Sorry for my lack of posting for the last few weeks. Life has been crazy. I will get back to my regular updates shortly. But today I want to pause and add this post as a part of The More Excellent Way blog carnival on the subject of “inclusion”.
I am in my 40’s and have been “in the closet” for most of my life. I lived a straight life, got married, had kids, and have been a pastor for 17 years. All along, though, I knew I was gay. But the message that I got from churches and from seminary was that being gay is not ok…and therefore I had to do whatever it took for me not to live as a gay man. During the past 20+ years, I have silently struggled, constantly trying to suppress my sexuality so that I could be a “good Christian”, a pastor with integrity, and a husband and father. Unfortunately, the result is that I ended up depressed, withdrawn, and acting out in unhealthy ways because I was trying to be something that I was not…straight! You can only suppress your identity for so long before it affects your emotional health in negative ways. My negative emotional health crippled me, my marriage, my parenting, my relationships, and my ministry.
18 months ago, I began a journey towards emotional health. With the help of a counselor, I came to grips with my identity, my sexual orientation, and how living a lie has caused tremendous damage to me, my family, and my ministry. As a result, I have recently quit my job at a large Evangelical church in our area, had to find new employment, am moving out next week, and will be getting divorced from my wife. After so many years in the closet, I am now beginning to live a new life out of the context of who I believe God created me to be. There has been tremendous cost to become who I already was…but I now believe it was worth it so that I can be true to myself and how I am wired.
I am in the process of planting a new church that is radically inclusive and I have found that there are many people in our city who have been a part of conservative Evangelical churches and have suffered a similar lack of emotional health due to the lack of a message of inclusivity in those churches. Many are very wounded by the lack of acceptance…and even downright rejection…that they have felt. It is so sad that so many of us have had to live a lie because we couldn’t be accepted a Christians in any other way!
I often wonder how my life would have been different, had full inclusion for the LGBT community been a value in churches 20 years ago. While I am thankful for the blessings that have come out of the last 20 years of my life, I know that the pain and damage done could have been avoided if I had had even one Christian tell me that I was ok. If only I had known that God loved me just the way I was! If only I had learned that I could be gay AND a pastor! If only.
My new little church plant seeks to be inclusive of everyone. I pray that other people’s lives will be touched by the message of Grace that I hope we always communicate. And maybe…just maybe…a life will be saved from the damage that I had to go through in the past 20 years.
Full inclusion of the LGBT community in Christian churches can LITERALLY save lives from the irreparable damage that is caused when a person tries to suppress who they are for the purpose of acceptance by God and other Christians. While people my age can’t go backwards to fix the past, we can certain fix the future for the sake of our brothers and sisters who desperately need to know they are loved by God and others!