an excerpt from
Dear God, I Am Gay- Thank you
by Joel Workin
CW: mentions of scriptural ableist language
First, I want to say that God hates AIDS. God hates the suffering, the dying, the agony and loss that AIDS causes, just as God hated the disease, death and blindness and suffering of Jesus’ time. God hates it. God does not cause AIDS, nor is AIDS God’s judgment or punishment on anyone. There is no one in this church whose life is immune from tragedy- death, hardships, sorrows, maybe AIDS- bad and horrible things happen to us all, but this does not mean that God is punishing us with each bad thing that happens. We live in a fallen world. Bad things happen- to good and to bad people. Good things happen- to bad and to good people. God can maybe use the bad, can turn it into good, but God still hates it and does not cause it. The God who came to earth to be with the sick and the outcast, to give sight to the blind, and to set the prisoner free, who came to wipe away every tear from our eyes- this God is not up in heaven zapping those people with illness.
Now I know that many people in this room know what it is to be one of those people. Some of you know what it is like to be stared at in stores and restaurants because you are different. Some of you know what it is like to be discarded and disregarded at work, overlooked for a promotion because you are one of those people. But it seems to me many of us have also experienced that when the world rejects, God accepts. Because we know we have the love of God who will not refuse or abuse, discard or disregard. Others may have left us, but God is with us. Others may say no, but God says yes. Others may say, “You are one of those people,” but God says, “You are one of my people.”
What Jesus says is this- that God came to earth to be with those people, the outcasts and the discarded. And since that is so, then let us each say this: “Lord, let me be one of those people. Let me be one of those people who love too much. Let me be one of those people who sits with and eats with the refused and abused. Let me be one of those people who knows that perfect love casts out all fear. Let me be one of those people who knows that ‘in Christ there is no east or west, no north or south, but one great fellowship of love, close binding humankind.’ Yes, Lord, make me one of those people. I have been refused by the world, now let me be infused by your love.”
Joel Raydon Workin (1961-1995) was born in Fargo, ND, and grew up on a farm in nearby Walcott. He received his Master of Divinity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, CA. In 1986 Joel interned at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Inglewood, CA.
In the fall of 1987, Joel came out publicly as a gay candidate for the ordained ministry and was certified for call by the American Lutheran Church (a predecessor body to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Following this courageous and faithful act, Joel’s certification was revoked by the ELCA and his name was never placed on the roster of approved candidates waiting for call.
Joel’s ministry continued in Los Angeles, however, at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and as Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice. On December 30, 1988, Joel married Paul Jenkins. Joel was a member of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, North Hollywood. He and Paul were active in Lutherans Concerned/Los Angeles and Dignity/Los Angeles. Paul and Joel both died from AIDS – Paul on June 6, 1993, and Joel on November 29, 1995.
In the last weeks of his illness, Joel gave his friends and family permission to sponsor an endowed memorial fund in his name. The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Fund was thus established upon his death.