Has your faith shifted over the years?
Is there some part of your belief system that used to lean one way, but now leans another, almost to the point of not recognizing yourself any longer?
Today I want to tell you more about mine.
Such would be the story of my journey of growing up in a fundamentalist sect of Christianity to now being a welcoming and affirming, liberal leaning pastor.
I couldn’t pastor a congregation that is not fully LGBTQ affirming ever again. Full stop.
And, I’m so glad that the congregation I currently serve is fully open to all. (Want to join us Sunday at 10 for worship? Shameless plug of course).
Did you know that June is Pride Month? This weekend in Washington, DC — where I live — folks will be gathering in the streets for parades, marches and celebration of what it means to be both LGBTQ and an ally as well.
Pastors will put on their collars and march in these parades too, at least the pastors I keep company with.
Every time I attend one of these events, I can’t tell you how many people, especially when they find out I’m pastor, and a Baptist one at that look at me like: “What? We didn’t know you existed!”
I just want to hug as many people as possible.
And every time I do, it reminds me of how important it is for straight allies like me to raise my voice to my LBGTQ brothers and sisters and say:
God loves you. I love you. I don’t think you need to change one bit. You are welcome in my church. I’m sorry the church has hated on you for so long.
For those of you who disagree with this, I don’t want to offer you Biblical exegesis of the issue. Or to debate with you if you think being gay is a sin. I’m weary of these text-proof discussions.
But I’m glad to answer how I got here to this place. And I want to tell you part of my own story.
Growing up in the Southern Baptist Church in Tennessee, the leadership of the church was ALL about the heterosexual men.
They are called on to pray.
The males carried the title of “spiritual leader of the home”
Women are told to serve the man. Birth the babies. Teach the children.
Never in a church like this do you see a woman taking up the offering or being asked to lead the closing prayer or even teaching under the block of the service called “the sermon.”
But what happens when you grow up and feel called to do exactly the opposite?
What if people tell you as a teenager, “Well, if you were a young man, I’d tell you to be a preacher.”
Then, what if you ARE a leader, a proclaimer, and someone who wants to discern life in conversation with your partner?
How do you respond?
I guess there are many different paths but for many it looks like this:
You must leave your “home church” and the approval of the sweet little old women who gave you peppermints from their purse every Sunday.
You must leave your “favorite” status at family gatherings and now are called “the lost one.”
Yet, you learn to sing as clearly as you ever had in your life: “I have decided to follow Jesus. No one goes with me I still will follow. No turning back. No turning back.”
While it sounds fun and revolutionary maybe– from the outside looking it– to actually do it can be one of the hardest things you ever do in your young adult life. It’s lonely.
It was for me.
It takes more courage than you ever thought you had. And most of all, it takes sticking closer to the message of Jesus “to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself” more than you thought was possible.
But you do it, no matter what. You do it because you know you have to. You chose to save your own soul because in the end, it’s all you can really save anyway!
Brene Brown writes this about such a process in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: “Choosing authenticity is not an easy choice. Staying real is one of the most courageous battles that we’ll ever fight.”
So, though I have never voiced, “I am gay” I have had to say: “I am no less than because I am a woman.”
I’ve lost relationships with people I love because something about my identity that I couldn’t change.
In this small way, I know what rejection feels like.
I know what Bible verses shoved in your face feels like. I know how costly choosing the real you can be.
But, you know what made it better? Community.
New friends and colleagues saying more “You can” vs. “You can’t.”
In return, I don’t want other human beings to be told they are less than in the eyes of God. At least on my watch.
My heart came out of fundamentalism fast, when I learned that it had no room for the Spirit of God to move in powerful new ways like ordaining women and fully accepting LGBTQ folks in the church and ordaining them too.
Isn’t this the gospel anyway? GOOD NEWS to all. Especially to those left out, kicked out and not accepted, God says welcome home! Everybody else has the story wrong.
I want to be a minister who loves richly in community. I just don’t know a church I could attend that is any other way.
Happy Pride Weekend, my friends!