Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Four Options: A Cycle

I am rapidly approaching the point where I ought to know what I want to do with my life. Hell, I am well past it.

I spoke to Beloved on the phone about it this morning. I told her that I regularly cycle through about four options. These are:

~ Find a church-- perhaps even a progressive church!-- in my own denomination, and settle in and hope for the best-- i.e., remaining reasonably closeted (even though this feels already like a losing battle. Am I really fooling anyone? Away every weekend that my children are with their father, staying at Beloved's? Though no church people live in her neighborhood... I can't explain how I know this, but I do).

~ Find a church in an open and affirming denomination, transfer my credentials to that denomination and live happily and outly every after (though the churches with more congregational polity still have stickiness at the local level... 'open and affirming' makes it onto the denominationally supplied bulletin covers but not necessarily into every heart).

~ Find a church-- definitely a progressive church-- in my own denomination and come out to the search committee. Come out to my local judicatory. Become a cause celebre, and let the chips fall where they may, darlin'.

~ Find a job, not in a church. Teach. Or work for a non-profit organization. Or open a business (doing what? selling what?). Do anything that will permit me to keep a roof over my head and live out and proud.

This is my cycle, day after day, week after week. When I spoke to her about it this morning, Beloved said she thought some recent time away might have been helpful to me in discerning what I want to do. But I am no closer to zeroing in on one of these than I was six months ago.

So here is my plan. Go on an interview (one is coming up). See how it feels. See how and whether I am moved to speak out in the interview about my concerns. See if coming out now feels right and good. See if the church in question speaks to me. See, for God's sake, what I think God has to say about all this.

Well? God? What do you have to say?

23 comments:

Amy said...

This is a tough issue. But it seems to me that not being yourself with your parish and your communithy must do something to your soul!

If you are ever in Philly, you are welcome to visit my welcoming church family and be your WHOLE self.

seeking chivalry said...

I feel for you, sister.

I still haven't told my new local church any of the more 'exciting' parts of my life, either; I haven't had the nerve. And they're definitely on the 'open and affirming' end of things. And my _job_ doesn't depend on them still being willing to have me around afterwards.

It's the only place I'm still closeted (other than blood-family) and it's starting to grate on me already. :/

Praying for you.

Bill said...

Dear Cecilia,
You’ve given yourself some tough choices but let’s look at each of them.
1) Find a Church - perhaps even a progressive church!-- in my own denomination, and settle in and hope for the best-- i.e., remaining reasonably closeted.
a. This is exactly what you’ve got now and it’s not working. This is causing you anguish and pain, and will eventually affect your health. This is a rendition of the “battered woman” syndrome. You keep going back to the same kind of destructive relationship.
2) Find a church in an open and affirming denomination, transfer my credentials to that denomination and live happily and "outly" every after.
a. This is my choice. You get to keep your calling. You get to keep your “beloved”. You get to keep your sanity and health and begin a whole new life.
3) Find a church-- definitely a progressive church-- in my own denomination and come out to the search committee. Etc.
a. If this was an option, you would have done it already. Obviously your current denomination doesn’t look kindly at your (also my) life style. You may find a couple of accepting people but do you really want to be accepted. Being “accepted” kind of sounds like your doing a terrible thing, but they are willing to overlook and “accept” you. “There is nothing wrong with me. God loves me.” Keep saying that and believe it.
4) Find a job, not in a church. Teach.
a. This could help you keep your sanity, but do you really want to give up your calling. Do you really want to give up that which makes you, YOU. In the short run this could give you a breather and maybe even some happiness but in the long term you will hate yourself for giving it up and hate those folks for making you give it up. That’s a lot of hate. I don’t think you’re ready to give up on service to God.

So lets go back to option #2. This is what I did. I left Roman Catholicism and became Episcopalian. I asked around and found an open and loving congregation and church. I did this back in December 2006 and I’ve never looked back. I’m open to everyone and I’ve made many new friends. I’ve never been happier and never been closer to God. It was a win – win decision for me. You owe it to yourself, your beloved, your physical health, your mental health, and your spiritual health. Just remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

God Bless.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Cecilia, I'm not God, but I do talk to her, and I will talk to her about you. I will ask her to send wisdom (Lady Sophia). I will ask her to guide your way.

Diane said...

prayers with you and for you in discernment and whatever courage you need

Cynthia said...

Oh, Cecelia, you have my prayers.

Cecilia said...

A good friend asked me on the phone yesterday, What are you afraid of? (We were talking about the church in my denomination).

I said, "I'm afraid they'll love me and call me, and then I'll be outed and they'll hate me, and feel betrayed by me. They'll feel about me like Church X feels about Minister Y"-- this in reference to a minister known to me who lost ordination credentials over sexual misconduct.

Then my friend reminded me that there are other possibilities, other areas of gray that might occur: being able to be out selectively in the church, being able to be out to enough people in my life that I feel whole, being able to be out in the congregation though not in the wider judicatory.

I am trying to be open. Last night I prayed, God, am I the one to help this congregation to know that they can love and affirm a lesbian minister?

Thank you all. I so appreciate your words and prayers.

Pax, C.

Cecilia said...

... and, it strikes me, that question... am I the one... might be God speaking. Sometimes God doesn't tell us, God just keeps asking. Don't you find?

Pax. C.

Cecilia said...

Amy, I will. Seeking, I relate. Bill, I thank you... and why don't you have a blog? I want to read your blog. Grandmère, Diane and Cynthia, I thank you... I covet your prayers.

Pax. C.

Bill said...

Oh, but I do have a blog. That is of course if you like poetry.

notquitedeadpoet.blogspot.com

don't eat alone said...

Cecilia

As a member of the UCC (coming from Southern Baptist), I can say O&A is not merely window dressing. Not every church hangs out the banner, but the ones that do mean it. And the denomination is on your side.

As I read your options, what struck me is your job is not the most important thing at stake. God made you as you are; if you can't be yourself, how can that help you toward wholeness?

I hold you close in my heart.

Peace,
Milton

Cecilia said...

Excellent Bill! Thanks... I'll definitely drop by.

Pax. C.

Pastor Peters said...

Wow. That's amazingly brave. Blessings to you in this upcoming interview.

And I think you have every reason to be afraid. It is indeed very scary to be our true selves. And then again, it's also an amazing blessing.

Mother Laura said...

I think I hear you longing for and moving toward at least some degree of outness....but you and God are the only ones who know and will co-create that. And you are wise to consider all options and see that there is, well, a rainbow of possible healthy choices given what you are facing....

Many prayers for a safe harbor, and the wind of Her wisdom, consolation, and freedom beneath your wings.

(((you)))

Cecilia said...

Thanks, Pastor Peters and Mother Laura, for your affirmation and prayers. And Milton, thank you for your words about the UCC... It is helpful to know that churches that hang out that banner mean what they say!

Pax, C.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Cecilia--you have my prayers. For many years, I boxed myself into a tiny little life because I was afraid of what would happen if I lived "out loud."

But when I finally broke free, I was amazed at how supportive people were---and at how much joy my life brought me.

I wish you the same thing---inner joy and peace and an outside life and an inside life that match.

Judith said...

Dear Cecilia,

Don't give up your calling. PLEASE!!! I don't think you've mentioned your denomination, but in the Episcopal Church, things are changing (not quickly enough for me, but they are). They have to. We may be kicked out of the Anglican Communion, but we will end up welcoming everyone. The Holy Spirit will be satisfied with nothing less. And she never gives up.

Blessings!

Judy

Sharon said...

I thought about this a good bit.

1. I thought at first to tell you to imagine yourelf back in that dream with your mother visiting you in the bedroom, helping you with your necklace and nap. Imagine yourself having a conversation with her about the choices. Imagine what she would say. Learn from what happens in this process.

2. I am a mother of a gay 28 year old. He came out about a year after he had taken up a relationship with a partner, now three + years ago. It was a huge change for them both, because they had been with heterosexual partners for some time for whom they had cared deeply and both of them had recently broken up in these relationships.

I think the connection they made with each other was really "unanticipated" in many, many ways. So dealing with the closet issue was new for them. Looking back on it, I can see how difficult it was for them to "come out" with us and with the partner's family (Roman Catholic)

We as individuals and parents had been very accepting of gays in our manner of life before this happened. Nevertheless, it was still a shock to me, just thinking about the stress of it all for him, and the changes in expectations that it meant for us.

As I look back I can see that his life became so much more relaxed once he had gotten through the coming out process. He was applying for a position at the State Department and this then required that his partner come out also, because of the security situation. They have had to take on a large debt because the partner had to give up his military benefit. They don't travel in Virginia. They are careful about a lot of things, but all in all they are in a situation where they feel they can be themselves.

Eventually they have both ended up working for the government and each have fulfilling jobs in different parts of the same organization. I think they are treated, for the most part, the way a married couple might be treated under similar circumstances.

Our extended families, I believe, are very accepting. His partner's ended up, I think, being just as open and loving, although it was a bit more difficult at the onset.

Now, if he were a minister and in your shoes, what would I say?

I would say, based on reading your writings these past few weeks, that is my impression that you are saying it is time to come out. The question is not if but how to do it.

If you are clear about THAT decision, then the next step would be to sit down with your partner and work together through the life steps. That is the hard work. Including your partner and talking through all the steps. I observe him stopping to do that easily now, but it was harder at first because he was not used to thinking in a partnership context.

Once you and your partner have some clearness, then sit down with BOTH kids (do you still have some coming out to do with one of your kids?) and begin again problem-solving the process with their input and encouragement.

I recently worked with a young man whose father had come out. It was quite a shock. He had felt so close to his DAD, was his Dad's favorite of three sons, and could not easily understand why he had not known all along. During the weeks I was seeing him his father insisted that they talk about this. He did not really want to, but obliged the request reluctantly. I think he felt in part that his father had betrayed his mom, and his own trust as well. I spent some time with him talking about the realities of his father's "world," explaining some of the societal changes that have occured in the last two generations. I told him some about my own experiences. I think this helped him a lot.

They worked out their issues, then, VERY WELL, and he was immensely relieved. The mom was also very helpful.

You have a lot of working through yet to do, both within yourself, and with others. The right vocational objective, setting, will make itself known to you. You never know, (and now I am way off the chart here, your own congregation MIGHT just make a happy home for you when you ARE OUT, but a lot would depend on your church polity. You probably have a good idea about this.

Blessings,

Sharon

The Ol' Well said...

I admire your bravery and you'll be in my prayers

Lorna said...

what amy and bill said ...

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

Reading your blog about this certainly brings back some memories for me ... 18 years ago I was where you are. I've read what you have written rather late in the game ... but what the others have commented is right on target.

I will be praying for you too.

Share Cropper said...

Lady, with all the love and prayers pouring your way, you still may be overwhelmed with the radicalness of your coming decisions. That's okay. And, you may have a difficult time hearing God's voice instead of your own or our voices. It's a tough row to hoe, but the cotton will be high and the white bolls plentiful when you get to the end. For God calls us to live in abundance!

*Christopher said...

I've lived through this with my partner, also a pastor. Whatever you do, be sure to take the time especially to care for yourself. No need to be a cause, simply you. And if at all possible, find a good spiritual director/counselor as your process.