Saturday, January 5, 2008

An Outing

Life is busy these early January days. We had two deaths in my church at the end of December, and both beloved pillars of the church (one of whom I blogged about here). In short, I've been going about my duties... a round of home communions the day after Christmas (I'm sorry to be a broken record, but again: I so dearly love home communions. Without fail, I face them at the beginning of the day with the tiniest bit of disgruntlement about my time constraints, the difficulties of getting church members to go with me. And by the end of the first visit, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that this is my job. I get to do this. God is so good!), preparing for funerals thereafter, not to mention the Sunday preaching gig... in other words, I've been going about my business being the Closeted Pastor (TM) I am.

I forgot to wear earrings to one of the funerals (something I ordinarily never do... it was a sign that I was rushed or stressed or otherwise not as centered as one would hope). Could someone read into that, you know, that I'm... like that? Just kidding, mostly, but my brain, engaged in the Primary Speech which Anne Ulanov describes as prayer, the ground of my being, I often find just that sort of silly chatter taking up brainwaves. I wore nice, dark lipstick Christmas Eve, though... so, there you go. Not a lesbian! Just kidding. As you well know.

Yesterday afternoon, taking a break from this and that, I cruised over to "psychology, dogs and politics," a lovely, thoughtful blog I don't get to nearly often enough. Dennis carried this post, in which he outs a bishop in the Church of England who has been a vocal supporter of the conservative movement that vilifies LGBTQ people, and engages in spiritual violence against us. Dennis is able to do this with first hand, intimate knowledge.

Oh, a Closeted Pastor (TM) never much likes hearing about folks being outed. But I do believe that, in this case, I shall get over it in a hurry. In fact, there was nothing to get over. Reading the responses to Dennis' courageous post, which will most likely only serve to rain down abuse upon him from many corners, I came across a quote from Rev. Barbara Harris, the bishop suffragan of Massachusetts. [On the day Barbara Harris was consecrated, in the late 80's, I was a stay-at-home mom with a young child. It was a Saturday, and I remember watching the entire event on television, while I fed my baby lunch, went about my household chores. I watched in wonder... I knew, despite the fact that I was not, myself, Episcopalian, that this was an historic moment of enormous significance. I hoped that my baby might catch some memory of the joy and pageantry of that day. (He didn't).]

Here is Rev. Harris' wisdom on closetedness. In speaking to a meeting of Integrity she said, "Each is entitled to their own closet, but they should not be able to use it as a sniper's nest."

Can I get an Amen here? I am closeted, and I know that, for at least some folks, that is problematic, on a pretty broad spectrum (as in, for some it's a huge problem, for some just a teeny one). But I have been clear on my position on LGBTQ issues since long before I entered into a relationship with a woman. I have been a visible, vocal supporter of our local LGBTQ organizations, participating in their annual pride services, meeting with their youth discussion group. I embrace my out LGBTQ colleagues and my closeted ones alike. This is starting to sound like a laundry list of excuses for why I should be able to remain "safe." That's not my point. My point is that, I hope and pray that in my closetedness I have not hurt my LGBTQ family. I believe I will stand in judgment for any ways in which I have used my closet as a sniper's next. I don't think I have. I pray I haven't.

Also, I know that I am already coming out by increments... tiny steps here and there. Hopefully it won't be long before this concern is a thing of the past. Meanwhile, if you haven't already, I invite you to give Dennis a visit and a word of support (if you can). He is a man of integrity and courage.


Mother Laura said...

I think Barbara Harris is right on and so are you to quote her.

Thank you for alerting me to this piece of news, of which I had not been aware.

Prayers always.

klady said...

((Cecilia)). Your situation is quite different, as I'm sure you know on various levels. Amen, definitely. Please know that there are many of us out here who are praying for you. You will find the answers to your own situation in due time with the grace of God. In the meantime, please know I, for one, consider myself privileged to hear about you, your life, and your ministry, which we you know you are serving with great thoughtfulness, care, and compassion for all.

Dennis said...

thank you for what you say.

And yet I have to tell you that I feel incredibly guilty about letting this cat out of the bag.

there is at least some degree of expectations that hook-ups will be kept quiet. Now I'm not into the whole hookup scene anymore, but 15 years ago I was young and, well, basically stupid. But even back then I tried to live by a rule of not kissing-and-telling. So this feels a bit dirty, really.

I really don't feel that I have the right to do something like this. But I do feel that his support for the bigots and homophobes and misogynists means that someone should do it. And if it had to be me then so be it.

It is too late to feel regret for outing him, I know. Iacta alea est. But it seems a shame to live in a world where a gay man can be moving up the ladder as a leader among those who bitterly oppose the ordination of gays, lesbians and women.

I talked with Grandmere Mimi about this by telephone today. Mimi kept going back to the Presiding Bishop's comments to the BBC last week. She really was certain that that framed this whole event in the ongoing debate. I agree.

It just sucks to be part of the process of bringing honesty. (And it can't be fun for someone like Bp Lindsay to be on the receiving end of this either.)

Thanks for your words. Keep our whole church in your thoughts and prayers.

And klady (whom I had the opportunity to meet back in October) is right when she says that answers for you (and by extension all of us) will come in God's due time.

LittleMary said...

sweets. a sniper's nest? you? um. don't think so. ok? ok.

Cecilia said...

Dennis, I have been trying to think of a good analogy to explain why I feel so strongly that you have done the right thing, but my brain is just not cooperating. I think the Barbara Harris quote still comes closest. ++Horsham had his right to his closet. But he gave it up when he started attacking his own (a population already vulnerable to both physical and mental hate crimes begin with) from the bully pulpit provided by his place of enormous, enormous privilege. He could have had his privacy. No one would have begrudged him that (or, not many).

You told the truth. Period. You told the truth. As one of your commenters mentioned, it's no different than Jesus would have done. And that is why there is (and will be) an outpouring of anger from some quarters. In the words of the immortal Jack Nicholson, "They can't handle the truth."

Pax, C.

Sharecroppers Partner said...

I heartily agree with Bishop Harris. I was lucky to attend a conference she lead a few years ago. She exuded love, humor, wisdom. So Amen Alleluia Bishop H.

Another gay alcoholic and I were at a meeting the other day and part of AA literature contains a sentence about peope who are constitutionally incapable of being honest. It says "they are not at fault, they seem to have been born that way". That dayreader said it, "they seem to have been born THAT WAY". We looked at each other and chuckled.

I have no problem with people in the closet; that is their choice. But for someone who was created by God and "born that way" to attack others created the same way is pure hypocrisy and deserves to be called on it.

Strength and Peace to you. Lisa

sharecropper said...

I agree that no one should use the pulpit to bully - no matter what the issue.

In as much as you do to the least of these, so you do to me.

I regret that Dennis had to be the one to say, "Stop." Guilt seems to automatically attach itself to the ones who do that. But, I thank you, Dennis, for what you have done.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Cecilia---what klady said. You will make your own way, in your own good time.

I only wish I could be there to see the glorious day when you burst out of that closet and discover that people love you, no matter what.


Paul said...

Be well. Be at peace. Journey at your own pace. The Spirit will guide you even when it doesn't seem like it, and I know you know that. Even though I am totally out I still try to keep a low profile. The world is not altogether safe, yet we were not given a spirit of fear. Joy be yours.

Dennis said...

I had taken it down to avoid controversy and because I was scared by a few bloggers posting my workplace and my name and other details. But it does no good to post it and then to hide it. So it is back up.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the general consensus. People have to decide where and who they are at their own time. I was closeted for many years, and I certainly dont make a point of my sexuality and stay low key for professional reasons. I know it's better to be "out" than it was to be "in" but I completely respect the decision of those who cannot (yet) open the door.

What's wrong about the Bishop Dennis bravely outed is that he is attacking out gay people from a position of dishonesty, to do them harm. This is just like a Ted Haggard or a Larry Craig wanting the closet to cover their own sins but having no compunction in flinging stones at out gay people. And I say, no way. My willingness to hold my tongue ends when they start attacking "family". Dennis simply told the truth. Good for you, Dennis.

Now, some may say the Bishop is now celibate, repents of his homosexuality, and fervantly DOES believe in what he is doing. Maybe he does. But he no less owes honesty than if he still defines as gay or is still having sex with men.

Let him say, "I was wrong all those years ago", and fine. I could respect that. But he doesn't get a retrospective closet any more than a current one.

I hope one day C can be fully herself "out" as she does too. But I am very confident she is doing no harm to anyone else while "in". And that is the big difference.