I was looking at the conversation of a Facebook friend a couple of days ago, and she made mention of me without mentioning my name ("I have a friend who is a Lutheran minister who is gay..."). The response she received from her Catholic-in-Conservative-Cause-only was "Gay people can't be men or women of God..." without any additional explanation.
Why should this have bothered me so much? I know there are a huge number of people that feel some level of this all over the world, and I need to accept that there will always be a large number of people who feel this way; but there will continue to be people who change their opinion as well.
Last summer, I did my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, which is effectively acting as a chaplain in an environment such as a hospital where people are in crisis and life and death events happen on a daily basis. I was assigned to a nursing center outside a city in the Southeast; where I was joined in a team of five other people who were taking this required course. One of the other members was an older woman, an ordained Baptist pastor. I was not aware of it through the summer, but I was to find out at the end of summer that she had never accepted my being gay as being compatible with the ministry and worked with me in disbelief. It was not until getting to know me and watching me work, that she really felt that my call was as legitimate as hers.
I am a firm believer that the Holy Spirit is active in people's lives, and that God uses each of us in our own different ways. I did in fact feel a call to the ministry in adolescence--the people I admired were ministers, I could see myself going to seminary and being a minister. Bear in mind however, that this time was also a time of great hormonal change in me too; and I had desires that every external message I was getting was telling me that not only was I incompatible with the ministry, but acting on "homosexuality" was contrary to being a Christian entirely. Combine hormonal rage with the lack of self-control frequently associated with ADHD (especially as a child) and there was simply no "praying the gay away". Praying to God for relief from my feelings brought me instead self-acceptance and realization that God made me the way I was, I was not possessed by some demon of homosexuality. I just had to get away from the predominate belief system of mainline Christianity in the 1980s which condemned me to eternal damnation for not possessing far too little desire for the opposite gender and far too much for my own.
But I was never able to "latch on" to any religious identity. I found every expression of faith that I tried to be insincere and incapable of giving me the spiritual strength and guidance that I desperately needed, especially at the worst moments of my life. Now that is not to say that I do not believe that He was watching over me all that time; not only can I pinpoint moments in my life where God's grace brought me from point A to point B; but I was even then aware of the presence of a divine spirit. I just refused to accept it under the names I had learned as a child.
It took me over twenty years to find my way back into the fold of the family of Christ; and no sooner had I arrived that I was swept up by the Holy Spirit once more and knew where my vocation lie. This all occurred at the same time the ELCA 2009 churchwide assembly voted to permit ministers in committed monogamous same-sex relationships.
Today I read scripture with new eyes, with the understanding that God would not have called me if I was to be condemned for who I am. Romans, chapter 1 is about cultic sex done at pagan temples, people are literally exchanging desires. That's not about me.
Other Pauline texts have been translated based on assumptions about the meanings of words drawn out of the middle ages, a thousand years after they were written. Modern scholarship casts doubt on whether Paul is condemning people who engage in same-sex behavior, and we can be sure that Paul had no knowledge of the concept of a modern same-sex committed relationship. Knowing what I know about God in my life, that doubt is enough for me to know that nothing in the bible can legitimately, in Jesus' name, to be taken to condemn me for who I am.
This career was not a choice that I would have made, and a small part of me often fears what it is I am getting into, of the things and people I will have to deal with when I am sent out into the world. I have no idea where God is going to take me, given the heard-heartedness of so many Christians out there who refuse to be moved from archaic and simplistic understanding of biblical texts. I have accepted this, however, having faith that I am being guided in a direction both for my life and for the lives of those I will be serving.
God calls who He calls, and it is not for individuals to claim they know better than God.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."