The Other Side: Beth’s Story (Regent College)

The Other Side: Beth’s Story (Regent College) February 10, 2016

The Other Side


A Note From The Curator:

The Other Side” is a blog series hosted here on Patheos which takes selected stories submitted to the “Our Witness project and shares them with a wider audience. The purpose of this series is the platform the unheard stories of LGBT+ Christians experience at Christian colleges and universities, and how they have overcome great pain at the hands of Christian leaders with their faith intact. It is my hope that these stories will counter the all too familiar narrative that once a Christian comes out as LGBT+, they’re no longer true Christians, and to raise awareness about the harmful tactics Christian colleges and universities use to deal with their LGBT+ students.

Beths’s Story:

My name is Beth, and I’m from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a small city in the prairies of Canada. I’m the eldest child of a Baptist pastor. Belief in a loving God is the substrate in which I’ve always existed; I can’t remember a precise moment when I came to faith.

Fairly predictably, I was the kid who tried to excel at everything. I got good grades and memorized all my memory verses for Sunday school. I didn’t date anyone during high school or university, but like many in my generation of Christian youth, I had read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” so in my mind, I was simply avoiding dating until I found marriageable material, which in my opinion was nowhere to be found in Saskatoon. 

After finishing my Bachelor’s of Science, I decided to attend Regent College in Vancouver, BC. I had always wanted to do some Bible school, and Regent had a one-year diploma for Master’s-level students. Regent billed itself as a very diverse school, with students from many different countries and denominations, which excited me, and I hoped that my life’s calling would become clearer to me during my year there. I will admit that I was also secretly hoping I might find a studious, good-looking, Christian man at Regent with whom I could fall in love and eventually marry. I was 22.

Spoiler alert: the first person I met when I landed in Vancouver is Danice, the woman who is now my wife. She had been recommended to me as a housemate by a former pastor of mine, who was currently pastoring at her church. He knew we were both attending Regent and said we were a good match because we were both “low maintenance.” Along with a few other women, we found a basement suite together.

We got along quite well. Danice introduced me to beer, good music, and the Pacific Ocean. I introduced her to the names of stars and birds and plants. She put up with my perfectionism and endless studying, brought out my fun side, watched JJ Abrams series with me, and even helped drum up my courage to dance in public. 

When I decided I wanted to return to Vancouver for another year at Regent, we were both excited to continue on as housemates. And she now admits that when she convinced me I’d make a good pastor and that I should switch to the MDiv program, she was somewhat motivated by the reality that in order to do the MDiv, I’d have to stick around for several more years at Regent with her.

Our increasing intimacy as friends forced me to come to terms with a fact I’d been avoiding for years: that I had been attracted to far more women than men in my life, ever since early adolescence. In 2008, halfway through our third year at Regent, I finally came out to myself, and to a trusted pastor. I was no longer the perfect Christian kid, which felt incredibly freeing, but also terrifying. I bit the bullet and came out to Danice, worried that she’d be scared away. Thankfully she wasn’t, so I redoubled my efforts to keep our relationship as platonic as possible, because I thought it would be the only way I could remain in her life. Still, the lines between friendship, romance, and attraction were not so easily drawn, and though she had not yet admitted she was gay, in many ways, she and I were already filling the role of “partner” in each other’s lives.

I didn’t come out to many people at Regent. Ever the people-pleaser, I wanted to “know my stuff” first. I wanted to puzzle through the theology and figure out what God thought about my attractions to women. My brother had also recently come out, so I used that as an excuse to scour the Regent library for books about homosexuality, assuming I would find an open-and-shut biblical case against same-sex relationships. I vividly remember the way the ground seemed to fall out from underneath me one night when I read an article by an affirming theologian and discovered he wasn’t “throwing out the Bible” and blatantly attempting to justify sin, like the “liberals” I’d been warned about, but that he had some very compelling theological arguments to support same-sex marriage. 

Sadly, despite the fact that Regent always prided itself on its diversity, encouraging open dialogue and even respectful disagreement on many controversial issues, the LGBTQ topic seemed to be the exception. Most professors avoided talking about it at all, and the only prof who dealt with it at length assumed everyone was coming from the traditional perspective and unfairly caricatured the affirming side. So I remained closeted at school, though I continued reading and studying, gathering quotes from books and online articles into a long Word document that is now over 150 pages long. 

Around the same time, Danice and I became friends with some out, partnered gay Christians. As I witnessed their faith and their love for one another bring good fruit into the world, this further challenged my expectations and understanding of whether my own attractions were pleasing to God.

Danice and I graduated with MDivs from Regent in 2010, and at that point we were both already working as pastors in Baptist churches. As much as we wondered whether we should be feeling guilty or ashamed of our closeness, we also sensed that it was one of the most rewarding, beautiful and God-filled parts of our lives. We were gradually able to acknowledge that we wanted to spend our lives together, even if that meant lifelong celibacy. 

Soon after, Danice came to terms with her own sexuality. When she finally told me she was indeed gay and attracted to me, it was exciting, and explained a lot of dynamics between us, but it also complicated our situation further, opening up the possibility of a married future together. We lived for a couple more years with two potential paths set out before us: either celibacy and continued work in our denomination, or marriage and the loss of our jobs and denominational home. No matter which path we chose, we would be sacrificing something.

In September 2012, we decided to pursue marriage, for two main reasons. First, our theology had slowly shifted to a more affirming place, and we had come to believe that God had brought us together for the purpose of loving each other long-term in a covenanted way. Second, we had a deep desire to live authentically and honestly. Not being able to share this important part of our lives had stunted our ability to effectively pastor other people. We felt it would actually be detrimental to our vocation if we stayed under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” circumstances that existed in our churches.

We came out more publicly in a gradual process over the following year. It was a difficult year, but also one where my faith grew by leaps and bounds. Never before had I so deeply wrestled with Scripture, and wrestled with God. It was especially difficult for me to feel like I was disappointing many of my friends and family with this announcement, but over that year, I began to learn how to depend more on God as the source of my identity, and less on the approval of other people. Starting the day with God became a necessity as I headed into risky coming-out conversations; I had to ground myself in my belovedness, no matter how people reacted. I also had to begin learning how to love people who disagreed with me.

Danice and I were married on May 3rd, 2014. It was an incredible day of celebrating our love one another, surrounded by our supportive friends and family. 

Shortly after, we moved to Toronto, ON, to accept jobs with a parachurch ministry called New Direction, which exists to nurture safe places for LGBTQ people to explore and grow in their faith. In my role with the ministry, I am privileged to offer pastoral care to LGBTQ Christians across Canada, and to help combat isolation by connecting them to other LGBTQ Christians in their area. Danice does the same thing with queer youth in Canada. It’s fulfilling work, but it’s also difficult work, as we hear stories every day from LGBTQ Christians who have been rejected by their families and churches. We continue to pray for perfect love to cast out the fear and shame that separate us from one another in the body of Christ.

If I were to speak at Regent College today, I’d thank them for bringing my wife and me together (whether they wanted to or not!). I’d tell them about the joy my marriage brings me, and how God is using it for my sanctification – Danice makes me want to become more Christlike. I would show them that “gay Christian” is not an oxymoron by sharing stories of the many vibrant, Spirit-filled LGBTQ people I’ve met through my work. I would urge them to conquer their fear of talking about this at Regent, because the silence is creating a stifling, harmful atmosphere for the LGBTQ students among them, and failing to prepare future pastors to love and understand the LGBTQ people they will encounter in their ministry. I’d try to convince them that sincere, Bible-believing Christians can disagree on this topic and still love and respect one another. Finally I’d encourage them to do everything possible to make Regent a safer space for LGBTQ students to live authentically without fear of rejection.

This story was originally submitted to the Our Witness blog. To read more stories like Beths’s or to submit your own, please visit Our Witness by clicking here


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