Ever feel you are sometimes stuck between a rock and a hard place? Well you’re not alone, and there is a support group for that (insert some support group here). OK just kidding. But what I have learned over the past 8 months is really that I am not alone or unique to what is going on in my life. You see plenty of other people in conservative faith communities venture through the same transitions and adjustments.
What is it that I’m specifically referring to? I’m directly taking about my faith communities in regards to being open about my same sex attractions. Most know but for those who have stumbled upon this blog by happening, or maybe several months after this post, but I grew up in a conservative charismatic church. Yes we raised our hands, fled from tradition, and enjoy having fun in church. Yes that crazy group. But there is so much more to the foundation of this faith community. If you are reading and question, “where is he going with this?” I assure you this is not a bashing blog, no its the complete opposite.
Growing up charismatic challenged me to have an active fruitful relationship with God. It challenged the mundane and gave me awareness that there is so much more in this life, and that my relationship with the Holy Spirit could be active and fulfilling, and it still is. But there are two sides of a coin aren’t there? Not only when it comes to social issues (which we won’t discuss here). But sometimes the “holy noise” and “hype” can drown out key things God is trying to share with us. We focus so much on experience and the Holy Spirit, and forget so quickly that reverence and tradition hold an important spot in the history of the church.
Fast forward (well actually backtrack to June) to the day I left the charismatic community and sought out a new progressive and inviting church. I landed into the Episcopal community. I suppose saying polar opposites is putting it lightly? So, how did I find it? Well in honesty through Lavender magazine, but my exposure to the Anglican community stems back to my stays in Turkey. Most of my English speaking friends grew up in the Church of England, and I was exposed to centuries of liturgy, tradition, and substance in what they do. There is reason behind what is done, it is planned and you know what to expect. Reflection and the respect of the cross is valued. To know that you are reciting something that has been sung through the millenia adds a contagious attraction to joining in even more. But it is so easy to go through the motions, to let the prayers pass, and to not exhort further into the scriptures. Where is the room for the spirit to intervene and take a hold of the hearts in the congregation?
Well neither is perfect are they? Many reading this honestly could care less about “two denominations” in the midst of the Global Church. Those not interested in faith could simply say this is a waste of time, and in an aspect you’re right! But reader, you must understand where I came from, and where I am stuck. Being Christian and being gay for those who grew up Evangelical is muddy. With shrinking percentage of the Christian world (yes support for this traditional view in the church has declined a lot in the last 5 years) claiming my lifestyle is a sin and a choice, and the others who accepts me just as I am, may not necessarily hold the same view of Scripture in every light that I do, it can be difficult and lonely. But isn’t faith messy? Aren’t the Scriptures challenging and confusing? Haven’t we gotten things wrong in the past? I think most would say yes.
Driving home my final statement (you’re welcome). There are benefits and challenges to any faith group. The past 10 months have been difficult for many reasons: relationships, breakups, new church, coming out, etc. But one thing without a doubt has stayed constant, and that is the cross and Christ’s commandment to love. Having an identity not accepted or changeable in a church with a very literal view of Scripture is difficult, nothing I would ever chose or wish upon anyone.
What I can declare is that forgiveness runs deep. Do I miss my church of 23 years? Absolutey! And I don’t speak negatively of them, because if it wasn’t for them, the foundation that I have would not exist. There are many challenges I face in my new faith community, and for awhile I struggled to figure out all the routine that goes into the service. But now that I understand, I can’t help but get excited about kneeling, and having time to hear that quiet voice speak in the midst of the noise. (Don’t forget I’m a millenial, so there’s a lot of distractions….)
I hope to continue in the calling I have to bridge opposite sides of the spectrum around sexual identity, but what is important for everyone to understand, and something those of us stuck between the two, is that we cannot forget that there are real people going through real issues, and that when we chose to make it black and white, or chose to keep our lenses on for interpretation, it can effect those of us caught in the cross fire. It took me 8 years to come out, one of the leading causes of that was due to the war that encircled me every day through my questioning. Today, I stand as a hopeful testament that there is enough room at the table for us to discuss, process, and think aloud as believers United in Christ, repentant of our past. Grasp onto that as we move forward in the lenten season.
The best to you as you dive through faith. Can we all do it together?