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1001 New Worshiping Communities podcast takes a loving look at community, family and pride

‘Queer Virtue’ author the Rev. Elizabeth Edman is the guest on the New Way podcast

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Elizabeth Edman

LOUISVILLE — The first of a two-part New Way conversation with the Rev. Elizabeth Edman, an Episcopal priest and the author of the 2016 book “Queer Virtue,” explores what being part of the queer community has taught Edman and can teach listeners about being faithful Christians.

New Way, a podcast of 1001 New Worshiping Communities, is hosted by the Rev. Sara Hayden and produced by the Rev. Marthame Sanders. Listen to the first part of Hayden’s conversation with Edman, which is 25 minutes, by going here. Part 2 will be available beginning June 15.

Edman recalled joining an Episcopal congregation as a child in Arkansas because her mother loved “the music and the mystery and the incense and the sensuality” of Episcopal worship. “From the time we were big enough to hold a hymnal, we were in the children’s choir,” Edman told Hayden. “So, it was a really important part of my childhood and upbringing.”

Growing up Episcopal in an otherwise evangelical context showed Edman “the way that evangelicalism puts people in touch personally with a God who bears them up in their struggles, and I got a lot of that. Arkansas really gave that to me, this belief in a personal God … who was present in my life.”

The Episcopal Church gave her gifts as well, including its teaching of “a three-legged stool of authority: Scripture, tradition and human reason or human experience,” Edman said. “I felt that even as a kid, the fact that what I understood to be going on — that mattered to God too.”

“In the Episcopal Church, I encountered this God of beauty … the beauty of holiness,” she told Hayden. Edman finished college and later enrolled at Union Theological Seminary in New York, a city that’s “so alive and filled with so many different kinds of people,” she told Hayden. “This is really where I began to understand God as a relational God, a God of community — particularly, a God who brings together people who are really different from one another.”

For Edman, “when I got there [in 1985], the fact that New York has always been home to a really robust LGBTQ community, that became part of my faith journey and my understanding of myself and my understanding of community itself.”

The Rev. Sara Hayden

Edman told Hayden queer people are, in her experience, “highly attuned to the sacred.” It’s the church’s loss, she said, that the church has “spent so much time pushing these people out or making us feel horrible about ourselves” and “communicating unwelcome” or “ambivalence in myriad ways. If people can’t gather in what is explicitly a spiritual space, what looks like a spiritual space when you walk into it, then people will create that for themselves.”

The LGBTQ community is “incredibly intentional … about how we form community, how we get those needs met, how we look around to make sure other people’s needs are met,” Edman said, although she’s talked to a number of younger queer people “whose experience of queer community has not been … this sort of halo experience that I had growing up and sort of coming of age in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”

“To some degree, that’s, I think, what happens when you start to make headway on justice,” Edman said. “It’ll be interesting to see now, with the terrible threats that we’re in the midst of — my suspicion is that you’ll see real rejuvenation of queer community at its best. That’s my hope.”

For a lot of people, the queer experience “looks something like this,” according to Edman: “You have to discern an identity” that “affects how you present yourself to the world, how you navigate your most intimate relationships … You have to tell the truth about that identity, even if you are fairly certain that identity is not gonna be received well … Queer people have a really beautiful history of building community together” and looking “into the margins to see who is struggling and doing something about that.”

“What’s interesting to me, and where [“Queer Virtue”] comes from, is seeing that that ethical path is identical to the ethical path that Christians are supposed to walk,” Edman said. “We’re supposed to discern an identity too. For us, our identity is we are children of God, created by God. We depend on God for our very lives … We’re supposed to tell the truth about that to other people, even when it’s not popular.

“We have to find other people in order to understand what this identity demands, build community together, look to the margins to see who’s struggling and do something about that. It’s the same path.”

Listen to previous episodes of the New Way podcast here.

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