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Sharing in Faith: Offering a place in our hearts

The Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall

The Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall
Photo courtesy of Steve Poteete-Marshall.

When I read the Scripture, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man" (Luke 6:22), I think of a wedding I recently attended for two clergy friends of mine who both happen to be women.

Their service was held in the backyard of loving friends on a beautiful spring day, in a spirit of celebration and joy. When the daughter of my friend read the Luke passage, tears poured out from her eyes, and these words from Luke hit me like a lightning bolt. How much pain had they endured?

Each could have chosen a different path, but they believed with all their hearts God had called them to ministry, a calling confirmed by the board of ordained ministry, and faithfully served in the congregations they were appointed to.

They had to choose to keep their relationship quiet, never able to celebrate the partner that they have loved and committed to.

I have listened to my colleagues’ stories of what it is like to interview for church positions and hear people ask, “What is your sexual orientation?”

For some this is the most important question, but for those faithful to God, their call to serve is most important. Their ordination journey is to those who have a call from God to serve, and to make new disciples for Jesus Christ. They have done their work to educate and prepare themselves for this work. They have submitted themselves to the process of interviews, personality tests and written manuscripts.

Yet, this simple question about sexual orientation is asked as though the sexual orientation of someone would then somehow void all the preparation and their call from God to be effective pastors.

Our United Methodist discipline calls on us to affirm the sacred worth of every being as a child of God, yet we often fall into the trap of defining others by their sexual orientation, by the color of their skin, by the income they earn. We sin against God when we choose to believe that someone is “less than,” unworthy of being treated as a sacred child of God. And those who live outside the circle of unconditional love and acceptance live persecuted lives, feeling the hate and the anger daily.

Yet in the midst of this reality, two people — beautifully alive, servants of God — dare to stand up and commit themselves to one another, and preach to us a word of love. They did so quietly, not to cause too many ripples, and this reflects who they are.

I, on the other hand, would dare to stir the waters and challenge us to overcome any prejudice, any hatred and any sin with God's grace to welcome those who are persecuted, to offer them a place in our hearts.

I have served on staff for Strength for the Journey, a weeklong retreat for adults living with HIV/AIDS. In the 20 or so years I have been working with these folks, I have learned from them how valuable each and every person is, and not to judge based on sexual orientation or a disease but on the fact that we are all children of God, connected to God’s heart because of grace and unconditional love.

So it is my journey to practice this love, to preach this love and to call others to love in this way, so we all can live free from prejudice and hate.

The Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall
Montrose, California

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Posted November 3, 2014.