One Year

It’s been one year since I walked out of my District Superintendent’s office and texted my husband. “It’s over. I’m done. I’m sorry.” I’d been removed from pastoral ministry for presiding over a same-sex wedding the previous November. I remember texting my husband, my pastoral mentor and my squad of friends in our group chat. I said something different to each of them, but the short and sweet message I sent to my husband is the one I remember most.

I was mad. I was sobbing. I was embarrassed. You see, I had left my six-figure corporate job only a few months earlier because I wasn’t able to fully engage in my call to ministry. I’d left a cushy and comfortable gig for an unknown path of work in the streets and in congregational connection. It had been a really big deal for me to walk away from such security. I’d promised my husband that we’d be okay. I’d promised him that my work with the church would be one of a few pieces of work that I’d bundle together in order to ensure that our mortgage still got paid and we didn’t default on any bills. I’d sworn that this leap of faith would not harm us.

It’s over. I’m done. I’m sorry.

In making a conscious decision to pastor people – in all ways, at all times, #365, I’d broken hearts in the churches I served. Some understood and were radically supportive. Some were furious with me. Some asked how they could help. Some asked me to quietly go away. Some called me courageous. Others called me dangerous. Some were desperate to not see me go. Others called me “capable of sabotage.” Some asked how they could support me. Others wished I’d never become involved in the church I loved. Sometimes the kingdom of God can feel like a bipolar existence…

It’s over. I’m done. I’m sorry.

I was forced to find courage where I had never had it before. Inside I was emotionally hemorrhaging and somehow had to triage my heart in a way that I could have conversations with people who weren’t at all happy with me. I was forced to report several death threats that I received online to authorities. I had to sit before church committees that consisted of people who once loved me and stand strong in the midst of their anger and unkind words. I had to tell my father, the conservative current patriarch of the family who taught me to love Methodism, that I’d been fired. My story was shared online by people who had absolutely no idea who I was or what the tone of my heart was. They said brutal things. I was interviewed again. And again. And again.

It’s over. I’m done. I’m sorry.

 

I spent time with the women who I married. I listened to their anger, their frustration and their tears. I cried with them. I heard the anger of my group of friends they wondered who could have possibly disliked me so much that they anonymously turn me in. Who lacked such a backbone and was such a coward that they were unable to make themselves known? Who disliked LGBTQ persons so much that they would seek the firing of a straight pastor as a form of punishment and then NOT have the guts to disclose who they are?

It’s over. I’m done. I’m sorry.

If you had asked me in the immediate aftermath if God was speaking into me, I would have said that I wasn’t sure. My wounds were screaming so loudly that, looking back, I might not have heard the voice of the Holy even if I’d been listening. I know that now. And yet, like the resilient people we are, the wounds began to regenerate and graft. I no longer felt the fresh rawness of hurt and instead felt the recognition of a hurt that once was – the phantom acknowledgement of a newly formed scar that would mark me forever. It remains tender but healed.

That is now over. I’m not done. I’m still sorry.

I spent this past week engaged in the ugly and unnecessary battle over human sexuality at the United Methodist General Conference in St Louis. There were times where I felt as if someone was yanking on my scar to a point of pain. I was convinced it would break back open. I was certain that they knew exactly how to poke at me in order to split my heart wide again. When I would be close to the breaking point, a public witness would spawn me to action. When I was close to tears, a strange arm would wrap around me and somehow ward off tears that were guaranteed to spill over my bottom lid. When I felt defeated, JJ Warren (or a cloned version) arose from the delegate floor to breathe life into me.

Each day I began to understand what had happened over the last 365. Like grief tends to do, one day you weep and another day you dance, never noticing the time in between that healed you into movement. I still struggle to figure out how the bills are getting paid each month. I still lament the friends who left my side, not yet to return. I desperately miss pastoral ministry in all its beauty and challenge. I also intimately understand that my straight, CIS privilege afforded me the capacity to break the rule in the first place.

It’s been one year since I was fired for doing the right thing. It’s been 365 days of waking up and realizing that I don’t have a congregation to pastor to. It’s been 52 weeks of Sundays, still showing up and worshipping alongside the congregations that I’m no longer able to serve. It’s been 12 months of mortgages, car payments, bills and prayers. But it’s also been thousands of hours of recognition that there is SO MUCH work still to be done. There are so many hearts who don’t yet see the humanity in all. There are so many Christians who would much rather quote biblical law than follow the example of the Savior they claim to serve. There are opportunities every day to lift up the voices of queer leaders of color. There are chances in every moment to acknowledge that I should be a follower in this work as much as I should be a leader. There are hearts yet to be changed. There is justice yet to be attained. There is hope yet to be fulfilled. As such,

It’s NOT over.

I’m NOT done.

I’m NO LONGER sorry.

 

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3 thoughts on “One Year

  • February 28, 2019 at 8:28 pm
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    You are STILL my hero. Stay strong. You know who yo can call when the road gets rough.

    Reply
  • February 28, 2019 at 9:57 pm
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    You amaze me. I love you and Mike always and forever. You will be rewarded, I have no doubt. My faith tells me so.

    Reply
  • February 28, 2019 at 11:40 pm
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    Sister you are not done, I can tell you that for a fact . You have only just begun! Your own words said there is much work to be done and as long as there is work to be done you will do it . That work is God’s work and God will provide . Frances loved you for coming to minister to her in the hospital and so did I and so do I !

    Reply

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