I’ve been visiting the “Whosoever” Website for awhile and have found it to be a source of great encouragement and support. I’m writing to get your advice and insight on the situation I face in my own church family. I’m a member of a Lutheran congregation that I’ve belonged to all my life. I’m very active in the music ministry of my church and love participating and serving in this way. The problem is, I’m always fearful of the day it becomes known that I am also in a relationship with a woman. Most people in the congregation have heard the “rumors” due to a very ugly divorce and custody battle in our small community. No one has directly confronted me YET. I’ve never come out to anyone in my congregation. It feels very wrong to not be who am I in my own church family, but I know that if it was known, I would no longer be able to play organ and piano, and that would break my heart. Any suggestions or insight into healthy ways to approach this situation?
I wish I had an easy answer for you. I wish I had answer that would make you feel good. However, I do not. I can only tell you what has worked for me and share a story that help me a great deal in putting things into their proper perspective.
Let me start by saying that you need to listen to that small voice of God who is speaking to you when you say it “feels wrong not to be who I am in my own church.” That is God saying clearly that you need to be true to what God has created you to be. It is never easy to stand up just as we are with the full faith that God will take care of us. It is even more difficult when the cost can be so high.
Yet, that brings me to the story I want to share with you. I am going to quote this story at length….for those who may find this long and cumbersome, forgive me but I think there is an important point to coming out that goes beyond us.
And Haman said to King Ahasuerus, There is a certain nation living here and there in small groups among the people in all the divisions of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of any other nation, and they do not keep the king’s laws: for this reason it is not right for the king to let them be.
If it is the king’s pleasure, let a statement ordering their destruction be put in writing: and I will give to those responsible for the king’s business, ten thousand talents of silver for the king’s store-house.
And the king took his ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the hater of the Jews.
And the king said to Haman, The money is yours, and the people, to do with them whatever seems right to you.
Then on the thirteenth day of the first month, the king’s scribes were sent for, and they put in writing Haman’s orders to all the king’s captains and the rulers of every division of his kingdom and the chiefs of every people: for every division of the kingdom in the writing commonly used there, and to every people in the language which was theirs; it was signed in the name of King Ahasuerus and stamped with the king’s ring.
And letters were sent by the runners into every division of the kingdom ordering the death and destruction of all Jews, young and old, little children and women, on the same day, even the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar, and the taking of all their goods by force.
A copy of the writing, to be made public in every part of the kingdom, was sent out to all the peoples, so that they might be ready when that day came.
The runners went out quickly by the king’s order, and a public statement was made in Shushan: and the king and Haman took wine together: but the town of Shushan was troubled.
— Esther 3:7-15
Now when Mordecai saw what was done, pulling off his robe, he put on haircloth, with dust on his head, and went out into the middle of the town, crying out with a loud and bitter cry.
And he came even before the king’s doorway; for no one might come inside the king’s door clothed in haircloth.
And in every part of the kingdom, wherever the king’s word and his order came, there was great sorrow among the Jews, and weeping and crying and going without food; and numbers of them were stretched on the earth covered with dust and haircloth.
And Esther’s women and her servants came and gave her word of it. Then great was the grief of the queen: and she sent robes for Mordecai, so that his clothing of haircloth might be taken off; but he would not have them. Then Esther sent for Hathach, one of the king’s unsexed servants whom he had given her for waiting on her, and she gave him orders to go to Mordecai and see what this was and why it was.
So Hathach went out and saw Mordecai in the open square of the town before the king’s doorway.
And Mordecai gave him an account of what had taken place, and of the amount of money which Haman had said he would put into the king’s store for the destruction of the Jews.
And he gave him the copy of the order which had been given out in Shushan for their destruction, ordering him to let Esther see it, and to make it clear to her; and to say to her that she was to go in to the king, requesting his mercy, and making prayer for her people.
And Hathach came back and gave Esther an account of what Mordecai had said.
Then Esther sent Hathach to say to Mordecai:
It is common knowledge among all the king’s servants and the people of every part of the kingdom, that if anyone, man or woman, comes to the king in his inner room without being sent for, there is only one law for him, that he is to be put to death; only those to whom the king’s rod of gold is stretched out may keep their lives: but I have not been sent for to come before the king these thirty days.
And they said these words to Mordecai.
Then Mordecai sent this answer back to Esther: Do not have the idea that you in the king’s house will be safe from the fate of all the Jews.
If at this time you say nothing, then help and salvation will come to the Jews from some other place, but you and your father’s family will come to destruction: and who is to say that you have not come to the kingdom even for such a time as this?
Then Esther sent them back to Mordecai with this answer:
Go, get together all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and go without food for me, taking no food or drink night or day for three days: and I and my women will do the same; and so I will go in to the king, which is against the law: and if death is to be my fate, then let it come.
— Esther 4:1-16
Now this is the story of Esther who a Jew married to a Gentile King. There is a plot to kill off Esther’s people. But for her to expose the plot could cost her what she holds most dear … her life. Yet, God had her in that place for such a time.
I know from your letter that you love playing and your heart could be broken, but what if your witness to the church is not for the church but for others who feel they can’t live as they are? How many other gays and lesbians are living deep in the closet never to experience what it is like to be free and honest not only to themselves but to the ones they love. There are rumors in the church, they know, but God is stronger then those who would fire you or ridicule you. God will provide for your every need. Don’t let your fear mock God and who God has made you to be. I have often told my congregation I do what I do not for me or them but for those who will come after us.
You asked for a suggestions on a healthy way to approach this. The healthiest way I can think of is to ask of you, that which was asked of Esther. Who knows S. that for such a time as this God has called you forth.
As I said earlier in this letter I wish I had an easy answer, but the way to peace, serenity and unity is to proclaim the truth. That truth will set you free.
Please, keep in touch with me and know that you are in my prayers.
Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever and Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994, have been in a committed partnership since the early 1980s and have been legally married since 2015.