I must admit that I have been blown by the spirit some these past few years. Not in the way we often think of this - tossed about willy-nilly - but rather, blown from places of NO to places of MAYBE and now places of YES! I experience this as being born of the Spirit. It brings a grace that allows me to remain engaged even in the face of some odd moments and opportunities. Let me tell you a bit more about what I mean.
In January I went to the Emerge! Minister's Conference in Orlando, FL. This is something I am required to do as I work toward getting my ordination recognized by Rochester Genesee Region of the ABC-USA. What I had avoided (for fear of a slogging) between 1998 and 2004, and what I was denied from 2005-2012 (after I came out), was an amazing grace-filled time with friends familiar and new! From the moments when people (like Roy Medley) looked down at my "new minister" tag and said, "What is that? You aren't a new minister," to the conversations about AWAB with people who had never heard about us, it was a time of the Spirit making mischief and blowing me across boundaries unforeseen.
Here are a few highlights that I can share...
- I had an amazing conversation with folks from International Ministries about international partnerships and the possibility of working with IM as we support inclusive Baptists globally. I had an amazing conversation with Pat Hernandez, Director of Women in Ministry, about how gender and sexuality are intrinsically tied. We shared our delight in the new Women's Caucus (approved in October!) and will be dreaming about what can come next.
- I had many conversations with people from across the denomination about AWAB's ministry of inclusion and how we are not looking for homogeneity within the ABC-USA, but rather how we simply want to be included as equals. Many of my conversations recognized the pain from the past as well as the places that remain painful still. Many involved the pain around racism from within the LGBTQ community and how we can build bridges to healing.
From Florida I went to Denver to meet with a funder and from there I went to the Bay Area in CA for our Welcoming Church Program Leader's meeting.
Here are the highlights from that part of the trip...
- I preached at Shell Ridge Community Church in Walnut Creek, CA. It is always a delight to be with friends!
- I met with Moa Imchen, a Ph.D. student at ABSW from Nagaland who is the incoming chair of the Asian Caucus in the ABC-USA. He is a W&A pastor and is looking to help open the conversation within the Asian Pacific Islander community with us.
- I lunched with the Bay Area clergy and met Tim Brown, the new Executive Director of Growing Healthy Churches, a new non-geographic region that came out of the conservative split in CA. The story is too long to share here but he and I exchanged information and will be looking at how GHC and AWAB might partner on church planting and clergy health. The Spirit blows where it will!
- Perhaps my favorite conversation on this trip was with Don Ng, the new President of the ABC-USA. He is a true ally and friend and has said he will be the president of ALL American Baptists, not just some! This is a powerful word being brought to the denomination by a prophetic leader who is truly born of the Spirit.
I cannot tell you where these conversations will lead but I can tell you that the wind is blowing within and among us in new and powerful ways! The line from John I quoted is taken from a larger passage where Jesus is visited at night by Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and the powerful dialogue ensues about the Kingdom of heaven and how we must be "born from above." Jesus is trying to tell Nicodemus that all of the Law cannot confine the Spirit no matter how hard the Temple leaders may want to.
Our witness has been the same these past 40 years, the Spirit will blow and be with those whom are born from above regardless of their sexual or gender identity and expression. I pray that our faithfulness to this witness will bring a great harvest of hope, peace, and grace in 2014.
Honored to serve you!