In a previous post DJ, a reader of my blog, made some very poignant comments that I thought were extremely important for everyone to hear. Here is Part 1 of his feelings on being gay and attending a church that is having a hard time living in the tension of what is faith and sexuality:
“Over the past several years, I’ve discovered many revelations about my sexuality, not the least of which is how my former method for dealing with it was chosen primarily by fear: fear of going to hell, fear of becoming a sex-monger, fear of losing my spiritual community, etc. I could no longer survive under the oppressive weight I felt from my former church, especially in the midst of insufficient supportive relationships. For the sake of my mental health, I began to visit another church in the area.
Just 2 weeks into going to services, I could sense God saying “this isn’t where you should be visiting; this is home.” I felt a sense of welcome that I had never experienced in a church before. As I began to take steps towards Christ in accepting myself in the way that He had, I also began to recognize that not everyone in attendance would follow me there.
To say I felt split and confused is an understatement. But at that church, I found a safe space to seek God regarding my sexuality, eventually coming to reconcile my faith and sexuality. This had some unpredictable side effects though:
I felt like I would be the cause of a major rift, being one of only a few gay people at the church.
As this was a transitional period in our church’s history, there was a significant amount of tension in the air, despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact?) that we never uttered a word about the 2 big litmus tests for determining a true Christian: abortion and homosexuality. While I was not able to articulate this then, I now realize that the hushed atmosphere began to feel like the dysfunctional home that didn’t talk about problems, but where it was impossible to escape them. And I felt like the kid who was going to eventually be the cause of mommy and daddy’s divorce. And so we trudged on in virtual silence. I came out slowly to people I deemed safe, and swallowed my true being around those who felt “lovingly” hostile.
At some point along the way, people began to silently (and sometimes boisterously) leave. No one really said it, but it was clear that things were starting to feel very “liberal” and “unsound” to some of the more conservative folks in the congregation, just because there were a few gay people starting to attend. And the great divorce felt all the more imminent.
I can remember talking to our new senior pastor (in my early days at the church), and divulging my sordid same-sex attractions to him. I intimated that I was very confused about all of this, and trying to find my way—since my previous church had brought me nothing but pain and suicidal ideation. This pastor made me feel very loved and valuable. He replied that he would not preach me into the right way to go, nor look down on me and give me his sage advice, but rather, he would walk alongside me and question with me.
It was a huge sigh of relief. And yet, I could very well tell this would not be the posture of several others in the church. I remember pleading with him to keep my journey silent, so as not to stir up controversy. By this point, I had become pretty visible in the church, giving the welcome occasionally, and involved in several lay leadership positions. If news were to break that I was gay, people would protest. They’d do as people have done in other churches I’ve attended upon discovering my “struggle”: they’d deem me unworthy of service, and remove me from the ministries where I felt called. And then, they’d fight. They’d fight those who would dare stand up for me and declare my value to the church. They’d fight those who didn’t feel threatened by me. My deepest fear of course, was not the fighting, but the inevitable split this would lead to, and I would be the cause.”
Part 2 to be posted tomorrow…