“My dad wants me out of the house, but my mom wants me to stay. He says if I’m gay I’m not welcome.”
This high school senior in Johnson County, Kansas, sat in the fellowship hall of an affirming church almost in tears as he shared his story. I had heard similar stories before, but this was another first for me, a Christian high school student placed on the discard list by a Christian father.
What surprised me most was his concern for his mother instead of himself. “This is too hard on her,” he said. “Is it really OK to be gay if you’re a Christian? I know I love God, and I want to be a minister to help others like me. Is it really OK?”
I am the moderator of Gay Christian Fellowship, and he had come to me for conversation and support. He was not yet a believer in exile, but he was on the fast track. He didn’t say what church he and his parents attended, but he was on the way — out!
No one ever expects to be kicked out — certainly not by their parents or the church they grew up in. But it happened to my young friend. He left home after graduation.
He never asked, “What did I do to deserve this?” And he didn’t ask, “How am I going to survive?” His most pressing question was, “How do I keep my faith alive?”
Many in the LGBT community say they had been involved in church when they were children or teenagers. But there are no statistics regarding what happened to their faith since then. Are they believers in exile or just church alums with neither faith nor connection?
Since 2010, when I was appointed minister to the LGBT community in St. Joseph, I have had many conversations with members of our unique minority. Not one person expressed an initial eagerness or even willingness to leave religious activities of the church because of their sexual orientation. They left feeling pushed out, described as not good enough to share in fellowship at church, not pure enough to participate in church activities, and not righteous enough even to share in service ministry.
But I love the response of my friend who said, “It’s possible to get frustrated and just leave my faith, but it’s a part of my DNA. I can survive without the church, but I don’t want to without my faith. Will I be welcomed again?” Unlike my young friend, many are filled with anger.
I congratulate those who are at peace on their pathway. I encourage those who are still struggling in the process. And for those who are not sure where you are, rest assured that there are those who care. Words may not lessen your sense of loss, but we can listen to your silence — be a presence — when you toss and turn and wonder why it had to happen.
Would you like to share your story? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marvin G. Baker is the moderator for Gay Christian Fellowship’s Let’s Talk @ LIKEME Lighthouse.“