Last year, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the biennial Disciples Seminarians Conference at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville. Since I am not a Disciple by birth, I embraced the opportunity to learn more about the general expression of the DOC, and for the most part it was an enriching experience.
There was one moment, however, that was troubling for me. During one of the early workshops it became clear that there were places in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that I would not be welcome because I am a gay man, and I would not get the chance to even be considered for a call. I was deeply disturbed by this “revelation” and left the session quite upset.
Two of my fellow seminarians and Twitter friends from Texas came up to me afterwards and said to me: we have a word from God for you. You need to just say “yes” to God, and not worry about the rest. God will take care of you…it is evident that God has a call on your life, and God knows how to overcome politics. Just say yes, and God will do the rest.
On the final day of the conference, the assembled group of General Church leaders heard a strong message from the assembled seminarians: it is time to say yes to God and open the doors for the LGBTQ community in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to have full inclusion in the church.
John Imbler, my DOC History and Polity professor at Phillips Theological Seminary, stresses the importance of congregational polity as one of the foundational cornerstones of who we are as Disciples, and it is something that I support with 100% of my being. The statement A Movement for Wholeness in a Fragmented World resonates with my soul; it harkens back to that life-changing moment at Lake Harriet Christian Church in Minneapolis in 2004 when I heard that it didn’t matter who I was, that the Disciples welcomed everyone at the table. Yet, sometimes, I wonder if we hide behind that polity in order to avoid dealing with divisive issues in the church, and I cringe when I hear the above-mentioned statement, because we struggle with being whole as a church when it comes to LGBTQ issues.
There is a plaque that sits in my home office that reads anything is possible if you say yes to God. It was made for me by a member at Garden City Christian Church after I shared my story there last fall. Our region (Upper Midwest) said yes to God in 2008 when it lifted the ban on ordination of LGBT clergy. I, in turn, said yes to God a year later when my Regional Minister (along with several clergy) approached me about the call on my life and that it was time for me to go to seminary. And, in case you are wondering, I did say yes to God last year at Seminarians Conference, and it has been a rich journey (with a few bumps to keep things lively).
Are we ready as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to believe that anything is possible if you say yes to God?