Seeds of Hope

How Do I Forgive the Church?


[Posted on May 9. 2000]

Rev. Turner:

I have been struggling over the past five years to find a place where it is safe to ask questions concerning Christianity and homosexuality. I was raised a Nazarene, attended Nazarene College and Seminary. I served as both a senior and associate pastor within this denomination.

As a young adult the thought that I might be gay was never a question. I blamed attraction to the opposite sex as being isolated incidents in which I was merely vulnerable because of stress or isolation. It was not until I was 34 and attracted very strongly to a female friend that I began to question my sexual orientation. Just being willing to ask the question: Could I be gay? was a betrayal of all that seemed right. But the feelings could not be denied (though I never acted on them.) I began to explore homosexuality from an intellectual level and to pray that God would either remove the feelings or give me the assurance that it was OK to be gay.

I resigned my position at the Church in order to allow me the freedom to attend other churches and to find an answer to the question: Can one be a Christian and Gay?

I found a Evangelical Lutheran Church that was open and accepting of Gays and Lesbians. This gave me hope that one could be a Christian who was gay. As time progressed I came to accept that I was Lesbian. I had been confiding in the senior pastor at the church about my personal struggle. When I informed him that I had discovered a person whom I was developing a relationship with he went from trying to counsel me to chasing me out of the church, and asking for my resignation from church and the termination of my ministerial credentials. I had served that church for six years. I never heard from any of the membership. All those people with whom I had laughed and cried with turned their backs on me and left me isolated and alone.

Since then I have been pretty bitter towards the church and God. I try to worship. I try to pray. I try to build relationships with those in the church. But I have remained angry and skeptical of the church and to be honest I'm not sure how to get beyond this. I know the Bible. I know theology. But I don't know how to reconnect with God. I don't know how to forgive the Church. And I don't know how to move forward spiritually.

I know that these are questions you might not have answers to, but they are ones I need to ask. Anyway thank you for allowing me to ask the questions. God bless you in your ministry.

Tina


Dear Tina,

The pain of betrayal and rejection is always especially hard when done by those who we thought loved and respected us.

I am not sure why you got the reaction you did from the pastor except to say within some denominations being gay is not a problem as long as you are chaste or celibate.

However, since you know scripture and theology let me remind you of some basic truths that were told in that scripture. Remember when Moses went to get the commandments from God? The people didn't remember the times they had laughed and cried with Moses. They did not remember that it was Moses who had freed them from Egypt and in their forgetfulness built a golden cafe instead.

As for the church and its reaction to you let me refer you back to Jesus' talk with the religious leaders of his day:

1 Then Jesus said to the people and to his disciples:
2 The scribes and the Pharisees have the authority of Moses;
3 All things, then, which they give you orders to do, these do and keep: but do not take their works as your example, for they say and do not.
4 They make hard laws and put great weights on men's backs; but they themselves will not put a finger to them.
5 But all their works they do so as to be seen by men: for they make wide their phylacteries, and the edges of their robes,
6 And the things desired by them are the first places at feasts, and the chief seats in the Synagogues,
7 And words of respect in the market-places, and to be named by men, Teacher.
8 But you may not be named Teacher: for one is your teacher, and you are all brothers.
9 And give no man the name of father on earth: because one is your Father, who is in heaven.
10 And you may not be named guides: because one is your Guide, even Christ.
11 But let the greatest among you be your servant.
12 And whoever makes himself high will be made low, and whoever makes himself low will be made high.
13 But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back.
15 A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! for you go about land and sea to get one disciple and, having him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 A curse is on you, blind guides, who say, Whoever takes an oath by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple, he is responsible.
17 You foolish ones and blind: which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy?
18 And, Whoever takes an oath by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the offering which is on it, he is responsible.
19 You blind ones: which is greater, the offering, or the altar which makes the offering holy?
20 He, then, who takes an oath by the altar, takes it by the altar and by all things on it.
21 And he who takes an oath by the Temple, takes it by the Temple and by him whose house it is.
22 And he who takes an oath by heaven, takes it by the seat of God, and by him who is seated on it.
23 A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! for you make men give a tenth of all sorts of sweet-smelling plants, but you give no thought to the more important things of the law, righteousness, and mercy, and faith; but it is right for you to do these, and not to let the others be undone.
24 You blind guides, who take out a fly from your drink, but make no trouble over a camel.
25 A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of violent behavior and uncontrolled desire.
26 You blind Pharisee, first make clean the inside of the cup and of the plate, so that the outside may become equally clean.
27 A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! for you are like the resting-places of the dead, which are made white, and seem beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and of all unclean things.
28 Even so you seem to men to be full of righteousness, but inside you are all false and full of wrongdoing.
29 A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! because you put up buildings for housing the dead bodies of the prophets, and make fair the last resting-places of good men, and say,
30 If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in the blood of the prophets.
31 So that you are witnesses against yourselves that you are the sons of those who put the prophets to death.
32 Make full, then, the measure of your fathers.
33 You snakes, offspring of snakes, how will you be kept from the punishment of hell?
34 For this reason, I send you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them you will put to death and put on the cross, and to some of them you will give blows in your Synagogues, driving them from town to town;
35 So that on you may come all the blood of the upright on the earth, from the blood of upright Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Barachiah, whom you put to death between the Temple and the altar.
36 Truly I say to you, All these things will come on this generation.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, putting to death the prophets, and stoning those who are sent to her! Again and again would I have taken your children to myself as a bird takes her young ones under her wings, and you would not!
38 See, your house is made waste.
39 For I say to you, You will not see me from this time till you say, A blessing on him who comes in the name of the Lord."
Matthew 23:1-39
Things have not changed all that much from this conversation and the condition of the church today so why is there any surprise at your treatment?

Ultimately the mainline church may not be where you do ministry but you and I both know you must forgive them. Why? It is indeed the most important piece to the emotional puzzle -- not how, who, or what. We forgive because it allows our wounds to heal so the pain goes away and heals rather then festering to an emotionally unstable boil of anger. We forgive because it is the only way our pain and anger will melt into something beautiful and life-giving. We forgive because in order to live we must die to that which kills us -- anger, revenge, apathy, and injustice. We forgive because it is by this act by which we die to the aforementioned things and gain back the life, which in this case, was taken from you by this pastor. We forgive because we have been forgiven much.

You connect to God through the act of forgiveness. Just as God connected with you in God's act of forgiveness for you. Tina, the United Methodist Church rejected me because I was gay. UFMCC threw me out and Abundant Grace Community Church staged a palace coup. Had I not been able to forgive each of them, this ministry you appreciate today would not be here. I would have gone on to self destruction. It has been in my forgiveness of some pretty despicable acts that I have also found forgiveness for my shortcomings. It was in that forgiveness that I found my connection with God had not been lost rather God had been there all along providing strength, wisdom, hugs and love. My dear sister in Christ, your reconnection with God will come with your forgiveness of your betrayers.

God Bless,

Pastor Paul


Rev. Turner is Sr. Pastor at Gentle Spirit Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you are seeking guidance and pastoral care on your journey to fullness as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered person, please contact Pastor Paul directly at pastorpaul@whosoever.org.