Each Sunday, clad in a bright red robe, I step into the pulpit. Before I even utter a word, my body preaches on my behalf. My gendered, queer, dancing, disordered body proclaims the Word before I ever open my mouth.
There are Sundays when a congregant might ask me, “Why do you always talk about gay stuff in worship?”
While I often address “gay stuff” from the pulpit in the same way that I address myriad other social justice issues, this question is sometimes posed on days when I haven’t even mentioned anything specifically queer. I am convinced that my very being—my queer body—preaches, too. While my words may not have uttered any “gay stuff,” my body does. For these reasons and many others, I felt compelled to write The Gendered Pulpit: Sex, Body, and Desire in Preaching and Worship.
Through my involvement with the Young Clergy Woman Project, I know that other women have struggled to break through the “stained glass ceiling” of preaching ministry. After wading through my regular hate mail that quotes the same six bible verses that condemn me and the entire LGBTQ community to hell, I know that I am not the only queer clergyperson who struggles with homophobia.
As a recovering disordered eater, I know that my body is not the only one who has been marginalized, attacked, and demonized from both the church and society. And as a dancer, I know that my growing, aching, ageing, sexualized, gendered body isn’t the only one in need of affirmation, support, and love within the confines of worship.
So, I dove into the depths of scripture, history, theology, and theories in preaching and worship that address these four issues: gender, sexuality, disorder, and dance.
The Gendered Pulpit explores the roles of gendered and sexualized bodies in preaching and worship. Divided into four sections—gender, sexuality, dance, and disorder—my entry point is personal narrative. These narratives pave the way for theoretical understandings in scripture, history, theology, and theories and preaching and worship. Finally, each section concludes with practical applications, including sermons, music, and litanies. Thus, The Gendered Pulpit affirms the body, lifts up the voices of those who are often silenced, and reminds us that gender and sexuality are vital parts of the calling to preach and minister.
Since so many clergy are forced to separate their embodied existence from their preaching ministry, ignoring or hiding their gender or sexuality, my book aims to affirm and celebrate these aspects of our embodied being. Our sexualities should not merely be tolerated in the pulpit. They should be celebrated and honored.
The LGBTQ community has something unique and revelatory to preach and our sexualized existence is a vital part of that. In these ways, The Gendered Pulpit asks preachers, “how does our sexuality construct the sermon” and “how does the sermon construct our sexuality?”
It is my hope that LGBTQ persons struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their faith and spirituality can pick up this book and realize that that their bodies are beloved and holy.
It is my hope that our straight allies can pick up this book and learn ways to gender the pulpit in the direction of justice for all. Together, it is my hope that we may, in the words of scholar-activist Rita Nakashima Brock, "practice radical love and bless the world."
Painting by Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber