“I don’t need to be ordained.”
It was my last meeting with my Committee on Preparation for Ministry in the Presbytery of Hudson River. Seminary was done; ordination exams completed; supervised ministry; Greek; Hebrew; and my first of four units of CPE. All that was left (at this point!) was to be cleared to seek a call. It was around mid-2003.
I think it was Jack Hoffmeister on the committee who asked me, “What’s different for you now, as you look back on when all this began for you five years ago?” I hadn’t given that question much thought, although I knew the answer by that time: “I realize that I don’t need to be ordained. I just need to follow the path and trust that whatever God has in mind for me, ordination or not, will unfold as it should.” (Shades of Desiderata!)
It was true. I had learned that nothing was certain as a queer person, a gay man, in seeking ordination. I had learned this from others whose stories and personhoods I came to know, folks like Bill Silver, Sandy Brawders, Chris Glaser. There were no assurances for ordination in the midst of strident discrimination by the denomination. The hoped-for outcome of the process, once again, took a back seat to the importance of the process, itself. Not to realize this was to be harmed even greater by the church that had become fitful in its overall treat of its LGBTQ community.
It seems my Presbytery on Preparation for Ministry understood all this, too, some of which we learned together, I am sure – but deeply they understood the Presence, power and freedom inherent in the call process, especially when prophetic. So many of you know this, too, and have been and continue to be faithful and amazing allies!
As it turns out, I would be ordained in 2005, called to serve Palisades Presbyterian Church in Palisades, New York as Interim Pastor. At the time, Interim Ministers agreed not to apply for the permanent position, once the interim work was done. It was part of the Book of Order. Had that been otherwise, I might have still been there; it was that wonderful of a loving congregation. I am so grateful to them; to South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry (under whose life-changing care I served) and to the Presbytery of Hudson River, and its EP David Prince. Like too few other congregations and Middle Governing Bodies in the PC(USA), they led the way so others could follow, not being held hostage to “waiting for a better time.” (Never understood that one; still don’t.)
Also true is this: The “process” of justice and radical inclusionary hospitality continues today; congregations will still not consider, let alone call, a queer person. Still for every congregation that does—we see God a bit more clearly in one another and ourselves. Now, there’s “evangelism” for you! Well, at least for me. 🙂
So, I write as though no one is reading—but, if you did get this far and your congregation is searching for a pastor, I ask you to join in this continuing process and request that the Pastoral Nominating Committee and your Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry be sure to invite a qualified queer person as a candidate into the search. We are easier to find than you think. You just might find who it is your have been searching for!
I still don’t need to be ordained, by the way, but I am humbled and grateful to be.
Ray Bagnuolo, Minister of Word and Sacrament
That All May Freely Serve, Chaplain
Validated Ministry of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley
02.07.2020; email@example.com; 631-827-8611