DVD receives praise for ‘astute readings of the Bible’
Now a graduate of George Fox University, Samuel Neff worked with Quaker theologian and performance artist Peterson Toscano to produce a performance lecture of biblical texts that explore gender transgressions. Theologians speak highly of Toscano’s work, which he has recommended for study groups, church libraries, and anyone interested in letting scripture challenge their view of gender and sexual minorities. Click here to see a trailer and more reviews.
Toscano brings a deep reverence for the Biblical text with him into his exploration of gender transgression. This play is mesmerizing and compels the viewer to see well known Bible stories in a brave new light.
-Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
I applaud Peterson for bringing to the fore in this play a new way of looking at the Bible! Bravo! No, bravissimo! I had to look at my own sexual stereotypes and how I bring them to biblical interpretation!
-Michael Willett Newheart, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Howard University School of Divinity
In a word, Peterson is phenomenal. I was hooked in fifteen minutes. I sat there, watching him bring moments of scripture to life in ways I had not considered, and scrambled to figure out how soon I could bring him to my campus. It turns out, he’s even more delightful in person. His compassion matched by conviction and a wickedly smart sense of humor, a rare combination, make interactions with Peterson memorable, uplifting, and often life-changing.
-Dr. Jennifer G Bird, PhD, Bible scholar, speaker, and author. www.permissiongrantedthebook.com
As a Jewish Studies scholar, educator, and activist for TBLG inclusion in Jewish communities, it was a thrill to see confident transgender characters from the Hebrew scriptures given flesh via the performance activism of Peterson Toscano –and, more importantly, to recognize through his performance that those characters fulfilled social roles in Jewish communities as gender variant folk. Bring Transfigurations to your shul and create an opportunity to dialogue about present-day transgender people in Jewish communities.
-Noach Dzmura, Editor, Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community, and Director, Jewish Transitions
Peterson Toscano’s work combines astute readings of the Bible with great story-telling and comedy. He offers interpretations of the texts and insights that even experienced biblical scholars haven’t seen before. When portrayed by Toscano, Bible stories and characters come to life with wit, sympathy, and humor.
-Dale Martin, PhD Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University. Author of Sex and the Single Savior
Spring play includes critique of restructure discussion
The spring play at George Fox University explored the tension related to the restructure of Northwest Yearly Meeting. Deus Ex Millennia “centers on the stories of seven students who find themselves hiding in a closet during an active shooter event.” At least one of the students is gay.
In a university press release, Director Rhett Luedtke said, “Each character faces a specific hardship that millennials, and others, encounter on a daily basis…. How do our students navigate a divisive and divided culture?”
Specific hardships include aspects of poverty, sexual assault, immigration, loss, identity and equality.
Near the end of the performance, a modified pdf of Newberg Friends Church Discernment Process Information document is displayed on screens above the audience while two characters – both college students – discuss the announcement of “a split.”
PHILIP: What are we supposed to do with this? This is ridiculous.
QUINN: I don’t know, Philip. I really don’t know. I thought it wasn’t that bad, you know? Like what’s so terrible about a split? Maybe we could actually be in a denomination that cares.
PHILIP: Quinn, what if the church doesn’t decide to go that direction? What if we decide it’s not important? How many terrible meetings will we have to sit through? I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit here and pretend like LGBT people don’t want to kill themselves while we take all of this time to argue…. I can’t do it. Do you hear me? This isn’t loving! This isn’t how families treat one another! Like their belonging is up for debate?
(Church member approaches their table and asks the two if they’ve heard about the split.)
CHURCH MEMBER: Maybe we don’t have to choose. This is bigger than human sexuality. It’s not worth dividing over.
PHILIP: I don’t know if you mean what you’re saying. Maybe it is worth dividing over.
CHURCH MEMBER: I get it, really. Like this is important. But we can’t just give up over an issue. I’m willing to live in the tension. We all have to listen to each other, you know? We have to love people where they are at and that includes the people with a traditional view on human sexuality. That’s what it means to be a church. A family. It’s not like it’s a life or death issue.
QUINN: Are you serious? It is! It is a life or death issue. People are literally dying because of this. They’ve done studies – you know that right? Conclusive studies that show LGBT people are bullied more, have more thoughts of self-harm and suicide than other populations. And it’s worse if you’re in a church where people talk about you all the time as if you don’t matter – as if you’re up for debate! Do we really need to listen to people who think others shouldn’t exist or have love? Maybe those people should shut up! I’m so tired. I’m just so tired.
CHURCH MEMBER: What did I say?
PHILIP: Some people are living in the tension, others are dying in it.
At the scene’s close, Philip comes out to Quinn as gay. She hugs him and tells him she loves him. Then, in the following interlude, Quinn crouches inside a closet while members of the ensemble yell at her:
“Why aren’t you willing to live in the tension? I don’t like her voice – it’s annoying. I love you anyway. You’re too aggressive, consider where the others are coming from. I mean it’s fine but just keep your sexuality to yourself. Care less. You’re making yourself sick. Just work harder. It’s not impossible. Wow, you’re not a scary feminist after all. I don’t support that lifestyle. I just feel more comfortable learning from a male pastor. You’re the problem. This is just the way things are.”
‘Quakerism should have consequences’
Nearly 100 Friends from 14 monthly meetings found unity Saturday in their commitment “to being a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community.” The Quaker gathering of worship for the conduct of business formally recognized “that it has not always been a safe place in the past.”
The minute – drafted from the floor and approved after nearly 12 minutes of discussion and edits – was a surprise to some. Just over an hour earlier, before taking a break, acting clerk David Peyton reported to the meeting his sense that there was no clarity or unity: “This meeting is saying we’re not ready. We don’t know what we want to build. Maybe we don’t want to build anything.”
But after the break, A.J. Mendoza acknowledged for the first time in the meeting that there were gender and sexual minorities in the room.
“Every LGBTQ person in this room is perfect – is not sinful.” Mendoza countered the notion some had shared that there isn’t yet unity to stay or to leave Northwest Yearly Meeting, pointing to the fact that gender and sexual minorities don’t get that choice. “To hear people talk about not wanting to move to a new home while I’m sleeping in the street is not good medicine…. I’m asking you to adopt the position of somebody who can’t go back. Quakerism should have consequences.”
Elijah Walker reminded the group that the reason for this gathering is that affirming churches “were forced out of a larger body of churches. A handful of communities said they want to be a safe space. We want to hold that leading in mind.”
After several more shared, a woman highlighted the fact that the feeling in the room changed after the break. “I grew up in church, and I’ve never heard someone declare before a body of believers that ‘God loves you’ as an LGBT person.” The woman said she’s 22 years old, and “I pray that no youth has to go 22 years before hearing in front of a body of believers that God loves them.”
Bernie Bosnjak announced during a potluck supper that Hillsboro Friends would be available for another gathering on Saturday, March 18. That weekend had been set aside for a Portland-area gathering. Bosnjak said anyone interested in helping to plan or host the gathering should contact Forrest Cammack, the clerk of that quarterly meeting.
Clyde Parker extended an invitation to a yearly-meeting-organized gathering at Eugene Friends on Saturday, April 22.
Of the four churches being removed from Northwest Yearly Meeting – Camas, Eugene and West Hills all had representatives at the meeting. A representative from Klamath Falls shared via Facebook that she was unable to make the trip up for this gathering. Friends from the following meetings were also present, although many made clear that they were present as interested individuals, not necessarily as representatives of their meetings:
- Bridge City – North Pacific Yearly Meeting
- Freedom – independent, unaffiliated
- North Seattle
- North Valley
- South Salem
David Peyton clerked the meeting, and Krissi Carson served as recording clerk. Elders for the meeting were Bernie Bosnjak, Gil George, Lynn Holt, Jim Miller, Greg Morgan, Catherine Olson and Elijah Walker.
Click here for minutes from the meeting.