motives: Our goal is to deactivate hate through dialogue and give a voice, history, and face to diversity. The other sign: I’m a Catholic and I’m gay. I want to talk with you!”

Marriage equality and other rights for LGBT people are hotly contested issues in Mexico after President Enrique Peña Nieto announced in May that he would be pushing Congress to approve such laws.For further context, see Bondings 2.0’s coverage of Mexico earlier this week by clicking here.

While legislative movement has stalled, opposition from anti-LGBT groups has swiftly increased. Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the Mexican church warned of a “gay dictatorship” and approved of reparative therapy. Certain LGBT groups have responded in kind, filing discrimination complaints against dioceses and church leaders in several states.

In my previous post on Mexico, I said de-escalation was needed from both sides so that dialogue could replace divisive statements. De-escalation is especially important because of the release of this list, which is to be condemned in the strongest terms. There is no justification for forcibly outing any person, even priests and religious who may be actively opposing LGBT rights and relationships. The question of gay and bisexual men in the priesthood is a personal, as well as a public matter. The church’s negative treatment of them has caused much suffering. It is also deeply troubling that acts of sexual abuse were included in this list given conservative efforts to conflate homosexuality and abuse.

LGBT advocates should not be adding to the pain which LGBT people in ministry and survivors of clergy abuse have already had to endure by uncritically publishing this list. Rather,  LGBT advocates should always and everywhere overcome the prejudices and fears driving LGBT-negative figures by responding with love and compassion.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

Religion Dispatches, “Global LGBT Recap

New Show, “The Real O’Neals,” Features Gay Child in Catholic Family

BEBE WOOD, MATT SHIVELY, NOAH GALVIN, JAY R. FERGUSON, MARTHA PLIMPTON
The cast of “The Real O’Neals”

“The Real O’Neals,” ABC’s latest comedy series which premiered last week, features a gay child coming of age in a Catholic family as a prominent storyline.

Entertainment Weekly called the show, which airs Tuesday nights, “a sometimes sentimental, sometimes silly half-hour about a family trying out honesty — and, as a result, acceptance” by . It features an Irish Catholic family in Chicago that is seemingly perfect, but struggles imperfectly with life’s realities like the parents’ impending divorce.

“The Real O’Neals” is loosely based upon the adolescence of columnist and LGBT advocate Dan Savage, who serves as an executive producer for the show. The foremost plot line is the coming out of youngest son Kenny and his pious mother’s ambivalent reaction, reported the Chicago Sun Times. Martha Plimpton, who plays mother Eileen, commented on the particular storyline:

” ‘One of my favorite things about our writers is how they are exploring this boy’s coming-out and experiences as a young gay man. It is all about how universal they are. The experience of puberty, or falling in love for the first time, or finding a date for the prom, or knowing what you like, or knowing who strikes your fancy. . .The fact that he’s a young gay kid experiencing all these normal rites of passage really delights me.’ “

Plimpton expressed hope that the show can use humor to address challenging contemporary issues such as LGBT family members, providing a forum for discussion of topics that may be uncomfortable for some. She highlighted the tragic reality that many LGBT youth are still rejected by their families and far too many to experience homelessness as a result, concluding:

” ‘We have a responsibility — as citizens, but also as people making this show — to respect that reality and offer people a way to talk about this and acknowledge their fears and weaknesses in a way that is loving.’ “

Plimpton’s character, though, is not necessarily an affirming figure for her gay son, paralleling Savage’s own mother with whom he was close but who struggled with his coming out “because of her faith and her fear for the fate of his immortal soul.” Plimpton told Bustle that rather than mocking Catholicism, the show laughs at failures and weaknesses as a way to advance love and acceptance.She said religious parents’ resistance can be “buffered by the love of your child.”  It is worth noting that four of the show’s eight writers are Catholic.

Conservative groups failed in an attempt to have the show cancelled when its broadcast was announced last spring. What may sink the show are critics’ mixed reviews, which have suggested that the show’s treatment of homosexuality is dated. For instance, The New York Times’ review stated:

“[The show] wants desperately to be the brash new sitcom that talks forthrightly about subjects that had been taboo. And a decade or two ago it might have been. Now, though, it’s just the guest who arrives late to the party, blundering in loudly and clumsily. . .Yes, there are still plenty of closeted teenagers and plenty of parents as clueless as the two O’Neals, but in 2016 that no longer seems like an occasion for lowbrow laughs.”

More positively, Slate’s review lauded “The Real O’Neals” for advancing representations of gay people on television and explained:

“If you want to measure how far TV representations of queer people have come since Will & Grace’s attractive gay leads spent entire seasons without any romantic action, please note that on ABC’s new sitcom The Real O’Neals, only six episodes elapse between 16-year-old Kenny O’Neal’s coming out and his first gay date. . .And before the season is over, Kenny will have his first gay kiss and go to prom with a boy.”

The Atlantic’s review was hopeful, too, that this comedy, which deals with darker issues in a sitcom’s typical “bouncy, upbeat style,” would fulfill its potential. The Washington Post said Catholicism is not the “butt of the joke,” but a device to reveal “an endearing story about a family that loves and supports one another.”

I watched the first two episodes, and from those shows, I think that charges that “The Real O’Neals” is anti-Catholic are unsubstantiated. There were jokes about bingo nights and contraception, but these came across less as offensive and more as just tired.

There is potential for the show to engage Kenny’s sexual identity in meaningful ways. It has not happened yet as the show’s treatment of this issue is too exaggerated and not clever.

The realities of Catholic families with LGBT members are sacred and complex, and there is certainly humor to be found in the struggles and in the celebrations such families experience. Whether “The Real O’Neals” can capture these realities or will stick to tired stereotypes remains to be seen.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

Catholic and LGBT: Which Is the Harder Coming Out Process?

If you are an LGBT Catholic, which is the harder thing to do:  telling Catholic people you are LGBT or telling LGBT people that you are Catholic?  In over 20 years working with the Catholic LGBT community, I’ve more often heard people say that the latter is much harder than the former.

In U.S. Catholic this past summer, Jeffrey Essman examined why it is so difficult to “come out” as a Catholic in today’s world.  He notes that despite the recent change in tone on gay issues that Pope Francis has inaugurated, too many LGBT people still see religion generally, and Catholicism particularly, as the enemy.  The statistics bear this out:

“A recent Pew Research Center survey of LGBT Americans found that 48 percent of the respondents—more than twice the national average—consider themselves atheist/agnostic or simply have no religious affiliation. Of the 51 percent who do have a religious affiliation, 26 percent are Catholics, and two thirds of that 26 percent consider their own church to be unfriendly toward them. When respondents were asked to list the religions they considered most unfriendly, 8 in 10 put the Catholic Church on the list, along with the Mormon Church and Islam. “

Essman, who took a spiritual hiatus from religion for a while, notes how important it is for gay people to share their spirituality with one another.  In his case, it was another gay Catholic who helped to bring Essman back to the faith:

“. . . [T]he irony here is that it was a former boyfriend, a convert to Catholicism, who got me back into the church. I remember him telling me about his conversion experience, and I had never heard anyone, certainly not a gay man, talk so happily, so assuredly, so emphatically about his faith. Being in a relationship with him was an important layer of coming out for me, but it’s the moment of spiritual honesty that resonates with me still. I’m a Catholic. I’m a gay Catholic. And it grieves me to think that two thirds of my brothers and sisters don’t feel welcome in their own church. No one should feel unwelcome in a church—and certainly not in the church. “

Essman belongs to a New York City parish (which he doesn’t name) which has aided him on his spiritual journey by including him in the community in a way that is both unique and commonplace:

“. . . [G]enuine welcome goes far beyond acceptance and tolerance. Welcome is a joyous absurdity of openness and love, of oneness, and what I love most about my parish is that I’m not a gay Catholic there. I’m just a Catholic. There’s nothing special about me. On the contrary, I am appreciated but otherwise wonderfully taken for granted. It’s a genuine welcome that doesn’t just welcome you to church; it welcomes you to the baptism that made you church in the first place. “

And he reminds us that being part of the Catholic community is really so much more than doctrine:

“when I remember that, I remember why I’m in the church, why I’m one of the 26 percent. I’m not in the church for the catechism, I’m in it for the creed. I’m in it for the light and beauty I experience at the heart of Catholicism, far from any politics—far, even, from a good deal of theology. I’m in it for the spirit of the Eucharist, of scripture, and most of all for the spirit of the people I worship with every Sunday. A couple weeks ago I was sitting next to one of the older members of the parish and was in tears at the simplicity, intent, and quiet joy with which he sang the psalm response. No catechism can touch that. And it’s this experience of the church on the local level—which I think is the important one—that gives me hope for the church at large.”

(Editor’s note:  If you are seeking a local gay-friendly Catholic parish in your area, check out New Ways Ministry’s list of welcoming parishes and communities by clicking here.)

And finally, for Essman, as for so many other LGBT Catholics, reconciliation means coming to terms with both one’s weaknesses and strengths, and in healing one’s past:

“I’m a sinner just like everyone else at my parish, but my sin isn’t my homosexuality. The sinfulness of my being gay is that it tempted me, allowed me—encouraged me, really—to think that I was somehow set off from the rest of society, that I wasn’t really part of the world. The sin of my homosexuality is that it led me to believe lies—deadly, soul-killing lies—a sin for which I am indeed heartily sorry. But by the grace of God I’ve forgiven the people who told me those lies, and I’ve forgiven myself for believing them. And by the grace of the people I pray with every week, by the love they give me and the love I return, I move forward with them into the truth: I am part of society. I am part of nature. And I am very happily part of the church.”

So, how about you?  How did you reconcile being LGBT and being Catholic?  What is it about your faith that you treasure and that keeps you going?  What steps on your spiritual journey have helped you see yourself as a loved child of God?  What is the relationship between your sexuality/gender identity and your spirituality.  Feel free to share your reflections in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Awkward Walks: The Transfiguration, Coming Out, and Pope Francis

Periodically in Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder. The liturgical readings for the Second Sunday of Lent are  Genesis 12:1-4; 3:1-7; Psalm 33: 4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; 2Timothy 1: 8-10; Matthew 17:1-9.

The walk down Mount Tabor must have been awkward.

Scripture does not record what Peter, James, and John were thinking after the Transfiguration.  Perhaps they were edified by the mystical experience of God’s favor resting upon Jesus, alongside Moses and Elijah.  Or, more likely, I think they probably felt confused, frightened, and a bit distrustful of Jesus.  And that’s the real Transfiguration story – how the disciples struggled in their relationships with Jesus after the revelatory mountaintop experience – not the revelation itself.

Peter, James, and John ascended Mount Tabor with their own clear ideas of who Jesus was – friend, teacher, and fellow Galilean.  But now he’s suddenly different.  Whatever happened on that mountain, their perception of Jesus was changed in a profound way.  Jesus was still the same person as before the Transfiguration experience, but he was something more in their eyes as well — something which they had not known previously.

In their struggle to understand the Transfiguration, I wonder if the disciples felt a bit betrayed by Jesus, as if Jesus had intentionally withheld some big part of himself for all the time they had known him.  Maybe Peter, James, and John looked at Jesus and wondered with a certain sense of disbelief, “I thought I knew this guy.”  Perhaps they questioned, “Why didn’t he tell us sooner?” or “What else is he hiding from us?”  Or maybe, “Gee, this is more than I can handle.  I should go back to my fishing nets!”  These thoughts are why I imagine the walk down Mount Tabor was pretty awkward and filled with long silences.

I can think of two contemporary examples that illustrate transfiguration experiences – and the over-riding importance of a revelation’s impact on relationships compared to the revelation itself.

First, “coming out” by LGBT people to family and friends can be a transfiguration experience.  Disclosure of one’s own sexual orientation and/or true gender identity to loved ones is a big revelation.  However, it does not change the individual, but rather how others perceive and relate to them.  Like Peter, James, and John, family members and friends might experience feelings of confusion and mistrust.  They may experience similar questions as the disciples.  But, like the disciples, they must find ways to understand and incorporate this “coming out” revelation into their own perception of their loved one if the relationship is to continue.

Second, institutions can have transfiguration moments in the same way as individuals.  The first year of Francis’ papacy has been a transfiguration experience for me.  Pope Francis has revealed to me a new way of being pope that is profoundly different from his recent predecessors.  Now I find myself in the role of the apostles – afraid and distrustful – because I am not sure how to relate to this new Pope.  I love Pope Francis and want to be his cheerleader, but my negative experiences of previous popes have made me wary of religious authority figures.  It is taking me time to sort my own feelings between what I thought the papacy was and what Pope Francis is showing us it can be. 

The time following a transfiguration experience can be confusing and awkward – like the long walk of the disciples down Mount Tabor.  We may not be sure how to respond or how to relate to new revelations.  But it is important that we keep walking, keep talking, and remain open to see what happens next.    

–Matthew Myers, New Ways Ministry