Taking the first step
“I am a lesbian.” I was 16 years old, staring into the mirror when I first uttered those words out loud. They were hard to say, even harder to hear. I knew by saying it I had to make a choice.
My father was a Southern Baptist preacher, an evangelist who pastored several churches from Georgia to Virginia, and spent his later years holding tent revivals. I knew from sermons I had heard from many pulpits over my 16 years that being a Christian and being gay was a contradiction in terms.
When I had the first inkling that I might be a lesbian, I began to pray — fervently. I knew I could only be one thing, gay or Christian, but not both. I desperately wanted to be a Christian. So I prayed for God to make the choice easy … make me straight.
As I stood staring in the mirror that day I was convinced God had abandoned me. He had not listened to my prayer … I had been forsaken to a life without God, left to wallow in my perversion.
“Fine,” I thought, “if God doesn’t love me, then I don’t love God. I can live just fine without Him.”
For years that’s what I did … or so I thought.
With my first real relationship in crisis, my lover decided we needed to go back to church. I was dead-set against the idea, but she persisted.
We found ourselves in an MCC congregation in Atlanta. The speaker that evening was Rev. Elder “Papa” John Hose. As he spoke, I felt the spirit of God surround me. I knew I was home. That night I discovered that I may have turned my back on God, but He had never turned his back on me.
Thinking back to the three years I had spent not talking or thinking about God, I could suddenly see all the wonderful things He had done for me over the years. He saw me through job changes, relationship troubles, moves from home to home — whenever I needed help, He had been there.
I now realized that God had heard the prayers of that pained teenager. He had answered my prayer to be made straight. God said “no.” I realized God had created me as a lesbian, and there was nothing that could change that!
But, there was still the question — how could I be gay and a Christian? I thought that was an impossibility!
That’s when I embarked on a search of the scriptures. Coming from a Baptist background where the motto is “The Bible said it, I believe it,” it was a struggle to believe some of the interpretations that pro-gay scholars had come up with. But as I searched the scriptures for myself, and prayed for God to guide me in that search, I came to realize that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, and instead has some wonderful blessings and lessons for gay and lesbian Christians.
In this issue of Whosoever, we shall explore the scriptures together and share the Good News — that you can be gay and Christian!
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.