Monday, August 13, 2012

A chat with my pastor

I mentioned before that I got a letter from someone in my congregation complaining about my insistence gays should have full rights in the church. Now that I'm over my cold I had a long chat with my pastor about it (chats with her are good but never short). She mentioned a couple things worth relating to you.

She pointed out language from the letter (which I had missed -- I was too focused on the actual complaint) that the letter writer knows I am gay. The pastor says that the outfit I wore (colorful stole, rainbow bandanna) when I told of my General Conference experiences and what I said pretty much removed doubt about my orientation (though I never said anything explicitly about my own orientation). I guess I'm now out. I've been a part of that congregation and its leadership long enough, my pastor says, that people know me and accept me as a person and not as an orientation. As the letter pointed out, that is far different from acceptance of the ideas I pushed in my talk and in the newsletter article.

Nobody has talked to me about my orientation. Those who mentioned my talk say they agree with my goals.

Does a profound disagreement with my orientation affect the reception of my message when I talk about anything else? That's a troubling thought.

The other thing the pastor said (and this is what took most of the time) is that the church is so dysfunctional as a church (or even as a community) that she needs to spend a lot of time over the next year having serious discussions with church committees about what a church should be. Yeah, the committees meet, the morning service happens, the choir is prepared, apple pies get made, a few mission events happen, bills mostly get paid. But the pastor sees an underlying level of anger and she hasn't found the source of it. And such groups as the United Methodist Women are so clannish potential church members decide to go elsewhere. People come to be with their friends or to check off a duty, not to be the distinctive organization known as a church. Because of this pursuing a gay welcoming statement will have to wait until more fundamental changes take place.

I mentioned that I would still like to lead discussions in what it feels like to be included or excluded from a church. She responded by asking when the congregation sees I'm leading these discussions what are they going to think? No matter what kinds of questions I use to get the discussion going the subtext will be, "How does this relate to the gay issue?" She's probably right. Those who should be leading the discussion, she says, are the Welcoming Committee. Which means they are the ones who will be first having the discussion about inclusion.

My most important issue and I feel sidelined.

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