There is rarely an incentive for Queer clergy to continue in vocational ministry, but many of us continue to blaze the trail
In the past, I served a congregation in Kentucky that was and continues to struggle with their commitment to LGBTQIA+ inclusion. This community, as much as I dearly love them, was often difficult to serve when explicit space wasn’t made for Queer congregants or clergy. I served this congregation during a period of visioning, and I was able to see church-wide survey results about Queer inclusion in the pastorate. Most were affirming of Queer folx, but there were some that hurt to read. To see in black and white that there are folks that think I am not qualified for a clerical position because of my sexual orientation and/or sexual activity was not easy. It isn’t easy for us. Let’s face it: this isn’t just one congregation. This is something Queer clergy are dealing with everywhere.
“Affirming” is overused and abused
There are so many congregations that use that word “Affirming” these days. It is, in my opinion, a word that is overused. Many Queer folx can attest to the fact that when a church says they’re “affirming,” it generally just translates to “gay marriage is okay.” For many congregations in the process of becoming affirming, they will even say that they still uphold strict monogamy, celibacy for the unwed, and a strict opposition to diverse relationship dynamics, even if they are healthy and consensual. To be a Queer clergy person right now is to continue hiding parts of your identity in the closet.
Our Identity Disqualifies
For many Queer clergy, it is exhausting how congregations rarely rake us seriously. In the same survey I read about Queer clergy, someone said it was okay for a Queer person to be an assistant or associate, but NOT the senior pastor. What does that say to the Queer clergy? Our sexuality or identity is a disqualification? For so many aspects of our ministry, our identity somehow becomes a disqualification. Even for folks that say they’re affirming; I can guarantee a large percentage would still feel uncomfortable voting for a Queer person into their church’s leadership.
Queer Leadership is Critiqued HARSHLY
I have no research to back this up, so sorry gaslighters. However, for those who have experienced this and for those that trust my experience, this part is so important. For Queer folx, problems come up more often under our leadership. Folx complain more often. Typically, homophobia will manifest in an unrelated issue such as our leadership skills or our choices. For me, I have been questioned and corrected for things because I didn’t do something the way straight folx did it. For Queer folx, everything is critiqued. It is critiqued much more harshly. So much of that is pure homophobia. If you’re straight, even if an ally, think about ways in which you criticize Queer people for doing things differently.
What else can straight folx in the church do to fix this?
Let me be clear that my job is not to teach you how your straightness makes my life exhausting, but I have a few recommendations to get you started.
- Listen more and talk less
- Stop Gaslighting
- Create designated space for Queer clergy and their ideas
- Call people out
- Unlearn a whole bunch of shit
- Give Queer voices a platform
- the list goes on but I don’t have the energy
For so many of the openly Queer clergy out there (which is very few), incentive to serve congregations is very slim. If the church wants to see young people become a part of their institutions again, they’re gonna have to come a’beggin’ to the Queer community with reparations and a listening ear. Some of us continue to serve the Church as much as we possibly can, but time is running out. The Church MUST do the work.
Amen & Amen.