Rage, a Bike, the Wind, and Jennifer Knapp by Charis Weathers

Rage, a Bike, the Wind, and Jennifer Knapp
By: Charis Weathers
My young adult years were wrapped in a smothering blanket of shame. I knew I was attracted to girls, and I knew both church and culture said that attraction was depraved. If I had gotten into a relationship with a girl in my teens or twenties I’m not sure I would’ve survived my own self-hatred. 
My connection with conservative evangelicalism was my only way to get in good with God. If my behavior ticked all the “good” boxes, if I shared my faith, if I just didn’t act on my attractions then I could counteract my inherent badness, the sin of my very existence. 
After a near break-down I was forced to get some therapy, which, thankfully, took the edge off of my shame. I made peace with my attractions, and I began to actually like the God that had been served to me as so wrathful. So much so that I felt an urgent pull toward seminary; the theology of the conservative organization I was working for just wasn’t enough anymore, but I didn’t even have the language for “why” it wasn’t working. 
My ordination, a year after seminary, was in a not-quite-as-conservative denomination. The next year I met a woman with whom I fell in love. She fell in love with me, too. The problem was that both of us were pastors in denominations that were not okay with our love. We struggled, we tried to hold our alignment with the moral statements of our ordaining bodies, and we spun on in a cycle of attraction/pushing away. 
After I left my denomination over women in ministry (women “could” be lead pastors, but it was super rare that any were), I was happy to move to Seattle, move in with my love, stew about my pastoral calling, and work at REI. On days when I had the time and it wasn’t raining I’d ride my bike the 30 miles to work. 
It was 2010, and Jennifer Knapp had just come out. In my world, this was a complete bomb. She had been a contemporary christian music rockstar who had fallen off the face of the earth for several years. It turned out she was in Australia with her female partner. People burned her CDs, castigated her, said she was going to hell as was anyone who continued to listen to her music. 
I bought her album, “Letting Go,” and I’d listen to it on my bike rides. Two hours of hearing Knapp sing about her rage with the church, her uncomfortable acceptance of herself, and her love for a wonderful woman. When no one was around I’d sing at the top of my lungs, push hard on the pedals, and scream at the church, the culture, those who wanted me to feel shame.

There are so many great songs on this album; the one that had me singing the loudest was “Inside,”
I know they’ll bury me
Before they hear the whole story
Even if they do, well I know they won’t care to
Chalk it up to one mistake
Or God forbid they give me grace
Well, who in the hell do they think they are
Oh, I’m the one who keeps it on the inside
Locked away from judgments wrong
Oh, I’m the one who keeps it on the inside
So they’ll leave me alone
Leave me alone
I know they’ll bury me
Even though I’ve got conviction
Even though I’ve got pride
I know they’ll bury me, they’ll bury my alive
I’d ride, breathless, waving my proverbial fist at the evangelical institution that made me hide, made me choose counseling or self harm, made me obsessed with following rules so God would like me a little more.
In “Dive In” I began to understand the spiritual limitations of anti-gay rhetoric in the church,
I’m tired of choking in
The shallow waters I’ve been in
I’m ready to baptized
By water and blood come on push me under
I’m so tired of standing on the edge of myself
You know I’m longing for it
To dive in
Dive in
I DID long to dive into something more free. If one explores Knapp’s pre-2010 lyrics you’ll find quite a bit of torment. From “Undo Me,” to “Refine Me,” 
Come with your fire, burn my desires
Refine me
My will has deceived me, please come free me
Refine me
Yet the deception was with what we’d been told. It wasn’t our will, we didn’t need to be refined. We needed to be released into the wider understanding of the love of God. To let go of that which hindered, of those who hindered. 
As the wind whipped at my face on those bike rides I could feel myself changing, beginning to push back, beginning to live.



Charis Weathers (she/her) is the pastor of Burlington Lutheran Church in Burlington, WA. A former mission developer who started Echoes Bellingham, she delights in experimenting with new ways of being and doing church. Partnered with Deborah, they love to explore the northwest by foot, boat, kayak, and in her mini camper, Nemo. 


Never One Thing: Clare

Never One Thing
By: Clare
CW: Strong Language
I’m a Lutheran because of our theology of both/and (simul justus et peccator)–this human tension of holding constant reminders that I’m f*cked up, loved and holy.
Coming out in my late 20’s felt like an explosion of both/and. Fears, insecurities and messiness were held together with excitement, joy and learning to love and to know myself; seeing myself the way that I now know God sees me.  As Joel Workin professed, “living in forgiveness, claiming my wholeness,” my fullness. There is a never-ending depth to the ways God invites me, invites us, to pronounce ourselves in the fullness of who God is calling us to be.
May Erlweine’s song “Never One Thing” offers a center to the ways I embrace and embody queerness in this “Lutheran-ey” way.
“I’m the underbelly, I am the claw never one thing no not one thing at all. I’m a street fighter, I’m a prayer for peace. I’m a holy-roller, I’m a honey bee.”
bell hooks wrote about the ways that queerness speaks to a self that is “at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”* Queerness centers how I want to be in the world. Being a part of visions for new ways that we can thrive and live, at odds with the forces of oppression. queerness orients me in my faith. Faith that compels me to confess when I f**k up, and to account and course correct in accountability to community. Queerness locates me in the work of justice and call toward unmasking and confronting systems of injustice, especially when they benefit me. “I am the truth, I am the lie. I am the ground I am the sky..”
I hold the tensions of what it is to be a queer person, especially in this month of pride. While there is space to mark this season with kinfolk around the world, with ancestors of the multitudes of ways that love and this vision of thriving exists, we hold and know the pain we still face of violence and discrimination. How, as hooks speaks to, are we in tension with the world around us. There are tensions in this month of pride coopted by capitalism, while rooted in foundations of protest started by Black and brown transwomen. There are tensions, the both/and of movements that have been co-opted by whiteness culture and racism.
I have learned that to be queer does not absolve me from being racist or oppressive. Queerness doesn’t absolve me from participating in systems that perpetuate oppression and violence toward BIPOC siblings (especially Black transwomen). I know that I cannot simply center my queerness when it comes to Black liberation and anti-racism.
I am never one thing; and both my queer identity and my Lutheran theology help to remind me and hold me accountable – or at least they can.  As an elder in my internship community says, I get to “live out the risk of being faithful.” There is risk, there is tension, and while systems of domination have a strong pull, community calls me to remember to take risks for love.
Weighed down with grief and exhaustion of our world, (you know and can name what your body and spirit hold tender dear one and what it may need to recognize too that you avoid or numb to); we hold the tensions which call us to intersectionality and to the possibilities of both/and. There is brokenness in our world and our world contains beauty and resilience which compels us to action and to thriving.
How is our queerness calling and inviting exploration of tension? How will you embrace the many things and never one thing which claims you, and which always names you beloved?




Clare (she/her) is completing a two-year part time pastoral internship at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, CA and was just approved as a candidate for Word and Sacrament. She works as a per diem Pediatric Chaplain at UCSF. Clare enjoys a good Tiktok and hearing your recommendations on summer readings and tv shows. Find her hanging out with the IrReverend, & High Priest of Fabulous John Brett at Faithful and Fabulous monthly queer spirituality events in SF.

Got to be Real by John Brett

We sat along the edge of the stage after her talk. In the quieted, small, storied college auditorium where MLK Jr. once spoke, the four of us exchanged dreams from the margins we inhabited. We conjured heady hopes that history would break open for us with the weight of our theory, praxis, casting visions of fullness, self & community actualization. Rebecca Walker was with us to discuss To Be Real, the then recently published book she had edited on emerging feminist thought: the personal was political as we brainstormed. I spoke of my desire to organize a small caravan of queer folx and allies to drive across the country into small towns to support and provide critical mass for first-ever Pride Parades. Perhaps inspired by Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and anticipating by decades the HBO show We’re Here, my daydream details were far more low-budget. Picture VW busses of rag-tag activists with poster board and sequins and chaplaincy training accompanying Melbas of the Upper Midwest or Annies of Appalachia while creating a rural queer network of organizers of the early internet age. 
Though the vision didn’t come to pass, I recognize that it continues to encapsulate something of what I imagine realness means. Any realness I, or anyone else might manifest entails a community context: to be seen, recognized, for all of who we are, who we want to be, whether children of chiffon, leather & studs, plaid, or silk lamé. None of us reaches such a salvation alone.
The first time I came out to anyone as questioning my sexuality, it was at a church lock-in, perhaps 2am, in the intensity of an adolescent existential conversation next to the altar in the darkened church chancel. The sanctuary “Jesus Candle” burned above us, casting flickering shadows. It was a holy moment. A few months later, the second time I came out as questioning, a few hours away while I attended a synodical youth leadership meeting, it was in another church sanctuary similarly late at night. My coming out journey started at church. 
Did the church and its promises make these spaces seem safer? Did the sacred architecture of worship, the cross looking down above all, allow me a level of comfort, a container to hold my fear and trembling? Nestled in these confessions, the fortunately kept secrets, did I seek absolution? Can we find solace in the institution that caused the wound? 
These were my first attempts at being real. Almost 30 years later, with deeper repeated church wounds, and joyous recognition of how much my denomination has indeed begun to accept people of all gender identities and sexual orientations, I wonder if I would still be Christian if I weren’t queer. Taking seriously the theology I was taught, that God comes to us in love, that we in turn love our neighbor, I have stubbornly insisted that the church recognize my realness, fullness, and beauty. As I even now speak my truth beneath the cross, bringing my vulnerability into worship spaces and beyond them, I invite the church, in expectation, to live into its own message, promises of grace. As I continue to work out my own realness, salvation in fear and trembling, still I ask the church to embrace its own.
“Your love is my love
My love is your love
Our love is here to stay…”



John M. Brett (he/hym/hys), ELCA seminarian & street chaplain, serves the SF Night Ministry as Minister of Faithful&Fabulous!, offering queer-centric ministry programming & accompaniment. Christened IrReverend, & High Priest of Fabulous by parishioners, his first on-the-job pastoral care lesson was to remember to tip the drag queens. He leads an annual Drag Street Eucharist & this fall will support the first-ever Spiritual DragCon.

ELM Pride Blog: Dr. Melissa James

Queer Pentecost on Late Night TV


We were a number of months into the pandemic when a clip of a late-night show caught my eye. “You have to see this!” my feeds echoed. Scraping the bottom of the well of all my reserves that were being used up keeping our queer little family safe and alive in a time of global pandemic and racial justice reawakening while also starting a new job I wearily clicked through looking for a moment of distraction or levity. And then I watched as Alanis Morrisette relived every meeting I had been trying to have over Zoom for the last months on national late night television—holding her small child she performed her song “Ablaze” being interrupted to have to explain what she was doing, having her equipment tugged at, and still delivering a powerful performance. The delivery of the song was enough to win me over and give me a moment of feeling seen but the song itself is what has kept it on my playlist for these many months that have followed. You see, the song is an oath to her children. It sings to them lifting up that which makes them uniquely glorious and says “I see you; I love you” and it is a naming of the commitment as their parent to keep the fire in their eye ablaze.  

This song speaks to me, particularly as a queer mom of a young child. It’s a reminder that even in these times and with so much out of my control it is my duty to this precious human being to kindle the light in her eyes. To help her understand her inherent worth and dignity and to kindle a flame within her that sees and fights for the recognition of that same worth and dignity in others.

But this is not just a song about parenting. Moving through this month of pride and having just celebrated Pentecost what better time to be reminded that we are called into community through God’s love with the express responsibility to keep the fire in each other’s eyes ablaze. Ablaze with the promise that we are all made in the image of God, imago Dei, and beloved of God. Ablaze with the promise that the unique gifts and stories of our lives are welcome and necessary here in this time and place. Ablaze with a fire to continue to be a part of the difficult and essential work of dismantling White supremacy culture within our church and our world. Ablaze with the fire and promise of righteous anger on which pride began. Ablaze with the audacious hope that all might flourish.



Dr. Melissa James (she/her) is a Minister of Word and Service (Deacon) in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).   She currently serves the Unitarian Universalist Association as a congregational consultant for the Pacific Western Region and teaches at the University of San Diego in Sociology and Gender Studies. She lives in La Mesa, CA with her wife and 4-year-old daughter.


A Pastoral Message from Rev. Abel Arroyo Traverso

________ Pride


It’s hard to qualify Pride this year. The symbolic void where an impulsive “happy” should go weighs heavily on me today.

I would love to go with our usual greeting. “Happy Pride!” I want to scream Happy Pride from the rooftops and platforms -virtual or otherwise- and assure every single person in our community that this is the month when we can let our colors fly and we can show up as we are, even for a day, a moment, under the sun.

However, the realities we live in political, ecclesial, and socioeconomic, bluntly point back to that void where the “happy” should be.


We all encounter Pride in different ways, in different spaces, and in different times as we grow, live, love, age, come out, come together, grow apart, move on, and stay. We find Pride in the quiet affirmations of chosen family keeping us safe, and by ourselves in our closets, in the whispers of promises that things will get better.

We find Pride in pool parties and harnesses, haircuts, nail polish, brunch, church, dungeons, and homes. We find Pride in the multitude of our talents and gifts. In our galaxy of genders. In the multiplicity of our love, care, and attractions.

I find Pride in the embrace of our community and identities, hopes, goals, and dreams. However, I can’t say that this is exactly happy.

Many of us still struggle with representation, care, and community. Many of us struggle living a public life, free from fear of harassment and harm. Hell, many of us struggle just staying alive.


Beloved child of God, I invite you to meditate on what Pride means for you today. How would you qualify Pride?

Throughout the history of our faith, we can see this impulse to collectively qualify figures and events to speak to a hegemonic majority in the best of cases, or at our worst, to actively oppress, marginalize, and exterminate the cultural, ethnic, and religious other.

Yet here we are. Queer, trans, bi, sapphic, Aro/Ace Christians. Poly, kinky, vanilla, Lutherans.

We understand how our faith confession can be both liberating and condemning. We live, and live into this ambiguity, this queerness if you may, every day.

I would struggle to call it one thing, let alone good, facing all the evidence of what has been done in the name of Christ and the church.

Yet here we are.

Confessing and believing that the composer of creation wrote us, specifically us, as part of the symphony of the cosmos. 

I believe that this is the case for our community too. We are not here as an accident or by chance, but by choice. We are all, in our difference and diversity, part of this community to make it whole, beautiful and powerful. Like Esther, we were called for such a time as this.

ELM community, this is a hard, complicated, messy time, and even though we can’t all claim “happy”, I hope and pray that we can definitely claim our Pride.

Subversive, chaotic, powerful, and confessional.

Embodied as it is. As you are.

We make Pride what it needs to be, and what we pray it will become. So today as June starts my prayer is that you can claim the Pride you need. That you can find your co-conspirators and your strength in our communities. That you rage and meditate and share the Pride that is, knowing that the Pride we all make will be even better.

So beloved, I wish you a Pride. Make of it what you must. We trust that the God who was with our queer elders though history will keep showing us the way towards happiness, but more importantly, towards justice.


Rev. Abel Arroyo Traverso (they/he)
ELM Board Member