“Can I call you Ray?”

“Can I call you Ray?”

“My name is Steve, Can I call you Ray?”
“Sure, can I call you Steve?”

So began one of the questions during my presbytery examination to be approved for ordination. It continued…

“So, Ray. If you are gay, how are you going to teach kids in Sunday school?”

It would not be the only time such a question would be asked, sucking the air out of the room.

This many years later, fifteen years later – I still wonder how many folks continue to hold biases against the called LGBTQ community in our denomination. Chances are you know some of them. More likely, you have done something to help in the long process of the PCU(USA) becoming opening and welcoming.

Still, do you know how many openly queer pastors there are installed in the broader church? Out of 9,161 congregations in the PC(USA) as of 2018, what do you think?  Would you be surprised to think that there were less than 100? There are no statistics that I know of that track our community’s progress, nor has there ever been one by the denomination. That, in itself, is interesting and raises serious questions about representation. Anecdotally, I would be surprised if there were more than 50 openly queer installed pastors throughout the entire denomination.

It is one thing to pass legislation, hard fought legislation  – yet it is another to step up as a church and support the integration of ratified changes; witnessing to others still in their own struggles (like the UMC) how they might be helped by our progress.

There really are too few and too quiet voices within the church today, challenging the changes that legislation alone is not enough to give meaning. Word is there are studies afoot, again. 

Word is that we are to love our God and one another; not wait for a study to tell us how we continue to fall behind.

Sure, you can call me Ray. Just don’t ask me or any others like me whether we could be called  to ministry or teach Sunday school, love a congregation or serve faithfully – because we identify as queer. That’s not only a terrible question to ask, it’s a way of thinking that likely explains why so few of us are installed. 

A way of thinking that I hope our denomination is committed to changing. However, we probably shouldn’t pause and wait for that to happen first.

Ray Bagnuolo, Minister of Word and Sacrament
That All May Freely Serve, Chaplain
Validated Ministry of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley
02.21.2020; ray@nulltamfs.org; 631-827-8611

Currently serving as pastor of
Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ
Sayville, New York