Is There Room for the LGBTQ Me in Ministry?
by Rev. Dr. Nicole McDonald
CTS PhD in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric Student, Cohort 1
In my first year of seminary in 2006, I struggled with my call and my vocation. Having left my career as an Environmental Engineer to embark on this journey with God, I wondered if there was a place for me in ministry. I knew I was called, but where would I be called to? I’m Black. I’m female. And, oh, by the way, I think I’m gay. Personally, I was unaware of any Black, queer clergy who were “out of the closet” and in ministry. The only “out” congregational pastor that I could name was Rev. Dr. Yvette A. Flunder, whose ministry was on the other side of the country on the West Coast. Flunder was my only model of authentic ministry as an openly lesbian cleric.
Having “come out” to my family and friends in 2010, it took me another 10 years to unapologetically “come out” professionally as a queer cleric. My “coming out” in the middle of a global pandemic as a student in the PhD program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric was not without struggle. But, if I could sum up my “coming out” experience, I would say that the cost of freedom is priceless. The sacrifices of freedom are endless. And, the rewards of freedom make the closet worthless.
With this newfound freedom, I have the pleasure of experiencing a full circle moment, having the honor of writing my dissertation on Bishop Yvette A. Flunder. As I listen to her sermons and read her scholarship, I continue to glean wisdom on how to lean into being an openly, Black, female, queer cleric. The most profound insight about “coming out” that I’ve learned from Bishop Flunder is that “coming out” is a trusting God issue. As queer clergy, do you trust God to live authentically? Do you trust that God has called you just as you are to a ministry that only you can do?
There may be some among us that are struggling to choose authenticity and freedom. I am a living witness that you may not see the path ahead, but trust God. My prayer is that you find your tribe! I hope you find the community that is strong enough to hold your truth while you wrestle with your call. With support from your village, I pray you choose to take the leap of faith, knowing that God will show you the path.