Each Annual Conference has unique characteristics and foibles, but all share in the joy of ordaining new servant leaders. One of the distinguishing parts of the Louisiana Annual Conference is how everyone dresses. Many conferences see delegates in khakis and polo shirts, but in Louisiana everyone put outs on their Sunday dresses, seersucker and linen suits, church hats, bowties and high heels! At no moment was the Conference better dressed then the service of ordination and commissioning of new clergy.
I was especially blessed by the ordination of a good friend this year. I
knew Katie in seminary and am always excited to hear about her amazing ministry. Katie is one of the greatest preachers I’ve ever known, with a huge smile and a firm understanding of God’s love that is great enough to cover every single person. But what really sets Katie apart is her fearless proclamation of God’s justice for all people.
Katie was active in seminary in worker rights, and has repeatedly spoken up for inclusion of all persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. In the moment when the bishop laid his hands upon her and said “take your authority,” I wondered if he, or I, have any idea what great things this young woman is going to do with God in her Ministry.
Whenever a woman is ordained, I am filled with hope. Only 25 years before I was born, the Methodist general conferences voted to bestow full clergy rights upon women. Many brave men and women spoke up against assumptions of the superiority of male leadership and unfounded accusations of deviating from the Gospel as they worked for gender equality in the church. Even after women were admitted as clergy persons, detractors claimed this “radically progressive” rejection of patriarchy would kill the church. Many today use similar arguments to justify the institutionalized homophobia which prevents openly gay and lesbian men and women from serving in our Church.
Therefore, each time a woman is ordained, I remember the past movement away from injustice and towards God’s radical, perfect and complete love. When strong, prophetic and skilled women like Katie are ordained, I have no doubt in God’s great plan and hope for the United Methodist Church. Change is frightening, but God’s love is faithful. Before things change it might feel impossible, but we can always trust God to do new things. We WILL see a day when discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity will no longer be codified in our Book of Discipline. We will ordain women and men, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons all alike, and we will continue to work for the kin-dom where no category or division limits participation, and God’s church will be full of ALL PEOPLE.