Church deja vu: We’ll take your money, but you can’t serve.

Note: This post is a long, but required, background to groking the following entry. The follow-up of that post is that we ended up leaving for Denver before the church leaders made a decision one way or the other making it a moot point. Previously it was locked to a small group of people but today I’ve opened it up to everyone.

Benjamin and I have been attending Flatirons Community Church for over a year now. A month ago they announced that they would be starting a Deaf ministry and were asking for volunteers. I’ve really missed interpreting and thought I’d try to become involved again. After contacting them once a week for three weeks (once by email, once by a note at the information desk on Sunday morning, and once via a call to their offices) they finally emailed me last week asking, in a not-so-abrupt way, what my qualifications were and how I thought I could help. I replied with my background interpreting for Gateway Community Church.

About the same time the Flatirons kicked off their BRiX campaign which in short is their campaign to build a new building as they have outgrown their current location many times over and are told they would not be able to renew their lease on the current building when it expires in 2 years.

Flatirons, like Gateway, is very gay-welcoming — not in the affirming way, but in the same way they would welcome a perpetrator of domestic violence or an alcoholic: come and get help. For the most part this doesn’t bother me, I find value in the sermons and worship and can ignore their unspoken bigoted viewpoints on homosexuality.

In a sense this is all a big episode of deja vu. Gateway did a similar building campaign for similar reasons about two (three?) years before we left Austin. We contributed financially to building the new building only to feel like we were kicked out of the church after having done so because the leadership found out I was gay. I can’t bring myself to even think about giving Flatirons money towards building their new building. Every time I do I have bile rise up in the back of my throat and I become hostile and defensive.

The rational, logical, part of me realizes that I’m making a strong correlation between Flatirons and Gateway and that to date I don’t have any official information that would confirm that Flatirons has the same “no gay people in leadership” position that Gateway had. Furthermore if I continue to find value and meaning in the sermon and worship, isn’t that enough to helping financially?

The rare, but alive, irrational and emotional part of me, however, still has sway. It has become obvious to me over the past several weeks that Gateway’s actions over two years ago hurt me much worse than I had thought. Between that and the tight race on Proposition 8 in California (including all of the lies by the “Christians” who are intent on denying equal rights to fellow human beings) I’ve developed a rather high aversion to the religion of my youth. I’m still trying to work through it all. I’m afraid the pseudo-rambling nature of this post highlights my internal conflict.

It’s no surprise how the greatest determent to a gay person attending church is the bigots that inhabit most of them.

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cpeel

I'm a gay geek techie space nerd living in Seattle, WA.

10 thoughts on “Church deja vu: We’ll take your money, but you can’t serve.”

  1. I’ve sat here for several minutes trying to figure out what to say that might be helpful, and still haven’t come up with anything. I once sat in a church and nearly walked out upon being compared with a cockroach because I was a nonbeliever; that one incident made me so angry that I still see red today when I think about it. I can’t imagine feeling that undertone regularly; I’m saddened, but not surprised, by your comment about Gateway’s actions damaging you so much.

    Are there denominations that are truly gay-welcoming? (I thought the Episcopalians were.) Is it possible to make a spiritual home with one of them? I’m curious if, surface rituals and forms aside, you have more in common with them.

    If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.

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    1. In short, the Episcopal church varies wildly across the country on that issue.

      Also, there are very low-key, modern worship services at some Episcopal churches, usually the larger ones that have a very diverse community to provide for.

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    2. You do so much already! Your and Jeff’s constant support and friendship (in addition to listening to me ramble and rant) is a foundation that I actively build off of.

      B and I have struggled with looking for a gay-welcoming church for many months when we first moved to Denver. We tried several churches (including an MCC, UCC, and Presbyterian church) which were very gay-welcoming and friendly but that we didn’t feel were right for us either because we didn’t connect with the worship, the sermon lacked substance that spoke to us, or they were too traditional and ritualistic (something that reminds B very negatively about is Catholic upbringing).

      I’ve sent an email to the Flatirons pastor with a request to find out more of where the church stands regarding gays serving — based on his response we may be searching again.

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  2. I hope you find an answer you can accept. My reaction is that you need to find a more accepting church, but that may be because I don’t know what it’s like to have a church that’s important to you.

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  3. Conflicted

    I’m glad to see you blogging about this, sometimes that’s really the only way to give the internal conflict a way out. I’ve not found a way to do this and that is why I’ve not stepped foot into Gateway in 17 months.

    I hope you are able to find a way to reconcile the religion of your youth, the obvious scar that Gateway left on you, and the seemingly similar situation facing you now.

    Keep talking – here or privately, doesn’t matter – keep giving those feelings an opening to flow through, and you’ll find your answer. God doesn’t care that you’re gay. He knows your heart and you have the heart of a true servant of God. Hopefully, the representation of God on earth in the church will truly reflect his love and acceptance of you and let you fulfill your role within it. They’d be silly not to jump at the chance to have you lead. Your example is exemplary.

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    1. Re: Conflicted

      First let me say: Happy Birthday!!

      I’m an emotional bottler, not a gusher, but sometimes the pressure gets too much and the cork pops and the blog posts write themselves :)

      I agree, however, that this is something I need to work through and not just push it aside otherwise it’ll just come back up again later.

      Thanks for your affirming words — I value them greatly.

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  4. Your local Episcopal churchmay be more welcoming 9(esp. if you like ceremony). There’s a wide variety in the Episcopal church; here in WA my priest (a woman) can perform same-sex marriages. In TX the bishop has forbidden them. In DFW they don’t ordain women.

    I’m not sure what the bishop for that part of Colorado has decided, but there’s a good chance you can find a church (it would probably have to be a larger one) where gay people are accepted in the same way that straight people are.

    I can’t imagine going to a church that wanted to “fix” me; in fact that was one of the reasons left my first church in Austin. The members of the church believed there was something wrong with gay people, and having been friends with several real ones I just couldn’t be in the presence of an actual gay person I values as a friend and believe there was something wrong with them.

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    1. After a little more research, all of Colorado is under one diocese, so all of Colorado has the same options that the Bishop gets to set. I can’t find (yet) whether he has approved a same-sex marriage right, but I do see that Grace and St. Stephen’s church have split from the national Episcopal church over the confirmation of Bishop Gene Robinson, so wherever those two churches are they’d be on the “something wrong” with gay people end.

      Good luck finding a place you can call home. Michelle and I are not sure the first church we tried here is it yet.

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    2. Thanks for the suggestion and the research. Unfortunately ceremony is one of the things that B really doesn’t like due to his Catholic raising (I don’t mind it so much being raised Methodist). We haven’t visited an Episcopal church yet, however, so I’m certainly not ruling one out without trying it. Pending how my conversation with Flatiron’s pastor goes, we may be on the church search again and I’ll put the Episcopal church at the top of my “to research” list.

      Best of luck on your church search as well!

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