I never really felt like I fit in at church. Even as a pastor I continued to experience a disconnect. Don’t get me wrong. The disconnect I felt wasn’t between God and me, although there have been plenty times I felt distant from God. It took me a long time to realize the secrecy of my sexual orientation was preventing me from connecting more completely in the church. I was strategically placing a barrier between the rest of the people in the church and me. As a result, I was lost in the church.
Sure people knew my face and my name. People knew my heart for sharing the message of God’s love. But people didn’t really know me. I became an expert at revealing just enough that people thought they knew me. Even my family had no idea. I created a house of cards that appeared to be a sustainable structure.
I longed to be in a place I could be myself. The reality is I was terrified about how people might respond if they found out I’m gay. Throughout adolescence I internalized the anti-homosexual messages I heard from church leaders. I despised myself. I believed there had to be something wrong with me. I wanted to please God, but I just knew God hated that part of me. I prayed for God to kill my sexual attractions. I prayed for God to remove my sexual desires like a surgeon removing a cancerous cyst. I was lost in the church.
I’m convinced church leaders who speak out against homosexuality are trying to “speak the truth in love.” However, the language generally used to speak against homosexuality results in a perceived anti-homosexual agenda in the church. LGBTQ persons feel forced out of the church, and at the very least we feel forced into silence. I am not alone when it comes to feeling lost in the church.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
Was blind, but now I see.
If the church really wants to include people who are LGBTQ she needs to altar (yes I meant to spell it that way) her perceptions. I’m not asking you to change your deeply held convictions. Instead, I’m asking you to spend time in prayer. Are you contributing to the prevailing anti-homosexual message of the church, or are you truly showing love? Are you classifying LGBTQ persons so you can determine who is different from you, or are you recognizing your common humanity with LGBTQ persons? Do you view LGBTQ persons as lost-in-need-of-salvation, or as welcome sojourners with you in faith? Church… it is time to repent, and take part in the ministry of reconciliation.
I once was lost in the church, but now I’m found!