Dear General Convention,
When Jim and I met in 2012, we found we had a lot in common. We were both from small towns, and we had both been married. We both had young sons, and we were both Roman Catholic. And although we had both been raised in church, I hadn’t felt God’s presence for many years. Every church I had attended felt like a place that just went through the motions. None of the messages I heard spoke to me, and the congregations felt cold upon learning that I was gay.
Since we couldn’t be legally married, we had a small commitment ceremony at a friend’s house in 2013. We wanted our children to have exposure to God through the sacraments, but we struggled to find a church that we felt comfortable in.
And then we walked into Transfiguration.
The constant messages of serving Christ in all persons spoke to our hearts. The generosity of the church to the homeless, to refugees, to victims of domestic abuse, and yes – to the LGBTQ amazed us. Jim and I would sit in the back-row Sunday after Sunday and weep as we finally felt Christ’s love present around us.
We became Episcopalians the next Easter and asked in what way we could both contribute to the church’s ministries. We both became adult acolytes and Eucharistic ministers. I also help lead Open Door, which is our fellowship ministry for LGBTQ members. Each week we are more grateful for the new friendships we have made at the Fig and the blessings of Christ’s love.
We were excited when the Supreme Court approved our right to become legally married. We immediately approached our clergy about scheduling a day for the ceremony but were shocked when we found out we were not allowed to celebrate our marriage at our church home. We were even more disappointed to learn that the clergy that had helped restore my faith were not permitted to perform the ceremony in any other church inside or outside of the diocese.
Although our leaders at the Fig were more than willing to help us find another church in the neighboring diocese, it just didn’t feel right. This was our home. These were the priests that knew us. We decided to cancel our plans and to obtain a simple marriage certificate at the courthouse.
We love our church, its clergy and members, and above all the message of seeking and serving Christ in all persons. Although I must admit, there is a piece of me that still feels outside of true acceptance. On Sundays we present the Sacrament of Christ’s Blood to people, yet Jim and I are still unable to participate in another sacrament that means so much to us.
Please close the loophole that binds the hands of the clergy we love. Please allow our parishes to make their own decisions regarding which members are entitled to the Holy Sacraments.
Chip Brownlee and Jim Watson