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Having Pride and Keeping the Faith – S2 Ep. 3

Episode Summary

In this episode of Room at the Table, Betsy Cerulo talks with Kathy Corbett-Welch, an Episcopal priest, and Ken Kovacs, a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). They share their experiences coming out, the challenges they faced, and how it has affected their roles as clergy.

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About Ken Kovacs

Ken Kovacs, a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has been the pastor and head of staff at Catonsville Presbyterian Church since 1999, and previously served congregations in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Mendham, New Jersey. Ken studied at Rutgers University, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, received his Doctor of Philosophy in practical theology from the University of St. Andrews, and is currently a psychoanalyst-in-training at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zürich, Switzerland. He is the author of The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter and Conviction (Peter Lang, 2011), Out of the Depths: Sermons and Essays (Parson’s Porch, 2016), as well as essays and chapters in publications that explore the intersection of psychology and theology. For fourteen years, Ken served on the board of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which worked for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ Presbyterians into full and open leadership in the denomination. He has served on the board of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA, and currently serves on the board of the Jung Society of Washington. He enjoys reading history, traveling, and all things Scottish (including haggis). Ken and his husband, Mark Dunham, live in Dickeyville, a historic mill village in Baltimore.

About Kathy Corbett-Welch

The Reverend Kathy Corbett-Welch has been an Episcopal priest for 23 years. Prior to this she was a Neonatal Nurse, specializing in the care of acutely ill and tiny babies. Born in Boston, her work brought her to Washington, DC as the Chaplain to an Episcopal AIDS ministry. She then became Rector of St Luke’s church in Brookville, MD. She served as a Chaplain at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the MdTAP. She and Ellen, her spouse of 52 years, now live in Fayetteville, AR. They are both happily retired.  

Episode Transcript – Having Pride and Keeping the Faith

Betsy Cerulo: Welcome to Room at the Table, an opportunity for you to join me, Betsy Cerulo and my guests for conversations about creating equitable and inclusive workplaces where leaders rise above mediocrity and our teams thrive. Pull up a chair, there's always Room at the Table. 

Welcome to another meaningful conversation on Room at the Table. I am Betsy Cerulo, your host, and welcome to my guests today, Kathy Corbett Welch, who was an Episcopalian pastor who served congregations in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Arkansas, and Ken Kovacs, who is a Presbyterian pastor for a very large Presbyterian congregation in Baltimore. Both faiths embraced the LGBTQ+ community. Today, we're talking about having pride and being able to hold on to your faith. So pull up a chair, enjoy your favorite beverage, and let's get started. So, welcome my friends. Thank you so much to you both for being here today. It’s so good to see you and hear you. 

Ken Kovacs: It's good to be here.

Kathy Corbett-Welch: Great to be here. 

Wonderful. So I am going to get started right away. I know both of you have wonderful feedback. So here we go. So you both have been and are pastors of churches that embrace the LGBTQ+ community. What challenges did you face as an LGBTQ clergy? Kathy, would you like to start?

Sure. I guess it started before I was ordained. That was when I had the most difficulty because I was in Massachusetts where the bishop would not ordain homosexuals. So I went to Rhode Island where they had a very forward-thinking bishop and went through the process in Rhode Island. By the time I was ready to be ordained, we had a new bishop who was not inclined to ordain homosexuals. So I had to do a lot of gyrations to get her to accept my ordination. And because of that, I couldn't find a church in Rhode Island. I had to go somewhere else. I was quite blessed to be able to go to Washington, D.C., where I worked with an AIDS ministry. It was started by gay men with AIDS in Washington because it was at the time when they would not allow funerals of people with AIDS in churches. It was a very difficult time. But, we moved on from there to homeless and drug addicts. And so it was a mixed congregation of homeless people, drug addicts and gay men. And from there, I became pastor of a church. I wasn't sure how that was going to go over because it was in a very nice upscale suburb of Washington, D.C., and they all knew that I was a lesbian because they knew Ellen, my spouse. And it was fine. They hired me, and I lost about 10 people when I first took over because they didn't want a lesbian pastor. But other than that, they were very warm and accepting and started to embrace people from outside the congregation who came in because of me. So we had a few lesbian and gay men who joined the parish because of me, and they were well-accepted and formally received. So the pre-ordination and was difficult. But since I was ordained, people have been more accepting.

So let me ask you this, Kath, if you did not tell them that you were a lesbian, would they have ordained you?

Yes.

Not that I would have said to do that, but yeah.

And people did that in Massachusetts. There was this House of Bishops thing that they wrote in 1979 that said they won't ordain homosexuals. The Bishop of Massachusetts used to take that resolution and slide it across the desk in front of you and say, “If this pertains to you, you can leave my office now.” So many people lied, and I couldn't do it. I could not start my ordination, I could not start being a priest on a lie. So I just didn't even attempt in Massachusetts.

About how many years ago was that when you got ordained? No, when you were first rejected?

1989.

Okay, and then in what year did you feel accepted?

I guess right after my ordination, when I left Rhode Island. I was ordained a deacon in 1997, and the bishop, as we were getting undressed from the service, the bishop turned to me and said, “You are able to be ordained priest in June, and I will not be available,” which was her way of saying she didn't want to take responsibility for making me a priest. So, with that, I just became more resolved. I went back to Washington and I talked to the bishop of Washington, and she was like, “Of course I will ordain you, you do good work. You're called, so I will ordain you.” So that was, I think, when I felt affirmed. When the bishop of Washington was like, “Don't be ridiculous, of course I will ordain you.”

Yeah. 

Up until then, it was kind of touchy. 

What a journey. What a journey.

Yeah, it was indeed.

And thank God for so many of us that you just kept pushing it because anyone who could say no to you would just miss out on incredible preaching. Having been very fortunate to have been married by you and to have attended some of your services, your work is just magnificent and it's pure and it's real, and to hear that another quote unquote, holy person, would say, no, I'm not going to ordain you, it feels so hypocritical.

Yeah. 

Well, Ken, let's shift over to you.

Yeah. So a somewhat similar journey in the Presbyterian Church and the way in which we organize ourselves or our polity, as we say, the way in which we organize ourselves, and how decisions are made and where power is placed. Power is placed in something we call the Presbytery. We don’t have bishops within the Presbyterian Church. We don't have individuals that decide who will or will not be ordained. That decision is made by the Presbytery, and the Presbytery can't do anything apart from its connection to all the other Presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church USA. So in our Constitution, which we call our Book of Order, which is a dynamic document, it changes all the time. In 1986, there was something called definitive guidance, which is basically a prohibition of the ordination of practicing homosexuals. And then, finally, in 1996, it became formerly part of our polity of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA. So that meant that if someone was a practicing homosexual in a relationship, and certainly not married, because of marriage and Presbytery, and it's the Presbyterian that ordains that individual. So for me, I was ordained in New Jersey by Newark Presbyterian, and when I was ordained, these issues were kind of floating around, but to be honest, I was really closeted and I was in the process of kind of wrestling in and through my own sexuality. These were important issues when I was in seminary. But I felt that it was important for me to be ordained. I was still very much in the closet and confused. So I went ahead and got ordained and had a very meaningful ministry in New Jersey for seven years and then came here to Baltimore. And coming here to Baltimore, I realized over the years through working with a lot of really good, healthy therapists that it was really, really important for me to take responsibility for my own happiness, to be attentive to what I believe is God’s spirit calling me to be a more full person. I started to realize that the call to be ordained was to all of me and not to a part of me. And so in that work, that journey toward wholeness and integration, it was important for me to try to figure out do I stay in the Presbyterian Church or do I leave? In the early 2000s, I became very involved in an organization called the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, a national network of Presbyterian ministers and elders who pushed very, very hard to change our polity, to change the rules, to change the guidelines for ordination. I joined the board. I was asked to join the board, and for 15 years, I worked with others in the denomination to push for that change. In the Presbyterian Church, decisions are not made from the top down, they're made from the bottom up. 

Wow, I didn’t know that.

So you need to really work at the presbytery local level to convince people both theologically and biblically why we need to make these changes into the Constitution. You needed a two-thirds, no, a simple majority of presbyteries to approve that change. And that changed, and there were many attempts through the 2000s to bring about this. In fact, the struggle to welcome GLBT folks into the community has been at work in the Presbyterian Church for 30 years. And then finally, the ordination standards changed in 2009 when a majority of the presbytery said it was okay to ordain homosexuals if the presbytery felt that that individual had a call to ministry. So that opened up and paved the way. Now, for me, I was on this board, giving of my time and effort and resources, my congregation – so step back, I'm closeted, right? I'm not out. It's not safe to be out. I could be caught up on charges. Colleagues of mine were tried, not that formally, but there were people lost their ordination, and there was a time when I had to figure out whether I was going to stay or go, and I realized that I'm born and bred Presbyterian. My ancestors have been Presbyterian, and I'm a product of this church, and I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying here in the church. 

Good for you.

So I helped my congregation to start exploring these issues, even as I was closeted and involved in this organization because it wasn't safe. So that was the decision that I consciously made to stay with it. And thankfully, I had a partner for 22 years now, and now a husband, who has really supported me 150% in that. So then finally, and my church has been over time, we work through these issues theologically, biblically. We lost some members. When the denomination changed its ordination status, we lost members. I came out, finally, in 2012 in a letter to the congregation. And I'm one of the very few ministers that have come out in their current call, as opposed to going to another church and coming out. I've been in my church now for 25 years. So the church has been 150% supportive of me. We did lose members, but we've also gained a lot of members as well, to. Overall, it's a much healthier place to be because there's a higher level of transparency and honesty throughout the system, throughout the collective of the church. So, I know that's a long answer but these are long journeys that we've been on. They're complicated and they're nuanced, and you're dealing with theology and polity and congregations, which are wonderful communities, but they're also messy.

I can recall several conversations with my brother who was a Roman Catholic priest and he would tell me stories of men who were homosexuals but it was hidden, and it's still to this day, that way in the Catholic faith.

Yes.

Yeah. And then a couple of years later, once ordination standards changed, then the denomination dealt with marriage. Then, the PCUSA, the Presbyterian Church USA is a far more inclusive, progressive, welcoming denomination as a whole. Last year, my husband and I got married and the church threw a wonderful reception for us, one Sunday in our fellowship hall and decorated the whole place. And it was surreal walking into that space because I went back and I thought of the journey, the long journey, and for this church making space and all that love and that welcome. It was truly a moment of grace and beauty.

Wonderful.

Yeah, I can remember when the Presbytery had allowed for same-sex marriages. Tom Spears, who was the pastor of Dickeyville, came over to our house and said, “I just want to let you know, now I can marry you.” It was in the early 2000s, I think. It's a courageous journey. And it's frightening to feel for both of you to be, I'll say, servants of God, and to feel unsafe in a place of worship. We know it happens and it's so unfathomable. And again, it's so hypocritical. So let me go to our next question. So Kathy, what shifts have you seen since the time you became a pastor to the current day? 

Oh, incredible shifts. I think the shift in our denomination started when we ordained a gay man as a bishop, which was not without intense controversy, but it was accepted. I mean, he became a bishop, and when you're a bishop, that's it. They can't say, “You can't be a bishop anymore. We don't like you.” You can only not be a bishop if you do something really bad, and so when he was ordained, more people started coming out, and more people who were homosexual and already out were becoming more accepted. So, then, in different dioceses, different bishops decided to do same-sex blessings. And this is before the law had changed. And in Washington, our bishop was not stopping people from doing it. He was very accepting of it. Different people had same-sex blessings in their own parishes, and it was lovely, just lovely to see people becoming themselves out in the community. And we all went to each other's blessings. We supported one another. Ellen and I did not have one. But we did get married in, I mean, 2000 and… oh Lord, she'll kill me, I forget the date. Anyway, we've been together 52 years, so all these dates blend together. But it was wonderful. The bishop, after the law changed, immediately after the law changed, the Bishop of Washington started doing blessings himself. He started doing weddings at the National Cathedral. If you went to him and asked him, he would do it, and it was such an affirming experience to see our bishop doing weddings for our clergy. Really, just heart-rending beauty is happening, the acceptance of him and his joy in doing these weddings for his clergy. So the big turn came when they ordained the homosexual bishop. There's still a lot of controversy. The Church of England shut us off from the Anglican Communion for a year, because of his consecration as a bishop, and they're still not pleased with us for ordaining homosexuals into the Episcopate and into the priesthood. Although there are very many gay priests in the Anglican Communion, they just don't like what the United States has done that was so forward-moving that they can't accept it. One of the reasons they can't accept it is because some of the largest parts of the Anglican Communion are in Africa, and the Africans absolutely refuse to accept homosexuality at all. Although it's very strange. One of my friends is a bishop, and she said she went to a bishop's meeting in Canterbury, and all the bishops from all over the world were there. She sat down at a table and they were discussing ordaining homosexuals and the African bishops were just so negative about it as they sat there with their two wives. So, the hypocrisy was a little bit too much for my friend. So, it's been well accepted in the Episcopal Church, now, in the United States, particularly since the law changed to allow homosexuals to marry. They don't have an excuse for not ordaining us because we're legal in the eyes of the government now, but there are still bishops who hold out. There was a bishop in Albany, New York. His name was Bishop Love, which absolutely kills me. Bishop Love refused to ordain homosexuals or let homosexuals be married in the church and he was removed. He was against the church policy and so he was removed as a bishop. So there is strong forward movement.

Wow. Ken, so what have you seen?

Well, a similar trajectory a little bit there. For us, the change really occurred in 2009 when ordination standards, to use our language, changed.

Once it became possible for presbyteries to ordain, I don't like this language, practicing homosexuals, or those in relationship, once that freedom opened up, and left it up to the presbyteries to decide, that was the real shift for us. Also for us and within our theology, we feel that a call, and there's overlap here, I'm sure, with the Episcopal Church, but we feel that a call to leadership within the church comes from the church. I mean, it’s through the Spirit to use theological language, but it's through the people. It's a congregation that identifies gifts for ministry and the presbytery confirms that. So when you have individuals growing up within congregations who clearly have a love for the church, they have all the gifts and skills, they want to give themselves to a church that doesn't really want them, how can a congregation, how can the presbytery stand in the way of what is clear, or at least it seems to be clear that the Spirit or God is moving in that person's life. So who are we to say no to it? So to create a space for that, that really brought about the change. And once we dealt with the ordination issue, there were congregations throughout the denomination that did not necessarily have a large LGBT community. But we had church members who had cousins or aunts or uncles or grandchildren or great grandchildren who were gay, who were queer, and they wanted to be part of a church that truly welcomed them. So that was also a considerable shift for us, both as a congregation here, in Catonsville, but also for the denomination as a whole. And now, it really is a nonissue. I'm so grateful, in fact, I'm shocked how fast we brought about that change. People were saying, well, this is still going to take another 10 - 15 years. This was back in the late 2000s. We were just shocked by how fast this has come about, the openness to marriage as well, within congregations.

So, I'm curious since both of you said, at different points, when you had your congregations, you lost people, you lost members, did any of those people ever come back?

No.

No.

No, not when I was there. They're back now that I've left. But not while I was there.

Some kind of drifted away during the time when the denomination was struggling with the issue before they knew I was gay. They might have suspected. When I came out, the congregation was, I mean, that was a pretty scary thing for me to do, even in a congregation that I knew and loved and been part of. You never quite know how people are going to respond. And some people did drift away. I had one or two families who wanted to come and have a conversation with me. I talked, but I was very clear with my session. My session was 150% behind me. And I said, I am not going to engage in theological debate, biblical debate. I'm not gonna justify my existence. I'm not gonna do any of it. So I was pretty forthright. But yeah, the folks haven't come back. Some went to a neighboring Methodist church. Now, today, as we all know, maybe, the Methodist church is on the verge of – they’re in a lot of trouble trying to hold all this together. But similar to the Episcopal church, the United Methodist church is a global communion. So they can't make decisions in the United States without having their siblings in Christ in Africa or in China be impacted. The Presbyterian church, we're in correspondence with other churches, Presbyterian churches throughout the world, but we make decisions for ourselves. So that has freed us. So this is where the polity has actually served us and allowed us to bring about change faster.

Understood. So we hear so much different commentary now, especially because we're in an election year. When you hear commentary from different religious groups condemning the LGBTQ community, how do you handle that? Ken, how do you handle it?

I pray for them.

Yeah.

 

Yeah, I was just in a related conversation around some of this just this morning. You asked about what do you do with the kind of anti-LGBT comments from religious groups, in particular. Yeah, like Kathy said, a lot of prayer, a lot of compassion, kindness. But I think it's not helpful these days for us to, I mean, if someone wants to sit down and have a reasoned, thoughtful, informed conversation based upon genuine curiosity and understanding in order to grow, to engage in the conversation with truly with an open heart, I'm willing to engage in those kinds of conversations. I think that that can only help the church. But if the attitude is, okay, I need to convince them, I need to argue with them biblically/theologically to make a point, or they're looking to me to somehow change their minds. I cannot change anybody's mind, and I don't really want to, I don't think it's helpful to engage in the conversation, to engage in that level of interaction because I think it triggers too much. It's too painful for some of us to do after we've worked through all of this and continue to work for it to somehow prove ourselves. I'm not up for doing that. I don't think that's healthy. But I also think that theological labels, conservative, liberal, they're not biblical categories. You won't find those words anywhere in scripture. We use them because we kind of need to. But if someone who's more conservative theologically has difficulties with the ordination of queer folk within the church today, or even just the level of welcome, for many of these folks, I can't speak for everyone, but I have family members and friends who are in that camp, they are kind of locked into a particular theological, biblical way of looking at scripture and the world. To use a fancy word, they have a particular hermeneutic. That’s the way in which they are approaching scripture. And because they approach scripture in a particular way, because they need to hold to almost a literalist view of scripture, that means that they are bound to answer social issues in a particular way based upon a literal reading of scripture. And they cannot give anything other than that, because then they will go against how they view scripture. So they're sort of caught in a theological bind here. So you can't argue with them. You can't have a conversation. And so, I've been thinking about this leading up to today's conversation. Just yesterday, the image came, that when Jesus sent out his disciples into the villages to share the good news and preach God's love, he said, if people aren't open to what you have to give them, shake off the dust from your feet and move on to the next village, and you do that in love. You just kind of have to kind of move on, because so much energy and time is wasted, I think, in some of these struggles. So that's how I tried to handle it, to be open to it, but it's not easy.

Well, I now live in Arkansas, one of the reddest states in the country. And there is a church on every corner in every town. There must be, without exaggeration, there are 30 churches in the city of Fayetteville alone. And most of them, we have just in the vicinity of the Episcopal Church I go to, there's a Baptist Church and a Methodist Church and a Disciples of Christ in one square block. And it goes like that through the whole state of Arkansas. They're extremely conservative churches here in Arkansas. The people are red-blooded Republicans, most of them. I live in the little blue spot in the whole state, which is the city of Fayetteville, where I'm comfortable. But if I leave Fayetteville, I have to be very careful, personally, which is sad, but the reality of the state is that way. I absolutely agree with everything Ken said. You can't debate religion. You can't debate faith. You can prayerfully discuss it, but it's very hard to find people who are not so ingrained in their beliefs, in the Bible said, so it must be. That discussion is almost impossible. Prayer is usually my only outlet. There's an expression down here, “Bless your heart,” which means that the discussion is over now. So there's a lot of “bless your heart” around this. I just will not engage with people who are so ingrained in their own biblical understanding that they won't even hear what we have to say. And if it's an Episcopalian that's starting this conversation, I just remind them of our baptismal covenant that says that we support and accept people, all people, as they are. And that's all I can do is live my own baptismal covenant to accept and love people as they are, where they are, and to hope to God that they remember their baptismal covenant said the same thing.

Right. And that's really good. I mean, framing this theologically is really, really important. Engaging some of our siblings in the church who are more conservative – sometimes, I'm told that, well, you don't believe in the Bible, you don't take the Bible seriously. All this stuff. I think to be rooted and grounded in our baptismal identity, our baptismal community, the promises that are being made, that you are a part of this larger community, and we need to learn to open ourselves up to one another and learn to love. That sounds easy, but it's obviously really, really difficult. I think, I was just having a conversation with someone this morning, that sometimes, and this might sound overly simplified, but I think someone who has an open heart or wants to open up their heart on a variety of subjects and themes will have a far more expansive view of the world and themselves and others. And if their hearts are rigid and cold and hard, there's nothing we could do to break that. But all we can do, and I'll speak for myself here too, what I feel, all I can do is I can bear witness to my experience.

Yes.

And my experience is rooted in more than just my belief, my experiences of God's love and acceptance and how I understand the gospel. And my call is to be faithful to that experience and invite others to do the same. I can't take responsibility for other people. All we can do is bear witness, continue to open up our hearts and invite other people to do the same. There's a wonderful quote by Flannery O'Connor, American novelist, I like to use quite a bit. She says, “Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”

Yes.

So you can have conviction around particular theological ideas and beliefs, but unless they're really kind of rooted in experience, like in your heart, in your body, in your life, in your experience, it just leads to a harshness, a kind of rigidity. That's what I also pray for, is that softening to take place somewhere.

Yeah, like you're, you're both saying, I'm at a stage in my life, and we're all in the same generation, where I'm not going to invest the time to justify my existence. Since I'm not grounded in scripture, the way the both of you are, I typically go to, love thy neighbor as thyself.

Yeah, I mean, it's pretty –

Basic.

It’s basic.

Yet, it's so difficult for people to really embrace and really take that in. Love thy neighbor as thyself. That means unconditional love. 

Well, for us as Christians, that's what Jesus taught, to love one another as he loves us and to love God above all things. And that's the basis of Christian life. And if these Christian people come at me with their biblical understanding, that's the only thing I can say to them, that Christ taught us to love one another and to love God above all things. We are all created by God and so we deserve love. We really deserve to be loved. My priesthood was recognized by a congregation that was very open and loving and caring, and from the minute they saw that I was called to be a priest and sent me forward, I have grown stronger and stronger in my faith and believe that I am so called, and that I am doing God's work, and whether they accept me or love me or care for me or not, it's God who called me. I mean, it's through the congregation, but I mean, a direct call from God.

Exactly.

And you can't be denied. I just kind of look at them and say, “Well, God called me, I'm doing what God asked me to do and God will not be denied.”

And I think related to love your neighbor as you love yourself, no one can see into another person's heart. But, sometimes there's a lot of self-hatred in individuals that makes it difficult to love. And so there's a lot of judgment or the image of God is basically of a judge more than anything who's waiting just to annihilate and beat the crap out of you for something. If that's the image that you're carrying around, that image then gets injected into oneself, and then it also gets projected out to how you see the world. It's difficult to love your neighbor when you're operating out of self-hatred.

Yes. And if you believe in the Old Testament God, the vindictive, hateful, angry God, then how can you love? Because the God that you supposedly love is a bad father figure. He doesn't love you. He's out to get you. And so you're out to get other people.

Right.

It's just the way of the heart. 

Yeah. Another way to kind of frame it, too, is if scripture says we're created in the image of God or through the imagination of God, that each person somehow bears that image, whether they like it or not, whether we like it or not, but to be able to somehow speak or connect to that image in the other as a way to speak to the image and that other who might be caught up in their self-hatred. That's easier said than done, again, too. But I think these are ways in which, at least from within the faith community, this is a way in which we can respond to those who might be against us or who are scared of us or have suspicion.

I think there's a lot of fear. 

A lot of fear. 

They don't understand who we are as human beings and how we live our lives.

They just can't conceive of it, and so therefore, the suspicion is so high. The mistrust of us, because we're not living in the societal, quote, norms, the mistrust is, well, then you can't be doing it right. You must be doing something wrong because you're living your life wrong.

The fear of otherness, as you said, Kathy, in a different way. It doesn't quite conform, so that which does not reflect conventional ways of being, however the norm is. But yeah, there's a lot of fear. Last week, one of the lectionary readings was perfect love casts out fear, and love should really cast out. I don't like using the word should, but love can cast out fear, but so often fear is what is in the driver's seat. 

Well, let me ask you both as we're coming to the end of our conversation, Kathy, I'll start with you. How do you recommend those of us who are non-clergy respond to the rhetoric?

Gosh, I’ve been a priest for so long, it's hard to remember what it's like to be a lay person. How do you respond to the rhetoric?

Well, when you're guiding, when you have guided your congregants over the years who have been victims of hate.

Yeah.

How would you advise them?

It's like working with children. You have to be patient and understanding because they just don't understand. It's hard to tell them to turn the other cheek because many of these people have been hurt so badly. They just don't want to even respond anymore. And I tell them to walk away. It's difficult sometimes because it's walking away from your family and from people you know who didn't know you were gay and they suddenly find out, and now they're suspicious of you. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just walk away. Don't try to engage with someone who you know you will never change. You give them the information that they need. You tell them what comes from your heart and if they can't accept it, walk away.

Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. Don't take it on. Don't engage. Walk away. Again, all of this is easier said than done in the moment. In the moment, you can just say, okay, try not to be triggered. But I think when it does happen, when we are somehow kind of assaulted, as it were, figuring out how to respond to the rhetoric, I think it's really, really important, clergy or non-clergy, particularly for a person of faith, to kind of ground yourself in who you are, and to kind of remove yourself from the toxicity, to kind of protect yourself. I thought of St. Patrick's breastplate. Christ above me, Christ below me, Christ beside me. Sometimes I kind of imagine that I'm kind of surrounded by that protection and then that frees me. It just frees me and it and it separates me from what's coming at me.

 

Yes. The other one that I use is the armor of God.

Yeah.

I put on the armor of God and it protects me. I just know that I'm protected and it doesn't get to me. The hate and all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune don't get to me because I'm protected by the armor of God.

 

And then we become the object of so many projections, clergy and non-clergy, around this issue and just to sometimes remember that this is not about me. It's about who is projecting this upon me. This is where prayer comes back into play as well too. It says more about what was being projected on to us than us.

Well, as a non-clergy, I typically will surround myself with white light.

Yes. Similar kind of light. Well, that's going to protect you.

Yeah. Absolutely. And a lot of prayer. Also, the way maybe 10, 20 years ago, I would be ready to dive right in for the fight, I will walk away now because I don't have to prove myself. The only time I will not walk away is if I see someone else being harmed or I say something.

Sure. Sure.

Which I'm sure you both are like that too.

Right. Absolutely.

I would rather put my energy towards something else that's more loving. But I will do my best, even when it's challenging, to send that person a lot of love. Well, this has been a really rich conversation. I certainly learned a lot. I am just really grateful for the courage that you both have had and continue to have on your journeys because it's not easy out there. Religion has really taken a hit for many reasons, and you both are just so glorious in leading your flock. And I'm just really appreciative of both of you and the contribution that you've made. So, thank you so much for your honesty today.

Thank you.

Thank you, Betsy. Thank you. Thank you for the invitation to share. This has been wonderful.

Absolutely.

Yes.

Absolutely. So, listeners, I hope that today has brought you both some more reassurance that love is really an important factor in bridging the gap of hate. Never give up, never give up. Be courageous and stay close to your faith. Whatever your faith is, stay close to it. Thank you both very much. I wish you both a beautiful day and thank you for being here.

You too.

Thank you, Betsy. God bless you.

Peace to you.

Thank you for joining us. And if you enjoyed this episode, please follow Room at the Table on your favorite platform and share with a colleague or two or three. 

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