by Phillipos Ghaly
Editor’s note: Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year (1517-2017)? During the months of October and November, ELM’s blog will feature reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQ+ leaders.
There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives. – Audre Lorde
On Saturday November 4th, I will join Vicar Kelsey Brown and the Rev. Asher O’Callaghan in crafting a session on LGBTQ Ministry at #decolonize17, the next annual gathering of #deconloizeLutheranism. We will theologically reflect on the intersectionality of our experiences and identities as people who are called to rostered ministry in the ELCA. We will also look at the history of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and Proclaim, and envision the future of a more colorful and queerer Lutheranism.
Almost a year ago, I crossed the threshold from my cradle Orthodox tradition into the Lutheran Church and I will celebrate my first year of grace on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In the ELCA, I have experienced and known deep welcome and warm hospitality, and I give thanks for the ways by which I was raised and lifted up to ministry by ordained clergy and lay people in this denomination. I have been blessed with a supportive synod, and many mentors and colleagues.
However, as a Queer and non-binary Immigrant-of-Color with a call to ordained ministry in the ELCA, I sense that my colorful presence is contested in certain spaces within this Church. I have observed that my mere existence disrupts the false binaries and clean-cut identities that have perpetuated single stories and allowed us to become a single-issue people: a behavior that has subsequently erased many of us who are integral parts of this Body and seeped complacency into this Church’s conscience and character in the face of complexity.
Again and again, I see PoC issues and LGBTQIA+ issues contra-positioned by people who are neither, and presented as somewhat oppositional with a claim that we have to choose one over the other because we can’t afford to tackle both racism and ethno-centrism, and homophobia and transphobia, all in the same breath.
I can’t afford to just be Queer as a brown-skinned, bearded North African living in the midst of racism. I can’t afford to just be Queer while I am waiting on my immigration papers in the midst of changing laws and ICE raids. I can’t afford to just be Queer when I witness implicit or pronounced racial-bias against clergy of color (especially women of color) in call and hiring processes within the ELCA. And I certainly can’t afford to choose between closeting my Queerness, or crawling out of my skin to be a single-issue person who can perpetuate a single story for a single-issue Church.
I am a shape-shifter and a border-bandit, and I inhabit the liminality of in-betweenness and embody multiple mixities in my journey, identities and experiences. I am Queer. I am Brown. I am an Immigrant. I am ethnically Coptic. I am a Lutheran. I am a mix of the above and more.
Empowered by Luther’s Heidelberg Disputations, I choose to turn my focus away from our perceived institutional limitations and bondage to binaries to gaze upon an encompassing cross. It is the sight of a vulnerable and fierce Jesus, naked and crucified, completely exposed without closets or masks, and stretched out by multiple oppressions. His scar-bearing face—the face of the Word made flesh—is at the center of an intersection that encompasses many peoples, identities, issues, oppressions and contradictions. His crucified and naked wounded body exposes injustice, destroys false binaries, either/or identities, and closets of erasure that attempt to veil us, to make invisible and suffocate the Image of God within us.
From creation to redemption, and until the culmination of salvation-history, Christ gathers all our scattered parts, our multiplicities that need to be named because of the scars we bear, and heals and lifts them up in the new creation of the Resurrection. Luther was right that in the cross we see and comprehend God – a theology of the cross pauses our anxieties and expands our conversations as Church on the intersectionality of our communities and their mission.
Our task as LGBTQIA+ PoC Lutherans who are in the business of building up God’s kin-dom is to be grounded in cultivating a resilient and profound theology of the cross that lifts up the dazzling display of our differences and calls out the false glory of sameness and conformity. We are called to prophetically show up and interrupt the complacency of single-issue spaces by applying both a fierce and critical awareness and also generosity with a gentle and powerful softness that affirms and builds up the whole body of Christ.
In re-imagining and living into Beloved Community together, we can dream into a future that envisions the ELCA birthing radically-subversive, counter-oppressive and mindfully-active multi-cultural Christian communities that proclaim the good news of grace-filled intersectionality.
 Latina/mujerista theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz uses Kin-dom of God, to replace the dominating sexist, masculine, patriarchal, imperial and elitist connotations of “Kingdom.” In her work, she offers an eschatological image of an inclusive family of God to which we all can belong as kin, and by which we are responsible to bring justice and liberation to the world. See Ada Maria Isasi-Díaz, En la lucha/In The Struggle: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Philipos Ghaly is a genderqueer intersectional multi-religious theologian living in diaspora from Cairo, Egypt. He holds a BA in Psychology and a BA in Religious and Human Studies, and recently completed his MA in Theology at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA. He is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in preparation for ordained ministry. Philipos is a dervish of the late Sufi Sheikh Dr. Ibrahim Farajeje, former provost of Starr King School for the Ministry and professor of Islamic and Cultural Studies. He is committed to spiritual practice, deep greening, radical queering, and counter-oppressive “scholartivism” and desires to spiritually support and accompany those who labor in Justice organizing. He is passionate about mobilizing faith leaders and building networks for Queer and Trans religious professionals and leaders of color. He speaks Arabic, English and some French, and has academic knowledge of Coptic, Hebrew and Greek. Philipos is married to Rev. Sonny Graves (United Church of Christ) and they are co-conspiriting together against the Empire.