Recently I wrote a post about the difference between welcoming and affirming churches. You might be surprised to know that the church I go to is not affirming. I get A LOT of questions as to why I stay. It’s easy to talk about in person, but much more difficult to answer when chatting with someone online so I thought I’d address it here so I have something I can refer them to.
I’ve seen other people attacked for staying in non-affirming churches. The discussions can get very heated. I have received some criticism for staying. There are many layers to this topic as with most of the things I’ve shared here so this is just scraping the surface.
Unfortunately, I know many people who have been deeply hurt by their church when their child has come out…or when they themselves have come out. Some have even been kicked out. And others have suffered down right abuse from their church. I would never suggest that anyone should stay under any of these circumstances. I also know people that have left the church because their children are not totally accepted there. They may not have been mistreated, but they can’t stay in a place that their child is made to feel less then. And if you aren’t completely accepted for who you are it makes you feel like you are being tolerated…not accepted…and that is not a good feeling. I completely understand why many in the LGBTQ community and their families will never step foot into another church. I myself struggle with many of the things that they feel at times.
So why do I stay?
When my son came out, I had been attending my church for about 7 years. It was so scary. So many thoughts and emotions were swirling around in my head. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to believe. I didn’t know where to turn. After about two weeks, I let our church staff (which I was a part of at the time) know what was happening. Our family was treated with love and respect.
We waited quite some time before we let others in the church know that our son was gay. When we did eventually start to tell people, we were always met with compassion. Were there ever things said about gay people that were unkind by people who attend? Sure. Was there gossiping when people found out? Some. But what I have found, is that most people want to learn how to do better. Because I share what I’ve learned and what I’ve experienced, there are some that are eager to help and make things better.
As I’ve been on this journey, many of my beliefs have changed from the research that I’ve done. I’m on a different page then many in my church. Is that hard? Yes…at times it is. There are Sundays that I weep during worship because my LGBTQ brothers and sisters are missing from the seats surrounding me. I know what it’s like to worship with them and I long for times to be with them again. But even though I’m at a different place, I still feel heard. I still feel respected. In fact, my pastor had me share my journey on a Sunday morning back in 2015. If you listen to the message, you will hear his heart at the very end. This is one of the reasons why I stay.
It is possible to be in relationship with people who believe differently than you. But I know this is not for everyone, and if you can’t do it that is ok. For some, there has been too much pain. There is no right or wrong here because we are all coming from different backgrounds, different stories, different experiences. For some, the best thing to do is leave. And for others, it is possible to stay.
I stay to be a reminder that we have a whole population of folks that are missing from our congregation.
I stay to be an advocate for anyone that might walk through our doors who is LGBTQ or discovers they have a child that is LGBTQ.
I stay to share what I’ve learned.
I stay to keep the conversation going.
I stay because my child thanks me for staying so that he isn’t forgotten.
I stay because God hasn’t called me to leave.
I took this picture when I was at Longwood Gardens last week. There are several reasons why it appeals to me. The first thing I noticed were all of the hearts in the scroll work. I have a thing for hearts (smile). I also liked how every piece of iron seemed to be connected to the pieces around them. Together they make a beautiful decoration. I also like the perspective of taking the picture towards the sky with the sun shining through. When I look at this picture, I am reminded that we are all interconnected…with each other and with God. It’s this closeness that helps us to understand each other. If a chunk of this iron work was missing, it wouldn’t be as beautiful. When we are missing a part of God’s creation, we are missing out on the beauty He designed for us. Let’s keep the conversations going. Let’s love one another.
Because love matters…