Seeking a Church While Gay

I’m trying to find a Christian faith community where I can worship, serve, and grow in my faith. I have always loved being a part of the church. I’ve never had trouble finding one where I felt I belonged.

 

Until now.

 

For the first time in my life, I am experiencing the anxiety and dread of visiting churches. My heart beats rapidly and my stomach is in knots every single time I walk into a church.

 

Every.Single.Time.

 

It’s difficult this time because I cannot just think of myself when searching for a church. Soon, I will be married and starting a family. Will we be accepted? Will our future children be told that their parents are abominations? Will the church we attend allow us to join? To serve? Will they gladly take our tithes and offerings but only allow us to be spectators in the pews? Will we be able to teach Sunday School? Will we be merely tolerated?

 

I want a place where my spouse and I will be encouraged and guided in our marriage. I want a place where my children will learn about and experience the love of the Triune God and seek to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I want accountability in how I treat my partner and raise my children.

 

There is a church that we have been attending for a few months. We both like it and believe in its mission. Every morning, I write down ’email pastor to set up a meeting’ on my to-do list. So far, it has not been crossed off my list at the end of the day. I constantly think about competing this task. My heart starts to race. My stomach twists in knots.

 

I decide not to do it.

 

I am too afraid of the possibility of rejection.

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You Are Loved

Recently, I cleaned up the files on my computer and came across the manuscript for a talk I gave in a chapel service at a Christian university. I decided to share it here on my blog.

 

I am a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, who happens to be gay (which means I am emotionally, mentally, romantically, and physically attracted to women).
I’m one of those people who can say that I have been a part of the Church for my entire life, even within my mother’s womb. I cannot remember a time when I haven’t known who Jesus is. I publicly accepted Christ as Lord and Savior at a young age and was baptized shortly. I was the kid in kindergarten who took gospel magazines to school with the intent of handing them out at recess. I loved going to church every moment that I could.

 
BUT

 
I understand what it feels like to love Jesus but realize that you are beginning to identify with those ‘types’ of people being preached against on any given Sunday. I understand how it feels when you think (know) there is no one you can talk to about these feelings. You are afraid of being embarrassed or rejected by those you love. So, you struggle silently. I understand how you have to sort through the turmoil all by yourself, wondering if God is disappointed in you because you cannot control your same sex feelings. Every night you beg God before going to sleep to take away your feelings and make you normal so that He will not send you to hell. I understand how it feels to feel hopeless, deficient, and condemned. You always seem to live in fear that your friends, family, and church are going to figure out your secret. This causes you to refuse any type of physical touch as well as leads you to put up walls so that no one truly knows the real you. Sometimes, you wonder if suicide would finally give you some peace.

 
Although I was a Christian, I realized that I was not experiencing sexual and affectional attraction like my female peers. I became desperate for answers (this was before Ellen, the Internet, and Will and Grace) but did not feel safe talking about it with anyone. Instead, I found the answers from watching talk shows. One these shows people who had the same attractions as me said that they were gay. I finally had the answer… I’m gay. This answer briefly silenced the inner confusion; however, the peace I felt soon dissolved into terror. I had often heard the verbal slurs coming from the church. I knew what Christians thought about homosexuals.

 
I did not want these feelings. I thought there was no hope for me. So, I was afraid to come near God. I loved and wanted to serve Jesus, but I couldn’t stop my thoughts and feelings. I read my Bible and prayed fervently, thinking that trying harder could help me stop being gay. But it didn’t work.

 
I thought God was disappointed in me. I continued going to church but thought I could only serve him from a distance. I tried to do good things with the intention that maybe God would see that I wanted to be a good Christian. I did not dare to tell anyone.
All of this burden took a heavy toll on me. I wanted to die so that I could feel peace. I could not think about my future because I did not want to live to see adulthood. I felt alone and afraid.

 
I kept my secret to myself until I finally told someone else at age 19.
I am now in my thirties, and this journey of reconciling my faith and sexual orientation has been difficult. I spent a few years in ex-gay ministry. I was fortunate to attend a group whose leaders were healthy and unconditionally loving. My years in that group were positive and I was able to work on areas of my life that has made me a better person today. Things like setting healthy boundaries, forgiveness, and becoming closer to God. I’m fortunate that I had a positive experience because there are many out there who had horrible ones and are still trying to heal from the damage inflicted upon them.
However, although my experience was positive, my sexual orientation wasn’t changing. After realizing I was still the same, I became frustrated and angry. I was angry with myself and angry with God.

 
But, I couldn’t walk away from my faith. My beliefs concerning Jesus Christ were secure, but I began questioning what I had been told concerning homosexuality. I was tired of hearing what everyone’s opinions were on this topic. I only wanted to hear what God thought of it. I immersed myself in learning Greek and Hebrew so that I could read for myself what Scriptures says about it.
During those years of questioning, there were moments of darkness where I felt I couldn’t see any glimpse of light. I lost loved ones who couldn’t handle my questioning. I felt rejected.

 

BUT

 

There were also moments of great joy, peace, and comfort. I learned that God isn’t angry with my questions. The depth of my relationship with God is deeper than it has ever been in my life thus far. I’m no longer afraid to express my love to God, and I know without a doubt that he loves me

 

To those reading this who:

  •  Find yourselves attracted to the same sex and feel alone, afraid to tell anyone for fear of rejection.
  •  Find yourselves attracted to the same sex and open about it. Maybe you have embraced celibacy. You feel frustrated when the straight people around you callously tell you that Jesus is all you need after you had just shared that you are lonely and long for companionship. They tell you this right before they go to a movie with their significant other and don’t think twice about holding his/her hand.
  • Find yourselves frustrated when you hear people say that they love you but they don’t support your ‘lifestyle,’ as if gay people have one lifestyle that we share or that out whole life is structured around sex.
  • Find yourselves deeply hurt when you hear your Christina friends share gay jokes and call each other ‘fags’ or say things like ‘that’s gay.’
  • Find yourselves feeling like you have been kicked in the stomach after seeing your social media feeds with hurtful posts from those you love
  • Find yourselves feeling that God couldn’t possibly love you because you’re ‘different.’
  • Find yourselves believing that suicide is the best option.

 

 

I want to tell you that you are the beloved of God. Let that truth sink in. God loves you. God loves you.
You are not broken. You are not the nasty slurs. You are not what some members of the church have called you.

 

You are beautiful!
You are deeply and unconditionally loved!

Am I choosing sex over God?

Since starting this blog about my journey of reconciling my Christian faith and sexual orientation, I have received my fair share of praise and criticism. I had expected it, and it really doesn’t bother me.

The most common question asked and comment posed relates to the commenter’s  assumption that I’ve have chosen sex over my relationship with God. This usually comes from a straight person who has never even had to think about these things. I received one of these comments again this week.

I know this may come as a shock to people, but sexual orientation means more than just having sex. When I say I’m gay, it means that I am emotionally, mentally, and physically drawn to women. It tells you NOTHING of my sexual practices or behavior.

LGBTQ people are often accused of always thinking about sex, but it often seems that straight Christians are the ones reducing us LGBTQ folks to sexual acts.

So, am I choosing sex over God?

Absolutely not! As a Christian, I strive  to place my life under the lordship of Christ, even my sexuality. So, what does this mean for me? At this moment in my life, I am trying to discern whether or not I am called to the vocation of celibacy. Please, please don’t run with that last line and say that I think that all LGB people must either marry someone from the opposite sex or live a life of celibacy. I don’t believe that at all! I affirm monogamous, committed same sex relationships.

But for me, I am trying to figure out whether I’m called to celibacy. Is God truly calling me or am I scared of intimacy due to my rape?

Regardless, I believe sexual intimacy is reserved for a marriage relationship. So, if I do not pursue celibacy, I won’t be having sex until I marry a spouse. Guess what? There are many other LGB Christians who are waiting to have sex within marriage.

As you can see, I’m not having sex. Coming out as lesbian had nothing to do with my wanting to choose sex over God. It had to do with wanting to live an authentic life and not hiding significant parts of myself.

Straight Christian, please stop assuming that we are choosing sex over God when we tell you we are LGBTQ. Honestly, look around you. Our televisions, radios,magazines,and computers are saturated with heterosexual sex.

Maybe, us LGBTQ Christians should be asking you, “Are you choosing sex over God?”

 

 

How a Transgender Lady Helped Me Not Walk Away from my Christian Faith

Six years ago I entered seminary, pursuing  a Master’s of Divinity with the hope of ministering within the United Methodist Church. Attending theological school was a dream come true. When  asked, “what would you do if money wasn’t an issue,” I answered with ‘attend seminary.’ I loved attending classes and reading the many, many books required for each of those classes. Sitting in lectures and soaking up the knowledge from my professors was my idea of a great time.

I was a conservative, evangelical who specifically chose to attend a seminary that taught homosexuality as sin. I  chose this school over another one only because the latter gave benefits to same sex couples. I viewed myself as ex-gay and usually spouted the jargon (lifestyle, gay agenda, etc.) when asked my views of this topic. Additionally, I refused to read other books or listen to scholars who didn’t share my same views. I did not want my thoughts challenged. (Deep down, I think I was afraid to have them challenged).

Two years into my program, I found myself depressed and broken. Aware of the numerous questions bubbling up within me concerning everything I had been taught about homosexuality, I tried to dismiss them and plunged myself further into my studies. But, you can hold a beach ball under water only for so long before it blasts its way to the surface. Although I still maintained the public facade of being ex-gay, my inner world was engulfed with turmoil and cognitive dissonance.

And I was afraid to tell anyone.

I couldn’t share my many questions at school; I didn’t want to be branded an outcast or even worse, a heretic. I still believed in the Trinity, the full humanity and divinity of Christ, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that Jesus will return one day. I still believed everything that is in the Apostles’ Creed. My belief in those foundational Christian doctrines were solid. However, I didn’t know what to believe about the sinfulness of homosexuality anymore. Contrary to what others may think, my questioning wasn’t the result of my wanting to enter into a same sex relationship. That has never been my reasoning.

Those days were lonely and frightening.

Even after 10 years of therapy, conferences, and support groups, I knew I was still gay. My worldview and environment couldn’t support the notion that one could be gay and Christian. So, I began to believe that I had no choice but to walk away from Christianity. Heartbroken over this decision, I begged God to forgive me and to know that I truly loved and wanted to live for Him. I told Him how sorry I was that I failed to overcome homosexuality. I stopped allowing myself to take Holy Communion and slowly stopped attending church. The only prayer I could utter was “please have mercy on me, a sinner.” I stopped my ordination process and decided that I was going to withdraw from my theological studies.

I found myself lost and afraid.

You know, I think God uses shocking and interesting ways to show His radical love for us. A couple of months after thinking that I had no choice but to leave my Christian faith, I found myself serving as a Fellow at the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC. While  there, I heard a presentation on being transgender from a woman named Allyson Robinson who worked at HRC.

I must admit I was prejudiced against the transgender community. I didn’t understand and assumed they were were all just confused. I had bought into the rhetoric spoken by Focus on the Family concerning this topic. Instead of compassion or even wanting to understand, I treated them with judgement and disdain.

During Allyson’s presentation, I found myself intrigued when she mentioned her Christian faith. I noticed that she spoke of her faith in the present tense. How could a transgender person still claim to be a Christian? I knew right then I had to talk more with her. Since I was too afraid to approach her in person, I emailed asking if we could have lunch together.

I’m so thankful she agreed.

For an hour, I listened as she shared her story of coming to terms with her faith and gender identity. I was amazed she went to seminary at Baylor and had served as a Baptist preacher. She listened as I shared my journey and how I was struggling. I learned we shared the same belief that the Bible was more than a book of literature. She told me I didn’t have to disregard Scripture. It was obvious she was a woman of vibrant, deep Christian faith.

Hope entered my life again. I was overwhelmed with God’s presence and tangibly felt His love wash over me. My life changed that day, and I began my journey of reconciling my faith and sexual orientation, whatever that would look like.

Because of the seed of hope Allyson planted in my heart, I went back to church, began taking Holy Communion and prayed again. I went on to finish seminary with my Master’s of Divinity.

I didn’t walk away from my faith.

To my transgender brothers and sisters: I’m sorry for being a prejudiced A@#hole. I have a tender spot in my heart for this community, and you have an ally for life! God passionately loves you, period! There is nothing wrong with you, and you are NOT broken!

To Allyson: Thank you!

 

Note: Allyson is now the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

To hear more of her story, check out http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/is-this-the-most-radical-preacher-in-america-335687235881#

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Restoration

Earlier this year, I found myself on the verge of burnout. I help with a nonprofit that works at the intersection of the LGBTQ and traditionally-minded Christian communities, and I noticed feelings and emotions within me I’ve never really experienced before in this work.

Anger. Bitterness. Hatred of the ‘other.’

This work is hard and isn’t for the faint of heart. Verbal slurs and emails telling you how wrong you are are a common occurrence (both sides of the ‘culture war’ I should say). Personal attacks about my character abound just because I’m gay, even though those who pass judgement do not even know me. Getting emails from LGBTQ people who were open to exploring the Christian faith telling me they aren’t willing anymore due to seeing how Christians responded to the World Vision debacle. Talking with people considering suicide because of the belief that God can’t love them because of a sexual orientation they did not choose. Receiving emails from closeted Christian youth afraid to share with their youth groups and/or parents because they are afraid that they will forced to leave their homes or be rejected by those they love.

It weighs on me.

Instead of responding from a place of love and compassion, I found myself reacting with anger and sarcasm. And I didn’t like who I was becoming.

I needed a change. I needed Jesus.

I made a decision to take a short break from my duties at the nonprofit and pursue ministry in a different context. I found an open position for a summer chaplain at an organization that works in Appalachia, and it intrigued me. As I browsed the organization’s website, I noticed a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation. I thought it was too good to be true. It’s not common to see a Christian ministry include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy, especially in the South.

I applied and found myself serving as a chaplain from May to August to college students.

In all honesty, this new adventure terrified me. What if I couldn’t connect with them? What if I was a lousy minister? Underneath all these questions was my biggest fear: What if they find out I’m gay and reject me? It’s hard to admit that I still have this fear, but I do. Every time I attend a new church, volunteer to serve at a ministry event or lead a Bible study, this fear is there.

The anxiety I had over this deep-seated fear threatened to overtake me the first evening I began this summer job. I even began to pack my bags and drive home. Thankfully, I called a friend who helped me calm down and embrace this challenge.

I’m so glad I stayed that night and the rest of the summer.

Who would have thought God would use 130 college kids as a healing balm for my soul? I watched as a group of young men and women who have different political, moral, and theolgical views come together to serve communities in Appalachia. Not only were they able to work together, I watched them grow to embrace and love each other.

And they embraced me. They could have cared less that I’m gay. They didn’t even question whether or not I could be a Christian because I’m not straight. They weren’t afraid to hug me.

This was the first time I have ever worked in a Christian organization where I did not have to hide certain parts of my identity.

It was beautiful and healing.

To the young men and women I chaplained this summer:

Thank you for allowing me into your lives and embracing me. God has used your love to restore some broken areas in my life, and I am forever grateful to you all. I love you!

asp my boys          turtle save asp

Some Questions I Would LIke Answered

You know me.

You know my character.

You know my love for people.

You know I would go out of my way to help someone in need.

 

You see my desire to please God above all else.

You see I love Jesus and seek to place my entire life under His lordship.

You see how I’ve dedicated my life to ministry.

You see me worship God and striving for a life of holiness.

 

Yet,

 

Your once good thoughts of me change the moment you learn of my sexual orientation.

Your speech to me changes from friendly conversations to  Bible verses as a way to show me the error of my way.

You now claim to love me but not my gay lifestyle.

You tell me that I’m no longer a Christian.

 

You think I’m trying to destroy America and the traditional family.

You say I’m promoting the ‘gay agenda.’

You say I am godless.

You have ‘special church meetings’ to discuss whether I’m allowed to serve in your church.

 

Please, I beg you to enlighten me…

 

What exactly is the ‘gay lifestyle’ you say I live?

How does my sexual orientation exclude me from the grace of God?

What is the gay agenda I’m promoting?

Why do you now look at me with disgust?  (Make no mistake…I see it on your face).

If my kid turns out gay, he/she will no longer be welcome in my home!

Parents,

I just don’t understand why anyone would want to kick out their child.

The same child you waited for as she formed in the womb. The same child you snuggled and kissed the first time you held him. The same child you stared at as she slept peacefully in her crib. The same child who kept you from sleeping consecutive hours. The same child who melted your heart as he said ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ for the first time. The same child you hugged and kissed when she fell down and scraped her knee. The same child you loved with all your heart.

I’ve heard too many stories of LGBTQ youth who were kicked out of their homes for being LGBTQ. I have held too many hands of these beautiful people who cry as they tell me that they just want their parents to love them again. The pain is unbearable.

So, why do you choose to do this? Do you feel that you are providing tough love? Do you feel as if you are saving their soul? Has your church or religion made you think that this is the best way?

Please help me understand!

I don’t have children of my own, but my niece and nephews are just like my own. As I spent time with them during Christmas, I thought about this very issue. I realized that there is nothing that they could do to make me stop loving them. There is nothing that they could do to others or me that would make me stop loving them, even murder. There is nothing they could be to make me stop loving them.

I have to believe that you love your child. If you find out that he/she is LGBTQ, please reconsider if you have thought about kicking them out. Just love them because that’s the same child you have loved all his/her life. Just love them because they breathe.

If you need help or need someone to talk to about your child, there are many wonderful resources.

Just Because He Breathes

PFLAG

The Christian Closet – Parent Resource

Article by Founder of Christian Closet

TransYouth – Family

Faith In America – Family Resources

KidsPeace Institute

and many, many more!

This is a more common experience than you would think. I have seen it with my own eyes… homeless LGBTQ youth sitting together as a group on a street in Chicago, praying with a young man who was kicked out when his parents found out he is gay, etc, etc. I could go on with these stories. I have seen the tears pour from too many faces.

Please. I beg you… don’t discard your child!