Gay All of a Sudden

Published June 15, 2019 in the Ames Tribune

By Eileen Gebbie

In the 1938 classic, “Bringing Up Baby,” Carey Grant has cause to open the front door of a home wearing only a woman’s highly feminine robe. When asked why he was dressed in such a shocking way, he does a little hop and says, “I just went gay all of a sudden.”

I have felt a little bit that way recently.

Now, I have been out to myself as certainly not straight since middle school. I was desperately in love with my best friend. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her, and when her mom was dying, I helped with almost every aspect of my friend’s life, including letting her copy my homework since caring for her mom took all that she had. So, pretty gay. But I also had a boyfriend. And, by age 19, I had a husband.

I divorced at 23 and came out to my family as gay. In graduate school by then, I went on to become a leader in the campus queer coalition and to help a human sexuality course with an annual speaker panel that I liked to call Gays on Parade. I also passed as a man and so effectively that the gay guys in Chicago’s Boys Town hit on me. Again, pretty gay.

Over time, though, as both I and my career grew, that initial emphasis on out-ness faded, taking a back seat to the work of paying off student loans and wondering what it meant to feel like God wanted me to be a pastor. When I ran a Habitat for Humanity affiliate, I learned to balance my personal integrity with the mission of the organization, a mission that often took me into highly conservative Christian churches.

I never closeted myself or my wife, but I felt no one’s marriage really need be a central issue at work. I brought the affiliate out of millions of dollars of debt, while building a record number of homes with the help of many of those churches, corporate donors and city government.

A memorable home dedication included the local lesbian choir and a men’s group from the most conservative church in our community; they had worked side-by-side to help the family build their home.

Of course, my marriage couldn’t be anything but a major issue when I began my work as a pastor. My childhood denomination rejected me on the grounds of my sexuality. My new-found denomination, United Church of Christ, had (and still has) only limited room for LGBTQIA+ people. Nationally, only 35 percent of our churches are what we call Open and Affirming (ONA), and in Iowa, the number is a disappointing 15 percent.

In my search for a church, I found ome congregations wanted to use me as evidence of their politics, a token of their self-interest. In my first church, which had been ONA for 20 years but had never had a gay pastor or a female lead pastor, I was regularly reminded of how lucky I was it had made an exception for me.
It was all very frustrating. I didn’t want to be the “lady pastor” or “the gay pastor.” I just wanted to be afforded the same deference and given the same space to do God’s work as the legion of straight, white, male pastors that had gone before me.

In the extra work I had to do to get through the door of an institution—the Christian church at large, which not only closed doors against me, but was and remains the primary perpetrator of spiritual and physical violence against queers — I came to mute my own acknowledgment of the genuinely powerful witness of a female-embodied, same-gender-loving preacher.

But I am living into it now.

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Housing in Ames

Published May 7 in the Ames Tribune

I never expected so much of my adult life to be spent thinking about and developing housing. I have never experienced homelessness or had to live in treacherous conditions, as at the Crestview Mobile Park. After leaving my parents’ homes at 17, I was able to keep myself in student housing or clean apartments.

Just as I was about to turn 30, though, I moved back in with my father. I had taken out far too many student loans (particularly for my majors of English and Sociology) and racked up a lot of credit card debt, with 27 percent interest. I had no job and no savings, just a car and a generous parent. Thanks to him, I was able to stay housed and fed. And thanks to the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s Financial Counseling, I was able to negotiate a reduced interest rate and five year payment plan with my credit card company. The notion of a safety net felt like far more than a metaphor in those days.
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Love, over Rules: Mark 12.28–44

greatest commandmentDelivered at Ames UCC
on March 6, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

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LENTEN RECAP
We started Lent, four weeks ago, with a look at the cross. I suggested that the cross does not stand for God’s will to suffer but our own experience and perpetuation of suffering through wrong relationship.

On the second Sunday I named the cross as a revelation of God in the world, one as startling and clear as the burning bush. And it is a revelation that invites repentance. Repentance as in coming to terms with the brokenness we know in ourselves so that we may be better shaped by love.

Last week CTS student Greg Rose shared his open-ended journey and a message about stewardship not only of our Earthly resources, but the call to ministry God extends to each of us.

If anyone was ever a steward of his call from God, it was Jesus. That call, at least in its initial form, is coming to an end.
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