“What if they won’t ordain you?”
“You could leave the Presbyterian Church [USA] . . . that is what people are doing in other churches and that’s leaving a shortage in qualified people for the ministry and that sends a message too.”
Both of these statements were said to me by two people that mean a lot to me. The first was said to me by Nancy, a friend of mine from my church and a retired PC (USA) minister. She posed this question to me one night when we were discussing the fact that I wanted to go into the ministry. We had discussed the difficulty of being both a woman and being ordained in the Presbyterian Church.
The respect for women ministers as a part of the profession and a qualified one at that is still maturing since women have only been ordained into the ministry since around the 1970s. Then there is the added difficulty that I face of not only being a woman but also being a lesbian.
What will I do if they won’t ordain me?
I could leave, like my beloved aunt Janet suggested, but what good would that do? To me that is almost like telling the homophobic people in the Presbyterian Church that they have won and that what they think is right. And that the exclusiveness that they preach is O.K.
With this in mind, what am I going to do?
I can’t leave the Presbyterian Church (USA), because I love her too much. It is what I was born and raised in. It is the church that I feel 100% at home in because I have found a welcoming and affirming church, in the town I attend college. I have also found a welcoming campus ministry that I am out in and who are very loving and supportive of me.
I cannot leave, because even if I myself cannot receive ordination in the church that I love then I will be part of the reason why the next generation of gay and lesbians who wish to be ordained clergy will be. I hope that, if I do not get ordained, that my work will allow the next generation of gay and lesbians who wish to be ordained do not have to live a life where they must worry about their orientation somehow negating their faith and their gifts in the eyes of some members of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
In closing I’d like to leave you with a poem I wrote on this subject, since poetry is my main writing outlet I couldn’t leave this out. Also I think that it makes a great conclusion to the idea of standing firm and the difference it can make.
I could leave
leave out of frustration
and anger and disappointment
Or I could do what’s called for
help change along
For change can only –
world change can
only be done one place
one person at a time
all it takes is one by one
the longest journey
starts with one step
one foot before the other
one pants leg at a time
all it takes is one one
one one one
one of “them” being helpful
one of “them” being real
one of “them” being someone you love
one of “them” being someone that loves you
all it takes is one one one
A member of the Presbyterian Church, Jennifer Felix wrote for Whosoever while attending the University of North Texas and planning to enter seminary.