Although the writer says my reasons don’t matter, I feel compelled to explain why I encouraged my gay friends to remain in the church and why I don’t believe I’m evil for this.
One of my reasons is, admittedly, selfish. I serve in ministry with my friends, and they are a vibrant, important part of that ministry. I would miss their insight and leadership.
I realize there are many who would argue, “You both should leave the church.” But this overlooks the fact that our particular church has been one of the most accepting, affirming and loving churches I’ve ever attended. The Episcopal Church I used to attend was more liberal in official church policy, but the individual church was less mission-oriented, less friendly and less open.
The Methodist Church I attend now has fully embraced our gay members. They serve in positions of leadership, teach Sunday School classes and are active in numerous ministries. Some of our church members approached the senior minister with their objections, threatening to leave the church (which they ultimately did), but the senior minister didn’t budge. He explained that our gay members were fully welcome to participate in all church ministries.
Other members who initially disapproved but chose to remain in the church have completely changed their opinions about gay marriage and ordination since then. One woman said, “I used to believe gay marriage was wrong, but my heart has changed on this issue after getting to know our gay couples.” The magnitude of this change shouldn’t be underestimated, given the conservatism of these members.
One of my gay friends told me he is conflicted. As he explained it, “I love this church, I was baptized here, I serve here.”
I understand why gay members are choosing to leave. I would consider leaving a church that didn’t allow women to teach or preach or assume a leadership role. But if someone tried to talk me into remaining, I wouldn’t consider that person evil. Many people are opposed to some of the positions taken by their denomination but remain active in their individual church. There are a variety of reasons for their decisions. For some, the church has become a close-knit and supportive family.
One my friend’s children is severely autistic and has thrived in our church’s special needs ministry. When my friend’s husband had cancer, church members rallied around. They provided food, prayer, transportation for the kids to after-school activities, and any other support they could give. My friend would have done the same for other church members, and we all celebrated when his husband was pronounced cancer free.