All Aren’t Welcomed – Part I

As much as times have changed and people have become more accepting of gays and lesbians in society, there are still so many close minded individuals and institutions that claim it’s against God’s will. While this entry isn’t about my “coming out”, and the processes I went through to have acceptance of that part of me, it is a story about the rejection I continue to face in mainstream society due to my sexuality.

I’ve always been somewhere in between a religious and spiritual person. Having grown up Methodist and having studied other denominations over the years as well, I’ve come to have an appreciation for all walks of faith. What I have found most difficult though is the wall I continue to face with churches that show rejection and exclusion.

Many years ago when I lived in Northern Virginia, just after graduating from college, I was coming to terms of my sober life as well as my gay one, except I wasn’t ready to announce to the world the latter. My therapist recommended it might help provide me some direction if I find a place of worship to reconnect with God. Initially she suggested a church that was one established for gay people. After one service, I was too overwhelmed as my mind wasn’t open enough yet to embracing my sexuality. So I looked for something else and found a new church that had formed and was currently meeting in a high school auditorium. It was hip and trendy, had live music, used clips from movies for parts of the service, and the songs were toe tapping, hand clapping, and upbeat. I loved it enough and eventually I became a full time member and was re-baptized there. At some point I had come to accept my sexuality completely through my therapy and had started my first monogamous gay relationship. Because of that, I decided it was time to be truthful to the church I called my spiritual home. At a weekly men’s bible study I finally opened up and spoke the truth about my lifestyle. I assumed they all would embrace me as I had made many close friends in the church and was quite active with them. Sadly, the opposite happened and my moment of truthfulness became the end of my attendance with them. I was pulled aside by the pastor and assistant pastor and told how it was clearly a sin in the bible how I was living my life and that I should pray and repent. Ironically, this church was the first of many to say they were all-welcoming but weren’t.

Thankfully, in that critical time of my life I went back to the gay and lesbian based church I had once attended except I was in a much more open place in my life to accept my sexuality. They helped me to believe that God loved each and every one of us no matter what walk of life we were from. When I moved out of that area and could no longer attend that church, I was unable to find any place of worship that would embrace my sexuality or my relationship to the man I was partnered to at the time. I lived in a remote area where there were at least six churches to attend, but each of them were the same in that they said they were all-welcoming but could not accept gay people.

Eventually, I moved from that area to Massachusetts to be closer to my sister and within a few years, I found myself wanting to find a church again to call home. I had taken quite a number of years off from having a regular place of worship because of all the rejection I had experienced. My life had changed immensely having removed all the resentment I held to those places of worship. I also had become more opened to other religions and embraced a lot more things in my life that I once never understood.  I checked out various churches but most of them were very formal Christian based services with slow hymns and standard sermons that I felt I had heard before, so I began to give up hope of finding one I might like. A very close gay friend of mine encouraged me to come check out his church and told me that it was extremely uplifting. I decided to make a visit.

After many weeks of attending it, I became excited again about going to church. This church was very similar to the style of the one that had rejected me so long before that so I was slightly wary. I assumed though that because my friend was gay that it must be different. Week in and week out I heard the pastor say the church welcomed everyone and that they encouraged people to join. I decided to do just that and scheduled an appointment with the pastor. When the day of that meeting came, I sat across from him and told him of my excitement about his church and that I was giving him my intention to join. I also made sure this time to say up front that I was a gay male. Instead of the next hour being spent on giving me directions on the next step to becoming a member, I was once again lectured about how I was living in sin and that his church wouldn’t allow me to join if I was gay. Passages were cited out in the bible throughout the rest of the meeting and were used as ammunition towards how I was living my life.

When did the Bible become a way to segregate people? When did the Bible become a weapon? Why does religion seem to be continuing to push people away rather than draw them in?

These questions are the main reason why I wrote this entry. It was to show that there is one main flaw in religion today. It’s that the phrase “all-welcoming” doesn’t mean just that. I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. I had a spiritual experience with God earlier in my life that was so direct on that issue that I can’t refute it. While some have tried to tell me it was Satan telling me this, I know in my heart that it was God. The message I was told was to love unconditionally with all my heart, mind, and soul whoever it was that I went into a relationship with, whether a man or a woman.

I don’t know why the bible has a handful of passages that say being gay is a sin. What I do know is that Jesus never spoke of it, God never directly said anything to it, and for the handful of accounts where it is mentioned, it comes from a man writing his thoughts. I’ve learned that just because I’m reading something in any type of book, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the exact truth. There’s a little bit of truth in everything and a lot of mistruths in everything as well. Whether I’m practicing Christianity, Buddhism, or any other religion, I’ve come to embrace everyone equally with light and love.

Isn’t that how it should be? Shouldn’t we all just accept each other no matter what walk of life we are and let God decide the rest? Why are people being turned away from churches where they may receive the answers from God? Since that sit down meeting, I communicated to several other churches that had elements I was looking for and faced the same rejection in each of them. Sadly, I don’t have a desire to go to any church anymore because of this. Personally, I don’t think God or Jesus or any other master teacher that people follow in any religion would approve today of how segregated churches have become. Day to day, I try to preach love, equality, and acceptance of everyone, while many people and many churches still seem to be preaching fear and hate, continuing to show rejection, and ultimately are keeping their doors only open for some even while they say they are an all-welcoming church.

All-welcoming should mean just that. All our welcomed no matter who you are from whatever walk of life you come from. God is love and nothing else. If any church says otherwise including telling someone they aren’t welcomed for any reason, it’s not a place I want to be at, because it’s not love and it’s not God.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson