Today, I had the chance to interview RMN’s Executive Director, Jan Lawrence. With her birthday coming up, I wanted folks to know a little more about the remarkable person at the helm of this organization. Here are her answers to my questions:
What do you love most about The UMC?
I came to The UMC as an adult. I joined a church that I knew had an affirming policy toward LGBTQ people. I loved my church’s focus on work in the local community and also the way the global Church engages with mission on a broader scale: through hospitals, UMCOR, colleges, or universities. I love these parts of The UMC most.
Why do you do the work you do, especially when things get hard?
Because it’s so vital to the lives of so many people. I look at the suicide rate of young LGBTQ people and realize the incredible impact it would have if the Church could say, “We love you, and you’re welcome here.”
What do you love most about working for RMN?
I love the people. The people who work there and the people I have the opportunity to be in ministry with.
Where do you see RMN in 3-5 years?
My vision for RMN is that we are a resource for the Church that has taken the first steps to becoming fully inclusive – for example, for ministers who believe they have their first LGBTQ congregants or congregants with a child questioning their sexual identity or gender identity.
The Church has missed so many opportunities that came with the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S., for example, and the expansion of the definition of family. The UMC has done little to try and help its congregations expand the definition of family for their own congregations.
What advice would you give to young queer clergy or LGBTQ folks discerning ordination?
Follow your call. You will not go wrong. God will lead you.
What advice do you have for someone reconciling their faith and sexuality?
I would tell them that there’s nothing to reconcile. God has blessed each of us with a sexual orientation and a gender identity. And your individual faith is bigger than the institution. It’s the institution that we struggle with so much, not the body of Christ.
What’s your church like?
Warm, welcoming, and messy. I did a lot of ministry with my church before I came to RMN. I learned that the church is messy. Ministry is done by volunteers. Things are frequently not black and white. Ministry is frequently undertaken without the money to do it. Church is messy, and that’s the beauty of the Church. When we try to put too much structure and programming around that, we forget to be relational.
What’s your family like?
About the same as my church! Warm, welcoming, and messy. My spouse Lindi and I live in Washington, D.C. I grew up in rural Georgia in the Southern Baptist Church. Most of my family is still in that area. Lindi’s family is not too far from there.
We moved up to D.C. to stay for one year, but that was ten years ago. We’ve actually lived on Capitol Hill for ten months. We love the church that we have there and the friends we’ve made through that church. It’s a fun place to be.
We have a seven or eight year-old Welsh terrier named Higgins who’s great but hates riding in the car. And we’re on the road a lot. We can’t imagine what it would be like without him.
If someone knew you really well, they’d know you love…
New adventures of many kinds! Travel, this job…
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
The UMC has an incredible opportunity in front of it to be different from the other mainline denominations that have gone through their own debates over LGBTQ people and their role in the Church.
We now have an opportunity to be a Church that is a witness for what it means to be welcoming to everyone and to be willing to be in ministry of those who are on the margins of our society, no matter who they are. I would love to see us realize that. I would love to see a God moment where we really realize that this is a justice issue. If we are a justice-seeking Church, then welcoming all into the Church is a part of the mission of the Church.
We have a chance during this special called General Conference to do the right thing.
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