Seeds of Hope

Being Called Out From the Tomb


[Posted on October 6, 1999]

Rev. Turner:

I have read your letters at Whosoever and have found comfort. I am a gay Christian and attend the United Church of Christ. While the denomination is known for its liberal theology on gay and lesbians in the church my denomination is quite conservative as are most in my area. I joined the church while I served as director of music. After half my life denying who and what I was I accepted my homosexuality two years ago at the age of 39. I confided to my pastor who was very comforting and accepting but to no one else. Well things seemed fine till I got into a relationship with a woman who has since become my companion. I want to be open with everyone but feel I will be ousted from the church. Since the relationship I have stepped down as choir director so that I could have some weekends off to visit my companion. When I told the pastor my reason for stepping down he was quiet ... so quiet I could tell he disapproved of the relationship.

I am very active in the church. I am a deacon and a Stephen ministry leader. My pastor thinks I should just keep quiet about my sexuality that no one needs to know that I am gay but I feel like I am betraying my partner and myself. I know if I "come out" I will probably be asked to resign my positions of leadership. I feel deep down if I do come out maybe people will realize that gay people are OK, since they have known me for 15 years. On the other hand I am afraid that my coming out could mean the death of our Stephen ministry, (will people be willing to be ministered by a lesbian). I have told only one other person at the church about my orientation and she has been very supportive and accepting. She keeps telling me people need to see the true me that I have much to offer because of who I am. Do I take the next step and come out of the closet at church or not? I have come out to some at work with mixed feelings and I attend PFLAG so as to be a help to others who are struggling. Since I came out to myself and GOD my faith has gotten stronger and I feel the love of GOD and a calling. Is GOD calling me out of the tomb like he did Lazarus ???

Your Sister in Christ,
Diane


DIANE! COME FORTH!

Sorry couldn't resist. You see, I will never tell someone to stay in the closet ... no matter if it costs you your job, your family or anything else. For, you see, to live the lie is too costly and is just that ... "living a lie." I would rather lose everything than live a lie. Yes, people may reject you, or fire you but at least they will do it based on truth rather than accepting someone they don't really know.

"I confided to my pastor who was very comforting and accepting but to no one else. Well things seemed fine till I got into a relationship with a woman who has since become my companion. I want to be open with everyone but feel I will be ousted from the church. Since the relationship I have stepped down as choir director so that I could have some weekends off to visit my companion."

It seems to me that you are playing the role of the self-fulfilling prophet. While I understand the need to spend time with your companion you have already left a position within the church (which you can blame on being gay). If you were out you could ask for time off to visit your friend just like any involved heterosexual might do.

"...When I told the pastor my reason for stepping down he was quiet so quiet I could tell he disapproved of the relationship. "

Excuse me? So now you are a mind reader? From the way you put this in the letter I would assume he was quiet not because you are gay but rather you are stepping away from an important and called ministry within the church. Did the thought every cross your mind the pastor just didn't have the right words for you? The pastor may have taken you stepping down personally. Actually, you don't know how he took it, because he didn't say anything. Don't ever assume because … well just look at the spelling of the word you'll know what I mean. (Hint: break the word into three syllables)

"I am very active in the church, I am a deacon and a Stephen ministry leader . Pastor thinks I should just keep quiet about my sexuality that no one needs to know that I am gay but I feel like I am betraying my partner and myself. I know if I " come out" I will probably be asked to resign my positions of leadership. I feel deep down if I do come out maybe people will realize that gay people are ok, since they have known me for 15 years. On the other hand I am afraid that my coming out could mean the death of our Stephen ministry ... "
My dear sister in Christ, if the pastor actually said this rather than you assuming it then he is wrong and is looking for a way to make his job easier. First of all he is not the one who is living the lie, so how dare he tell you to live a lie, just to make his or her job easier. Let's see, if you keep quiet there will be no issues of justice to deal with ... the church might not split ... they won't have to do extra Bible study or have extra workshops ... certainly won't have to preach on the subject. A pastor should know better than to ask someone to lie about themselves. Second, if you keep quiet then he doesn't have to deal with people and their hidden bigotry and hatred. He can go on in his /her fairytale world that their church is basically a good church, but never really do anything to back that up. I am truly sorry and disappointed if your pastor really said that to you. How cowardly! How lazy!

If you come out and are indeed asked to resign, refuse! Make them fire you. You see, my sister, I guess this whole thing strikes me as you acting like prey here. Yes, hunted down and killed prey.

Marsha Stephens, a famous lesbian Christian singer, tells the story of her pastor visiting a part of Africa where the monkeys (Baboons, I think) were known to attack people. When the pastor asked how to avoid being attacked the guide responded by saying, "Don't behave like prey!"

Just because you have come out as a lesbian you are not any less a child of God unless you act like it. No one can hurt you unless you let them. No one can take your God away unless you let them. Yes, they can fire you. Yes, they can call for your resignation. Yes, they can be terribly uncomfortable. But they cannot have your soul. "What does it profit a person to gain the whole world but sacrifice their soul." (Mark 8:36). You are a child of God, created by God, named by God, called by God. Despite everything the world can throw at you remember this: "When I send up my cry to you, my haters will be turned back; For this I know God is with me." (Psalm 56:9)

DIANE! COME FORTH!

God Bless,

Pastor Paul


Here are some resources within the United Church of Christ:

links to Open & Affirming Web Resources -- click on the "Web Resources" link in the lower left-hand part of the screen.

This link - http://www.ucc.org/headline/gayfac.htm - does a good job of explaining the non-binding relationship between the General Synod, the regional bodies and individual churches.


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.