When I first joined the Board of Deacons at our Congregational Church, I was vaguely aware of the fact that the Board was thinking about proposing an Open and Affirming Statement, an official statement of support to people who are gay or lesbian. I had read some of the literature published in our monthly newsletter, and had serious reservations. I expressed my feelings at the third Board of Deacons meeting I attended.
My reservations were rooted in the foundations of my upbringing and the fundamental interpretation of the Bible that I was reared on – ideas and ideals not easily changed.
During the succeeding months, discussions about homophobia, homosexuality and our Church becoming Open and Affirming continued. I spoke of my feelings and listened to others. I read articles and literature on the subject of homosexuality and homophobia, listened to interpretations of the Bible from a more liberating perspective than I had ever been exposed to and, most importantly, I heard the stories of homosexual people who have felt pain and discrimination just for being who they were created to be. After listening to a minister in an after-church forum speak about the pain and humiliation he felt as a young man for being different – for being a homosexual – and then hearing him express his feelings of wholeness and joy at finally being able to accept himself, I realized I did not want to be a part, either actively or passively, of causing anyone the kind of pain he expressed and I became committed to helping our Church adopt its Open and Affirming Statement.
I learned through reading and hearing professionals speak on the subject that research supports that human sexuality is an orientation, NOT a preference. I believe that we are each entitled to God’s love and one another’s acceptance equally and without bias.
One year later, our twenty-six year old son shared with his father and me that he is gay. Needless to say, that was an emotional time for all of us. We shed tears together and talked a lot about what Alex had felt growing up. It was a source of great comfort to us to have him say that having our church be supportive and open was a huge source of strength to him. He had watched with great interest our church’s process of Open and Affirming while dealing on his own with his sexuality. We were grateful then, and are today that we belong to a church that is willing to state openly that we welcome all who come into our midst – and that we as parents have a place to go for strength and support. We have learned first-hand how difficult it is for people who are gay to come out, sometimes even in the safest of circumstances, and believe even more than ever it is important to provide a safe haven within the church community for parents and children to seek comfort and love.
I am so grateful for the way God led and prepared me for that news. What a blessing that I made the journey of acceptance of homosexuals not because I needed to or had to for my own son, but because I was able to respond to the pain I had heard from people who were reaching out for healing and relief. Pain that is caused through no fault of their own, but through the unwillingness of some in our society to allow them to be as they were created to be, by the God who created us all.