Susan and I joined Lafayette Christian Church in 1988 when our daughters, Saren and Claire, were 9 and 4 respectively. The warmth and openness shown to us sold us immediately and we joyously joined that year. Stan Smith and Faye Orton (now Snyder) were everything one could hope for in a pastoral staff. Everything seemed nearly perfect.
Then I learned about the church’s Open & Affirming stance. This was a serious problem.
Study and experience had pushed back the racism, sexism and other biases I learned from the cradle to the farthest reaches of my mind. All except homophobia. I had never had to grapple with that demon, especially in a church setting.
One Sunday morning, I literally stood in front of the bathroom mirror with my hands held out like the scales of justice and weighed all the other attributes of LCC against that one LARGE liability. The list of attributes won and I decided I needed to learn more about what being “gay” meant and how it fit into a Christian environment. Studying the science of sexuality, learning new revelations about the Biblical “hammer clauses”, working with gay and lesbian people, even serving side-by-side as elders slowly but surely whittled that log down to a matchstick. Finally, it vanished.
Fast forward to somewhere around 2004 after we had moved down to the city of Orange and Claire was a student at Chapman. In a great act of personal courage, she came out to us. 20 years ago, I might not have known how to handle it – fear, anger, blame, rejection, who knows. That day, my only fear was that someday, someone would hurt Claire because of who she was. I learned that tolerance, then acceptance, then advocacy at LCC.
As members of Church of the Foothills (ChOTF) in Santa Ana, Susan and I have stood in groups and actively campaigned against the abomination that was Prop 8. We have participated in gay weddings and attended rallies when Prop 8 was overturned, then stayed by the court. We have helped form two transgender groups at ChOTF, TG Rainbow for trans people and Shift Happens for families of trans people. We learned our activism at LCC.
Now, LCC is facing congregational stress over the display of a rainbow flag. That symbol can only be “political” if you oppose marriage equality as a constitutionally guaranteed right. It can only be exclusive of others if those “others” are closed-minded and prejudiced souls. It doesn’t represent LCC as a “Gay church”, just as a place where one’s orientation doesn’t matter. It invites, not repels.
As much of an old redneck as I am, I have a rainbow colored CELEBRATE DIVERSITY sticker on my back bumper. That is what the rainbow symbol means to me. I would hope that every member of any Open & Affirming congregation would be proud to extend that invitation as a testament of Christ’s courage and love. That’s what it means to me.