Secretly Gay-Affirming Pastors: You Are Not Alone

Yesterday I received this email (which I use here by permission):

Dear John,

Hi. My name is [deleted]. I am nearly 48-years-old, and am married with two grown children. I am also a Methodist minister in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I have come to believe that I live in a black hole which is unknown to other Christians.

We here in Northern Ireland are usually about ten years behind the U.S. in dealing with issues—well, we are actually about 500 years behind the rest of the world. (If you think the Bible Belt in America is ground zero for fundamentalist Christianity, you should grow up here. We’ve been killing each other for centuries over points of doctrine. We’re still fighting the battles of the Reformation!) So the whole homosexual argument in the church is only getting started here. But believe me, we are a hang-them-high lot in this corner of the world.

Just recently a young woman who was just a teenager at my last church, and who liked to hang around with me, has come out as being gay and is in a relationship with another woman. Her mother (a Christian) has thrown her out and has nothing to do with her, and the church just doesn’t want to know her. Yet all she has done is love another human being.

I directed her to your website. At least now she knows that she is still loved by God. So thank you for shining some much needed light into a country that seems to enjoy walking in darkness.

I have tried reaching out through the Internet to Christians who think and feel as I do. You have no idea how many emails I have sent to people online who offered me a different Christianity to the hate-filled Christianity I have grown up with. But none of them has ever answered me back. Not one.

I read your blog, and it reminds me of the Jesus I fell in love with. But here I am—a woman who agrees with everything you say, and loves the Jesus that you talk about. But I know that if I was to stand up on Sunday morning, and say what I truly believe, there is not one single congregation in the whole of Ireland who would accept what I say.

What do I do, John? I have two daughters at university. I have so many debts because of years of being paid such meager wages. How cowardly am I in comparison to the early martyrs and even you? I despair of myself. I truly despise everything my church wants me to love.

I’m sending this with zero expectations of a reply. I’m just so tired of pretending. And what you say is so true. I feel so alone, and so cowardly. That’s how I feel.


I don’t think this kind woman is a coward. Being a pastor is, after all, a job, and part of that job entails not alienating the very people who look to you for spiritual guidance. If our Irish pastor friend was to preach her true feelings on homosexuality, she’d summarily become unemployed. Her two girls would have to drop out of college. Her whole life would fall apart. And she would lose the power she now possesses to bring about the kind of change she desires.

Better she should continue in office, do her congregants the kind of good she certainly does, and trust that, when the time comes, she will be able to engage members of her church on the gay issue in ways that are natural, productive and healthy. She should of course keep a vigilant watch for such opportunities, and do all she can to create them herself. Her church isn’t that backwards: if it was, she wouldn’t be a minister there at all.

And it seems to me a safe bet that if she feels the way she does about homosexuality, so do others in her church. I think she might be surprised at how far she can push the gay envelope without it tearing. She is, after all, the leader of her church. People listen to her. She is certainly free to raise for discussion in her church the question of the proper relationship between Christianity and homosexuality, if for no other reason than that all the rest of Christendom is now discussing that very topic. Why shouldn’t her church too?

And then through the ensuing discussions she can at the very least show people that she personally is sensitive to the nuances of the issue, that she’s troubled by the harm being done gay and lesbian people by those who seem incapable of showing for them anything but disdain, that she wants to consider this matter prayerfully, compassionately, and honestly. No one will fault her for that. She’s a pastor. That’s what pastors are expected to do.

She can move the rudder of the ship of her church an imperceptible shade. That’s all it takes for a traveling ship to change its course.

What she certainly must do is show her young lesbian friend absolute love and acceptance. That’s a personal matter, not subject to the judgment and opinions of others. She must communicate to this hurting young woman, in no uncertain terms, that anyone—her mother included—who responds to her brave revelation by shunning her in the name of the Lord has simply and severely misconstrued the truth and purpose of Christ’s message. She mustn’t fail to let this young woman know that while some people might disapprove of who and how she is, God does not. If she feels the girl is mature enough to handle it, she should confide in her about her own struggles in getting her church to move toward a fuller understanding of Christs’ love. Why not extend this trust? The girl is unlikely to betray her confidence; the pastor will have instantly engendered in her too much loyalty for that. The girl will know that the pastor has, perhaps literally, saved her life. The pastor will become this young woman’s hero, forever.

If you are a faith leader who is no longer comfortable preaching or pretending to support the traditional Christian view of homosexuality, the first thing you should know is that you are most certainly not alone. Christianity really is in the middle of a second Reformation. And just like it did the first time around, that means that an awful lot of people, at every level among the practicing faithful, are right now harboring a great many thoughts and doubts which they don’t yet feel comfortable sharing with their brethren. But that is changing.

I recently met with another pastor who was struggling to commit to full acceptance of LGBT people. I said to him, “It’s like hearing a train whistle off in the distance. And then you hear the whistle again, and it’s louder. And the next time you hear it, it’s even louder. Well, at that point you don’t have to wonder whether or not a train is coming your way. It is. Why not start preparing to get on board?”

In what history will remember as an astoundingly short period of time from now (go, Internet, go!), the vast majority of Christians will believe that being gay is no more a sin than is being red-headed or left-handed. That train is coming; nothing can stop it.

Some people are going to get hit by this train. Some are going to watch in dumb wonderment as it roars by them. Some will try to stop it by hurling Bibles at it.

Most, as it approaches, will hear the great conductor Jesus calling to them, “All aboard!”

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  • Christopher S. Constant via Facebook

    That is a roadmap if I ever saw one. Thanks for the message!

  • Good seed, bearing fruit. Does the heart good.

  • Rick Eubank via Facebook

    Powerfully stated ! ! ! you and I think so much alike. You keep this message going, you will be one of the voices carrying the sound of that train whistle blowing for the people to understand the truth of God’s UNCONDITIONAL love ! ! !

  • Patrick Mahoney

    Wonderful articles on the conflicts with clergy coming to terms with being faithful to God’s calling while trying to stay employed.

    Have you heard of

    they have information about gay affirming congregations that may be appropriate referrals for gay folk coming out in hostile congregations. I don’t know if MCC has any churches in Ireland, I could not find any online, but they were invaluable to me when my Bible believing church fired me and then excommunicated me when I came out. Just to know we are not alone makes a BIG difference. God bless you!

  • Patrick Mahoney

    May I add this link as well, for

    The Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians (EFLGC), formed in 1979, is a group of women and men, most of whom are lesbian, gay or bisexual and come from an evangelical Christian background.


  • Soulmentor

    John, I am consistently amazed at how right-on you ALWAYS are. Truly you are a messenger from God who will join the ranks of others in Christian history who have made a huge difference in Christianity’s spiritual maturity.

    Love is truly “the only law you need”.

  • Very good article. This question came up recently, and your answer is very well thought out.

  • writer from ireland

    I just read your post and I sincerely want to thank you for taking the time to reply. I have spent many hours pouring over the job sections here in Ireland, trying to find a way to escape from the bind I found myself in. But leaving the ministry is the cowards way out. I will take your advice and try moving the rudder of my church just an imperceptible shade!! Also I’m beginning to wonder if you are in fact a proper ‘seer’ because this statement is almost prophetic -‘the vast majority of Christians will believe that being gay is no more a sin than is being red-headed or left-handed.’ You see, I am actually a red head, and nobody has ever ostracised me because of it!!!!! Just thank you so much for replying. And God bless you always.

  • Amelia

    Hello! Oh, my, I finally feel I can help someone! I lived in Belfast for 11 years and just moved back to the states and know SEVERAL lovely Christian gay people there. I also know a of two gay friendly churches. If you want to get in touch I think John can help you reach me? I dunno how blog info works…I also have a friend you can talk to about it all. Oh, and Patrick mentioned Changing Attitude Ireland- yes, hook up with them too! Please get in touch! Amy

  • What I am finding is that there are more and more Christians starting to come out of the woodwork and stating “just hold on a minute” in regards to some social dogma that has taken hold of the church. The problem is how to properly counter it, and not face harsh backlash or even persecution for not wanting to accept a mindset that makes it ok to be less then loving to any other person. That it is being attempted is heartening and this movement is growing, albeit not without push back.

    I am looking forward to a future where it is more common to be respectful of people who are a slight bit different then us, be it political, social, cultural or sexual. Many forget that some of Jesus’s closest friends could be the modern equivalent of those that many in the church deem “sinners and outsiders”, shepherds, fishermen, lepers, beggars, etc. Kinda makes me wonder who he’d be hanging out with if He was walking around earth today?

    That being said, keep it up John and all the rest who seek to follow that amazing but vital command to Love God and love your neighbor. I for one appreciate your example.

  • Penny

    I would point out to your pastor friend that there are many, MANY churches in the United States where women are not even allowed to be deacons or hold any position of authority at all, much less act as pastor. There is hope, and she’s experiencing some of it in her life. Change IS coming, and if we all put our shoulders to it, we can help it along. Some people won’t be able to push as hard as others, but that’s okay. If we all do what we can, we’ll fix it. I really do believe that.

  • Roger McClellan

    Hey John,

    Feel free to pass along my contact info. I feel certain that we can offer some support and fellowship.



  • Bert Thompson

    I wonder if our Irish friend — and others — might want to network with these two organizations in North America: Affirmation, United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Concerns (USA-based) and Affirm United, relating to the United Church of Canada (which includes the heritage of Canadian Methodism) as well as PFLAG/UK, which does list a group in Belfast. Following any of the links suggested will lead to many more groups and resources. I’m surprised and saddened that she experienced being ignored by those to whom she reached out on the web. There are many, many GLBT Christians and heterosexual GLBT affirming Christians out there. She is definitely not alone and not singular in her predicament. It is very sad when parents reject their children: sad for both the one rejected and for the ones who feel that they have no choice but to reject their loved ones. People do have a choice, and sometimes all they need is for someone to suggest it!

  • Misty

    It is possible to preach an attitude of love and acceptance that should (and will for Christians of conscience) naturally extend to treatment of LGBT individuals without explicitly stating that it must. Jesus set us an example of loving outcasts and made it clear that treating others with love was of utmost importance to living a righteous life. He frequently challenged the religious leaders of his day for their judgmental treatment of society’s outcasts. When he separates the righteous from the unrighteous he will look at how we treated “the least of these”. If love is your message – love for ALL – then love for LGBT people will be implied.

  • All aboard!

  • Misty

    Here’s another thought. Rather than preaching your thoughts on homosexuality from the pulpit, you could invite members of your congregation to explore what the Bible really says about homosexuality in a Bible study setting and to figure out together how your church will choose to minister/respond to LGBT Christians/individuals.

    Here is a blog series you will find very helpful should you consider such an option:

    You are not alone in considering this issue. Christians of conscience everywhere are reconsidering what they’ve been taught and why.

    I wish you well!

  • Sooner or later, enough people will realize that there are a whole lot of Christians secretly holding these views that we don’t need to be secret.

    I think we’ve all been through that … There is still a lot of resistance to any kind of progressive thinking on this. But I suspect that this is the last generation in which that will be the case. The progress seems to be unstoppable, now.

    Long overdue, of course …

  • Misty

    One last suggestion. If you introduce the topic to your congregation, then you might want to show them the documentary films “Anyone and Everyone” and/or “For The Bible Tells Me So”. They are two very powerful films about how different families of faith have dealt with a family member who is gay.

    Here are links to info on them both:

  • mic

    Thanks so much to the author of this post as well as all the replies, and to John for posting and hosting it.

    I am also in ministry, not strictly a pastor but am in addictions work in a church which is not gay affirming and I am. There is also other stuff about the type of church which I can overlook but when I freind of mine recently stepped down from a leadership role as he was coming out (of which i am proud of him), it opened my eyes to the fact that he wouldn’t have been welcomed there and it has made me start to question my own integrity working for this place. Even though these are a bunch of kind and sweet people, they genuinely believe that homosexuality is immorality and although welcomed in the church, you can not be in leadership and have a relationship with someone you love. I’m confused about my own personal integrity but do all employees agree with their employers on everything? are there some things we have to put up with in order to hopefully effect some change? To be honest. I really cant see these guys changing these opinions, in my lifetime anyway!

    thanks again to all x

  • DJ

    Thanks for sharing this, John!

    And honestly, I want to encourage these types of pastors to start “coming out of the closet” themselves about their doubts and views. Take some hints from those of us who have come out as gay: start with the important people first (people who might support you), and slowly work your way to coming out to the world. The *ONLY* way things will truly change is if you pastors do as Harvey Milk suggested long ago: you have to come out. You’ll lose a lot (money, congregants, respect from people close to you), but the reward is a renewed sense of self, and of freedom.

    Others have listed some great videos (I especially like “For the Bible Tells Me So” and “Anyone and Everyone” that Misty brought up. But many pastors might find those videos a bit too “liberal-leaning” for people in their circles. If that’s the case, consider this video from a ministry in Canada: “Bridging the Gap” (

    New Direction ministries put this one together a couple of years ago, and it represents several views of how Christians can approach homosexuality. Because it has some celibate gays in it, it might feel a little less threatening than something like “For the Bible Tells Me So”. But it also portrays folks like Justin Lee (at Gay Christian Network). Personally, I find Bridging the Gap to be a bit too conservative for my own personal taste, but it has been instrumental in really softening the hearts of some folks in my own life (e.g., my husband’s family, as well as the conservative families of a few close friends of mine).

  • As I was reading through this post, John, I was writing a comment in my head to this lovely Irish pastor. But then I got to the last part of the post and in the midst of the emotions and utter joy I forgot everything I was going to say. You are an amazing writer.


    “Some people are going to get hit by this train. Some are going to watch in dumb wonderment as it roars by them. Some, moronically, will try to stop it by hurling Bibles at it.

    Most, as it approaches, will hear the great conductor Jesus calling to them.

    ‘All aboard!’”

    So full of the awesomeness.

  • Once again – stunning response, John. Thank you so much.

    I would like to say to our red-headed Irish friend that it is not being cowardly, but wise to be careful. It helps no one for you to lose your job. Building a coalition of Christians who affirm LGBT folks is critical. Then you have a base to operate from and you are not hanging out there flapping in the wind all by yourself. So do let trusted friends know. Do let parishioners know you are intrigued by this issue that is consuming your U.S. church brothers and sisters. Provide opportunities for people to ask their own questions and explore. You will find your allies – and parishioners who are suffering will find YOU. And they need you!

    Also – here is the website for the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, of which I am currently co-moderator. Check out the resources available in articles, sermons, etc. You might even consider attending our conference in November. We would love to have you!

    Blessings, friend.

    And blessings, John.

  • This was a wonderful post and John’s train illustration was great. I think the primary issue with traditional, orthodox, evangelical, fundamental churches is not an issue with loving a gay person (it is soundly biblical), the real issue is affirming that homosexuality is a healthy, normal and natural lifestyle (it is not a sinful) – THAT is where the problem lies. Christians that affirm homosexuality and Christians that condemn homosexuality base their beliefs on the Bible. It may end up much like the Arminian / Calvinist position concerning salvation – “never the twain shall meet” (or the Protestant /Catholic position). If you’re a Calvinist, then attend a Reformed church, Arminians will attend a more “free will” church. For the Calvinist and Arminian (or Catholic / Potestant) this is an issue of high priority, they will not change their beliefs or attend a church contrary to what they believe. I’m affraid the same will hold true for homosexual Christians, many church leaders and members just won’t change their beliefs, so gay Christians will have to attend and fellowship with a church that affirms homosexuality. For some churches to become gay affirming, would be as tantamount as a Lutheran church turning Catholic -just ain’t gunna happen.

  • writer from ireland

    I am simply overwhelmed by the kind and encouraging replies to this post. Thank you all so much for your helpful suggestions. I have checked out all the websites you recommended including those here in Ireland. So in two weeks time I’m going to try and persuade some of my congregation to come with me to a showing of ‘Prayers for Bobby’ which is being hosted by a clergy group called ‘Accepting Sexuality.’ I’m gona give the rudder a little push!!!!! Thank you all again, especially you, John, for the encouragement I needed to be a little braver. xxxx

  • People get ready, there’s a train a comin’

    You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board

    All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’

    Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord!

  • Dear Letter Writer,

    Thank you for your courage to write to John and to speak from your heart. Thank you for having a heart of love for those who are marginalized and left out by society and the Church and for loving fearlessly and unconditionally and recognizing – as a church leader – what our world is crying out for, what we all have too little of: Love from and for each other and from and for the One in whom we live and breathe and move and have our being. Be comforted. You are not alone. For you are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….do not grow weary and lose heart.

    Speaking with a prophetic voice can feel lonely…..and trail-blazing is difficult work. As a female clergy, you may have already experienced this.

    Others have offered some wonderful resources here. I thought I’d offer some general support through authors and theologians who have helped me along my journey to discovering the loving God I never knew as a child who have nurtured my own growth into a compassion centered Christian faith. They include but are not limited to: Barbara Brown Taylor (Leaving Church, Altar in the World, The Preaching Life), Marcus Borg (The Heart of Christianity), Karen Armstrong (The Spiral Staircase, her work with The Charter for Compassion, and numerous other writings), Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies), and M. Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled). The writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., particularly his Letter from a Birmingham Jail have inspired many social, political, and religious activists and you may find interesting the work of John Phillip Newell ( who was formerly Warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland and is a leading voice in Celtic Christianity. He is scheduled to speak at the Rosslyn Chapel, Edinburgh, UK September 25th.

    Hearing this always inspires me. I’ll leave you with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech from Sunday, March 31, 1968, “We Shall Overcome.” It is still as relevant for our world today.

    Blessings to you on your journey and your important work, C

  • I know you guys will one day grow tired of hearing me say this, but hopefully that day’s not today. Thank you for the quality of the comments you leave here. I feel like I throw the ball out onto the field, which is great and everything—but then you guys bring on the only thing that really matters, which is the whole freakin team. If I had to do this by myself, I’d quit. But with you guys behind me—and in front of me, and beside me, and everywhere around me—I couldn’t be more in. You make the Holy Spirit seem a lot less “ghost” than as real as someone shaking your hand.

  • There is a jewell of a website that I think could provide additional encouragement and information to the Irish woman who sent you the letter.

    Have you heard of Other Sheep Multicultural Ministries with Sexual Minorities? I became aware of them through my advocacy in Uganda and Kenya. I read an account of a retired Anglican chaplain from the Kenyan Army who had established a ministry to the LGBT minority in Kenya and was linked to Other Sheep. He explained how the Lord had put it in his heart to do this after reading John 10, where Jesus talks about his other sheep. I was very moved by this myself and I see in this story a powerful and amazing parable of how we must never allow ourselves to become exclusive and create barriers of distinction—”we are in, you are out,” or as the title of your book, “I’m O.K. you’re Not.” This is especially true today with the LGBT issue and I also feel that we are entering a similar phase to what Paul and Barnabas experienced when they went to meet with the Apostles in Jerusalem about how the Holy Spirit was at work in the gentiles. The net result was that the ‘church’ threw out its exclusionary and discriminatory theology in the face of the experiential evidence supplied by Paul. If the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the uncircumcised, who were they to impose their understanding and theology with all its demands on them? They, the church, were the ones who needed to change. When I see the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of LGBT people, the prophetic word, the changed lives, and experience worship in their midst, how can it be denied that these ‘other sheep’ are not His? As has my recent experience with Michael Brown, who in well entrenched in his anti-gay theology and mocks my simplistic interpretations of Matthew 19:12, I find myself comforted and emboldened by what I have shared above, but most of all by the fact that I know His voice.

    This is the link to the writings page on Other Sheep website.

    Of course, there is also Kathy Baldock’s Canyonwlaker Connections site

    Love you John.

  • I have to say that, although I’m not a tear shedder normally, this post brought tears to my eyes. You see, I’m a minister, and it wasn’t too long ago that I was the one pointing the finger, condemning, and trying to stop the train by throwing Bibles at it. My tears were tears of repentance for what I used to be, the harm that I have probably done, and at the same time, tears of joy that I am not the only one who is waking from that terrible nightmare. Thank you, John. PLEASE keep on tryin’ God’s patience. (You’re not, really, but it does serve to help open the eyes, hearts, and minds of the rest of us!) 😉

  • Writer from Ireland, we love you. We need you. I think I can speak for a multitude of folk when I say (as a gay person of faith) that it is people like YOU who are OUR heroes. Thank you for standing with us whether or not you can openly express that stance. Closets suck, don’t they?

  • Jay Bakker picked this post up as well.

  • John, what I have always found refreshing about your posts is not only do they provide a catalyst for intelligent and heart-felt exchanges, they expose the futility of hiding behind crumbling fences of theology that were erected years, decades and centuries ago by well-meaning people. To walk in the light means to walk completely exposed, and when one is completely exposed with no place to hide, the only possible posture is humility. The implication is that we are not to judge; rather, we are to extend mercy in the same way that way have received mercy, and to quote from TWC, above all, love.

  • Mindy

    You are phenomenal, my friend. This is one of your best. I am constantly, constantly lifted up by your Christianity, and continue to pray that it becomes the mainstream as the train moves forward down the tracks.

  • Richard Shaw

    Dear John,

    I’d better get the fact that I’m an atheist out of the way first I guess.

    I’m an atheist.

    Now that that is over with can I just thank you sincerely for the job you are doing with this site. Dan Savage linked me up to you a while back and I find myself visiting every week now and I’m truly heartened by the message I find you (and your contributors/commenters) espousing.

    I had a very strict Methodist upbringing and went to a secondary school that is fairly controversial here in Britain for it’s stance on religion as part of the teaching process. (As in, that’s all that should really be taught). This led to my dissatisfaction with my church and contributed to the beliefs I now hold.

    Due to the strength of my convictions when I first made this decision my jump away was figuratively violent and in the past I’ve acted and promoted atheism about as strongly as is possible, (militant would be too strong a word, but only just).

    My frequent visits here however have caused some serious questioning on positions I’ve taken and arguments I’ve held and while my central philosophy remains the same I do now realise that I have often acted the (insert your own rude word here) when trying to turn others around to my viewpoint.

    I really want to thank you for that awakening. For the fact that whilst I may not be a better person for what I’ve read here I do realise that I CAN be a better person and I’m aiming in that direction.

    We may never agree on everything but I believe what you are doing to be a wonderful thing that gives me much hope for all of us in the long run.

    Don’t ever change.

    Yours, with love

    A Less Angry Man

  • Erin D.

    I don’t think she is a coward for staying at all. I didn’t like the anti-gay venom spewed out of the church I grew up in, so I joined another, more enlightened denomination in college. At first I felt powerful, like I was an activist who took a stand and thumbed my nose at my ultra-conservative family members and the whole backwards-thinking church. Now, 10 years later, I have learned about pockets of people from that church who are working for change from within. Sometimes quietly, sometimes brazenly, but they stuck around to change what they thought was broken. Suddenly I feel like the coward who ran away and they are the “sleeper agents” who are doing the real work.

    So…..maybe the timing isn’t right now for her to be an ‘activist’ but things are changing fast in the world today. In 5 or 10 years, maybe it will be easier for her to be more outspoken in her beliefs. In the meantime, she can do the “small things with great love” that Mother Theresa talked about. What she did for that one young girl already makes her 500 times braver than people who march around carrying banners in a country where it’s not hard to find like-minded people.

  • Richard: My goodness; what a lovely letter. Thank you so much for this; it means a great deal to me. You’re clearly a very sweet person. Bummer about you having to spend eternity having the living flesh seared off your bones.

    (Kidding! But you knew that. Seriously: thanks. I keep, harbored and nurtured in the tiniest, deepest pocket of the furthest reaches of my mind [away from all ridicule, doncha know] a dream for what I call—and again, this is just between, well, I and I—“One Love.” You just grew that little dream I have of one universal love, just a tiny bit. Thank you.)

  • Wonderfully said, Erin. thanks.

  • Wow. Thank you, Don.

  • Thank you, Lisa.

  • Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Thank you.

  • My heart breaks for the Irish pastor who wrote that letter to you. You may give her my address – I will surely get back to her to affirm her belief that love is good. I am blessed to be the pastor of an open and affirming congregation, and I have many friends who don’t agree. Our friendships persist despite the differences our religious and spiritual beliefs, although I suspect we each feel sorry for the other’s wrong headedness. 🙂

    It’s true there are many times that my personal theological understandings don’t quite make it into the Sunday sermons. However, I’m a lot closer to sharing my exact beliefs now than when I first came to this church. I think it’s much more better to lead the flock than to try to push them. We’re supposed to follow Jesus, not stand still while he pushes.

  • Melody

    My thoughts exactly, Erin. Very well said.

  • Robert

    This post has generated… very mixed emotions… in me.

    First, the amount of love and tenderness, caring and compassion displayed through out this blog and the responses is heart warming. I fully appreciate the love generated… because it means to me that humanity is growing… becoming more human.

    As a gay person, I have often thought that people missed the point regarding homophobia (and racism, sexism, etc). Most people assume that by being homophobic, they are defining and demeaning me. But the reverse is true; they are defining themselves as hate-filled people. It took me along time to shed the hate that others piled on my back… and it will likely take alot longer for them to rid it from their hearts.

    The second emotion related to this blog is…???? I don’t know. I sense the fear… the fear of loosing ones place in the world, the fear of economic disadvantage, the fear of rocking the boat, the fear of being ostracized, the fear of being hated. I have gone through this level of fear in my life, repeatedly, every time I come out as a gay person.

    The thing about coming out is that it is not a one time event. It is a continual process. The first time I came out was based on timing. I waited until the last semester of my senior year in college. I waited until my parents no longer had any control of me. The next few years were based on my assessing my environment. But I was never actually sure about the outcome. Each time I came out… I was fire walking… taking a step into the unknown.

    In the end, the coming out process has made me stronger. It forced me to become courageous. Not because I am filled with courage but because I practiced taking courageous actions. I also learnt that whatever price I would pay for living a life of integrity and honesty was worth it… it was better than living a life based on fear. A life lived in fear is a life not lived.

    Good luck on your journey… there is love at the end of it… and people may surprise you… they did and still do surprise me.



  • Dear Pastor, speak the truth in love. There are so many people in this world lost and dying without Christ and they will never know about Him because they won’t go to churches that have spurned them. When you speak the truth in love and step out in faith, God will bless you by sending you new people to minister to. I interviewed the pastor of a mega-chruch in Atlanta just as he announced from the pulpit that he was gay. He has an entirely new and thriving ministry now. Please read it and be encouraged:

    New Ministry:

  • Richard Shaw

    I share a similar dream. I think real harmony could be in our grasp if more people took more time to realise how incredible we are; just how amazing mankind can be when our minds are put to it.

    Not just ourselves and the people who agree with us but every single one of us, how we can all be so very valuable and worth loving. I don’t think that should need an agreement on our origins to achieve just an acknowledgment of everyone’s right to find their own path so long as it doesn’t bulldoze someone else’s in the meantime, (Matthew 7:12 anyone?)

    So please consider me signed up for “One Love” if nothing else. Run that up the flagpole and I will happily salute it. If you write an anthem for it however you won’t be wanting me singing it. That would stop the movement then and there.


    PS as to the flesh searing – meh, I’m a redhead, I get it every summer anyway.

  • Read your article John……all aboard. Wonderful piece…and so true. You may be encouraged to know that here in Australia we are moving closer to the day…and the sound of the train is getting louder. In 2008 100 evangelical ministers signed an apology to the LGBT community for the way the church had treated them and marched in the Pride (Sydney Mardi Gras ) parade. .Also in what I believe is a world first in 2009 a mega church pentecostal pastor has welcomed LGBT people into his church….totally accepted and affirmed. You can listen to the ground breaking sermon here

  • Amelia

    Yay, so glad to hear ir!

  • Bob Fernandez via Facebook

    Thank you for yet another excellent story. I also followed the link to Jim Swilley’s response. That, too, was excellent. I have forwarded it to family members in hopes that it would warm their hearts.

  • Randall Ross

    I love this article especially the train is coming analogy! The train has left the station and is coming and there is nothing that can stop progress! Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, he just spoke about the importance of love and acceptance and I’m definitely sure that if he were alive today, he’d love to go to some gay wedding to celebrate the love two people share! Most of the Bible should be taken in the context of the times it was written and people should focus of the overall philosophy of trying to do good in the world and loving and sharing and stop all of the judgement and intolerance over the difference of religion. It’s ridiculous. God didn’t write the Bible, ancient tribal people did and many of the things in it simply don’t apply to the modern world. It’s ok to eat shrimp and wear clothes made from two different fabrics and we no longer sell our daughters into slavery either. If you want to see a fantastic documentary from Biblical scholars about what the Bible really says about homosexuality, see “For the Bible Tells Me So.”

  • don Rappe

    Yes, the only possible posture is humility!

  • don Rappe

    Thee same can be said for racially integrating them.

  • DR

    What a beautiful comment.

  • vj

    I have come to think lately that, when Jesus spoke about His being a source of division between parents and children, He was actually saying that people raised in pre-Christian cultures would have to take a stand against their family traditions in order to follow the way of Christ. It is such a great tragedy that, through the ‘coming to power’ of a ‘Christian’ socio-political establishment, this has now come to mean that CHRISTIAN families are turning away their own children!

  • Erin D.

    That is pretty profound and not something I have thought about before….the idea that you don’t “come out” once, but many times, with many possible different outcomes. Thank you for giving me better insight (and a better appreciation for the brave men and women who do choose to live their lives openly.)

  • Christy

    vj, I agree with your assessment. In the Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles where my DNA resides, biblical justification for ostracizing a child comes in a couple forms.

    1) Enforcement of Rules: When children are disobedient to the rules of the home, the parents must, if they truly love their children, hold them accountable. This is reinforced as good parenting. Consequences are a recurring theme in this theological realm. Punishment for unacceptable behavior, beliefs, and disobedience is taught to be expected. We were told if God didn’t keep these promises of punishment this would mean God was a liar. And since God is not a liar, He must keep all of his promises including those of punishment and blessing. The stories of the Children of Israel from the Old Testament were given as examples of how when they were disobedient, God punished them as a nation; and when they were obedient, He blessed them.

    2) Even God turned His back on His own son: When Jesus took the sin of the world upon himself on the cross and the earth trembled and the sky darkened and Jesus cried out to his Father asking why He had forsaken him, in their reading of scripture, God hates sin so much He can’t even bare to look at it, and He turned His back, even on Jesus. This is their justification for kicking kids out.

    3) Expectations of Perfection: This verse gets used a lot: Romans 12:1-2 (KJV) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” I used the KJV because it uses the word acceptable. Other translations use pleasing which doesn’t pack quite the same punch. Folks in these circles will say it is wholly and holy unacceptable to be gay.

    Ergo, this teaching holds: unacceptable behavior is worthy of enforcing the rules including punishment and consequences and will not be tolerated. This is a sign of good parenting and follows a pattern established by God Himself. This is their justification. This is the mindset I grew up with and was applied under multiple scenarios: sex before marriage, unwed pregnancy, drug or alcohol use, “unruly” or disobedient behavior, etc. It follows the authoritarian dictate that “If you live in my house, then you follow my rules and if you don’t follow my rules, then you will have to live elsewhere.” Grace and the teachings of Jesus are notably absent as is frequently the case in paternalistic, authoritarian circles where God is primarily seen as the stern judge.

  • Anon

    You have no idea how much I needed to read those words today. I am just beginning to volunteer with our (homophobic) church’s youth. I am firmly in the ally camp, but my church leadership does not know that. I have been feeling like a real coward, not coming clean about where I stand. I have been afraid that I am letting my gay brothers and sisters down for not taking a firm, direct stand. But your words to the Irish minister about it being okay to take it slowly and not lose her job resonated with me. If my church leadership knew how I feel, I would not be allowed to work with the teens. They believe that people who accept the “gay lifestyle” are guilty of “leading the sheep astray” (read: possibly sending them to Hell?). By being more cautious in my approach, I now have the chance to create safe space for teens who are coming out, without facing a witch trial by the leadership. It means reaching more kids over more time. One day, I hope that this will no longer be something we have to hide from other Christians. Until then, I will quietly subvert the oppressive system under which we now live.

  • Vickie

    Come visit us at the Gay Christian Network – an organization for GLBT Christians, their friends and families, and our allies/supporters:

  • Brian W

    Yes it can, though most segregated churches today are by choice. Out here in California there are many segregated churches, like Latino or Chinese, Indian, Filipino etc. It’s not because they’re discriminated against, it’s because they chose to. Jesus never spoke of Lutherans or Catholics, but I dare say a Lutheran church would never fully accept Catholic doctrine or authority. A Lutheran attends a Lutheran church, not a Catholic church with a goal of changing it. Gays will just have to attend gay affirming churches.

  • Connie

    Thank you John for being who you are and doing what you do. I am a Gay Christian and although I attend a fairly welcoming chuch it is hard sometimes to keep peace with my soul and be as loving and forgiving as I know Christ would have me do. You and others like you have helped me to more peacefully unite those two parts of me. I know of other Gay Christians that are very fearfull of being out in thier private lives and at especially at church, one couple is employed by the church. It really sours you to “Christianity” when there is so very much hatred and violence against the Gay people, especially kids. I can’t figure out how someone can call themselves a Christian and not understand Christ’s message of love. Jesus didn’t love conditionally. Why don’t they get that simple thing?

  • Superb comment and observation Christy. With some churches law supercedes grace, mercy and love

  • Chris

    Hi John, This is my first visit to your site and I know already I’ll become a frequent visitor. My heart breaks for the Irish Pastor. It may be small consolation, but the very fact that you FEEL this way (wanting so strongly to do something) is in the eyes of this gay man, enough. I would hope that the girl who you strive so hard to help would understand that too. Were I her, and it’s easier said than done, I wouldn’t wish my pastor to put himself/herself in harms way for me. Knowing I have an ally I can come to would be enough. Northern Ireland may be slow in change, but, on the bright side, there is change. Be a catalyst to that change by, as John said, doing the same work you do, but being the touchstone that so many kids like the girl need, but feel they do not have. You may not be able to change the masses, but you can help those in need 🙂

    I hope on one of my future trips to Ireland God sees fit to have our paths cross whether we know it or not.


  • Richard Shaw

    Thank you, genuinely than you DR.

  • I have to agree with DR, Richard; this was lovely and so wonderful of you to share this sentiment with John…..and all of us. Thank you.

  • DR

    I have read this a number of times. The needless, cruel suffering that so many of you have experienced and survived can drive me into this despair and rage sometimes. Which I know is weird for a straight woman and I hope that I’m not appropriating that resonse from you or anyone else who is gay.

    But you also remind me of the besuty and the profound wisdom that comes from the African-American culture that suffered under such terrorism in the south back in th day. Their suffering like yours reminds me of the Presence of Christ and His words that were rooted in suffering and misunderstanding. It’s such a gift to us.

  • Kris J

    As a pastor of a small town church and mother of a gay young man, and step mom of a lesbian bonus daughter I find myself squarely in the middle of this discussion. I want to open ALL the doors for them RIGHT NOW and personally have no patience for those who are unwilling to open their minds and hearts to all of Gods children. But as a pastor, I must meet my congregants where they are if I hope to lead them to understanding. It can be a very slow frustrating process and I never feel I’m moving fast enough. Also, I live in a state in the US which will have a proposed amendment added to our 2012 election ballot which asks if we should amend our state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. So I feel I have little choice, I must add my voice to the debate for my son, my stepdaughter and all those who are continually being pushed to the margins in spite of Jesus gospel of total inclusion. I am not sure how this will play out in the next year, but I know I can’t remain as I am. I feel deeply for this woman who loves her work, her church and her children and in some ways now has to choose. It is hell to live with. And yet I know that what my son and daughter and all the lgbt sons and daughters go through and have gone through is more than any of us who are merely allies can imagine. We can choose to be a part of this or not. This is their life. This is their walk. I have met so many incredible people who have been a part of this struggle for many years and my life has been blessed by their presence. I am honored when they allow me to walk with them and share their journey.

  • Your compassion and honesty are commendable. Once again we agree on the social justice aspects of things even if we’re worlds apart on faith.

    Now, blog about the “Silent Majority” of atheist pastors – go on, I dare you. 🙂

  • Kim

    It’s great to find more Christians who believe as I do. I love to see all the links to websites, etc. that affirm our belief that Jesus loved and died for ALL people. I would like to add my blog to the mix. I don’t write exclusively about LGBT issues in the church, but on more of a broader scope of inclusiveness. Here is a link to the specific posts I have written about homosexuality, but feel free to explore my other posts too.

  • Dan

    Wow! Thank-you. There are several painful issues that make me want to leave the leadership of my church. This is the biggest (next to the equality of woman). But they are my family. I love them. They would reject me if they knew the extent of my feelings, but their rejection would not stop me from loving them. I am not worthy to be compaired to Jesus, but he was rejected and still loved us. He was subversive with his love. And he spoke up when the time was right. It pains me to hold my tongue at times. However, they are slowly seeing that I won’t stand for hatred or abuse, and I won’t stop loving them… I hope.

  • Heidi

    We had a pastor once (he has since been moved to another church) who, on his first day as pastor, made no bones about his stand. In his very first sermon he said, “And ALL are welcome here, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.” This was some years ago and you could hear the buzzing in the congregation. But he stood tough on this position. I, for one, was thrilled to have a pastor who truly believed in the teachings of Christ. Unfortunately, the pastor who later replaced him was as strict a reactionary as I have not seen in years. The congregation of the church dropped by at least one-third in the first year. Sad.

  • a godly response if ever I saw one…… 😉

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    At one and the same time, I have all compassion for these pastors. Thank God they are available for the people in their congregations, to give grace and welcome in their own hidden way for the people who come out to them. People come out to pastors all the time – and they need to be received with love. Yet, I am also thankful that I have had examples in my own ministry of truly courageous pastors who simply said, “Here I stand; I can do no other.” The public witness of pastors who are willing and able to speak out – that GLBTQ persons are beloved of God, not condemned, not ‘abominations’ but chosen and sent in ministry and blessed in love – is essential in the struggle to overcome bigotry and fear. No judgment on my part, for if these pastors feel it is unsafe to “come out” as gay-affirming, then it will not be safe for their parishioners to come out as gay.

  • Carol VanderNat

    I agree….that documentary is really phenomenal in the way that it deals with the Bible, religious interpretation and homosexuality….

  • Carol VanderNat

    I am just beginning the process of coming out, and I appreciate that you put that so eloquently…every time is another risk and another fear. Sometimes there is great relief in doing so, and sometimes, I too grieve to see the hardened hearts and deafened ears of some whom I love very much, and will continue to love. But for me, the “double” life…public witness, and private knowledge…could not be kept separate anymore. People on this blog were so kind and encouraging when I protested against the UMC’s stance on homosexuality. I could no longer say, “I support you, but I can’t BE one of you, ’cause my life might suck..”

    Right now it kinda does, but it’s an honest life, with one whole person instead of two. Each person must decide for him/herself what is the right course to take and at what speed…

    HOWEVER… I too hear that train a’comin’! and it’s a sweet sound indeed!

  • Carol VanderNat

    Which is why I’m still a United Methodist…. -=)

  • Alvin Góngora via Facebook

    Gay affirming pastors and people if are so secretly, they should also come out their closets, and mostly so if we’re heterosexual. I’m truly convinced that homofobia is a hatred that must be confronted with the same conviction and force we use at combating racism,xenophobia, mysoginy. We in the heterosexual camp must opnenly fight this battle. But, as John points it out on his blog there are ways to do that without alienating a whole congregation. but sooner or later the toes of those in power must be stepped on. The pastors John refer to are doing that: just be affirming individuals and looking for guidance they’re coming out of their respective closets.

  • Diane D’Angelo

    Of course, she is being a coward. We are all cowards at times in our lives. That is the time spirit calls on you to act. Start the dialogue with your church. If you get fired, start your own church or leave the profession, but the bottom line is this: you will have saved lives through your example of true Christianity.

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    If these pastors do not believe that God will stand by them for openly supporting GLBT persons, exactly how much faith do they have?

  • Roy Humphrey via Facebook

    The real issue is the silence of the bishops.

  • Why are they secretly gay-affirming? Why not openly?

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    Diane, it may be that for this moment, the private support and encouragement they offer to people who are not safe coming out in that community is more important.

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    No reason they can’t do both.

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    I think sometimes there is a reason – if the pastor makes their understanding public and loses their job, they won’t have access to the people who need them.

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    Not true. They can start another church or do outreach. Goes back to my question above: how much faith does someone have if they don’t believe God wil open the door?

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    It’s fear, pure and simple.

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    Until you acknowledge that it is fear that holds you back, you have no chance of moving forward.

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    I think they have admitted that – they don’t want to lose their jobs. They are doing the best they feel they can where they are – and I think God can use that.

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    I disagree. It’s a cop-out. Plenty of GLBT people come out and lose jobs, families and status.

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    If you are not willing to do that, you are not speaking truth. No one said living your faith guarantees that you’ll keep your job.

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    I also know people who have come out to their pastor, but not to their family – I wouldn’t call them “cowards.”

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    They just don’t want to burn all their bridges. And I do believe God uses us EVEN THOUGH WE ARE NOT PERFECT.

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    What I don’t believe in is some militant army God who “protects” us – God walks with us and gives us the strength to do what we must – these pastors sound like they are in process toward being open. We can’t judge their timing because we don’t know the situation. They deserve compassion, too. (Says a pastor…)

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    I’m not judging their timing. I’m judging their hedging and rationialization. I realize this hits close to home, but if it were not a sexuality issue – if it were an issue of genocide, say, there would be no hedging. The hedging is what needs to be meditated upon.

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    I get what you are saying. Do you also recognize that there may be situations where it is not safe for people to come out? If you agree this can be true, it might also be true that these pastors are in a position (God using them even in their admitted fear and weakness) to offer comfort and encouragement where a pastor who was known to be gay-affirming might not have access. I’m not saying all pastors should keep their mouths shut, I’m just saying it is possible that God can use these pastors where they are at this moment. I also believe that they are moving in the right direction, that their conviction has changed (hallelujah!) and that they will, one day, be unable to continue the way they are handling this.

  • Diane D’Angelo via Facebook

    Not safe for whom? Frankly, it sounds as if you want me to say it’s ok for people (you) to hedge on this issue, and I’m not going to do that. There are myriad approaches that I’d be happy to help you with. Shoot, even just saying you’re having difficulty with condemning GLBT people or that you have a family member who’s gay is better than saying nothing at all. As for God “using those pastors”, how do you know God’s not using me right now? I cannot, not after 40 years of listening to people make excuses about this issue, not after watching tens of thousands of gay men die from AIDS, not while I know that 40% of homeless youth are GLBT tossed in the street by parents justifying their actions using the Bible, not after watching GLBT persons get murdered, and especially not after losing both my adoptive and biological families, countless “friends”, and coming out of all of that with indomitable faith — no I won’t let you off the hook. If you want help, I’m here with much love and strong faith. Think about it.

  • Curt Naeve

    It’s still much to far away, but the whistle on the UMC ‘Little Train That Might Someday’ did blow this week. It’s not as much progress as many of us would have liked but at least a voice was heard.

  • Carol VanderNat

    I heard it!

  • I came out, was demoted to janitor, eventually excommunication. I though at the time 6 years of education and training down the tube. I felt horrible. Turned out for the best but it took some time to get reoriented to living in the light!

  • Jill

    This, right here, THIS interaction—I wouldn’t believe it happened unless I witnessed it myself. This is why I keep coming over here, getting my spiritual needs filled. (Maybe it’s my human being needs too?)

    I so never care about what ideas or philosophies divide people, only concerned with what connects us while honoring our individuality!

    Richard is absolutely correct—human beings CAN be amazing when we want to be. The only amazingness comes out of love and mutual respect. I am not so threatened by another’s belief system if those beliefs embody the same basic, boiled-down concept of love that is everyone’s birthright. In fact I am so much more enriched because someone NOT of my background and ideology can love me in spite of any differences.

    Richard, I’ve never been atheist, only quietly agnostic during my twenties after leaving behind some bad stuff. Yet I comfortably relate to what you’re saying more than I can relate to the majority of religious dialog out there. So please continue talking and sharing. This is all so brilliant.

  • Thank you Jill; one love to you.

  • DR

    This is one of the loveliest exchanges. Ever!

  • Blind Boy Belvedere

    Here’s a curious flip on this paradigm: at my church, I’d venture that most people don’t believe being gay is a sin, but our pastor does.

  • Blind Boy Belvedere

    It is a cop-out, but as the Bible shows us, God can still show his power through weak chickens**ts, who eventually do something right in spite of themselves. I aspire to rise to even that level of faith.