Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another Closeted Moment

Not too long ago I gathered with a large group of colleagues for food and fun, period. Of course, being ministerial types, we are always going to end up talking about our work... what's going on in our churches, what's coming up in the season of Advent, etc. I overheard one colleague talking to another colleague, whom I know to be another closeted pastor, about a church that was trying to "ordain homosexuals." I watched my closeted colleague listen politely, offer a word here or there which, if one had ears to hear, should have begun the massive job of opening a tiny chink in the talker's armor and certainty.

What's interesting (and, in a perverse way, almost fun) about this situation, is that the person doing the talking has no idea, none whatever, no earthly clue. (If he does, something else is going on entirely... something potentially evil.) I guess I don't know whether 'Clueless Colleague' is all that clueless... Maybe he's closeted too! Maybe every damned one of us was closeted!

This leads me to bring up something I have wondered about. I know that this forum is going to attract folks who are kindred spirits... LGBTQ folks and our supporters make up the vast majority of visitors to this blog. But there are so many of us LGBTQ pastors. Has anyone noticed that? Is it possible that we are represented in the ordained ministry in greater numbers than would be proportional in the general population? And if so, why is that, do you figure?

I know what I believe about that. I believe that LGBTQ people know what it is to be broken and rejected and outsiders. And we are instinctively and gratefully drawn to a gospel that, when whispered in our ears, promises another kind of world, another kind of community. The most powerful experience of communion I have ever experienced was when I was privileged to preach at an MCC church on World Communion Sunday a few years ago. There is nothing, nothing like sharing communion with people who have had to fight to get to that table.

The ordained ministry seems to attract both lots LGBTQ folks themselves, and those who have a special interest in the surrounding issues... which makes me wonder, of course, Whence all the interest??? Hmmm??? Could it be that all the interest has to do with their secret longings??? I know that's too easy, but doesn't it often feel true?

I want to point folks to this article, the link to which I found at sh-OUT, the wonderful blog of Heidi. It is about the phenomenon of gay men who don't want to leave their marriages to women, who want to negotiate a way to stay. Oh, God. Change the genders, and it's my story. Correction: it WAS my story. My ex had the courage to know that marriage to a woman who kept falling in love with other women was not what he wanted.


Anonymous said...

Gay folk are also highly represented in the arts.

A heightened degree of empathy would seem to be common for both areas of endeavor. In addition to knowing what it is like to e an outcast.

Science, not so much. Fewer gay folks, and/or pretty deep closets.


Mary Sue said...

I find the phenomenon interesting myself in that it's not merely a Christian thing; there is a tendency for spiritual leaders of many, many cultures to be what we would term GLBT. I wonder if it's because spiritual person is the original 'alternative lifestyle', dealing with that which cannot be quantified by simple analysis.


KJ said...

I have no doubt that GLBTQ are "over represented" in the clergy and full-time ministry. I'm sure that the reasons are multi-factorial, including a sensitivity to the spiritual and the needs of others.

In conservative faith circles, the need to live a "spiritual life" in the face of what is considered to be profane likely results as impetus -- an attempt at "external sanctification." I know for myself that I allowed myself to take on church leadership roles in part because I felt that my same-gendered sexual attraction a call to celibacy that made it possible for me to take on faith community commitments that others were not able to assume. Well, at least for 40 years or so. And of course, without me, there would have been no damn organist! :-)

Heidi said...

Being a pastor does make the closet deeper, doesn't it? It is interesting to me that Eddy didn't come out to anyone in the world (not even himself, me, or a shrink) until he had been in pastorate for a year.

But that could be co-incidence too - or the stress of being a pastor was too much to bear along with the stress of the secrets. Something had to give a little.

But there is no simple explanation. I think that some of it is definitely personality - and sensitivity to suffering which = empathy. Eddy is the most empathetic person that I have ever met.

jledmiston said...

Lots of meat here CP.

Yes - I do believe that GBLTQ pastors know something about rejection/pain that would make someone a very good pastor. IF . . . that pastor is also healthy in terms of who he/she is and can be "out" as much as possible and still be ordained.

This is why Mary - the mother of Jesus - was on top of the whole Let's-not-run-out-of-wine-at-this-wedding-and-shame-the-hosts-at-Cana. She knew something about feeling shamed.

Clearly you are a good pastor. And one day, you can also tell everyone you are a good pastor in love with a woman.

jledmiston said...

I'm also reminded of a Presbytery meeting when a guy was ranting at a microphone about protecting our children from homosexuals, yadda, yadda, yadda. "We've got to rid these people from our lives!" he shouted.

I turned to the woman next to me who is a lesbian and said, "Aren't you having lunch with him tomorrow?"

We all have lots of these stories. People just don't realize . . .

Nina said...

I know that being an outsider and having a close friend come out to me when I was a teenager made me feel urgent about gay rights--he was so much more an outsider in the world where we grew up than I was, after all, and I didn't even know it; the experience changed my faith even as it opened my heart. I began to understand my heterosexuality as an accident of birth and to believe that as long as there was prejudice against my friend, I was not really free, either--compulsory heterosexuality helps no one.