It might sound odd, but I want you to know that I’ve watched you, as a body, since well before I became Lutheran. In 2011, I was a United Methodist pastor serving from the closet and I watched with longing your liturgies, your prayerful consideration, your earnest work. I saw a paschal candle and a baptismal font in the frame online, and it felt like home. My eyes welled up with tears as I imagined that I might belong.
This is not simply because of the decision in 2009, historic as it was, to stop officially persecuting queer people and let us serve as we are called by God, though that was certainly part of it. Watching online back then felt like looking into the window of a home to which I had never entered. You, just gathering for worship and doing your work, made me homesick. Three years later, at the Easter Vigil at St. John’s in Atlanta, I would officially, and for life, become a Lutheran. I had never been one of you before, but that was the night that I finally knocked on the door and was welcomed with open arms. I came home.
I wanted to be ordained, an honor the Methodists withhold until well after seminary. So I had waited with hesitation outside that metaphorical door as others outside told me that you would be skeptical, that you would question my loyalty, that you would think that I only wanted to join you because I was queer. These fears never materialized. I was ordained in 2016 as my call from God was recognized by the Church. I became what I had always wanted to be: just a pastor, serving God’s people.
I know that we are far from perfect; even a glance at the news or into our churches will tell us that. We have a long way to go. The wounds of systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, sexism — the list goes on — remain with us. We have a long way to go before everyone feels as welcome as I did. We have to continue to reform. But beloved, reforming is what we do.
You gave me the language to describe the incredible capacity that we have for evil, and the incredible capacity that we have for doing good in the world: we are sinners. We are saints. We are saved by grace, full stop.
So know that as you do your work, there is probably someone watching, just like I was in 2011. Longing for acceptance. Longing for beautiful liturgy and a theology that makes the Gospel nothing less than a stunning story about God’s grace. Longing for home.
In all that you do, I am grateful for your service and I am praying for you. Let us show everyone the warm welcome that I received. Let us open the door to all who wish to enter.
Thank you for your work. Show them who we are.