Dear people of God at Christ Our Emmanuel,
I want my life and witness to speak more clearly of the power of resurrection than of the fear of a threat of death. We have far too many voices telling of anxiety and fear and negative possibilities, and need to make better use of opportunities and platforms for sharing our hope and conversion experiences. We have the gift, as Christians, to bear witness to life in places of death, hope in times of despair, and being found by the One who has made us, claimed us, and called us to new life again and again.
When I came here for my first call, nervous and excited and hopeful and wanting so badly to ‘get it right,’ I was as open about my bisexuality as I thought I needed to be for letting people in the community know that we at Christ Our Emmanuel are a welcoming, and a safe, community. Within the safety and welcome of this community, I have also come to understand and accept another part of myself as a Pastor and as a person: God gave me a female body and a male mind. In some cultures, I would be considered of a third gender, and our culture is stumbling around learning how to process this reality of God’s creativity in our species, but the label we have for this experience, if we must have one, is Transgender, or, in my case, Female-to-Male.
With the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner, this timing is either perfect or horrible, but with this year’s Senior High Camp theme on living boldly, it is according to my call to serve with integrity that I am known there as Pastor Andrew, using he/him/his pronouns, so that the kids can ask questions in a safe and supportive environment. Those of you who have seen me regularly in worship may or may not have noticed the sound of what could be an oncoming cold but is really my voice dropping, and those of you who are only able to join us in person periodically may notice my transition more readily across time. I am still the same person who you called to serve as Pastor here, and it is my intention to continue in this role to the best of my ability, but it seemed good to let you know about this adjustment lest a comment made in the wider community catch you unawares. It is also my intention to be as open about this process, and as visible, as possible, for the sake of proclaiming the grace of God whose welcome and mercy are unceasing.
So now what? This is kind of a big deal, no matter how I want it not to be. We are called to bear witness to life in the midst of death, hope in the midst of conflict and change, and this is a big change. There are a lot of resources to be found at Reconciling Works online, and for talking with kids about being Gender Fluid or Gender Creative, parents can read the blog “Raising My Rainbow,” just for a start. There is no one-size-fits-all guidebook for how to do this transitioning thing together. I do hope you will feel safe in talking with me about questions you have, or at least in talking with the council if you are uncertain about asking me directly. Above all, I thank God for your love and welcome, and for the health of this community where I felt myself safe enough to begin this process while serving among you.
Pastor Nelson and the parish council of Christ Our Emmanuel Lutheran Church