It’s Easter and for many, a time to celebrate with a visit to church. While I may not specifically claim myself as a Christian, I do honor Christ and the meaning of this special day.
A few weeks ago I was asked by two close friends to attend a church service with them on Easter Sunday. It was a church I hadn’t been to before and had little information about. One of these two friends was related to the pastor and early information that I was given indicated the church had many gay and lesbian members and that all were welcomed.
Given my track record of attempts made to join three separate churches recently and the adversity I faced in doing so, I was quite skeptical. After a few text messages were traded back and forth between my friend and her Uncle (the pastor of the church), I was informed by my friend that I would be fully accepted and encouraged to attend. Second hand information also seemed to indicate that there were gay and lesbian members as well at this church.
I was more than excited to find this out given that the church was known to be evangelical based. My desire to join a lively, uplifting, and upbeat church suddenly resurfaced with hope. I then made a decision a few days ago to contact the church and speak with the pastor. A part of me, after receiving so much rejection from my previous three attempts, wanted to hear it first hand that the pastor and his church would fully accept me.
I’m glad I called.
The conversation lasted exactly 28 minutes. What I learned about this pastor and his church’s views during that time was that homosexuality is a sin, that the Bible is clear on the issue, and that I wouldn’t be allowed to join if I was still “practicing being gay” as he so put it. Even worse, when I asked him what gave him the right to judge and not accept me to become a member, his answer was that he was speaking for God through the Bible. Our conversation ended when he told me that although the doors of his church would still be opened for me to attend, he didn’t really understand why I would want to come when they felt the way they did about my sexuality. He also reminded me on his parting words that there were plenty of other churches out there that would accept “my kind.”
It was really hard keeping my cool and not getting angry. But God has taught me great restraint in the past year as I have truly worked to turn my entire will over to the care of Him. I’m now four for four with complete rejection by churches in the Massachusetts area that are evangelical and Christian based. Each of those rejections have been mirrors of this one and every one of them stings even more than the last.
I truly don’t understand how certain passages in the Bible can be overlooked and be considered “out datable” in today’s religious circles and yet the few passages that talk about homosexuality are still used to persecute millions. As long as I or any other gay man or woman is “active” in our sexuality, while the doors may appear to be opened for us to worship God at churches like this, the reality is that they really are padlocked and closed indefinitely to all of us.
There are times I wish that I had a way to organize a sit-in at each of these churches around the world who say they are all welcoming but deep down their truth is that they aren’t. I can imagine hundreds of people going to each of the services wearing t-shirts that say “God loves me just as I am!”. Maybe then our message might start getting heard.
I don’t believe God ever intended for a church to deny anyone membership because of their sexuality or any other reason for that matter. I believe that it’s between each individual and God to work through anything that may separate them from God. I believe God would love for anyone to join a church. What I do know is that being gay has only brought me closer to God. It pains me to know there is still so much hatred, bigotry, and persecution out there like this towards people like me. Sadly, these churches don’t see their rejection of membership as any of that.
While this pastor and his church may have welcomed me to attend their Easter service, to put a few dollars in their donation plate, and to listen to their lively sermon and music, I will not be in attendance. Knowing that I will never be allowed to join as long as I’m still “practicing being gay”, I will instead be waking up on Sunday morning, thanking Christ and God for their love for me, wishing the world a Happy Easter, doing my morning spiritual routine as I always do, and asking God to guide me throughout the day.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson