I began seminary in August of 2009, after graduating from college at the age of 24. I was never, at any time, "in the closet" at seminary. From the beginning, I found complete acceptance and support from both the student body and the faculty. My sexual orientation was a non-issue. Moreover, when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) ratified its statement on sexuality the same month I began school, and voted that congregations could call openly gay clergy, the student body and the faculty seemed overjoyed. I was mostly oblivious to the whole thing, but that's a different story. At any rate, I had planned to stay single the rest of my life, so I felt that the decision would be great for others, but I wasn't too concerned about its implications for myself.
Imagine how surprised I was when I met my husband, Dave, in early September of 2010. I was not the least bit prepared for how it all would play out, but play out it did. Dave was immediately welcomed into the seminary community. He was treated with a tremendous amount of love and respect by the other students and their families. He was invited to every event, and everyone enjoyed having him around. And when we got married in late April of 2011 (yes, that fast), our ceremony was attended by a number of seminary students, and we received so many messages of congratulations and support from the student body and faculty I couldn't count them all.
Granted, things weren't all good all the time. I was rejected from every available internship site because no one wanted to "deal with" having a gay, married intern. But the Field Education Director went out of his way for me, and I found out where my internship would be just 2 weeks after the rest of my class, so it all worked out in the end.
My senior year at seminary, it became obvious that I would be the first gay married person to graduate from LTSG- and to be called to the Lower Susquehanna Synod. But it wasn't a big deal. Everyone was happy that the time had finally come, but no one released balloons or had a parade over it. But through it all, Dave and I always felt loved, accepted, and supported by the seminary community. It was never a question, never an issue, never a concern. LTSG would not become a Reconciling in Christ institution until well after I graduated, but there was a definite air of welcome and support to all LGBTQ people on campus as they began to trickle in. And while I may not be terribly attached to the seminary, I will always be grateful for the acceptance, support, and friendship I found there.
But now this shit show happens. Whatever the fuck this even is. If you're not aware, the story goes something like this: The current (and first) president of ULS, it seems, was once part of a gay conversion therapy group back in the 90's. She was initially forced into it by her parents when she revealed her own sexual orientation, and when that became her norm, she later worked for the group. Eventually, during her own time in seminary at Princeton, she came to realize exactly what was wrong with the whole thing. She left the group, told them to pretend she never existed, and began advocating for the LGBTQ community. Or at least that's the short version of her story as I understand it. However, the current saga unfolding seems to be more about how honest and forthcoming the president was with her story, and how it was handled by the seminary Board of Directors when the story became known to them. Clearly there was a whole lot of stupid involved. Members of the Board became aware of the story and said nothing, when the best course of action would have been to encourage the president to tell her story and be honest about why she didn't tell it before. But no. It sat quietly in the back of the closet, and now, like so many things that are bottled up under pressure, it has exploded. I, however, am not so much interested in the saga itself as I am in people's reactions to it.
First off, let me say that I feel the president's whole approach to this has been bound by shame. She was shamed into feeling "wrong" about her own sexuality and then shamed into the "therapy" group. Now she feels ashamed she was ever part of it, let alone one of its leaders. Moreover, shame is now being heaped upon her by students, faculty, and alumni for how and when she disclosed her story, as well as how she plans to deal with this whole affair going forward.
Really though? Is that how we're going to play this? By heaping shame upon shame? The president has received death threats over this. Are you fucking kidding me? All these bitches giving the world lip service about how loving and open and accepting they are, and they're going to pull that shit? Back the fuck up. I recognize that's not what everyone is up to, but there's enough people involved that it's sickening. Is this how we, the people of God, and leaders and future leaders in the Church, handle ourselves? Granted, I'm not sure the situation was handled in the way Jesus has instructed us, particularly by the Board, but answering bad behavior with bad behavior never worked for anyone. Fighting ignorance and prejudice with a different brand of ignorance and prejudice never worked either. And hoping and working for the failure and destruction of others never seems to go well in the end. Yet I see all of this in play at the moment, and it makes me want to slap a bitch.
Moreover, I didn't hear anybody in the public sphere talking about the importance and value of LGBTQ people at ULS until right now. What, there's a scandal and suddenly everyone's got a fucking pulpit to preach from? Most of you weren't worried about hosting conversations concerning the needs of LGBTQ people on the campuses of ULS five minutes ago, but now suddenly it's a matter of justice? Give me a break, and don't you dare fucking use other people's stories, struggles, and hurts as a pedestal for your agenda. Between that and the behavior I mentioned in the last paragraph, some people involved in this whole debacle are acting no better than the "hypocrites [who] love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others." (Matthew 6:5) And ain't nobody got time for that shit.
I think there's a whole lot of reflection to be done right now. Did the ULS board fuck up royally? Yes. They committed a great sin of omission, and they need to own their shit and seek forgiveness if they want to move forward. Should the president have been more forthcoming about her past? Sure. But I suspect she's got a whole lot of daemons to deal with right now, and I'm betting she'll find her way to penance and peace somewhere along the way. What about the screaming mob- the people braying for blood in the street? What will they do in the future? Will they feel the need to crucify someone to satisfy their own egos and heal their own wounds? I hope not, because Jesus already took up that cross willingly, and how dare we scorn his gift of grace and forgiveness by denying it to others.
Look. I'm not saying, "Let's live and let live." I'm not. But my ultimate question is, what will people do going forward? Will some continue to accomplish their goals through blaming and shaming? Will they continue to act like hypocrites and join the fray at the moment, just because the whole affair is sexy right now? Or will we start being honest, genuine, gracious, and forgiving? In order for there to be reconciliation, everyone needs to own their own part in this and seek a way to do and be better in the future. And, certainly, some people's sins in this matter are farther reaching than others. But at the end of the day, if we want things to be better, we need to step up and model what that looks like. We need to call bullshit where we see it and call for honesty and transparency, but we also needs to be honest with ourselves about how we handle things. Is the road we're going down the path that leads, in the end, to the cross of Christ? Is Christ and his teaching at the center of this whole argument, or is it our own agendas? I think if we put ourselves and this whole situation in the perspective of the Gospel, we may find a way to truly move forward in the way God is calling. And I suspect we'll see who is and who isn't ready to take that journey with us as well.