The UMC Judicial Council decision to continue discriminating against out and queer clergy hit me harder than I expected. I didn’t necessarily expect a great outcome, but I also didn’t expect the decision that was made.
After I heard about the decision, it immediately hit me how much the Church has hurt me as a queer person. For many years I’d been in denial about it, buried it, and it just became the expectation. I became used to injustice and this particular injustice became normalized in my life. I guess it was the only way I was going to get through the ordination process and, besides, there are many other injustices I juggle and have to resist because of the various intersections I hold in my one being.
My ordination process took at least 7 years. That entire time I was vetted, interviewed, evaluated. When I first entered the process I remember wondering if I should stay in The UMC or switch to another denomination. But I felt called to The UMC for various reasons and because of various revelations. I remember seeking support about when or if I should come out at all during the process. I decided to keep quiet.
That meant keeping quiet my experiences, some of my ministry with LGBTQI people, and it meant keeping quiet about who I loved at those times.
It also meant I had to think twice about building a full romantic partnership with someone, about building a family, and about being open and accepted. I wondered if I could be partnered and if they would be accepted, if they would receive my work benefits, if I could get married, if my being queer was going to affect my appointment, and if there were enough churches that would be okay having a Qqueer pastor.
I remember that it wasn’t until my last year of the process that I decided to come out to my bishop and some Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) leadership at the last ordination retreat after being recommended. I was unexpectedly moved to tears when I came out and I only felt safe doing so because the BOOM chair spoke so much about his desire to make our Annual Conference inclusive to queer clergy. I came out and it was a non-issue. It was an odd response, but at least it didn’t keep me from getting ordained in 2015.
In many ways, I grew up feeling like my call to ministry was not valid.
Because I am not cisgender male. Because I am Filipino American. Because I am short in stature and Brown. Because I was young. Because I am queer. Because of how I dress (which is deeply connected to my gender presentation/expression). Because I am revolutionary in my perspective and strive to be so in practice.
When you don’t feel like who you are is valid or even matters or when you are a survivor of consistent emotional abuse, you get used to hiding to stay safe.
You get used to living just part of your life. You get used to compartmentalizing who you are. You get used to being a partial version of yourself. You get used to loving yourself partially and internalizing the various hate thrown your way. You get used to loving others partially and receiving halfway love in return. And it becomes normal.
As much as I complain, I do love this church. It raised me for better or for worse and I felt called to it. To transform it. To help it do better for the masses, for the oppressed, for the marginalized so that folks in my position didn’t have to be in my position any more.
But I am tired. I am tired of defending myself, of making sure I and others like me are not invisible or just pushed aside. I am tired of trying to convince others that I am worthy to be treated justly, with dignity, and that we are valuable forces in this ministry of transformation. I am tired of worrying about what will happen to my call and career because I am queer.
But I am also tired of not being my full self. I am tired of loving myself and others halfway. I am tired of living life halfway. I am tired of listening to the invalid claims the institution, and other institutions that choose the way of Empire, thinks it has on me. And while I am tired now, I know I’m not alone. I have faith in us.
Combined, we have too much resistance in our blood, in our spiritual ancestry, to go back into hiding. We have no choice but to rise. And we will.
She received her Masters of Divinity (M. Div.) at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley in 2010. She spent two years of Field Education at Buena Vista UMC and served as Minister of Youth & Community Outreach. In this position she coordinated a program called JAMS (Justice, Art, Music, Spirituality), which organized opportunities for the church and community to come together and strengthen relationship, through exploring issues such as the occupation in Palestine, LGBTQ inclusion in Asian Pacific Islander (API) churches, human rights in the Philippines, and establishing affordable housing in the city of Alameda. She also cultivated the leadership of the youth at Buena Vista UMC, supporting their endeavors for outreach, spiritual growth, fellowship, and critical thinking.
She was appointed Lead Pastor at Pine UMC in July 2011. She is co-chair of the CA-NV Philippine Solidarity Task Force, board member of NRJ, board member of the Bay Area Immigration Task Force, and a member of the Annual Conference's Advocacy & Justice Committee.
Latest posts by Pastor Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola (see all)
- Why I’m tired of loving others and myself halfway in The UMC - April 29, 2017
- Saturday, March 12 – A Season of Becoming Lenten Devotional - March 12, 2016
- Remembrance is not a passive act - March 11, 2015