statement by M Barclay following their interview with their ordination board
It’s been a long journey starting with my 17-year-old self wondering if I might be called to ministry, to all of the steps that have led me to this point: the Bishop’s rulings, the Judicial Council reviews, the preparation. Just two weeks ago I allowed myself to really imagine the possibility that I would be commissioned as Deacon in June. The mere thought of it was challenging to grasp. The closeness of it, the possibility, only a short month away. It felt surreal. All the reasons I “can’t” be ordained despite God’s call weigh so heavily on my heart and mind that even imagining the reality of my denomination affirming my ministry can be too painful or seem too absurd to even allow myself in a daydream.
Marginalized people set up these sorts of psychological self-protections because we know all too well that dreaming can hurt. When we dare to hope in the church and its people, to trust them with our bruised hearts and tired bodies, we put ourselves at risk yet again of disappointment, of betrayal, of harm. Today I hoped in my Board of Ordained Ministry, and in my church, by trusting in them enough to share the call God has placed on my life. Their vote not to recommend me for ministry today makes me sad, hurt, and angry. I am sad because my journey is stalled and because my denomination is not its true self today. I am hurt by the prejudice we have deemed polity. And I am angry because I know the sadness and hurt I carry is a familiar feeling for so many other LGBTQ folks in The UMC who dare to keep dreaming. I join other rejected candidates, the ones who feel no choice but to leave, the clergy forced to live in the closet, the members who struggle with their place in their own denomination, and the queer clergy who have faced trials or have been defrocked solely because of who they are. I am angry that we continue to grow in number.
Today the board voted not to move me forward in my ordination process because they felt I failed to articulate my understanding of the “Lordship of Christ for the world,” the particular role of ordination, and a failure to communicate my “internal call.” Their decision means that I will continue my journey for ordination, but, per normal procedure, will have to go back to my district committee, one that has had complaints filed against them for passing me the first time. My sexual orientation never came up in the interview. I can’t help but wonder how their perception of my sexuality influenced their thinking.
My first priority as a Christian is not ordination at all cost. Rather, it is living out my faith. With or without the Board’s approval, my task remains the same. Even when our denomination becomes fully inclusive of its LGBTQ members, it will not be the Kindom. There is more conversation, more conflict, more discrimination, and we are all called to the center of that. We are all called to be a part of the messy, painful, challenging work of sanctification, that work that makes our church and our collective selves more representative of the radical world of Table where all feast, and of Baptism, where all are claimed by the waters. This is our work as Christian people.
Today is painful but it is not the end. I still dare to hope. As we continue to journey together on our church’s path to its true self by condemning its injustices, grieving the harm it causes, and following the guidance of the Spirit wherever she leads, we are living out the witness of our faith.
This is our Christian task.
This is our hope.
Our faithful witnesses are not dependent on institutions, outcomes, or definable goals. They are solely dependent on our living out the tasks to which God calls us, whatever forms they may take.
May we mourn because we know it doesn’t have to be this way.
May we shake our fists in anger at all the ways our church continues to harm the lives of its own people.
May we keep knocking, persistently and daringly, on the doors of the church we love until they open in the name of the ones who have had doors slammed in their faces, in the name of the ones who have felt no choice but to leave, and most importantly, in the name of the Divine voice who claims us all.
. . .
M Barclay is a genderqueer Christian seeking ordination as a Deacon in The UMC. They graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary with their MDiv. They have a passion for serving and teaching in the intersections of church and society and their love for religious approaches to questions of ethics led them to internships at WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) and Texas Freedom Network. They have worked for the Wesley Foundation, as a hospital chaplain and as youth director & justice associate. They currently work for Reconciling Ministries Network as Associate Director of Communications. Follow them on twitter at @mxbarclay.