Troy Plummer Treash is called to serve at Houston’s Resurrection MCC.
by Rich Arenschieldt
Troy Plummer Treash, a long-established spiritual leader of the Houston LGBT community, returns to his hometown to shepherd one of its most diverse and inclusive churches, the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church (Resurrection MCC).
Many Houstonians remember Plummer from his significant tenure at Montrose’s venerable Bering United Methodist Church throughout the eighties and nineties. A Sharpstown native, Plummer is elated to be back in a familiar land.
Plummer’s Bayou City roots run deep. “I’m a Houstonian, although I was accidentally born in Oklahoma,” Plummer admits. “My mother rues the day that she went there to visit friends while pregnant. Very soon after delivery, I returned to Houston.” Plummer’s entire academic training took place here. “I graduated from Sharpstown High School where my dad was the head football coach. After that, I went to the University of Houston and, some years later, did my seminary work at Houston Graduate School of Theology.”
Plummer’s spiritual maturation process began early. “Even in high school I knew I was called to ministry. I knew that my life’s work would involve service to others in some way. Interestingly, this ‘call’ occurred at the same time as my sexual awakening, resulting in no small amount of internal confusion. Furthermore, my family was Methodist, and I knew that my call to ministry and homosexuality were, at that time, as far as the church was concerned, incompatible. Confronted with an untenable situation, I did the only thing I could at the time—I chose to do nothing, essentially ignoring both of these watershed moments. In retrospect, this was proof to me that God does, in fact, have a sense of humor, presenting me with both of these revelations simultaneously.”
Plummer graduated from the university and began his career. “I was working in education at the time, and eventually decided that I could no longer ignore either of these callings that I had tried to suppress years earlier.” When he decided to embrace his homosexuality, Plummer was unwilling to return to a closeted life. “Once you are ‘out,’ the freedom that you experience is too liberating—you have no desire to go back ‘in.’”
In a bold move, evidencing a faith of biblical magnitude, Plummer sold his townhouse and used the money to attend seminary. “I attended a conservative seminary, which, as an out gay man, was quite risky—so much so that I did not expect to be ordained by any denomination.”
Plummer thought that he might undertake “ministry” in a related field. “I anticipated doing something similar to what a Licensed Professional Counselor would do.” About this time, the HIV epidemic began to impact local gay men profoundly. Bering United Methodist Church, by virtue of its history of tolerance (and its Montrose location) was at the epicenter of the maelstrom, dedicating considerable resources to address the needs of HIV-positive individuals, their families, and friends.
“As it turns out, the people at the seminary I attended didn’t really care if I was gay. Three things really mattered to them: was I called to ministry, was I equipped to handle the needs of people I would be working with, and did I have a place to serve? Bering wanted me to shepherd its Support Network, but also wanted me to do this as an ordained minister who was able to meet all of the sacramental and spiritual needs of the community.”
At age twenty-eight, Plummer completed his Master of Divinity degree and was ordained by the Orthodox Catholic Church. “I had always known I wanted to do this, and Bering had given me the perfect location to undertake this work.” Plummer was the on-staff clergy responsible for all of the counseling and mental-health programs offered by the Bering Support Network—the organization that provided the most accessible counseling and pastoral care to those affected by HIV. It was a huge responsibility for a newly ordained minister.
After thirteen years at Bering, Plummer was ready for another opportunity. “Twice in my life I have known that it was time to ‘do the next thing.’ I left Bering, with no specific plan in mind, not knowing exactly what would happen. I eventually received a call from Reconciling Ministries Network [RMN] to apply for a position.”
RMN is a thirty-year-old organization that serves to advocate for LGBT individuals in the United Methodist Church. They have five hundred churches that support their mission of promoting equality and justice on issues involving sexual orientation. Though separate from the United Methodist Church (and relying mainly on financial support from individuals), RMN lobbies the church to change worldwide policy. Plummer gained invaluable experience working with a variety of national and international congregations.
After almost ten years at RMN, God had yet another plan for Plummer. “Again, for the second time, I knew to listen and ‘step out’ from where I was. I was contacted by the Resurrection MCC pastoral search committee in July of 2012 to be a candidate for senior pastor. This was my ‘hoped for’ ministry, one that I could accomplish [as an openly gay pastor]. This is so much easier, in that I never have to ‘explain’ who I am. It’s just a given, and in this job, a requirement. I was delighted to be considered, and after a deliberative and thoughtful selection process, I was elected.
“The search committee had ten ‘core competencies’ they were looking for in a senior pastor, many of which I possessed as the result of my previous work experience. Additionally, Resurrection MCC is now in the process of discerning a strategic long-term plan [that addresses] how they can serve the LGBT population in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast area.”
The obvious question for communities of faith that hire new leadership is “What happens next?” Plummer is quick to respond, “I don’t have a ‘Troy’ plan for Resurrection. It’s much more important to listen to what the hopes, dreams, and needs of this community are. A crucial component of this is for everyone to be highly attuned to how God’s word is speaking to the group—how are we being guided spiritually? The congregation is working hard to design components of a larger plan. They have done excellent work in determining what this facility needs to look like and how it should house the ministries we want to offer. Additionally, members have a willingness to ‘lean into’ the mystery of this process to see what will eventually emerge.”
This discernment process is not merely internal, but also outwardly focused. Plummer knows that successful churches seek to align with community partners. “We are always looking for mutually beneficial partnerships where both organizations thrive,” Plummer says. “How do we open opportunities so that we intersect with others, not only at church, but in a much broader context? Can we be a spiritual ‘hub’ for others, whether we are their church ‘home’ or not? We are working on how to effectively connect to the larger LGBT community—and further, how to interface with the heterosexual community. What is our common vision as Houstonians who care about justice for all?”
Though open to the larger community, Plummer realizes the importance of maintaining what makes LGBT individuals unique. “Christianity is a singular way of looking at the world through a ‘lens’ tinted with justice and love. The LGBT community has a queer lens through which it views the universe. Our lens has been honed through, among other things, suffering and hardship. As we assimilate into the broader community, with more of our rights being recognized, it is imperative that we continue to keep that perspective. More specifically for gay people of faith, that queer Christian lens provides a unique societal view. We must continually test how that lens promotes justice. If, in fact, we are only concerned with our own specific needs, we aren’t being Christian. I can’t only ask for my own ‘access to the club.’ I have to be working for access for all—especially any historically marginalized community.”
Spiritual access can be a complicated endeavor. In keeping with Resurrection’s positive long-range trajectory, Plummer knows that, at the “person in the pew” level, the development of true disciples takes time. “Our commitment to anyone who comes to us is: we engage people where they are. We know that God speaks to each person in a specific way. We will companion with you, offering a ‘steady evangelism’ indicative of our deep commitment to each person and their spiritual formation that blossoms over time. Our core value is this: ‘You matter.’ We are also going to invite you to come and see that which gives us an abundant life.”
Plummer is happy to be returning to his clerical roots. “Even with the administrative responsibilities associated with this position, I am still able to perform pastoral duties—something I enjoy very much. It’s invigorating to be with people at both celebratory and critical events in their lives. Coming back to Houston and to Resurrection enables me to do more of this work, returning to my original calling to openly serve a diverse community in a local church.”
Rich Arenschieldt is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.