I am part of the first Open & Affirming Church in the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Fireside Christian Church has made more difference in my life than I can describe.
I was finishing work on my M.Div at the Iliff School of Theology and working as Youth Minister at South Broadway Christian Church when I realized that I am a lesbian. Eight years after my ordination in 1982 the region passed a resolution to prohibit the ordination of homosexuals. The people initiating this resolution were loud and unkind. I was later told that it was really set up to give voice to the discontent in the people believing that the church was too liberal. They chose this issue because they knew they could win.
Fireside was born a few years after the resolution. We gathered to share our pain and our vision of a different kind of church. The people of Fireside, my faith community and my family, have given me strength and love and support without condition. With the incredible love and support I received from my church, I became strong enough to be honest about who I am and as a result, lost my standing in this region.
For ten and a half painful years, Fireside was the place that I continued to be accepted and supported and my relationship with my partner continued to be celebrated. Members of Fireside were arrested in Soulforce nonviolent actions, gave presentations at regional and general church events, and stood with me at all times. Their commitment to change was stronger than mine, their outrage was clearer than mine, their love was tangible and powerful. They helped me know that God had not given up on me.
Because of the tenacity of Fireside and other amazing people in the region, I received my standing back in 2007. Honestly, I had worked so hard to convince myself that it didn’t matter, I went through the process to honor the work of the faithful who had made it possible. The gift of the affirmation of my ministry came with unexpected joy and reconciliation.
Because of the regular time spent celebrating the Lord’s Supper at Fireside’s Table of Love, because I have a community of faith that gives the opportunity for mission and growth, because I have been surrounded by unconditional love, I am walking toward wholeness and healing in remarkable ways.
I cannot imagine my life without being part of an Open & Affirming Church. As church, we call each other to grow in faith, to love God by serving others. It is love brought into action. Over and over again, I thank God for my brothers and sisters who have loved me when I was broken, accepted me when I was bitter, forgiven me when I hurt them, and let me serve them when they needed me.
God has called us to sit at the table together. I look forward to the day that we all sit together without thinking of issues that are trivial and focus on what we are called to do in our ministries. I have a long way to go in my quest to love and accept and celebrate everyone who joins me at the table, but I am closer to having that heart of love because of my time at the Table of Love. God has given me a gift that I will always be grateful for, a community of faith that has allowed me to learn and grow, that has given me support and challenge, and has stood by my side.
I have learned new ways to love at the Table of Love. I pray that the day will come when all of God’s children find such a table in their lives.