I heard my call to ordained ministry when I was 11 years old and began preparing for this vocation from that time on. I was blessed to grow up in a church that wrapped me in unconditional love and acceptance.
Yet, even with that love and acceptance, I grew up feeling as if there was something different about me, that there was something that kept me from full community with others. I didn’t have a name for it. But it made me feel like that woman at the well. Alone. An outcast.
Then I came to PSR and this strangely warmed heart got even more strange.
At first I contributed it to that classic seminary experience of how seminary deconstructs one’s life and faith, pulling the theological rug out from under you and leaving you to rebuild. In the brokenness, I had to face parts of myself that I had long suppressed. I listened to the stories of gay and lesbian students—Deb and Marcy and and Gloria and Fred and John Sam and so many others--and recognized myself. I struggled mightily with this new self-awareness, and when I was finally able to claim my identity and say, “I am a lesbian”, I experienced that peace which passes all understanding. I was made whole, and discovered within me the capacity for community that had always eluded me.
The thing about coming out at PSR meant that there was no real closet. Even when the United Methodist Church demanded that of its queer clergy, PSR taught me to live authentically. Professors like Karen Lebacqz and Roy Sano gave me the intellectual and spiritual tools to live with integrity in an unjust system.
My vocation has included parish and campus ministries in rural and urban settings on the East and West Coasts. I love this calling. I love the invitation to share life with others seeking to understand faithfulness. I love the questions that faith bubbles up within us. I love the daily challenge to risk it all for the sake of love and justice.
And now, I love this moment in my vocation. It feels as if everything I have done, including my time at PSR, has prepared me for the episcopacy as the first openly lesbian bishop. Robin and I have fallen head over heels in love with the people of the Mountain Sky Area, which encompasses 470,000 square miles, and they have embraced us with an enthusiastic hospitality and welcome.
I don’t know what the future holds. At the end of April, the Judicial Council of the UMC will rule on the legality of my election. But PSR has taught me to be bold in my witness, trust the Spirit, and make sure that in all I do I am not only seeking my own liberation, but working in partnership for the liberation of others as together, we live into Beloved Community.
In these days we are living in, when injustice, intolerance, racism, sexism and transphobia and all the -isms that seek to shackle the souls of our siblings seem to multiply with each passing day, may we continue to stand with the most marginalized and seek justice, walk with compassion on this earth, and always be guided by the One who loves us with a love that will never let us go. There is no going back, my friends, from this shared calling we have been given.
Pacific School of Religion
March 18, 2017