Two simple words…and yet with so much depth of meaning!
To “come out” can mean:
- to come into public view
- to become evident
- to declare oneself
- to make a debut
- to openly declare something about oneself previously kept hidden
I think about these definitions in terms of my faith tradition, especially as I am learning what it means to live as a straight wife of a bisexual husband…
There have been several ways my faith tradition has “come out”…
We began ordaining women as ministers only about 30 years ago, but women were sensing those calls many years before that (as were some men for women). I am aware that at least one woman directly approached the then-leader of our church back in the 1930s to ask/tell him about the call she sensed to ministry. His response? My paraphrase of it is “You must be mistaken, because God doesn’t call women”…only white (mostly) men. Now…there are many, many women serving in various avenues of ministry, not just in my faith tradition but in many others–and we are richer for that. We “came out…”
While we didn’t have a ban on people of color being ordained–in fact there were some–there weren’t very many. There was just a sense that “it wasn’t the right time” or the right place…or something. Those few who were ministers “knew their place.” As I look back on that part of our history, I am ashamed and embarrassed for us. How many people were spiritually hurt? how much ministry were we denied? All because we were convinced that God could not possibly be calling many people of color to the ministry in our faith tradition. Now? It’s better. We still have a ways to go, but there are many people of color serving as ministers–both in this country and in other parts of the world. We “came out…”
Now we’re in the process of “coming out” again…Over the years, there have been many LGBT individuals called and ordained to ministry–but mostly if they kept a significant part of themselves hidden. Sometimes they were able to be more open because of where they lived…but not enough. Unfortunately, many have thought (and perhaps continue to think) that “That call to ministry must be a mistake because God can’t possibly call someone who is lesbian/homosexual/bisexual/transgendered to ministry.” And yet we do believe that calls to ministry come from God. How arrogant…to tell God that God is making a mistake in calling someone…that God just doesn’t know everything that’s important to know about an individual!
I am part of a faith tradition that has proudly proclaimed “The worth of souls is great in the eye of God” and “All are called”…but we are still struggling to live it out. We want to add our own restrictions to those simple statements.
I am part of a bigger faith tradition that is based on two great commandments: to love God with all my being and to love my neighbor as I love myself. The rest of that verse says that everything else–not just a few things, but absolutely everything else that is enshrined as law or commandment–hangs on those two commandments. Learning what that really means…learning how to truly live it… is the biggest coming out. I just hope and pray that we don’t take another two or three generations…because if we do, how many more people will find themselves turned away? How much more rich ministry will we lose?
The God I believe in and worship knows everything about me…and you. That God calls to ministry those God chooses to call–not those I might want called.
The God I worship reminds me that
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of
you are one in Christ Jesus.
When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your wholehearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.
Coming out…becoming evident…making a debut… May it be so.