Ever since I was a teenager, I have felt called to ministry. Being socialized as a female, the only times I saw women in positions of spiritual authority were either over other women or over children. I never felt called to either of those areas of ministry. I spent my free time taking Bible studies, attending youth camps and retreats, and writing sermons. As time went on, I did try to ignore the pull toward ministry and toward God.
The moment I started attending a local United Methodist Church, my relationship with God changed. This is where I met my current pastor, who has been teaching me about God’s graces and love. My definition of who God is has drastically changed since I began attending. My pastor’s love, acceptance, and affirmation led to spiritual healing for me. As a direct result of that healing, the old familiar pull toward ministry and God returned, this time with a greater sense of urgency, almost like a fire was lit within my soul.
However, I wonder if there is a place for me at the table within the The United Methodist Church. I’m transgender, non-binary, and queer. I don’t believe my ministry would be accepted because of who I am. At least this is how I felt until I attended For Everyone Born.
For Everyone Born was a mountain-top experience for me. Hundreds of United Methodists, either queer or allies, gathered for a national convocation in St. Louis in late June. This was the first event since coming out where I was surrounded by queer, pure, uncorrupted love and acceptance and affirmation. Convocation also showed me something about myself that settled a long-ago question: is there a place for my ministry at the table since I’m queer?
I had the unique privilege of asking Bishop Karen Oliveto a question during a Q&A session:“What advice would you give to a young United Methodist who is queer and is discerning a call to ministry?” Her answer was so powerful and meaningful that later that night I went back and listened to it. I copied it down word for word in my journal so I would forever have that to fall back on. She said, “Develop your call. Test out your ministry. Develop the gifts that God has placed in you so that your life bears fruit. Do not let someone’s ‘no’ be God’s ‘no,’ because there are places where your ministry will be affirmed and valued and a part of the covenant.”
Bishop Oliveto’s response reminded me of Galatians 3:27-29, which says: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” There is a place at the table of God for queer people and their essential and vital ministries. To me, convocation was church exactly how God intended it – all of God’s beloved under one roof worshiping and praising.
For Everyone Born was more than just a gathering to me. It was life-changing. I got to experience God’s church for the first time how it was meant to be: hundreds of queer siblings and our allies worshiping God and being there for one another. It filled a void in my soul. I found my spiritual queer community. I made lasting connections with people I had only spoken with via Facebook, and I made new friends, too.
For Everyone Born left such a lasting impact on me that I decided to get the words tattooed on me in rainbow colors. This way, I will be forever reminded of my precious spiritual queer community and all they have given me. We are a chosen family, and we care deeply for one another. We are in this fight together, my dear precious beloveds of God. Know that you may feel alone, but you have many other queer people in this with you.