Finding a Voice in Seminary: Matthew Bauhof

Matthew Bauhof (MDiv 2015)
Matthew Bauhof (MDiv 2015)

I want to reflect on my vocational discernment with you all today, and in order to do that, I want to tell you about an experience that I had during my time at McCormick.

It was during my second year of seminary that Illinois became the 16th state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. I was happy, proud and thankful that I was a part of a state that was able to take a step forward in bringing this fundamental human right to all humans. As a part of this process, in the days leading up to the vote and for days after the vote, many of my fellow brothers and sisters from McCormick changed their Facebook profile pictures to the marriage equality “equal” sign to demonstrate support for this monumental vote. I am sad to say that I did not change my profile picture too. I desired and wanted to change my picture, but unfortunately I was more focused on the potential negative feedback from some of my Facebook friends and family members who might not be able to handle it (to put it lightly). Mainly I did not want to deal with the fallout from other people, and I did not want to have to defend myself. So I stayed silent.

I have processed this experience many times during the last year. Each time I am saddened to see myself fall woefully short of being an ally with the LGBTQ community and short of living a life modeled after Jesus Christ. My inaction, my silence did not work for justice or righteousness. I did not help. I felt terrible.

I will never forget that feeling.

I share this experience because through experiences like this and through conversations I have had at McCormick about power, race and privilege, I have found that my greatest mission will be standing with the marginalized and oppressed, seeking justice with these communities and working to dismantle the privilege of my own context. I have learned that I must work to prioritize the experiences of those who are excluded. This experience provided an opportunity to understand how important my voice is. By studying the works of great prophets, I’ve come to understand that my voice is necessary to the fight for justice.

I am a white male who has experienced every form of privilege that this nation, this society, has to offer. As one who holds privilege, I must be unafraid to align my voice with those communities who have been oppressed, knowing that it is through resistance that there will be change, and understanding privilege only exists if someone is oppressed. Since this experience, no longer will I stay silent. I have started the processing of learning to speak, to stand with and be unafraid of what I stand for. I have started participating in this justice work and for me that has meant understanding and feeling connected to God in a way that I have never felt before.

I have no idea what job or jobs I will end up pursuing in the next 5-10 years. McCormick has not provided me magical clarity there. Fortunately, I don’t think I am supposed to know that. My understanding of my deep purpose is much more important for me to know than any particular job description. My heart is at peace, for I know God has given me direction and purpose, and I look forward to a lifetime full of intentional ministry. No journey will be more important. God calls us most strongly to the fight for justice and righteousness, and I know that will be my center.

I ask for your prayers, dear readers of this blog. Pray for this world as we strive towards a vision of justice and righteousness. Pray for the awareness and continued discovery of privilege for those in this world who hold it. Pray for the awareness that privilege requires oppression and pray for the strength of those with privilege to learn to give it up. Pray for the human beings of this world who have been, who are, and who will continue to be oppressed by people of this world. And please pray for me, for I know I will fall short of my words, and I will continue to oppress others, and I will fall short of God’s vision of justice for this world. As we encounter failures, as we encounter successes, pray that we may ever be committed to this justice work.

 10246743_10154029555960054_1723041597006645181_n (1)Matthew Bauhof is a third year MDiv student at McCormick Theological Seminary seeking ordination with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He loves connecting with hisspirituality through contemplative spiritual practices and it is his hope that his future ministry will incorporate his love of sports and the great outdoors.