I've been asked a lot over the past week what the decisions made at Churchwide would mean for myself and my congregation. It's kind of funny, really, that after all of these years of praying, begging, cajoling and demonstrating, the answer is actually "not a whole lot."
Oh, and also, "a whole lot." Great Lutheran paradox, that.
My congregation already has a pastor in a "same gender, life-long, monogamous, publicly accountable relationship." Okay, I'm fudging "publicly accountable" a little, since we are waiting until we live in the same state to take the ELCA up on its support of our getting married (they'd never say "married," but I can. Married married married. That's what they voted on and they know it.).
Our congregation is under censure by our Synod (the regional body--in this case Missouri and Kansas). Under the terms of our censure, we're not allowed to serve on committees of the synod or churchwide expressions. Which does leave us feeling a little cut off, and provides a great excuse to stop paying benevolence to the Synod--which I'm proud to say we have not done. We have done our best to stay in relationship with the larger church, and I'd say it has been mainly mutual. Bishop Mansholt has been expecially gracious in extending a hand of friendship to Abiding Peace.
But being under censure for eight years kind of sucks, and we'll be glad to have it lifted.
And I will be glad to stop suffering the little indignities that arise so often, especially around the first weekend in June, when the whole Synod meets in Assembly. I'll be glad to receive mail from the larger church addressed to "Rev. Donna Simon." I've been ordained almost nine years; I think it would be nice to be addressed properly. Someone in the Synod office actually works overtime making sure that I know that he or she doesn't recognize my ordination. I get mail addressed to "Ms. Donna Simon." If you left off the "Ms.," I'd just think you weren't using titles, and blow it off. But "Ms." says what it is intended to say: "This is the best you're going to get from us."
We submitted a resolution to the Synod Assembly this year, signed by over a hundred people. When it appeared in the Assembly notebook, I notice that my name was one space off of the line at the left margin. This was because they had deleted "Rev." from in front of my name, and hadn't gotten it pulled all the way back to the margin.
Little indignities. Sitting in the back. Not having a title. Sometimes not even having a name. I saw a dear friend, Pastor Karen Parker, at Churchwide. We had a class together while I was in seminary--a writing class with Brian Wren--go ahead and be jealous, those who know who Brian Wren is. I have seen Karen around the church over the years, and it was so nice to see her. We were chatting and she asked for my email address, which I started to give her. Then she said, "Oh, I'll just look you up in the Directory. I raised an eyebrow and she quickly realized why. "I guess I can't do that," she said. "Soon," I said, and we both smiled.
It will be nice to be in the Directory. It will be nice to maybe even get to help lead worship sometime at a Synod Assembly. Other than those things, not much changes for me. I'm already called as an out pastor, and I am committed to seeing our church grow and flourish.
I love that the opportunities for call will come to others, though. I love that I can say I'm proud of one of the churches which is extending a true hand of love and hospitality to God's lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gay children.
What does this mean? All are welcome in this place.