by Rev. Becca Seely
Editors Note: Have you wondered where God is calling LGBTQ+ people within the greater church? This is the first in a four-part series on Proclaim leaders who are doing ministry outside of the parish ministry context.
I wasn’t raised up in church. Growing up, my primary exposure to Christianity was through the voices of the Christian right that seemed to saturate the media in the 1990s. The older I got, the clearer it seemed to me that Christian faith was just a pious mask for moralism and bigotry. By the time I came out as gay in high school, I thought I had Christianity’s number and I was sure as heck not calling it. But like it does for so many, college changed me. The courses I took in the religion department opened my eyes to a faith that was much more complex than I had understood. I was exposed to a multiplicity of voices from the Christian tradition and my assumptions were challenged one by one. I went from a kid who thought she had it all figured out to a young woman realizing how little she knew about faith and God – and how much she actually wanted to know.
Fast forward fifteen years and I am now a campus pastor, walking with young people as they navigate the exciting, challenging, assumption-busting, identity-shaping college years. I serve as director of a campus ministry network in New York City, where I work with an incredible diversity of students. It is a joy to get to accompany young people as they go through their own transformations – as they begin to figure out what they do and don’t believe, who they are and who they feel called to become. It is also a joy to cultivate Christian community that is actively LGBTQ affirming, especially when, even in New York City, the dominant Christian voices on campus are not LGBTQ welcoming. I delight in the fact that many of our students are LGBTQ young people who long to know there is a place at the table for them in the church and that many of our non-LGBTQ students care passionately about setting a table where all are welcome. One queer student told me that she wasn’t sure she could be part of church anymore after some hurtful past experiences but that on her first day at our campus ministry, when we included gender pronouns in our introductions, she finally felt at home. Now she is one of our peer ministers.
I am grateful every day for the opportunity to be an out pastor serving in this context because just by being fully who I am, I am able to bear witness to the wideness of Christ’s love – to embody the reality that everyone who feels like an outsider for whatever reason is unconditionally beloved of God. I feel blessed to be called to a ministry where daily I get to share with stressed, uncertain young adults the good news that they are beloved and they are enough.
Becca Seely (she/her/hers) is Executive Director of Lutheran Ministries in Higher Education of New York City. She enjoys hanging out with her Proclaim member wife, Abby Ferjak, doing elaborate craft projects, speed reading young adult fiction and being the proud caretaker of a professional grade sno cone machine (in case you ever need to borrow one).