An Open Letter to My Parents’ Pastor

You don’t know me, and I’m not usually in the habit of writing open letters, but this is a special occasion.

You’ve been the pastor of AUMC for two Sundays now. Last Sunday you gave a sermon about the authority of Scripture. About halfway through the sermon, you said some things that hurt a lot of people very deeply. Towards the end, you mentioned that you don’t care about hurting people’s feelings (which doesn’t strike me as very pastoral, but that’s another letter).

Long story short, my parents are leaving AUMC.

Here are some things you should know: we’ve been members for 13 years, since I was ten years old. My brother and I were confirmed there; I preached for the first time there; until recently, I thought I would get married there.

Another thing you should know: I am a lesbian. I came out this year, after many years of trying to deny who I was. My parents love me unconditionally. My mom cried through your sermon last Sunday. My dad calmly collected his things and told the choir director we wouldn’t be back.

//

I’m writing to you because I love my parents. In many ways, I feel guilty for the choices my sexuality created for them: choices between me and the rest our family, between me and decade-long friendships, between me and our church. I haven’t asked them to make these choices, but I never had to. When I called my mom on Sunday, after hearing about your sermon, she told me that she cancelled helping with VBS, couldn’t even go back in the building after that.

I’m writing to you because I want you to know who you are losing in my parents.

My dad, Greg, recently re-joined the board of trustees. He plays guitar in the praise band and leads an adult Sunday school class. He was the construction coordinator on the youth mission trip this year and has been since I was in high school. In a couple of weeks, he’s going back to Kenya with another Methodist church, to work at a hospital AUMC supports. My mom, Kathy, founded the Stephen Ministry team at AUMC, and still has a full roster of people to whom she offers lay grief counseling. She was a cook on the youth mission trips when my brother and I went. She helps with the elementary after-school programs and Vacation Bible School and is the first to make a meal for anyone who needs one.

We are those church people. We weren’t always that family, but then AUMC let my dad play guitar, and showed up with fried chicken when my uncle died, and quite literally saved my life. The church grew up around us like ivy over a wall. Or maybe, streams of living water in a desert.

I’m not saying all this to brag, but to show you who we are: a family whose life has been shaped and guided by our membership at our church, who have found time and again that our church family is strong where we are weak.

Tell me who sinned, my church or my parents, that I grew up believing that I was loved beyond reason?

//

My parents will tell you that I’m really good at feelings. But here’s how your theology actually hurts LGBTQ+ people:

About 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

One-third of LGB youth will attempt suicide. This is four times higher than the average for heterosexual, cisgender teens, and when LGB youth attempt suicide, the attempts are 4 to 6 times more likely to end in injuries needing serious medical treatment.

In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.

On top of this, LGB youth who come from highly-rejecting families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their LGB peers who come from affirming or low-rejecting families.

About one-fifth of reported single-bias hate crimes are committed against LGBT people.

Your theology literally kills people, and you wantonly condemned queer people because you felt safe in the authority of a pulpit and the assumption that everyone agreed with you.

That is not love. That is not Biblical.

That is not how I learned to live out my faith, in the very Sunday school rooms of the church you now pastor. My church raised me to fight for the least of these, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to pray and strive for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

//

There’s an argument to be made for co-existing in difference of opinion, but I refuse to do that when your opinion is actively working to kill me and my siblings in Christ. Thanks be to God, my parents feel the same.

Ultimately, this is who you lose when you lose my parents: the best people in the world. The ones who will show up at your house in a crisis, who will drive for hours to fix your car, who will give money to your mission trip, who will love you and love you and love you until you can love yourself again.

When you lose queer people, you lose these same things. We are just church people, like my parents. We are those church people.

//

We can talk, if you want, but know that I am volunteering to have these conversations so my parents don’t have to. So the gay kids in the youth group, closeted or not, don’t have to.

I don’t want to have the Bible debates with you. I don’t want to hear you say you love me, but not my sin. I don’t want to have to sit and defend my humanity to you, but I will defend the humanity of others all day long. It’s how my church raised me.

I truly pray this isn’t the final goodbye to AUMC for my parents. But the family of Christ is big and the kingdom is wide, and they will find another place to call home.

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374 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Parents’ Pastor

  1. So much suicide in the LGBT community, just like in the drug community, and the occult community, yet you lash out at the church. Perhaps the suicidality, which is admittedly tragic, is an outcome of living contracts to God’s will, yet so many want to blame faithful Christians. I don’t condone hate. It is hateful to call someone horrible things, to openly persecute them, to physically harm then… but it is not hateful to reject that which is contrary to God’s plan. You can’t reject that, and then call those who didn’t hateful, and hold them responsible for the negative outcomes on you, your family, or your community. I am saddened that your family chose to leave the church. But I’m thankful for a pastor that is not wilting in the prevailing winds of today’s sinful culture.

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    1. Grant, High suicide rates are due to persecution, marginalization and rejection of LGBTQ souls by people like you. Unconditional love and acceptance is the remedy. Your attitude seems to be the antithesis of what we should be doing.

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    2. The Bible does NOT condemn homosexuality…period. People with twisted and bigoted prejudices who have tried to use the Bible as their battering ram are what is condemned by the Bible. And no matter how much you try to cloak your prejudice in being just a “well-meaning Christian who is concerned about the souls of homosexuals,” what you really are is someone who loves his bigotries more than he loves God. And when these “well-meaning Christians” constantly torment homosexuals, depriving them of their dignity and humanity, the rate of suicide among homosexuals is not from illness, but from the harm done by “well-meaning Christians.” “Well-meaning Christians” are not true Christians. Well-loving Christians, that is what Jesus taught. And you can blame true and proper interpretation of the Bible on anything you want, all in your effort to refuse to see the light of God’s truth, but loving your bigotries more than you love God is not how you properly interpret the Bible. Read the book, “Homosexuality, The Bible, The Truth – The Bible Does NOT Condemn Homosexuality.” It has all the proofs you will ever need to see the light.

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    3. Oh please. Where in your comments do I see Christ? Nowhere.

      You don’t have any basis for your statements about suicide. People kill themselves because of people who are hateful and self righteous like you.

      Repent.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Grant,
      Obviously you have not been a member of a Methodist church as an 18 year old young man when the 16 year old son of two wonderful parents who was a friend of your brother, hung himself in their garage at home.
      The blinkers you and others with similar views wear also prevent you from seeing The Truth of the Gospel and Jesus’ life.
      When you reject that someone is gay, you reject their heart. You reject their very existence as a child of God. When someone is born and grows up feeling they should be different from the physical gender they are, you reject their nature which was bestowed to them as a living being created by Him.
      Most of all, you reject what we were commanded to do first and foremost.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Grant, have you heard of ghosting? Have you heard discussion of ghosting in Christian churches? How do you read the gospel story of Zacheeus? Did Jesus draw the line where the religious authorities indicated? And how many Samaritans would help an unfortunate stranger?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Carrie you are the embodiment of Christian faith. Thank you forever for speaking up against this killing blinded discrimination. Peace and many blessing to you.

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  2. It is interesting to me how deeply entwined the political issues have become with the religious issues. Those lines seem to have become blurred beyond recognition. It does make for very messy conversations and much difficulty trying to get to the truth of a matter – especially since our society has become so polarized.

    Carrie, I am interested how things turned out with your parents and their church. Did this letter produce any positive results in that regard? What about your father’s meeting with the pastor?

    You and your family have certainly received mostly blessings and peace from people in the comments section. Even those who opposed your stance seem to genuinely care about the health and well-being of your soul, if not your emotions. I know God works all things together for the good of those who love him. I hope you have found comfort in that.

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    1. Separating the political from the religious renders the Gospel impotent. Cast off that bushel over the light of justice and compassion and carry it high so those who have been cast into a deep darkness will reach for life even yet.

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  3. This line… tears instantly in my eyes and cry-ball in my throat.

    –Tell me who sinned, my church or my parents, that I grew up believing that I was loved beyond reason?–

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Heather, it is really just unreal how two UMC churches, within 6 miles of each other can preach messages at the polar opposite of the spectrum to the assembled congregation. To me this just says ONE thing… find the church that has the heart and mind of Jesus Christ as its guide. Not one but THREE people clearly preached the message of love for our fellow human beings last Sunday. Nice deviciveness. No fire and brimstone. If there is a judge (and I believe there is) then it is for Him or Her to determine our deserved salvation. Not a new pastor making mistakes that will be his for his lifetime, may God bless him…

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  4. A note to Carrie’s “pastor,” in case you ever care enough to read her post:

    Your theology is not only literally killing people, it’s also killing them spiritually. Christians like you are the leading cause of ex-Christians like me. If you’re trying to fulfill some imaginary Great Decommission, you’re succeeding.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Touching story on the BBC News site 7/14:

    Love letters between Gilbert Bradley and Gordon Bowsher, written in a time when homosexuality was illegal, came to light after Mr Bradley’s death in 2008.

    At that time armed force members could have been be shot for having gay sex.

    “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.”

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-shropshire-40595276

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  6. Carrie, I highly recommend that you and your parents seek out a local Metropolitan Community Church (UFMCC denomination) to attend http://mccchurch.org/. I go to one here in Toronto, Canada (I am a cisgendered, straight, white female of no particular religious background or upbringing) and it is a vibrant, inclusive, progressive (VIP) congregation made up of many different religious backgrounds, sexual & gender identities, and races because “All are welcome” in this community!

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  7. You and your parents should try to find a local Metropolitan Community Church (UFMCC denomination) http://mccchurch.org/. I attend the one in Toronto, Canada, and it is a wonderful and welcoming community of people from all religions, all sexual and gender identities, and all races. All are welcome!

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  8. I just wanted to say, I heard the admonition and love of Jesus in your post. Thank you for standing up and being a voice for people who are too often pushed to the side and condemned for wanting to be their authentic selves. I know Jesus is proud of you.

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  9. Unfortunately, bullying occurs in the church… the very place most of us go for reflection and spiritual guidance. It is not wise to embrace a theology that does not embrace you. You were created good. Love wins. Keep the faith and find an affirming church!

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  10. Dear Carrie,
    Not going to recommend a book or a blog or a feed, just gonna say I’m a pastor and you’re right. Even in progressive CA and HI it is not always easy, or safe, to take a public stand affirming LGBTQI people as being valid in their humanity and their faith. If you ever make it to Honoka’a, Hawaii please come by. I would love to have you address my congregation.

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  11. I pray that your family will find a reconciling UMC congregation and healing in their love. You’d be welcomed with open arms in my church and I hope God hastens your path to people who understand His love.

    ” You are not an accident, although those will happen. You are not a mistake, although you and I will both make them. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

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  12. Hi Carrie, I wondered if you had listened to this week’s sermon from that pastor and what your thoughts were on it. This has been an interesting post to follow!.

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      1. I hope your parents are able to reunite with their church family and continue their long-time supportive relationships. Enjoy your mission trip!

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  13. I am so sorry for the way my fellow pastor expressed his views. There is a right way and a wrong way to engage in this conversation, and it appears it went the wrong way. I encourage you to continue your journey with Jesus, and find a way and place to see the whole picture of the Bible–not the fundamentalists nor the progressives picture of God. Take in the whole picture of God, and start in the beginning, before everything was messed up. See with clarity His Intended Design for all of creation. Then allow The Father to take you on a journey to be the true self He created. His peace, strength and wisdom be with you, always.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. P.S. The family of Christ is bigger than your limited, private club for hypocrites. Jesus said “Whosoever…” and He did not follow that with a list of exceptions that were written by prejudiced bigots.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I am an ordained pastor in a major denomination. When my son was in his late 20s, he asked me to visit him. When I arrived, we went to dinner, where he very nervously told me that he is gay. This was in the early days of AIDS/HIV, and he reassured me of his negative HIV status. I then asked him if there was a special guy. He said he didn’t think he was ready to talk about that. Without thinking I replied, “Well, you better get comfortable, because you’re going to be gay a really long time.” Shocked, he laughed, and I joined him. It marked a new phase in our relationship. That was over twenty years ago. He and his partner are still together. I never hid my son from my congregations. I was always ready to hear their concerns, and the number of calls I got from distressed parents (from many denominations) was truly astonishing. I am SO SORRY that you and your family were treated this way by the pastor and congregation of your church. You and your family will join a very large group of gay/lesbian persons and their families who are in my prayers nightly. Don’t give up on the straight world, and don’t stop praying for those who reject you. You don’t have to like them…you just have to be willing to be in heaven with them, which will be a joy because you all will understand the perfect love of the One who created us all.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I have no clue whether the sermon she is referencing was biblical. The church shouldn’t accept sin but they should minister to the sinner. The church is a place for the broken and downtrodden. her response, however, seems to be asking the church to condone her sin which certainly is not biblical. Also she is cherry picking and misreading the Bible big time. Perhaps she gets her knowledge of “Christianity” from the sayings on the back of shirts and feel good slogans?

    But in response to “the family of Christ is big and the kingdom is wide” isn’t there a verse that says nearly the exact same thing but exactly opposite. Something like…. wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It seems to me your beliefs have led you to a false sense of certainty. You seem certain your religious views are the only true interpretation of scripture. Faith, on the other hand, can never be reduced to beliefs or thoughts. Faith welcomes unknowing and mystery. Have you ever thought that other perspectives have validity? Or are you so certain in your beliefs that you reject other interpretations out of hand?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rollie – there are *many* beliefs and perspectives. I don’t see that the author of this piece is expressing certainty that her view is the only view of religion.

        I see that she is expressing certainty that she will not buy into a perspective that demeans her, that sees her as less than, well, human, in many ways, and that actively seeks to kill many people by its scorn, neglect and, as I see it, hatred.

        You know, I believe there are *many* perspectives, many within the Christian faith, and many in other faiths – and yet the perspective above, the one expressed by her pastor, is not one I’d care to have any connection with either.

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        1. Jeffel, my comment was meant for John, not Carrie. Replying to a specific comment on this blog is difficult, there is no reply button on threads, only on the original comment. I have to do it via email notices. Replies to the blog post are straightforward… not so much down thread. I’ll try and remember to address the person/comment by name.

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        2. Jeffle, I love Carrie’s original post and support her stance completely. Your reply to me seems to assume it was meant for Carrie. It was meant for John.

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    2. The sermon quoted scripture (the “primary authority”) but when I heard it I felt like it did not include Christian “experience”, “reason”… And “tradition” was confined to beliefs before science…

      If our Methodism preaching content ignored the quadrilateral we’d still be talking about a flat world. Yet we are not, even in our most conservative church groups.

      Man was made, in the majority to be attracted to the Eves of this world. Not all Adams are though! What do some people not “get” about this??? We have all colors of hair, skin (and boy, that caused issues; skin color) and we have people born with the wrong (or both) genitals… why is that such a problem?

      The earth was flat, then it wasn’t. That’s pretty significant. We believe that now right? Why is something so small as our privates such a huge issue to get over?

      The church I went to today is a short drive from the one where this new preacher said his thing. The church I went to had not one but 4 people stand up and talk about love, helping kids get thru schooling, coping with life in general, being friends and falling out, but most of all the conversation was about caring for each other thru our lifetime, the messy relationship with each other and Jesus, and being in connection. I find that very hard to be: Connected with others. I’m one of the gays. And married (terribly unbiblical, God help me).

      There’s a huge chasm of a difference though between the message these pst two Sundays in these two (same denomination churches tho!)

      In one, a pastor driving people out. A message of exclusion, drawing a circle narrow. And the other, inclusion, about building relationships, drawing a wide circle, encouraging people to come into that safe space.

      I don’t know why I am shocked that this happens around here. We are “in the South” yet we surely do not need to compete with the most extreme baptist groups?

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    3. John, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. I am the author of the book, “Homosexuality, The Bible, The Truth – The Bible Does NOT Condemn Homosexuality.” I spent forty years in research and preparation to produce that book, and I am versed in the original languages of the Bible, as well, so this was not some small essay by someone who was guessing his way through the Bible. Furthermore, I was raised Pentecostal, about as Fundamentalist and fanatic as you could get, so when I see you come on here and put forth your holier-than-thou-art, sanctimonious prejudice that you try to pass off as Scripture, I am here to tell you that you need to seek God, His love, His truth, and stop promoting the twisted bigotry that has been passed down from one ignorant bigot to another. If you are not afraid of the Truth, then read my book, but if you love your ignorance and bigotry more than God, then you are helpless.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Carrie, I read your response to your pastor and immediately posted your blog to our church FB site. As the pastor of an Open & Affirming United Church of Christ Congregation I celebrate your standing firm in a faith grounded in love that stands up on behalf of your parents, family, other LGBTQ students and for all of us whether we are LGBTQ allies or folks still working on these issues in a time of great change. You met an injustice with dignity and grace. You met it with information. And you met it with deep compassion for those who bear the weight not just of intolerance, but hateful practice.

    I must confess to a damp cheek as I re-posted. The Church as a whole needs to both hear and feel the pain that its theology and policies inflict upon others. The Church needs to know that action…corrective action…is necessary…now in order to create a pathway into the future which God is clearly showing us.

    Thank you for opening eyes by not retreating. The eyes opened will be in your home church and far beyond. And it has the effect of turning a wretched moment into the possibility of growth. 1 John 3:7-12 expresses what we need now more than ever: “If you love, you know God and are born of God. For God is LOVE.” Your statement bears the strength of that love and the passion of Christ. Thank you. Be blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. As a young child, i made my life long friend. He came out to me at 16. I decided that moment to accept the best thing that had ever happened to me or loose it. Not a even a choice. We read the bible about homosexuality. We prayed. We accepted. That was years ago. I am straight. I have a husband and 2 children. He has a ife long partner of 25 years. He is a god parent. He loves God and has lived thru many trials. He is sober for almost 5 years. He is sucessful. He doesn’t judge. I am his friend. I love him. Our relationship taught me not to judge as i have taught my family. GOD says don’t judge, i leave that to Him. I accept and love others. God Bless your family! We are here to live thru Him, for Him, and with Him. He is King. He will judge. Please be careful, as everyone should. This is a part of your life, not all of it. We will ALL BE JUDGED. No one, no Christian is exempt. Thank you for allowing me to voice.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Here are 4 primary scriptures come to my mind.

    1. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
    2. But when they persisted in asking Him, Jesus straightened up, and said to them, “Let he who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
    3. If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/53/Domenico_ghirlandaio%2C_ritratto_di_nonno_con_nipote.jpg
    4. A man walking to Jericho was attacked by robbers. They stripped him, beat him and left him half dead. A priest passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite. But a Samaritan took pity on him. He bandaged his wounds. He put the man on his donkey, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out 2 denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will pay for any extra expense.’ See: https://www.wikiart.org/en/vincent-van-gogh/the-good-samaritan-after-delacroix-1890

    Hafez, a 14th century Sufi poet who was well-acquainted with Christ’s teachings wrote this:

    It happens all the time in heaven,
    And some day
    It will begin to happen
    Again on earth –
    That men and women who are married,
    And men and men who are
    Lovers,
    And women and women
    Who give each other
    Light,
    Often will get down on their knees
    And while so tenderly
    Holding their lover’s hand,
    With tears in their eyes,
    Will sincerely speak, saying,
    “My dear,
    How can I be more loving to you;
    How can I be more
    Kind?”

    See: https://theartstack.com/artist/gustav-klimt/golden-tears

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    1. Two thoughts:
      1) The “everyone is a sinner” approach—- automatically equates lesbian and gay intimate relationships with sin. Entirely unhelpful.

      2) “… justified freely by His grace” <<<< Patriarchal language must be jettisoned from pulpit. It's really very simple most of the time: "…justified freely by God's grace" (or try on "…Her grace" for an insightful experience).

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  20. Carrie, your Voice shares a beautiful message in clear thought and imagery. Yes, we Humans are all Whole, Valid, Equal and Enough, just as we are. Thank you for sharing the affirmations many need to hear, regardless of faith tradition.

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  21. To help you in your battles, please read the book, “Homosexuality, The Bible, The Truth – The Bible Does NOT Condemn Homosexuality.” You will find all the proof necessary to fully know that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, and that God loves all of His children. This book represents forty years of scholarly research and proves everything the title says. I hope you wil get a copy and get others to read it, as well.
    Brian Gray, Author

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brian, could you check with Amazon about the licensing to sell this title?

      I see this message:
      This title is not currently available for purchase

      It could be because my Kindle account is British or American and I cannot work out the problem but I am interested in the book if it can be made available to both the USA and U.K. Regions?

      Thanks

      Like

      1. Hi Paul, as the author of the book, I know that it can be ordered through any major book seller, such as Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Let me know if you have any difficulties.
        Brian Gray

        Like

        1. Not sure if it’s my Amazon setup or some other reason. Format: Kindle. This title is not currently available for purchase.

          😦

          Like

  22. I may point out something that is often forgotten in the parable of the Good Samaritan. THE SAMARITANS WERE LOOKED UPON AS HERETICS. Kinda like the progressive Christians here are being seen by the conservatives.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. The Methodist church I go to are so non-judgmental and accepting. I’m sorry you were hurt and your family. Just know that the Lord I know loves you and accepts you. Don’t let the trolls in this life get you down.

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  24. Carrie, I applaud your bravery and your writing and it grieves me to see some of the people here calling you to repent. I declare those appeals to be total and utter B.S.

    I have long been an admirer of the late Peter Gomes. Dr. Gomes, a minister and a theologian, was a professor at Harvard Divinity School. He wrote and preached extensively on how to read and UNDERSTAND the Bible. I loved his book about biblical interpretation entitled, “The Good Book.”

    For those narrow-minded folks who are blatantly ignoring Christ’s mandate to “JUDGE NOT,” I would invite you to read this op-ed piece Dr. Gomes wrote for the NYT in 1992. His scholarly and eloquent exegesis on the very few passages of the Bible that mention homosexuality will enlighten you as to why condemning homosexuals is just about the most unChristian thing you can do.

    http://www.nytimes.com/ref/opinion/op-classic-gomes.html?pagewanted=all

    Liked by 3 people

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