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August 24, 2015
Similar to our Vocation of Peacemaking series, The Borders I Cross is a series of reflections from BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz members and friends about their peacemaking journeys. This particular series focuses on the many borders crossed for peacemaking, which include physical borders as well as those such as language, culture, race, religion, nationality, generation, class, and sexual orientation. These essays come from people from all walks of life; those who cross borders as students, in their paid professions, in their volunteer time, in their family lives and/or in retirement. We hope you enjoy this new series from the BPFNA!
“Red Rover, Red Rover, Let Aubin Come Over,” was probably my favorite childhood game growing up in the 1950s. I suppose I have spent a life-time crossing boundaries, or doing the unexpected. I was the first of my siblings to dance, drink or obtain a divorce. In the mid 1980s, our church, First Baptist Arlington, was debating the ordination of divorced persons and women as deacons. I was speaking in favor of inclusion which did come about, but not without a lot of angst for some members.
In April 2004, I was admitted into Brite Divinity School. That summer, I read an article in the Star Telegram that stated the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) building in Waco would be named in honor of Dr. Eddie and Mrs. Velma Dwyer. Dr. Dwyer was a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, an ordained Baptist minister and my New Testament professor as an undergraduate at Baylor. He had been challenged in the mid ‘80s when he and Mrs. Dwyer realized their son might be gay. Instead of following the Baptist line of exclusion and condemnation, Dr. and Mrs. Dwyer decided to do some research to learn more about human sexuality. I wrote for an appointment with the Dwyers to hear their story. As I listened to Dr. Dwyer in his home that summer, the pain and heartbreak of his son’s lifetime of discrimination were evident in his aging eyes as he told me the story. I left a changed and challenged person.
LGBTQ issues and the church would become my focus of study at Brite. I felt the next crisis with which the church would have to deal was the issue of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2006, my husband, Mark and I joined Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. The next year the church became embroiled in dialogue over sexual orientation and who would or would not be included in the church pictorial directory. My studies were leading me to become an advocate and spokesperson for equality.
In 2011, my friend told me our neighbor had kicked out their high school son because he could not successfully complete a program to help him “leave homosexuality,” and not be gay. Upon hearing that story, Mark and I were moved to address the need for education and information regarding diverse human sexuality and gender identity, starting in our own neighborhood.
After researching the need for a safe space for people to gather to hear scholars and other professionals address questions regarding LGBTQ topics, we opened our home to persons interested in understanding their LGBTQ sibling, former spouse, child, parent, friend or their own LGBTQ identity. Because so much hate speech comes from faith communities, I called the group Another Story, realizing that something needed to be told other than what so many churches were telling. I invited Hebrew and Greek scholars to share different perspectives regarding scripture. After these scholars, we hosted Pastoral Care professors, Theologians, a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, a panel of Transgender persons, and a panel of Gay men telling their stories of reparative therapy failures. Parents shared a panel to tell the stories of their children coming out and later children shared the stories of their responses to a parent coming out. We all have stories that need to be told. Another Story needs to be told of inclusion and affirmation and love.
I am grateful for pastors like Dr. Brett Younger and Dr. Brent Beasley, who have shown me how to cross my “Red Rover” zone in order to love my neighbors. In a recent sermon, Dr. George Mason used the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in which Philip was instructed to “run toward” the chariot carrying the Eunuch. The Eunuch had been denied entrance and participation in Temple worship due to his less than pure physical condition. The Eunuch was trying to understand scripture, which as Philip explained it to him meant he would not be excluded from God’s eternal love and hope.
My understanding of sharing hope is to “run toward” those who have been excluded or experienced discrimination. Like “Red Rover, Red Rover,” I want to run through the clenched hands, crossing that border, to open hearts and minds to show the love and hope that God promises to everyone.
Aubin Petersen is a graduate of the Baylor University School of Religion and Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. She has spent her life as mom, community volunteer and a pusher of boundaries. Aubin currently lives in Arlington, Texas with her spouse, Mark Petersen. They are members of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.