Archive for the ‘coming out’ Category

CBC’s DNTO to air my story on Coming Out to My Church for “Lost Causes,” Nov 3   Leave a comment

Definitely Not the Opera, (DNTO) a CBC Radio One program devoted to the art of storytelling in Canada, asked me to tell my story of coming out to my church for their Nov 3 show “Lost Causes”.

I had pitched the idea to them last year for a different show called “Making Enemies” but withdrew the pitch because a) I don’t think I meant to make enemies, nor do I think I have made enemies; and 2) because I didn’t want to restir a pot that has finally calmed down.

But they remembered my pitch.  And they sought me out.  Which is humbling, and cool.  We recorded on Friday morning and they are editing my lengthy story to 3-4 minutes.  I appreciate Andrew Friesen’s belief that my story was important and needed to be told.  I feel like the story is more appropriate under “Lost Causes” because trying to reason with people who don’t want to listen to you, or discuss with you–and believing that you alone have to spark change–well, it can feel like a “Lost Cause”.  But in the end–and the end hasn’t come yet–who knows if the cause is lost?  I think every person who says the church must look at the evidence, must consider the Christian testimonies of LGBT folks in the discussion, is a step towards change.  We need more people who realize how many people have fallen away from the faith, have decided against Christ, have been repelled from the church, and who, sometimes when there is no hope left, taken their own lives, all because the Church has historically refused to consider the scriptures in an accepting light–and this causes their members to refuse to accept their children in an accepting light.  This splits familes.  My God and my Christ are not what I encounter when I come into a Baptist Church anymore.  I daresay they wouldn’t recognize it.  Churches are not all one defined Mass though–as many churches are beginning to change their minds about LGBT people.  Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Canada–all have begun seeing that this is just the next issue the church has to rethink.  As it did slavery, race, and its treatment of Women.  And divorce.  Change comes when people inside churches decide they can’t hold false doctrine anymore.  Christianity and Faith are not the problem.  Interpretation is.

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Introducing the New Biola University Queer Underground!   Leave a comment

It is with great pleasure that I read of the exciting things happening at Biola University in California.  It breaks my heart to go back onto Christian campuses sometimes–knowing that the LGBT community cannot express themselves as both “good Christians” and LGBT people (unless they pledge celibacy).  My recent trip to Calvin College moved me to respond–and while I see in SAGA a group that is surviving under the pressures of Calvin, I see the students at Biola, riskier perhaps, thriving.   They are pushing the envelope, not happy with the “yard privileges” that the university gives them, still prisoners, in many ways, of the administration and policy decisions on sexuality that are in place at Biola.  They have instead spoken out, strongly, and I hope that their speaking out creates a conversation for change in the administration.

For more amazing stuff, read the article in Inside Higher ED here.  I put a picture of Bryn Terfel as Wotan in the Ring Cycle here to let you know, Biola Queer students, that I think of you as bold warriors.  That what you are doing takes courage.  That it’s going to be a tough fight.  That the denomination which controls Biola may not play fair.  But that you are warriors, every one of you.

May God bless you and bring you peace in your decisions, in your convictions, and strength in holding to them.

For the Biola Queer Underground’s website, click here.

I hope more Christian campuses follow your lead.

Have a short piece in Geez Magazine’s “Privilege” issue, #24   1 comment

Ironically, my pastor at RBC suggested I write for Geez magazine.  I don’t think he imagined what piece I would eventually write for them.  But here it is, Issue #24, on “privilege”.  I wrote the fast version of my coming out at church.  I centered it on the idea of privilege–of the privileges I had as a single, white male Christian who had leadership potential and of the privileges I no longer had when I added “gay” to that mix.

The church has to change.  It has to.  It may not change from those fighting it on the outside, but it will have to incorporate change if it is to survive further.  It faces irrelevance, it postures with discrimination, it plays favorites, it values money.

Not all churches–no.  (When I say a statement like this I have to stop and say, Thank you, churches that are moving more towards social justice, focusing on issues like poverty, the environment, civil rights.  You do exist, but I wouldn’t, yet, call you the “Church”–as the “Church” tends to be the Catholic Castle or the Evangelical Juggernaut.  One day, you will take on that mantle–you will be the “Church” and it will have a positive ring.)

The full essay is here, Moving Up, Coming Out, Moving On.

Anyway, there it is, in Geez #24.  If this brings you to this website, welcome.  There’s lots here, I hope, that will spark conversation.  If this entry leads you to Geez, welcome to Geez.  There’s lots there that will spark conversation as well.  It’s a valuable, important magazine carrying on “the” conversations we need to have happen.  It is intrepid, bold, and unflinching.

I would marry Geez magazine if it looked like a bear and loved me back.

*apologies to Kevin James, pictured, who is not gay.

Esther: The Queen Who Came Out   2 comments

Esther at the moment of decision---Sir John Everett Millais, painter, 1865

The Story of Esther in the Bible means a great deal to me.  On the day I decided to come out it was Esther who gave me the last push.  She was the one who told me–you aren’t just doing it for you.  You’re doing it to save your people.  Every act of coming out is about saving people.  But more on Esther in a moment.

Some background is in order:  I had kept the secret of being gay for five years before coming out—three of them I was gone from the Yukon, a student in Texas, researching whether or not God was okay with me being gay.  He was uppermost on my mind.  If He didn’t like it, I would go through therapy, I would become a monk, I would do whatever was necessary to change myself to fit what He wanted.  Thankfully, not only was He cool with me being gay, it was how he created me to be.  So it was quite a revelation.  However, just because God was okay with it, didn’t mean I was itching to tell my church.  People are unpredictable.

At first, I wondered if I really HAD to come out.  It wasn’t anyone else’s business.  I had known many gays who told me to go live my life and not bother with coming out at all.  Who needs to know?  — Well, I had lived my life pretty open to this point, and it was difficult to keep part of myself from people I loved.  In fact, it was so difficult it was hitting me on multiple levels that I had to come out.

1.  I had become deceptive.  This was hard for me to accept.  That I would have to hide who I was in order to keep the life I had been living, to keep the friends I had.  I was never a liar growing up—and never a liar as an adult.  But suddenly, I was a liar in order to keep the peace, to keep friends, to keep interacting with the church and people I loved.  It made me into a person I didn’t want to be.

2.  I wanted to share who I loved with the church.  They loved me, and I wanted to be as open as I could be with them–letting them know, like anyone else, when I was dating, when I was happy, why I was happy, who I loved.  One day I wanted to stand up with my boyfriend like so many other couples in the church and declare that we got engaged.  The whole crowd would clap.  There would be such a renewal of love and hope in the congregation whenever a young couple announced their upcoming marriage.

3.  God told me, point blank, that he couldn’t use me until I came out.  How could he use someone that had a secret to spill–a secret that might endanger whatever mission he would give me?  And further, how could God put me on any kind of road to minister to other gay christians–when I couldn’t be honest with them?

4.  I was hurting others who knew.  A woman in the church whom I’d told many months before came up to me and said–we can’t keep your secret any longer.  You have to tell the pastor.  She set in motion a pressure that would just increase every day until I came out.  She wasn’t threatening to tell–but she said that the pressure to keep the secret was hurting her family.

And then Esther came along.  I realized what I had to do—but for some reason I thought Easter was the best time to do it.  I knew that I would go from family to family, but just like it’s hard when you skydive to let go of the safety of the plane… I was lingering at the door, looking at the thousand mile drop below me.  I knew if I went to one family, it would get away from me and I would never be able to control who knew what.  The truth would be out and then they could decide to hurt me with it.

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No More Straight-Jacket: The Abundant Life We are Promised   1 comment

To be a Christian, it’s important to live a life of integrity, honesty, transparency, and of love.  Being in the closet doesn’t allow these things to happen.  You will find it difficult to love others if you can’t love yourself first, and increasingly, hiding who you are will take away the friendships you wanted to preserve.  Being in the closet is a false sense of security–and like every big secret, it takes a big toll.

But how do you be who you are and keep the church and the faith and the God that you love?  Where is the abundant life Christ promised us?  While we, as Christians, are ready to sacrifice our pleasures and lives for the cause of Christianity—certainly we’re not all required to give up our sexual expression.  And I can’t believe God intended only gay people to do that either, while letting straight Christians have more freedom.

If fear keeps us in the closet, it will have to be “love” that casts out that fear.  If love is the answer to eradicating fear, it’s going to take a lot of people’s decisions.  I’ve outlined a few of them in the pages:  what to do when someone comes out to your church, and what to do when you want to come out to your church.  But let’s look at the life you can have as a gay Christian.

“I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly”

Amen.  So what will that look like, and how do I know that this life is possible?  First, I know it’s possible because Christ offered it to everyone–not just the straight folk.  We already saw how Jesus treated those who “sinned,” which in his eyes had to be everyone.  Think about it.  And he affirmed them.  Welcomed and affirmed them.  His “Good News” is for everyone.

More Freedom to be who you need to be

If and when you come out, you will find a great freedom.  “The truth shall set you free” never meant more to anyone else than it does to GLBT Christians.  Literally it allows us to stretch and grow, unencumbered by the constant weight of our own fear and the constant work of our own deception.  You will find yourself able to love others deeply, more deeply than you ever have before—because you have been rejected too.  And you have tried to play the game of perfection.

I’ll tell you this about that game: you’re not going to be as nitpicky about perfection anymore.  Because tied to the pursuit of perfection is the pursuit of a perfect reputation.   And once you come out, your reputation will take a beating, at least in some circles.  Whew!  That’s a load off your shoulders, I expect.  Now you don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations.  You and God still work things out, but you don’t have to be “perfect.”

You will be where Jesus was–not in the elite, not in the people polishing their Sunday School attendance pins, or seeing who could outdo whom–you will be with the people who are hurting, and who need to know that God and Jesus still care for them.  Until you are rejected, you almost can’t see the invisible “Rejected” around you.

It’s an Old Message for the New Evangelicals

It’s amazing the parallels between Paul’s struggle with bringing Gentiles in to the mostly Jewish church, and today’s struggle with the acceptance of the GLBT community in the mostly Straight church.  But Jews adapted–and ironically, the church became mostly gentile.  I don’t think the church will become mostly gay…. However.  The reason that the Christian church lost its Jewish heritage is because mainstream Jews didn’t want to give up their traditions to embrace new ones.  The church gathered members from the Gentile community.  Who knows if the parallel will extend to modern churches?  Churches without gay members might completely break away, and we will see that those churches that accept gay members are the only true churches left.

As a Gay Christian, you get to talk about Jesus in a completely different way.  Suddenly God and Jesus are divorced from mainstream evangelical creeds that come across as judgmental, fear-inducing and shame-oriented.  You get to bring the original message–of hope, of love, of salvation–that has gotten mired by 21st Century Corporate-Modeled churches who think of membership and tithes as dues to a club, and the prestige of membership–with its benefits–as available to those who can pay.  (To be fair, some MCC churches also stress a financial angle–for the good of God and the good of the mission–and they can add just as much pressure for the generosity of those who attend services.)

You get a chance to show Jesus on the right side of justice and the right side of history once again—you get to save Jesus from the Conservative Evangelical Doctrine that had him trapped.  People need to know they are loved and accepted in whatever way they want to express themselves.  Christ isn’t Republican, Conservative, Wealthy or Exclusively White.  But he seems owned by them.  You get a chance to break that mold, to show Jesus as the person who can go anywhere to talk to anyone and spread joy and love to them.  You get to be Christ to a world that needs him.

There is a Joy in being liberated from the confines of current Christianity

The Rule is Love.  Love God, Love Each Other.  In Jesus’ words, it was “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and mind.” And the second was like it–that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  All the commandments and laws HANG on this idea, he said.  Notice that it’s not the reverse.  Loving God and Each Other do not HANG on keeping the commandments.  We get caught up in commandment keeping, rule keeping, and lose sight of what’s truly important.  Of who is truly important.  I’ve heard countless preachers amend Jesus by saying, “and the way to love God is to keep his commandments…”  and then they list a hundred rules that you have to follow or else you make God angry.  Thank God you don’t have to listen to them any longer.

Preachers have power, for now.  They’re enjoying their time with power–and they can bring politicians to their knees.  I wait for the day that a politician puts a preacher in his place.   But you don’t have to worry anymore about preachers.  You can if you want–you can fight them and tell them they’re wrong, but you can also turn around and do good in the community and let the false churches and the false prophets rail on….

Your Power is with God.  God is not with the Preachers who are against you.  Romans 8:31 “If God is for you, who can be against you?”  That goes for Preachers and Evangelicals and those who have anything to say about the exclusionary nature of God, or his “rule” of celibacy for gay people.  Be the disciples who were in direct conflict with the City (Acts 5) who preached the gospel because they had to obey God rather than man.  Let no one stop you from telling gays and lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and straight people too that God loves them–and that God has a plan for them.  Tell them it does not include suffering under the straightjackets of any church that says the GLBT community must stop “acting on” their gayness.

The Lost and the Evangelicals: a reversal of roles

Today, the GLBT community can be the evangelicals who tell the good news of Christ’s love.  The churches, unfortunate for them, get to be the LOST who need to hear this message.  They dished it out for so long, they believe they can say no wrong, but God knows they have gotten off topic and off message.  It’s time they got a new lesson in Christianity.

“It is Good that Man not Be Alone”

The importance of the Genesis story for man is that God knew that Adam should not be alone—and neither should anyone.  Though Adam was straight and needed an Eve, you are not, and you need a partner.  Many in the gay community have given up on partnership.  No wonder–the straight community has not allowed us to have it for hundreds of years–but it is still a good thing to have a partner, to not be alone.

You have the freedom now to find someone, and over the next ten years, there will be more and more Christian men and women to choose from—but get someone who can love, whom the bitterness and cynicism given to us by the straight culture has not broken–if you find the cynical and the bitter, love them and help them know they don’t have to listen to anyone who tells them that they are less.  It’s a NEW OLD Good News—the original is the best, and it was for everyone.

Take back Christianity.  You are made to have an abundant life in Christ Jesus and the enemies who come in Christ’s name are not acting anymore on His behalf.  They have lost their way.  Love them and when they don’t listen, wipe the dust from your shoes and move out to those who will listen to the great message of New Life.

  

Posted October 3, 2011 by jstueart in churches, coming out, gay rights

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Prayers for Bobby out on DVD, a good movie for parents   Leave a comment

Prayers for Bobby, the Lifetime movie starring Sigourney Weaver, is out on DVD.  It tells the story of a deeply religious family whose son comes out gay.  When the family rejects his “lifestyle,” the son commits suicide.  Mary, the mother, goes through a deep inner change about her thoughts on her son, her actions, and becomes an advocate for helping parents through difficult times with their GLBT teen, so that none lose their son or daughter because of their faith.

This is a great resource for parents.  If you know of a parent of a GLBT son or daughter, purchase a copy of the movie for them.  It’s powerful.  Church administrations are not to the point where they can effectively care for parents in this struggle–this is why church people must step up.

 

 

 

 

See Sigourney talk about the movie here:

Buy the copy of the movie to give to someone who’s struggling.  Merry Christmas.  We should all be together, loving each other.

Posted December 24, 2010 by jstueart in churches, coming out

Whitehorse Opens a Chapter of PFLAG

Justin Lemphers has taken the lead in developing and starting a chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians).  These groups are essential for families who have questions about their children, or relatives, or parents, who may come out to them.   They are also a godsend for those us who are gay or lesbian–where we can ask questions when we don’t know who to turn to.  They provide a safe space to discuss your questions about gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered issues–a safe space to ask your questions, no matter where you are coming from. 

See this new article by Justine Davidson in the Whitehorse Star for a look at the reasoning behind starting a PFLAG.  Listen to this CBC interview with Justin Lemphers. 

Justin’s information and the website for PFLAG:  

Justin (332-2330) and on the web: http://www.pflagcanada.ca/en/index-e.asp

Come be part of the healing when the meetings start up in January.  If you’re looking for people who have some experience with going through a family member or friend coming out, PFLAG is designed as that perfect resource.  Or if you don’t live in Whitehorse, use the link to find a chapter in your area.

A Letter to Louise: the best argument for affirming GLBT people   Leave a comment

Bruce W. Lowe, a graduate of Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (1946), and former pastor, has written a beautiful letter to a woman who had been his friend for 50 years.

Recently, during one of the many visits we have had since then she said to me “My brother hates God because God made him gay, and he knows he is going to hell, and I do, too, for that is what the Bible says.”  At that time I had only some suppositions – quite negative – about homosexuality and had never thought it needed study.  But her words made me want to know as much as I could learn.  (from his introduction)

He took it on himself to read and study the issue carefully, and he wrote a response to her a few years later.  I have only reprinted here the beginning of it, but the title links to the whole letter.  It’s worth your time to read it if you believe that gays are not acceptable to God, or even that they must remain celibate if they are Christian.

A LETTER TO LOUISE

To: Louise, dear friend, beloved of God

From: Bruce, by the immeasurable grace of God, a brother in Christ

Your heavy-hearted words to Anna Marie and me the last time we saw you will always burn in our hearts: “My brother hates God because God made him gay, and he knows he is going to hell, and I do, too, for that is what the Bible says.” I struggled for a response, realizing suddenly that what I knew about gays and what the Bible says about them was very superficial. Anna Marie’s immediate response to you was, “No one will go to hell who puts his faith in Jesus Christ.” How gloriously true! Whatever else the Bible says or doesn`t say, homosexuals are not necessarily going to hell.

I decided to give serious study to homosexuality and what the Bible says about it. Thank God! There was so much to learn about gays and lesbians–and the Bible–that I am so glad to have come to know. It distresses me, though, to realize that most others of our church people do not know these facts about homosexuality and what the Bible really says, and that their thinking, like my previous concept, is based on suppositions, not facts, and on feelings, which, of course, have no place in a thoughtful consideration of facts.

I am now convinced that the presumption that you and your brother have about his condemnation is unjustified. I have written out what I believe is clearly a correct interpretation of pertinent Biblical passages; it is Appendix B to this letter. A correct interpretation is dependent on following dependable principles of interpretation, so I discuss these principles in Appendix A. In the body of the letter I have put the convictions I have come to into ten statements that I believe you and I and your brother and our church families must come to understand about homosexuality and about gays and lesbians. But I know some will never accept them, so I have something I want to say to those people; I have made it Appendix C.

Forgive the length of this treatise, but I didn’t think I could address this matter adequately with fewer words. Also forgive the somewhat academic structure; I felt the nature of my study rather required it. I pray that this will give you some of the welcome insights my study has given me.

The rest of the letter you can read yourself—and he does a thorough job, so it is a bit long.  But it is one of the clearest descriptions of the Biblical texts, and one of the clearest arguments for accepting gays and lesbians as they are.  He includes all the Bible verses as well.  It’s a good read, and if you are struggling with your faith in regards to your own same-sex feelings, or struggling too with a family member or loved one who is gay or lesbian, this is for you.

Thanks, Bruce!

Posted December 6, 2010 by jstueart in churches, coming out

The fear of losing everything and everybody   1 comment

Many times people ask why a person didn’t come out beforehand–why they waited, why they lived a lie, or stayed hidden, why they kept their secret.  To understand this, you must understand the fear associated with coming out, especially for those who are both gay and Christian.

Christianity: the ultimate lifestyle choice

First of all, you already understand that being a Christian is the biggest lifestyle choice you can make—it changes everything from your friends, your activities, to your career, and certainly adds a component of the supernatural–a relationship with God–into the mix.  That’s an all-encompassing choice: to be a Christian is to fill your life with Christian people, events, motivations, aspirations, and other things.

It is also about joining a church family–a group to do all of that stuff with together in a building called a church.  You can only be friends, or be intimate friends, with a few people–and becoming a Christian is like being connected to a whole club for your life.  You eliminate, or limit, most other activities outside of church-related ones–because you just don’t have the time.  A Christian reduces his or her world to a set of people who support, affirm, encourage and love them throughout their lives (if they are lucky to live in the same place for a long time).   It also guides your future—you stay with the same denomination if you move; it may guide your decisions as you make those moves, because you are always in prayer.  This is a 24hour hobby, this being Christian.  You aren’t just gold-plated; you get turned into solid gold.  Becoming Christian takes over everything you are.

But if you’ve shrunk your visible society down to the size of a church—and you’re gay—you have a dilemma.  In a society where churches fear homosexuals, fear them enough to want to silence them, legislate against them, push them out of their churches, or strip them of their ability to serve, and finally to withdraw love from them, stop listening to them, and ostracize them—it is not a safe place to be gay, and in the end, it’s not a safe place to be an authentic Christian either.

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What is “Welcoming and NOT Affirming”?

“Welcoming and not affirming” is a murky idea.  As an English teacher, it’s hard to read it and really understand what it means.  We all know what “welcome” is and how to welcome, but it seems “not affirming” is an odd way to express a verb.  It seems important to figure out what “affirming” is and then what “not” doing that would look like.  According to the dictionary, affirming is defined as:

  • State as a fact; assert strongly and publicly
    • he affirmed the country’s commitment to peace
    • he affirmed that she was, indeed, a good editor
    • “Pessimism,” she affirmed, “is the most rational view.”
  • Declare one’s support for; uphold or defend
    • the referendum affirmed the republic’s right to secede
  • Accept or confirm the validity of (a judgment or agreement); ratify
  • Make a formal declaration rather than taking an oath (e.g., to testify truthfully)
  • (of a court) Uphold (a decision) on appeal
  • Offer (someone) emotional support or encouragement
    • there are five common ways parents fail to affirm their children
    • good teachers know that students need to be both affirmed and challenged

Antonyms include: negate, reject, deny, nullify, renounce, refuse, decline

So, “welcoming and not affirming” could just as easily be said as “welcoming and denying ” or “welcoming and rejecting.”  We can probably see that no one wants to have a billboard say that they are both “welcoming and rejecting”….  but in a sense that’s what welcoming and not affirming means.

The other problem with this phrase is that for most evangelicals the adjectives don’t modify the same noun.  What are we “Welcoming” –all people, we might say.  What are we “not affirming”–a sinful lifestyle.  But without the nouns to make a difference, the phrase gets confusing—and we end up saying we are “Welcoming, but not affirming” actual people.  Because we’re not saying we’re “welcoming and not affirming” a lifestyle….  You’re not welcoming a lifestyle into your church are you?

But perhaps there is another definition that we need to consider.

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