Saturday, October 25, 2008

Understatement of the Week

From the Twin Cities' Star-Tribune:  Jodi Barry is not the first lesbian to be ordained into a Lutheran ministry.

You can say that again. It's getting to be as much of a cliche as Lutheran pastors with facial hair, beer-bellies or the irritating (and mistaken) conviction that Concordia St Louis is a cross between Harvard and Paradise.  For many years, we had to listen to a press release every time Lutherans ordained a woman; once that faded, it was still a press release on every anniversary of the first time they ordained a woman.  Thirty years later, a lot of us were ready to pull out our facial hair each time the subject came up.

Ah.  But this isn't quite the same, is it? As most of you know, lesbian Lutheran pastors (like gay male Lutheran pastors) fit broadly into one of three categories:
  1. Those who remain closeted, however transparently;
  2. Those who have been ordained extra ordinem, a polite expression for those blessed by a congregation or special-interest group, but whose faculties are not recognized by the church at large (Ms Barry's situation); or
  3. Those who are celibate.  They do exist.
There may possibly be a fourth category -- those who belong to tiny micro-denominations, consisting of a few dozen congregations, which turn a blind eye to the controversy.  In our experience, however, those groups tend to be sharply conservative, and turn a blind eye only to the adultery of the straight men who seek refuge there when defrocked elsewhere.  (You know who you are).

But sooner or later, in the ELCA as in various European churches (we're looking at you, Finland), the two principal categories are going to merge.  The closet doors are already crumbling, and eventually they will fall away, largely because nobody much cares anymore.  At some point after that, the extrae ordines will be grandfathered in, or accepted by some means.   And the celibates will do what their conscience tells them, whatever that may be. 

That time has not yet come.  And so for now, each time a gay or lesbian pastor is ordained, publicly and with no pretense of celibacy, it is a principled violation of the church's rules, undertaken both to further the mission of a congregation and to prick the conscience of the broader community.  And --for better or worse -- it is still news. 

So, for Jodi Barry, whom we do not know in the least:  Our best wishes, and our condolences.  You want to be a pastor, and we bless you; for now, that means you are also a news item, and our heart aches for you.

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