This contributor remembers a moment in the United Church in 2007.
A few years ago, our Presbytery was discussing the prospect of identifying as an “Affirming Ministry.” Lots of questions and comments arose, like “If a Presbytery is Affirming, does that mean all the congregations have to be Affirming?” and “If a Presbytery becomes Affirming, how can it serve the needs of congregations who aren’t?” The comment that bothered me the most, however, was the observation that as a Presbytery only exists to serve the congregations within its boundaries, it does not constitute a ministry or community of faith.
That triggered a day in my memory from about 10 years ago. I had two friends who were seeking candidacy for ordination, both are women, one gay and one straight. They were meeting with their Education and Students’ Committee in that Presbytery on that same day.
I sat with one friend while she bubbled over with news of her recent engagement to a man – excited to share the news with the members at E&S, confident that they would celebrate with her, enjoying the privilege of heterosexual acceptance. She was not disappointed, and her candidacy was recommended.
I sat with the other friend while she agonized over the decision she had made to come out to the E&S Committee that day. Was it too soon, she wondered? And yet she felt she wasn’t truly herself with them if she could not talk about her whole life. She decided to be open with them about her whole self in ministry.
Thank God we are a wider church who has chosen to embrace candidates of different orientations and gender identities. I don’t think the committee celebrated the second friend’s announcement with quite the same joy as they did with my first friend’s wedding announcement. And I still feel deep sorrow for the years and months my gay friend spent worrying whether her orientation would be an issue. But one of the committee members did say very clearly to her that every congregation she served in future would be blessed to have such a grounded and faith-full minister.
So yes, I believe that every committee, council, region, or Presbytery should take the journey to becoming Affirming. I want all who seek to offer their time and talents to the ministry of our church to know from the outset that being LGBTQ+ is something we affirm and celebrate.
(Shared with permission. Photo credit: Wix stock photo.)