On Pastoring an Open and Affirming Congregation

When I came to Emmanuel as the Interim Pastor, I didn’t know that this was a congregation who was breaking stereotypes and setting the stage for what it means to be an open and affirming congregation. What I did know was that they were brave enough to ask a non-ordained student to be their Interim Pastor.

As our journey together began, I wondered if this would be the congregation to ordain me (call me old school baptist, but I believe that the church is still the body who ordains and calls for ordination rather than ordination being just another step once you graduate from seminary). I got my answer on a Wednesday night when one of the members asked, “So are you going to let us ordain you?”

I just smiled. I was thrilled.

I was even more thrilled to learn that I would be the sixth woman ordained at this rather young ten-year old church. Not only that, but the church in its history had not (and still has not) ordained a man. Let me be clear that it isn’t that the church wouldn’t consider ordaining a man (isn’t that strange to write), but rather that the men who have come through our congregation were already ordained. Of these six women, some are white, some are black; some are heterosexual, some are homosexual; some are married, some are single, some are divorced. This is an open and affirming congregation because it hasn’t been these labels that have been deciding factors for whether ordination is right, but it has been the faith and life of the the individuals.

Because of this history, our congregation is truly diverse. We have people who are heterosexual. We have people who are homosexual. We have people who are divorced. We have people who are single. We have people who are certain of their faith. We have people who are searching for their faith. We have individuals who believe in the importance of being able to be yourself in the midst of being the people of God and loving each other for who we are.

This is a unique community of faith. One that is real and authentic. One in which you don’t have to pretend, but rather gather together in the knowledge that each of us is still becoming, still learning, still growing. Thanks be to God that we can do it together.