I went to church as a child and young adult. There were several denominations over the years. I really enjoyed church, but something always felt not quite right. I had learned over the years that I could make it work if I wasn’t myself – my full self. There was always something about me that I thought was different. Something that made me feel alone. Eventually, I came to realize that I could not share every part of me. I didn’t have a name for what I was, but I had plenty of words the things I felt: “abomination,” “sodomite,” “sinner,” “hell-bound.” I spent literally every day praying for God to change me. I got married to a woman thinking He would change me. I promised everything I had, and many things I didn’t, if only this thing would go away. But it never did.
When I came out as a gay man, after being married to a woman for 10 years, my greatest fears were realized. I no longer had a place in the church that had been so much of my life growing up. For the first time, I was being honest about who I was, but that felt more wrong than lying all of those years.
The place I came from told me that I couldn’t worship, that I couldn’t be involved in church, and that I wasn’t wanted by God. And God forbid, pun intended, that I want to share this experience with the partner I had met in the years after coming out. So, I decided that if God didn’t want me, there was no real reason for me to want Him. And I was pretty vocal about it, much to the dismay of my partner. When someone would speak of faith, I would roll my eyes and think them uneducated. Somewhere deep inside I knew it wasn’t how I truly felt, but I was too hurt to figure out my feelings.
When I first stepped into Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the first time was in the gym and not in a service, it was a little like walking into the Twilight Zone. I was part of an organization coming to the church to show a film, “Fish Out of Water”, hoping to educate these religious people about what the Bible really says about homosexuality. I watched the film and looked around at people from the back of the room. The film talked about how the Bible has been wrongly used to cut off the LGBT community from the church for years. No one in the crowd walked out. No one took exception with the film’s viewpoint. Many were in tears, including me. I thought, if this goes on in the gym, I have to wonder what happens during church. Now you can imagine the look on my partner’s face when I came home and announced that I’d like to go to church.
Getting ready for church the first morning took me back to remembering a place where I heard only bad things about myself. I thought that maybe I had made a mistake. But then we got there, everyone came up to us and introduced themselves, passed the peace, and became our friends. They treated us, well, just like any other couple. And they haven’t stopped yet. And that would have been plenty. But then I found out so much more about this church. The pastor was on the board of our local LGBT advocacy organization, the members attended fairness lobby days at our capitol. And then they made a unanimous decision to put those convictions into action by changing the way they perform marriage ceremonies, all to stand with the LGBT community. I’ve cried fairly often in the pews at Douglass over the year or so that we’ve been coming, but the tears are polar opposites of the ones I’ve cried before when thinking about church.
Douglass has for the first time helped me see the true Christ. But more than that, they are living the true Christ with action. I had never become a member of a church before I became a member there. And I’d be hard pressed to find a different church that I would ever want to join instead.