Recently, I gathered with family. Not the family I was born into (although they're pretty great too) but the family that chose me when I was accepted at Vanderbilt Divinity School and took up residence in the Disciples Divinity House in 2006. A few weeks ago, almost 20 ordained Disciples of Christ clergy (most of whom I came to know and love before they were "clergy," during that ever important drink-margaritas-and-sing-hymns-on-the-front-steps-at-midnight stage in their clergy development) gathered in Nashville to reconnect and reflect on our journeys in ministry thus far.
I was not surprised that our time together in Nashville was good for my soul. It didn't shock me that I could pick up right where I left off even though I hadn't seen some of these folks in several years. I expected the deep sense of homecoming, the sensation of being back with loved ones....it was wonderful; it was life-giving, but it wasn't a surprise.
What I wasn't prepared for though, what shook me to my core, was the overwhelming sense of gratitude I felt when several of my peers in ministry shared stories of how they have lived out their call to be an ally with me on my journey as an openly GLBTQ clergy person.
I cannot speak for all folks who serve the church while also living outside of the dominant conceptions of gender and sexuality, but I have subconsciously learned to function with the expectation that there will almost always be someone in the room who disagrees with foundational pieces of my identity. Whether they think it's sinful to be gay or whether they are shocked by the fact that a young woman can be clergy, whether they've been hurt by Christians or wounded by those in a position of religious leadership, my 5'6'' frame often represents a whole lot of "baggage" and strong opinions for at least a few folks in our world. Because of this, I have become skilled at operating with at least a bit of defensiveness and an eye toward self preservation in most situations.
And so a few weeks ago when we gathered, I wasn't ready, wasn't prepared, for the casual retelling of moments, the sharing of stories, from several of my straight clergy colleagues. They spoke of encounters when they had risked their own privilege, jeopardized their own power, to stand in solidarity with me and with other GLBTQ folks within our denomination and within the church at large. They didn't share in order to boast; they weren't proud of themselves; they simply described decisions they've made in their ministries.
Some of the stories were small--they were about one-on-one conversations with parishioners, subtle sermon references to equality and love, but--all these weeks later--I still carry each of these stories with me. I am so very thankful for those who choose to walk along side me, who raise their voices even when I do not feel safe to do so.
Tonight I celebrate the allies, those who stand beside, who journey with, who with their words and sermons, actions and leadership, turn our world toward justice, toward peace, toward the kingdom.