After spending five days with the wonderful people of the United Church of Canada, it will be good to spend tonight in my own bed. I was so honored to be invited to participate with them and to lead a day-long workshop at the end of the conference.
There were many things that struck me about this time, and there is much that I will ponder in the days and weeks to come. As a Southerner and an American, I wasn’t sure just how I’d be perceived or heard. My accent has served me well pastoring churches in the South. I was often able to get away with saying radically liberal things because I said them with a southern drawl. In this case, though, I was afraid that my accent might elicit all the stereotypes and I’d be dismissed as being from a cultural or intellectual backwater.
The truth is they couldn’t have been more gracious and hospitable. If they discovered that I really was a hick from South Georgia they were too polite to let on. We had lots of fun together, and I learned a lot, too.
It wasn’t until after I had spoken to an audience of more than 600 during my first session that it even crossed my mind that perhaps I should have been worried about how they might react to having a gay preacher and activist speak to them. Fortunately, the United Church of Canada is a very progressive and inclusive denomination, so it was not an issue for them. What was great, though, was that it didn’t even occur to me until afterwards.I spent the first eight years of my ministry hiding my identity. Then I spent the next 25 fighting with my people for our place in the church. Today, the greatest gift may be how little the gender of the person I love seems to matter. That is what we have been fighting for all along.
While I was in Victoria, they asked me to do a radio program for their equivalent of NPR. Because I was in their city to talk about church renewal, I thought that was what they wanted to talk to me about. I even brought a copy of my church growth book. As it turned out, they wanted to talk to me about homosexuality and Christianity. It has been so long since I spoke about that I was a little rusty, but I told the interviewer that I had written a book about that too and would send her a copy if I could find it.
Children of God, the world is changing fast.
By Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal