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