I spent nearly a week at a conference, with a new circle of friends and colleagues. It was so rich, in so many ways. We prayed together. We learned together. We talked together about ministry and life. We drank Margaritas together. We participated in panels and discussions and seriously childlike games and activities. At the end of it all we laid hands on one another, and prayed for one another's calls and ministries.
And no, I didn't come out to anyone. Not even the woman with whom I exchanged the glances, and who I suspect might just be in the same closet with me.
It sucks. Of course. I have this deep longing to be who I am, and let the chips fall where they may, and I am constantly checking myself and telling myself, "No. Mustn't."
But I want to share this with you. I have participated in this same conference for the last several years. Each year the participants are slightly different, though some folks return. This year it feels like a new wind just might be blowing through this repressive church. This year, there was a different feeling at the conference.
To the extent we talked about "the gay and lesbian issue," agreement (among those who opened their mouths) was universal: discrimination has to end. It is a human rights issue, as well as an issue of faithfulness to Jesus' vision of the beloved community. And... heartbreakingly... I spoke with a woman who is the equivalent of my ex-husband. She is married ("though not really married," she said) to a man who has come out to himself as gay. I saw the sorrow in this woman's eyes, not for what she has lost, but for what the love of her life has faced, for the little boy he was, being told that he was, somehow, "wrong." I saw her anger on his behalf, that anyone, at any point, should have conveyed to him anything other than his complete goodness as a child of God.
I talked to Beloved on the phone each night and each morning. She fretted that I might be talking too loudly and putting myself in danger. I rested in the joy and pleasure of her voice, and the embrace I know awaits me when I return to her again.