The Church and the Gay Christian

Alanna Schwartz

I have been a Christian my whole life. Growing up, as a young girl attending youth group, I thought that being gay and being Christian were mutually exclusive. Through the help of my friends whose stories you are about to read, and through my growing awareness of Jesus’ welcoming, inclusive example in the Gospels, my view of the church has grown. I now believe that gay people should not be kept separate from the church, but should be welcomed as active members. I believe their relationships, their insights, and their leadership has a place in the church.

I have made some mistakes in my positioning towards the gay community, and I believe the church has too. I share these stories in the hopes of stirring churches and Christians to think about their responsibility to the LGBTQ+ community and the ways that the people in this community deserve to be loved by the church.

These friends of mine, whom you are about to meet, have more grace for the church than I could have imagined, and they fight to find God when people tell them God doesn’t belong to them anymore. I’m so happy to introduce them to you.

Image by Prixel Creative

CAI

Cai was my first openly gay friend. I knew him from school and I loved hanging out with him; he was raised an atheist but was always respectful of my going to church. We would spend afternoons making cheesecakes and watching The Office together, and would get in trouble for laughing too much in class. Though Cai had known he was gay since puberty and had begun coming out to his friends when he was in the eighth grade, I was one of the last in our friend group to be told in grade 12. This, Cai told me at the time, was because I went to church.

“There wasn’t really a time when I was able to categorize which people I was afraid to come out to,” says Cai, “Through media and movies though, you kind of get an idea of who those groups are. I was cautious around people who played team sports, religious people, specifically Christian, Catholic, and Muslim groups, and then like, blue-collar macho men.”

In retrospect, Cai can see how his avoidance of certain groups played out in his friendships. As he puts it, “most of my friends were girls, and most of them were not religious, and most of them didn’t have brothers. The only guys I was really friends with were the ones that I made before I knew I was gay.”

“I think I chose the friends I did because I was afraid of the rejection of losing people,” adds Cai.

Looking back on it now, becoming friends with me would appear to be a big risk for someone like Cai; I was very active in my youth group, I occasionally posted Bible verses on my Facebook, and my family made you say grace with us if you stayed over for dinner.

As I started to learn more about the gay community, I discovered that they are a more diverse group that I realized. The full acronym, which is becoming more commonly used, is LGBTQQIP2SAA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, Two Spirit, Asexual, Ally).

Though I told Cai that his sexuality changed nothing about our friendship, I understood why he was afraid to tell me. However, my family were not what I would call ultraconservative; my mom had worked with many gay people, and when I asked her about homosexuality at a young age she told me that she did not think that there was anything wrong with being gay, and that I didn’t need to think so either. This wasn’t necessarily the case for my other Christian friends though.

OPAL

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Opal. We grew up attending the same church and camp. We were in Sunday school together, and then youth group, and saw each other practically every week until Opal came out in her early twenties. When she did so, she stopped coming to our church, and I didn’t see her much after that. Our friendship dissolved, and I didn’t reach out to Opal, thinking that she wouldn’t want to be involved in the church after coming out. At this point in my life I thought it was impossible to be both gay and Christian. I got the chance to apologize for this during our interview. Talking to Opal after all these years shook me, as there was so much that I just assumed about that time in her life.

Opal

“Growing up, I didn’t really know there was any life aside from Christianity,” says Opal, “Everything we did was dictated by church and Christianity. Even if we were on vacation we would find a church to go to on Sunday morning. And even though I went to a public school I always sat out of Sex Ed class.”

Obviously, Opal recalls, she wasn’t exposed to many opinions that differed from those of her parents or the church, or to people who were openly gay. Our church, as far as we remembered, never talked about homosexuality in an affirming or a condemning way – it just simply wasn’t talked about. So how did we know that it was bad? Opal remembers slight hints of homophobia in her home growing up, stemming from her family’s Christian faith.

“No one really overtly said ‘Being gay is bad,’ but the comments made by my family if some topic like that arose were always negative,” says Opal. “Like if a gay couple was on TV my dad would make some comment and change the channel. But it was always gay men on TV and never gay women.”

With the subliminal knowledge that being gay was ‘bad’, Opal became a teenager knowing that something about her felt different. She was not connecting with guys in the way that the rest of us were, and she felt alone.

“I didn’t want to recognize what was happening but I definitely knew what it was,” says Opal.

Opal waited until she had been sure of her sexuality for many years and was in a relationship with a girl before telling her parents. Unlike Cai, who said that he didn’t experience any fear coming out to his parents, Opal felt serious anxiety about telling her parents that she was gay.

“I had my bags packed and was ready to move out the day that I came out to my parents,” says Opal.

She believed that her parents didn’t want to lose her, but she also knew that she would not be able to live with them and be her true self as opposed to the kind of daughter that her parents ‘raised her to be’.

Opal’s biggest hurt upon coming out to her family was that they didn’t ask her questions about it. They didn’t care to know how she came to this conclusion or what she had been going through; they just wanted it to be different.

“They asked me if some sort of trauma had caused me to be gay, or if they had done something that had made me this way,” recalls Opal. “They wanted to send me to a counselor who could fix me, but I had already spent so much time coming to terms with who I really was.”

Opal expanded on this later in our interview: “Being gay in my circumstances is not an easy road. It’s not something you would want to choose, so it’s something I had to learn to be okay with.”

Opal’s coming out didn’t only change her family dynamic, but impacted her spiritual life as well. She stopped coming to church, and I didn’t see her much after she came out.

“I didn’t want to be in a place where people would be condemning of my life,” says Opal. “I knew people would be that way because my parents were that way. Some camp people were encouraging and proud of me, and some of them were also church people who had been keeping their sexuality under wraps. When I came out they were like ‘Welcome to the Secret Gay Club!’”

When Opal came out and stopped coming to church, I didn’t reach out to her. Since Opal was gay, I assumed she didn’t want to be friends with church people anymore, or be invited to events. Though this was not necessarily the case for Opal, she has some suggestions for how the church could do a better job of helping gay people to feel welcome.

“When people invite you to church, they’re asking you to come into their comfort zone, and the church definitely wasn’t a place where I felt comfortable anymore.” Opal says. “Some churches might also tell you to ‘come as you are’, but once you’re there you need to change who you are to be able to really be a part of that church.”

Opal has come to a few church functions in recent years, and has even brought her girlfriend of four years to an Alpha course that our church ran a few years ago. Of course, everyone treats Opal well when she comes, but she definitely feels a difference.

“I notice that people just look at me differently now when I come back, and it feels now like I’m somehow less than what I used to be, or like I don’t have anything to offer but small talk anymore,” she explains.

Even in that small talk, no one asks her about her girlfriend. The same is not true for me when I go back to my home church; I hadn’t even been dating my boyfriend for a week when I was inundated with questions about him from my church family.

Opal no longer identifies as a Christian, but she thinks that in many ways she is better for it.

“I feel more genuine and accepting now that I don’t identify as a Christian and I don’t have that background telling me what to think of myself or other people,” says Opal. “I have found that the most accepting people have been those who have been burned by the church. When I was a Christian, I didn’t care about learning people’s stories as much as I do now. I think love is about trying to understand where people are coming from, and I feel that love a lot more now that I’m outside of the church.”

The church, for Opal, would be a lot more appealing if people didn’t have to keep the kinds of secrets she did, and if people wouldn’t be so afraid to talk.

As Opal insightfully puts it, “Everyone puts on their ‘Sunday Best’, but it would be a lot better if people just shared real life experiences, and if people weren’t so afraid to talk about why they believe what they believe.”

BREANNE

When I left home to go to Ambrose, a Christian Liberal Arts University, my Residence Advisor was a young woman named Breanne who was gay, though she hadn’t come out to anyone yet. Throughout the course of the year Breanne would prove herself to be one of the most crucial spiritual leaders in my life, leading me to a greater faith in God and in my friends, and encouraging me in being who I was supposed to be. She also encouraged me in my writing, faithfully prayed for healing for my chronic pain, and became a trusted friend whom I went to talk to about anything. She allowed me to be truly vulnerable in front of her, and she demonstrated a lot of vulnerability herself with all of us who lived on her floor in residence. What we didn’t know, however, was that she was dealing with a lot of questions that she couldn’t be vulnerable about at our Christian school.

Breanne

Breanne was born to missionary parents and lived at a Bible camp for the first twelve years of her life, leading her to become a Christian at a very young age.

“I think I always knew right off the bat,” Breanne says of her sexuality. “Even just being around camp counselors when I was eight, I knew that I would rather hang out with the older girls than chase after the boy counselors like the other girls my age.”

Though Breanne was very aware of her same-sex attraction at a young age, being gay was never talked about in her family. Like Opal, Breanne took the silence about the topic of homosexuality as a sign that it was something to be hidden and ashamed of.

“Because it wasn’t talked about and it wasn’t something you would ever think to talk about, that showed me that it was just so bad,” recalls Breanne.

At times, when members of her family would see a gay couple on the street, one of them would say something like, “that’s just sick”.

“[They] obviously knew nothing about what I was trying to figure out,” says Breanne, “but then it was like confirmation that what I was feeling was so wrong…”

Breanne had relationships with girls growing up, but didn’t come out to her parents or publicly until early this spring. She struggled in her relationships with the idea of whether or not what she had been taught about being gay was true.

Though her actions did not feel wrong, Breanne did not come out because of what she believed her Christian friends and family would think of her if she did. I and my other floor-sisters on residence had nothing but reverence for Breanne and the obviously deep relationship she had with Christ. She was well respected on campus and shined in her student leadership roles. What looked like beautiful spiritual opportunities for Breanne from my perspective were, in reality, huge impediments keeping Breanne from telling people the truth.

After all of this, what made a difference for Breanne was having a Christian leader tell her that she was okay.

“The first time I ever had a hint of it being okay was when I talked to the Residence Director at our school,” says Breanne.

This Residence Director was a spiritual mentor for both of us; she was forthright but tender, bold and self-aware, and had a unique connection with Jesus that we craved deeply.

“I was in my fourth year when I talked to her, and that was the first time that someone with a Christian background told me ‘It’s all good’” recalls Breanne. “She completely changed the tone of it for me. One day she just called me out and asked “Are you dating this girl secretly?’ and the first time I told her ‘No,’ and then later I went back to her crying and told her ‘Yeah, I am’… and she was just like ‘It’s all good, man’”.

Contrary to her fears, Breanne wasn’t asked to step down from serving in the school; no one asked her to go to conversion therapy, and instead she was embraced.

One thing that is so amazing to me about Breanne’s story of this confession to our Residence Director is that she never told Breanne what she thought of the issue of homosexuality or of Breanne being in relationships with girls.

“I still have no idea what her actual feelings are towards it, but it didn’t matter, and that was the best part about it. So that’s when I started to think, “Huh, maybe there are some Christians who aren’t brutal about this and are willing to talk about it. And the fact that she was the one that brought it up to me was even bigger because she was so willing to talk to me about this, so that was cool. I don’t know if she knows how pivotal that was… For her to tell me that was amazing because God has always spoken to me through people and I just felt that at that moment. And for her to tell me like, ‘It doesn’t matter what people think,’ was huge. She looked at me and said, ‘You have a relationship with God, I know you do… I know you love Him and want to have a relationship with Him, so it doesn’t matter what people think.’”

Although Breanne had this affirming encounter, there was still a fear about letting the rest of us in on what she was going through, as we all came from different faith and denominational backgrounds, and there was no guarantee that we would all react like the Residence Director.

“I just love hearing people’s stories about being vulnerable and I just didn’t feel like I could be that because I was scared of what people would think,” says Breanne. “The worst part about it was feeling so bad that I couldn’t tell Christians. Those were the people that were the hardest, and that’s what made me the most mad. I’ve never been angry at God about this ever, because I know that He wouldn’t cause that kind of pain in me. I know that He’s perfect and that people aren’t perfect and I’m able to tell the difference between what people think of me and what He thinks.”

During her time at Ambrose, Breanne was also in straight relationships with men, but this wasn’t at all an attempt to cover up her sexuality. It was an effort to change her sexuality.

“It was a ‘I’m gonna try my hardest to see if this will work’ thing’,” recalls Breanne. “I think at Ambrose my relationship with God was at an all time high, and so I was able to ask, ‘Okay God, if you wanna do some work here with this, I’m so open to trying.’ But it was clear that who I was just wasn’t going to change. If He ever wants to change my sexuality He could, and I’m open to hearing what He has to say and I always have been, and I know that’s super important… but I have never felt that way.”

Being a Christian in the same community as Breanne, I am astounded by the amount of grace that she has extended to people whose opinions directly attack hers.

“We just have to extend grace to each other in those moments when I get a bad response to being gay,” she explains. “I think [my ability to extend grace] comes from my time at Ambrose learning about God’s grace, about lavish grace and how it’s given to us not because we deserve it at all but because He wants to give it to us. That’s so important – the fact that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are or what you’re doing. It also motivates you to think of God as someone who deserves respect and deserves our obedience.”

As long as I’ve known her, Breanne has been a very active member of her church, and so far, her coming out has not affected her faith or her friendship with those at her church. However, again Breanne notes that no one really talks about sexuality or LGBTQ+ issues.

“I’ve been going there for four years now, and I’ve heard them talk about it once, in the context of saying basically ‘We don’t want anybody to feel like they’re not welcome here,’ which was obviously huge for me and I was crying,” recalls Breanne, “but then to this day, it hasn’t been talked about again.”

Since coming out, Breanne has made contact with the leadership at her church to talk about it, and they have yet to respond.

“I still feel so okay to go there and so okay to worship God,” says Breanne, “and be exactly who I am and worship – I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t feel guilty, I feel so okay to do that. It’s just the people part of it.”

The biggest issue for Breanne is the silence about the topic and her desire for Christians to learn to talk about it. For those of us who aren’t accustomed to “talking about it,” or might have different opinions on the subject, Breanne has a suggestion:

“I was watching this sermon and they were talking about the part of the Bible where the Pharisees bring an adulterous woman to Jesus in the temple, and talk about stoning her and the verse about ‘you who are without fault can cast the first stone’. The pastor was saying, that it doesn’t matter what your opinion of her sin is, but rather the way you position yourself. Jesus didn’t say anything about whether her sin was punishable or not, but postured himself in a way that was not aggressive to either side… Your opinion doesn’t matter as much as your response towards people.”

Breanne talked to me about Agape love, and what it means to give love to someone when it costs you the most. For some churches and some families, it seems as though there is a cost in loving someone from the LGBTQ+ community; it might be that you must have a conversation with your kids that makes you uncomfortable, or that you are putting yourself in a place where you need to work to learn more about a group of people, or where you have to examine why you believe what you believe. This cost, however, seems entirely worth it to Breanne. Paying the price of discomfort to talk about this issue in a church context is at the core of what would make the church a better place for LGBTQ+ Christians.

“I feel more at peace because of the people who are willing to talk about it,” says Breanne. “My biggest hurt is getting silence from people.”

As an out, lesbian person, Breanne has done infinitely more for the church than I have in the past two years. Her personable nature and relationship-first attitude has allowed her to meet many people, including gay people, who have loved her and asked to come to church with her to learn more about Jesus.

“I’ve always been about loving someone first, and then through that comes tougher questions and what you believe and why you believe it,” says Breanne, “I think I learned all of this from my parents’ ministry as church planters… All they do is build relationships with people and then share Jesus with the people when they ask.”

Additionally, the accepting responses of Breanne’s Christian friends and family have been taken note of by her gay peers, showing gay people that Christianity doesn’t always exhibit the hatred that they’ve seen in the media.

After all that she’s worked through, I asked Breanne what it was like to finally be out and in a same-sex relationship.

She smiled as she responded, “I have never felt so content with who I am.”

RYAN

When my friend Ryan came out at our school about three years before I met him or Breanne, he did not receive the affirming response he had hoped for.

“If I wanted, the school was going to pay for my transportation and accommodation to an X-Gay Therapy retreat,” recalls Ryan. “They weren’t sure how to deal with me, because in many ways the way I was living at the time was against Ambrose’ standards. When I said no to going to the retreat they ended up giving me free counselling for my first year.”

They suggested this, of course, not acknowledging the years of work that Ryan had already put in in an attempt to reconcile his faith with his sexuality.

Ryan

Ryan grew up in a Christian home; his family went to church every Sunday, and Ryan was an active participant in his church choir and youth group growing up. He was very young when he became a Christian, and was only slightly older when he started noticing a difference in his sexuality.

“I think I was in grade one or two because I was thinking that the way I was viewing one of my male classmates sounded similar to how some of my classmates viewed girls. I didn’t piece it together right then, but I could tell I was a little different.”

Of course, Ryan felt this difference before he could put words to it. He had never heard about homosexuality before, and like my other friends, only picked it up somewhat by accident.

“I remember my mom was listening to Focus on the Family on Shine FM, and there was a show one morning that she was listening to in her bathroom,” says Ryan. “All I remember is sitting on the floor of the bathroom while she was doing her hair, and we were listening to the radio hosts talk about gay marriage and why it shouldn’t be allowed and that the Bible talks about them as sinners who deserve hell.”

As Ryan listened in, he started to decipher what homosexuality actually meant.

“I remember my mom making a sort of off the cuff remark about how she agreed that they shouldn’t get married, and that being gay is unhealthy,” says Ryan. “She wasn’t going off about it, but she was just trying to explain it to me.”

Not even a year after this incident, a lot of the kids at school began calling Ryan “gay”. Because they had only used the term “homosexual” on Shine FM, Ryan didn’t know what it meant. When he came home from school and asked his mom, she told him it meant “happy,” and so after that when kids called Ryan gay he replied “thank you”, thinking they were complimenting his bubbly personality.

But in retrospect, Ryan says, “I knew I was different. I think everyone else was starting to realize it too.”

I asked Ryan if he could always identify this sense of difference he felt in himself as “gay,” but he told me he didn’t.

“Growing up, I had really low self-esteem and I just thought I was really weird and ugly and not very funny,” says Ryan. “That’s why I felt like kids at youth group – except for a small group of girls – didn’t really want to hang out with me. I thought that no one must like me at all. It wasn’t a bullying thing, I just thought everyone was being realistic about me not deserving friends.”

As Ryan grew up, his parents also noticed that he acted differently than his two brothers. They sat him down a few times to talk about it, and even asked him if he was gay, but Ryan wasn’t ready to come to terms with what he was going through.

“I even told them, ‘I think it’s just a phase,’ and I was the one to coin that term in my family,” recalls Ryan. “My parents just said, ‘Ryan, if you’re gay this is something you can talk about with us; this is something we want you to talk about with us,’ but I swore to them that it was going to pass.”

Ryan tried to force his feelings to pass by dating girls and talking himself into the idea that his disinterest in them as a teenage boy was normal. However, this experiment failed, in part because Ryan told his girlfriends that he was saving his first kiss for marriage.

“It was weird to me that people struggled with trying not to get physical with their girlfriends,” says Ryan, “because for me the struggle was trying to induce a romantic attraction to women and I just really didn’t get it.”

Later, when Ryan was out and dating men, he noticed what a relief it was to be on a date with someone he was actually attracted to. This relief was bittersweet, however, as Ryan still carried the lessons he’d been taught growing up.

“You still believe that you’re sinning, “says Ryan. “I might have come out and I might have believed it was okay, but it wasn’t until about 4 years later that I was able to break off that homophobia I had towards myself… There was the voice in my head that told me that if I hold hands with a guy I will go to hell. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, I had heard it often enough that I started to believe it.”

Though his faith was the source of this guilt, Ryan was determined that if he were to admit to himself that he was gay, he wouldn’t lose his faith.

“I remember trying to figure out what it means to be gay and Christian,” says Ryan. “I spent two years kind of looking into what it looks like to live your life as a gay person, looking into what the Bible has to say to that, and part way through I found out that there were people who were Christians and who didn’t think the Bible was against that.”

I know Ryan as my silly, sarcastic friend that I love to dance with at weddings, and so the next part of our interview blew me away. The amount of work that Ryan put into maintaining his relationship with God shows a commitment to faith I don’t believe I’ve seen to this degree.

“I really hung onto those moral values and to me, the stereotypical gay lifestyle was so contradictory to the life that I was living at the time,” says Ryan. “I didn’t have my first sip of alcohol until I was 19, a year after I was legal, and I never wanted to drink. The Christian idea that the gay lifestyle was promiscuous made me know that I didn’t want that.”

This flip switched for Ryan when he started talking about homosexuality with his other Christian friends.

“I asked one friend if she thought homosexuality was wrong and she said yes, and so then I asked her why it was wrong and she said, ‘I don’t know. It’s just what my pastor told me, but I really don’t know.’ This was the first time in my whole life that I started to think critically about why I believed it was wrong.”

Ryan can recite all eight verses from the Old and New Testament on homosexuality, describing the ways that they were interpreted by those who condemn gay marriage. He can also describe the ways he has come to understand them through personal research and study, and also discussions with his Religion professors at our school, making note of cultural contexts of the time and the sexism of the culture through which these verses were written. I have felt that I have had to do work to make my identity as a woman acceptable in the eyes of the church, yet it is nothing compared to the amount of exegesis that my gay Christian friends have had to do to maintain their faith while remaining true to their sexuality.

“When it comes down to it, none of the verses are saying ‘two men should not have a loving and consensual relationship’, but instead the main take-away from those verses is that older men should not be pedophilic towards young boys,” says Ryan. “I think if you honestly took an exegesis class about these verses you’d learn a lot. The word ‘homosexual’ doesn’t come into play in the Bible until the King James Version, which our profs at Ambrose have said is the least accurate translation.”

You really have to do your research,” continues Ryan, “If I did not do this research it was just going to be me living a homosexual lifestyle completely separate from God… I had to read the Bible and I had to know what those Bible verses meant to maintain my relationship with God. It’s frustrating in a sense because I need to research the Bible that in-depth. I’m very aware of the issues faced by women in the church, but when you read those verses about women you can blame it on the societal issues of the time it was written. Even though it feels the same for me with homosexual verses, it’s not as acceptable for me to just blame it on society, so I actually have to do the research.”

Though Ryan had done the work to reconcile his faith with his sexuality, the churches he attended had not, and he was asked to take a more passive role in the church when he came out.

“When I was doing worship at [a local church] after I came out I was told that what I could do was tech”, says Ryan. “I couldn’t do worship anymore.”

Leading and participating in worship is a major way that Ryan connects with God, and so not being able to serve in the ways that he used to was a major blow.

“To me as a gay person, going to church or youth group is like being asked to come to a big thanksgiving dinner,” says Ryan. “There’s this huge feast with so many things that will nourish you and keep you alive. Your family is there. But to me, church is like being invited to the thanksgiving dinner, being asked to sit down, but being told I’m not allowed to eat or say anything.”

University was the place where Ryan began to act and pursue advocacy for LGBTQ+ people. Having come out in his last year of high school, Ryan attempted to navigate residence in a Christian university. Though he didn’t come out to everyone on his floor, Ryan did tell his roommate he was gay and offered to switch to the empty room if that would make him more comfortable. Though his roommate said he was fine with it, Ryan heard through others that his roommate was actually completely intolerant to his homosexuality.

“A lot of people knew I was gay but I could tell that they didn’t want to ask questions or talk about it,” says Ryan, “and so they’d talk about it together when I left the room.”

Ryan wanted to see a change on campus, and was asked to speak with faculty and the Dean about how to make our school a more accepting place for LGBTQ+ students on campus. Ryan spoke to the group about the ways he was feeling misunderstood on campus and the kind of damaging language that was being used to describe LGBTQ+ people in Christian settings. After he was finished, the Dean asked him if he would be open to doing a Q & A with the group and Ryan was able to share so much more.

“I told them that my dream for Ambrose is that it would be inclusive,” recalls Ryan. “I wanted a student [LGBTQ+] group on campus and I wanted to lead it. I wanted people to feel really comfortable being involved on campus and taking part in all it has to offer.”

After hearing Ryan speak to the faculty that day, the Dean dedicated an entire chapel to discussing the importance of making sure that Ambrose is a safe place for all students and that we had work to do in terms of reconciling with the LGBTQ+ people in our community. Now that Ambrose was open to making these changes, Ryan’s work with LGBTQ+ people of faith really took off. He began a student group that talked openly about the issues involved in being non-heterosexual and being Christian, and he used his practicum to partner with a United Church and start a conference called HumanRites, which explored issues facing people of all faiths who identified as LGBTQ+. This conference went on for two years with participants of all faiths and orientations, from across Alberta, and included guests such as best-selling author Matthew DeVines, famous for his book God and the Gay Christian.

Ever since knowing Ryan I have been overcome by his boldness, his love for others, and his desire for justice. I was confounded when I learned that Ryan had been ashamed of who he was or had low self-esteem, because Ryan’s confidence is just infectious. When I asked about this change, he told me a story about God:

“One of the pivotal moments for me happened in the summer after grade twelve just before I came out,” recalls Ryan. “I struggled with really low self-esteem and being anxious about talking to people. I was working at this Christian camp, and as a staff we had to do a three-hour solo time of reconnecting with God.”

After about 20 minutes, Ryan felt that he audibly heard God’s voice, and it rattled him to the core.

“I really felt like I heard Him asking me, “Why do you hate yourself?” and I remember I would bring up certain things I disliked, like my looks or my sense of humour,” says Ryan. “I didn’t really feel like I was good at anything. But through that chat with God it was such a good experience of understanding where my self-esteem issues came from. I felt like God used that time to fill me with so much confidence, like the confidence I have now. When I went back home after the summer my friends noticed the difference.”

It was during that talk with God that Ryan decided to ask Him if it was okay that he was gay.

“I felt Him say, ‘I love you.’ And I just cried because I knew I didn’t have to hate myself anymore for my looks or my voice or my sexuality. It was such an overwhelming affirmation of who I was.”

FREEDOM

The other night two Christian girls took me aside to tell me that they were dating. Though they had received mixed reactions from friends and family, their joy was not dampened. As we celebrated together, they were quick to say, “The Lord has been so good to us – we feel so free.”

 

 

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Alanna Schwartz

About Alanna Schwartz

Alanna Schwartz is completing her English Major at Ambrose University and her minor in Indigenous Studies from the University of Calgary. She is, among other things, a settler, English Literature student, writer, poet, Indigenous Rights Ally, and Stevie Nicks fan.
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2 Responses to The Church and the Gay Christian

  1. Joy Ulrich says:

    Alanna, this is a beautiful article, well written and full of Gods truth…thank you

  2. Hannah Klassen says:

    Dear Alanna,
    Thank you for your article, and a big thank you to all your friends who’ve displayed such authenticity and vulnerability in sharing their stories. You have clearly and beautifully articulated not only how Christians needs to be willing to hear these stories, but that people in the LGBTQ+ community are fully a part of the church, and are Christians too. A wonderful woman that I have the privilege to have learned much from, and have the joy to call my friend has a great blog that explores her experience as a gay pastor (as well as many other topics such as privilege, poverty, justice). I have found her writing deeply encouraging and inspiring. Perhaps any who want to delve further might want to check out her blog … http://www.bethcarlsonmalena.com

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