Allergic to religion

I grew up in a small Texas town where there were more churches – 23 to be exact – than banks and restaurants combined. We attended church as a family every Sunday morning for Sunday school and service, not to mention youth choir, youth group, Wednesday night service and more. There I learned sex before marriage was wrong, good girls dressed demurely, wives were subservient to their husbands, hate the sin & love the sinner, and that all gays were going to hell.

The last bit was more than a little inconvenient when I figured out that I was gay around the age of 12. I then spent the next 9 years praying to god to take away my feelings and make me straight. Eternal damnation can be a pretty strong motivator. I had almost a decade of self-loathing, self-hating, and depression before deciding that literally the only way I was going to survive was believing that god made me gay. I was fortunate that I was able to turn that corner. Many LGBT youth do not.

When I was 22 during my first job after college I struggled to reconcile being gay and Christian. I approached the youth minister at the Baptist church I was attending for help. He counseled me that being celibate in both mind and body was the only way to be gay and also live in god’s grace. We formed a friendship and played racquetball at the local Y after work. At least until this Baptist youth minister with a wife and kids hit on me in the locker room after a match. I guess celibacy only applies to non-closeted homos.

I found another church in Austin that appeared to accept me. “Come as you are” was their slogan. Early on I met with the teaching pastor at a coffee shop and we discussed my apprehension about attending the church given my prior experiences. He assured me that I was welcome – and I was for a while. I was an ASL interpreter almost every Sunday for 4 years until they decided that no one who was gay could be a “spiritual leader” in the church. They then proceeded to debate if interpreting the sermon counted as being a spiritual leader. If so, I would be asked to step down. I was just a few months away from moving to Denver so I bypassed the charades altogether and stopped attending the church.

Despite that betrayal I sought out and attended a church regularly after moving to Denver. Like a domestic violence survivor, I kept going back.

Then came California’s Prop-8. Nothing brings good Christians together like hate.

Catholics, Mormons, Evangelicals, and other religious groups all banded together to force their belief of “traditional marriage” on others using lies and deception. All to revoke the rights of loving couples to obtain a civil marriage — a purely civil and non-religious contract that provides many important legal rights that cannot be obtained by other means. The final day of the Prop-8 trial was the day I decided that I wanted nothing to do with religion of any kind. God and his followers could go screw themselves. I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. To quote my blog entry at the time: forget the bathwater, the baby’s dead.

Since that day I have a very strong allergic reaction to religion of any kind. I get defensive. I get sad. I get angry. I lash out. I do whatever is necessary to protect myself from the feeling of deep betrayal and memories of self-loathing and self-hatred. Religious-themed Christmas music triggers it. Attending a function in a religious building triggers it. Knowing how many pious Evangelicals voted for Trump despite his bigotry, misogyny, and racism continues to set me off daily.

The damage to me is done and I want no part of it. I have been abused by religion enough and I am fortunate to have escaped with my life. The day I turned my back on religion was a turning point in my life. Since then I have become a healthier, happier, more caring, more compassionate, more empathetic, and more loving person.

Churches, Community, and Family

On Saturday night I entered a church for the first time in years. I did so to attend a service of the Congregation Bet Haverim, a reconstructionist jewish congregation which Chris’s friend Rabbi Josh Lesser presides over.1 The service was a bit different than usual, as it was concert as well as a mini-service. The occasion was the celebration of the Jew’s escape from Egypt.2

I stopped attending church two or so years ago back in Denver during the passing of Proposition 8 in California. The trifecta of the Catholic, Evangelical, and Mormon organizations banding together to fund the pro-Prop 8, along with the lies they were propagating to do so, made it clear to me that I wanted no part of anything remotely associated with them. Being back in a church service (primarily in a building that resembled the churches of my youth) really hit me hard.

We arrived an hour before the concert started and Chris was visiting with old friends while we were sitting in the pews. I sat there deep in thought, no doubt looking like I went into full introvert wall-flower mode to Chris, processing the flood of emotions about being in a place so familiar and yet so frustratingly repulsive to me. The net of the experience was the evaluation and comparison between community and family.

In-large, white people have no natural community. Unlike latinos, whose primary community consists of tightly-knit families (I had the joy of being part of one while I was with Benjamin), white people often seek community in their churches. Far from being a place where they are just spoonfed what to believe, churches provide a place where larger families are forged. People to lean on and call when life gets hard, like when someone is sick, in the hospital, or dies. Churches are surrogate families and a place to meet people when moving to new towns.

Churches are also professionals when it comes to running gays out of that community.3 But gays have something to fall back on for community: each other. In fact, we even have a name for other gays: family.4 Much like a church community or biological family, gays form their own families, colloquially known as family-by-choice, as so many of us have been hurt by other communities, like churches or families-by-birth. When moving to a new town, getting a foot in the door of the gay community is the best way to go to meet new people and get plugged in. Like a family we support and help each other. Like a family (and most churches) we are dysfunctional to some degree too. But for the most part we band together. Unlike churches, the gay family is highly inclusive: gays, bisexuals, straight allies — anyone who supports us is implicitly, if not explicitly, included.

Despite being a white guy, I have a strong community of people without the trappings of church. I’m extremely thankful for my family-by-choice, ironically I’m a member because of something I had no choice over. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

1 Interestingly, the congregation meets in a Presbyterian church.

2 Being forced to attend Sunday School in both the Methodist and Baptist churches all throughout my youth, I am well versed in the bible stories of both the old and new testament — including the escape from Egypt, Joseph’s coat of many colors, and the search for the promised land which were both mentioned in the service. It didn’t occur to me until that night that old testament is the bulk of the Jewish beliefs (very roughly speaking), and my cursory familiarity with it is a great basis for understanding what was going on in the service.

3 Not all churches. Some, like Congregation Bet Haverim or Metropolitan Community Church in Denver are very welcoming. I’ve my own share of experiences in other churches, however.

4 It’s not at all unusual for gays to refer to one another as ‘family’ out in public, eg: Oh, that’s John, he’s family.

Romney and the Religious Right

The Religious Right, specifically the Evangelicals, are in a tizzy. Their worst fear is that Romney will get the Republican nomination and they’ll be left with two unpalatable choices: a Democrat who is a Christian1 or a Republican who is a cultist2.

Lest you think I’m joking, let me reassure you that I know from first-hand experience. I was raised in a small town in the Texas panhandle. I attended church in that town from when I was born until I left for college at 16. About 12 years or so of that was at the Methodist church and the other half was at the First Baptist church (part of the Southern Baptist Convention). And despite the greater Methodist church being more accepting and liberal – Methodist churches in small towns are as conservative as you can get. So I can speak with authority what conservative small town evangelicals are taught and, presumably, believe.

Both churches taught that Mormons3 weren’t Christians but were, in fact, a cult. These churches only begrudgingly conceded that Catholics are Christian if pressed4. But Mormons? They’re in the same bucket as Jehovah Witnesses, wiccans, and satan worshipers.

So that brings us back to Romney. A group of evangelical leaders met this past weekend to decide which non-Romney candidate they’ll support. Note that it wasn’t which Republican candidate, but which non-Romney candidate. Their choice? Rick Santorum. Keep in mind that Santorum is Catholic, not Protestant. They’re that desperate to keep Romney out of the White House. Their only non-Mormon, non-Catholic choices were Rick Perry and Ron Paul, neither of which are serious competitors to Romney. So why Santorum instead of Gingrich, who is also Catholic? My guess is that the twice-divorced, cheated-on-two-wives Gingrich isn’t the “family values” candidate they were looking for.

What does this mean for those of us not falling off the right side of sanity? Grab some popcorn, throw a couple of bucks Romney’s way before the primary, and watch the evangelicals squirm from now through November.

Update: And just in case you don’t believe me.

1 Assuming they really believe he’s a Christian as he professes to be. Many of them still believe he’s a Muslim. Sadly I’m not joking.

2 I don’t believe this. Or rather I believe that most all religious groups are cults. Either way, I hold that Mormons are no worse off than anyone else.

3 Anyone seen the new Mormon ad campaign? The buses around here have large, 3-panel ads with a person in each panel with the phrase “I’m a Mormon” in them. Sadly. Every time I see one my mind parses it as “I’m a moron”. Mormons aren’t morons, and I don’t think they are. But pure #FAIL on the ad campaign.

4 If cornered they usually say something like “As long as [the Catholic] accepted Jesus as their savior, then they’re a Christian. If they haven’t and are just listening to the pope, they’re not”.

Evidence Christians used lies during Prop 8

Today finished out the testimony phase of “Perry v. Schwarzenegger”, also known as the Prop 8 Trial. I’ve been following the trial via live-blogging site courtesy of the Courage Campaign Institute. The testimony has been very revealing — particularly the part where the Proposition 8 proponents blatently lied to the public during the campaign about what gay marriage would mean (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 9:42):

“Polygamists are waiting in the wings! If we have same sex marriage, we’ll have polygamy next.”

Despite no one anywhere advocating anything about polygamy. And:

“Let’s just say that sexual attraction is definition. Pedophiles would have to be allowed to marry. Mothers and sons. Man who wanted to marry horse. Any combination would have to be allowed.”

Aside: I certainly don’t condone pedophilia but it’s pretty obvious that pedophiles are already allowed to marry another adult of the opposite sex.

Those are just two small examples – there are many more in other parts of the testimony. It was obvious at the time, and even moreso now, that the entire campaign was run on lies and fear. It’s clear throughout the testimony presented by expert witness on both sides that there is no “better for society” reason, no “children will be better off” reason, no “it’ll destroy traditional marriage” reason to prevent gays and lesbians from getting married. What’s the real reason our right to marry was taken away in CA? Because it goes against some people’s religious views. Last time I checked it was the power of the state government, not any church, that allowed couples to marry.

And just who were these “Prop 8 proponents” casting out these lies? The quotes above were from a video that, the defendants, financed during the campaign. And who financed Also from a video that created (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 10:06):

“We know that today we must win. That’s why we are so grateful that 2,500 pastors have come out on consistent basis every month. If someone is going to vote no, we flip them to show that kids will be taught this in schools. We have spent thousands of dollars on polling. Continue to do so. In 1999, LDS got involved in Hawaii. With capital S, they were significantly involved. No different this time. Campaign will cost minimum of $25 million and LDS across this state deeply involved. Catholic Bishop in SD, three evangelical ministers from SD all got involved. Asked Focus on the Family for money. They sent us $50,000 that allowed us to get petitions printed. Thanks to you, we are here, we will win.” (emphasis mine).

And just in case you thought “three evangelical ministers isn’t so bad – must be a Mormon and Catholic thing”, here’s an email admitted into evidence that was sent to listing who was involved (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 10:23):

Evangelicals—400,000 signatures; 3,00 pastors
Orthodox Jews
(emphasis mine)

Maybe God and I will work out our conflicts, but Christianity can go screw itself. Take your “hate the sin love the sinner” and “think of the children” mantras and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Using John’s logical conclusion to a metaphor in a related blog entry: forget the bathwater, the baby’s dead – throw it out.

Ian McKellan echos my own thoughts about organized religion

Ian McKellan sums up my own thoughts about organized religion quite nicely (via the LA Times):

“I increasingly see organized religion as actually my enemy. They treat me as their enemy,” said the British actor, who came out 20 years ago. “Not all Christians, of course. Not all Jews, not all Muslims. But the leaders. . . . Why should I take the judgment of a declared celibate about my sexual needs? He’s basing his judgment on laws that would fit life in the Bronze Age. So if I’m lost to God, organized religion is to blame.”

Unfortunately, religion, not just organized religion, has begun to leave a very bad taste in my mouth. I removed the Christian station from my radio dial over a year ago. We stopped regularly attending church several months ago. Up until this month I was still interpreting at the church, but I’ve asked for a break until at least the end of the year if not indefinitely.

You might argue that I’m throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and perhaps I am. But right now religion only raises my blood pressure and reminds me about my second-class citizenship.

unChristian faith & Christianists

Ask any gay man or woman who grew up in a Christian church and they’ll likely be able to tell you about the time in their life when they dealt with self-hatred and shame. Self-hatred that you felt something that the church was adamantly telling you was sinful and wrong. Shame that you couldn’t stop feeling the way you did.

Luckily some people get past that — I did. Some people even get past that without leaving behind their religious beliefs — I did. I, however, seemed to have gone to the extreme and began to be ashamed of being a Christian. In the gay community the only thing worse than a gay Christian is a gay Republican.

I mean, look around – you have God Hates Fags, the “Gays caused 911” Jerry Falwall, and James Dobson’s anti-gay “Focus on the Family” organization — all of whom purport to be Christians. Throw in all of the Christians who are adamantly against gay marriage (Prop 8 anyone?) and it isn’t at all surprising to see how being labeled a Christian isn’t something one wants advertised. Even some atheist/agnostic blogs see the massive disconnect between the Christian beliefs (love your neighbor, God loves everyone, God’s grace covers all sin, don’t judge, nobody’s perfect) and the flat out anti-Christian behavior and have given them a new label: Christianists.

Some Christians see the disconnect too and have tried to publicly distance themselves from some of these extremist persons and organizations. Two individuals, David Kinnaman and Gave Lyons, have written a book that discusses the current image problem Christians have: unChristian, What a new generation really thinks about Christianity … and why it matters. I read the book and couldn’t help but nod through the whole thing — these guys get it. Now if only the rest of the Christianists would step up and pay attention.

The authors, one of whom works for the Barna Group – a Christian organization who does statistical research and polling, summarize and explore the extensive poll results gathered by the Fermi Project. The book is broken down into 6 big areas:

  • Hypocritical
  • Get Saved!
  • Antihomosexual
  • Sheltered
  • Too Political
  • Judgmental

Each chapter delves into one topic and explores why Christians are seen in these lights. What I liked about the book is that they are up-front and honest that the perceptions are real, real because of how Christians behave. Christians really are seen as anti-homosexual, judgmental and too political. Many times they use such verbiage as “you may not like being labeled as judgmental but our research shows that if you tell someone that you are a Christian x% of people will paint you with that brush”. One excellent line that sticks with me:

We [Christians] have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.

The book offers suggestions and thoughts on how to change these perceptions by being less unChristian, and more like Christ — more, well, Christian. All along the way he emphasizes why fixing the perception is important: without a change in perception Christianity will become irrelevant. The new generations, Mosaics and Busters (currently folks between ages 17 and 30), are leaving Christianity in droves — who wants to be a member of an organization seen with the attributes listed above?

The good news, at least in my mind, is that we really can take back the label Christian and I can eventually stop being ashamed of the label myself. There is most certainly a need for an organization that serves the poor, welcomes all into the church to worship, feeds the hungry, provides shelter for the homeless, treats all people with respect and dignity, and recognizes that no one is perfect but that we’re all trying to help each other along. That organization should be the Christian church as those things like up perfectly with what Jesus did.

I started reading the book with an “us vs them” mentality – “us” being mostly gays and “them” being Christianists. And part of me still feels that way (see aforementioned anti-homosexual reference) but I’m working to internalize that I too exhibit unChristian behavior (judgmental and hypocritical at the very least), behavior that I need to work on. That said, I still want to buy a dozen copies and send them out to a few select people :)

Flatirons steps up – gays welcome to serve

Today I had a meeting with Jim Burgen, the head pastor at Flatirons Community Church. The meeting was to discuss and answer the question: Are gay individuals allowed to serve at Flatirons?

The answer, in short, is yes.

The answer, in greater length, is still yes :) Flatirons is committed to being a welcoming church to everyone who is searching for God’s will for their lives. Note that it isn’t a “we’re welcoming until we find out who you are” church, but a “come as you are, together we’ll search for God’s will for our lives” church. While Jim and I disagree with some what the Bible says about homosexuality, that doesn’t prevent us from worshiping and learning together. Moreover, the important factor is that Flatirons “isn’t going to cherry pick the ‘top 5 sins’ and use those as a guide on who can serve and who can’t”, to paraphrase a segment of the conversation. Jim’s message last week (MP3 of message) is particularly relevant as well – I’m sorry I missed it in person.

Here’s a to-the-point FAQ regarding gays at Flatirons based on my conversation with Jim:

  • Are gay people welcome in the church? Yes.
  • Are gay people free to be themselves in the church? Yes.
  • Can I be open about my partner/husband/significant other at church? Yes.
  • You mean I’m free to introduce my partner/husband/significant other as such to individuals in the church? Yes.
  • Am I allowed to serve? Yes, if you are otherwise qualified. (eg: no luddites in the sound booth, interpreters must be able to interpret, etc)
  • Does Flatirons support the “gay lifestyle” and gay marriage? No, and probably not.
  • Is Flatirons gay friendly? By my definition, yes.
  • Is Flatirons gay affirming? By my definition, no. (and I’m perfectly OK with that )

Overall I felt very good about the conversation and the outcome. It was everything that I had hoped for. The fact that Jim took time out of his crazy schedule to meet with me conveys to me how important it was to him that Flatirons be a welcoming, inclusive church.

I look forward to getting involved with the Deaf ministry, barring transportation issues, and continuing to meet and get to know other Flatironers.

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.

Gateway: Interpreting and being Gay

On Friday, July 21 I received the following email from Ted, the Teaching Pastor at Gateway:

Your ears were probably burning last night, because we were talking about you at the Gay/Lesbian small group. Don’t worry. Everyone who knew you went around the circle and said what an awesome guy you are and what an example you are to them of a Christ-follower. We started talking about you because someone in the group asked about what would happen if a gay person wanted to lead at Gateway. I recalled a conversation that you and I had at Einsteins probably 4 years ago. You told me your story and about your desire to serve God through doing deaf interpretation. I explained to you that I was excited about that. Even back then, though, it was the policy of Gateway to make sure that all spiritual leaders were walking with God in a pure and healthy way and could serve as examples to anyone who looked at their lives. While I think you may have had a different opinion in regards to the application of that policy to gays, we both agreed that your role was not necessarily a spiritual leadership position.

Fast-forward to a few months ago . . . Gary Foran, our Small Groups Pastor, was introducing some people to you after a church service. I believe they had a son or daughter that was interested in studying sign language. Anyway, while you all were talking, you introduced Benjamin as your “partner” to these folks. These were people who didn’t go to Gateway, and Gary felt very uncomfortable about what they would think.

Hey, if I just met some people, and Stephanie [Ted’s wife] was standing next to me, of course I would introduce her has my partner to anyone. It’s just that in this case, it bothered Gary enough to bring it to our Management Team — John, Gary, Charles, and Ted. They started a conversation with me about your role. Some of them feel like it is a position of spiritual leadership — that you are communicating Scripture from up front. I told them that I don’t view it that way. You’re in a serving role, which you do faithfully and sacrificially and with excellence, and it would be a mistake for us to walk around disqualifying people from service just because we had questions about one thing or another in their character.

That’s about as far as the conversation went with those guys, but I get the sense that it’s going to re-surface soon. Recently we removed a woman from a prominent spiritual leadership position because she had an affair and was unrepentant about it. As would be expected, her response was, “What about this person and what about that person? Do you know what they do? Why are you focusing on only me?” And so the past couple of weeks we have been talking through different folks in leadership that we need to have hard conversations with. It’s not going to be pretty.

I can’t help but think that soon I’m going to be asked to have a “talk” with you. That would break my heart because of the friendship I have with you and Benjamin and because of my belief that you are not necessarily in a spiritual leadership position. It would further break my heart because of the ramifications it will have on many in the gay community, whose friendships I also cherish. So, I was wondering if you and I could talk things over unofficially before this goes any further. I want to hear your perspective, and even your frustration. Maybe together we can figure out some kind of solution.

Casey, you and Benjamin are an important part of this church. I’m sure it hurts you tremendously just to read this email. I’m sorry for that. I just think that before the current situation snowballs, we can have a dialogue and figure something out.

You are welcome to share this email with Benjamin, but please keep it confidential until you and I have interacted more about it. We can carry on this conversation via email, phone, or in person.

Wow, what a way to kill my weekend. I thought about it some and replied back with this few hours later, notice the attempt at humor, that’s often what I do initially to compartmentalize when I feel very hurt:

This almost feels like deja vu .

Last night Terri and I held another Silent Dinner for several folks who are helping out with the Deaf ministry at the church. It’s a chance for folks to practice their signing skills as well as for us to get to know each other better. One of the gals asked if I was planning on attending the Kids Quest Party out at the Massengale Ranch and I said that no, I wasn’t because I didn’t want to go without Benjamin and that I’m trying to ‘lay low’ about my sexuality so church leadership doesn’t ask me to stop signing. They asked what I meant so I explained about the standards for church leadership positions, how being gay didn’t fit in that definition, and that I was operating undercover until the church leadership decided that what I did was a leadership position and was asked to stop.

Looks like I didn’t lay low enough. I recognized that the conversation with Gary would probably come back to bite me but such is life.

I’ll tell you what I told the gals last night: I respect that the church *must* have standards for people who are seen as leaders, in fact – I as a layperson demand it. I obviously disagree where being gay falls into these standards but I accept that standards must be set. I’m wanting to ride this train of helping with the deaf ministry for as long as God has me on it. If God decides that he wants me doing something else (or somewhere else) then so be it. Will I be disappointed? Very much so. Will I be frustrated and heartbroken? Yes. Will I be bitter and jaded, only for a few hours :)

I hate to say it, but this really doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Because of that reason I have had some time to think about what I would want to do if I was asked to step down. Despite thinking about it, I don’t have any good answers at this point. Based on the conversation with the women last night and their reaction, I have concerns that the deaf ministry would be severely hindered. I also have some concern about Gateway’s reputation among the gay population who may feel as though they are being treated as second-class citizens (I’m not even sure that I would disagree with them). I hope and pray that neither happen.

Ho humm… not exactly the email I was hoping for on a Friday afternoon. I don’t mind getting together to talk about it if you’d like. I prefer email or in person as Benjamin tells me that my social phone skills are very very poor and that I don’t communicate well via that medium. I agree that keeping this between you, Benjamin and myself is an excellent approach. I appreciate you giving me a ‘heads up’.

On Sunday afternoon I sent him a second email:

Benjamin and his friend Eric were out at the clubs last night and saw Danny Harvill. Danny made a point of asking Benjamin if you had talked to me. My assumption is that Danny is a part of the GLBT small group. I’m curious exactly what was discussed such that they knew you planned to talk to me. According to Benjamin via Danny – a lot of the gay population will be very upset / possibly leaving the church if I am asked to stop. Not sure how much of that is Danny being dramatic (possibly) and/or Benjamin exaggerating (possibly) and/or it being true. but there you have it.

I shared your email with Benjamin. He took the approach that I thought he would and expressed his concern and frustration about attending a church where gay people were not allowed to be leaders. He said that he recognized that he doesn’t expect any church outside of MCC to be totally accepting of gays but he expected more from Gateway. He also said that while he loves the building, the people, the music of Gateway, that he doesn’t need Gateway to worship God and asked why we should attend or financially support a church that doesn’t support us. Granted, he can get pretty dramatic when he’s really passionate about something so take all of that with a grain of salt, but I can’t say that I disagree with his sentiments. [pause] I just want to talk to him about this paragraph and he said his essence is he feels now that he has been supporting a church via One Life that is indirectly working against him.

I reminded him that nothing had been decided for sure yet. After I said those words I had to think about it — the writing is on the wall. I don’t expect the church leadership to change their opinion on this matter so even if it doesn’t end up blowing up now it will always be hanging over my head.

The thing I found truly ironic was your message today. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good message (and a relatively easy one to interpret thankfully) but I found it ironic that here I was, a volunteer who’s volunteering days are possibly numbered, interpreting a message who’s goal was to encourage people to open their eyes to themselves and to God and to go through open doors to serve others either in the church or directly in the community. After the 2nd service today a deaf woman came up to me and introduced herself and thanked me for interpreting for her. She said I did a good job. A hearing woman came up and said that she didn’t understand sign but loved to watch me interpret, particularly the songs. Finally a young man came up and said I did a good job as well and that he was an interpreter too (both of his parents are deaf).

So there you have four rambling paragraphs full of some words but not getting either of us anywhere I fear. Being the analytical person that I am, allow me to make a list of possible future outcomes I can see from this point:

  1. No decision is made (or the decision to not make a decision is made)
    1. I continue interpreting, knowing that the decision might be made at a later time and still feeling like I’m really not welcomed there in my role.
    2. I step down from interpreting as I feel like I am no longer supported by the church staff.
  2. A decision is made to have me step down – I stop interpreting.
    1. I adopt a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy and only tell people why I stopped if ask.
    2. I don’t advertise, but don’t hide, why I stopped.
    3. I lie when asked about why I’m not interpreting (Note: this one won’t happen.)
  3. A decision is made to allow me to continue
    1. I continue interpreting
    2. I stop interpreting due to the knowledge that the reason I’m allowed to continue is due to a technicality of me not being a ‘spiritual’ leader, not actually due to being accepted.

Of course, those don’t really get us anywhere either. I guess the important thing I want to convey is that I don’t feel entirely welcome at the church any longer doing what I love and serving how I feel that God is leading me. That makes me very sad.

Regardless of the decision and outcome I want to ensure that the deaf ministry continues. I also want to ensure that the Gateway gay community stays and feels supported. Finally, I’ve decided that I want all the players in this decision to take responsibility for the final decision and the outcome thereof.

On Sunday evening Ted replies with the following

I really appreciate the thoughtful response in your past two emails. I am really impressed with your reaction — that you want to do what is best the folks in the deaf ministry, but you want the church to act respectfully and fairly. Yes, I can totally see the irony in your situation today. That would have been very hard for me if I had been in your shoes (or in Benjamin’s). I would be very tempted to say “screw it” if I were you, but I hope you don’t.

This is an important opportunity for Gateway to wrestle through what kind of church it is going to be, and I think it is also an opportunity for you to work through what sort of faith community you really want to be in. It’s just much more complex than people want it to be. Certain people on my team want a very black and white response to how we lead leaders and volunteers, a response that doesn’t take into account individual stories. On the other side, I sense from people like Danny and others that this is a very black-and-white issue to them — “You either accept us unconditionally in all aspects, or you don’t. We don’t care what other people think.”

I’m really hoping that all parties can have the courage to wrestle through the gray areas and not abandon the process. A lot is at stake here — a lot of hearts and some very foundational things about our church.

Casey, this is exactly why I came to you unofficially before I might possibly be asked to speak to you officially. I feel like you appreciate the complexity of this more than most people I talk to. And I hope you know that I am willing to put aside assumptions and the need for everything to make perfect sense. Remember, I’m the guy who was willing to meet with you and Benjamin to talk to you about your relationship? That was a risk, and there are many people at Gateway (unfortunately) who would be very angry at me for trying to help two guys improve their love for one another. All of that is to say, I hope I have enough money in the bank with you so that you know my intentions toward you are good. And while you have more at stake in this situation than I do, it still totally sucks for me, too.

Let’s take some time to pray about this and ask God for a wise solution. Are you willing to do that and stay in communication with me on what you are hearing from Him?

So there you have it. I’m not sure what will come of it or what I even want to come of it. There is no easy way out.