The following is written by Jon, a gay man married to his partner, who also has adopted kids. Jon frequently comments on this blog, and I truly appreciate his thoughtful insight to whatever discussion is ongoing. In some recent ongoing discussions on the blog the question of, would a gay family attend a conservative church, was brought up. I actually thought that question deserved its own post. And there would be no one better to answer such a question than Jon. So here you go…
“I grew up in and was confirmed in the United Methodist Church. I was active in our youth group and taught Sunday school for a couple years. I went to college at Luther College in Decorah, IA – an ELCA-affiliated college. I learned much about the Bible during those years, but I also learned how to think more critically about the things that I learned and read.
It was during those college years that I came out as a gay man. I had already privately acknowledged to myself during my early teen years that I was sexually and emotionally attracted to other boys, but there were no real options or resources for coming out during those pre-Internet years in rural Minnesota. During college, I finally met other gay people and allies and gradually became comfortable with myself. I began looking towards the future and questioning assumptions about my potential life as a gay man. I began asking why I couldn’t find the man of my dreams? Why couldn’t we have kids? Why should I limit my interests, my activities, my privacy, or my dignity to fit within others’ expectations for a gay man.
I dated a bit in college, but mostly focused on my academic goals. Shortly after college, I met and fell in love with the man who would eventually become my husband, Mark. We shared many life goals: careers, relationship, home, kids. We weren’t sure how to get there, but it was enough to stay focused.
I had fallen away from the church during college and Mark had never found the right church home here in the Midwest. In my mid-20s, I felt a strong need to reconnect with God, but knew that I would not be welcomed in most churches. Eventually, I met a UCC minister named Pastor Rick who invited us to share worship with his small Christian church. It was the first UCC church in Iowa to have declared itself Open & Affirming (i.e., GLBT-affirming). Mark and I were wed there in 1997 in a religious ceremony – not legality to it due to our state’s Defense of Marriage Act (which in 2009 was repealed). But it was important for us to become a family with God’s blessing.
Gradually, I decided to join this church. I knew we were planning on becoming adoptive parents within a few years and wanted a church community that our kids could grow up in and learn about God and Jesus. But I also wanted a church that would treat our family with the same level of dignity as any other family. I wanted to know that my kids would be safe in Sunday school lessons and would not be secretly taught that their parents are deviant.
Truthfully, my theology is more traditional than my church’s theology. I honestly believe that homosexuality is not universally condemned within the Bible. I don’t understand why gay people cannot be encouraged to follow a model of chastity and marital behavior, but within a working context for their reality. Both Mark and I would be better suited in a more traditional church setting. I have tried to worship at a couple other conservative churches – one a non-denominational church and the other a start-up Presbyterian church. Both of them are relaxed, while traditional with their worship style. Both are active with community service projects. Both actively reach out to the unchurched and otherwise disconnected worshippers in our community. Both encourage members to discuss, learn, and grow with their faith. But neither was ready for a two-dad household.
There’s really no way that we could worship at a conservative Christian church that did not respect the dignity or the reality of our family. Too often, I feel like Christians are interested in reaching out to gay people without a real clue about how or why. I have listened to several interviews on this subject and heard way too many questioners talk about how great it is to befriend their gay relative/neighbor/co-worker, but cannot figure out when it’s the right time to tell them to “turn or burn”. I find myself wondering what those people would expect if they befriended me, introduced me to their church, and then told me that I would only be right with God if I dumped Mark.
The truth is that Mark and I have no desire to divorce ourselves from each other. To do so would be disruptive to our boys, who’ve already dealt with separation issues related to their time in foster care. We’re both content with our lives. We both have good jobs, fun kids, distracting pets, and a nice home. We’re well-matched husbands for each other. All things considered, we’ve been blessed by God and I thank Him every day for what we have together.
I could understand if some church leader was to step in and assist us during a time of dysfunction, but that’s not us. Neither of us drinks or uses drugs. We don’t gamble. We don’t sleep around. We don’t go to clubs. Heck, the only time we’ve been to Boystown was during a drive-through on our way to the Chicago ComiCon.
My point is, most churches only seem willing to accept our family if we dissolve our household. One of the most stabilizing elements in my life – my husband and our family – are treated like the most harmful thing that I could maintain in my life. I recognize and reject this crazy paradox of thinking and so do other gay families like us. And that’s why most of us won’t worship in Christian churches.”
Any questions for Jon?