“We shall overcome…” Whenever I hear or sing those words, a chill runs down my spine. As I grew up in the South, I never really understood the significance of this song to African-Americans but I knew they were an expression of their frustration and their hope.
In the Fall of 1995 I finally accepted the fact that I was gay. I was 30 years old, in the middle of a divorce from a lovely woman, and had lost my career as a Pastor. Yet, in the middle of all of that was happening, I began to experience the liberating freedom
The Dallas gay men’s chorus, The Turtle Creek Chorale finished their Fall concert with their well-known rendition of “We Shall Overcome” and for the first time in my young life I could understand the concept of freedom and yearning for genuine freedom.
Ironically, the one place that I was not free to be myself was in the church. Ironic because Jesus spoke of honesty and integrity. Jesus spoke the words “…You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8.32, NRSV) When I was ready to admit the truth, the one place that was supposed to welcome honesty wanted to sweep it under the rug.
As the months have passed since the Fall of 1995, I have met many brothers and sisters who have left the institutional church. In their exodus, many of them have also left their walk with God. I remain firmly convinced this should not and does not have to be the case.
As Gay and Lesbian Christians, we have a responsibility to call the church to answer for its lack of ministry, for its lack of honesty, and its lack of integrity. We must stand up and proclaim the truth that Jesus Christ died for all of us.
Yes, many of us have been hurt and scarred by congregations. The promise of Christ was one of freedom. We shall overcome the rejection and oppression of today’s church. The Holy Spirit is moving in powerful ways to open the hearts of church members to the truth about homosexuality and Christianity. In the meantime, we must be God’s hands and God’s voice to our community and to the Christian community at large.
We shall overcome. Christ openly and clearly proclaimed his identity in the face of opposition. As disciples of Christ, we are called to follow in Jesus’ steps. When we openly and courageously identify ourselves as Lesbian and Gay Christians, we cast off the chains and experience the beautiful freedom for which Christ died.