Rev. Mieke Vandersall (pronounced “Meeka”) is a clergywoman and director of Presbyterian Welcome, an organization working to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Mieke is a lesbian who says she “comes to this work as a necessity—so that I can serve God with my whole heart and that others with whom I have the privilege of serving with can also do so with their own heart.”
My faith journey can’t be separated from my sexual orientation. When I began to admit to my calling as a Minister of Word and Sacrament it was about the same time that I knew that I was a lesbian—and that I couldn’t hide this reality. This was around the same time that Amendment B, which prevented openly lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender individuals from serving a congregation, was put into in the church’s Constitution. I got the message loud and clear that these two pieces of myself were a challenge to each other. Through it all my faith has been strengthened. I know so clearly that God has been steadfast and gives me the strength to get through all trials put before me. God has given me the strength to believe enough in myself that I have been able to get through great trials.
Is there a prayer or meditation that helps you make it through trying times?
Praying for my perceived enemies has helped a lot. I pray for those whom I know “disagree with my lifestyle” quite a bit—by name. It helps me.
I also find that slowing down—like seriously slowing down is helpful. Silent retreats are critical to get to the small still voice. And doing so allows me to give my fears to a higher power so I can be a more effective servant of God’s.
What is one of the defining moments in your life as a Christian?
It is hard to choose. I do remember one year, in high school, in those awkward high school days, that my youth group was at Montreat. We had to camp that year and I had this moment lying in a freezing cold mountain stream, with the gorgeous sun coming through, where I felt, perhaps really for the first time I can remember, the strong embrace of God. I can’t really explain it other than it felt like a baptism, and that memory continues to give me strength.
Do you have a story of a person who embodies Christ’s teachings?
There are so many people in my life who have embodied Christ for me. I stand on such beautiful and proud shoulders, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the women and men who have gone before me. Their names are more than I can list…Peg, Janie, Bill, Jody, Doug…so many more.
In your mind, what are the Biblical foundations for LGBT inclusion in the church?
I go back to the greatest commandment of them all—that I should love God with all my heart, soul and mind and that I shall love my neighbor as myself. I also reflect on the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch and ask: what is to prevent me from being baptized? Lastly, I also think about Acts and the fact that the community of God is always expanding. There aren’t people who are in and out!
What would you say to those Christians who have a different view on inclusion?
Please get to know us personally. Please try and see us as human beings with desires as you have and that God’s gifts are planted and embedded in us. Please pray for your heart to be opened as you are praying for us.
What can we do to foster dialogue and build bridges with people with different views on inclusion?
It is hard to say what we can really do. I have not experienced people with other views as being particularly open to conversation. I think all we can do is be open to caring for those with other views as their family members and people they know come out. We are here for them.