Something personal

Being a gay church leader

The participants at the church retreat had been talking about their families, new grandkids, vacations and pending retirements. The facilitator had asked us to share something personal. I’d shared personal stuff in church groups before. But this time my heart sank and my shoulders slumped. I could feel a shroud of fear and disgrace coming over me. Share something personal? Why? How? What? With bishops in the room?

What could I share? Talking about my home with my life-partner, Doug, was not safe. Revealing my sexual orientation at that meeting, with my bishop present, would mean censure and the necessity of leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s clergy roster.

The church’s Visions and Expectations document for rostered church leaders was clear: you can be homosexual, just don’t act on it. Remain celibate. “Practicing” homosexuals are not welcome in the rostered leadership.


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