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Lesbian Presbyterian Minister Hopes To Advance Equality: Church Should Honor All ‘Covenantal Relationships’

On Sunday, the 2.1 million Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ordained Katie Ricks, its first openly lesbian minister. The ordination was the result of a change the Church adopted last May, amending its Book of Order to allow openly LGBT members to serve as ministers, elders, and deacons. ThinkProgress spoke to Ricks prior to her ordination in North Carolina, as she pledged to lead the fight against LGBT discrimination within her community:

Q: What would you say to conservative religious leaders who use the Bible to oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians?

RICKS: What I’ve seen here in this Presbyterian [in North Carolina] is people who are admittedly very opposed to my ordination. These are people who definitely voted ‘no’ on the day that I was approved. But these are people who I worked with in the Presbyterian, with whom I’m on the Council — which is the governing body of the Presbyterian — and so we find that common ground around our common belief in Jesus Christ….I think that we can come together and at least agree on a common ground is important.

Q: What is it like to be a leader in the Church and be openly gay?

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RICKS: I grew up in the Church before I knew that I was gay and so I grew up going to Sunday school, learning the liturgy and the rituals of the Church, so those people are the ones who taught me that God loved me and the Church loved me. Any time I would show up in Church, those people would care for me…So that’s what I grew up knowing, that this is my hope and God loved me. So when I came out, I had the normal sort of angst that comes from that process, but I always knew that God loved me…So for me it comes down to being honest about who I am and claiming that God has created me as a lesbian and that it’s my responsibility — it’s my calling — to live in that creation.

Q: What message do you have for those advancing the discriminatory marriage amendment in North Carolina? Will you be using your new role to try to organize against the effort?

RICKS: I think for me, I certainly support marriage for all people who are in loving covenantal relationships. As a pastor, the witness of that covenant between people is an example of a covenant that God has with us. And so that covenant is important between those two people, but also the calling that people who are married to serve others…. I think the Church needs to be saying, we need to be honoring covenantal relationships…so I think the Church needs to be on the forefront of that.