|Rev. Craig Minich|
By Rev. Craig Minich
When I was asked to preach at Trinity Lutheran Church in Oakland (one of the churches who are part of the collaborative youth ministry, called the East Bay Lutheran Youth Program), I was unprepared for what was to unfold for me in the life of the church, my ministry, and my faith. I knew that I would be preaching on the first Sunday after Easter (an opportunity, as a youth pastor, I am offered consistently each year) and that the Gospel would undoubtedly be the 'Doubting Thomas' text. As an out gay man ordained Extra Ordinem on February 18th, 2001 and rostered by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) I had a pretty good idea what I would be focusing on for my sermon.
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August of 2009 had passed a resolution to roster qualified gay and lesbian pastors who are in "publically-accountable, life-long, and monogamous relationships." As a pastor who is gay and in a partnered relationship this was welcome news. As an out gay pastor, who has been doing ministry with the "yes" of ELM for 10 years while still standing in principled non-compliance against the ELCA's policy of exclusion against GLBT pastors, their "no," this day seemed like it would never come. In the midst of that astounding vote in August, even though I wanted to believe it, I found myself saying to myself, "I'll believe it when I see it." I know how slow the church can move, I know the institution can take a long time to codify it's policies, and hence when dealing with the institution, I 'don't count my chickens before they hatch.' I have been disappointed before, and I knew from experience that until the policy is officially changed, I had reason to be careful. I wanted to celebrate with straight clergy allies who came up to me effusively saying things like, "aren't you happy!" and "great news, huh?" In those situations, I found myself only being able to smile tersely, all the while thinking to myself, "I'll believe it when I see it."
They had voted to ratify the Conference of Bishops proposal and voted to implement the policy changes necessary to receive gay and lesbian clergy in relationship onto synodical rosters of the ELCA. I was stunned, I was dumb-struck... and I didn't know what I was going to preach the following day.
I could not get the first word out, my grief and tears welled up so quickly. I sobbed my way through the Gospel reading, a reading that seemed to take ages, and I cried as I confessed at it's conclusion, that "I was OK, no one has died." I jettisoned my prepared sermon, and I preached from the depths of my heart, sharing what had happened the previous day (which most people had not heard about yet), sharing my surprise, and sharing that what I had intended to preach, was no longer the case. A new day had come, one that I had a hard time embracing at first, and yet here we were, we were at this day and their was no denying it. I could experience the change in the ELCA and feel their welcome in a new way, believing that this day had finally arrived, but more important than that, I shared that all along my journey to get to this day, I had seen the risen Christ like Thomas along the way, and I indeed, like Thomas, believed.
Rev. Craig Minich who serves the East Bay Lutheran Youth Program was received onto the ELCA roster of ordained ministers on Sunday, July 25.