A Promised Covenanted Relationship with all God’s Creation
The Rev. Dr. Maritza Ivette Angulo Matos de Gonzalez
Keynote, National Open and Affirming Gathering
June 25, 2015
There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females and we need to emphasize that we are all the same in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28-29a)
I am the Rev. Dr. Maritza Ivette Angulo Matos de Gonzalez. My first language is Spanish. I am the birth mother of Elivette and Luis Enrique Mendez Angulo. I am married to David Gonzalez. I am over the age of 12, Afro-Rican, cis-gendered, divorced and re-married, educated, from the Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Lutheran traditions, a middle classed psychotherapist and storyteller called by God to be an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. I serve in a small bilingual/bicultural and recently officially designated Open and Affirming UCC church in West Hartford, Conn.
Both my family and my church Manantial de Gracia “Spring of Grace” send blessings and a profound thank-you for calling me today to share our story. Our hope is that today is day one of our new relationship in a more transparent and authentic way.
INTERSECTIONALITY is the purpose and focus of this gathering. I share with you all of these my self-identifiers so that you have a clear guide into how my identities might intersect with each other as well as with you.
In Galatians 3:28-29a, Paul says, “There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You [and we] are all the same in Christ Jesus. If you [and we] belong to Christ then [we] are Abrahams descendants and heirs as God promised.”
In his book “A Peculiar People,” Rodney Clapp indicates that “however we might cut-up the world, whatever we might see as the most important categories that define people, each and all are [included] by baptism into the body of Christ.” I must note that this particular Pauline passage that I have used has been used to separate us into “they vs. us”. And in particular if we look at the words male and female they exclude those who have problematic relationships with gender identity.
According to Rodney Clapp, Paul (Gal. 3:28-29a) is saying to us that no matter how the world is divided none of these categories is more basic to identify or formative of the self than belonging to God and one another in Christ. This is not just a call to inclusion and equality, or a call to overcome our differences and find similarities. Rather, this is a call for justice, for restoration and transformation of individuals, communities, and society.
The text today call us to construct a new paradigm within our cultural complexities and to look at new perspectives in the way we view and study discrimination and inequalities by bringing together issues of “socio-cultural categories and identities:” gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion and age. And in order to do so, I will be speaking from this place: an Afro-Rican woman, an ally to the cause, a minister who loves and cares for God’s creation and sees the gifts each one of us brings to S/Him’s Table.
So, again, thank you for inviting me … and I hope you invite me back.
So let me speak from a place of true transparency and ask a bold question. Probably this is a question many of you have thought in the innermost recesses of your hearts, but have not dared to ask out loud. Please close your eyes, I would not want you to catch each other’s gaze and be troubled by what you might see there.
Here is my question:
Why was I, a self- identified, ally, cisgendered, brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking, Latina woman invited to speak here today, when I imagine that among you there are members of the Coalition who can speak to these issues from within the system…?
In preparing for this event, I read an article titled: “Cultural Complexity and Intersectionality in the Study of the Jesus Movement” by Glancy, Buell, Kartzow and Moxnets (2010). This article challenges the reader to think about the culture that Jesus represented, “specifically the European culture. A Western-Christian culture that is often seen as distinct from and superior to the rest of the world.” This then poses the question, who does Jesus represent? European, Western, Christian? How about those of us who can’t deny our African ancestry? Does Jesus represent us as well?
I want to applaud the Coalition for daring to engage in this discussion about intersectionality because this forces us to have a broader discussion that includes the other, a discussion that challenges positions of power and privilege, both within the church and within the Coalition itself.
It also challenges us to really, deeply, from our hearts dissect Gal. 3:28 and stop identifying others as binary opposites: “Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females.” And in by doing so, we can decrease discrimination, racial injustices, and inequalities.
Jews nor Greeks
Jews nor Greeks: “there are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. We are all the same in Christ Jesus.”
While the Coalition has done a great job in providing a powerful witness related to the LGBTQI community, the perception by many in my community is that ONA has remained exclusive and segregated in racial and ethnic division—exhibiting unintentional domination and control, which has separated many other ethnic groups. And in my context, the Latin@ community has been left behind at the border. It is time to expand your welcome in a visible and extravagant way to my brothers and sisters. We want to be invited to join the dialogue, not at the border but sitting at the table.
As I mentioned before, I dare to speak from my place, a place that I call “THE BORDER”, because I interpret relations from that place. The Border is a place on the margins.
As a Latina, I am no longer interested in remaining on the margins. I desire to be visible and take a place, my place … at the Sacred Table where not only do I have a seat, but I have a voice and a vote.
We need to present the issue of ethnicity and the influence of hierarchical relations in community. Paul was speaking to a specific people, the Galatian community he spoke to, about constructing labels for people. A “controversial” form of community where people of different ethnic backgrounds “enjoyed unbounded table-fellowship, sharing one bread and one cup, in a social interaction that indicates that they are [already] “one body in Christ.”
If I can, I want to remember and celebrate our communion time yesterday. What a display of love and caring, what an example of God’s Kingdom! We not only received communion at the same table, but we became one at that table.
Thank you for inviting me to your table that now I can call my own! My brother Paco would be honored to know that I sat, ate, and drank with brothers and sisters who have paved the way so many. You know my brother was a gay man who died of AIDS way too young. I was a lay Lutheran pastor and had the honor to “celebrate his relationship” with Stuart in a secret place back in 1990. You see marriage for gay couples was unheard of and a Lutheran would never be part of such a celebration. But I dared to officiate over their vows and enjoy their wedding cake. What a celebration we had, and today I wish nothing more than for him to be here in the flesh, but I know he is here in Spirit.
But not all of us are invited to the table. My own story includes that of becoming the uninvited guest!
In my not so distant past, I was invited to present in a Spanish language religious event on domestic violence. The event organizers knew me to be a Latina pastor and psychotherapist. After months of prayer, planning, and organizing, a week before the event, I was uninvited. Though I was brown enough, Latina enough, and educated enough, the unconditional love and extravagant welcome that my church and I show to members of the LGBTQI community means that according to some, I lack Christian principles and have no morality.
I can tell you that I am not always welcome. There are times when my brown skin and Spanish language allow me access, but by virtue of my public stance as an ally, I have been left in the margins. On the outside looking in. But, I welcome that position, because it is from a place of authenticity.
But now let me share a story about my brother-friend.
I would say that he was born and raised in the border between his identities as a gay man and as a Latino Christian. In most Latino churches he is not welcome because he is “too gay.” While in some churches in our denomination he is not welcome because he is too Latino. He is a leader in the UCC community who remains marginalized.
I remember the day he came to a meeting I was attending. He had been invited by a well know couple who enthusiastically introduced him saying, “public figure, pastor of a church, one of us…” and I immediately knew that they had no idea he was gay! As soon as they became aware, that became the first and last time he was invited by them to sit among us.
As our relationship deepened he has shared his experience as a member of the clergy. Invited to denominational gatherings as a peer, but excluded and “othered” by some upon realizing that he is a Latino. My brother was born in this country, he is a citizen, but this does not afford him the privilege of access to the table in one community, nor in the other.
But realize for those of us who are allies we expect and have accepted those same moments of exclusion. I am not invited in some churches because I hang out with “those gay people.” And at the same time, I am not welcome in some UCC churches because I am too Latina … or too Pentecostal. And my brothers’ experiences are similar. But yet, God’s love abides in us.
Males nor Females
Males nor Females: “there are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. We are all the same in Christ Jesus.”
But where does that “Male nor Female” leave the trans community? How do we engage in dialogue about issues of transphobia in our communities? It is important to mention that we, the church and specifically you as members of the ONA Coalition have the obligation to work closely with the Latino community about these issues. Latinos comprise approximately 17 percent of the U.S. population and we continue growing. Many of our youth experience challenges with issues of racism and bias because of gender identity, gender expression and sexual preference.
The cultural element of “familiarismo” which emphasis the responsibility family has to provide economic and emotional support to immediate and extended kin needs to continue being explored because it is a significant strength to our LGBTQ Latin@ youth as it is also an important element to the coming out process within our community (Creating Change 2013). It is important to mention that 40 percent of the TransLatin@ community have attempted suicide, report high levels of depression and the use of illegal drugs.
In case you did not know, Latinos are storytellers by nature, or at least I am, so let me share this:
Imagine a four-year-old child in pre-kindergarten. The teacher has boxes of clothing for each child to select for their “Pre-K Picture.” Each child is allowed to select their own!
When mom sees the child’s picture, she immediately returns to school to talk to the teacher. Mother asked, “Why did you dress my child in women’s clothing?” The teacher responded, “He picked them and said “I want to be just like my mother.”
At the age of 18, when that child decided that he identified as “she” and began dressing in the clothing of her identified gender the parent, who by then was the assistant to her pastor, was asked to leave the church due to the “family embarrassing and shaming God’s House.”
I met mother about two years after this had occurred. Though she comes to our church, she is not a member, but rather, she is a welcomed guest! It took her more than a year to feel worthy of sharing in a communion meal as she has been shamed into believing that she is unworthy of being in communion with those that have been granted God’s grace, or as she has said “I am the mother of a trans.… I cannot have communion.”
But yet, Christ shed his blood for her, mother and daughter, both of them.
In Other Words
I want to add to this story. There is a deep and rich diversity among Latino LGBTQI families. The level of acculturation of many, their language challenges, their countries of origin, their ancestry, the number of generations in the U.S., experiences of stigma, socio/economic status and multiracial/ethnic identities and each of these unique and beautiful differences needs to be taken into consideration when we extend a welcome.
An Extravagant welcome. An authentic and intentional welcome, welcomes all of who a person is. When we the church say that we offer an extravagant welcome, it needs to be acknowledged that it is not only a welcome to the pretty, but a welcome to the ugly.
The ugly includes the history of oppression, the need for racial reconciliation, the need to better understand cultures, beliefs practices, history and the importance of family connections in order to truly welcome each other into the Kin-dom of God.
And we the allies can become culture brokers, agents of reconciliation, agents of change, taking responsibility by helping examine personal biases and stereotypes, exploring the cultural and historical traumas of our communities.
We have to remember and recognize that intersectionality requires spiritual healing for both your community and my community.
Often people offer a Band-Aid. I do not want to do that. I want to tell you that this is something that needs to be further researched and intentionally discussed within our communities, yours and mine. Because after 30 years of an Open and Affirming covenant, we cannot stop the process. We need to move forward and cry out to our God for boldness and strength in order to be in relationship with our brothers and sisters.
It is the time to SIT AT THE TABLE with the other, the brown and the black. It is time to gather at the table with those that might not be privilege, with those that we left behind 30 years ago, it is time to:
learn about the other
assume nothing about the other
provide time, space, opportunity and a voice to the other.
If we are responsible, then we need to:
a) Not only identify the need for connection, but ask the questions:
Who do I see? Or more importantly, who is missing?
How these intersect?
What is the struggle?
Who we talk to?
b) What is the fear of intersection?
c) What needs to be intersected at the Table?
We need to be authentic, real, intentional and transparent. We cannot afford to have two, three or more camps; we cannot afford to continue working in individual silos. We need to create opportunities for engagement in open conversations and dialogues.
In New England the Hispanic Ministries have created open conversations and dialogues that we call tertulias. A tertulia is an intimate, transparent, open and honest discussion, these are formal annual gatherings of people interested in discussing, learning and sharing.
Our gatherings or tertulias foster friendships, strengthen relationships and enrich us. We have learned to sit together, to speak together, to be quiet together, to listen together, and to find God together. And so what started as a conversation about the “ONA” issue became a conversation about intersectionality, how some of us are welcome, and some of us are excluded; about how some of us are too male or have too much privilege and others not enough, we talk about the perception of machismo and marianismo in our communities, we talk about immigration–who has a green card and who is American by birthright, who is documented and who is not.
When we decided to host these tertulias, it was knowing that we did not know enough, and knowing that we were no longer able to pretend we knew enough, so rather than putting a bandage over our eyes, or dredging up past wounds, we decided to have an authentic, genuine, transparent, difficult, uncomfortable, yucky conversation that might hurt some peoples feelings and that we were going to do it with the Love of God.
Tertulia 2012: I am Hispanic, I am UCC: Classism, Racism and other ONA Issues – Rev. David Mateo
Tertulia 2013: I am Hispanic, I am UCC: Authenticity, accountability and Actualization – Rev. Felix Carrion, Rev. Damaris Ortega, Rev. Linda Jaramillo and Pastor Robert Ochoa
Tertulia 2014: I am Hispanic, I am UCC: Immigration, Justice for ALL God’s People – Maria Vives, Rev. Esther Baruja, Rev. Felix Carrion, Rev. Dr. Maritza A. de Gonzalez
Tertulia 2015: I am Hispanic, I am UCC: Pastoral and Prophetic Voice, Futuristic Vision – Rev. Linda Jaramillo, Rev. Thea Racelis, Pastor Robert Ochoa, Minister Elivette Mendez Angulo
For the past four years “intersections” have kept us coming back to continue the conversation.
So at this point I can say to you that we in New England feel blessed as a region to be able to say to you as the Coalition, to each representative of that rainbow flag, to each member who represents their own familial/cultural identity: THANK YOU.
Thank you, because thanks to you for the past four years we have continued the conversation about intersectionality even within the Latino Community. Through tears and laughter we have shared meals and most importantly God’s love.
This year we have added an additional series called “Encuentros: A people who walk together” in order to engage in theological discussions about those difficult issues and pray together that we may be uniting and united in Christ even if we don’t see eye to eye in all our endeavors.
Intersectionality indeed is messy. It creates tension and definitively makes some uncomfortable and angry as Bishop Royster said last night. But it also creates the opportunity for us the LGBTQI and the ally community to become a force of power, a force of love, a force that acts on behalf of the People of God. It is time, beloved to put our faith to action, to dance and make noise, the kind of noise that resonates with God and His and Her People.
Clapp, R. (1996). “A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society.”
Kartzow, MB (2010). “Asking the Other Question : An Intersectional Approach to Galatians 3:28 and the Colossian Household Codes.” Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of contemporary approaches 18 (2010) 364-389.
Buell, DK, Glancy, JA, Kartzow, MB and Moxnes, H. (2010), “Cultural Complexity and Intersectionality in the Study of the Jesus Movement.” Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches 18:4-5, pp. 309-312.
Moxnes, H. (2010). “Identity in Jesus’ Galilee: From Ethnicity to Locative Intersectionality.” Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches 18:4-5, pp. 390-416.
Harrison-Quintana, J, Perez, D. (Grant, J). (2008). Injustice at Every Turn: A look at Latino/a respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
Hanson, J., Poirier, J., Bearse, M and Phil, M. (2013). “The Intersection of Racism, Heterosexism, and Transphobia: School Leadership Opportunities.” National Association of School Psychologists Convention, Feb. 13, 2013, Seattle, WA.