It is a Presbyterian story of a woman who is a minister (except not ordained):
To the congregation at the Church of Reconciliation she is "Pastor Katie." As she leads the introductory prayers in her black robe and white stole, Katie Ricks looks and sounds every bit the part.
But members know that in the eyes of the Presbyterian Church USA, she is not. Ricks is a lesbian, and for that reason she cannot be ordained.
Last month, the 2.3-million-member denomination rejected an amendment that would have lifted the Presbyterian Church USA ban on gays and lesbians becoming ordained pastors, elders and deacons. The vote, the fourth in 13 years, was far closer than in the past, leaving open the possibility that the church requirement of "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, and chastity in singleness," may one day be overturned.
In the meantime, the Church of Reconciliation, an inclusive congregation welcoming of gays and lesbians, continues what some have called a "high-wire balancing act." The church gives Ricks nearly all the responsibilities and privileges it would normally confer on an associate pastor, but it tries to steer clear of any obstacle that would imperil the church's good standing with the denomination.
"There's a choreography that has to do with dancing around the prohibition," said Church of Reconciliation's senior pastor, the Rev. Mark Davidson. "She's not free to live fully into her role. We acknowledge that with regret and pain."
For Ricks, who's 38 and in a committed relationship, that's a continuing heartache. Unlike gays and lesbians who have hidden their sexual identity or the nature of their personal relationships from the church hierarchy to keep their position, Ricks has steadfastly been open, she says, out of a sense of respect for the church.
"I want to be ordained because I feel God has called me to this," she said. "I also don't want the church to split."
Make sure you read the whole story. Notice this intriguing sentence:
"There's a choreography that has to do with dancing around the prohibition."
Some of us call that the shuck and jive.
Kudos to this great church and to Pastor Katie. We are going to get there.