National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an internationally recognized day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The date of October 11th was chosen because it was the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice is celebrating this week with stories from PCUSA inquires and candidates for ordained ministry who gathered this summer to explore their call, support one another, and discover the power of their own voices.
In July, LGBT candidates for ministry held the first retreat since the passage of 10-A which overturned G-6.0106b and adopted inclusive ordination standards. In the first article in the series, Rev. Mieke Vandersall describes how the retreat began and why it was necessary in the first place.
At this year’s retreat, only eight years later we have doubled that number to 35 participants. Over the years we have brought together close to 75 individuals from all across the country. Lifelong friendships have been made, strength has been given, hope has been created, community has been built, and the love of Jesus Christ has been made manifest.
This past July, in rural Georgia, we held the first retreat since the passage of 10A, which overturned G6.0106b and adopted inclusive ordination standards. 35 of us were able to rejoice in the opening that has been created for us to serve God and the denomination we love with honesty and transparency. Over the years I have found that most of the retreat participants have resisted being labeled as “gay pastors”—our identity and sense of call is so much greater. Most just want to be a pastor… who happens to be gay (or transgender). We discussed this difference at length. After eight years, the inquirers and candidates who attend are awakening to the truth that there is some reason that God is calling us lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people—just as we are—to serve Christ in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
We have begun to see our stories not as hindrances to our ministry but assets. The church needs to hear the stories these inquirers and candidates carry within them. They are powerful testimonies to the workings of God in their lives when many in the church have not been able to see it. This year, much of our time together was spent learning to tell our stories. One of our inquirers, Alex McNeill (whose story is included in this series), led us through three different workshops where participants were able to discover the power of their own voices.
Read the full series at Unbound.