Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression
At the moment someone gives birth, there is a new-born, a doctor, and a question: “Is it a girl or a boy?” The birth certificate has two boxes, and only one can be checked. This is an example of the gender binary system, where there are two, and only two, very distinct options. It is one or the other, male or female. And the way that question is answered has ramifications throughout one’s entire life. Future options, expectations, and opportunities all hinge on which box is checked. And interestingly, notice that the very question—”Is it…?” withholds person-hood until a gender is assigned.
Sex, gender identity, and gender expression can be experienced on a continuum, creating a nearly infinite combination of identities. The binary gender system says that there are only two genders. Here, we can see that gender is truly far more complex than this binary system.
GENDER IDENTITY refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman, or another gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender identity is different from the term “gender,” which is typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.
GENDER EXPRESSION refers to the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. These norms vary culturally.
SEX is assigned at birth based on external genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones. People with ambiguous genitalia or other biological complexities (such as an unusual chromosome pattern or hormonal shifts) may identify as intersex.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION is the term used to describe what gender(s) someone is physically and/or emotionally attracted to. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and straight are all examples of sexual orientations. A person’s sexual orientation is distinct from a person’s gender identity and expression.
Thanks to ReconcilingWorks for the content and graphics found on this page
By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
One of the more interesting philosophical takes I’ve heard in the last few months has come from a children’s animated series (thanks, Joshua!). In this cartoon, a man is planning to the minute the actions and activities of him and everyone around him – even the impending birth of his child. When his wife goes into labor a day earlier than “scheduled,” he panics, and his frenzied journey to the hospital is met with unexpected obstacles the entire way. At one point he breaks down and, his worldview collapsing around him, utters:
“Control is just chaos going your way for a bit.”
Then, as he begins to roll with the unexpected, he makes it to the hospital, just in time to witness the birth of his daughter.
I do crisis management well; I’ve always known that I do some of my best work when I’m up against the deadline, or when the best-laid plans have been thrown into chaos.
In live theater, a stage manager sits in a booth in the back of the house, giving all the cues to the crew for when lighting cues should change, curtains should rise or fall, sound effects should go off, or scenery is to be changed. I love doing stage management because I’m helping to control the production, giving the actors a well-planned, safe, and supportive environment in which to perform – but I also love it because something, somewhere, always goes awry, and it’s the stage manager’s job to fix it. Actors skipped ten lines of dialogue? It’s your job to catch the lighting and sound cues up. Someone forgot a prop? Find a crew member or actor to sneak it onstage. Piece of furniture broke? Tell the crew to use the table from Act Two instead. I get to control the chaos, and if I’ve done my job well, the audience never knows anything was wrong.
The funny thing is, as well as I can live in the chaos, I actually dislike it intensely when the little things, the easy instructions, go wrong.
I write all of this because I sometimes view the worship service as a production: everyone has a part, from the Pastor to the lay leaders to the congregation, and there is a script (the bulletin) with lines and stage directions (stand up, sit down, come to the altar). I feel good when everyone’s said their dialogue, hit their marks, and we’ve shared the word and good news of God without any mishaps.
But that never happens. I play the wrong hymn. Someone forgets to invite the congregation to stand or sit. Prayers are skipped. The microphones are too loud or too quiet or not turned on. And when that happens, I feel like we’ve done a disservice to the worship service. How will a guest or potential new member react when it looks like we don’t know what we’re doing?
Pastor Manda is wonderful at reminding me, and all of us, to embrace the chaos. Acknowledge our failings. A perfectly smooth worship experience is not what brings us closer to God. In fact, we are closer to God when we accept our own humanity, with all of its flaws and foibles. Would I rather worship with a perfectly polished, well-oiled machine of a service, or with a community of people, each giving their best efforts to love, support, and lift each other up, succeeding much of the time, not quite getting there once in a while?
“Control is just chaos going your way for a bit.”
Perhaps if I worry less about trying to control the chaos, the chaos will go my way more often.
Greetings CGS Members,
Last week, we encountered plumbing problems at the parsonage. A break in the main line pipe became evident when the front yard of the house began to flood, and we were notified. After a number of calls to plumbers and a series of quotes, it was determined that ARC Rescue Rooter was our best move. The main line, from the street to the house had disintegrated over the last half century and the whole pipe needed immediate replacement. Thank you to Joe Shackelford, Laura Rinde and Pastor Manda for leaping in to address this issue so quickly, obtaining needed quotes, communicating with the leadership and supporting completion of the repair. The main was replaced and the city inspection successfully completed within the week.
This was not an inexpensive bout of deferred maintenance… nearly $7000 was the cost. Due to the emergent nature of the situation we were not able to obtain prior approval from the membership for this expense beyond the $5000 limit as set by our Constitution. So, please consider this the leadership’s communication that we needed to make the repair and issue the payment for this repair last week.
Then, in order to keep you abreast of what’s happening next in the CGS world of property maintenance… please know that we are not done with pipe repairs needed at the parsonage. We knew that these repairs would eventually need to be done, but hoped that we could hold off for a year. After an inspection of the pipes below the house, we learned that the entire house needs to be re-piped soon. The nearly half-century old pipes under the house are in like condition to the main line that burst in the last couple of weeks. We are in the process of obtaining quotes for this work and again, it will not be an inexpensive process… we are looking at $10-$15,000 to complete this work.
The bad news is, we need to make these repairs. The good news is, we have the reserves that allow us to make this repair and this maintenance work a reality. As we search for quotes and plumbers who can help us, we request that you share with us your referrals and contacts. When we have found a solution to the problem, we will schedule a congregational vote to approve the expenditure.
Thank you for your help and do let us know what questions you may have.
Joe Shackelford, Property Committee Chair & Laurie Gaumer, CGS Treasurer
“As talking together as Christians about tough social issues becomes a learned, ongoing practice, we begin to sense that this activity is an important aspect of what it means to be the Church and to carry on its public ministry and witness.
“At the birth of the Church at Pentecost (see Acts 2), the Holy Spirit enabled diverse people to communicate in ways that moved beyond the usual barriers. The Spirit continues to do so in ways that strengthen and deepen who we are in relation to God and one another. Those who are ‘other’ from us challenge us when we mistake our reason and experience as being the case for all people. With new eyes we begin to see how God is active in the world—in the people, the social issues, ethical challenges, the suffering, and the delights that we discover there. We find that our relationship with God grows stronger, our relationship with people in our congregation grows deeper, and our lives and the life of our congregation are transformed. As these things continue to happen, God works to transform the world around us.
“What we confess as the Church becomes embodied in how we are in relation with one another and how we witness to God’s action in the world. Through the Spirit we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. The power of the cross emphasizes weakness and vulnerability, rather than dominating, controlling, or ‘being right.’ It is relational, incarnational, and generative of new forms of human connection and community. The conversation of the Christian community involves all the members of the community attempting to discern in every way possible what God is doing in our world, and what God is calling us to do, in congregations and other expressions of the church, as well as in our daily lives. That is why talking together as Christians about tough social issues is so pivotal in what it means to be the Church.”
From the ELCA resource “Talking Together as Christians About Tough Social Issues.”
“335,609 (I Cried to God)”
I cried to God, “Three hundred thirty thousand!
Five thousand more, six hundred more, and nine!”
In just ten years, a truth we can’t imagine:
All died from guns, one loved one at a time!
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send to grieve them?
Go tell the world: ‘I love them! They are mine!’”
I asked the Lord, “Why is there so much violence?
If you are God, why don’t you stop the pain?
God, won’t you speak? For all around is madness!
Just say the word and make us whole again!”
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send as prophets?
Speak out my truth! Shout till the killings end!”
I knelt and prayed, and wept for all the fallen;
So many lives, so many dreams now gone.
More than a name—each one was someone’s cousin,
Or someone’s child, or someone counted on.
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send, who knew them,
To work for peace, to labor till the dawn?”
“Lord, here am I! And here are we, together!
No one alone can end this killing spree.
The powers of death pit one against another,
Yet you are God and you desire peace.
As mourners, prophets, laborers together,
Give us the strength to make the killings cease.”
The title “335,609 (I Cried to God)” is derived from the statistics for gun-related deaths between 2000 and 2010. Biblical references: Exodus 20:13; Isaiah 6:8; Matthew 25:40.
Tune: Jean Sibelius, 1899 (“Be Still, My Soul”) Text: Copyright 2015 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; New hymns: www.carolynshymns.com/ Permission is given for free use of this hymn by churches and by ecumenical groups supporting efforts to end gun violence. Gillette serves as part-time associate pastor of First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, N.Y
By Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
I came across an article in one of the online music groups I check often, and it’s wonderful to learn how other people’s knowledge and experiences support and help some points that I try to impart, not only to our choir singers, but to everyone I get the opportunity to share. The article is about children’s singing.
With Summer here and regular school on break, it’s a great opportunity for children to be involved in other activities or start taking lessons to hone skills. Music lessons are always an excellent choice. The article points out that aside from the fact that taking singing lessons are fun and can increase confidence, it’s much more than helping a child carry a tune more reliably or getting them ready for their school musical. Singing actually exercises regions of the brain that are used in math, spatial understanding, reading and expression of emotion. Musical training as children can also make them better listeners later in life. Studies suggest that music lessons enhance lifelong listening and learning. Playing a musical instrument and singing as a child creates new pathways in the brain to process written words and letters. Even in babies, there’s increased smiling, waving, communication, and understanding of pitch with interactive song learning. Babies can actually distinguish scales, chords, and consonant combinations. They can recognize tunes played to them for several days. Research done in University of British Columbia (UBC) shows that singing lessons causes brain plasticity or neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change throughout life.
One of the most amazing benefits of musical training for children is its ability to induce meta-plasticity. This is the ability that happens from training in one area which later allows efficient learning and change (or plasticity) in other areas of the brain. When children understand that learning changes the structure and function of their brain, they more easily see their progress and anticipate it. This leads to the belief that they can reach their musical goals and get better through study and practice. And that leads to increased commitment, which keeps them studying and practicing!
Parents can feel doubly good about bringing more musical and singing opportunities into your children’s lives. Not only will they enjoy the immediate benefits of music making, but you are setting them up for a life-time of better functioning brains and abilities that will last the rest of their lives.
On November 7, 2018, the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif.—a popular meeting place for university students, including those from nearby California Lutheran University—joined the growing national list of public spaces haunted by mass shootings. Thirteen people died, including the perpetrator and a police officer.
Desta Ronning Goehner, a member of the CLU staff, rolled over in bed late that night and saw her phone light up. “I had the feeling God or the Spirit was waking me up,” said Ronning, “and I saw a bunch of texts from students and people saying ‘I’m OK! I’m OK!’ or ‘Have you checked on this person or that person?’ I wondered what was going on, and then I started piecing it together. My phone rang, and it was a local clergy friend of mine. She said there was a shooting at Borderline and that we needed to go there. … That night changed me.
“It’s almost been six months, and there’s something I’m learning about trauma and compassion fatigue that usually happens around the six-month mark, where people in communities begin to realize that they’re not OK, when they’ve been thinking that they were probably OK.
“If somebody came to Thousand Oaks or California Lutheran now, you probably wouldn’t even know or hear about the shooting in most conversations. I’m trying to figure that whole thing out. It’s changed me, and I haven’t talked a lot about it outwardly—with other people.
“That night was really hard. I was changed, my family was changed, Cal Lutheran was changed, the community was changed. But if you come here, you probably wouldn’t know that it had happened.
“The other thing I’m learning is, we had this shooting and then we also had, within 24 hours, the wildfires. I don’t think there’s a lot of data on trauma where people have had two traumas like a natural disaster and a man-made trauma in the same time frame. I think we’re a little bit of a test case. The fires kind of stole our ability to deal with the fear and anger of the shooting—there was so much fear about the fires and people were having to evacuate.
“For about a week to a week and a half, everywhere you went, you saw people driving with the cars loaded up with all of their stuff. And people who lost loved ones at the Borderline also had to evacuate. Can you imagine losing someone you love in that way and then, within 24 hours, having to pack up your house where you have all of your memories, including packing up the room and all of the memories of the loved one you lost?
“It’s been hard for me to figure out how to use my voice publicly to share my experience.”
How do you move forward and continue to care?
“I feel like I’m going to have to use my voice, though,” Ronning said. “I’m struck by how much of our world just moved on so quickly after this. … Nobody is still checking in with us, asking, ‘How are you doing now?’ People just kind of move on, and everybody has their own stuff to deal with, but I think that I have to talk about it because I’m realizing that this is what happens to other people, not just related to gun violence, but all sorts of trauma: the rest of us move on, but it’s still affecting people, families and communities, and we start to ignore it. I think that makes trauma worse.”
Months later, Ronning is still working at and seeking ways to be attentive and present for students who continue to be affected, whose raw emotions resurface, often unexpectedly. “I’ve met with many students, and so have lots of other staff,” she said. “We’ve met with students, faculty, and staff to just sit and listen to them and give them space to talk about where they’re at and what they’re feeling and thinking.
“I try to ask questions or reflect back to them what I’ve heard them say. And I’m trying to follow up on a regular basis, so they know that I haven’t forgotten about them. I have an alarm set on my phone and in my calendar to check in with people so that I’m not forgetting. I’ve moved to this place, with some people, of saying you don’t have to respond, but if and when you want to, you can, so that they don’t feel pressured. I’ve also been saying, ‘Just give me a number between one and ten about how you are right now or whenever you feel like responding—ten is excellent and one is, today is horrible.’ They can call or text me, and that helps me know that, if they are a three today and last week they were a seven, I may need to try to get them more help or something.”
Ronning reminds us that many people, especially families and young people, will never be the same after a tragedy such as this. And the trauma and impact ripples out into the world and lingers, taking its toll along the way. What we can do is listen, be attentive to mental health issues, be present, be patient, and not forget those who are suffering in perceptible and unseen ways. And, we can learn to use our voices and every means possible to change what’s going on, to reduce and end the gun violence that is shattering our communities.
From a conversation with Desta Ronning Goehner, director of congregational relations, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Calif. Ronning is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, has served on the staff of the Southwest California Synod, and is a trained and certified spiritual director.
By Pastor Manda
Thirty years ago, on January 17, 1989, a 24-year-old gunman entered Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, Calif., and killed five students and injured 30 other people. This tragic event prompted the California Assembly to respond by passing the Assault Weapons Control Act, the first legislative restriction on assault weapons in the nation. It also was a catalyst for a number of ELCA actions and responses to gun violence, its root causes, and its impact on individuals, families, and communities—including the 1994 social message “Community Violence.”
One of the many assertions in that message is:
“Violence breeds more violence. Incidents of violence stir up anger and a craving for vengeance. Fear festers an attitude of “we’re not going to take it anymore.” Increasingly, our national mood has been described as one of “getting mad and getting even.”
If that was true in 1994, it is even more true now, 25 years later.
In June, the ELCA published a resource called A 60-Day Journey Toward Justice in a Culture of Gun Violence. There is a reading for every day for 60 days. There are printed copies on a table in the Narthex if you’d like one, or you can download a copy here.
For the next 30 days, we’re going to publish some selections in our newsletters – different selections each Sunday and Wednesday. The violence in our community is affecting us; whether or not we’re aware of it or able to deal with it. This is not God’s will for us. God’s resolve for peace in our community is unshakable. We know this from the commandments (Exodus 20.13), from the epistles (Ephesians 2.13-17), and the prophets (Revelation 21.1,4). The cross and the resurrection have broken the cycle of violence, freeing us for God’s future and for one another.
Part of our mission to Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve is to let the Holy Spirit use us to break the cycle of violence, hate, greed, and fear. We can begin to do this by confronting the violent tendencies within ourselves and our community and cultivating practices of nonviolence.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reflections over the next month as you read these articles and reflect with the whole ELCA on how the Holy Spirit is bringing peace to the world through ourselves.
Much of the language of this article was taken from or inspired by the ELCA’s Social Message on Community Violence. You can find a copy of the entire social message here.
We crafted our own Psalm during worship. Read it below, or you can also listen to how we made it here.
We waited, and waited, and waited for God.
And God heard us.
In times when I needed to move a sofa,
God, you were there to lift.
When my toilet runneth over,
God, you were my plunger
God, when my car broke down,
You put it in neutral
And gave me strong legs to push.
God, you are like toys,
Complex and full of fun.
God, you are like exercise,
You keep my cells alive.
You are the coffee pot in my kitchen,
You wake me up every day,
And are the source of my life.
You are annoying like a kidney stone, God.
You cause me great consternation
You throw up red lights in my life,
Forcing me to be patient
And consider others.
In God, my life is filled with the warmth of
A thousand burning suns.
The sweat of my brow
Is relieved by the cool breezes of God’s breath.
I am fully rested in the Lord,
Like a full night’s sleep
With no interruptions
And no bathroom breaks
The abundance of God makes me share my good fortune
Like popcorn at a movie,
And plums on a churchyard tree,
And the proliferation of grandchildren.
Come heal the lives of your people, O God.
My body shakes
Be my stillness.
Fill me with your breath,
And put in me a new song.
God, there is great fear.
Give us the peace that passes all understanding,
Radiating from within.
Praise be to God whose kingdom is
full of video games
and endless delicious food
with no calories
like a never ending game of Fortnite, and Minecraft,
and Halo IV,
and Paw Patrol
as big as a John Deere tractor
and as sweet as never-ending sugar.
Praise be to God!
By Pastor Manda
This month, CGS will begin renting out its parsonage again. When Carden left in January it was the next step we had planned in repurposing our property usage. This vision and strategy began back in 2016 when we articulated our mission to Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve and chose to direct all our energies and resources to that mission. No longer was the primary purpose of our property to be an income generator, we were choosing to use it as a tool for mission.
So I want to take a moment to show you what it means to rent out our parsonage to a seminary intern.
As you’ll see in the video above, PLTS (Pacific Lutheran Theological School) is a seminary that is charged with the education of the future leaders of our Church. Some of the ways that they do this are obvious, through classroom education and theoretical instruction. But we all know that theory needs practice.
So seminaries partner with candidacy committees, other institutions, synods, and congregations to provide a contextual education. When future rostered leaders need practice in pastoral care, they partner with other institutions to do Clinical Pastoral Education. When students need practice in an area of specialty, often the candidacy committees and synods help to connect them with an organization that is already doing that work.
Likewise, before we send future pastors to their first call, they spend one year in a congregation learning, practicing, and discerning. This arrangement is called internship and is usually a partnership between the intern (future pastor), the seminary, and a congregation.
Unfortunately, for our LGBTQ+ seminarians, there aren’t always a plethora of congregations that are willing to have them as an intern because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This makes preparation difficult and is one of the many roadblocks the ELCA has to raising up LGBTQ+ leaders.
Fortunately, Advent Lutheran Church in Morgan Hill is delighted to have an LGBTQ+ intern and that is why Brandon was able to find an internship site in them – close to where his fiancée David lives and works.
The only hitch is that Advent and PLTS couldn’t find housing for the internship year. That’s not surprising because a lot of people have a hard time finding affordable housing in the Bay Area. When the council learned of this, we wondered if this might not be a way that we could fulfill our mission.
By partnering with Advent Lutheran and PLTS we are making it possible for future pastors to be trained and equipped. Specifically, pastors who have been historically marginalized. It means that for the next year we’ll mostly be giving and not receiving wealth. But it’s also not a completely negative financial equation. Between Advent Lutheran and Brandon & David, we’ll be receiving about $1,400 each month. This will cover our expenses for the house and its associated needs.
More importantly, we’re fulfilling the mission that we said we were called to: to proclaim God’s love to all – and specifically that all are worthy of proclaiming! We’re welcoming all – especially those who find it difficult to answer the call to ministry in the current state of the ELCA and Bay Area. And of course, we’re serving – giving of our time, our possessions, and our resources more than we’re asking in return.
So many people have already given of themselves to welcome Brandon & David and partner with Advent & PLTS. I don’t even know everyone who has contributed but I do know that without the leadership of Joe Shackelford and Theo Olson, it would never have happened. I hope that as the guys settle in this summer and become our neighbors that you’ll do neighborly things like drop off food, send a card, or wave hello from the parking lot.
I give thanks to God that I can be a part of a faith community that answered this call when it arose. It gives me hope that in the face of division and adversity, our future can be full of generosity and the grace of God.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.