After years of struggle, I am un-conflicted about being both gay and Christian. My church, however, is not. I am an Episcopalian. I often am told that it’s okay that I am who I am, but I am shown something quite different. I was asked to teach Sunday School to the teenage classes. During the time I taught attendance more than doubled. The kids and their parents told me what a difference I made in their lives. Yet, I was teaching under the condition that I never reveal that I am gay (the priest, a female, knew my sexual orientation before she asked me to teach). I reluctantly agreed to this, but as the months went by I felt more and more that I was being forced back into the closet. One day I asked the priest what I should do I met someone and wished to bring him to church with me. She assured me that he would be welcome. The next day she told me I would have to stop teaching. Since then it has been made clear to me that there some areas of service that are closed to me, and some that are “okay” for me to do.
I feel rejected and betrayed. I considered leaving this church for another one, but after prayer and talking with other priests and members of the church to which I belong, I feel that would only be running away, or worse yet, being chased away.
Again, after prayer and discussion, I want to make this an opportunity to witness, if not educate, those in my church who are uncomfortable with, or afraid of, me. What can I do? I do not want to be confrontational, but neither do I want to accept my second-class status? How can I use this as an opportunity for growth (for me and others)?
Thank you for your response.
Unfortunately your struggle is not uncommon in today’s world. The mainline churches are all struggling with where we fit in. If you do not wish to leave the church — which by the way I don’t think you would be running, but that is another letter — then the only thing that is left to you is to ask them the hard questions:
1) Why can’t I teach Sunday School? Are you accusing me of being a child molester? Have I suddenly become a leper? Is my concern for the children any less valid?
2) How is my loving committed relationship not of God?
3) How is what I am, now different since you know I love a person who happens to be the same gender?
I know you don’t want confrontation, however, if you are going to live as God created you to be, if you are going to celebrate the gift of love God has brought to you, then there will be confrontation. With that said, asking the aforementioned questions can in fact start a dialogue that could and will be helpful to all concerned in your church. My friend, live as God has created you and be open to the movement and voice of God. If you do that you will not be a second class citizen and it will certainly bring opportunities for growth.
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.