Christ’s Body, Broken Again

Two days ago, I got a phone call from a very dear seminary friend, Annie (who has requested that I use her name). Annie is one of the most qualified pastors I know–she’s intelligent and passionate and compassionate; she’s musical and gentle and wise; she leads with love and integrity. I honestly believe that when you look servant leadership up in a dictionary, her picture is there. She is everything a pastor can and should be, and on paper is one of the most effective pastors in her conference. Annie is a local pastor, not on track for ordination, because she won’t refuse to answer a certain don’t-ask-don’t-tell question that gets asked.

Until Sunday.

On Sunday, Annie self-avowed in her sermon, that is to say that she told her congregation that she is married to another woman. In our denomination, “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals shall not be ordained as clergy, accepted as candidates, or appointed to serve [as pastors]…” (United Methodist Book of Discipline, 2000, Para. 304.c). Annie was preaching on “what can they give in exchange for their souls,” and felt that she could not give up her own integrity to keep her job.

Did I mention I adore this woman? She is one of the bravest people I know.

She feels wonderful, free. She says she never has to be afraid again, or lie again, or look at her wife (I didn’t know they’d gotten hitched, so whee!) and know that she’s hiding part of their relationship. I’m so proud of her and so happy for her.

At the same time, I’m saddened by the loss of her ministry as a local pastor and ashamed of our church that does this to her (a church she won’t leave because she loves it so much). And more passionate about making some sort of progress, whatever that is.

Annie is in the New England Conference, which is under the leadership of Bishop Peter Weaver, who is the same Bishop that defrocked Rev. Beth Stroud in Pennsylvania when she came out, so there’s little doubt that he’ll waste any time taking Annie’s license away. Although she thinks she might also be part of God’s speaking to Bishop Weaver: “alright, son, let’s try this again and see if you can get it right this time.”

Anyway, if it hits the news, know that I know her and love her and think she’s the strongest, bravest, most gifted pastor I’m privileged to know.

Everything about her is compatible with the life and love of Christ.

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