A PCUSA Lay Minister Stays in the Closet

This post is included in my book UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Diana A.

    I hope this ends up on Huffpost. This is very powerful and I imagine many people are in the same position.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

      What a wonderful essay.

      Where I live the anti-gay sentiment is quite strong, yet thankfully there is a growing trend toward treating the LGBT community with the dignity and respect they deserve as richly as us heteros. Those of us who support the LGBT are still a minority, and it is assumed by many that we stand outside the will of God because of our stance. In my line of work, I hear a lot of anti-gay sentiment from clients and co-workers, I have to remain silent because of the work environment to stir up a social hornets nest in a setting designed to be calming.

      My town is holding a Pride Festival and march today. Each year more people show up, each year the protesters show up, each year those that are against these wonderful people have their say in the newspaper letters to the editor section.

      This is the first year I am attending, well at least part of it. I am taking a wonderful friend who’s health doesn’t allow him to participate in the march. His partner is miffed, as he didn’t think to schedule an off day. I do it because I believe I am commanded to love my neighbor and my LGBT friends are my neighbors.

      I hope and pray for the day where people like this lay minister can be loved, welcomed and respected for who he is, who he really is; for a day when Christianity recognizes the value found in all God’s children and delights in our diversity. I hope and pray that day comes soon.

      By the way, I’m hopelessly left-handed.

      • Robyn

        And also by the way, the beautiful soul who posted this last comment is someone I have never met in person. But we’ve conversed back and forth on the ‘net. She’s straight, and I’m a transgender lesbian. So what? I still have the honor and privilege of calling her my sister, and I love her dearly.

        There truly is no difference between us.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

          Aww! Thanks for the nice words Robyn. I never cease to be amazed how people connect.

          And one day I need to take this cross country trip…

  • Michael

    I still remain baffled as to why gay people want to continue on with Christianity, when most of them work so very hard to utterly destroy our very lives and spirits.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      This is what you think? That over 50% of Christians work “so very hard” to “utterly destroy the very lives and spirits” of gay people? That doesn’t to you sound maybe just slightly hyperbolic? I don’t personally know ONE Christian who does that — but I must know 200 who are, in fact, working very hard to ensure that LGBT folks are as included in every aspect of Christianity as they care to be.

      Here’s 11,000 Christians right here who have nothing but love for gays and lesbians:

      http://www.facebook.com/TheChristianLeft

      You can’t put on dark glasses and then complain that everything is dark.

      • Dirk

        John,

        I recently visited the town in which I grew up. A very bad storm had done severe damage to the church which my family attended during my youth and still, today, attends.

        When the storm subsided and the damage was accessed, two members of the church drove out to my parents house to ask it could help undo the damage. It would take some time and cost an enormous amount of money to find somebody who could even begin to restore their data systems – an area of my expertise.

        I sat there and looked at them in shock. My mother says my mouth hung open.

        These were the very same people who helped raise nearly 78 million dollars to strip me of my rights through Prop. 8 only a few years ago.

        I told them that if I, as a gay man in a committed, monogamous, loving, faithful, true marriage to another man wasn’t a “Christian” by their lights (you can’t be gay and “saved” is their official position) then how dare they expect me to help them continue their mission of hate?

        I then stood up, went out and returned to helping the volunteer street crew cut up and remove trees and debris from the yards of the elderly in town.

        I write this as a response to your comment:

        This is what you think? That over 50% of Christians work “so very hard” to “utterly destroy the very lives and spirits” of gay people? That doesn’t to you sound maybe just slightly hyperbolic?

        John, it may well be that the number of such Christians is not 50% or even 49%. What we gay Christians experience, however, is the following.

        There are a large number of Christians who just want this topic to go away. They don’t actively hate us, but they won’t lift a finger to put a stop to the hatred. And it is hatred. In the worst form – hatred “justified” as “God’s love”.

        The minority of Christians who do hate us and do attack us – do strip us of our rights, do call us pedophiles, call for our confinement in mental institutions, call for shock therapy, tell the lies they tell about us are very loud and very well backed economically.

        If I were an outsider looking at the Christian church today, I’d say 50% was not hyperbole but wildly understated – the real figure is closer to 99%.

        The last time someone asked me how I could call myself a Christian as a “practicing” gay, I snapped back: I don’t have to practice anymore, I’ve got fabulous down.

        The divisions, the pain, the anger, the horrible destruction of lives which is increasing, not decreasing as it becomes clear to that hateful minority that they are losing is being balanced by a very small cadre of Christians, such as yourself. For that, I am thankful.

        At this point, however – when I am in the ‘States, I avoid Christians like the hateful plague they are. In Europe, I am happily and deeply engaged, together with my husband in our local church.

        • DR

          Dirk I tend to agree with you. In the end, percentages don’t matter and those of us on the fighting-for-the-good side of this issue are fairly outnumbered by those in the middle. And it’s the people in the middle who are doing the most damage (in my opinion) by refusing to pick a lane. Who want to have their “gay friends” while at the same time, still stripping you from your rights via their voting and theological approach toward the GLBT community that they only talk about with like-minded people. The “hate the sin love the sinner but still talk a good’ ‘I feel so compassionate toward the gay community and it’s terrible that they don’t feel loved and supported by us’” crowd. Those who do nothing while evil is occurring participate in the evil. I actually far prefer a straight out Christian bigot vs this group of Christians who want everyone to like them. At least the bigot is making a stand.

          Thanks for this note and giving us a very valuable perspective to consider. And happy engagement. :D

        • DR

          Oh and I’m dying to know what the reaction was to the fellows who had the audacity to ask you for help. Stunning.

          • Dirk

            DR,

            My mother says they spent the next hour trying to convince her to make my life hell on earth, that I might repent of my sins.

            If they meant what they say about protecting marriage, they’d be investing their money and their time in helping American families cope with the lack of health insurance, poor education system, rotting infrastructure and a jobs’ market which forces parents into hour long commutes just to earn enough to keep body and soul together.

            Instead, they focus on hatred towards us.

            Exclusively.

            I’m glad I left. My life in Europe, where nobody cares, is so much easier than in the US. It is worth noting that, whatever silly percentages of the population are assigned to us – the last two months have seen studies showing between 4 and 33% (!!!!!), there is pretty clear data that several hundred thousand American gays, lesbians and transgender are living outside the US.

            If we had the brains, where-with-all, skill and just plain get-’er-done attitude to actually move to another country, learn another language, master another culture, can you imagine what America is losing, what other countries which treat us as fully human have gained?

            I fail to grasp why, when medicine, science, psychology (for the little it’s worth), the judicial system and the experience of nearly every other civilized country on the planet shows we are normal, healthy productive members of society who have a characteristic just as immutable as is heterosexuality, our civil rights as Americans are denied to us.

            The older I get and the longer I spend outside of the hatred of the American culture wars, the less patience I have with those Christians who attack my rights. I am about 5.08cm removed from investing my money in those organizations which look for and dig out the dirt on sanctimonious Christian politicians and church leaders who make our lives hell.

            That’s saying quite a lot for someone who grew up in a household in which “bless her heart” was as close to anger, fury and outright screaming, frothing at the mouth rage as one could get.

          • litRg-goddess

            Hey folks, I wanted to weigh in here since you’ve all been so kind as to share your thoughts and to repost this article, which I wrote and submitted to John. A couple points of clarification first.

            John wasn’t idly kidding when he suggested that perhaps Lili C had an improper picture of my situation based on assumptions given my position in the church. I AM A WOMAN, DIVORCED from a man to whom I was married and with whom I have a son. It’s simultaneously funny *and* pathetic that when people read “minister” they assume “male.” Alrighty, folks? Not a man. Not your fault necessarily for assuming I was, but now you know.

            Also, bisexuality is not equivalent to homosexuality. While I sometimes self-identify as “gay,” it’s not the same. Some of you assumed that because you assumed I was male, I was/am only attracted to men. For the record, as a woman I am atttracted to persons both male and female. Gender is a spectrum, too, like sexuality, while we’re at it. To assume or insist upon a strict dualistic paradigm is to ignore the experience and self-indentification of MANY people.

            THANK YOU so very much to those of you who have expressed support, empathy, and encouragement by means of your comments here and on John’s facebook page. I am strengthened by your willingness to join with me in this journey.

            I have much more to say on this issue and hope to do so via an additional allotment of blog-space, if John will see fit. I’m currently doing an academic study on the (under-appreaciated) intersection of eros/sexuality and spirituality toward earning my doctorate so I would love to share with you some of my insights.

            My bottom line as a theologian, minister, lover, mother, and human being is this: love one another as Christ has loved you. This means actively pursuing justice especially for those who are marginalized and oppressed by culture, rigid social and moral norms, and relgious persons or instutitions that systematically exclude or vilify. ALL are welcome at the table to feast with the lover of souls/bodies.

            Peace be with you!

          • Dave Bowling

            I must say my apologies on John’s fb page for the assumption you were a man … I did not mean to put gender into my comments and used the term in a general manner.

            I think you are brave to try to manage life as a Bi while doing the work you feel you were called to do. I know it is not easy to keep your personal life a secret during this time in your life when you want to celebrate the latest PCUSA amendment while protecting yourself and those who look up to you.

            I wish you well and look forward to any further postings (and information) that you may provide. You have my support (for what that is worth) and admiration for trying to do God’s work in a place where it may not always be easy or comfortable.

    • Liz Mc.

      Michael, I am not Christian or gay, but I can easily imagine why a gay person would choose to remain involved with Christianity. It’s because they are Christians. They are moved everyday by the story of Jesus and live constantly in relationship with God through Jesus. That can’t be put aside or ignored anymore than someone’s sexuality can be. It’s also the same reason that there are still Catholics in the world in the wake of the abuse scandal. Because meaningful and profound spiritual feelings trump the actions of those who try to mess things up or push people away.

      Just a thought.

    • Robyn

      Michael,

      Being a Christian doesn’t mean you belong to a church or any other organization. It means that you follow Christ, His example and His teachings. Anything else is fluff, and added on by people, not God.

      Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

  • marymary

    I was brought up in a very fundamentalist christian home but I never “caught” the belief that homosexuality is wrong. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman? It’s a generalisation but men seem more hostile to it.

    But I DO think that the bible has a few verses disapproving of same-sex sexual activity. It’s not exactly correct to liken that with a woman being unclean when she’s got her period, ie defunct. The ceremonial laws of what’s “clean” and “unclean” are different to sin and not sin. Being unclean isn’t a sin, it’s more a metaphor (I’m groping here) of our human messiness. The wording against same sex sexual acts and overall sexual immorality is much stronger and more condemnatory I absolutely agree that even if it is a sin, it ‘s NOT the SAME as other sins like gossip etc. That’s a cop-out. I can give up gossip (well I find I can’t but you know what I mean) and still get married.

    Lots of Christians genuinely struggle with this and it’s not always because we’re afraid of homosexuality or think it’s wrong. Well I don’t. I feel that bible teaching against it is clear but I really want to believe that God doesn’t care about sexual orientation in the way that I don’t care. That’s mainly why I’m here. This post is helpful.

    I have a dear lesbian friend. I couldn’t possibly say to her “Come to Jesus. He loves you. But give up your girlfriend of ten years cos he hates same-sex-sexual-activity. You can BE a lesbian. Just don’t act like one.” How anyone can say stuff like that with a straight face is beyond me.

    • melanie

      “The wording against same sex sexual acts and overall sexual immorality is much stronger and more condemnatory”

      No, it’s really not, and I have no idea what makes you think this. How is this worded any different than the instructions regarding eating shellfish, or laying with a woman during her period?

  • janebluebelle

    What a great post! It’s very respectible and courageous for whoever it was to write this letter and share it with us. I hope that you and your ministry will accept you as you fully deserve to be accepted. Love and respect my friend :)

    Michael I get what you are saying. It seems like church has been trying to push out the gay population as a sinful lot. I agree with John though that it is not as rampant as one may think. But let me put it like this. Nazi Germany was made up of only 10% of the population being in the Nazi Party. Everyone else cowered in fear and turned a blind eye to what was happening. So my point is sometimes that nasty 10% can ruin it for the rest of us. And in the case if accepting LGBT people into the church that feisty 10% is the problem. I think for the most part people are just uneducated on the topic and may well change their tune if they could hear about it in a rational and reasonable way. It’s getting them to listen that isn’t always easy. The 10% would rather the 90% the masses stay intimidated and follow the opinions they have and the standards they set. They throw out propaganda like candy at a parade and make the masses afraid. No doubt GBLT have felt slighted by the church. But I agree with Jihn, you’d be surprised at how many people could and would be understanding.

  • janebluebelle

    Arg IPhone spell and word correct makes me very frustated. John not Jihn or whatever it was lol. There other word slips and mistakes. Blah!

  • Christine McQueen

    I’m sharing this on Facebook because I have a lot on my friends list who NEED to read it. Too many of my friends and family simply don’t understand why this heterosexual grandmother spends so much time fighting for the rights of LGBT people. This man’s story is one of those reasons.

  • http://drsheltie.blogspot.com/ James Moore

    To this article, I can only say, “Amen!”

    It’s interesting that the author mentioned the stoning of Stephen. After Amendment 10-A passed, he was the subject of my sermon in which I expressed my support of the change. This is the link on my sermon website:

    http://www.zebraview.net/we-are-all-witnesses.pdf

  • Lili C

    I will pobably get the crap pounded out of me for this response, so I just ask that you read the whole thing and consider what I’m actually saying, without projecting. For the record, I do not believe it is a sin to be homosexual, and I think the Presbyterian Church has done the right thing to change thier doctrine – people called to the ministry should not be excluded because of their sexual orientation. I will also say that I am not gay, and I cannot begin to understand the complex and painful emotions and experiences that those who are gay have to navigate to come to a place of peace with who they are, in a society that is still largely hostile and judgemental towards them, especially the world of “church-hood” (which in my opinion is not the same as “Christianity”.) I do believe it is important for Christians to confront fellow Christians and challenge both individual and organizational prejeudices, although I beleive that this should be done with love and repect, rather than returning anger and insults for anger and insults, which loses the fight before its begins, IMO.

    But there is an issue that I have not seen addressed here (and I admit that while I read the entire original post I only scanned some of the longer responses, I may have missed something.) I happen to believe that it is vitally important that those who presume to take on the mantle of church leadership MUST hold themselves to a higher standard of living and behavior. I certainly don’t mean perfection, but even when they slip or outright fall they must be wholly committed to transparency and the notion of confessing their shortcomings openly, renouncing them, and working harder to avoid them. I think the reason this is so critical is that church leadership has an incredible amount of influence on those whom they lead.

    Before you all skewer me, I am not saying the problem with this person is that he is gay, but rather that he knowingly chose, and continues to choose, to live a lie. Prior to this change, whether their doctrine was wrong or not, it was their official doctrine that gays should not be part of the clergy. This person, knowing that, nevertheless entered the ministry and withheld an important, relevant truth about him or herself, which was a lie – a pretty big one. And now he talks of continuing to “keep his secret” (which is a nicer way of saying continuing to deceive people) because he fears they will be shocked and react badly to his homosexuality (or hers, not sure if I read anything that clarified the writer’s gender in this post). Respectfully, I think there would also be many, if not more, who would be shocked and react to having been deceived for so long. Make no mistake, I am not saying that hiding his homosexuality undoes all of the good he has done with the programs and children he worked with. But neither does all the good done make it ok that he has lied and deceived his congeregation and church for what sounds like a very long time, and is knowingly choosing to continue the lie even now that the church has reconsidered thier doctrine – in order to protect his paycheck (the writer’s assertion, not mine).

    Sorry, again this is not me saying homosexuals should not be allowed in church leadership, but the fact is every denomination has the right to set their own doctrine, and if you don’t agree with it but want to remain in the denomination then I think the right thing to do is to work against the injustice openly and honestly, not by lying and pretending to be something you’re not. If that means not being able to assume a position of leadership until the denomination comes around and makes some better chiolces, then so be it, painful and unfair as that might be, yet another sad result of a cruel, unjust doctrine. As horrible as it would be to limit this writer’s choices, or to deprive the church of his or her service, using that to justify living a lie is just another way of saying the ends justify the means, and that should not be good enough for someone positioning themselves as a spiritual leader.

    Again, the sin I am reacting to here is lying and dishonesty, NOT homosexuality. The point I’m making about clergy and church leadership is that trasnparency is vital, NOT heterosexuality. And I applaud the decision of the PCUSA as a move towards justice and righteousness, I also believe that any gay minster who has been secretly serving in that denomination should have wrestled with their reality and come out of the closet because it was the right thing to do, not because the new doctrine has now made it the safe thing to do.

    And all of this, dear readers, is written in a respectful tone of voice.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

      I understand where you are coming from Lil C, and I would agree cept for a couple of niggling details.

      1. What choice does a Christian who also happens to be gay have? Does he or she be completely open about this aspect of their life knowing that it will most likely having them standing outside the church doors and those doors shut firmly against them? Do do they remain silent on this aspect so they can be served and serve the body of Christ?

      2. Who says that anyone in the position of leadership, in any church in any denomination in any nation doesn’t have something about them that they hold back about? How many in any congregation are harboring dark secrets about themselves fearful of the repercussions of being found out…the repercussions of outrage, gossip, condemnation? How many of any of those are staying silent for reasons that could be simply who they are, as the writer of this essay is; the grandchild of a KKK member, the wife of an abuser, the child of a heroin addict, the parent who gave up their baby for adoption? And that’s just the short list.

      3. And thirdly how can we be sure that if every gay clergy or member of any church came out, that the ramifications would be anything but negative? One thing we Christians are damned good at is damning people.

      I think we must try to put ourselves in the shoes of people like the author of this essay. We dont’ know the risks he is taking. or how far reaching his “honesty” would entail. Its easy for us to say. “Stop lying, be honest, its good for you.” But we really don’t know the cost do we?

      I think God is much more gracious, patient and loving then we’ll ever be. He knows this person’s struggles. He knows all our struggles. I think it just may be best to allow this guy and God work out the next steps without our interference. If there were that “perfect” Christian out there to compare to, and it was those standards we had to follow then I think my thoughts would be moot. But there is no such thing, only Jesus, who seems to think we are amazing, despite ourselves.

      • Lili C

        sdgalloway – I think your last paragraph is right on. One of the reasons I rarely voice a lot of opinions – here or otherwise – as to what someone else “ought to do” is that there are so many “ought to’s” in my own life that I am not living up to, and I try really hard not to lapse into being judgemental of others – my opinion is that usualy we become judgemental of others when we don’t want to face our own shortcomings, so it becomes a handy distraction. But I do think there are some absolute truths in this life that we should stand up for, so my original response was a reaction to the ideas the writer was espousing, not an attack on him personally. But I’d like to respond to your 3 points.

        1. As harsh as this may sound, my answer to your first question is yes.they SHOULD be open about who they are, even if it reaps awful consequences. If I were gay, do I think I’d have the guts to do that? Most likely not, at least not until I went through a very long process of inner wrestling, and not unless I had someone in my life that was being supportive of me. But the fact that it owuld be understandably hard to do would not make it ok not to do it. Would that make it RIGHT for me to remain closeted? No – completely understandable, but right, no. And in the case of putting myself into a position of church leadership in a church that holds that gay persons should not be allowed to be in a position of church authority, then even as I chose to keep my truth a secret, I should also refrain from seeking a leadership position. The church would have no business rejecting me as a leader on those grounds, but I would also have no business deceiving them into accepting me as a leader if I knew that was their doctrine. I am not talking about attending a church and keeping your orientation to yourself – although I would think that would be so self-destructive that it would be a “sin” in the sense that smoking, overeating, or doing anything that hurts ourselves is a sin – I am talking about formal church leadership.

        2. You are very right about church leaders having all kinds of secrets, although I would pick a little at some of your examples. Being the child or grandchild of someone who did something bad is not who you are, it is just a part of your history, and therefore is nobody’s business unless you want to share it. But ongoing behavoirs and realities that impact your current reality IS part of who you are, so a woman who is still in a marriage and being abused? I am assuming if she is in a position of church leadership she is proably asserting – or at the very least allowing people to assume – that her marriage is alright, so in that case yes, she is living a lie and should face the truth or step down. I say this as a woman who was an abused wife, and lived that lie for many years. And if I had discovered that a trusted, admired church leader was living the same lie it would have harmed me in any number of ways, from feeling deceived to feeling that my truth was so shameful it really SHOULD be kept hidden. We are all less than perfect so yes, many church leaders may have many aspects of themselves they are too weak to admit, stop, or in the case of sexual orientation just own honestly, but a truly righteous leader will recognize the potential damage of that secrecy and find a way to deal with it rather than simply justifying it and continuing it into perpetuity.

        3. My answer to this is yes, you’re right, if all gay Christians – clergy and laymnen alike – were to come out it would rock the church (universal) to its core – it would cause conflict, outrage, shock, judgment, division, and more. It would be monumentally uncomfortable and difficult for the church to ride out the shock wave – and none of that would necessarily be a bad thing. Part of my career includes studying organizational change, and the fact is virtually all true, significant growth and improvement of an organization grows out of some kind of initial crisis that forced rethinking and questioning assumptions. I have a friend who is a pastor who jokes that Christ came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and we should be following His example. Let me make a goofy comparison here – think of the civil rights movement and the incredibly courageous people who brought about such profound change. They didn’t use make-up and wigs to camaflouge thier “blackness” and pretend to be white so they could eat in the all-white deli, telling themselves secretly that they had a right to be there because the owner had no right to exclude blacks. Instead, they walked in with black skin, kinky hair and alll, and sat at the counters, rode the buses, voted in the elections, and dealt with the incredibly cruel horrible reaponses as best they could. Was it awful, yes. Was it the only way they could have brought about change, YES.

        • Lili C

          One last comment here and then I’m done ‘splainin’ myself – I have great compassion for the person who wrote the orignial post. I cannot imagine the pain he/she has endured. I do not doubt that he has faithfuylly served and devoted himself to his “flock”. I also don’t doubt that coming out would be extremely difficult and painful to do, and no doubt lead to some very painful consequences. I just think that for any of us to encourage him that those potentially difficult consequences make it justifyable to continue living a lie would NOT be doing him any favors. And in his case, since the longer he lives out this lie, the greater numbers of those in his congregation – the very people he has sought to serve – stand to be injured and/or misled and/or discouraged by his doing so as a church authroity they looked up to, then he has more than his own persoanl consequences to coinsider. And, he chose to put himself in that position.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Wow. Okay, so, let’s just SAY this is a single mother in a small town raising her young child alone. Any more compassion for her decision then?

          • Barb

            Since when are ministers, lay or otherwise, required to share their sex lives with their congregations in order to be considered “authentic” or “transparent”? If it really shouldn’t matter (and it doesn’t matter to me), I really don’t need to know (and really don’t want to know) what goes on in the private lives of my spiritual leaders.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

            As to Lil C’s first response to my response. I am rather dubious that point number one would be managed in the way stated. As I said, we don’t walk in the shoes of another. Unless one is gay, and sees and hears what gays have to see and hear, and know that it is directed them, then we just don’t know. To open oneself to open attacks is an extremely brave thing to do. It needs to be done for the right reasons and time for that individual. NOT because others think its the right time and place.

            And this isn’t like being a single mother, or in my case pretending that my marriage was anything by the disaster that it was. This is about a person who was created in a way that others happen to find offensive for some reason that they may not even be able to explain. He’s done nothing wrong, He just doesn’t find women attractive, preferring men. To keep peace and harmony in his life, even if it means inner turmoil, he’s kept that part of who he is silent. I can understand and respect his decision to wait and see.

          • Lili C

            First, wow back atcha, John. The fact that I have reached a different conclusion to the issues this person raised than most of you have does not necessarily mean that I have no compassion for her. Second, to Barb, when a church denomination includes among thier basic tenets the statement that a homosexual person may not hold a position in formal church leadership, then someone who chooses to apply for a posiiton with them is tacitly accepting that requirement. (again, I don’t agree with that doctrine, and I applaud thier decision to change it, but the fact is they have a right to determine their own rules.)

            My original point in participating on this thread was not to denigrate this woman for being gay, but to address the issue of church leadership. I beleive it is incredibly important for church leadership to hold themselves to a higher standard of behaviors, and when they stumble (which every homan being will) to strive to be transparent and make amends. It is so important because the clergy is not like any other job, and because that position wields incredible influence over people’s lives. When church leaders fail to do this, we all could name hundreds of examples personal and natoinal where congregations as a whole and individuals get hurt, found bad examples to follow, or become disillusioned with the church or even God himself. AGAIN let me repeat, I am talking here about blatant, ongoing dishonesty about being homosexual, NOT homosexualtiy.

            Let’s be honest here – whether she liked them or not, she did have options. The PC is not the only church denominatin out there. For some time now, there have been churches and denominations that have welcomed persons regardless of their sexual orientation, including in positions of leadership. And if she lived in an area where no such church was available, there are other “helping professions” where she could make a real difference in the world, even in the context of her Christina faith – social work, nursing, teaching, are just a few examples.

            Instead, she conciously chose to apply for a position in this denomination, knowing their requirements for clergy. And while it may very well be that in the beginning she was confused, conflicted, or in denial about her sexuality, her post makes it quite clear that some time ago she resolved any confusion about her orientation and conciously chose to continue the deceit. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but whether or not we have compassion for her does not change that it is what it is.

            Finally, to DR – please stop assuming that the fact that I may disagree with you on a particualr subject must surely mean that I have not suffered as badly as you have, that my thought processes are not as deep as yours, or my worldview is not as informed as yours. You have responded to me a couple of times in that vein before, and bluntly, you are just full of sh**. You know nothing about me.

            I will not bore you with my life story, but I will say that while I may not be gay, I have certainly lived thorugh hell and back (not the literal hell of course, since we all know it doesn’t exist). With the help and support of many good people I clawed myself to a place in my middle age where I am relatively at peace in my own skin, and the life I’ve carved out for myself. So I do know a thing or two about rejection, betrayal, self hatred, and more – just not for my sexual orientation. Does that make my suffering, and the lessons learned thorugh it, somehow less valid then yours?

            I will also share that I am the director of an organization that includes a homeless shelter for women, located right in the “heart of dixie” (aka the good old southern Bible Belt).The majority of our financial support comes from good old Bible fearin’ churches and church members. And did I mention that I am a single woman with no other source of support, who lives paycheck to paycheck, and if fired would be homeless myself in a matter of weeks? And yet, mine was the first shelter to accept an openly lesbian woman. I was grilled for it by my board of directors and warned of serious problems if “the word got out”. I continued to choose not to discriminate, and when we accepted a lesbian couple and I actually placed them (gasp) in the same bedroom, the word did get out and I lost a large chunk of financial support form one of our churches, the vote to fire me was a squeaker – 5 for, 7 against. Did I mention that I lay awake at night for days with my stomache in knots, and came very close to caving and sending those poor women on their way? But that the support and encouragement of God and a good friend – a lesbian, no less – helped me to stand my ground? Does knowing that part of my story earn me a few points in your “Noble Keepers of the REAL Truth Club”?

            Sorry, I know I’m getting awfully sarcastic here. But there is a point to that last bit of rambling. I enjoy this blog, because I really appreciate the things John writes about, and the way he writes aobut them. You John, and many of your regular posters, enlighten, encourage, and challenge me. Most of the time I agree with you, and on the occassins when I don’t you make your case so articulately and elequently that I am forced to question my own assumptinos and reconsider if I have missed something important. I like that. I think it is healthy, and makes me sharper. I gotta say, you guys may have wonderful tolerance and acceptance of the GLBT community, the abused, the downtrodden, and more, and I have always admired those who stand up for those who need it.

            But boy, howdy, you seem to have little to no tolerance for anyone whose opinions stray too far from yours. And its not just a matter of expressing a difference of opinion respectfully, but rather to make assumptions about poeple and attack them, subtly or overtly. If your goal is to hopefully persuade people to become more accepting, supportive, or whater-ive then you are losing the battle, Because just like I did earler in this post, when you make someone feel attacked and disrepsected they stop being able to hear you, and instead respond in kind. And then the battle is lost, and the prejeudice will continue, and people will feel justified in it because you have pissed them off instead of challenging them to think. Just some food for thought from someone who reads here more than she posts.

          • litRg-goddess

            It’s not because we disagree with you. You are of course entitled to your own hermeneutic and its praxis.

            It’s because you call me a liar and insist that I am or someday will be contributing to pain for my congregation.

            Also: I’m not gay. I’m bi. Please honor this distinction.

            I am Episcopalian, not Presbyterian. I am from a small town where VERY few church jobs provide sufficient financial compensation to support oneself, let alone a dependent. I had a great church job in TEC before I left my (emotionally and verbally abusive) husband 2 years ago in a large metropolis. Such opportunities are rarer now. A year ago I was on food stamps and medicaid. This job is a blessing financially, spiritually, vocationally. I am CALLED to formal church ministry, of which teaching and “helping” are aspects. I am NOT called to “social work, nursing, teaching, or other helping professions.” Expecting me to deny my call because of my sexual orientation robs me of the authority of my own identity. I am privileged to be working toward my THIRD advanced degree in ministry. How dare you suggest that my sexual orientation proclude me from that to which I am called and for which I have not only immense aptitude but also LOVE. Please re-read the first paragraph of this blog.

            I am NOT ordained, nor do I want/expect to be. I am not clergy. My role is in children’s/youth/family ministry. My sexual orientation, and the protection of that part of my identity AT THIS POINT, are 1) none of the congregation’s business and 2) the only way to continue to provide adequately for myself and my son. This does not mean that I am negligent in active support/praxis toward justice and inclusion for marginalized and oppressed peoples. If I were to “out” myself at this point it would be akin to dropping a bomb from a rooftop to draw people’s attention to the need for peaceful resolution to conflict.

            It’s NOT the right way, or the right time.

            My congregation needs education, a dedicated and intentional space in which to consider issues of sexuality and its intersection withh spirituality. At that point, with the support of others, I would love to make full disclosure. NOT because they need to know about my sex life, but because in modeling vulnerability and in a leadership position as a sexual minority I hope to broaden the base for caring, open, honest community.

            I am not a liar. I am not deceiving my congregation or the denomination or God or anyone else. Truth and revelation come when we are ready. God respects human limitations and I do as well. Violence is perpetuated when readiness is not considered. In sexual terms this is called rape. I WILL NOT rape my congregation by forcing information upon them for which they are not ready. My pastor and several key leaders know of my sexual orientation and are fully supportive of my desire to maintain its privacy at this point. My hope is that together we might prepare to move forward with excellent sexuality education for all ages which lays a sustainable foundation for others in the church to also freely share their own sexual variance.

          • DR

            I don’t believe you need to explain yourself but I’m encouraged by what you’ve written here regardless. Thank you for what you’ve offered and blessings to you in your ministry.

          • Lili C

            Dear litRg: Thank you for responding. Let me say at the outset I wish nothing but the best for you and your child. Of course i respect your self description as bi. You did not make that distincion in your original post, you simply said GLBT, and I made the unsupported assumpiton of your being gay – one of the things that frustrates me keenly is when someone makes a leap to an unsupported assumption about others, so I have no excuse on that one, and apologize. Perhaps I’m out of date on my alphabet soup, but I thought the PCUSA was Presbyterian, and there is nowhere in your original post that you reference being Episopalian.

            As for your pastor and key ledership knowing your orientation, if that is the case then most of the points I have been trying to make are actually moot when it comes to your situation. You have done what I would have said you were responsible to do, and alerted the leadership to the truth. But in my defense, you did not include this in your original post, and in fact it makes it clearly sound like you had kept that information from everyone at your church. I went back and reread the entry, In case I had been a sloppy reader and missed something – it isn’t there. I’m glad you clarified the situation, not because you owed me or anyone here an explanation, but because it just makes the situation you’re sharing about a little more clear. Thank you.

            I do stand my ground on the points I made about Church Leadership in general,and I don’t think most of the respondents have yet grasped what I’m actually saying, but I’m not going to continue belaboring the point and keep re-clarifying. LitRg, Iwill just challenge you – repsectfully – on two particular points, and then let it drop. First, in my experience whenever someone justifies not teling something because the other party is “not ready to hear it”, it is often because the teller is actually not ready to tell it. I have no idea whether that is the case with you and your congregation, but I encourage you to genuinely consider that possiblity, and to not sell your deno inaiton short. Second, please don’t ever compare telling someone something they are not ready to hear as the equivalent of the vile act of rape. As a past rape victim and as one who has worked for years with many other victims, I can tell you they are not even close to the same kind of thing.

            DR, my only response to you is that I have absolutely no problem with people disagreeing with me, even vehemently. I actually love a good helathy debate and I enjoy being challenged and having to defend my opinions. I just resent it deeply when it is done disrespectfully.

            I wish blessings to all here.

          • sharon

            Why is the title of this post “A PCUSA lay minister stays in the closet” if the author isn’t Presbyterian? There were also other things in the article that indicated he or she is Presbyterian. Including the mention of session, which Episcopal churches do not have. And the recent change in our constitution which was true of Episcopal churches some time before the PCUSA? I was going to say a few words about Presbyterian polity to help some misunderstandings when I read that the author was Episcopal.

            There are a few types of Presbyterians, PCUSA is the largest group. If there is a group of Episcopalians who go by the name of PCUSA and have a session, I would be very surprised.

            The thing I was going to say about PCUSA is that before the recent change the language about who can be ordained as a pastor, elder or deacon is that they must be “either faithful in a marriage between one man and one woman or to be celibate in singleness.”

            It was never about orientation. It was also never about people who were not ordained.

            Depending on other circumstances, the author may very well have been perfectly within the guidelines. No deception involved.

            I don’t know if this will help anyone.

            peace,

            Sharon

          • DR

            Listen. You offered a point of view that you knew was going to be difficult to receive. Now you’re accusing those of us who countered you as displaying a lack of tolerance? For pointing out some of the issues we have with your position and underscoring the terrible position those of you who have this point of view can put the GLBT community within?

            I appreciate the general spirit and tone of your point of view. I think it would be wonderful if being honest would be the cure-all of everything. I also believe that you’ve inadverdently putting the responsibility of correcting the gay and lesbian bigotry squarely on the shoulders of them when it is the *straight* people who have manufactured the problem to begin with and are perpetuating. To imply that someone isn’t following a Biblical standard of leadership as a result of being dishonest is a fairly grave implication. To do so without highlighting the loss of both physical safety, spiritual/emotional security and financial support feels very cavalier.

            On a separate note, those of you who are here offering a counter view have to toughen up a little bit please. There is a lot of anger (at least on my end) over how my friends are being treated as well as a sense of urgency to stop doing harm. Those of you who are lining up on the side of provocative view points can be very productive but please – if you’re making that choice, stop blaming people here for countering you in ways that aren’t as gentle as you’d prefer.

            Asking the GLBT community

          • DR

            This is actually the kind of comment that scares me the most. You have no idea of what you’re saying here. Please stop saying how compassionate you are and how much you understand, defending yourself or “splaining” yourself is an indication of the privilege you (and all of us who are straight and christian) are dealing with that keeps us blind and deaf to the realities of what the GLBT community faces in our christian community. The straight-up rules of “lies” don’t apply here. We don’t *allow* Christian men and women to be on our same playing field and that is 100% our own issue. It’s not theirs. The discretion they apply is what survivors do. There’s no tough love to be applied here.

          • Barb

            Amen, brother (or sister)…

          • melanie

            I disagree with you. Sometimes, for those of us in the position of this minister (which I have been), there IS need for tough love. I don’t know this minister or her situation well enough to say SHE herself needs tough love, but the fact is for those of us who are Christian and gay, the situation just sucks. And we DO have the option to remain in the closet, come out all loud and proud, or take action that falls between these two extremes. Any such decision comes with consequences- many of them completely unfair and craptastic, but seriously, life just isn’t fair. Yes, I have my moments when I get really depressed about this unfairness, moments when I cry about it, get mad at God about it, whatever. And it is completely legitimate for me to have those moments. But at some point, every person who faces any sort of bias or discrimination has to decide to get up and move on with life in spite of it. I came out to one of my favorite professors right after I left seminary. I doubt she’s really pro-gay, but I at least knew she was comfortable enough sitting in the gray unknown of morality and scripture that she would not condemn or judge me either. Her words to me can ONLY be described as tough love, as she told me there was no place for me within our church affiliation, within which I had hoped to someday be ordained. And she was absolutely right. It hurt like hell to hear it, but I already knew it was true and I was glad she did not imply that somehow I should be a martyr and force myself, a square peg, into the round hole my church affiliation had given me. There are many people within that affiliation who are completely open and affirming with gays, and those are the people who will pave the way for us to someday be welcome inside those doors. That day is a long ways off though. Some people can remain closeted to a degree and still be effective within their roles in less-accepting church communities. For some of us, to do that would be destructive to ourselves and even those around us. I fell into that latter category, and I had to move on and just deal with the consequences of being a square peg in a round world. There’s no sugar-coating reality, and I am grateful to the few people who have loved me enough to give me that tough love.

          • DR

            Sometimes, for those of us in the position of this minister (which I have been), there IS need for tough love.>>>

            Where did I suggest the complete removal of tough love? I didn’t.

            Some people can remain closeted to a degree and still be effective within their roles in less-accepting church communities. For some of us, to do that would be destructive to ourselves and even those around us. I fell into that latter category, and I had to move on and just deal with the consequences of being a square peg in a round world. There’s no sugar-coating reality, and I am grateful to the few people who have loved me enough to give me that tough love.>>>

            Which was a great choice for you. It’s not for others. You’re disagreeing with a point that you think I made conclusively and I didn’t. I’ll re-state, what I was actually arguing was painting anyone in this situation with a broad brush – suggesting that they need to be called out for their deception if they choose to remain in the closet – was flat out wrong. That sometimes it’s actually *physically dangerous* for someone in the GLBT community to come out, let alone in a Christian community. I’m sure as one who’s lived that you need no more commentary about that from me.

            Christians know better. We just do. Straight Christians, I mean. No GLBT person should have to put themselves on the sacrificial evangelical alter because we as straight christians can’t get our shit together, get educated and actually repent for what we’ve done to our community. Not just the GLBT community, but to us – this kind of posturing we’ve taken collectively is so damaging to us spiritually and emotionally. It has to end and we have enough information to cultivate a different kind of environment without forcing gay men and women to sacrifice their careers and their emotional health to come out into a hostile environment. That’s putting the responsibility on them – on you – and while I support you (and respect you) 10000% for your choice and the courage it took to do that? Not to mention the spiritual conviction? I don’t want anyone else to have to make that choice.

    • DR

      I’m just unclear as to what choice you believe this person to actually have. We treat gay men and women like deviant criminals in the church. It’s *the church* that is perpetuating a lie about this community of people and people are forced to either hide themselves from the condemnation of that lie (that we as a church passively or actively tolerate), or deal with people like you who suggest that there is some kind of character/morality flaw in “lying” when in fact, they are protecting themselves from having to deal with defending a reputation and reality that we’ve *created* for gay men and women.

      This man is doing some good in his ministry, obviously – what nobility are you suggesting is missing as a result of his not coming out of the closet? A good man would be fired or condemned. He’s smart enough to know that. There is a huge, huge difference between deception and discretion as a result. I’m sure you mean well here but you suggesting that there is some kind of moral flaw in this man lying about who he is is akin to a woman who’s escaped an abusive man lying about her location so he doesn’t discover her and hurt her again. The church is abusive. That’s the world we’ve created.

      • DR

        *This woman. This should have read in the feminine. Sorry OP!

    • melanie

      I think you have a point except for one glaring problem, which you probably wouldn’t think of unless you have been in the situation of this woman. I almost could have written this post. I was a second year seminary student, on staff at my church, taught a class in our youth/kids program (music/arts class, which I both loved and was fairly good at). I think my short (and thus far unfinished) stint in seminary was really for the entire purpose of dealing with my internalized misogyny and coming to terms with myself as a lesbian.

      What was the defining point that made me decide it WAS wrong for me to continue in ministry in a manner that was less than authentic and honest? Ted Haggard. His whole hidden life became front page news, and I watched as his church and family were beaten to a bloody pulp (figuratively speaking). Lesson I learned- you can hide your sexuality for only so long until the truth will come to light, and the bigger the world you built around yourself behind that heterosexual mask, the harder that whole world (and everyone you care about in it) will fall. And yes, I beat myself up also that I didn’t have the self awareness or courage to be honest with myself sooner.

      The consequence of my acknowledgement of my sexuality was that I kind of just dropped off the face of the earth. Stopped attending classes (surely failed a couple). Resigned from my position at the church (and made up a half true reason for doing so) and soon after left the church altogether. No, I did not just come out to everyone, primarily because all the good things I had been a part of in that church would suddenly have become suspect in everyone’s eyes. It felt like the truth about me tainted everything I had ever touched. Some of these people do know now, as I told some close friends and others have surely figured it out. I also do nothing to HIDE my sexuality or my relationship with my partner now, so surely people in my new life and my old life intersect within my town.

      I lost the entirety of my social circle and church family, save just a handful of people, when I came out. I believe wholeheartedly that I made the right decision to leave that church and the seminary (the school does not allow gay students- will eventually finish studying elsewhere) because I realized dishonesty leads to death, one way or another. However, (and this is my main point), you don’t realize that many of us already were within ministry positions when we came to accept our sexuality. It’s not that we went into the position being dishonest, other than perhaps dishonest with ourselves as to our own sexuality. Once you are in that spot, it is an amazing dilemma to figure out how to get out of it in a manner that inflicts the least amount of pain on yourself, those around you, and the ministry of which you have been a part all these years. And yes, if your ministry position earns you a paycheck (which mine did, albeit a small one), that does add on another legitimate concern, especially if you have others in your household who depend on that paycheck as well.

      To the writer of this letter- blessings to you. You will find your way, as it sounds like you already are. Please know that while the coming out process in many ways sucks, it also has with it wonderful and unexpected surprises. I trust you will make the decisions you need to make, in the time frame in which they need to be made, for the sake of yourself and everyone around you.

    • Michael Eric Hund

      because…

      As an older out and proud Gay Christian,

      without easy access

      to an “official” school of higher learning,

      I have tried to:

      “Study to show yourself

      approved unto God,

      a worker who need not

      be ashamed,

      rightly dividing

      the word of truth.”

      2 Tim 2:15

    • LVZ

      1) Last year a friend was visiting. I happened to mention to her that I’d been in a car wreck four years before we met (eleven years ago now.) My friend was shocked that I’d never mentioned that before. “That’s terrible!” she exclaimed. “It’s no big deal,” I replied. I’d been injured, but have made a complete recovery. No one ever accused me of “lying” because that had never come up before.

      2) When I was in junior high school I arrived home one day to find my mother profoundly agitated. She’d just learned that her nephew (my cousin), who was in college at the time, had slept with his girlfriend. She was devastated that someone she knew — someone she was related to — had had pre-marital sex. I spoke to her lovingly about the Bible for the next few minutes, but my final comment — the one that struck home and that she has praised ever since — was “his sex life is none of your business.”

      Do straight people go to church and talk about their sexuality? No one who goes to church expects to hear a married couple talk about the last time they slept together. No one expects teenage boys to talk about having dreams or single women to talk about what they want in bed from their ideal lovers. Straight people’s sex lives are a non-issue in church. It’s no one else’s business.

      Why, then, is a closeted gay person “lying” because they don’t talk about their sexuality in church? I didn’t announce to everyone in my church that I was straight. That doesn’t mean I was lying.

      A closeted gay person is not lying because they don’t talk about their sexuality in the house of God. Church is not the place where people go to talk about sexuality, regardless of their orientation. It’s not anyone’s responsibility — gay or straight — to talk to everyone in their church family about their sexuality. A person’s sexuality is their business and their partner’s business — no one else’s.

    • Don Rappe

      Now, you can consider yourself as having had the crap kicked out of you!

    • Robert

      Hi…

      I agree with you… homosexuality is not a sin… lying is.

      One of the reasons, actually the real reason I came out at the age of 20 in 1981… 30 yrs ago… was because of all the lying I had to do to maintain the veil of hetrosexuality. By coming out and being honest with myself, my family and my friends… I was able to develop real relationships with dignity and integrity. I lost no one of importance. But it was a struggle for my parents… taking approx 12 yrs before they could honesty accept me for being me.

      I also know, that by my being an out gay man… has helped changed the way others see “gay-ness”. I am a competent, decent, loving, funny, nice guy. I am not a stereotype. I am a person.

      By staying in the closet, the clergy man is denying himself and others the dignity of growth… and he is helping to continue the lie that being gay is shameful.

      I have a feeling that if all the gay priests, nuns, rabbis and religious lay people came out of the closet… then most religions would change their perspective on Homosexuality pretty quickly.

      Robert

  • charles

    is the notion of outrage in the majority of Christians having a hard time with this unrealistic? For several hundred years it has been a solid plank in the notion of what “Christian” life was about- and now we take a closer look and re-evaluate the viewpoint.

    To that end- the progressive Christian MUST be aware that their viewpoint is not that of the broad collective- that it is controversial- that it might get them in trouble with their friends and families….

    To me, that sounds awfully similar to what Jesus told those who chose to follow him.

    great article btw- and I whole heartedly agree with it being an issue of honesty- not comfortable obfuscation.

  • janebluebelle

    I must be putting in my comments incorrectly. Both times I’ve posted them they never show up. I can’t imagine what I am pressing wrong but it must be something. That crazy person with 100 different personalities who was commenting on the hop thread certainly could figure it out. And if they 20 x over could figure it out I would feel ‘really smart’ to know I’ve been not gettin it LOL. Well, here I try again. It could have something to do with posting from my iPhone. Oh well. Hope this one works :)

  • http://www.google.com/ Taron

    Well put, sir, well put. I’ll cretlainy make note of that.


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