Waiting for the Call

Thursday, 24 May 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve recently become interested in this group. In a recent email, the following was shared. I hope that you find the information informative and meaningful. Read on!

Church Within A Church Movement

Sharing a Must Read

Waiting for the CallFrom Preacher’s Daughter to Lesbian Mom

Jacqueline Taylor’s memoir takes readers

from the foothills of the Appalachians – and her childhood in a strict evangelical household where dancing, movies on Sunday, and even saying “gosh” or “gee” were forbidden – to contemporary Chicago, where she and her lesbian partner are raising a family. In a voice that is comic, clear-eyed, and loving, Taylor recounts the challenging and hilarious journey that carries her in profoundly different directions from those she or her parents could have ever envisioned.

Taylor’s father was a Southern Baptist preacher, and she struggled to deal with his strictures as well as her mother’s manic depressive episodes. After leaving college, Taylor finds herself questioning her faith and identity, questions that continue to mount when – after two divorces, a doctoral degree, and her first kiss with a woman – she discovers her own lesbianism and begins a most untraditional family that grows to include two adopted children from Peru.

Even as she celebrates and cherishes this new family, Taylor insists on the possibility of maintaining a loving connection to her religious roots. While she and her partner search for the best way to explain adoption to their children and help them answer the inevitable question “Which one is your mom?”, they also search for a church that will unite their love of family and their faith.

Told in the great storytelling tradition of the American South, full of deep feeling and wry humor, Waiting for the Call engagingly demonstrates how one woman bridged the gulf between faith and sexual identity without abandoning her principles.

Reverend Mel White says of Waiting for the Call;

“This deeply moving story of a lesbian Christian’s journey to

self acceptance is a rare celebration of life. I found myself alternately weeping and then laughing out loud at Jacqueline Taylor’s memoir of her staunch Souther Baptist father and clever but sometimes manic mother, of her missteps on the road to a long-lasting, committed relaitonsip, and of the wit and wisdom of her adoptive daughters.”

– Reverend Mel White

author of Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right

and cofounder of Soulforce

 

Book Review: Waiting for the Call: From Preacher’s Daughter to Lesbian Mom

Originally published in Bay Windows, April 19, 2007.

When I first read the title of Waiting for the Call: From Preacher’s Daughter to Lesbian Mom, I expected the tale of a woman rejecting her religious upbringing and denouncing her parents as she came out. Jacqueline Taylor’s memoir is thankfully not as simple as that. It is an insightful, compassionate story about coming out, motherhood, and faith, woven into a narrative that reveals the many layers of what we mean by “family.” It is less about rejection than transformation.

The daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher, Taylor grew up often resenting the strictures placed upon her. At the same time, she admired her father’s role in the community and her mother’s quick wit, and enjoyed helping in the church. We see her inching away from her parents’ worldview, disagreeing with them at times, but never ceasing to love them.

When she insists upon going to a forbidden movie in high school, her father’s response shows that this is a story in shades of gray, not black and white. He says he won’t give her permission, but understands and respects her arguments for going. “If you do decide to go to this movie against my will,” he explains, “I will accept, even if I do not condone, your decision.”

These words echo later, when Taylor comes out after two opposite-sex marriages. After a struggle, her parents are willing to meet her halfway. “You are our daughter and our love will always be supportive of you . . . even when we disagree with what you do,” her father writes. Taylor, for her part, tells them she knows their acceptance of her doesn’t mean their views on homosexuality have changed. She knows they have come far already, and respects this.

This is more than a coming out story, however. Taylor also tells of her mother’s struggle with manic depression, and her own questioning of a God who could allow such things to happen to good people. She finds, though, that she can’t give up on the notion of a higher power. Jesus, she says “kept showing up on the side of the folks at the margin, the ones the church and society deemed unworthy.” It is this core belief that keeps her from abandoning God entirely, even when coming out puts her at odds with the tenets of her family’s religion. When she has her own children, then, she finds herself not abandoning religion but rather turning to a welcoming United Methodist church.

It is in Taylor’s description of her journey to and through motherhood that she is at her most touching, wise, and eloquent. She and her partner Carol adopt two girls from Peru in 1989 and 1990. Taylor shows us their evolution as parents, as they come to realize each child’s unique needs and learn to be “ambassadors for different kinds of families” in their community.

She conveys the many challenges of being an international adoptive family, both in dealing with others and in helping her daughters find a sense of belonging and identity. She and her partner address these issues by telling stories, real and imagined, of their daughters’ biological mothers, playing games of finding lost kittens, and finally, by making a pilgrimage back to Peru. Taylor not only reflects on the meaning of the trip for her girls, but acknowledges the losses of the biological mothers and their relatives. “We can never love one another enough to make these losses disappear,” she writes. “But I have to hope that by making room for all those loving bonds to survive and even be cherished, we make the losses more bearable.”

Her own parents never leave the narrative. We watch them become supporting, loving grandparents, despite the ongoing difference of opinion about sexuality. Bonds of love and family can trump, even if they do not resolve, all disagreements.

Taylor doesn’t paint a straight, finite line to acceptance, however. After her mother’s death, for example, her father starts dating another woman. Taylor is proud that he told his new love about his lesbian daughter, but clashes with him over his continuing insistence that he doesn’t “condone or understand” her lesbianism. He then admits his language “doesn’t accurately reflect where I am at this point in my journey.” Taylor here takes us beyond politics and platitudes and shows us all the nuances of real life.

The book’s only weakness is that it sometimes feels rushed, leaving the reader wanting more detail. When her partner goes to Peru to adopt their second daughter, her trip “was fraught with all the ups and downs and challenges that typified these adoptions,” but Taylor doesn’t elaborate further. When they look for a welcoming church for their family, “It took us awhile to find the right fit,” but she tells us none of the ins and outs of their search.

This is a fine and needed work, however. It shows that the LGBT community and the religious community do not have to be distinct or antagonistic. In fact, the subtitle is deceptive, for even as Taylor becomes a lesbian mom, she never ceases to be a preacher’s daughter. She believes in God’s call, giving herself to “a life of celebration and service” in her family and community. LGBT parents, adoptive parents of all sexualities, and anyone who has ever pondered the meaning of family or faith will find resonance and inspiration in her journey.

 

Waiting for the Call is published by The University of Michigan Press. Jacqueline Taylor is available for book readings or by phone for book discussions. Please contact UM Press for scheduling.The book can be ordered by phone: 800.343.4499 or on line at www.press.umich.eduCost is $18.95 with discounts available for quantity purchases.Perfect for Sunday School or small group book discussions.
A note from a reader to Ms. Taylor:What a gift your book is to anyone who has loved and been hurt by the church, and who has had to forge a pathway to faith on their own. I have recommended it to many people in my church. I live in Massachusetts and have been a faithful Unitarian for many years.
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