Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Initiatives

I have been finding my conscience prodded lately. It is being prodded by this whole closeted gay thing I have going on in my ministry.

It is easy for me, in some respects, to hide out in plain sight. I have a bunch of girly things about me: my love of vibrant colors. My love of lipstick. My decision never, ever to let my eyebrows go unwaxed, ever again. (Cute story: when I was in seminary, I was in a "never pluck, never wax" phase. I thought all that was slavery, misogyny, etc. I was too much of a feminist, you know? But one weekend... well, just for the fun of it, I had my brows waxed when I got a haircut. The response of people the following Monday was, to a person: "Wow, Cecilia. You look really refreshed and relaxed... you must have had a really restful, peaceful weekend." I am not kidding. About 10 different people said some version of this to me. After that: Waxing. Always.). So.... girly. Jewelry: I love it. And Beloved has presented me with some astonishingly beautiful pieces, so that every single day I can wear something she gave me.

Unfortunately, there is still a misguided (and usually bigoted) belief in some quarters that lesbians = mannish. Since I have a sort of girly thing going on, plus I have been married to a man, and have two children, I think it just doesn't occur to folks in my church that my sexuality might be other than straight. Therefore people in my congregation sometimes make unguarded comments to me about LGBT issues or people. And so I am able, occasionally, to hear uncensored thoughts in this area. For the most part, folks say things that indicate a willingness to be open/ welcoming, and some confusion about why some other folks are so bothered about this. Sometimes folks will mention things about other folks' reactions to the one openly gay member of our staff... which, if at all negative, has been muted and hidden. (That person is so well regarded... it's as if no one would dare. The loss to the church would be too great.) Recently someone told me about an incident that occurred when the church was between pastors. A more liberal member of the congregation submitted something for the newsletter that had to do with a local rally in support of LGBT people, and the sh*t, evidently, hit the fan. Interestingly, this took the form of one person coming into the office, declaring that other people were upset... but the other people, whoever they were supposed to be, never showed up.

So... here I am, closeted and all. And, friends, I think this is one of the most pressing justice issues in the church. A rabble-rousing blogger I love to read said this, recently, in the comments section of his blog:

When I met with our local PFLAG group at my previous location, this conversation or a form of it happened at every meeting.

Remember PFLAG is a secular organization. Yet the religious discussion would happen again and again. A high school student, or a 20s or 30s something person would tell a little about his or her story.

Someone would ask, "How are your parents doing with this?"

The individual would reply, "Well, you know, they are Christian."

And everyone would groan. They all knew exactly what that meant, bigotry. Perhaps it meant being kicked out the house; each story was different on the specific incarnation of bigotry in each household.

I believe that the Christian religion, at least in America, is the leading cause of injustice toward gays.

I lay the blame at the feet of Christianity. Not just some Christians, all Christians.

I say this as a Christian minister.
It is as much my fault as it is the god hates fags people.

Why? Because the Christian umbrella allows sanctuary to bigotry.

If Christians who think differently do not speak out and act for justice, we are not following Christ.

We are not even being neutral.

{You can find the post and all the comments here.}

These words are pressing hard into my heart. In my little safe haven of girliness, I am pretending that I can be neutral. But I can't. It is time for some new initiatives. It is time for this closeted pastor to at the very least, come out of the closet where her views on the gospel and gay people are concerned.

Scares the daylights out of me. But it's got to happen.


Anonymous said...

Good morning,

I believe one of the problems in the American church is many people are being excluded and this has weakened the church. There church will soon be facing this along with some other issues in my opinion. Have you ever considered being ordained in another denomination? Your gifting is to be a pastor and I know people who have had this taken away from them and it is a horrible thing. But, you are doing the brave right thing.

FranIAm said...

Cecilia- what a post.

I think you may have seen my comment on that thread at John's blog and that I am a friend of the blogger in the commitment ceremony.

You are in a challenging position and I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like. I just get the sense that through your life and how you express yourself in this blog, something is being born in you.

I pray for you that you get what you need and that you do what you have to in this journey.

You will always know what to do and when.

I wish you peace always.

And freedom.

Barbara said...

I am the mother of an adult gay son who is long ago out of his closet. Yet I will still sometimes let these negative LGBT comments go unchallenged. It is hard to take the chance of being rejected on the basis of your own morality. BUT I am getting better at raising my eybrows and very pointedly changing the subject. And sometimes, becoming more often lately, I ask questions. Questions allow people to rethink their outrageous and exclusive attitudes.

John Shuck said...

Hey Cecilia,

Thank you for this and for linking to my blog. I have added you to my blogroll.

My post and comments were pretty strong. I think it is important that we each consider our particular context.

I am straight, married, kids, white, and serve a progressive congregation.

My privilege allows (and in my case I feel, compels) me to speak out more than others who do not share this privilege.

What I am saying is a disclaimer for my comment you quoted. I really cannot tell others what to do. I don't even know myself what to do.

The risks for you are far greater than they are for me. For instance, if you were in my denomination and you were outed you could lose your credentials. That is something I am not in danger of losing.

My point was to those who are in a position of privilege to use that privilege for justice, not just sit on it.

We all have to follow our own conscience and do what we can within our limits.

You are doing great work just by posting this blog!

Bless you sister and take care as you take risks!

john--rabble rouser : )

Mary Sue said...

You hear that sound?

Listen closely.

'Cause it's your very own cheering section.

You go do what you need to do. We got your back, girl.

Anonymous said...

Dear Cecilia,
Scary to come out? Oh, yes, to be sure! It took me a long, long time. The closer I looked at the Gospel and the more I came to know that the Gospel is to be lived, not read, the more I edged out of that suffocating closet. I had to make some choices: not all in my denomination would grant me license in their areas, not all in my parish would accept me, some of my colleagues would be disquieted, whatever! I made my choice and continued my long side-step siddle out of the closet.I simply could not preach the message of wholeness and Kingdom living without accepting myself. Being closeted, to me, meant that I was being ruled by fear. It is a deeply personal decision and all of us handle it in different ways: there is no one way to handle it.But, you are right, Cecilia: there comes a time when we may just have to move out, breathe free and let the chips fall where they may. Continued Grace and Blessings on your journey. January736. By the by, can some computer savvy one here tell me how, if I am not a blogger, I can sign on with something other than "anonymous"?

FranIAm said...

Cecila- I just wanted to invite you over to read this.

It is a link to another blog that I think you will like.

sharecropper said...

Being girly helps - even when you're out! I love clothes and jewelry, but I will draw the line at having my eyebrows waxed - ouch. I love hats and wear all kinds (much needed right now due to the bald head). So, when I say "my partner", most people think male. Then I use the pronoun "she" and some people tilt their heads and we go along.

This is my second time out. The first in the 60s was not so pleasant. Lost my job, lost my apartment, my lover stole my car, - I finally got married just to get out of Mom's house and out of the lesbian community. That was a bother! He became a drug addict.

Ah, well, this time, the closet does not beckon me any longer. Thanks be!

ClosetedBaptistLesbian said...

hello. I posted the other day. I've started my own blog...

ClosetedBaptistLesbian said...

erk... I meant

Jan said...

Cecilia, I've been leading a lectio divina group for the past 13 years. Last week someone new came, and she also came back today. When we all introduced ourselves, she said she was a minister in a church different than her youth so that could be out. I was so amazed that she felt that comfortable with us to say that. Of course, afterwards, I told her I admired her for being so forthright. I am hoping that we'll become friends.

John Shuck said...


I wrote another post as I have thinking about what you wrote and linked to you. I hope that is OK.

peace and love,

LittleMary said...

i am so using that blog entry, what you quote, in a sermon. i struggle daily with how much to push the church, how much not to, how out and open and in your face to be, how much privilege i have by my girliness. it never ends. and i think one should always wax as well, it is good for the soul.

Cecilia said...

Thank you, every single one of you, for your words of affirmation. And John, thank you for your disclaimer. I appreciate the distinction you make between those with the privilege of the position. I agree and understand. But I also feel that it might be better for my soul to find out, once and for all, what kind of congregation it really is that I serve. My judgment is that I may be able to do that by beginning these "new initiatives." If it is a congregation who, on the whole would be retching at the thought that it's been a lesbian in their pulpit all this time... it might be better for me to "try plumbing" (as a college professor was known to tell people he thought didn't belong in his department).

Here is where I have my privilege: I am of European ancestry, I have money in the bank and in investments, I own my home without a mortgage. Of course, money can disappear quickly with a major illness or if one does not have gainful employment. But I do not believe that I should fear the loss of my ordination credentials as much as I do.

It's just that I love it so, that i feel so deeply called to it. It's just that my heart might break. But you know what they say about the Lord... Godde heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds. So I have assurance, even if I did lose this call I love, that God would find a way to fix me and set me right again.

Pax. C.

Hidden in Christ said...

wow, this is an incredible blog! you are the woman! i too am very girly and not the typical picture some people think of when they hear the term lesbian.

and i too have felt challenged recently to be real and speak up against the bigotry of the christian culture against gays. not all christians are bigoted against gays, but i would say most are.

recently i was with a couple of brothers in Christ. they were calling mcdonalds breakfast burritos "gay burritos" and laughing. i was like, why are you calling them gay burritos and they started into a speech about how they were now boycotting mcdonalds because mcdonalds gave money to a gay and lesbain organization. unbelievable, i thought to myself. i didn't join in on the conversation, but i also failed to speak up against the crude comments. i felt horrible for being a coward. o Lord help me speak up!

it's sad what some christians have resorted to. ostracizing gays instead of doing what Jesus commanded: loving people even if they're different from you and you dont understand them.

Beth said...

Hi, I just wandered over from John Shucks blog to say hello.

Cecilia wrote,
"But I also feel that it might be better for my soul to find out, once and for all, what kind of congregation it really is that I serve"

This brave thing you are contemplating inspires me! All too often I just slide by with my "girly" looks and my vagueness and allow people to relate to an image of me that I create. Sadly, I'm often left with an empty feeling of not really connecting deeply. On the rare occasion when I do take the risk to be more open and honest about my life, beliefs, etc. I have found that usually I am met with tremendous kindness, and yet, it has never seemed any less scary to take that risk! Good luck to you with your congregation as you give them the opportunity to more deeply embrace you and you "new initiatives"

bill42 said...

You have my utmost admiration. I am a straight WASP male, but I battle the prejudices for my 13 yr old daughter to counteract her fundamentalist mother's attempted influence. I feel I have made an impact on her by opening conversations regarding gays I have known and consider friends. Keep the Faith, we can make things better.

Anonymous said...

Cecilia, people need to be stretched, even if they protest against it. Too many suffer from lack of imagination, empathy, and knowledge concerning people who differ from them. And this concerns the LGBT community as well, our MCC congregation is trying to be more proactive concerning racism, because we have about 3/4 white and 1/4 black members and are aware that the black half of our city (including spirituality of black LGBTs) is underserved. We are hosting a national MCC People of Color conference, and hope that this will stimulate more and more members to make an effort to consciously overcome the misunderstandings and clannishness that can occur even among well-intentioned people.

I wish you the best of luck.

Anon above, do what I do - just sign your nom-de-blog or whatever Net name you consistently use. If you don't have a consistent Net name yet, do consider adding an extra identifier if you want to use your first name, and it's a common one (thus avoiding having 5 Marys in the conversation). Cecilia doesn't count as a common name.

Semi-girly, jewelry, bright shirts (sometimes - often do the black-with-black bit), pants, no makeup or waxing (shudder), and Birkenstocks, which I need to avoid a podiatrist appointment.


KJ said...

I remember when pre-out, I was afraid to talk about LGBT issues as I might be revealing too much about myself, but couldn't help myself if the talk was pure bigotry. As I had a reputation for that on many matters, I guess I had built up a bit of a "force field." Still, I hated the feel of my heart in my throat.

Some words when spoken cannot be taken back.