Stories Told Across "Enemy" Lines
In her book, Coming Out, Coming to Faith, Coming to the Table, Peggy Green has given us a most valuable gift—a glimpse into the hearts and lives of sexual minority and sexual majority folks of both conservative and liberal persuasions as they gather in the same room, week after week. Agreeing to bring their whole selves to the table and to share openly with each other, they explore their deeply personal experiences of God, their sexuality, and both hurt and healing from the Bible and within the church.
And we are invited to join them, the price of admission no more than a willingness to eavesdrop with an open heart.
The conversations documented in this book were born of Green's project, First Be Reconciled, a series of dialogues carried out between 2001 and 2004 with the support of Pacific School of Religion, the Graduate Theological Union, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Green approached the dialogues as more than a facilitator; she was looking to transform her own heart in the process:
Call it dialogue but it's something more than that. Call it peacemaking, skill-building, storytelling; it's all of that. But what if that's not what I'm after? If what I'm after goes deeper than that; if what I want is freedom from my own resentment; if what I want is emancipation from my own anger and my own blame—then maybe this practice is right on target. And maybe these people are just the ticket.
The stories themselves are worth the read, but Green's poetic style, which ties the stories together, adds a delightful literary flavor to the experience. She writes:
In First Be Reconciled, where we neither seek agreement on the issues that divide us, nor silence the voices of the values that define us, we seek, as a group, to become an instrument of peace. We sit, by the windows of the soul, tracing the steps of the divine journey through the fires and the waters of own lives.
When I first set out to design and implement the Oriented to Love program in 2011, a colleague told me, "You should talk to Peggy Green. She's done this kind of work." In her I encountered a generous spirit and enthusiastic supporter. She offered me several morsels of wisdom that continue to affect the work I do convening small groups of diverse Christians across deep differences.
One of my favorite verses is Psalm 23:5—"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…" It suggests honor, tenderness, and safety. Because God has our back. Because enemies become friends at this table.
While the Good Shepherd presides, Green humbly but ably serves up the richest of fare: attention, embrace, transformation. So come to the table. You won't leave hungry.
Kristyn Komarnicki is ESA's director of communications and the facilitator of Oriented to Love.