Finding Gwen

Through all of the challenges of blogging about the experience of being gay and Christian in America I am so incredibly blessed by the many people who are coming into my life because of this conversation I am honored to host. So many loving and generous people are now a part of my journey and one of these bright souls is Gwen Thomas.  I met Gwen at the Annual Meeting of The Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ.   When I learned about Gwen’s leadership of faith and bold determination I invited her to share with us here a bit of her story.   Not only is she sharing today but she will come again to tell us more about her journey.

Here is a first glimpse of her story, praise be to God we will get to know her better over the coming months!

Finding Me….

When I was 14 years old, I wrote a poem called finding me. The opening lines were “Finding me has been a difficult task. Understanding what I find has been impossible to ask”. Another line read: “Just when I think I’ve got all under control, suddenly I find myself playing a different role.” I’m not sure what prompted me to write that poem. But 20 years later it would prove to be prophetic. My grandmother used to say, “God can see way down the road.” I didn’t really understand that saying when I heard her say it, but that too was a word of prophecy foretelling a truth in my life.

After a 14 year relationship, 10 of which we were married, I left my husband because I loved him too much to stay with him. I found me. Actually, I discover more about the true me that I had always been. I came out first to myself, then eventually to others as a lesbian.

I can’t say that I was always conscious of my same gender attractions. I think mainly because they were so natural that I didn’t feel odd. And also because I tend to fall in love emotionally and intellectually, which then drives my physical attraction to a person. So when I met my ex-husband, it was our fast and authentic friendship that drew me close to him. And, it was our friendship kept us in relationship for 17 years.

We connected deeply around values and spirituality. We rarely clashed in our theology. Our shared perspectives made finding a church that we felt excited about and committed to easy for us. 16 years ago, we landed at Victory Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA. It was a young vibrant growing church that was quickly becoming one of Atlanta’s newest mega churches. The pastor was young charismatic. He preached a bold social justice message, presented with humor and passion.

It was perfect for us. And it became the fulfillment if my 14 year finding me musing and my grandmother’s wisdom about the all-knowing God. Victory was also “finding” a new identity. After a very personal and candid sermon about his best friend who committed suicide because he was rejected and ostracized by the church for being  gay, Pastor Kenneth Samuel told the congregation that he felt compelled to speak up for his friend and others who suffered like him. He announced his vision to align with the United Church of Christ, which is the leading social justice voice among mainline denominations, especially as it relates to LGBT inclusion.

I didn’t know it at the time he preached the sermon or testified about his friend, but Dr. Samuel was speaking up for me. I found my church home. I found my voice. And I  found a true expression of the radically inclusive love of Jesus Christ.

Rev. Gwen Thomas serves as an associate pulpit minister at Victory for the World United Church of Christ in Stone Mountain, GA. She is also the Coordinator of the African American Roundtable for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the Pacific School of Religion. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and owns a training and consulting company called the C.A.S.T Company. The company focuses on career mapping and coaching based on a person’s personality style, interests and life experiences. Gwen is also the creator of The S.H.E. Experience, which encompasses a consulting and coaching program centered on women’s career success and whole life actualization.

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179 responses to “Finding Gwen”

  1. How judge mental some can be about someone else’s life story! Why would you continue to live a lie and make miserable someone else’s life? That would be selfish. To let go of someone you truly love allows them to find authentic love and relationship. Jesus Christ wasn’t as cruel as some of te comments here. Rev. Gwen found herself. How can you assume children? I am praying for Rev. Gwen and thankful to know people like her exist in Christian circles! It is liberating and refreshing to hear and read!! Praise Almighty God!!!

    • Laurie,

      It sounds like it was my post you are objecting to (I’m assuming again). I did not “assume” children—I made a guess and noted it as such using conventional language. Sometimes we do that for the sake of conversation. You did it in your post as well— “make miserable someone else’s life”—I said nothing about the character or quality of Gwen’s relationship with her husband or (assuming again) children. (Until Gwen herself steps in, making any statement regarding children is a guess; guessing either way has a possibility of offending.)

      We also ought to consider Jesus Christ. We serve a God who keeps covenant—who literally denied himself and took up his cross—and thereby sets an example for us. We are all born to a living hope because of God’s covenant faithfulness.

  2. Having lived a story very similar to Gwen’s, I cannot help but admire her courage and her desire for authenticity. Yes, at one time I made marriage vows that I later broke, and I regret that. But I made a far more grievous error 17 years prior when I invited someone to marry me without telling her the truth. Holding all the cards, I then allowed this magnificent woman to spend all those years wondering why she wasn’t “enough,” just so I could make a good show of “doing what God wanted me to do.” My own internalized homophobia was the fuel that drove that engine, but I can honestly say that our lives really began when that tank was finally empty.

    • Sorry but the courageous thing to do would have been to trust God, trust the spouse and honor your lifelong commitment. Thats would have been real courage and authenticity.

      It’s is so sad that people actually believe abandoning a commitment to God and another person is somehow courageous and authentic when actually its selfish, easy and the weakest thing to do.

  3. I confess that I have a hard time respecting Gwen’s decision to leave her husband and (I assume) children. I’d like to think that in Jesus Christ, some frank conversations with her husband could have led to an amazing new level of relationship for the two of them. IMHO this is some of what Paul is trying to get at in Eph 5-6, that is, our love for our partner ought to lead us to want meet our partner’s ‘reasonable’ sexual needs as an act of selfless giving (in this view I’m not sure that orientation matters—please feel free to push back here). I suppose the converse of that is viewing our partner as existing solely to provide self fulfillment—at that point I’m not sure how sex would be any different from masturbating. I would make a distinction between sex as intercourse — a sacramental understanding — versus sex as just f*cking–what dogs, monkeys and teenage boys do.

    FWIW, I would recommend against likes and dislikes on your blog. I realize not everyone is going to be respectful, and there are trolls out there, but allowing tagging or liking only turns this into a popularity contest. I think you are trustworthy to moderate the blog fairly. (eg. deleting my snarky comment the other day : ) )

  4. So I am to assume that because you deleted my post you support people abandoning their marriage commitment to God to find themselves?r

  5. Are we really supposed to be impressed and inspired by someone who violates their marriage covenant in order to live selfishly? She states she loved her husband too much to stay with him. Seriously does anyone buy that? How sad!

      • Ok please ignore my second post as mistakenly thought you deleted my first post. My apologies.

        How is my comment inappropriate?

        Also I assume you are aware of someone posting as me so don’t automatically assume that all Franks are the same.

      • Kim

        Would it be possible to have a feature on your comments column where comments can be flagged for being abusive or bigoted or what not? The Washington Post has something like that on its website — readers can than flag comments that need removal.

          • By the way, I love your blog. I’m gay too, Quaker (Universalist bent — long story), came out way too late in life, but still managed to meet my husband and get married. I actually finding I am becoming more intense about my faith, and it’s nice to find a sister voice. KEEP WRITING!