Saturday, May 16, 2009

Uncloseted Pastor

The blogsphere brings friends of many different kinds and natures. One of my friends has been The Closeted Pastor, and through her blog, her friends have loved and prayed and rejoiced and cried as she struggled with her authenticity and openness. This past week, she came out of the closet and told her congregation. The response has been positive mostly. Still, her denomination has rules and such that may make a huge difference in her life.

Changing one's attitude and belief system can be done only through experiential access to what one fears or rejects. Her congregation has experienced her faithful preaching and pastoring. They have become the loving Christ.

In the church here, we have begun an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Ministry. The rector suggested it a couple of years ago. This past year, the meetings moved from homes to the church center. Then we held a retreat to set goals, define our vision and decide that we had an identity. We chose the title LGBT Ministry. As communications person for the group, I wrote an article about how a new ministry had begun at this church. Briefly, the article was on the front page of the monthly newsletter (and still is on the print version). The rector pulled the article from the online version of the newsletter and reprimanded us stiffly for being militant and "in your face".

Today we buried one of our founding "members" and tomorrow the priest who supports us is moving to another church. We remain cohesive as a group, cordial to the rector, and growing plans for how this ministry might continue. Our diocese has adopted the song "All Are Welcome" and its message; obviously our individual church has not. The message we are getting is that we are welcome only as long as we do not make ourselves known authentically.

Yet, everyone that I've met has been loving and kind and accepting. Getting mixed messages is disconcerting. Okay, I admit that I haven't been in the church itself much. I've been at functions and a few services. I've felt welcome at the functions and out of place at the services. The church was founded during the reign of King George II, and the rector claims that some of those people are still around. Ugh.

Authenticity is important. I am authentically a practicing Christian who believes in universal salvation, inclusivity, and proclaiming the Good News. That's my relationship to organized religion. The Baptists didn't want me at age 16 because I danced. The Catholics didn't want me because I'd been divorced and remarried. Now, my once-welcoming Church wants to consider similar aspects of my life that bear no relationship to being a Christian.

What does my retirement, my savings account, my sexual orientation, my part-time work, my car, my friends, my love of computers have to do with worhsipping God? I don't think I'll ever make it from the church center and functions to the big building across the street and least not as long as those founding members are still working their exclusivity with the rector.


Fergie said...

While not quite the same, I've a similar situation. The church I was raised in ridiculed my first husband -- he didn't look right, act right, whatever. He was a musician and he didn't treat me like a "stupid woman" who was supposed to use their university training to "tutor her sons" and optimally marry a pastor, make brownies for church meetings, and teach in the elementary school. When our marriage fell apart (he loved his alcohol more than he loved his family), they contemplated excommunicating me. My second husband found another woman to carry his genes and I refused to chase after him. After this fiasco I left that Brand of Organized Religion. The church I currently attend either tries to get me to legally marry my partner of the last seven years or leave him; I won't be doing the former and if I chose the latter it won't be because of the church but because he seems to be following in my first husband's footsteps as far as his loyalties. I love to help out in the food pantry but am not so thrilled about hanging at the church for formal worship.

Quite honestly, there are things that the church should be doing, and arguing about pews vs chairs in the sanctuary, what stained glass window to wear, or if kids can wear jeans to service are probably not that important to God... at least, Jesus didn't mention it during his commands to Love one another, feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, care for the widows and orphans, etc. I'm thinking His Plan is a little less centered on stuff that could embarrass the church and more on Love One Another bit.

DanG said...

My daughter experienced some of the same stuff when they moved to Massachusetts. The church was welcoming but they always felt they were the token lesbians and the welcoming never went beyond the brief good morning at the coffee hour. It doesn't take long to tell that people are uncomfortable around you. It's one thing to say welcome and another to mean it. You are on the right path, keep at it.

Cecilia said...

The struggle is everywhere. your faithfulness is inspiring. Thank you.

Pax, C.