I live in a context where it has sometimes been easier to come out as a lesbian than as a Christian. This is not a reality foreign to “progressives” who hold Christian faith; it is one, however, that I have been consistently working against throughout my close to 10 years of ordained ministry.
Once you are ordained this reality only heightens. Imagine secular gatherings, from airplanes to cocktail parties. The first thing out of people’s mouth is often: “What do you do?” to which I have found many creative responses, depending on my mood and how much I want to talk (or really listen). They range from “I am a pastor” to “I am an activist for LGBT people” and everywhere in between. Neither tells the whole story. However, both are true, both often shut down conversation, and both often elicit long stories from my interrogators about the value of LGBT people and religion both. Suffice it to say, in these conversations I am reminded again quite quickly of why I have been gun shy about my Christian identity for so long.
Therefore, much of my pastoring life has been on the defensive, justifying to others both inside and outside of the church, and at times to myself, how I can be a Christian, a pastor and a lesbian, and why these identities are inseparable for me. I work with people, many of whom are curious about what a life of faith might look like and attempt to put language on what faith has been for me and how Scripture can be a place of liberation, not death-dealing oppression as many of us have experienced. The most recent incarnation of this call has been in the new worshiping community I have begun called Not So Churchy.
At one cocktail party in the summer of 2012 I had the opportunity to meet British Director Amanda Bluglass. She was visiting for the week from rural Devon, England. She was electric with energy and creativity and I knew instantly I wanted to be her friend. But then invariably the question came: “What do you do?” I had the energy that night to go into it, and so I did: “I am a pastor to LGBTQ individuals who are pursuing ordained ministry. I work as a pastor to the church at large, committing myself to changing homophobic policies that the Presbyterian Church has held onto for many years. I marry same-sex couples as well as straight couples after month of premarital counseling, and I do this with joy. I do this against the policies of the Church that I am a member of and love, because the Gospel calls me to respond to my vows I took upon ordination in this way. I do all this because I believe that the Presbyterian Church, and the church at large can be a place of healing for the world and this is my little contribution towards that.”
-continue reading at Rev. Mieke Vandersall: Huffington Post.