Many Hearts Walking Together
©Lisa C. Farrell
I will never forget the day I was driving one of my church members to a church growth conference. The PCUSA had just voted to change the ordination standards to permit the ordination of gay and lesbian persons. She turned and said to me with heartfelt sincereity, “Well, if we ever had a gay pastor I would have to leave.” I silently said to the Lord, “You tell her Lord, after she’s in heaven, please.”
It’s been a very long journey. That woman is no longer a member of the church, and she probably does know about me now, because Vicki and I got married this year. After 22 years of ministry here we married after another person (not a church member) threatened to publicly “out” me if she didn’t get her way about something else! At that point being a gay pastor was no longer against the rules. Gay marriage was legal, something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, and enough was enough. Many loving people rallied around us and we had a truly wonderful wedding.
Have we lost members since I came out and got married? Sadly, yes. People I have pastored and loved . . . people I have cared for and advocated on behalf of . . . people who I have ministered to in times of acute grief. But it wasn’t enough. The “unforgiveable sin,” being gay, took it’s toll.
From the earliest days of Christianity members of the LGTBIA community have been faced with an awful choice—to reject the truth about themselves and try to live a lie, or to turn away from God. Of all “sins” ours has been put forth as the most deadly, shocking and unforgiveable. The misinterpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah meant that this “sin” was so bad entire cities were destroyed because of it!
The universally accepted belief for the better part of two thousand years has been that the way homosexuals express themselves emotionally and sexually is condemned by God because the Bible says so. A person who is gay or lesbian must either remain celibate, condemned to a life of loneliness and isolation, or struggle to “become straight,” something that even the most conservative adherents of the ex-gay ministry now acknowledge does not work.
“Homosexuality” has been portrayed as a pathological sickness, a lifestyle and a choice. But the evidence is now clear. There is no more pathology in the gay and lesbian community than there is in the heterosexual majority. The alleged “gay lifestyle” is a stereotype based on the excesses of a tiny minority and fear.
Sexual orientation is not like adultery, or lying, or stealing. All of these activities are choices. But sexual orientation is a state of being. It is a given.
We are rebuilding now at Penn Wynne Presbyterian Church. We are a small community, but the congregation of today is truly loving and accepting of all. We have always been multi-racial and multi-ethnic, but now it’s okay to be gay too, even if you’re the minister.
Look for future blogs on this subject . . .