This Sunday, I told my story to a faith community I had never visited before. As I shared about the moment I shared my call to ministry and received in reply, “We don’t believe that,” I saw some of their faces cringe. It’s a story they have heard, and they have experienced personally.
Now, years later, I can understand what that minister was saying to me. He was actually saying that my voicing a call to preach as a woman was not something that fit into the theological take out box that the church wanted its members to carry out into the world. But what it felt like he was saying to me was, “We don’t believe you. We don’t believe you’ve heard a call to ministry because women don’t hear a call to preach if they are following God’s word and God’s will. We don’t believe in you.”
There’s a lot about the current state of our country and our world that I would like to respond to and say, “I don’t believe that.” I don’t want to believe that 46.7 million people in US are living in poverty. I don’t want to believe that my home state has the highest rate of violence against women. I don’t want to wrestle with the the fact that 1 in 5 girls and 1 and 20 boys are sexually abused in the US or deal with the the fact that 1 in 6 women have been the victim of attempted or completed rape, but just because I don’t want to believe these things doesn’t deny their existence.
In our current church context that upholds the mantra that if you trust God, you will be blessed, the number of people living in poverty and who are victims of violence and abuse doesn’t fit in. The church can deny the existence of the reality we are living in and keep preaching a message that disregards these realities, but the church will continue to see church attendance, church membership, and church contributions decline.
Churches can continue to say, “We don’t believe in that” to the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer community, to women in ministry, and to those who are in grave need of food and for a way out of abusive situations, but we who don’t fit in your box will continue to say, “Here we are. We exist.”
After I heard, “We don’t believe in that,” from my home church, it took me a long time to find my voice. But now that I’ve found it, I can say confidently, “I don’t believe in your oppressive, dogmatic theology. I believe in the transformative power of the Risen Christ who brought the kingdom of God to earth welcoming all people and loving all people.”