Confession: I’m Too Afraid to Write Under My Own Name
There’s this thing they don’t tell you when you start the process of becoming a pastor in my denomination. That thing is just how frightening it can be to have some over you, watching your every move, seemingly judging your every word and decision, determining whether or not you can continue in the venture to which your heart feels called.
In my denomination we go through a candidacy process by which, over a number of years, a committee determines whether or not we are fit for ministry. A number of things can cause problems along the way. Prior portions of your life, particularly if they have any legal bearing, can be a large problem. Sexual orientation is one of the greatest known obstacles, despite my denomination’s agreement to have both single and partnered or married LGBTQ+ candidates for ministry and pastors. All of these things are true once you’re ordained too, but in different degrees and with different committees of oversight. Bishops. Colleagues. Congregation councils. Disciplinary guidelines. A secondary complication for all of these other obstacles? Being vocal.
Being vocal about LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, politics, current events, or anything in any way divisive can make being in this line of work much more complicated. Many congregations seem to want a word of comfort, not a word which drives them to action. Some bishops and candidacy committees seem to only want clergy that will go quietly along with the visions and expectations of the church without pushing the church to full realization of its Christian identity. To speak up is to disrupt. To speak out is garner too much attention. To speak truth is to imbalance that status quo.
This is why I cannot write using my name. I am too afraid of the power of the church to handcuff me far and away from the vocation to which God has called me. I’m too afraid of powerful pastors and organizations that are affiliated with my denomination who, should I write what I really need to say, might make the determination that their reputation is more important than my call. I am afraid because in this church world there is a lot against me and that I am going up against. It is a crippling fear, one that is constantly reinforced by an older generation which tells us to be careful, considerate, and quiet.
Why a faith began in the great love of a creator has turned into human-made institutions of fear, I’m not sure. It concerns me greatly and is, perhaps, the topic of another story. Such is the case, even the clergy fear the church and its rules and power. We fear the repercussions of going to a protest, of posting on Facebook, of preaching justice and love for all people from the pulpit.
But I won’t be stopped. The first day that I walked into seminary one of the professor’s called me a prophet, weeks later another professor complimented me on the strength of my prophetic voice. Since then, I have worked time and again to prophesy. To proclaim freedom to captives, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, grace to those who are heavy burdened. Now that I’ve discovered a way to write without placing myself in jeopardy, I’m here to speak up, speak out, and speak truth. I’m here so that I can begin the process of no longer sacrificing the truth of the gospel for my own reputation. God grant us all the strength to use our voices, or keyboards as it may be.