Hills and Valleys

“You can’t be a Lesbian and be a Christian!” These words kept me away from the throne of God for 22 years.

I was raised a Catholic as a child, but it never meant very much to me. I saw it as an archaic list of rules and rituals. I had a conversion experience in my senior year of high school while watching a Billy Graham crusade on television. I was elated at the experience and started attending a large, independent, non-denominational church that worshipped in the style of the Assembly of God denomination. The senior pastor was a former Assembly of God preacher. He had broken away from the denomination to form his own independent church. Following their traditions I accepted water and Spiritual baptism and participated in their emotional style of services. The emotionalism was such that you thought you could feel the presence and power of God. The theology was fundamentalism.

Being a music education major in college, I quickly became part of their music staff. I was the instrumental music instructor in their independent church school and the director of a 150 voice children,s choir as well as a smaller jr. high age choir. I worked closely with both the minister of music and the director of Christian education. I was asked to coordinate, produce, direct and sometimes write children’s musicals for presentation to the congregation. I was paid a small stipend for the private instruction, the rest was “my ministry”. At this time along with my college classes I was also taking classes at the church run school of theology (the energy of youth!). I was a regular poster child for Fundamentalism! I was so busy between all of these activities that I was unaware of my sexuality. I had dated boys occasionally but never had a date that was worth repeating. I really didn’t given it much thought or attention.

Right after I had written and produced a large children’s Christmas musical, (that was scheduled to be shown on local network TV), I was called into the minister of music’s office and asked the fatal question – was I a lesbian? I didn’t know what a lesbian was, so I asked him to define it. He very embarrassingly stumbled over a definition, to which I said no – since I hadn’t self-identified yet. He informed me that someone, he didn’t want to say who, had accused me of making a pass at her. I knew immediately who it was because there was only one person in my life at that time who was insecure enough in her own identity to make that kind of allegation. It was the senior pastor’s niece. I had been asked to drive her home from two different church events and accompany her to a church social event by the senior pastor, who said that his niece needed a positive role model in her life. We were about the same age, but she was greatly conflicted about who she was and where God fit into her life, especially since she had a fundamentalist preacher for an uncle and an atheist father who had financed his brother’s church. My thanks for doing this favor was for her to falsely tell everyone that I had tried to seduce her.

Due to the inflammatory nature of the accusation, the pastor chose to believe her even though he knew her to be an unreliable source. I was fired. I protested. I was told to leave quickly and quietly or a phone call would be made to my school district telling them of the details of the accusation, where I was now a first year teacher. Other church members came to my defense, including a married singing duo who had been stars on the rock n roll scene before meeting Christ. They too were told to be quiet and accept it, or they could be replaced. Within two months the director of Christian education and the singing duo were also fired for supporting me, along with an associate minister who supported them. The paranoia was so strong that it was easy to throw people away.

I prudently left and my school job was unaffected. I was however devastated. I couldn’t understand how the God that I loved and had served for 6 years could allow this to happen. I headed straight to the local gay community center which I found in the phone book. If I’d already been punished for being gay, I wanted to know what it was all about. The gay community was a big comfort and I found that I did indeed have an attraction to women. Later on I realized that God was giving me a big boost to find out who I was before I made any mistakes and ended up in a heterosexual marriage. But it took years to reach that realization. In the meantime I felt like I had lost God. I call this period my spiritual Wilderness. I wandered around for 22 years feeling lost and believing that you couldn’t be lesbian and Christian. I longed for the relationship that I had had with God before, but that now seemed impossible. I had been betrayed, slandered and abused by Christianity and there was a big part of me that was very angry. I kept running into MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) ministers in our community. I became briefly involved with ministries with a couple of them. But deep down I was still too hurt and angry, and I couldn’t allow myself to trust ministers or believe their message. It wasn’t until years later that I found an MCC minister that used the same Assembly of God style of worship. God was finally able to speak to me and reach me once again. I felt like I had come home. God met me and the relationship began again, fresh. I became the organist for the local MCC for 2 years and then moved on to the United Church of Christ (UCC), a mainstream denomination that is extremely gay supportive as well as supportive of issues of justice and inequality in other social areas.

We as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians have been lied to. Specifically we’ve been lied to by our brothers and sisters in Christ who are Fundamentalist Christians. Their definition of God is too small to include us. We who have come through this process, this trial by fire, must share with our disenfranchised brothers and sisters, that they too can know God. The great lie, deprives our community of it’s birthright – the right of all human beings to know their creator. Thank God that we have denominations like MCC and magazines like Whosoever that are willing to be a part of our community; to meet us at the point of our pain and betrayal. They meet us in our bars and in our community centers to tell us that we’ve been lied to. While it is a single purpose ministry – only to the gay community, it is a badly needed ministry. Healing and forgiveness must take place. It’s hard to forgive when you’ve been hurt so much, but it is necessary.

When I could finally forgive the church that had betrayed me, I found that it was gone. The congregation had divided and the building was sold to a large amusement park. It was literally gone! It was with mixed feelings the day that I saw the minister of music who had asked me if I was a lesbian, walk into MCC with his new gay lover. He declined to come over to the organ and say hello. It was also with mixed feelings that I found out that the senior pastor’s daughter had come out as a lesbian. God doesn’t allow hatred in God’s name. But it takes time and forgiveness to see the changes. Thank God for mainstream denominations like UCC that are a shining beacon on general Protestantism to expose their bigotry and bias all in the name of God’s love.

Through all of this pain and betrayal, I’ve grown. I can see things now that I could never have realized before. God’s truth will necessitate growth. If we don’t grow, we die. God meets everyone where they are and in the style and language that they know. It is wrong for us to say that there is only one way that we can know God. God is bigger than that. The way that I met God is one way, but you may meet God through a different tradition and a different style of worship. God who created the entire universe in all it’s diversity, can not be defined by one definition, literally taken from a mistranslated version of the Bible! Therein lies the fallacy of Fundamentalism. We, as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians are not really a paradox – only a part of God’s bigger picture.