Saturday, July 7, 2012

Being "Out" Brings Hope to Others

by Mary O'Shaughnessy
Integrity Metro NYC Convener and Volunteer at General Convention

Years ago, I was working in a large corporate office in New York, and had amassed the usual collection of work acquaintances with whom I was on good terms. I was as out about being an Episcopalian as I was about being a lesbian, and so people had a very good idea of who I was.

One day, I got a call from a Jewish coworker. She said, “I know you are Christian and gay and are okay with both of those things. Would you talk to someone who isn’t?”

That is not a question that admits of a “no” from any self-respecting follower of Jesus.

A few days later, I found myself sitting in a booth in a coffee shop with an older woman who had been raised Roman Catholic, just at the transition of Vatican II. She pulled out a crumpled, highlighted copy of Genesis, and began to tell me about her search. She told me she’d been raised on the Baltimore Catechism, and had recently tried to read the Bible starting at Genesis. She started to cry, and said, “I don’t like this God, and He hates me anyway. What can I do? Am I really going to hell?”

While she talked, I listened carefully and thought of Jesus’ warning to “suffer the little children…” I was terrified that if I said the wrong thing, I would destroy the last of this woman’s hope. I have never prayed harder in my life.

When she fell silent, I said, “What you have been exposed to is extremely incomplete. What you have is a black-and-white photo still from a five-hour color movie of God’s work in the world—and you are part of that movie and that work.” I talked a little about how the Bible as we have it is structured, and about how the Baltimore Catechism was in no way a complete representation of a thousand years of theological inquiry and study. I told her about how welcome I was in my Episcopal parish and about the Episcopal Church’s commitment to scripture, faith and reason. I gave her the names of a few parishes I knew about in her area, and sent her off with my best wishes and prayers.

Six months later, I got a phone call. She had joined a nearby Episcopal parish and was in the process of studying for reception. It was a happy phone call. 

I never heard from her again. That is as it should be; she has gone on (I hope) in her life of faith, and I was a one-time agent of the Holy Spirit.

The Episcopal Church’s continuing inclusion of LGBT people makes evangelistic moments like this possible. Who else will we bring into this household of faith with this inclusive stance?

Moreover — how do you cooperate with the Holy Spirit in making known the work of God in the world? Are you “out” as an Episcopalian in your workplace?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bless you, Mary!