The Rainbow's Promise
by Duane E. Jennings, Wasatch Chapter of Affirmation
Originally presented at the Family Fellowship Quarterly Meeting
After the destruction of the flood, God offered the multicolored rainbow as a peacemaking gesture, the first covenant we have recorded in the Bible that God made to His children on earth.
Lesbians and gays have chosen the rainbow flag as our symbol, and
we are people of the rainbow coming in all shapes and hues — "from
all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples.” We claim its promise
and celebrate the diversity of God's creation in the world. A gay
Protestant minister, who I have become acquainted with through his
writings, shares the following experience: "At a national church assembly,
a group of lesbians and gay men were allotted a total of twelve minutes
to offer a one-sentence self-description followed by the refrain,
‘I offer my gifts to the church.’ We were warmly received with a
standing ovation. Later, after another negative vote on our issue,
some of the same group of lesbians and gay men staged an unwelcome,
angry demonstration. Few felt good about it, including the protesters.
The anger seemed to make everyone's shame kick in, causing a backlash.”
We have a right to our anger. How to express it is the strategic question. Proverbs 15:1 reads, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Over the course of Affirmation's 20 years, the members have gone through much pain and suffering, and healing. The organization was born out of the electroshock therapy, blackmailing, and suicides that occurred at Brigham Young University in the 1970's and early 80's. In reaction to those experiences, those who became Affirmation members were involved in LDS General Conference protests. On several other occasions fliers were placed on car windows during church, at selected wards in both Utah and California to let church members know there were lesbian and gay Mormons. Other approaches to educate have also been used: personal interviews with some general authorities, letter writing to newspapers and Church leaders, and articles printed by Affirmation, a few of which have appeared in publications like Dialogue and Sunstone. Even birthday cards have been sent to general authorities, along with monthly copies of Affinity—the national Affirmation newsletter. Slowly some progress has been made, and I have much hope in future progress.
Over the years, individuals of the very diverse lesbian and gay community have paused at times to consider what suffering has done for us, or rather, how suffering has been transformed into our stamina, character, and hope.
Standing alone, we develop inner resources to cope with the world. When everyone else seemed to hate us, including many churches, we "freelanced” our spirituality, and the Spirit transformed our suffering into the hope that we would move beyond our pain and prevent suffering for others.
In Romans 5:3 we read, "We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Christ taught, "Let your light so shine that others may see your good works and glorify God.”
I believe this is what Affirmation is about. It's about sharing each other's burden, serving each other, and sharing our hope. Through seeing our pain, family members have stepped forward to help and have formed groups like PFLAG, and in Utah Family Fellowship, to meet the peculiar needs of Mormon families. Members of Affirmation have been part of Family Fellowship since its beginnings.
Affirmation members and leadership across the country are together reaching out to work with other lesbian and gay spiritually and religiously affiliated groups, such as the Catholic groups Dignity, GALA (gay & lesbian members of the RLDS Church), the Metropolitan Community Church, Quakers, and other proactive groups.
Stephen R. Covey has stated: "Individuals can affect the world by becoming a model or an example in their small circle of influence. Just as a rock thrown into a pond causes ripples to gradually keep going out until eventually they are very small, so our acts influence the ecology of the entire human race.”
It is my prayer that each of us can learn to accept our whole self, or the wholeness of others, and then become a creative part of the rainbow of God's promise to the earth.