Thursday, January 31, 2008

Communities of Accounability

I want to thank this community of the blogosphere for being a place where I can ask to be held accountable for my actions, even in this entirely self-reporting manner.

I knew you would be kind. I also knew you would challenge me.

I was talking to another closeted colleague not long ago. He is considering leaving the denomination in which he has served for nearly twenty years, so that he might finally be able to be out in his long term relationship. I asked him if he worried at all about the folks in the churches he has served, and whether they would feel hurt or betrayed by his long silence and obfuscation.

He said, "Nope. I don't owe them anything."

I understand that position. In a very real sense, it is no one's business, what this extremely gifted pastor holds between himself, his partner and God.

And yet... and yet. I can understand being the congregant, who feels somehow betrayed. Even though I disagree that it was a betrayal.

We each must find our own path. I am on mine, and I pray with all of you that the day when I can be completely open will come soon, a very tangible sign of God's kingdom coming.

Thank you for your engagement with me in these questions.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


It's good for the soul, right?

I have been carrying around this guilt for a week. I told a lie. Not just a little white lie, designed to smooth over a social situation, a big one. Not a lie about just anything, a lie about my sleeping habits. Not to just anyone, but to someone whose kindness towards me has been significant.

Scene: Driving with a colleague towards a denominational event. This colleague was a witness, up close and personal, to a horrible, painful time in my life. This colleague saw me coming apart, and reached out to me, prayed with me, offered words of comfort.

This colleague is also clear on the other end of the theological spectrum from myself. This colleague is a self-avowed Conservative, "Bible-believing*," Evangelical, who has made clear and public statements that are anti-gay, anti-inclusion. Despite this, we bonded over my trauma. And this colleague has expressed trust in me, trust I have returned.

Until the drive. In answer to the question, "How are you doing?", a clear reference to me, post-trauma, I responded, "Fine, Great in fact." And then I offered a total bullshit excuse for why I don't sleep in my house every single weekend.

Even as the words tumbled from my mouth, I thought, Stop. No. Don't do that. Say nothing, rather than saying a lie. But I did say it. The colleague sincerely expressed support for me. The rest of our ride, our conversation was lovely, and went on without incident. But. Damn it. The damage was done. Damage to my own soul.

I feel really dreadful. I feel deceitful in a way I hadn't before. There is no way to make amends for this lie without outing myself, in all likelihood, and this would be the wrong, wrong, wrong person to out myself to.

Interestingly, this incident highlighted for me how not-guilty I feel about other aspects of my closeted life. Loving Beloved, sleeping with her, protecting that corner of my life while going about my ministry: check, check, check. But this lie was wrong. I deceived a person who has shown me only kindness (while, yes, doing spiritual violence to God's LGBTQ children... though "violence" belies the gentleness of this person's character).

I am not asking for approval for my lie. I know it was wrong. I simply need to keep myself accountable.

I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned, in thought, word, and deed. May God redeem me, may Christ restore me, may the Spirit amend my life and make me new.

* I hate, loathe, despise and abominate the fact that the phrase "Bible-believing" has been hijacked by biblical conservatives... along with the whole Christian identity, of course. If I didn't "believe" the bible, I'd hardly be a Christian, let alone a minister, struggling with the ethics if lying-as-insurance policy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The One Career All Women Have in Common

Thank you, friends, for your responses to the last post. I am particularly intrigued that this community has such intimate, firsthand knowledge of the struggle I am going through with weight issues. I invite you to share with me what worked for you. I've read that several of you have been able to have significant transformations of your physical selves... I am interested in what finally "clicked" for you. Beloved is convinced until I have a dire physical issue, like diabetes or a heart attack, I won't "do anything." I think it is very hard for those who have never experienced this particular challenge to "get" what this feels like. I think Kate says it well: I too already feel weak, ashamed, embarrassed, horrified... just because I don't go about my daily life expressing these things does not mean they are not true for me. So, tell, me, you who have gone into scary realms with your weight, and returned to a place of health. What was your turning point?

My daughter and I saw Beloved last night; we had been trying to get her to see a favorite movie of ours for a long time, and we finally did it. I cooked a lovely, healthy stew of chicken, wild rice, carrots, onions and wine, and we ate it on big pillows on the floor of Beloved's apartment while we watched "All About Eve."

It is a movie after my own heart. The lead (not title) character, Margo Channing, is a brilliant actress facing the hard realities of aging in the public eye. She is partnered with a man who is crazy about her, but she is insecure about his love (incorrectly, as it turns out... he is solid). She frets over the "things she has let go on her climb up the ladder," and her neglect of the one career all women have in common: being a woman.

The film presents a world view most of us would consider pretty outdated: that a woman's ultimate worth lies in "looking up at 6 o'clock, and there he is." Well, that's not my world, in so many ways. But I relate to her insecurities. I mind this shield of invisibility I've put around myself... a relic, I think, of a time when I feared my sexuality more than anything, feared my ability to be faithful in marriage because I kept falling in love outside it (with women). Well, that doesn't need to be my fear. I am joyfully partnered. But the insecurity is there. The remnants of that antiquated world view still pop up in my thinking now and then.

We have a long way to go.

Friday, January 25, 2008


About 6 weeks from now I'll mark the one year anniversary of beginning this blog. Lately I've been hearing from some folks, whose comments I don't publish at their request. These folks are closeted pastors and their friends and partners. Their comments and questions tend to fall within the scope of two very broad categories. One I would label, "I have been hurt by a closeted pastor." And the other I would label "Relationships are hard." Obviously, there is some crossover within these categories.

Today, I'd like to talk about that second category. Relationships are hard. Relationships in which one person is closeted are particularly hard. And it may be that relationships with closeted persons who, in their public role, do some measure of interpreting the Word of God, whether by word or deed... these might well be the hardest to pull off.

I don't talk a lot here about the intricacies and intimacies of my life with Beloved. Part of that is because every couple deserves their privacy. Another part of that is because I'm not convinced of the general interest or applicability of our particular problems. And still another part of that is that I fear, perhaps, the kind of feedback I might get. What if people say things like, "That's a terrible thing to say/ do" about something one of us said or did? What if someone says, "I wouldn't put up with that"? What if exposing our problems doesn't help but instead makes it harder? So I don't tend to talk about these things.

But the point of a blog seems to be openness, and willingness to engage in a particular type of community. So, in the interest of being more real, I will share with you one of the issues currently at play. I blogged two posts ago about our difficult sleeping arrangements. That is one of our problems. Another is my weight. I am not at a healthy weight, and Beloved worries about me... she fears for me. Her fears are reasonable, but it has never been my experience that nagging ever helped anyone to deal with making significant changes in lifestyle and health choices. It has to come within. But Beloved is concerned. Most of the time she holds back, but occasionally (for instance, yesterday morning at 6 AM) she needs to let it out: she is scared. She wants me to be healthy so that I'll be around for a long, long time. This is both endearing and very, very hard.

When I am nagged about my weight I tend to rebel. I tend to want to retain sole possession and ownership of my body. I was not sexually abused as a child. But I was subjected to rather humiliating forms of control and intervention. I tend not to want anyone to have sovereignty over me, but me.

[Sovereignty is an interesting word. As a minister, it certainly rings a bell. And perhaps there is a way in which I might consider letting someone else-- Someone Else-- have sovereignty over my body, in the interests of making better choices to care for it. ]

I'm getting off track. Beloved and I have some struggles. They tend to originate both in our particular personalities and in our (sometimes badly expressed) desire to care for one another. Sometimes, they bounce off my closetedness in a particular way. For instance: as long as I am at an unhealthy weight, I can live a life in which people in the church community, both at the level of the congregation and in the larger judicatory, don't think it odd that I'm not in a relationship. That's the way for women of a certain size. No one expects you to be partnered. So, in a sense, it's easier to dodge the whole question. Is that why I deliberately make unhealthy choices? Of course not. But all sorts of motivations come into play. In largeness there is a certain invisibility. Invisibility can only be helpful for me, right?

I will not get to any conclusions this morning. I simply wanted to share one struggle, and I will share more: such as, loving an atheist. Now that's an interesting conundrum for a closeted lesbian pastor.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On Brokeback Mountain

Beloved and I had been together less than a year when "Brokeback Mountain" hit the theaters. We saw it in a theater that was uncharacteristically full... the buzz for the film was in full force by the time it made it all the way to our rural hamlet.

I was swept away. The story of their love was so elemental. The feeling of fear... "If people knew, we'd be dead"... was so piercing and familiar. I was disturbed and troubled and uplifted and filled with joy, all at once. I thought, if more people could just see... It's just about people. Regular, flawed, complicated people, who are drawn together despite the fact that it's going to further complicate their already complicated lives; drawn together despite the fact that the world is, in a very real way, out to get them as a result.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were revelations, playing men in love who defy every stereotype, who try to live into their dream of one another yet within the limitations of their lives.

Now, one of these young men is dead, far too young, probably because of drugs.

Tonight I am sending him a "Thank you" and a "Rest in peace, friend" on behalf of those of us who have, in our own way, wandered the paths and been blown about by the winds of that beautiful mountain.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Today in Church, Today at Home

A young woman of my congregations stood during joys and concerns to share that, after a complete course of treatment (chemo and radiation), she has been declared cancer-free by her doctor. As I looked down at my paper (the back of the last page of my sermon) to record this joy for our prayers, I was overwhelmed by tears. I tried (unsuccessfully) to keep this from the congregation. But it was pretty obvious. I was weeping for joy.

This work we ministers get to do is such a privilege. Of course, I was weeping for two joys: that this vibrant young woman has a second chance at a full life, and that my Beloved was, also, given the "all-clear" this week. It was the coming together of my two worlds, and I was not able to manage it, control it, or direct it. It simply was.

I have just returned to my house in the moonlight; the moon is high and clear, and when I stepped out of my car, the cold blue light shone, almost, brightly. My breath made little clouds. The cold pricked at my lungs; it almost felt like the bright blue moon was reaching into me. I was with Beloved for much of the day after church and another denominational obligation. And, I awakened at her house this morning.

Our weekend plans are somewhat complicated. We are currently going through a re-negotiation of who shall sleep where, and when. We want to be together, but it is not always so easy to accomplish that objective. Having children and a visitation schedule means that we can do this two weekends each month, sometimes three. I have mentioned how Beloved loves her home, and well she should. It is beautiful. It is a haven of order and calm and, always, very good jazz. And wine. And it is her preferred place to be. Understandably.

But Beloved's need to be in her home is a little beyond her pride of place, or her delight in the beauty of her surroundings. I think it is related to the chaos of her childhood, in which her home was no such thing; in fact it was a place of predation and rape. Beloved's home is truly her haven now. She needs it.

My house is organizationally challenged, as I have previously mentioned. But I have a larger, more comfortable bed. And I sleep better in it, especially when I have to preach in the morning. And, in fact, Beloved sleeps better with me in my bed than she does with me in her bed. That is, when I can persuade her to come to my house. This is not an easy thing to do. I try to not be annoyed by it; she really can't help the deep, instinctual need she has to be in her own space. But sometimes I get into a bad (mental) place, in which I feel her resistance to my home as a rejection of me. Then things are painful. This happened to us this weekend.

We love one another. That is our bottom line. As I returned home tonight in the bright blue moonlight, I came from a time of peace and refreshment with my Beloved, in the place that is her dearest haven. She is my home. That is enough for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

All Clear

Thank God. And thank you, friends, for your words of support and prayer. I cannot express how very much they have meant to me in the past days.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I believe...

... Beloved's out of the woods.

I could be wrong. But I believe, if they had seen anything of concern, they would have contacted her by now. At this point, I believe she'll receive a letter in the mail in about a week, stating "all clear."

This is what I believe.

I scheduled my mammogram for Friday.

So, I have been praying for Beloved. (I know that you have too, thank you.) But as I have mentioned, Beloved is an atheist, and she actually doesn't like being prayed for. (I prayed for her, by name, during the prayers Sunday. L. also.) I just refuse not to pray.

What are the ethics of prayer?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Long Appointment...

... with Beloved this morning. I sat in the waiting room of the all-breasts-all-the-time place, which was, predictably, pretty girly. I read this completely amazing short story in the New Yorker. It's a good thing it was so absorbing and long, because she was in there for an hour and fifteen minutes.

She came out playing, playful, peeking from behind doors and pillars. They took several more views with a mammogram, and also an ultrasound.

And now we wait a little longer.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

One Question Answered

Beloved and I had a late brunch today after church, with my children. It was relaxed and fun, playful. She looked tired. Tonight as my kids and I were finishing up dinner, my cell rang and it was Beloved telling me she'd just had a call from her daughter, L.

Turns out L's doctors are now saying they believe she has systemic lupus. It appears that her symptoms included both severe anemia and pleurisy... just a few of the enormous constellation of symptoms that can be present with this diagnosis.

Beloved has lupus, as well. She was diagnosed with it many years ago, has had several flares over the years, including one in which her kidneys shut down and she was in a coma for three weeks. But she has not had a flare for 15 years, and is on a carefully balanced regimen of medication that seems to do the trick. She is also extremely careful about the amount of sleep she gets, and is attentive to her nutrition. She has learned to live with lupus (when she was diagnosed the medical community considered it a death sentence).

Lupus does not normally run in families. Beloved is somewhat in shock that L has been diagnosed with it, but a lot of puzzle pieces are falling into place as a result. I think she is experiencing the phenomenon of being somewhat relieved at knowing, while also having the mixed blessing of knowing very well what L is facing.

Beloved's appointment is tomorrow morning at 8. She hasn't told L about it yet, which I think is ok.

This morning I sent an email to Beloved, while she was sleeping. I told her that the sky was astonishing... wide gauzy pink and blue swaths of color with the sunrise. Later I received an email from her, sent roughly while I was preaching my sermon. It read, "you are everything to me."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Deep Freeze

I'm dealing with it: Beloved's tendency to isolate, go away, freeze up when she's nervous or scared.

But may I just say? It sucks.

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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Looking Back on 2007*

* Thanks Little Mary! A little confused on the year. Briefly.

Taking the cues of many other bloggers, I present, with all good wishes for a bright new year, filled with blessings, some of my most memorable moments of 2007:

1. Whisking off Beloved for an awesome concert in honor of her birthday, complete with a gorgeous picnic lunch prepared by me, and a nice bottle of wine.

2. The third cursed Valentine's Day in a row:
2005: I am sick
2006: Beloved is sick
2007: 16 inches of snow and no way to get to one another except by phone.
(The one before these was amazing though... we traveled to see "The Gates" in Central Park. Absolutely magical.)

3. A day in May when, working in my yard, I thought I heard God speaking to me (through my iPod, naturally).

4. A glorious vacation taken with my children, in which we really connected (the lack of a computer may have had something to do with that), and I felt that they were really healed, whole and on their way from the difficult transitions of the past several years.

5. Starting this blog, feeling very much in need of support, and finding it. Thank you.