A Place at the Table: An Evening with Chris Glaser

Published: October 30, 2013

Coming out was hard; in fact, on occasion it is still hard.  Although I was baptized in a Baptist church, confirmed in a Lutheran church, and am pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian church, I spent years feeling disenfranchised and wondering if I really had a place at the church’s table.  After realizing I was gay but before coming out, even being physically present in a church felt hypocritical: while I had never been told LGBTQ people were hell-bound, “they” were definitely spoken of in hushed tones.  As I tentatively began coming out to a few friends and family members, being able share that part of my identity eased the inner turmoil of feeling shameful and dishonest.  Since then, coming out has renewed my sense of faith, and the affirmation of being welcomed and loved for what I once worried was a “flaw” has given me the ability to reclaim a place at the table which I almost abandoned.

Coming Out as a Sacrement

A little over a week ago, author and activist Chris Glaser gathered around the table with members of the School of Divinity community to explore “Coming Out as a Sacrament.”  In setting forth a few criteria to consider, Glaser established sacraments as communal events that are initiated by God as a means of grace and in which God is present.  When LGBTQ people are denied access to grace through the church’s sacraments, we look elsewhere to experience it.  Glaser mentioned lovemaking, liberation (through Pride festivals and Coming Out Day), and mutual vulnerability as sacramental ways in which the LGBTQ community often comes to know God’s grace.

In listening to Glaser, though, coming out seems to be a uniquely profound opportunity for establishing a new liturgical sacrament.  In the vulnerability and intimacy of coming out, LGBTQ people give a sacrificial offering by enabling and encouraging others to come out.  Glaser understands this in light of Paul’s charge to present our bodies to God as spiritual worship, and he sees the vulnerable revelation of God’s self in scripture as God’s own coming out.  In that regard, coming out is even an evangelical act that brings good news along with wholeness and healing to the world.  Instead of the systematic sacrifice of LGBTQ people on the altars of institutions of church and state, celebrating the coming out experiences of LGBTQ people with a sacramental liturgy would be a thing of great beauty.  As part of our evening together, we read the ritual that Glaser has created, and as we were gathered around the table, we affirmed that “God inspirits every soul, regardless of sexual orientation.  God welcomes every body, though we may hide our nakedness.  God hopes in every love, without partiality.”¹ It was a holy moment, indeed.  May we carry these words into the world with our lives, our love, and our coming out stories.

Lindsey Altvateraltvlm13
First Year MDiv

¹ Chris Glaser, Coming Out as Sacrament (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 125.