Sunday, July 06, 2008

122. Integrity

I want to write a post but I really don’t feel like bothering to write it well or attempt to make it interesting at all. And seeing as how this is my blog, I think I’ll do just that.

Tonight I went to a Eucharist for gay Christians in Ottawa held by an organization called Integrity. It was held in a small Anglican church on a street I didn’t know existed until today. It was nice, very liturgical. The gospel reading was the same one we did at my church this morning, which I thought was funny, although that could be simply due to the liturgical calendar. There were about 25 people there, and I was by far the youngest person in the room. There was one woman who I originally thought might be a few years older than me, but when we spoke afterwards she made reference to her two children who are in their twenties so… not so much. I think I’ll go again, though, at least once, maybe in the fall, after the traditional cottage season is over… just to try and meet as many of the members as possible.

So, yeah… it was nice, but… well, there doesn’t appear to be a community of gay Christians in this city who are of a more evangelical bend. It’s not that I have a problem with Anglican churches, or people of a not-so-evangelical tradition, but to be honest, they have a sort of a problem with me. Or with my beliefs I guess. It’s understandable, I suppose, I mean, this was a group of older gay people who had likely heard all the messages and been really hurt by evangelical churches. But their bias was undeniable. When the woman who I had thought was close to my age mentioned that she was from an evangelical church, the expression on the faces of the women she was speaking to was very clear. One of the ladies there also spoke of one of her aunts who was “God forgive her, a born again Christian”… a sentiment I’m used to hearing from non-Christians, but not from Christians. (I’ve a whole separate rant on the term ‘born again’ and what it has come to mean to the world at large that I won’t get into here). Oh, and when that same woman (from the evangelical church) made an offhand suggestion that perhaps we could get groups from other churches, not just Anglicans, together, it was met with a sort of confused silence that I admit I didn’t really understand. Someone turned to me and asked me what I thought, and I said quite effusively that I thought it was a wonderful idea, if in fact we could find groups from other denominations that were open to gay Christians that would be fantastic, and I mentioned GCN as an example of a group of believers from different denominational backgrounds who are able to worship together, but well, the subject was rather quickly changed.

Now, I seem to be highlighting the negatives, and I don’t mean to do that. The service was nice, the music was absolutely beautiful and taking communion amidst a group where I felt fully accepted felt wonderful. Oh, and one of the ladies there made a phenomenal pumpkin bread… so that was a bonus! So yeah, I’ll likely go again, although I don’t exactly feel up to marching with them in the pride parade (something that was discussed tonight). And that’s not so much about my not wanting to march and be public as it is about my not being sure about belonging to this group – and, if I’m perfectly honest, a lot of that is the age thing. I know that’s superficial, but well… that’s the honest truth.

Skipping back a bit, I thought I’d give a brief description of the affirming church I went to a few Sundays back, the one with evangelical in the name. It was also very liturgical… more liturgical than any service I think I’ve ever been to, honestly. Half of the prayers were sung! (That was kind of cool, actually.) It was nice as well, if a little… fluffy. I know that sounds really weird, but the sermon was basically “Jesus is nice”. And while I totally agree; that’s just kind of… fluffy. There was nothing particularly ‘gay’ about the service, most of the people there appeared to be straight to me. The only thing I noticed was a poster in the lobby advertising a conference where Kelly Fryer was speaking (she’s a lesbian Lutheran minister who spoke at the GCN conference I went to), but that was about it. Again, I think I’ll probably visit one more time at least. The only problem is that it is a fairly small church, so my presence was very obvious, which makes me kind of nervous. But I’ll just deal with that, I guess.

So yeah, that’s the end of my very functional, but not so interesting or well written post. Sorry.

9 Comments:

Casandra said...

You're writing my story. What you write could have been copied from my journals. I found myself having a conversation with you as I read, wishing we were talking over coffee. I'm a woman, living in California, U.S., and this is the first comment I've ever posted to a blog. In fact, I thought about it for 24 hours before doing it. I'm not really "a computer person," and I sort of stumbled onto your blog. Instantly captivated, because here was someone out there somewhere who is approaching her sexuality much the same way I am. I too feel exhausted by the "Side A v. Side B" thing - because I don't fit on either side. I have struggled to be "straight," been on the "homosexuality is not a godly choice so be celibate" side, and now choose not to even date at this point because it feels dishonest. I can't wholeheartedly say to a woman that I CAN be with her, and I can't wholeheartedly say to a man that I WANT to be with him. If I had a choice, I'd be with a woman. And rarely I have a crush on a man and want desperately to believe I could have a "normal" life if I just tried hard enough, if I'd just meet the "right" man at the "right" time. And I don't want that. The phrase "I want what I can never have, but I can't stop wanting" has been with me since my teenage years, stated by a priest who was attracted to a young girl in the movie/book "The Thorn Birds," back in the 80s. I hesitated to comment to you because I'm exhausted even by the idea that other people will comment on my comment and have things to say to correct me one way or the other. And yet I couldn't NOT write and tell you that I admire your integrity and your honesty. I have 2 masters degrees, 1 in Bible and 1 in marriage-family therapy, and I am more evangelical than anything else. I have attended a few "welcoming" services, and find that they are either "y'all come out now" or "hello my little gay friend. Look everyone! It's a gay person! We like and accept gay people! [pat-pay on the head]" - much like my black friends experience from white Christians when they "cross over" and attend a church service that is predominantly white. I don't want to be the token lesbian; I don't want to be the case study. So I avoid entirely. Anyway, you're not alone in your effort to maintain integrity - in your relationship with God, the Bible and yourself - and...I guess I'll write again at some point. I feel compelled by the conenction I feel to what you write.

BentonQuest said...

(One of the things I hate about the internet is that you cannot hear tone of voice.)

As a clergy person, the attitude I hear from you is frustrating. I know it is uncomfortable to go to a place where you may feel outside. But what we need is SOMEONE to stick around and become the agent of change. It would be wonderful if we were blessed with a group of young people who descend en masse and establish a young adults' group, but that doesn't happen. What happens is some young folks come and stay and then bring their friends and so on and so on.

Not trying to rant here, but I get frustrated when I hear of folks who leave because there is no youth group (START ONE!) or Singles Group (Make that happen!) or Younger Folks (Stay still long enough for other to find you!).

Again, not meaning to rant, but young folks seem to jump from place to place instead of stopping and rooting.

Good luck and blessings in your search. Just remember, if you don't find the place where you feel you can grow, work to make the place where you are a place of good soil.

Peace

JJ said...

Casandra

Welcome! Thanks for commenting, it is nice to meet people who are on the same journey as yourself, isn't it? Makes me feel less alone and crazy.

Benton

You are right, of course... but... here come the excuses. I am trying to find where the gay evangelical Christians are, I went to this group and to that other church trying to find them. I could stay, but I wouldn't be able to bring anyone with me, because well... I don't know where the gay Christians my age are. And yes, I could attempt to start a group on my own, but once again, i don't know where to find people for my group and honestly (and more to the point) I really am not gifted in that area. I've thought about it though... finding a way to get a Bible Study going for gay Christians in my city... the idea is such torture though. Which is why I'm trying to find something that already exists.

I'll go to another meeting of this group though. And while I admit the age thing is a bit of a detterent, it should be said that it is also simply not exactly what I'm looking for.

All of that and I still have to say that I know you are right.

BentonQuest said...

JJ, Have you looked to see if an MCC is in the area?

http://mccchurch.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home

These churches have a large range of styles. My partner is an MCC pastor and I have found them to be very opening and supportive.

JJ said...

Actually I have looked for MCC here, and there isn't one. Quite sad, really. Thanks for the suggestion though.

Casandra said...

Hi, JJ. I've read all your blogs and feel relatively caught up with your topics and some of your life. There seems to be much less debate inside your head now than there was 3 years ago when you started - a little more peace is exciting!

Question: You mentioned in one of your posts that you felt like taking a small step of some kind, and that maybe making a mistake is not the end of the world. Any more thoughts on that? What are the small steps? How is it to be taking them?

I ask because I came to a breaking point several years ago - I said to God, "Something has got to give. I've going to snap if you don't do something to make this stop." I wasn't dealing specifically with my being gay at that point, 'though it was at the base all the time. It was more about being so alone in the things I was going through, sexuality questions being part of it but different than they are now. The Psalm says he'll lead us beside cool waters, and my question was "Where is the shade? Where are the cool waters?"

Given the right situation...and even though I hadn't resolved the Side A/Side B/Side X vortex, I had a relationship with a woman. Never been kissed before that, and not since. I was really, REALLY hard on myself for compromising, and it took a very long time of sitting with myself to understand how everything aligned so I made that choice. A friend at the time said, "I'm just glad you're LIVING it instead of ANALYZING it! And sex is not the end of the world. Sex IS survivable."

Growing up in the church, the one thing I never heard - besides that being gay was OK - was that sex is SURVIVABLE!

I still haven't resolved the vortex - been terrified of what I might choose again and whether or not I can honor God in my choice - but I'm feeling the need to take small steps. Reading your blog - and some others now - has been a pretty big "small" step for me. And right now I'm thinking about the man who gave his workers different amounts of money, and one buried it for fear of losing it.... I feel like I have buried so much of who God gave me to be in relationships - because I'm GOOD at intimacy and relationships. Yet I'm scared of doing the wrong thing with sexual decisions. So I choose celibacy.

Anyway, I'm interested to hear what might be going on for you with those steps.

Olivia said...

Casandra wrote: "I feel like I have buried so much of who God gave me to be in relationships - because I'm GOOD at intimacy and relationships. Yet I'm scared of doing the wrong thing with sexual decisions. So I choose celibacy."

Casandra, I share your struggles. One thought that might help, though: a romantic relationship isn't the only place where you can use your gifts for relationships / intimacy (if by intimacy you mean spiritual and psychological closeness). The Christian sociologist Lisa Graham McMinn in her book *Sexuality and Holy Longing* writes that the celibate is in a unique position to picture / express the inclusive love of God to other people (because the celibate isn't in an exclusive romantic relationship): "singles reflect the inclusive love of God - a love for everyone. Married people cannot reflect God's inclusive and open love as fully. In the freedom singles have to love others freely and openly, they reflect this expansive, universal love of God. They reflect a God who is unencumbered and free in expressions of love that can be given to all without a sense of betrayal or infidelity."

Perhaps, rather than thinking of celibacy as a time to bury your relational gifts, you can think of it as an opportunity to love all kinds of people in ways you wouldn't have the energy for if you were romantically committed. You can be part of a revolution in the church: a revolution that notices the special fruit of celibacy, and that sees singleness as every bit as legitimate as marriage. How awesome would it be if kids in the church grew up with celibate mentors / models, and thought, "Yeah, that's an option for me; I can serve God through a life of singleness."

Casandra said...

Thanks, Olivia. Good words and reminders. I guess what I was referring to when I said I bury so much of myself was the fact that I'm not out to anyone. I mean, friends know about "the relationship" but it was always framed as resulting from damage and an unhealthy way to try and heal. I haven't talked to friends about this in several years, except in passing mention. I do have a therapist to process with. In most other ways I'm very authentic with the people in my life. And sometimes it feels very hard to manage life without a partner - it's just too overwhelming to try and do everything myself all the time. It would be nive to share the load!

For the most part, I'm good single. I have a full life, I love my job, I travel, I laugh, I love my cats and dog, I have great friends. And I do enjoy VERY MUCH that I don't get wrapped up in the extra difficulties of being in a relationship.

I just wish the struggle of integrity between same sex attraction and godliness was not so difficult in our society, you know? Trite but true: God is faithful.

Thanks again for your words of encouragement, and I will get my hands on the book you mention.

Ana Jurney said...

dude. i feel like we have so much in common! i dont fit into the "gay" churches nor do i fit into the evangelical ones....my evangelical friends (who dont know i am gay) are so judgmental---but my gay friends as also just as judgmental toward the evangelicals! go figure.

if you find a balance let me know! actually, there was a church in chicago that i visited a few years ago...it was anglican...yet it was also full of ex-evangelicals....