Bishop Allyson Abrams—New Regular Columnist
Too many times I have heard that when persons are same gender loving, the people around them know, but are just waiting for them to make the declaration. I can now say, that is very true. When I made the declaration, some persons stated that they knew. But that doesn’t change the feeling that I had of being “outed” as a community leader and religious figure.
Reflecting, I must say, the day that I got married was truly a great day! I took the time to drive to Iowa to marry my best friend. (We drove to Iowa to get married because Michigan does not allow same-sex marriages.) Iowa was about six hours away, but no number of hours was too far to legally marry the one I love. It is a day that will never be forgotten.
Growing up in the church, and knowing what many mainline Christian denominations teach about marriage, I knew my marriage would not be welcomed by some. As a pastor and bishop, the wisest thing to do would be to hold it until I felt “released in my spirit” to share my news with my faith community. That day never came for me. While I was out preaching and teaching, another Christian minister who was not in support of my female pastorate, my political position nor my being a consecrated bishop, decided to express his sexism and discrimination against me, with bullying tactics. This male pastor began to search for information about me on the internet. Once he found my marriage certificate he then began to email my marriage certificate to some other ministers. This man even resorted to text messaging my information to ministers who were not in our immediate clergy community. Fortunately for me, I was informed by another pastor, who I considered a friend, that there was some “buzz” in the ministers’ organizations about me possibly being married to a woman.
I was shocked and angry that my whole life was about to be exposed without my permission. Realizing what was happening, even though it was ahead of my planned time to make the disclosure to my faith community, I needed to stand, tell the truth, be honorable and authentic in who I was as a same gender loving community and faith leader. It was time for me to walk in my truth. Knowing that God knew this day would come in my life. As pastor and shepherd, I needed to save my church from any hurt that it might experience from hearing this news from someone else.
It felt like a ball rolling down a steep hill very quickly. As the ball continued to roll down the hill, picking up speed every second, I felt the pressure of needing to share immediately with my congregation about my marriage. I loved my church. I loved the people who comprised the membership. I enjoyed being their pastor. And I knew that these members who had been under my leadership deserved to hear what I understood about love, what the Bible says about love, and how I had married the one that I loved.
October 6, 2013 is a Sunday morning that I will never forget. October 6th is the Sunday that due to the pressure of my marriage certificate being emailed around because of someone else’s homophobia, and due to someone choosing to discriminate against me as a female pastor and bishop, I “came out” to my congregation - during our worship service.
After my talk about love, Jesus Christ, and who I loved, some persons in my congregation wanted to express their feelings. A few expressed their love. A few expressed hurt and disappointment. Some said they simply could not believe it. One person stood and said, “Pastor, I love you. I support you.”. Another said, “Pastor, I’m shocked, but I support you.” Another stood and said, “Pastor, do you, because so many others are doing them.”
One of the things I try to explain to people is that nothing has changed about me. I am still the shepherd who invites and preaches with the power of God. I am still the pastor who shows up when you go to the hospital and who is there to help bury your loved ones and who counsels you during your time of need.
However, the conversations across the city that began to occur about my personal life and personal choices from some leaders in Detroit began to feel like bullying to me. And I knew that the positions I held, I needed to relinquish. Simply put, there would be no dialogue or discussion to see if we could come to an understanding on theological position or have a meeting of the minds. Therefore I resigned from many of my religious affiliations.
I went into greater prayer about how to handle this situation in the church and in the community, I knew that I needed to get the truth to the people of Detroit. I called the newspaper to share my side of the story because of the lies that were beginning to arise in the city about me.
The one thing I am sure of is that I still have the same passion and drive for my ministry and the same anointing on my life as I had before my marriage. I am confident that same-gender loving individuals can lead God’s people and serve God’s church with integrity. As a matter of fact, I now have a double portion, because my spouse now enhances who I am in ministry.
It does not matter what color you are, we are all made in God’s image. It does not matter what your sexual orientation is, we are all made in God’s image.
God created us in God’s likeness. And if God calls same-gender loving individuals from amongst the people to be leaders, who is anyone else to say that we cannot serve?
My spouse and I, while stepping out as our “authentic selves,” are given an opportunity to express love and support among the “least of these.”
God is granting miracle manifestations DAILY as we go on this journey. We have had an opportunity to witness to other pastors and ministers who are in same-gender marriages, but live in fear of coming out. We have had many conversations and received tremendous encouragement from other pastors who are still serving in the church and are in same-gender marriages. We have received an overwhelming number of text messages, phone calls and emails from ally and supportive pastors, who identify as heterosexual, but have told us that they support us, love us, and have a great degree of respect for us, and our honesty and integrity. While also receiving much love, we have received numerous hate and discriminatory messages from those with opposing views.
I am determined to move forward with the ministry that God has educated and equipped me to begin in this season. God has told me to begin a church that is affirming of all individuals; A church that will express God’s love to all who walk through the doors. We will be located where all can find us and will also be available to watch by streamed video services. I have put up a site that will allow persons to be able to assist this movement by making a donation, no matter what the amount, that would help bring this ministry and movement to reality. I am open to moving to whatever city, with marriage equality, that "I am determined to move forward with the ministry that God has educated and equipped me to begin in this season."calls me to come and pastor the people. I simply am committed to doing the work of the Lord. I need for everyone to help Bishop Abrams to move forward in affirming God’s people and preach a word that will liberate them from strongholds that were placed on them through other ministries and mis-education of theological doctrine and dogma.
I welcome any opportunity to speak on moving forward with an inclusive community. I welcome preaching engagements to share the gospel and good news about the TRUE love of Christ for ALL. I welcome the opportunity to lecture on what it means to be an affirming congregation. I welcome the opportunity to pray for the people of God (which means everybody). I welcome the opportunity to have inter-faith LGBT discussions and workshops. I would be overjoyed to perform any marriages in states where it is legal. I understand from my theology that I have the right to perform marriages for any persons who are in love and desire to commit their lives to one another, and therefore am glad to have witnessed DOMA being struck down. I stand in solidarity with Rev. Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist pastor who bravely performed his son’s marriage ceremony, knowing the United Methodist Church’s position was against marriage equality.
GOD IS LOVE. And with God’s power, I have come to realize that when God gets ready, and when God believes YOU are ready, God will use you to bring about change and to be a blessing to people all across the land: In spite of what denominations think, in spite of what communities think, in spite of what the people around you think. God’s love and will must be made known.
In other words, sometimes the CAUSE (that God has) will find you. The CAUSE to stand up for justice. The CAUSE to speak out for human rights. The CAUSE to be a voice to the voiceless. The CAUSE to be a catalyst to bring forth change. The CAUSE to show love to everyone. The CAUSE to empower the least of these. The CAUSE to shift the minds of those who stand in the way of freedom, hope, power and love.
People, I now realize, The CAUSE HAS FOUND ME!!
Please visit me on www.bishopallysonabrams.com
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