the day that love came to north carolina

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here we are. in 2010. at a rally for marriage equality in raleigh, north carolina. 

yesterday was day one in north carolina.

what does that mean? it means that it was the first day, ever, that same sex couples were finally treated as equals. the first day that same-sex couples received the right to file for marriage licenses and get married. and the first day that my love and i were legally, officially, recognized as a married couple in my home state.

it’s been a long time coming, and for a while, i wondered how long we would have to wait to be able to have the right to marry and build a life with the one that we love. but, tonight i saw same sex couples getting married in asheville, north carolina. like legally married. not a commitment ceremony, but a real live, legal marriage. with paperwork from the government and all. in north carolina!

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it’s a long legal story, that sped up in intensity this past monday after a ruling in virginia struck down the law that defined marriage as only between a man and a women. in other words, it was unconstitutional (illegal). that ruling opened the door for other states to also strike down their own bans on same-sex marriage. north carolina has had a ban on gay marriage for a while now, but i didn’t really believe that the law would be stuck down anytime soon.

so, after a lot of drama and a lot of waiting, and hoping, and wishing, and last ditch political and horrific stalling tactics by republican, and almost giving up, at the last minute on friday night, a judge in north carolina ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional (because of what happened in virginia on monday). and then, within minutes, same- sex marriages were allowed to begin. I couldn’t believe it when i saw it in my twitter feed.

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when i saw the news on twitter… i ran to lina. we stood in amazement. just looking at each other. suddenly, within a flash, our marriage was recognized in our state. suddenly we were a married couple in north carolina – with rights and privileges. not just two girls living together. but, legitimately married. it felt amazing. and i could hardly breathe.

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here we are, literally minutes after same sex marriage became legal in north carolina last night. we had to celebrate with a photo of a real, live, legally recognized married couple!

the government offices where you get marriage licenses stayed open late all across the state after the ruling in favor of same sex marriages. and couples poured in to get their licenses, and then immediately get married. there were ministers and clergy available everywhere to marry people right on the spot.

we decided to hop in the car and head down to the government building to be a part of this historic moment, and when we arrived, we saw that there were people milling about everywhere. couples were scattered in groups on the stairs in front of the building, getting married right there. other couples cheered them on. lina and i joined in. it is unbelievable how this truly affects the lives of so many people and so many families. it is so amazing that this has happened. that it is real.

to be clear, lina and i do not have to get married again. we were married in sweden almost 5 years ago, and as of last night, that marriage is now legal in north carolina! so, no ceremonies for us. only celebrations that our love and our marriage is something that is real and valid and recognized now. *deep breath* amazing.

here are photos of the wedding ceremonies and celebrations happening just after the ruling. it was so emotional and powerful and unbelievable…

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the rest of the photos are not mine. i pulled them off of different places on twitter. but, it shows you just some of the couples in asheville that got marriage licenses and got married. what a huge, mind-blowing, heart-exploding day! look at how cute these couples are – and they (along with lina and i) get to celebrate their love – and be recognized as full, legitimate spouses!

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yep. yesterday was day one. the day that love came to north carolina. the day that equality and justice won. i am so proud. so excited. and so overjoyed. and you know what else? it really did feel different walking around today, holding my love’s, my wife’s, hand – knowing that we are not just two women who live together. but, in the eyes of the law of north carolina and the united states, we are legally married. it is a binding contract, affording us the same rights and privileges as opposite gender couples. and i cannot adequately describe to you how incredible this feels.

yesterday, love won.

light + love

my response to your response.

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whoa. i am overwhelmed by the response i have had after telling my story about my experience with the UMC and LGBT issues. you people are truly amazing.

thank you!

more than anything, though, i thank you for sharing and spreading my post – on Facebook and twitter and your blogs. keep sharing! but, not to up my readership, in order to get my story out there in an effort to bring about change. i seriously want to speak up for the other LGBT candidates for minister, ministers, and individuals who also find themselves alienated and confused with their home church. so, i’m going to keep writing and posting as much as i can, in as many places as i can. i am going to do what i can, in my way, to bring about change. i promise that.

as for me, just so you know, i am very satisfied and happy with my life right now. i am not pining away, crying in the corner because i am not ordained. while all that has happened surround my inability to be ordained in the UMC has been painful and difficult, i am so certain of the path that i am on. i have left the idea of ordination behind, not so much because i can’t do it = others have kept me from doing it; but i have left it behind because i have taken time in the past few years to search my soul, listen to the silence, and discern my calling to ministry. and what i have come up with is that i do not feel that i must be ordained in order to do ministry. and that comes from my evolving definition of ministry.

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at one point, a long time ago, i learned about the idea of the priesthood of all believers, which is simply the idea that all people all called to ministry of some sort of another. that each of us have passions, gifts, and things to offer to the world that we can use, and are called to use, to make this world a better place, to spread love. all of us. each of us, you and i, have amazing things about us that make a difference to others. why wouldn’t we discover them and use them? and when we do, then we are engaging in ministry – no matter what: faith or no faith, UMC or any other denomination, religion or no religion.

and, since i believe in the idea of the priesthood of all believers, then i am called to ministry every day, and i take part in doing ministry every day that i am being true to myself – and for me that includes writing, mentoring, talking, listening…

ordained ministers are ministers just like everyone else, in the sense that they are called to ministry. what makes them different (in the UMC point of view) is that they are ordained = “set apart” for a lifetime of ministry. and by that, i mean that they have been educated, supported, encouraged, and felt a call from within to live and serve the church with their entire lives. something that i felt and experienced, up to the ordained part. however, after much thought and reflection (and based on my experiences), for me, ordained or not… i am called to a lifetime of ministry no different from my ordained brothers and sisters. i am called to share my gifts, talents, passions throughout my whole life. even though i may not be “set apart” as someone to work in a church, my ministry is something that exists beyond the church organization. this is just something that i have discerned for myself, i am certainly not knocking ordination or my ordained colleagues. this is simply how i hear god calling me at this point in my life.

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there is one thing that i do want to do, though, that might make my ministry more “professional”. something that i have felt called to for a while now. it’s something that i have been considering since i was in seminary 6-7 years ago. one of my professors brought it up, and it resonated so deeply with my soul, though i had no idea how it fit into my life. and haven’t had any idea how to incorporate it into my life… until now.

i want to seek certification as a spiritual guide/mentor. i want to attend a 2 year program, exploring all kinds of spirituality and counseling techniques, so that i can be certified and able to offer my ministry of presence, writing, and mentorship to others in a more professional setting – even through my own practice, perhaps. as i said, this is something that i have felt inside of me for a while now, and i seriously want to consider beginning a program in the new year. mind you, i am not certain that i want to be connected to any denomination or faith, but i also do not want to just be flying about out there on my own.

so, for now. ordination in the UMC is not possible. and by principle, that is totally not ok. but, it is ok in my life right now. it is also not time for me to consider ordination in another denomination that allows me to be ordained, though many people have suggested that i “switch” churches.

what does feel right is to explore the possibility of becoming a certified spiritual direction/guide/mentor. so, that’s what i am going to do.

and what more can i say to all of you, than, i appreciate more than you will ever know, your support, your encouragement, and your presence in my life and on this blog. thank you from the bottom of my heart and my soul for journeying with me as i seek to be faithful to who i am called to be, learning more and more as each day passes.

LOVE AND PEACE.

open hearts? no. open minds? no. open doors? no. open wounds? yes!

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friends, it’s happening again. love is on trial. you know, when people get together and begin to decide who is right and who is wrong. who gets to love whom. who gets to get married and to whom. and, in this case, who gets to do the marrying.

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if you don’t know this already, here is a little background info on me:

  • i grew up in the united methodist church, and am still a member. though, not so active now.
  • the methodist church has always been a church that focuses on grace, love, and social issues, leading civil rights issues in the 60s. i felt at home here.
  • my granddad was a methodist minister, and i wanted to be just like him. he has always been my inspiration.
  • so, i decide to pursue this calling and was offered a job in a church a long time ago.
  • as of today, i have worked as a minister in a united methodist church (umc) for a total of 10 years.
  • during that time i studied theology and ministry at an african methodist seminary – an amazing, life-changing, world-opening, theology-busting experience.
  • i planned on being ordained in the umc – like an ordained minister, pastor, preacher, minister kinda person.
  • so to recap: i worked as a minister (unordained) for 8 years. i had a master’s of divinity degree. i jumped through all the hoops over all the years to become an ordained minister. i felt called to this, from deep within my soul. i was ready.
  • i met an amazing woman & fell in love.
  • soon, we got married and i was happier than i’d ever been. yes. woman + woman = love.
  • when i got married i was in my last step of ordination = i had completed the 4 year process of seminary, plus all of the paperwork and approvals by various groups & committees.
  • at a final committee meeting to approve to send me to the last committee before ordination (provisional is the fancy term), i mentioned that i was moving to sweden.
  • no problem, they all said. the umc is in sweden so i could still complete my process.
  • the problem came when i said that i was married. and used the words “wife” and “lina”, indicating that i was married to a woman.
  • the meeting abruptly stopped and i was asked to leave the room due to the fact that i violated a rule in the book of discipline (the rule book for the umc).
  • the rule, you ask? the umc will not ordain anyone who professes that they love and/or are living with someone of the same sex because it is “incompatible with christian teaching.”
  • after some time, someone came to get me and the committee gave me 2 options:
  • 1. since i had said that i was married to a woman out loud, and that is against the rules = no lgbt person can be ordained in the methodist church who says they are in any lgbt relationship, then i could pull my candidacy and quit the process myself. OR
  • 2. i could continue to say that i want to be ordained, follow my calling and what i feel is right for my life, and leave my fate up to the committee to decide = make them de-certify me as a candidate for ministry and say that i am no longer fit or worthy to be ordained.
  • guess what i chose? yep. 2. there was no way in hell i was giving up and quitting. they would have to force me out and deny my the right to be ordained.
  • and they did just that.
  • all because of who i loved. and because i said that i loved her.
  • never mind all the years of work in a church, all the years of studies, and endorsements from others (including some in that room).
  • never mind that i was exactly the same person that i had always been, even the same person as 1 minute before i said that i was married to lina. i did not change. i have not changed. i am still me, with all my gifts and passions and ways to help the world & the church. i still have all of the same things to offer. but, never fucking mind.
  • that was that. the end. candidacy over.
  • ordination was no impossible.
  • i was crushed.
  • and then i was pissed.

today the methodist church was at it again. only this time is was not against a person who was married to/in a relationship with the same sex. this time, it was a man, a methodist minister, who performed a wedding ceremony for his son and his son’s, now, husband.

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yep. the umc does not only discriminate against those who want to be ministers and are in same-sex relationships, like me, but they will not allow any of their current ordained ministers to perform any same-sex marriages. another rule in the book. but, this minister, this dad, broke that rule, saying that he was ministering out of love – and that the love overrides, overrules the ban on same-sex marriage. good for him!

how can a church say that people in same-sex relationships can not get ordained and can not get married, but are still “welcome” to be in the church and are worthy, just like everyone else? it’s a mixed message. and it’s just freaking wrong. it’s exclusionary. and, i do believe that jesus, who the church follows (not a rule book!), always INCLUDED everyone. exclusion was not in his vocabulary. so, why is the umc so exclusive?

well, the minister that performed the wedding for his son was put on trial yesterday. yes, the methodist church has a judicial system, to make it more democratic – which is a good thing. potentially. yesterday the court ruled that the minister was guilty of violating the law of the book. again – the book, not jesus. where are the freaking priorities here?!

and today, just a few minutes ago, to be exact, the minister’s fate was decided. the jury decided that the minister is suspended for 30 days and that at the end of his 30 days, he must repent (say he is sorry and he did wrong), or else he must turn in his ministerial orders = be stripped of his ordination. no longer a minister in the methodist church. all because of a wedding.

you see, the jury did a cowardly thing today. the jury decided not to take a stand on this divisive issue and make a real ruling. they didn’t want him to continue to be a minister, but they didn’t want to defrock him and strip away his orders either. so they took the easy ass way out. gave him a suspension and then said HE had to decide what to do. that’s just bs and exactly what the umc seems to be all about – let’s take the middle road and not offend. let’s see if we can navigate in the middle and make everyone happy, or better yet, just not make any strong statement for or against anything. gaaahh. infuriating!

hmm… reminds me of my “choice”. that committee who was dealing with me did not want to de-certify me as a candidate for ministry. there were many amazing people on that committee, who i know loved me, and were very sad to see the situation come up. but, i was not about to let the umc off too easy. it was not me that had changed my mind – i still wanted to be ordained. i was determined to force the book of discipline force me out. i was determined to make the committee deal with the issue. and they did. they chose to follow the book.

on the one hand, i understand. but i also understand that there are many who, like me, disagree with certain rules in the book, but still uphold it. and here’s where i am with that now: nothing will change unless we stand up and make it change. if we keep disagreeing and, yet, still keep following the things we disagree with, then we will remain a church that is divided and focused on excluding people because of our need to follow the rules. i pretty sure jesus wasn’t too concerned about rules that seemed to be unjust. or, rather, he was concerned with them. he blew right past them, ignored them, and taught others that there is a more just way. he stood for something and made a difference, risking even his life for things that no one around him understood. when will you, umc, follow in the footsteps of jesus?

what does warm my heart ever-so-slightly in the midst of all of this, is reading twitter and seeing the resolve of so many ordained ministers who are saying that they, too, will refuse to follow the entire book of discipline. that they will stand up and take that chance. maybe, just maybe. one day there will be a change, if enough people get up enough courage. i’m sorry, brothers & sisters in ministry, i would join you, if i was ordained. i’d stand up.

so, i am pissed again today. and disappointed. and glad that i have stepped away somewhat from the church. i know that it is all about making change and staying in so that change can come from within, but you know what? they wouldn’t let me in. and i am/was not called to be a lay person in the umc. i am/was called to be an ordained minister. so, for now, i have no place there. i’ve been kicked out. and that’s fine. i’ll keep sending letters and pleading my case. but, i can’t do it from the inside, because they won’t let me in.

being stripped of my candidacy happened almost 4 years ago. and the wounds are still fresh. and every time something like this trial comes up again in the life of the umc, i am hopeful. i hope that there will be a change, that more people will say screw the book and let’s love the people. but, it doesn’t happen. there are plenty of people who are saying it, but it’s not happening. so, every time there is a new trial or a new part of this old controversy, my wounds gape even wider. it hurts. it stings. and i move further and further away from the church that i knew and loved.

i just can’t do it. there are too many other places where i am wanted and needed and able to make my mark. so, that’s what i am doing.

but, my heart still aches. i miss my church. and i am so. very. disappointed. the church seems to have no idea how this affects people. i keep dragging these feelings and emotions of unworthiness and confusion around with me, like heavy chains. most of the time i can forget about them, or i have grown used to them, but every now and then, on days like today, i am reminded that i am not welcome as i am. i am reminded that, though i did everything right, i fell in love with the “wrong” person (according to the church) and “broke” a “rule”.

and then i get pissed again. because, i am not in the wrong. love is never, ever wrong. listen to me: love is never, ever wrong.

but, tonight. i am done. it hurts too much. the pain will never heal. it will keep getting easier, but there will always be a hole in my heart. all i ever wanted was to give my life to the umc, but they wouldn’t have me.

still, i must move on and forward. and leave this all behind. it’s done. and i will never ever, not for one second, regret being true to who i am, for having the integrity and courage to say that just because i love a woman, does NOT mean that i am not worthy of ministering.

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i guess the umc will just miss out on my ministry. but, god will not. and the world will not. because faith, love, hope, and service are bigger than the methodist church.

peace. justice, and love for all.