LC, as is so often the case, got me thinking again this morning (and it hurts before my first cup of coffee...).
What image of "Christian" do we present to the rest of the world? This is especially timely for me right now. As part of our congregation's search for our own building, I'm making a lot of contacts in the community at large, with public officials, etc. What kind of impression am I making on them? Do they see "Christian" first or "G(ay)L(esbian)B(isexual)T(ransgendered) person" first? Do they see the collar before anything else? Some people, I know, have a hard time reconciling the first two--Christian and GLBT--let alone adding the clergy identification into the mix.
River City is heavily Roman Catholic, conservative Roman Catholic as I haven't seen in a while. The atmosphere reminds me of my ex's family (RC) in Brooklyn, where any mention of a deceased relative was followed by "Godresisoul," and first communion parties rivalled weddings. Thus another issue for them--a GLBT female clergy (they may have been aware of a neighbourhood priest who was "that way," but he was still male, and theoretically celibate, anyway). Many people have this ingrained respect for "the cloth" trained into them from the time they could talk. But in the GLBT community, they've also been trained that who they are is something to be ashamed of. So people hide in the closet, or, when they come out, reject not only Catholicism, but Christianity. So to see an out Christian often opens their mind to a new possibility--that they could be both Christian and out. And, as the town's "token religious GLBT spokesperson," I'm a model for that.
Now that sounds a bit conceited, but I'm not trying to say that I am the perfect model. In fact, that's something I still have to come to grips with. People do look to me, to see how I will react to an event, or what I am doing in response to an issue. I am very aware that what I do affects not only how the GLBT community might see the church/Christianity/clergy, but also how "straight" folks view the GLBT community/Christians/clergy. I am very aware of my many faults and failings, so there's a real tension between honesty and providing a role model. In many ways, I'm forced to be a better person than I would be on my own...and that's a sad commentary on my discipleship, perhaps, but there it is--the truth.