You’ve seen those Galleries of Former Pastors in church buildings: professionally-taken photos of mostly men line the hallways and parlor walls of church buildings. Occasionally, there might be a woman, but most of the images are of male pastors who have served Since The Beginning.
These are excellent days to be bold in our faith – especially if we are seeking a new pastor.
Although there are pastor nominating committees who say that they are totally open to The Spirit in discerning their next leaders, they tend to seek leaders who look like their past leaders. Male. Married to a woman. Skin color matching the current majority of members.
Please don’t tell me you hope to become “a more diverse congregation” and then call someone who doesn’t represent a demographic that affirms that hope.
There are more than 230 More Light congregations in my denomination (i.e. churches working “for the full participation of LGBTQIA+ people in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and in society.”) And very few of these congregations have ever had a pastor who identifies as LGBTQIA+. This is curious to me.
If our congregation identifies as “More Light” and we are open to calling pastors who can be their true selves as leaders of our church, then why aren’t we calling LGBTQIA+ pastors?
The majority of our congregations in my denomination are White. Most are 100% White. If everybody in your community/town/county is White, then your congregation will be 100% White. Of course.
And if our communities are increasingly Black, Brown, Golden, or a mixture of all skin colors, and we are serious about “reaching out into the community” then why haven’t we seriously considered calling a pastor who doesn’t look like the majority demographic?
If you are a congregation who can call a Queer pastor (in a majority Straight church) or Brown pastor (in a majority White church) or a Spanish-speaking pastor (in a majority English-speaking church with Spanish-speaking neighbors) or a Korean-speaking pastor (in a majority English-speaking church with Korean-speaking neighbors) then please do it.
You are the ones who can actually do this. So please do it. And if you – predominantly straight White English-speaking churches – are looking for great candidates who happen to be LGBTQIA+ or People of Color who speak multiple languages, contact me today. I will introduce you to some of the finest pastors in the world.
Image of the Wall of Fame found in a wonderful church in Grand Haven, MI. This post is inspired by SB.
I cannot possibly thank you enough for speaking this truth. Open, welcoming congregations are NOT calling LGBTQ pastors – some even admitting the reason why. I’m a living, breathing, heartbroken example.
Second Nashville had a wall of fame prior to the fire that greeted my arrival. They were able to save one picture. So every day, on the way up to my office, I had to walk by the icon of John Leith.
People are still in the “not in my neighborhood,”thinking which also trickles down in the churches as “not in my church.”
You’re right Doris.
Just a little story — for three years I was contacted by nearly 50 PNC’s who were open to calling a first time pastor to work outlined in their MIF. Often it matched my own PIF so closely that I wondered if the same Spirit had written both. The most difficult interview was one that didn’t take place. A PNC member called to see if I would be interested in interviewing with this particular church. I was. We had a short conversation about “what a match we were looking at!” Because of a couple of earlier disappointing turns of conversation after two or three interviews, I decided to unveil the “elephant in the room.” The issue, and that it should be an issue, is as disappointing to churches as it is to prospective pastors. I told him,right up front, that his PNC should know that my partner and I (over forty years unmarried and now wedded both legally and officially within the PCUSA) are a same-sex couple.
It was quiet on his end of the line. Then he assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem for him, probably not for any of the PNC members, but he noted that our situation might be an issue for some in the congregation. He thought that could be worked out, but the worst was that we would not be safe occupying the manse in their little town . Though I thought what a witness we
(church and clergy) could make, he believed it could “never happen.” We consoled one another for half an hour and concluded our conversation with him in tears and me in prayer. Since that time I have taken several months to consider what God is actually calling me to … I am seriously considering what we name as “other validated ministry.” Through it all I continue to find God’s grace in ministering with individuals whom I encounter in a variety of settings where they are seeking comfort, guidance, and other signs of God’s loving care and purpose for them. It is not what I’d expected for these later years of my life, but it comes with intense reassurance of God’s loving care and purpose for me.
I’m so grateful for you and your gifts but my heart breaks for what this church and community missed out on. God is indeed loving and I pray that love is manifested in a call where you are valued for the whole of who you are. (Send me your PIF.)