Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Year, a "What if?"

I missed the one-year anniversary of this blog... I think it's Lent. That's my excuse for everything.

Jen, author of the wonderful blog "Kids of Queers," asks, "What would happen if you came out?"

Any decision to come out to my church members would have a number of complicating factors. First, there are the folks who, no matter what, do not want a gay or lesbian person as their "spiritual leader." I am fairly confident there are at least two or three of these folks in the church, one or two of them older, and one quite young (in his 20's). These folks are also not shy and would campaign loud and hard for my removal.

There are other members of my church who might not care one way or the other about LGBT leadership, but who would still feel disappointed and upset that I had kept this information from them. There would be a significant challenge rebuilding trust with these folks.

Then there are those who affirm LGBT rights, perhaps one or two gay members of the congregation (I honestly don't know, though I've tried hard to allow for safe space for folks to come out to me). They would likely be supportive, though LGBT folks who are, themselves, already out, might not be so sympathetic.

Then there's the denomination. Anyone with standing (a member of my church, a member of any church or judicatory of my denomination) could file charges against me according to our particular rules of discipline. And if I admitted to the charges... and at that point, I cannot imagine any other course... I could, by a vote of the local judicatory or judicial panel, be removed from ministry and lose my ordination. The vote could go either way, I imagine. People who don't know that I am a lesbian do know me and regard me as a good minister.

The good news in all this is that I am out to my children and my closest friends. I would have a support system of other ministers in this area, both in and out of my denomination. My fantasy is that I get to make a stirring speech somewhere, that changes hearts and minds (more than a little grandiose, I admit). But as for serving in my denomination, unless the rules are changed at the national level, my fate would be in the hands of the local body. And that could be that.

End of Part 1.


Jen said...

When I was getting divorced years ago I fought it tooth and nail. It took me a while to realize that I didn't have any control over it. Fighting to keep my spouse was rather contradictory in and of itself. I was demanding that he stay. Not a way to win hearts. I was worried about being alone, how I was going to raise my children as a single mom while I was caring for my own mother, I was concerned about the finances and the the bill collectors were calling constantly, I was worried about being divorced for a second time. And then I decided to let go. Let everything that was going to happen happen. It was going to anyway. It was an attitude shift for sure but it was also the realization that I could not keep all the balls in the air at one time nor could I make someone love me when I was so unlovable. The fall was liberating and it felt as if the weight of the world was off my shoulders. I literally stand taller now. I know it isn't the same thing and your fears are certainly justified but the stress this must be causing you. I have never been driven to serve as you have. I imagine you have to put your job and congregation before your own needs and desires, much like being a parent but most kids won't fire their parents and certainly can't bring charges against them. You have a lot at stake. Personally I couldn't attend a church that excluded its pastors and I wonder how you rectify that. You believe in a different God than they do, maybe they do. It seems it is only that few that oppose homosexuals that make a stink for everyone else who probably don't care. My thoughts are with you. Thanks for the shout out! Take care, Jen

Doorman-Priest said...

I hope I am there when you make your stirring speech.

In the meantime it has to be your decision when or whether.

Jennifer said...

I was privileged to hear a very stirring talk by Beth Stroud....despite being stripped of her denomination, she still serves. And her talk about why she persists in being United Methodist, despite the pain she has experienced, is certainly a powerful message about covenant and commitment. Could a stirring speech be in your future? Absolutely...and living in a state where a state legislator decided on the spot to approach the microphone and share a story of her own personal sexual assault, beware the wish....you just might find yourself making it some day, whether you've thought it through or not! God speaks....and sometimes we're given preparation time. Sometimes, however, we're not! We pray and lift up your life and your voice!

Rachel said...

I just can't imagine. God be with you, guide your heart, your FEAR, your love and your flock. Love.

LittleMary said...

love you and always, always respect your own decisions as they unfold.

sharecropper said...

Deep breath - for both of us. What a thought! When we retired three years ago, I took the final step out of the closet, and it was scary, especially in a small new town in a conservative region. My partner is still in the closet somewhat as she serves with a the volunteer arm of one of the branches of service. Ummm, good looking in her uniform, too.

I see that you are moving toward a more open stance and that could prompt such a stirring speech. You'd better write it now and memorize it because you never know when you might need it. People peek in closet doors that aren't firmly closed.

Love and prayers.

Jane R said...

Jen said: I imagine you have to put your job and congregation before your own needs and desires, much like being a parent but most kids won't fire their parents and certainly can't bring charges against them. You have a lot at stake.

This makes a lot of sense. I pray that you will find a way to choose yourself *and* to choose others in a manner that feels holy, integrated, and full of integrity.

Perhaps the call of Jesus to Lazarus, "Come out!" is not for you in the contemporary sense of "come out." Perhaps it is. But it is, for you and for all of us, the call to break the chains of death, whatever they are for us. We can only do this with Christ's help, but he does call us to walk out of our tombs, and to live, and to walk in the sunlight, even with faltering steps. There will be people who walk with you, whatever you choose. Remember that. They may or may not be the same people who walk with you today.

I will post either here or at my blog, this coming week, some of the Holy Week collects of Janet Morley, from her book All Desires Known. I recommend them to you and I think some of them will speak to you.

Meanwhile, I leave you with her collect from the first Sunday of Christmas, lo those many weeks ago.

Loving Word of God,
you have shown us the fullness of your glory
in taking human flesh.
Fill us, in our bodily life,
with your grace and truth;
that our pleasure may be boundless,
and our integrity complete,
in your name, Amen.

Peace to you, Cecilia.

Anonymous said...

C - I am so sorry that you are having to live with this burden. I agree with
D-P that you need to share at your own timetable. (Actually, I believe it will be God's timing. The perfect words and opportunity will appear.)

I hope you can increasingly tell other friends. I remember a friend sharing the fact that he is gay after I had known and loved him for years. I was angry at first and then devastated that he was fearful to tell (even) me. But it's scary indeed. He now lives openly with his partner and they have been known to share "the kiss of peace" in worship. One day . . .

KJ said...

What DP said. Be sure to post your speech!

There is a time for stirring speeches, and God some times provide the opportunity for that. However, more often than not it's the day-to-day living alongside others that changes hearts and minds. Of course, there are our detractors who remove themselves from that opportunity, I think mostly because they fear their minds being changed, and who knows to what that will lead!

Anonymous said...

I have only today found your blogspot and I am so grateful. I have been desperately searching the web for some insight into whether there were other women out there like me...I'm a married mother with children...a Christian...in the closet. Living a lie is stressful. There are no words to express the pain and heartache. Growing up in a time of non-tolerance and still living surrounded by it, both in my church and outside of it, have left me no hope of ever coming forward. I could never expose my husband and children to the fallout of such a decision. I made a choice to surround myself in a lifestyle so that I would never be exposed. And there is guilt over that decision as well. But, today I found your blog. Today, I did not wonder whether it would be better to die than to live this life. As ridiculous as it may sound, it was such a relief to find out that it was possible that there were, in fact, others who may be living with the same burden. Today, you served me far deeper than any of my ministers have over my entire lifetime. God bless you.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I could never expose my husband and children to the fallout of such a decision. I made a choice to surround myself in a lifestyle so that I would never be exposed...Today, I did not wonder whether it would be better to die than to live this life.

Anon--I could have written that myself, two years ago. I, too, was sure that I could not bring myself to leave, because I didn't want to hurt my family.

As things got worse and worse, I started planning to kill myself--because, to my increasingly desperate mind, this would be easier on my family than a divorce. And then, for the first time in my life, God actually spoke to me and said" "STOP! You do NOT have to do this! You do NOT have to live this life. There ARE other options."

I decided to listen. Today, I am not only alive, but blissfully happy. My children are doing well too. My ex hates me, but given his refusal to do anything to save our marriage over many years, I have learned to live with it. We still manage to co-parent pretty well.

I do not advocate breaking marital vows lightly---but when death comes to seem preferable to the life you are living, well...I'm pretty sure God (and your children) would rather have you alive. At least, that's the message I got.

Prayers for you and your family. May God bring you peace, strength, and the courage to find a life in which you can feel whole and happy. (I pray the same for you, Cecilia.)


Beloved Spear said...

I have profound sympathy for your struggle, and wish this sort of journey was easier. Having watched a pastor at my own church attempt to honor us with her honesty...through the closed hearts of a few and the cowardice of our judicatory, she is now no longer serving a church...I know just how tricky this can be.

Blessings and strength, sister.

Oh...if it's useful, I compile my own blogging on this subject here:


KJ said...


There is always hope, as is testified by the stories of those that meet here at Cecelia's place. In my darkest moment, when ending my life seemed preferable to living authentically, I came to realize that I was attempting to hold my life so tightly that it had become a living death.

Choose life. I have no way of knowing how that plays out in your life and the life of your family, but it is only through living in the freedom that Christ gives, that we can serve in a way that is of earthly and heavenly good.

Peace of Christ.

RevDrKate said...

Peace and prayers to all in this very difficult struggle of authenicity. I continue to pray for a world where we are valued for who we are, all we are.