So you're gay and ordained. What challenges you? Helps?

The title says it all. Since I’m gay, ordained and out, I thought I should bring up the subject.

This is an open post for ordained gay men and lesbians. What are your challenges? What could help you in your ministry? What has been offered to help that doesn’t help? What advice would you give a gay man or lesbian entering ministry today? You may post anonymously if you leave a real email address. As always, these are confidential but I might email you to confirm or to ask a follow-up.

This is not an opening for debating homosexuality; there is place for that elsewhere and it rarely produces anything constructive. I’m offering a space for a little constructive sharing. Argumentative and trolling comments will be deleted.

(Bisexuals are welcome too, because there’s little forum for bisexuals, but I think they have a different situation.)

2 Replies to “So you're gay and ordained. What challenges you? Helps?”

  1. The challenges are many, but have been chaging rapidly over the last 8 years I’ve been in ministry (6 in paid lay ministry, 2 in ordained ministry). When I started out the only options were MCC, the UUA, and the small pool of UCC churches that were open and affirming. Today, in my community, there are churches with out gay/lesbian ministers affiliated with not only the MCC, UUA, and a rapidly growing cohort of UCC; but also the Episcopal Church, FUM-Quakers, Baptists (Alliance of Baptists and American Baptists), independent Congregationalists, etc.. The options for community of ministerial service have expanded tremendously and quickly, which can feel dizzying when discerning which community to commit to. I have no advice to would be ministers in this area, except to hold on tight and try to prevent these rapid changes from taking you unaware. Callings you never seriously considered could one day become quite feasible.

    I have still found challenges, even in very liberal churches, around parents being comfortable with a youth pastor who is gay. Catholic sex scandal backlash? Maybe, but not at all fair. Our youth are just as vulnerable to abuse from a youth pastor of the opposite sex, as from the same sex. Every youth pastor has to maintain a high level of ethics, and boundaries.

    I have been concerned about the number of my gay/lesbian colleagues who have left congregational ministry for healthcare chaplaincy, because of latent homophobia lingering in the congregations that knowingly called a gay/lesbian pastor. This leads to emotional burn-out in the face of soft spoken bigotry.

    I’ve been concerned about the way in which affirming churches and denominations have rallied around the cause of gay marriage, but who still treat a gay pastor plus partner as not really being married (often treated as if they were just dating). In other words, they try to demand time as if this pastor were single and dating, and become rather heartless around the pastor asserting a need for family time. I’ve noticed my straight and married colleagues getting much better support from their congregations around issues of maintaining family time. Which is not to say that they always have it easier, but even very liberal churches still have a tendency to view the straight male pastor with a wife and kids as a premium commodity to have and keep on staff. It just looks so “normal” and “respectable”, and they almost instinctively want to nurture that version of family.

    And at a personal level, when I was still dating, there was the problem of finding a guy willing to date a future pastor. The tensions around religion within the gay community can be difficult to deal with if you’ve already committed to a life of religious service. In the end I just had to stop dating the secular types, or those who said they were spiritual but not religious. Inevitably they found my commitments made me too religious for their comfort. I will say that Episcopalians were all the best boyfriends I ever dated. Not a stinker in the bunch.

  2. I’m not so sure that bisexuals do have different issues if ordained. I’m not personally ordained (United Methodist) but am choosing a lay position instead. However, I have friends that are ordained in the UMC that are gay/lesbian/bi and they all face the same issues. How much do you say or not say to people, knowing that if anyone freaks out they can turn you in to the powers that be? How much can you talk about your personal life, and if you have a partner, how do you explain having a “roommate” in the parsonage? Of course, these are all issues for clergy folk in denominations that don’t “allow” it to happen. In the Unired Methodist Church, we have the Reconciling Ministries Network (www.rmnetwork.org) and they put together a letter signed by 76 closeted clergy to the Judicial Council in response to a biggoted ruling. The only thing that might make things different for bisexuals is if they happen to be in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender and choose not to say anything about sexual orientation, but it doesn’t change who they are – just how other people perceive them!

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