HI, I’M BI – AND I WORK FOR A CHURCH!
Back in November 2017 I had the honor to attend the Global Ministries Fall Board Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. While there, I was invited to give a short reflection about my term as a GMI in Hungary. I was terrified, speaking in front of so many global church leaders that I respected and was inspired by, but I decided to push on and share my authentic truth with them.
During the course of my talk, I shared with the very full conference room that, at all times, some part of my identity caused problems for me in Budapest. Some days, it was the fact that I am a woman. Other days, it was my American nationality. Many times it was my lack of mastery of the Hungarian language. And sometimes it was the fact that I am bisexual. Talking about my identity struggles in a Hungarian context was very intense and raw – folks listened with rapt attention while I practiced radical vulnerability and told my story.
When I finished my talk there was a brief coffee break before the next session. I was in the middle of chugging a giant glass of water when a Latina woman walked over to me with tears in her eyes. She looked me straight in the eye and told me that she had never met someone like me before – she had never met someone like me in person. I chuckled, told her thank you, and then asked what exactly she meant by that.
Through tears, she shared with me that she was ordained in her country, but was part of a conservative church there – and was currently struggling with living her most authentic bisexual life in that context. What struck her was the fact that I was so open about both my sexuality and also my role within the church. In her home, this is not done.
She told me that she had been struggling with her sexuality and finally realized that she was bi, and (thanks to the internet) had found an online community to learn from and lean on. However, she had never met a bi woman in person – she had literally never met anyone else like her in person in her life – and so for her, meeting me was huge. I felt deep responsibility and honor in that moment and we both teared up and embraced, right in the middle of the bustling conference room.
Up until that moment at the GM Board Meeting, I had been very intentional in my itineration trips to speak up about my sexuality when I presented my work to various churches – though I usually just mentioned it in passing. I realized in that moment just how vital this was, and I vowed to speak about it more as I traveled to churches and told my story.
There are a lot of people in the world who think that only ordained heterosexual white men in their mid-30’s can do church work; that’s often the stereotype of a mission coworker. Lay people in the church worry about not being ordained, young people worry about not being more experienced, LGBTQ folks worry about not being the right fit. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
So many people worry about not being enough for church work – but I’m here to tell you that God doesn’t have a type and that the Creator invites us all to join Her in Her holy work.
It’s not just men, not just ordained folks, not exclusively Caucasian people, and not strictly people who identify as heterosexual. There are no rules in this. God is still speaking, and She’s calling to us all.
I was hyper aware of this all as I finished up my itineration in the US and made a point to open up more to congregations about my sexuality and how it tied into my faith and my calling. I was amazed at the reactions from people – they were more supportive and energized about my truth than I ever could have anticipated.
Now that I’m in Greece, I am again in a more conservative church context than what I’m accustomed to in the United Church of Christ. Despite this, I’m more certain now than ever that part of my calling is to be open about my sexuality in the midst of my church work – to educate the people around me that there is no exact formula for who God calls.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
– Isaiah 6:8 (NRSV)