Even The Least

I’m gay. Actually I’m queer, but I am ninety-something percent attracted to men and I fit other people’s definition of “male”, so “gay” tends to translate faster. It’s inaccurate, but it paints a faster picture and requires fewer words.  I am 35 and I have been “Out” on one level and then another (and another, and another…) since I was 17.

I am a life-long Christian (Disciples of Christ) as well as a believer in Jesus as my Christ and Savior.

I was ordained into a lifetime of ministry last July and I have been the Youth Pastor at Karl Road Christian Church (DOC) in Columbus, OH since 2009.

It has been an intentional decision made between myself and the head pastor, Rev. Margot Connor, that from the beginning of my service at Karl Road none of the above information would be a surprise to the parents of Youth in our congregation.  “That has made all the difference”

The first 18 years of my life I went to the same DOC church with my parents every Sunday- plus more depending on the season.  I was both implicitly and explicitly told I was loved.  I was taught, paid attention to, praised for good answers as well as questions and behavior.  I was hugged; I was fed; and I was told personally and in lessons as well as sermons “you are loved.”

This never stopped, but when I hit puberty this message started to sound hollow. With puberty came the first realizations of sexuality that was not “heterosexual”.  Messages of love and acceptance for those of us who were not “heterosexual” were spoken in private and in tones that implied these statements required risk. For me they also implied danger, shame, and the possibility that statements made in private could be denied and removed in public.

And that’s really what I’m trying to get to – I’m not wishing to accuse those who loved me and raised me, or any of us for that matter of anything. They did the best they could.  And, for me, I could not be more redeemed than when that same church, First Christian of Cambridge, OH, ordained me.  But what happened to me: being implicitly taught shame and fear because others had trouble articulating love for that part of me, is now being passed down in congregations that believe it is enough to simply say we love everybody. It isn’t.

I have the luxury of being able to have a conversation about my sexual identity with a parent and know that it will not cause me to be terminated from my position at Karl Road. I know that if my Youth know I am gay,  it will not be a shock to their parents. I have been able to say it from the pulpit. And I am tired of saying it. I am grateful that I can, and I am sick of feeling that I need to. And I do feel like I need to.

Because until our congregations, from youngest to oldest, can speak of it as though discussing the color of an Easter Bonnet or what dishes are available at the potluck we will continue teaching each other that God loves the Queer folk less than the “heterosexual” folk.

I am so proud and so fortunate to serve in a congregation that is constantly, consistently, and conscientiously trying to celebrate the entire family of God. And I am mad that, as a Queer Christian, we often seem like such a rarity.