Monday, December 24, 2007

The gift of right answers

Merry Christmas, everyone. It's been interesting - I've had the chance to interact with a number of gay brothers on the internet, and I find the voices of those who have been my "border collies" on the journey coming through me. It's nice to have some experience, strength and hope to share - for so long, I thought I would be in a perpetual state of taking, rather than giving. This one event showed me otherwise....

So, I have been communicating on and off with Kevin through the beauty of the Internet. I've never met him, but we have a shared history in closeted ministry. He's still in it, as a church musician. This was the pertinent part of a much longer conversation...

I am attending a church that I am, well, very confused about. I thought I could move ahead, but am back at Home Base AGAIN!

Same ole, same ole, if I behave myself and don't end up in the sack with a man, or don't have contact with Gay men, my Pastor is smiling...but if I should do the "naughty" that means, my conscience is wrought up with fear, anxiety and torment, I will go running into his office, and then after fessin up, it will be "discipline" (no playing piano.)

I can't be myself, and I am sadly unable to explain it to ANY of you at GCN, or myself, this fear always in the back of my mind that one being Gay, basically means doctrinally to the church I attend, "you are not truly Saved" and have "back-slidden" and you have "fallen-away" or are falling away, if you "PRACTICE..."
This is not the first, or the third, time he's shared with us about this. People were doing what they so often do - "there, there, it will be all right..." And I just couldn't go along with that (my spiritual mentors in gay life didn't raise me up that way)...and this was the result:

Well, Kevin, some others have shared some great things with you. Here's perhaps a different take...

For much of my life, I have gone to people for help who were almost completely unequipped to help me. I kept going to drowning people for swimming lessons, and then get angry when all I hear is "glub, glub glub"!

One classic example of this was going to straight pastors and friends, in homophobic organizations or churches (or at best don't-ask-don't-tell ones) for help understanding faith in God and Christ as a gay man. And then I'd be left wondering why my faith was so undermined and why I'd stayed closeted for so long...

That's not to say that you can't continue to be a music minister in a straight church - God knows, if we took away all the GLBT music ministers, musicians and choir directors, it'd be pretty quiet in church on Sunday mornings! But in almost every situation, I truly don't believe you can be ministered-to as a gay man of faith by straight people. It's like trying to have a blind man tell Cezanne how to paint a still life - ain't gonna work, baby.

Even the most open and welcoming straight pastors simply do not understand gay sexuality or relational drives. And most Christian pastors have heard, forever and ever, that the worst sins that can be committed are sexual sins (regardless of orientation), and the worst among them are the gay sexual sins.

So when you come to your straight pastor, with his straight community and background, and try to talk about relationships with guys (even platonic ones), he's naturally gonna act like you've run into a gasoline tank farm with a flame-thrower. In many cases, it's not their fault - it's just how they were raised, how they were trained, and how they understand the world.

The hardest thing I had to hear - time and time and time again - is that
what others think of me is none of my damn business. I have had to accept how I am, regardless if anyone else is going to like me or accept me. As a wonderful gay Catholic priest once told me, "God's grace is available to everybody in the room - and believe it or not, you are in the room."

You may be able to continue serving this congregation - but some good advice would be to seek spiritual counsel from a gay pastor or counselor, or at an open and affirming church. And stop going to straight people for acceptance of gay relationships - unless you really, really like getting spanked. Because, in 85-90% of the cases, that's all they know.

Picking up some of the books in the GCN recommended literature will help - especially Mel White's Stranger at the Gate and a copy of The Children Are Free by Jeff Miner and Tyler Conolley. I also found these books which are NOT on our "recommended list" to be helpful -
  • Chris Glaser's Uncommon Calling: A Gay Christians' Struggle to Serve The Church
  • Is The Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response by Scanzoni and Mollenkott
  • Many Members Yet One Body: Committed Same Gender Relationships and the Mission of the Church by Craig Nessan
  • The Church and the Homosexual by John J. McNeill
While Nessan's book is more geared to ELCA Lutherans (leading up to the 2007 national conference) and McNeill's books are heavily influenced by Catholic dogma, they were still very helpful to me in understanding the battles and in helping me to find comfort as one of God's gay kids.

Straight people - and the straight church - only know straight life, and that's all they have to recommend to you, in most cases. I thank God, every day, for the gift of a group of gay Catholics in the community of recovery in Chicago - priests, monks, and lay people - who helped ease me into acceptance of myself as a gay man and as a child of God. And then for a group of straight people at seminary who understood that there was room at the table for everyone, regardless of orientation.

If you're looking for acceptance, check with "family" first. It's easier to live with the rest of the world once you can find peace with yourself as one of us first. That's certainly been my experience, anyway. I never would have made it any other way.

/end sermon/

I'll continue to pray for you, Kevin. Keep talking, keep asking, keep seeking, and pray your you-know-what off.

My dear friend Tom once told me I'd come to understand how the established straight church hurt me, as a closeted gay man, over the years. Guess I'm getting the lesson. Thanks, Tom and Michael, for the gift of honesty about my closeted past. "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free..."

That freedom is the greatest gift of all. And no wrapping required...


  1. Merry Christmas Steve! Let the Light that came to earth shine in your life!

  2. I thought about this post for a day or two after I read it. I can recall you beating yourself up a year or so ago about how long you'd stayed in the closet, about giving in to your fear of losing the opportunity to do ministry if you came out, and all of the things recorded in past posts on this blog ...

    Thinking about that, I'm struck, now with the parallel between this post and one of the promises of AA: "No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others ..."

    My best wishes for the new year. May it be happy and free.

  3. Great post! Sounds like some real ministry to me! You know, clergy really are HIGHLY over-rated.

    Good advice. Good words. Good man!

  4. Just checking in. Hope you are well and enjoying your freedom -- or, as I said to Tom recently, "happy, joyous and free-ness".