My wife and I live in a small town outside of Memphis. We both had a daughter and son when we met in 1987. Both of us had to come to terms about our sexual orientation. We met dealing with alcohol addiction. In 2005 after having our first grandchild we wanted to find a church that we might be comfortable in attending. We had tried a number of different denominations over the years but we really wanted a church that was comfortable with us. I had been raised in the Baptist church and my wife was Catholic. Looking online the Disciples of Christ seemed to be a perfect fit with rituals from both of our childhood churches. Our local Disciples of Christ church was small and close to our home. We had been in a committed relationship for 16 years when we decided to look for a place to worship. Our children were all grown, married and starting their own families. We felt a need to be examples to our grandchildren and express our Christian beliefs. With 19 years of sobriety I wanted more spiritually.
We visited this church every Sunday for a couple of months. We felt it was a good fit for how we wanted to worship and it was a small congregation, approximately 200 members. When we made a decision that this was the church we wanted to join we felt we needed to meet with the Minister and lay it all out to him. We both have been out of the closet with family, friends and work. We did not want to hide and if this church was not comfortable with us we would keep looking for a church. Understand we were looking for a place to worship, not pushing our sexual orientation on anyone, but we wanted to be honest with the Minister. There would be no public display of affection to offend anyone, but we would never lie about who we were.
The Minister at that time was very understanding and encouraged us to continue to attend services to decide if we still wanted to join the church. He told us he would take this information to the Church Board and get back to us. We were welcomed into the church. We then tried to get involved in activities and groups at church. Sure we could feel there were some members who were not comfortable with us but there were also so many who were so welcoming to us. What they knew about us at first was not important. We just tried to make friends and eventually joined the church.
So this is the reason for writing this article for GLAD. We knew it would be awhile before we might be able to serve in the church. When we both were nominated for Diaconate position we were asked to wait before accepting the nomination. We understood that this could cause some problems in the church. But after 5 years this was becoming a concern for us. We were told we were loved but members were not comfortable with us serving communion. Our Church was putting off looking at this. It does not set right when you are told that you do a great job in so many areas at church, involved in so many activities but not worthy enough to serve communion. We had a lot of members supporting us but also many members with the power to influence others against us. We had a new Minister, a female, who supported us. We had also talked with her as soon as possible about our relationship. We knew there was a lot of fear about our situation and the effect it had on the church.
Looking back now things could have been done in a better way, but what occurred was a congregation meeting that was open for members to voice their concerns before voting on approval of us as Diaconates. Of course “same sex orientation” was used to describe us.
It was horrendous, heart breaking and hurtful as some members chose to speak out about our relationship and the Bible. We had members speaking for us but we will never forget what was said. The majority was for us in the vote but many members were so upset and we had many members leave the church over our nomination to Diaconate. Many members were upset over the way the whole thing was handled. The church held two listening sessions for members willing to attend. We were told these sessions were not pleasant and more ugly comments were made by upset members. The listening sessions turned out to be more of a gripe session. Our church also had an outside Minister come and hold a Bible Study about what the Bible says about gay and lesbians. This was once a week for 4 weeks, but not many members attended. Maybe the Disciples of Christ should look at how to help churches with this situation. Maybe this should be a large part of the future General Assemblies. There should be a safe way for Gay and Lesbian members to be included in the church leadership. Gay and Lesbians need a place of worship and should not be made to go to churches exclusively for Gays and Lesbians. I will not go into what I think the Bible really says about Gays and Lesbians, but I know God made me and knows my heart. He would not be happy to see Gay and Lesbian sisters and brothers turned away from any church.
We have finally been approved by our church Board and Elders to serve. The roof did not fall in and lighting did not strike the church. There may still be some members not happy with us serving communion but they have not left the church. Our church is not a GAY church like some members thought would happen. Our church is beginning to be open to ALL people. We are still welcoming new members filling the hole left by those that left. We love our church family and feel we are loved. It was a rocky road for us but we did not walk away from our church. We clung to the thought that God used us. It has made us stronger!