“Our Church leaders will be holding a meeting soon to discuss what to do about this.”
“We will be coming out with a public statement on our stand.”
“They have an agenda you know.”
My ears perked up as I sat in the YMCA hot tub overhearing two men discuss the “issue of homosexuality” in the Church. Prior to coming out I had been a part of these conversations with my church leadership too. We had heard that some churches in the area had decided to put out a public statement that homosexuality is in fact a sin. They wanted it to be clear to all who attended their ministries their theological position.
I leaned in and asked these guys to pardon me because I couldn’t help but overhear. I wondered if I could ask them a few questions about the conversation they were having. They were very polite as I inquired about whether they knew anyone who was gay. The larger of the two men said “yes, they are nice people and very welcome in our church”. I inquired whether they felt that a LGBT person would feel comfortable coming to their church after making such a point to make sure that everyone knows that it is a sin?
Essentially the conversation led them to saying that “the Bible says that it’s wrong”. In return I stated that the Bible says many things and declares a lot of behaviors and actions as sin. They had no idea that I had been a pastor for 18 years and that months prior I had just come out to my wife, family, friends and church.
“You are correct that the Bible has many things to say about sin” I said. “For instance, it has very specific things to say about gluttony and being overweight”. I felt like we were having a fun and respectful banter so I went there. “Sir, you are obviously not taking the best care of your body and one could claim that you are abusing the temple of the Holy Spirit”. The Bible does say that it is gluttony to overeat. I grabbed my belly and referenced my behavior of overeating as well. I asked how they would feel if when they went to my church they read our public statement about obesity. I asked how they would feel if the pastor made constant references to to obesity being sin. How many times would someone have to quote scriptures about gluttony and hand out weigh down workshop brochures before ascertaining that you aren’t good enough to belong?
Let’s just say that homosexuality is a sin. I wonder why some people feel that their first response is to quote scripture. Is this the appropriate response? Declare the line in the sand? I just want you to know that I see wrong in your life when I compare it to what I read in the Bible. How can I politely say that I can see see “sin” in your life too. Is it completely appropriate for me to point it out to you? Especially when you haven’t spoken to me in years. Do you just want to speak your mind or do you want to also listen and engage in conversation?
There is a new tension as I live in between two worlds. This past year I have attended a church where I know their “theological position” on LGBT issues. It also happens to be one of the sister campuses to the church that I helped start. While there I seem to be constantly assessing whether people are talking about me. I wonder if this is where I am to belong. Is it possible as I engage further someone may raise contention with me being openly gay. Will that be good for me? Will that be good for the church? Do they want me?
I’ve also visited several churches that are “open and affirming” to gay people. There are gay couples in the congregation and LGBT folks in leadership of the church. In this particular denomination there are even pastors who are openly gay. I wonder about belonging in this context as well. I’ve always felt a sense of participating in resolving injustice. To be a part of a church that had these conversations 20 years ago about homosexuality makes this issue seem a moot point. Nevertheless, would this be a healthier option for me where i’m not worried about whether i’ll be accepted for my orientation?
The conversation about what the Bible says and what it means to be a gay Christian is a hot topic these days. I know I have some decisions to make as far as how I would like to position myself in that discussion. Will I be someone who engages people in the conversation or will I watch as others do it? All I know for sure right now is that I have decided that I will tell my story. I was a pastor. Being a pastor will always be a part of me. I long to point people to Jesus, and, I am gay.