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Letters, sermons, etc. about homosexuality

Letter from a gay person to his church

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The following is an emotional letter from an anonymous gay person to the Church Council at Our Savior's Church - apparently an Episcopal church. It was dated 1994-NOV-27. It is an eloquent, agonized appeal by a devout believer. It might help you understand the pain that gays and lesbians feel within religiously conservative congregations, whether Christian or another faith. It might be useful to readers who have viewed homosexuality as an issue to be dealt with rather than as a group of real people.

The letter contains a factual error: the reference to 30% of all youth suicides being by gays and lesbians is a maximum estimate, not an actual estimate.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I joined this congregation almost four years ago. Since then I have come to know and love many of you. And I would like to believe the feelings are mutual. After being a member for two years, as some of you know, I began to feel called to ministry. After discussing it with our Pastor, I approached the church council and requested to be registered with our governing body's candidacy committee. You unanimously agreed to register me and even offered me financial assistance if I needed it.

It is with great guilt that I acknowledge I forgot to thank you in writing or in person for your decision. I have no excuse and ask you to forgive me. The only reason I can offer you to begin to explain why you never heard from me was because my decision whether to go to seminary and seek ordination was wrought with serious internal conflict. I was struggling deeply with something. I did not even know how to deal with the issue myself, much less with others. It was that struggle that led me to decide not to attempt to go to seminary and seek ordination in our denomination. Some of you have heard that I have reconsidered, and some of you have not. But none of you know why. The reason is that I am gay.

I am telling you this because I think you deserve an explanation for my lack of response to your registration of me and your offer of financial assistance. But also because of the pain this parish, our governing body, and our denomination are causing me and other gay people.

I have known my sexual desires were for other males since I was 11 years old. Although I had several relationships with other boys during my teenage years, I believed my sexual orientation was something I would "outgrow," or that it was just a "phase." Eventually I began to suspect it was not going to go away by itself so I tried to "cure" myself by becoming religious. Of course it did not work, and when I was eighteen I began to accept I was gay, and stopped going to church. Since I was still in high school my plan was to graduate, move away, and go to college somewhere far away and be openly gay. I was not going to tell my mother or brothers about my orientation because I was too afraid of what would happen, and that in telling them I would lose their love. In other words, I still had too much internalized shame, fear and confusion about being gay. Because of family financial matters, I instead moved with my family to this city and got a job. So my hopes never materialized.

Shortly after that, at nineteen, I met another gay boy whose situation was similar. I fell in love with him. We planned to move in together. Before this was to happen though, my mother found a letter I had written to him and confronted me with it. We had a major fight, and my mother forbade us to have any contact with each other ever again. She also forbade me to have any male friends visit the house. (Although I assured her that all my friends, as far as I knew, were straight.) Because I was in college, lived at home, and was financially dependent on my mother I did as she demanded. But then my mother went into denial. She pretended the conversation never took place. Out of fear of losing my mother's love, fear of abuse, and out of shame, I bought into it. I pretended to be straight to my mother, and I pretended the experience never took place. The shame from this ordeal stayed with me until only recently. (My mother now knows I have come completely out of the closet again and she is working toward total acceptance).

I decided to try religion again, believing I just had not prayed enough or been "good enough" to convince God to change me. But something deep inside me kept telling me that what the churches are teaching about homosexuality is wrong. I knew my orientation was not a choice, and deep down I knew it was not something I could change. How could God really be against homosexuals and homosexuality if being homosexual was not my idea? Somehow I could not believe in that kind of God. I found several books and articles at the local library on homosexuality, and they all agreed it was not a mental illness. They all said it was not a choice and that homosexuality was probably determined before birth.

I left the church then, because my conscience bothered me. I could not belong to a church if churches condemned what I secretly was. I decided the whole Christian Church had no place for me, and neither did God since God would not cure me. I believed God must have had something against me. I finally started the process of accepting I am gay and that religion, and God, would not change me. I also stopped considering the possibility that my orientation meant I was mentally ill. But I was still too afraid and ashamed to admit the truth to anyone. Absolutely no one in my "world" knew I was gay.

One day a friend invited me to a Christmas Midnight Mass at the Catholic church he attends. I loved it. The liturgy, candles, music, robes, and the communal nature of the experience seemed to me to be the most natural and beautiful way to worship God. But I still believed God and the whole Christian Church had no place for me, and I never went back.

A year later, at 23, my life took an important turn. I met someone that was in a 12 Step group for those raised in alcoholic homes. This group meets at Our Savior's. As she described her feelings and issues I was amazed. Her family history, minus the sexual orientation issues, was virtually identical with my own. I knew my mother was an alcoholic, but since she had stopped drinking (on her own) I thought she was not an alcoholic anymore. I also never realized how much my mother's alcoholism had affected me. I started recovery. It was the best thing I could ever have done for myself. I was still too afraid and ashamed to discuss my sexual orientation with the group, but for the first time I was able to deal with some of my other issues, like having been abused throughout my life. I also began to reassess my relationship with God.

When I was 24, I started feeling a need to belong to a faith community and be with others who have a similar spirituality. I wanted to join a church that could conceivably accept a gay person if not now then sometime in the foreseeable future. As much as I liked the Catholic Church, I knew they would never accept gays anytime soon, and I disagreed with them theologically on many points. I liked "high church" liturgy though so I decided to try another church that was similar to the Catholic, but less conservative. I remembered a magazine article I read about a pastor from our denomination who fought for gay rights. I also knew many of our churches are "high church," so I decided to attend services here, the same church where my 12 Step group meets.

I loved this church from the start, and I came to love you. After reading and praying about our denomination's theology for two months I joined. I was still confused, afraid, and ashamed of my sexuality, but homosexuality never came up, so I kept my feelings about being gay to myself.

After being a member for about two years, I began to believe God was calling me to ministry. My spirituality had developed and deepened so much I felt an unmistakable yearning to share what I believed was the "good news" of God's totally unconditional love and grace with the world. I talked with our Pastor about it and this is about when I approached the council to become registered as a candidate.

I knew the only way our denomination would ordain an openly gay person was if he or she took a vow of celibacy, but I was still so ashamed, afraid and confused that I was not even willing to admit to being gay, so I never brought it up.

Over the next two years, as I struggled with my conflict about wanting to become a pastor, and struggled with my sexuality, I came to realize that again I was trying to "cure" myself with religion. I was hoping that by being a "good little Christian," (a minister no less!) that I could avoid my sexuality issues entirely. But it was getting harder and harder to do that.

On November 30, 1993, three thugs kidnapped a young gay man named Nicholus Ray West from a local park and murdered him. He was stripped, beaten, and shot nine times producing 27 wounds. This killing coincided with our Sunday school discussions about our denomination's first draft of a statement on human sexuality. It was this killing, together with the animosity toward gay people within this parish that came with the human sexuality document, that led me to come completely out of the closet and forced me to face the truth. I am gay. I cannot change it, nor should I even try. I have come to know that homosexuality is genetic in origin and not caused by environment. It was not caused by my dysfunctional alcoholic home. I do not blame anyone for "making me gay." I am proud of my sexuality, and happy to be gay. I am happier now than I have ever been in my life. I now know God created me this way. Every person I know, my family, my friends, the people from my 12 Step group, my acquaintances, my classmates, and my professors all know. Until now, I have remained too afraid of telling the people of Our Savior's.

But it is the issue of how gay people are treated within our denomination, and more specifically this parish, that concerns me the most. It is the issue I most want you to think about. Some of you have made your anti-gay views quite known. I want you to know the homophobic remarks made by some of you, and others in the parish, hurt me deeply. They also hurt the many other people within the parish who are gay. And yes, they are here. But most of them are in the closet out of fear that you and the other members of this congregation, the larger Christian Church, and the rest of society will reject them.

Brothers and sisters I love Christ. And I love you. But the hostility against gays is forcing me to consider leaving Our Savior's and remaining unchurched. Many of you have made it quite clear to me that the love of Christ is conditional here. To be loved by many of you I have to either not worship here, or if I do, I must never fall in love with someone and have sex with him or marry him. Many of you believe I should try to "cure" myself through prayers or something else. I can tell you firsthand that cures do not work. There is no such thing as an "ex-gay" despite what the Religious Right says. Every major report says the "ex-gay" movement is unsuccessful at doing anything but causing shame, depression, misery, and even suicide. Putting me and other gays in a second-class category is un-Christian, and un-loving.

We do not wish to destroy the American family (I have a family too). We are not against "traditional family values." We do not wish to "recruit" children (this is another myth started by the Religious Right). We are not all promiscuous or immoral. Not any more than anyone else. We are not mentally ill. Not any more than any one else. We do not seek "special rights." All we want is what each of you have, the right to fall in love with whomever we are attracted to and have the people we care about, such as you, accept it the same way you accept heterosexuality. God loves us just as much as God loves all of you.

Please do not force me to leave this parish. I love Our Savior's and so do the other gays here. Conditionalizing one's love for homosexuals leads to severe depression, misery, and even suicide of those who are gay. It is especially hard on teenagers. According to Jocelyn Elders, the Surgeon General of the United States, gay-related issues account for 30 percent of teen suicide. It even leads to harassment, beatings, and murder, as Nicholus Ray West found out.

During the discussion of the human sexuality document we discussed the Bible. Biblical interpretations that allow us a broader definition of love, a definition that allows us to love the homosexual, were clearly made possible.

These interpretations would allow gay people the same things you all enjoy: the right to be in love, have a committed relationship, and have a healthy sex life. These interpretations are possible without destroying the authority of scripture and without making it possible to justify other things that gays too consider immoral, such as child-molesting or adultery.

I am asking all of you as Christians seriously to reconsider your beliefs and accept this broader definition. The narrower view is hurting me and the other gays in this parish. Whether you wish to believe it or not, you already know gay people. Many of us are your friends, some of us may even be members of your family.

Again, thank you for your registration of me and for the offer of financial assistance. But I will not be pursuing ordination in our denomination. I cannot. Our denomination will not allow me to become a minister unless I take a vow of celibacy. And I refuse to do that because it would mean accepting a second-class position within the church. I love myself too much to do that. And I have too much integrity to lie to the church any longer.

Please do not make the same mistake our denomination is making. Do not hurt us anymore. Love your neighbor as yourself.

In the love of Christ,


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Site navigation: Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Essays etc. > here

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Copyright remains with the author, who is unknown
Originally posted on this website: 2003-JAN-5
Latest update: 2008-AUG-06

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