rockin' the suburbs, pt. II

I flew into Long Beach and caught a cab to my hotel. I entered the room and my roommate was already there, or at least his stuff was scattered about the room. When I finally met Robert, he was the epitome of a southern lawyer that one might see in a John Grisham movie. His receding blond hair was quaffed with a little too much gel. Dressed in loafers, a button-down, and khakis, his belly generously hung over his belt. He greeted me with a resounding “hey” that bounced off of the sterile walls of our hotel, while he pumped my hand vigorously. He was charming in a way that puts you at ease almost immediately; he will be a good minister and maybe even a good pastor.

The hallways at this General Assembly resembled a beehive. The constant buzz of wheeled suitcases droned throughout the hallways as commissioners hauled their documents from meeting to meeting. People gathered together to participate in the rituals of conversations; I passed by as arms flailed to the rhythms of conversational tones. People have collapsed into chairs and their suitcases have exploded scattering papers wildly about them. Robert shepherded me through the hallways, showing me the ropes, leading me to the posse he has begun to form.

“…all alone in my white boy pain…”

It was a terrible thing to feel alone, or at least it was a terrible thing to me. I flew from one end of the country to the other, not knowing a soul. But Robert found me, and as we navigated those busy hallways I felt strangely dependant and empowered. We talked about seminaries, professors, and student bodies. We then met and shared a meal with other students from across the country. When I see the fuzzy visions of that memory, I see myself as quiet and discerning, listening for keywords that would bring about connection for me. There are several students that speak my language, and all of them have gravitated to Robert. We talked until late, and made plans to meet for breakfast at Starbucks, I don’t drink coffee.

My indoctrination into the gang began that morning. Starbucks was a brisk 6 or 7 blocks from the hotel, and inevitably we ended up talking theology and politics. We both believed (and still do) that gays and lesbians should have full inclusion in the Presbyterian Church. So we talked about the amendments that would allow that to happen. Our posse picked up two more students on the way, one is a very attractive female, but I would never tell her that, she’s a feminist and I am na├»ve. All of us are straight, white, liberal theologians, which in the grand scheme of things means very little, but it was important to us. We talked about, actually they talked about, groups in the church that were working for full inclusion. I listened, afraid to show my ignorance, and nodded occasionally. I felt like I belonged, sipping my Starbucks hot chocolate, laughing at the appropriate moments.

We approached our committees with vigor, tearing into the reports and talking about our brand of theology to the groups. There were others like us, but they were older, wiser in many ways, but lacking creativity and energy. We were the young future of the church, and doggone it we were going to change the itty-bitty world that we theologically inhabited. It’s kind of funny when I look back at that time, I knew one gay person in seminary and only knew him through friends. But at the General Assembly, it didn’t matter, I had a cause, a posse, and I felt like I belonged. The pain had subsided for the time being and I found a voice for my “heretical” theology.

This is the time, if this were a movie, where I would turn and face the camera and tell you a little about what is going on with me. This event is a longer experience to write about than I could have imagined. I hope to wrap this up with one additionally entry, and if you read through this far I appreciate it. I am beginning to see this experience as a formative time in my life. One where I was able to find a voice for my theology and take something home with me. It is exhausting calling up the memories of my theological past, but it is also necessary because there are lessons to be learned by digging around in it. Ultimately, I see this time as one where I was influenced by another, but not coerced. It was a time where I was able to lead and be led by something greater than myself (not just Robert). I hope to conclude this by the end of the week, as well as, do some additional posting along the way. Thanks for taking this journey with me…

grace and peace

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