Whose voices are we missing?

First of all, I am not Catholic. However, I have been following the news about Pope Benedict’s resignation and the selection process for the new pope with interest.

I think there are some significant possibilities with the first election of a cardinal from outside Europe…the first Jesuit…a man who has lived simply and whose focus is on ministry to the poor…a pope who has taken the name Francis in honor of Francis of Assisi.

However, I have a friend who said this: “I can’t but help think the Catholic Church is poorer due to the absence – no, exclusion – of women from the process of selecting their new leader. And humanity is impoverished by women not being eligible for the role.” That statement got me thinking…

In my own faith tradition, women are involved in active ministry–and have been in significant leadership roles for the last 20 years or so. I know–not a long time in the scheme of things, but still, it was a step forward when ministry was opened to women. When that happened, we began to see new ways of ministry…new ways of relating…new opportunities…and began to realize the important voices we had been missing for many years.

I think we’re at a similar crossroads today in my faith tradition.

Right now, my faith tradition does not allow members of the LGBT community who are in monogamous, committed, long-term relationships–even if they are legally married–to be ordained into formal ministry. Depending on where they live, individuals who may have been previously ordained can have their ministerial credentials removed if they enter into a same-sex relationship. Legal marriages can be recorded, but ministers can not currently perform them (or civil unions), even in areas where that is legal.

And I wonder…

How poor are we because we have not allowed ourselves to hear their voices? to be involved in ministry? How many opportunities have we missed–and are we continuing to miss–because we do not allow some individuals to reach out to others whose struggles they know intimately?

We say that we believe God calls individuals to ministry. If that is indeed true–and there are individuals in our congregations who have had strong testimonies of God’s ministerial call to members of the LGBT community–then I wonder at our arrogance at telling God that those calls are a mistake…that God can’t really mean that.

How many voices are we missing? And how much longer will we miss them?

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