It is an honor to be here and represent the larger BMC community. This seems a beautiful way to end BMC’s 40th Anniversary year; it just may be that our years of exile are finally ending.
The New York Times op-ed columnist, Gail Collins, was once asked how difficult it was for her to be the first woman to head the NY Times Editorial Board. She responded that it was actually pretty easy. She said (paraphrased): “I kind of walked into the job. After all, I wasn’t the one who had to bring all of the law suits or raise all of the unpleasant questions or complaints that just irritated and angered everyone. By the time I got there, people were just happy to see me.”
I suspect that it wasn’t quite that easy, but her words do remind us that there is probably no such thing as a solitary achievement. We are all indebted to those who have gone before us, and this is particularly true of anyone who has ever broken a barrier imposed by some sort of discrimination, prejudice, hate or fear. Often it is the luck of history that propels a particular individual across the finish line. They carry with them the dreams, disappointments, attempts, failures and lessons of all of those who went before.
This is an amazing day for the Mennonite lgbtq community. I feel such joy and even elation in this moment. We have waited for such a long time, and it has been a difficult struggle. There have been so many disappointments…so many people who have never gotten to see their own dreams fulfilled, their many gifts acknowledged, or their sacred calling affirmed by their faith community. My heart is filled with hard and painful emotions even in the midst of this joyous celebration.
Theda is an exceptional individual. Often these kinds of firsts are handed to those who come of age at the right time: those who are fresh, without a lot of baggage; those untainted by the bitterness that can accompany disappointment and constant rejection; those who people are just happy to see by the time they get there. But Theda has been in this struggle in one form or another for a long, long time. And somehow in spite of the many trials and disappointments and challenges that have presented themselves, Theda has managed to hold fast to her identity, to her faith, her compassion, her heart. She has been so patient, so gently persistent, and so generous in her openness and vulnerability. Theda, you are amazing, and so deserving of this moment.
On behalf of the Mennonite and Brethren lgbtq community, I want to say thank you to First Mennonite Church of Denver and the Mountain States Mennonite Conference. You are not the first Mennonite church nor the first Mennonite Conference to be invited to step into history in this manner - but you are the first who have said yes. Thank you for your courage, for your vision, and especially for your leadership. You will always have a place of honor in the heart of our community.
Theda – congratulations! I can think of no one more deserving. And I can think of no congregation or conference more fortunate than these to be able welcome you as a fully ordained Mennonite pastor. I wish you all many, many years of happiness and faithful service.
Members of the Denver queer community supporting Theda at her ordination.