It is Pride Month and I’ve been wanting to share something to honor that, but I have been timid. Then I had the opportunity to hear a panel of LGBTQ Voices at a local Methodist Church sponsored by The Reformation Project (www.reformationproject.org). When asked “How can someone express their support? How can we be good allies?”, one panel member replied that one way to be a good ally is to be ‘a visible ally’. This stirred my heart. Now I am trying to be a better ally by being a more visible ally.
I wrote this piece in 2016 when I first applied to seminary. It seems appropriate to share it here now. As part of the admissions process, I was asked the following question: “What is the most important biblical, theological or ethical question you bring to your studies? What was the most important current book or article you consulted as you reflected on this question?”
This was my response:
I am feeling a call to ministry within the Church, but I am having a hard time accepting this because I do not see the Church today as being truly representative of Jesus.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
I have many questions that I do not yet know how to answer. My first one is, “What did Jesus mean by ‘church’?” I think we are missing a big part of what Jesus intended. We study the word to be the ‘mind of Jesus’, and it seems like the latest movement is to encourage our members to serve others as the ‘hands and feet of Jesus’. As I was first thinking about this essay, I was convinced that we needed to learn how to be the ‘heart of Jesus’ so that we can love the way Jesus loved. Yet, I think we do know how to love. But I think we only know how to love those we see. Maybe we need to learn how to be the ‘eyes of Jesus’ — to see others as Jesus saw them. Once we can do that, I believe we will automatically love them as Jesus loved them.
As I consider a life in ministry, one of my biggest struggles is how I will align myself with a church that cannot see as Jesus saw. In pondering this dilemma, I was drawn to the book Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. In this memoir, Taylor shares about her decision to eventually leave congregational ministry to teach. I think this is the temptation of too many ministers today. I am already tempted to ‘leave church’ and I have not even begun my ministry.
While her reasons for leaving centered around the unrealistic demands of clergy life, this book showed me that I am not alone in my struggles with the church of today. It affirmed that others are struggling with how to love church and love people at the same time. It also reminded me that there is a place for ordained clergy outside traditional church roles. While this reminder was comforting, it seemed to confirm that I am being called to ministry within the church. I feel called to be a bridge between God’s people and the church; to enact reform from within the church rather than from outside.
Rather than join the church or leave the church, maybe we are called to change the church. To become the church God is calling us to be. To be the church of Jesus. Not one with walls and barriers and lines drawn in the sand, but one with the eyes of Jesus (eyes that see) and one with the heart of Jesus (a heart that loves God with all and loves others as thyself).
How do we do that? How do we reconcile the contradictions in scripture? How do we proclaim truth to the ends of the earth when we cannot agree on what that truth is? How do we choose ‘and’ rather than ‘or’? How do we move forward into the future God is calling us to? How do we become the people of God we were created to be? How do we feed God’s sheep? Not just with food for the body, but love and nourishment for the soul? How do we teach them to pray? Not just in worship services, not just corporate recitation, but continually with open hearts and open minds ready to receive all God is ready to give?
My most important theological question is, “How do we become the church Jesus commanded us to be?”
I am headed back to seminary in the fall to see if I can learn more answers to my questions. In the meantime, I will be a visible ally to the unseen. I have always been an ally, but I have not always been visible. That changes now. I am your ally. I see you as Jesus sees you, as God sees you, and I love you as Jesus loves you, as God loves you.
Church, we have work to do!
For more information on how to be a loving and impactful ally:
The Reformation Project – https://www.reformationproject.org
Reconciling Ministries Network – https://rmnetwork.org
John 13:34-35 ~ “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”