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My Journey Toward My Understanding of My Baptismal Covenant
by The Rt. Rev. Ellie Atwood-Tarbell, M.Div., CSA

From the time I could understand as a child who God was, I was aware of God in my life.  I cannot remember a time when Sunday morning was not spent in Sunday School and then church.  I cannot remember a time, as a child, when my Mom did not hear my prayers at night and pray the Lord's Prayer with me.  At the age of twelve, I heard God's call to ordained ministry; but, as my pastor told me, "We don't ordain women in the Lutheran Church, so maybe you should become a Deaconess.  However, I donut think you need to be thinking about this now."  That was in 1946.  In 1981, 35 years later, I heard that still small voice again, only this time, I was not only a woman.  I was also very much aware that I was a Lesbian.  A call to a woman to ordination was now seen as "valid," but to a Lesbian…?!

In my recent life, God has spoken to me through poetry that God has inspired me to write when I have been praying and listening.  The first time was in 1981 at a Community of the Holy Spirit Retreat at the Benedictine Monastery in Subiaco, Arkansas.  The following poem convinced me that God's call to mission and ministry is given to a person regardless of sex or sexual orientation and it is an integral element of one's baptismal covenant with God.

YOU'VE CALLED ME, GOD

You've called me, God;
            I heard You!
Your call to me to serve You
            Is so difficult to accept.
For the door of my closet must open;
            If only a crack or two,
To bring into Your fold the outcasts,
            Those whom man has cut off
                        from their walk with You.
You've called me, God;
            I heard You!
Your voice in my heart is beating.
            Is it to them You'd have me minister,
                        For I'm one of the church's outcasts, too?
Why did You make me different,
            Not in the traditional mold?
For I am Your creation also,
            And in Your loving arms I, too, am held.
You've called me, God;
            I heard You!
The path is very difficult,
            The one You'd have me tread.
I know that I am different.
            I know, too, that I am fed.
Your arms of love enfold me,
            What more can there be said?
You've called me, God;
            I heard You!
I heard You as my Savior spoke
            And in all that He ever said!
I'll walk with my hand in Yours, Lord
            By You I'll always be fed.
                        But especially to the outcasts I'm led.
For we are not so different,
            In spite of what's been said.
Our lives You want fulfilled, Lord;
            As by Jesus we, too, are fed!
You've called me, God;
            I heard You!
Give me the strength for your path to tread;
            To pass on the things You've told me.
That we are of one body
            and Christ is ever our head.
That in Him there is no east or west.
            There is no straight or gay.
But we are brothers and sisters together,
            And You are the same for us all,
                        Every Day.

The Rt. Rev. Ellie Atwood-Tarbell © 1981

When God truly calls a person to God's service, ordained or lay, lesbian, gay or straight, nothing is impossible with God.  And no one, no matter who they are or how important and full of authority they may think they are, can thwart God's love and call to any one of God's people.

Since writing the above, Ellie was ordained a deacon and a priest and is now a duly consecrated bishop in God's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church for the Order of the Community of St. Thomas (The Apostle). 

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