In my official position with a para-church organization, I’ve wondered not a few times in the past few months how I can negotiate this position with anti-oppression work relating heterosexism. Specifically, how to speak and act in a just and life-affirming way while serving in a job description that doesn’t include addressing heterosexism as part of my charge.
I’m in an admittedly easier situation than many, since my position (as the Mennonite Church USA representative to AMIGOS – the global young adult network of Mennonite World Conference) fits into a institutional structure that’s non-coercive and still evolving, as well as the fact that I don’t depend on receiving a salary from my work (it’s volunteer). And since people perceive me as heterosexual, I’m almost never challenged on a personal level.
Nevertheless, I’m not quite sure how to proceed when I’m speaking in my official role. I aspire to acknowledge homophobia alongside other oppressions when I’m listing things that contribute to exclusion/imbalance of power in the church, but I sometimes feel like I’m out of place bringing up sexuality in conversations on global church.
So I was thinking one thing that would help would be to get to know more queer Mennos and allies – as well as stories of how people have negotiated such positions. I’m keen to hear stories of how people (professors, conference reps, pastors, etc) who have taken courageous stands even at odds with their institution.
I should be clear too that I appreciate also the perhaps less-flashy stories of queer folks. Hearing them helps me on my personal faith journey as I seek to learn more about how the dynamics around sexuality, gender, authority, and theology (to name a few) play out in my own life as I interact with the past and present of the church. (The Young Anabaptist Radicals blog and this one have been great places to start for such stories.)
And hearing them also helps me in my official position, as I become more able to recount real examples of how sexuality and the various faces of oppression play out in the lives of people I’m supposed to be representing.
I could say more, but perhaps I’ll tie up my thoughts here by saying thanks to folks who have already shared, and that I hope to hear more about how folks are taking risks to support more thoroughly healthy relationships to sexuality in the church.