By Rev. Kathy Leonard Raines

The setting was Baltimore, Maryland and the year was 1984.  Our seminary choir was there to sing and ring bells at the morning worship service, and then we had the rest of the day to observe General Conference.  As I walked through the marketplace with its many displays, I ran into a mentor and former pastor, who invited me to join her in a silent witness:  people would stand in a circle around the upper level of the venue holding signs in support of LGBTQ persons. 

(This was before Reconciling Ministries Network; my memory is that the title of the advocacy group back then was "Affirmation," but I could be wrong.  That was a long time ago!)  My response:  "No, I don't want to do that, as I don't want people to think I'm part of your group."  [Editor's note:  Affirmation created the Reconciling Congregations Program after the 1984 GC and later spun it off as its own organization.  After GC 2000, it changed its name to Reconciling Ministries Network, RMN for short.]

I have carried that shame for 32 years now.

But as I reflect on that other General Conference (the last one I have been able to attend, albeit briefly, before this year's), I think the invitation, and my rejection, have shaped my witness in the years since.  As a child of God and follower of Jesus, to what am I called?  I firmly believe I am called to advocate and work for justice for all God's beloved children, created in the divine image.  My calling is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, where all are welcomed, included, and embraced.

Love, commitment, and calling join together to witness to God's Kingdom work and Jesus' wide embrace of all people.

Rev. Kathy Raines
Rev. Kathy Leonard Raines is a wife, mom, pastor, and balloon
artist whose primary value is joy.