Monday, March 26, 2007

Looking for Love...

I had lunch with a sister pastor not too long ago. Like me, she is a closeted lesbian. Unlike me, she is single and, soon, she says, she will be ready to start looking. You know, for love.

I am looking for love, too, but love of a different kind. I am searching for a call, as we call it in some denominations-- or as most normal people put it, looking for a job. The process in every denomination with which I am reasonably familiar is painstakingly, back-breakingly, heart-thuddingly, hair-pull-out-ingly slow. I cannot tell you how slow. So slow that normal people (like Beloved) get pissed off on my behalf when I try to explain the process, both from the point of view of the church and from the point of view of the minister. So slow that people who are searching often have to update their resumé to change items such as '10 years experience' to '11 years experience' to '12 years experience' while still looking for the same call.

I am in an interesting position as I search. There are openings in my denomination, and within a reasonable distance of my home base (because of family considerations-- not to mention Beloved-- I am not able to move just now). There is one church in particular that caught my attention because of two tiny words in the church's profile: open-minded. An open-minded congregation. That could mean so many things. It might mean that they are willing to have the occasional praise song in worship. It might mean that they are willing to have a woman in the pulpit. It might mean they don't mind the idea of GLBT folks existing in the world (and for some members, there might be greater affirmation/ warmth/ acceptance there). But who knows? All I have to go on is 'open-minded.' Maybe I'll find out more in the interview-- if I get an interview.

There is also an opening in another denomination. This denomination has an 'open and affirming' (of GLBT people) polity as well as a congregational way of being in the world. So, the official denominational position may or may not be embraced by any given local church. Also, the church in question is 'a mess.' This from another pastor I spoke with yesterday, but also from the point of view of lots of folks both inside and outside the denomination. Conflict, power struggles, too many ministers in too short a time and everything is always the minister's fault. Huge physical plant, dwindling finances. The strong sense that this may be their 'last chance.' I know, I know-- I'm describing every mainline Protestant congregation within spitting distance of everyone who reads this blog.

So... a relatively healthy congregation that is 'open-minded' in my own, GLBT-unfriendly denomination. Or a mess in another denomination that welcomes lesbians (at least in theory).

Ever heard the phrase 'looking for love in all the wrong places'?


KJ said...

Oy! Peace of Christ in the midst of the call.

sharecropper said...

I wish you patience and discernment. One of the things I learned from my Quaker friends is to set up a Clearness Committee - a group of folk who know you and whom you trust to be honest and careful - to discuss your call and to give you feedback on your prospective change. It worked for me.

steve said...

I smiled when I read your comment about looking for love "in all the wrong places." It just relates to a fair amount of the work I do with some of my clients.

I was thinking that one of the pieces of advice I often give them is to put their prospective romantic interests into ambiguous situations with emotional intensity (e.g., meeting their parents) early. Because how their date handles situations where it's not clear precisely what to do is very telling. If they handle it well, it's a sign that they might also handle other ambiguous, emotionally intense situations well (e.g., conflicts). If, on the other hand, they don't handle it particularly well, then they should carefully study their response before deciding if they want to keep dating them.

Perhaps there's something similar you can do with prospective parishes?

Nina said...

I have seen three friends get chewed up and spat out by clergy-killer parishes over the last five years, and the denominational policies had nothing to do with what happened in any of the cases: rather, it was a matter of a pathology that got re-enacted on each successive sacrificial victim, I mean, clergyperson.

If I were advising someone determined to go into a parish like that, I would say: before you accept the job, get signed statements from the people in the next organizational level up from the parish that they will start meeting with you and with the parish to deal with their problems so they can break whatever cycle they are in. (Better yet, the parish should have an interim who will go through this process with them before they hire another clergyperson.)