story by Melinda Lejman | photo by Justin Fox Burks
Reverend Broderick Greer knew he was gay when he was five years old. “I really enjoy helping people imagine what it looks like” Greer says, “for God to take an active role in creating LGBT people the way that God created straight people.”
Reverend Broderick Greer knew he was gay when he was five years old. Now 26, he is Curate of Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and a thought leader on the intersection of history, queer theory, black theology and racial justice. Having grown up in a black Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, he made his way to the Episcopalian faith after a short stint in the Church of Christ. Graduating from seminary at Virginia Theological in 2015 and being matched with his parish in Memphis, Reverend Greer appears to have taken what he calls a “quick succession of changes” in stride.
We met for his interview on an unseasonably warm day in February. Settling into his quaint and cozy office which was previously occupied by another openly gay priest, I asked him about his work with LGBTQ congregants and helping individuals reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation.
In the past, this would have frustrated Greer as a question that has been asked and answered. Today, he concedes that it’s still an important conversation, especially in an area that he sees as permeated with conservative Christian ideology and homophobia.
“I really enjoy helping people imagine what it looks like for God to take an active role in creating LGBT people the way that God created straight people.” In a time when perhaps LGBT people are tolerated more than embraced, Greer advocates for more visibility. “Moving beyond that space of toleration into a space of affirmation and celebration is an important part of my work here.”
In Greer’s childhood church he met a gay man who, along with his partner, became special friends of the family, often celebrating holidays together. “For me, it was normal that this gay couple was a part of our family, and that this was how we should treat people, with an eye toward justice and an eye toward inclusion.”
Did this inform how he felt about his own sexual identity? Greer didn’t make that connection until after he came out in his twenties. Greer sees counseling individuals who are struggling with their own reconciliation as part of the honor that comes with the work he does as a minister.
When Greer came out, he was convinced he had nothing to lose, having no money, no partner, and surrounded by a supportive family. “There are people who have these realizations when they are in the middle of a marriage, a career, and they have children, and they would lose everything if they did it.”
Recognizing that for some it will never be safe to come out, he is more than prepared to offer support. “There are just so many different ways that people deal with this. My role is to be someone who is a companion for them on that journey.”
Throughout Reverend Greer’s writing and sermons runs an intentional elevation of the normalization of LGBTQ people. He offers a reimagining of what it means to be human, giving examples that represent the full spectrum of humanity in addition to straight and cisgender identities.
Greer eloquently expands this idea into sermon-like questions. “What stories are not being told, what narratives are outliers in our collective imagination, and how do we amend an imagination that erases people at the margins?”
For some, these questions are creating the kind of activism that is becoming forefront in our nation’s collective conscience as a response to the results of the 2016 election. Reverend Greer attended the Women’s March in Washington in January. He also marched here more recently, standing with immigrants and refugees who walked in downtown Memphis from Clayborn Temple to the Civil Rights Museum. Greer tells me how proud he was of Memphis in that moment, when our Muslim brothers prayed openly in front of the Lorraine Motel surrounded by other marchers who made a protective wall around them.
For Greer, it’s this kind of showing up and making space that represents our shared humanity at its best.