Rebecca Dazet Milne & Paul Dazet
How reflecting on our own experiences can prompt us to fearlessly advocate for others.
Rebecca: I was a curious two-year-old, or so I am told. When I was young, we lived in an old house that, for some strange reason, had a deadbolt lock on the bathroom door. ‘Curious me’ decided it would be really neat to play with that lock. What was not so neat was that the lock was heavy, and I found myself stuck in the bathroom. Cue, my mother sliding me animal crackers under the door and frantically calling my father, who was 45 minutes away at work.
Paul: I received a phone call from my panicked wife saying that Rebecca was locked in the bathroom, and that all attempts to unlock that door had failed. On the drive home, my heart was overwhelmed with the thought of my daughter, frightened and locked behind the door. As I ran into the house, I found my wife on the floor touching fingers with Rebecca from under the door. “Daddy’s here”.
Rebecca: I remember being confused and scared, and then finally relieved as I heard my dad’s voice. I knew that he would save the day. I was instructed to get as far away from the door as I could, because he was going to knock the door down.
Paul: I wasn’t going to let anything keep me from my daughter. As I braced to kick the door, I told Rebecca to get in the bathtub and pull the curtain shut, not wanting any debris to hurt her. I remember it took two kicks to knock down the barrier that was separating me from my baby girl. My wife and I rushed into the bathroom to rescue our daughter. As we pulled the shower curtain back, we found her not just in the bathtub, but ready to take a bath. We hugged, celebrating the reunion of our small loving family, together again.
Rebecca: My call to ministry felt very out of the blue. I was a pastor’s kid, and I was not looking to join the family business. But alas, during one of my morning bible reading times, I felt an undeniable tug from God: you are going to be a pastor. As I shared this news with those closest to me, I was met with tears, nods of approval, and encouragement, as they all seemed to know this would happen. It was then that I realized that God was on the move in my life, working on this calling for a long time. I changed my major from Business to Youth Ministry at Mount Vernon Nazarene University and charged forward. My college years were eye-opening and empowering. I was poured into by professors and friends and which helped to refine my calling. During my senior year, however, I was warned that the “real world” was different: that not all places, even within the church, were as accepting of women pastors. I never actually thought I would have to heed this warning. Once the job search began, I contacted all the right people, several times, with my excitement: I’m freshly graduated and ready to put my degree to use, let’s do ministry! I was met with a one-sentence email suggesting a preschool director position at a church 90 minutes from me. After I suggested we meet and get to know one another and discuss my calling, I heard no response. I sent more emails, made more phone calls, and was met with radio silence. I felt deep discouragement for quite some time. I followed all the right steps, but got the door shut in my face.
Now what? I found myself contacting a local pastor that I did not know at a church I was unfamiliar with. This turned into a helpful conversation and an open door. Within a few months I was empowered by new mentors, and placed into a new ministry setting where my calling was taken seriously. I felt included again, like I mattered. I have thought about this more in the past several years. I recognize my privilege as a straight, white, woman. If I had doors shut in my face, what does that say for my BIPOC or LGBTQ+ siblings in Christ that are called by God? If the door was opened just a crack for me, then it is currently all locked up for others. It’s our job to be the key. All callings matter.
Paul: As a white male coming from the business world, my call was affirmed and celebrated within my home church. I remember feeling the same tug that Rebecca felt, and countless others have felt and continue feeling. It was a pull towards what I didn’t want to do, but knew I must do. Once I said, “yes”, the ladder of ministerial success was made apparent by my pastor and those around me: Receive your local minister’s license, preach your first sermon, start taking district ministry classes, become a youth pastor, lead Bible Studies, go to ministerial lunches to meet the guys, etc. Step by step, I received a warm welcome into the ministry. Looking back on it, it truly was a rather easy path, with the only obstacles being ones I created for myself, never ones given to me by the system. As a white male, I received phone call after phone call from pastors and district superintendents wanting me to consider bigger positions, giving me the opportunity to climb the ladder of ministerial success. Doors opened for me, they always opened for me. Too bad it took me so long to realize that the doors don’t open that easily for everyone.
When Rebecca shared with me the obstacles she faced as she sought a ministry position, I was surprised. My assumption was that the doors would open for her the way they opened for me. At first, I blamed the individuals that didn’t respond to my daughter, but eventually I realized there were systemic issues at play that I had never seen before. Why didn’t I see that not everyone is affirmed in their calling the way I was? Was it my privilege? Did I not want to see the discrepancies? The truth is, I can’t knock down doors if I don’t see that they exist. I can’t knock down doors that I pretend don’t exist. I knocked down the bathroom door all those years ago, but I haven’t knocked down doors that are keeping people from being affirmed as valued disciples of Jesus. By being oblivious to the lack of affirmation of those who don’t fit the mold of ministerial success, I have participated in the quiet shutting of doors to those different from me. How much trauma has the church induced by not affirming people in their calling to serve in our “loving” churches.
Rebecca & Paul: Try to step into the shoes of someone who is knocking on the door for a moment.
Imagine the discouragement of having the doors shut, the emails not being returned, and the judgmental looks because you are different.
Imagine listening to sermons that say you are not accepted, that you must change who you are to be fully welcomed, accepted, and embraced.
Imagine watching the social media blasts that say you are an abomination.
Imagine searching through websites looking for a church that will affirm your calling, and then having to find the courage to show up.
Imagine the trauma that occurs at every shut door.
How do you feel? Would you give up? Or would you keep knocking? Once we come to know an LGBTQ+ sibling, it is amazing how our views on affirmation change. It is almost as if empathy opens up love.
God is calling everyone into the life of the kingdom. God calls everyone! All are needed, but not all are affirmed. Our LGBTQ+ siblings are needed in the church, but the doors are not open. As long as we keep those who are called out of the life of the church, we are missing something significant. It leaves our churches incomplete, missing a spiritual limb. Until we see that all are beloved children of God and gifted by God to participate in the life and mission of the church, we will continue to misrepresent Jesus to the world.
What if by excluding people from the life of the church, we have alienated Christ? What if Jesus has joined those who are excluded and is now outside our churches, knocking on the very doors that bear his name? “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3:20). There is a knock at our door. Who is going to answer it?
What would it be like if we would knock down every door to get to the beloved children of God who are kept out of church and of ministry? As Rachel Held Evans said, “The people you are shutting out of the church will be leading it tomorrow. That’s how the Spirit works. The future is in the margins.” Let’s knock down the doors.
. Black, Indigenous, and people of color
Rebecca Dazet Milne has a BA from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and an MDiv from Methodist Theological School in Ohio. She serves as a pastor in the United Methodist Church in Columbus, Indiana.
Paul Dazet is an ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene and has served as a pastor in several churches in Ohio and Indiana. He currently serves as senior pastor in the United Methodist Church in Columbus, Indiana.