-by Mary Ann Kaiser-

As a teenager I left the UMC for a hip nondenominational church where I learned, because of my gender, I was not qualified
to be a minister. My youth director was kind enough to point me in the
direction of 1 Corinthians 14, and there it was—women should remain silent in church. So I decided I’d marry a
pastor (male, obviously) so I could sneak my way into leadership.

The next chapter led me back to the UMC where a more
open-minded theology and biblical interpretation invited me to reconsider what
I had come to believe about my call. It took me about two years of struggling
with all I had been taught about a women’s
role in the church
to move past it, but thanks to a supportive home church,
I managed to find my way to accepting the call I felt God placed on my life.

The UMC was a means of liberation from the sexist views I
had come to accept. I then move on to my year in Nigeria and following, seminary.
Seminary was a continuation of the liberation I needed. I was introduced to
Feminist, Liberation, and Queer Theology. The new theological frameworks helped
me grow further into my identity as a capable woman, but also as a lesbian. It
was theology that helped me come out and understand myself as beloved in all
aspects of my identity. In telling my story, it ends on a happy note:
liberation, coming out, freedom! And then I wrap it up with a nice bow about
being in my current church position as a youth director and justice associate.

There have been some serious bumps and bruises along the last
few years, of course, but the way I share my story is authentic in my gratitude
for what the UMC and theology have offered me. However, it didn’t hit me until
I found myself in worship this Sunday reflecting on my story that I have come
full circle—The UMC that freed me from sexism to pursue my call to ministry, is
the very same denomination that now proclaims, I am again, unfit for ministry.
Like my youth minister of old, the UMC points me to a select number of
scripture verses and says, “see…it’s clear and simple.” Fortunately, I have
since learned a thing or two about how to handle such proclamations.

Nonetheless, it was for me, a sad realization. I like
sharing my story with the UMC being a hero of sorts in my life. It makes me
proud to be a part of it. But now the UMC is one of the few mainline protestant
denominations that continue to deny LGBT women and men the call God has placed
on our lives. Where our denomination was once a forerunner of social change, we
are now the caboose.

Fortunately, my story is not yet finished, and neither is
the story of the UMC. I hope that where the UMC once freed me from living into
a false understanding of God’s call on my life, I can now help, hand-in-hand
with many others, to free the UMC of its current false understanding of God’s
call on its own life. I eagerly await to turn, together, to a new page. 

 

. . .


Mary
Ann Kaiser received her B.A. in Organizational Communication with a minor in
Social Welfare from the University of West Florida. After college she spent one
year living in Nigeria where she was shaped greatly by the cross-cultural
experience and relationships formed. She has worked for a Wesley Foundation,
as a hospital chaplain and completed an internship at WATER (Women’s Alliance
for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) in Silver Spring, MD. She attended Austin
Presbyterian Theological Seminary where she earned her M.Div. and developed a
passion for exploring the intersections of church and soceity. She is an out
lesbian who now works at a UMC church in Texas as Youth Director and Justice
Associate. She is challenged daily to grow in openness, resolution, and
kindness.

 

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