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What’s the best way? This is a question often asked by those who have lost their way or simply want to know the quickest and stress-free way to reach their destination. Luckily for this generation, we have practically unlimited access to information through maps, sat-navs and mobile phones that can answer and fit our particular needs straight away! In regards to Christianity however, different denominations have been pondering for centuries, what exactly is the right way to fulfil God’s Law, and successfully navigate to heaven. Is it to understand that the Bible is a spirit influenced text; therefore all text must be adhered to? Is it to read the Bible in context, and to view the Bible as a time stamp on historical (and potentially outdated) cultures? Or is it a matter of how we use the Bible, and how we choose to act? As a Christian who identifies as gay, I’ve personally found it to be a tricky but curious journey as I’ve tried to understand where I stood with God, and what was the way for me.
Growing up, I felt I was raised as a good and typical Christian: I was baptised, went to Sunday School, was educated at Christian primary and secondary schools, attended most Sunday morning services, became a member of Fullarton ConneXions, and always felt a genuine presence of God through my life in one way or another. On paper I was ticking all the boxes, but turning into a young adult I discovered something about myself that would most certainly test my faith; I was attracted to guys the way I was ‘supposed’ to be attracted to girls.
I forbade myself to talk about it to anyone as I thought it was just a phase and I would grow out of it, but I was beginning to realise over time that it was more persistent than I had expected. This terrified me! You hear about the consensus views from churches all the time; horror stories of folk being outed, and kicked out of churches and families. At one point, I decided I couldn’t go out with girls anymore, and I was stuck in limbo! A further two years had passed (not having relationships with guys or girls), coming to an approximate total of eight closeted years, and I was still no closer to finding a solution.
I’d pray for answers. I’d cry until I fell asleep. I’d curse myself for not being normal, until I prayed again late one night when I couldn’t sleep. I asked what should I do, and I heard “…talk to someone”. This lingered for maybe a month or two as I tried to find the best person and the right opportunity to speak; but one thing I can say in retrospect is that there’s never an ideal moment to first come-out to someone close to you. However, while at a party, a Christian friend was chatting with me, and decided to come-out to me. It sounds dramatic, but this genuinely was the moment I knew my life was going to change. The next day I met my friend again to hang out…then I worked up the courage, and…well, I drove off after we hung out…I then returned, went back into their house, and said it: …I am gay.
It felt like I could finally breathe, and didn’t need to constantly hold my breath any longer. I had waited so long to say this, and finally forming and outwardly voicing the words took effort. It was risky coming-out to my other friends and family as you can never know for certain how people will react, but after six months, everyone close to me knew, and no one had rejected me. It made me realise how much I cherished them all. It was a serious topic, and many of my friends initially thought I was perhaps ill or dying.
My next step after informing family and friends was to essentially come-out to God, and explore how my faith could coincide with my sexual orientation. To confirm my expectations, research online didn’t seem too hopeful at first glances. Lots of articles were very opposed and mentioned the likes of Sodom and Gommorah (Genesis 19), the Old Testament laws (Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13), and Paul’s opposed views (Romans 1:26-27, 1st Corinthians 6:9 and 1st Timothy 1:10) to back themselves up. My head was bursting trying to absorb all the information, and to see if there was any hope for me. I talked to non-Christian gay friends, and I felt I couldn’t explain my reasoning for having hope in a faith which many of the LGBTQ+ community had been scarred and suffered from. I tried to go to bible discussion groups, but at that time I was still pretty quiet, and felt almost hypocritical voicing my thoughts to discussion topics. The subject of homosexuality was not really spoken of generally, and it felt to me like the great ‘unmentionable’.
I felt like my faith had faded, and there was no way a person like me could fit within Christianity. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe anymore, but that I just wanted to push that part of my life away as it was too much effort to convince others, or even myself, that there was a way forward. For about a year I ended up going through a dark period of my life: I tried to find stuff to fill that awful void, but nothing was working; some things might have temporarily helped, but nothing ever lasted.
During this time, I felt like something was calling me back to Fullarton; I couldn’t say what exactly, but something felt unresolved within me. So eventually, I decided to go back to Fullarton services, and try to analyse what was being said. I found note taking through the sermons each week helped me absorb the information, and I would often utilise a white board later to help process all the thoughts I had following the sermons. This was proving very useful to me as I found I was implementing these lessons into my everyday life, and people seemed to be engaging in discussion about the mind maps I was drawing. It was great having one-to-one discussions, and on occasion I’d bring up my journey goal to understand how I could fit in the Christian life as a gay man, and know what God wants from me.
During this reconstruction of my faith, I found listening to other people’s perspectives and opinions so refreshing, even if they were opposed; it gave me a greater understanding of what the issues were, and how to approach and resolve them, taking into account everyone’s point of view. After a short while, I decided to create a Messenger group chat with people I had already spoke to about these topics. This led to several encouraging developments which I hope will continue and/or reoccur:
- a better understanding of the context behind the six mentions of “homosexuality” in the bible;
- making friends with individuals with similar affirming views and Christians who identify as LGBTQ+;
- continuing discussions in a comfortable, safe and respectful environment;
- the group expanding beyond Fullarton to other churches in the local area;
- writing an article to voice my affirmation for Christianity and LGBTQ+ (The Good Homosexual);
- and finally, Neil Urquhart (Minister at Fullarton ConneXions, Irvine) conducting – as far as I’m aware – Fullarton’s first Sunday morning sermon specifically associated with homosexuality: “The LGBTQ+ Samaritan”.
This was another long awaited moment for me. If you get a chance, be sure to go on the Fullarton ConneXions’ Facebook page, and look up the video for the Sunday morning service on the 19th of July 2020, and see what you think. The last time I distinctly remember the term “homosexuality” being used in a main Fullarton Sunday sermon was 4 years ago, when Stewart Birse (Locum Minister at Mure linked with Relief Parish Church, Irvine) was talking about focusing on love with EVERY person with all your heart. This was a week after I first ever came-out. I felt God speaking to me then, and feel him speaking to me now. Many will say it was just a coincidence, but to paraphrase a quote from the TV show Sherlock;
Mycroft: “What do we say about coincidence?”
Sherlock: “God and the universe are rarely so lazy.”
As said before, it has been an unexpected journey for me, with many reroutes and pot holes along the way, but I have always felt God’s presence along every step. Everything is done for a reason. Every action we take (even if we choose to stay quiet and do nothing) has an impact on others and ourselves. For me, the way forward is very clear now, and it is Jesus. As said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” He is the only way, and the most reliable way in order to fulfil God’s Law, and why? Because everything about Jesus was good, and he taught us to love one another.
There have been many particular traditions which have formed and been upheld through the years with Christian churches, and when something new and conflicting comes along, opinions often vary and the once distinctive way becomes more clouded. For many of the LGBTQ+ community for example, the way to God cannot even be seen through the contempt and judgement usually displayed towards them. They can’t find a satisfying connection with God, and will most likely choose to turn away from faith and try to find another way to fulfil their lives; whether it’s choosing a dangerous looking road instead, or going back the way they came.
I am extremely fortunate to have God in my life, as well as family and friends to talk to, even if they don’t share the same affirming Christian views. Unfortunately, there are those out there that have nowhere to turn, are judged instantly (sometimes assaulted), still looking for acceptance, and a way to fill the void in their lives. There are many denominations so focused on following the text of the Bible down to a tee, that they start putting the letter of the law, before the SPIRIT of the law. They treat life like securing full marks on an exam, but instead of putting the work in, they put an answer so it can be completed quicker. Getting an A+ in Christianity is all that matters to them, and therefore not being distracted by having to show consideration to others along the way. At that point, when questioning people see or hear these toxic views, they come to the conclusion that there’s no hope for them, or they don’t want to be affiliated with any churches at all.
This approach has never sat right with me; not just because I’m gay or being biased, but I can’t stand the thought of a person being rejected because of who they are. I wouldn’t want it to happen to me. God shouldn’t be feared, or thought to be homophobic; he should be looked upon as firm but loving parent who simply wants the best for us. I genuinely believe God created and loves us for who we are, and approves of loving, committed and faithful relationships, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. Like it says in Romans 13:10: “Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.” I agree Christ should be the centre of your life and the first priority, but in order to be Christ-like we must take influence from the Bible, while also showing compassion and empathy for others. To find JOY, you must put Jesus and Others first before Yourself. Let God be your spiritual and moral compass, and show you the Way.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it gave you food for thought and a better perspective on church/LGBTQ+. I’m currently looking into setting up a Facebook page/group for people in Ayrshire interested in finding out more about Christianity and LGBTQ+ questions. If you have any questions, ideas or just want to chat, you can send a message via firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to answer questions the best I can, suggest people to talk to or resources that can help. God bless!