It was the summer after my freshman year of college. I had gone back home to stay with my parents and work a job that kept me on the road and took me around the Midwest. During the first week of a three-week break that summer, my home church of 7 years was having Vacation Bible School, probably one of the highlights of my summers. In the semester before returning home, I had started blogging, most often about my struggles with my sexuality, with being gay and how to make it work in the context of my faith. I had been brutally honest, holding nothing back. On the Monday night of VBS, I came into church and immediately made myself available to help out in whatever fashion I was needed, whether it be games, food, teaching, or just running errands. I had no idea that what was about to happen would change the course of my faith life drastically.
About 45 minutes into the night, the youth director at the time, one I hadn’t known too well, asked me into his office. He proceeded to tell me that while they appreciated my willingness to help, my presence was not exactly beneficial. He expressed that in my “current state”, I put the church at risk of allegations and accusations. In doing what I thought was right, in being open and honest and authentic in my struggles, I had been made into an outcast. Since I did not have a car, he then proceeded to take me home.
We pulled into the driveway where my mom was tinkering with our riding mower. My youth pastor made some small talk, and then went on his way. Mom knew something was up, but I wasn’t quite ready to tell her. So I offered to take care of the lawn with the push mower. She followed me out back, where she finally dragged out of me what had just happened. She was livid, and went into the house to call my grandma, while I mowed the yard, tears flowing freely, stinging my eyes.
After I finished, Mom offered to take me out for ice cream, just as a treat, but probably more as a distraction. On our way home, I asked mom to stop at the church. I needed to talk this out, to make sense of everything. For the next hour and a half, two hours, eternity, I sat in a room with my mom, youth pastor, chair of the deacons, his wife, and another of my mom’s female friends, a prominent leader in the church. The group went on to berate me for putting my mom in this position, for hurting her, setting her apart, forcing her into isolation. I had been too honest, too authentic. My faith was weak, and it made me less of a Christian, less of a person. The only resolution that was reached that night was that while I was struggling, I was not to take part in any ministry roles. I was unworthy to represent Jesus to anyone. I left church that night, not to return into a body of believers for nearly 6 years.
Although my parents continue to struggle and do not yet accept my partner, I now have a church family who accepts me fully for whom I am, and for whom I love – a church that has affirmed my call into ministry and who embraces my desire for authenticity. This is hope. And I hope that someday my mother will have a church that fully supports her entire family. This is my hope, and I am thankful to know there are churches that are welcoming to my partner, my parents, and myself. My call is to make sure that all others on this path are granted this hope as well.