I am a Christian. I was born and raised in the Christian Reformed Church and educated in its schools from kindergarten through college. I am also gay. These two characteristics define my life more than anything else: more than my education, career, marital status, or the number of children I may have.
As a gay Christian, I am an oxymoron to many.
I do not easilyembrace myself as a gay man. I’ve only come to do that after many years of wrestling with the Scriptures, with God, with myself. I sought counsel from pastors and Christian therapists, tried ex-gay ministries and every reparative therapy program I could find. I begged God to change me and in despair attempted suicide. I studied every angle of the questions “How do I become ‘not gay’?” and “What must I do to be straight?” In my study of Scripture, I wrestled with the passages interpreted to condemn homosexual behavior, with creation order, the nature of sin, and the process of sanctification. And I prayed. My sexual orientation did not change.
Like every other gay person in the CRC, I am mindful of my church’s understanding of homosexuality. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a cliché implying that I am sin personified. Tony Campolo has observed that Jesus says the opposite: “Love the sinner and hate your own sin. And after you get rid of the sin in your own life, then you can begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.”
Meanwhile, where have all the gay sons and daughters of your church gone? Many—I dare say most—have left your churches and your hometowns. Their church home became unsafe when they—like me—learned the pastor’s response to people like us.
It may surprise you that there is a deep spiritual longing within my gay friends, a longing and a struggle to reconcile “Jesus loves me, this I know” with an attribute that many in the church consider an abomination. My friends grew up loving God—that has not changed. But as a result of being rejected, many have given up on the church, and, tragically, on God.
The culture has changed. Same-sex marriage is legal in Canada and in some states. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Boy Scouts of America voted to allow gay youth to participate. Celebrities, athletes, and business leaders are “coming out.”
The church seems unprepared to respond to these situations legally and with moral authority. How do congregations pick up the pieces of shattered families after the failure of mixed-orientation marriages of gay people who enter into a heterosexual marriage, believing that it would make them acceptable to God and the church? How do they welcome gay couples who attend services or who wish to be married in the church?
My understanding of the Scriptures has changed dramatically over the years. If “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, I was going insane seeking “freedom” from being gay. Jesus confronted me with the words “I have come to give life and life abundant” (John 10:10). These words trumped “abomination theology.”
Coming out has not been easy—for me or for my family. But it has brought life.
Isn’t it time for the church to welcome back its gay sons and daughters, along with their spouses and children? Isn’t it time to encourage everyone to know the love of God for each and every one of his children?
The Christian Reformed Church’s Position on Homosexuality (crcna.org)
Pastoral Care for Homosexual Members (2002) (crcna.org)
Synod 2013 Appointment of Study Committee on Ministry to Those Who Are Gay (thebanner.org)