I will ask you all to forgive the meandering nature of this post, I know where I’m starting and where I want to get to I’m just not sure how I’m going to get there yet.
I have as most if not all gay people within the church suffered from systematic institutional homophobia from within the family of Christ where we should be safe, huge abuse is heaped upon us.
My journey to accepting I am gay actually started about the same time as my adolescent journey of faith, my home CofE church had and probably still has a huge capacity to engage in cognitive dissonance, and therefore had a woman associate minister who lived with her close female friend, it was never confirmed or denied if they were a couple, but it was a fairly open secret that most people thought they were and that was ok because they didn’t make a show of it. But there were those in the church who were rather than as most being neither accepting nor dismissive of gay members of the congregation, were openly hostile and lead group discussions as part of a non-standard service (there was a discussion instead of a sermon) as to whether we would give a heart transplant to the murderer who was an atheist or the Gay Man who was a doctor no mention of his religion, the clear lesson being he is Gay and therefore is beyond saving so why should he get to live. I was at the time 15 or 16 I went home and I cried silently, silently so my mother wouldn’t hear and I wouldn’t have to explain or as would probably have been the case lie about why I was crying. I also prayed in my confusion about sexuality and what it really was (section 28 was still in force so the school didn’t teach anything other than about heterosexual couples and love, I didn’t really know what gay men were other than I was attracted to a male friend at school and that girls just were not for me, much later i learnt of the beautiful rainbow of our LGBT+ family) I prayed to be bisexual so I could be close to normal, so I could repress and get rid of my hated disordered gay self.
Of course, God didn’t answer my prayer, as I grew up in the church and went to college then university I became more self-confident in my life, right up until I came home and went to Church where I would shrink, into a little over analysing box. Am I behaving ok?? can anyone guess??
This pattern continued when I went to church at university except I didn’t lie about my sexuality but I didn’t bring it into conversation hoping to follow the path walked by my home parish’s associate minister making sure I don’t make a show of it. This worked until it didn’t and I walked out of church quite normally but with no real connection to the church, because I was being so guarded I couldn’t make a real or deep connection there, and I never went back, I missed it but with not enough feeling to draw me back.
The level of systematic abuse takes its toll on us, it leads many of us to expect it, to justify it and in the end accept that to be both a person of faith and Gay will mean that we will be abused by those that claim to care for us, that is how I came to feel, for a long time going to a church service would be a trauma that I would have to recover from, as a committed Christian through all of this I know that a Sunday service is not something you should need more than a coffee to recover from and you should only need the coffee if the sermon was incredibly dull.
God in his grace, however, has brought me to a Church where I am welcomed and affirmed, I wasn’t brave enough to go to a normal (Not Pride-related) service so I started by going to a life group, which is like a family to me, I don’t have to pretend to be that which I’m not and the relationships of brothers and sisters in Christ is true.
It took me almost ten years to get back to a church, it was a hard and lonely journey, to anyone who is reading this in a church which tries to break you, you are stronger than that, the journey may be long or it may be short but it is worth it.
But let’s try and work together to bring the Churches to a place where they embrace and affirm us as equals.