I am excited to be writing to you for the first time in my capacity as Major Gifts Officer. I began working here in mid-November, just after completing a two and a half year tenure in Boston, where I was serving The Congregational Church of Needham UCC as their interim minister. This new job is a return to a part of the country I love. I have served pastorates and worked at non-profits in San Francisco, Berkeley, Guerneville, and Glendale over the last 35 years This is also a return to Pacific School of Religion (PSR), from which I graduated with an M.Div., and where I served for 9 years on the Board of Trustees, and on two presidential searches. I have taught there – courses as wide-ranging as “Church Growth for Liberals”, “Liberation Liturgics,” and “HIV History and Theology.” When I first taught MCC Polity, we weren’t even allowed to publicize it with that name; we called it “Special Readings” because we were anxious about how denominational partners might react. I feel a lifetime of gratitude that PSR became the seminary that welcomed more MCC ministers – and Fellowship of Affirming Ministries ministers – than any other school. I have worked here as Worship Staff and Campus Pastor.
I have been active in the history which the CLGS is now preserving. In recent years, churches in Dallas, Denver, and Boston and I was reminded of the the importance of PSR as a seminary, and its bold leadership in establishing CLGS 20 years ago. Both PSR and CLGS have trained many of the leaders that have effected a significant change in how church and society view sexuality. And while we have made progress LGBTQ people are not yet yet fully integrated into the theology and practice of the largest religious groups. All of what I have seen and engaged in tells me that this is time to secure the work of CLGS, and to make sure the story of how we have gotten this far is preserved, nurtured and even expanded. So I’m here with a single project: to increase our endowment from $1.5 to 3 million in three years.
But I had a recent reminder of how much work is left to do for LGBTQ liberation: a few weeks ago I went to a training on Major Gift Cultivation. Development staff from many settings gathered for several days of intensive work offered by Indiana University and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Fundraising School. I was fortunate to have another Bay Area colleague in my class of 32, my longtime friend Rev. Sandhya Jha, the executive director of the Oakland Peace Center. The teachers for this class were superb as was the material they had prepared for us. We studied trends and best practices in nonprofit giving. We shared our collective wisdom, and helped each other problem solve. At one point I was called on to role play in front of the group to practice asking for a a Major Gift from a donor who was inclined to support us. As I made my pitch, the person playing the donor stopped, and with great anger and emotion, said they could not do this exercise with me. I was asking them to support and subsidize sin that was directly contrary to the Word of God. The class was stunned – it was an exercise after all – but the other person just couldn’t let it go. Many years of ministry on this issue helped me calm the distraught donor, and the class said I handled it well. The instructor said it had never happened before. (It has happened to me countless times, but not where I’m paying for the opportunity to learn another skill.) It gave me a chance to witness about CLGS, and to talk about the Bible in a way PSR had uniquely prepared me for. And it was not lost on any of us that religiously based homophobia is so strongly entrenched that this otherwise thoughtful, professional person could not even imagine giving us money. I only had one ally in the class as it was unfolding – even the teacher was thrown off their game. Here’s why I am sharing this. In addition to the skills I got that week, I also had a profound, public, emotional and spiritual experience of being reminded that we have not yet finished our work. Watching the pain of my United Methodist colleagues these past few weeks has also reminded me of this. I just heard in chapel my United Methodist colleague Rev. Israel Alvaran give a stirring invitation to Rise and Resist. I knew Rev. Jeanne Audrey Powers, an out United Methodist minister whose papers are in our archives. I know she would encourage us all to stand,steadfast, and proud as we do the work of LGBTQ Liberation.
I hope you will consider making an extra gift right now of $100 so that we can begin this next phase of securing our future with an expression of support from you. If you can, send a note about why you feel our witness is still important, or describing an experience you have had that inspires you to continue in the transformations we are all making together. I’ll collect and post the ones you give me permission to share.
Rev. Jim Mitulski