August 16, 2010
Dear Members and Adherents of Riverdale Baptist Church
I’m writing you this letter to express gratitude and love, mention deep concerns, and deliver a difficult challenge. I mean no ill-will towards RBC. It has been my home, in my heart, ever since I joined in 2001. But the way I was treated in this church in the last year—the year I came out as a gay man—has deeper implications for the future success of Riverdale Baptist Church, and brings up some alarming issues.
I have loved this church and the people in it. I immigrated to Canada, in part, because of you. Your music, your heart for missions, how progressive you were in your understanding of scripture, especially having women in leadership (something I never had in the U.S.), and your love for me—I felt truly blessed to be so welcomed into this family.
However, no amount of Christian service, training or experience prepared me for how I was rejected when I came out. Immediately, I was forced to resign as Deacon (unless I stood before the church and took an oath of celibacy). People threatened to leave; some did. Friends stopped talking to me. I was called the “Devil himself” in a church meeting. I was accused from the pulpit of living a “sinful lifestyle.” Not allowed to defend myself, I sat punished in the pew for one year, suspect, judged and ostracized, repeatedly called by the Elders to stop publishing anything that disagreed with their understanding of scripture. Finally, four days before the spring choir concert, the Elders kicked me out of the choir. This was unjust and un-Christian behaviour done to a member in good standing faithfully serving our church. While I am thankful for the people who did not abandon me, most did.
Currently RBC is going through a “re-branding” process. Yet you are gaining the reputation of a church that shoots its own. While the Elders forced my resignation, everyone at RBC will face questions from Whitehorse. What will you say to people? Can you defend their position without first making sure you are right? You must own the decisions made by your Elders or change them because you are branding yourselves right now. People looking for a church will want to know which of their friends will be welcome.
Secondly, I am only the first to have loved you enough to share with you I’m gay. Imagine that RBC will one day accuse, condemn, and ostracize one of our children at RBC—maybe your own child/grandchild—no matter if he or she is a Christian; no matter how much scripture she learns, or his service to the church, simply because that child comes out. How will you explain this rejection to your own child? Or choose between child and church policy? Do you know what the Bible really says on this issue?
I challenge you to do the research and make the decision before those children grow up and face what I have faced, because there are consequences to misrepresenting Christ. According to a 2009 study, gay teens are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight teens. They may turn away from God when the church withdraws its affirmation and love from them, causing eternal consequences. Many of them, due to social pressure and fear, cover up and marry, damaging multiple families. These sins fall squarely on you.
But, friends, I have good news. This is your church. Your administration is making decisions in your name that will affect your lives, your children’s lives, your reputation and your church. Do you want this? I challenge you to find out what is right and to be active in your church’s decisions. Enclosed you will find information to help you decide for yourselves what the Bible says about homosexuality, so that you can make an informed decision. I am here if you want to talk.
In Love, and therefore in Christ,