Apologies from a Pastor
It is especially painful for a place that was once so much a part of our early lives to betray us and become a place of anguish and mental torture. I miss having the family of a church to support me on a regular basis, a group of people who love and accept me unconditionally.
I have tried to find gay accepting churches but even when I do the trauma of how I have been treated by fellow Christians wells up into a form of panic that I struggle to overcome. But to see a letter like this is powerful and gives me hope that someday churches will welcome their gay members and not cast them to the side of the road in judgment.
To those in the LGBTQ community,
I suppose I should first offer an introduction. My name is Michael, and I’m a pastor.
Because of my role as a pastor I’ve witnessed, over the past few days, conversations responding to the recent Supreme Court decision that is anything but Christlike (read: Loving and compassionate).
You see, the reality of this situation is my fellow church-folk are struggling with this issue. Compounding this problem, as Christians we’ve often come from a place of legalism, and in many ways, even as I write, we’ve not broken free from this law-first theology. Because of this theological reality, we have almost no practice dealing with something as controversial and emotionally/physiologically complicated as same-sex attraction.
Really, this is bigger than same-sex marriage. The Church has historically done an extremely poor job of dealing with sexuality in general.
And so, it’s from this place, and with this understanding, that I, an ordained pastor in the the church, would like to offer a few apologies.
Please forgive us for succumbing to fear.
When it comes to same-sex marriage, for many of us, fear is ruling the day.
For too long, the church has been so intertwined with a particular political agenda that we’ve lost the ability to speak graciously and live lovingly into a difficult situation. We’ve stopped listening to Jesus’ commands to not live in fear and, instead, listen to the talking heads who evoke fear. And because we rely more on these cable-news networks than Christ’s example, the result has been that we’ve turned you into talking points and into a faceless agenda. In this, we have rejected the truth that you, like me, are a human being, made in the image of God.
Please forgive us for not seeking out your story.
Because you’ve been treated as an agenda instead of a face, a name and a story, we have been unwilling to hear the journey that’s brought you to this point. Because we’ve not listened to your story, we’re unaware of the ways in which the pulpit has been used as a club and our Bible as a knife to wound instead of heal.
I’m sorry we’ve not treated your story with the care and gentleness it deserves. I’m sorry for the times when you’ve tried to share your experiences in our pews only to be shouted down with Bible verses and theology.
Please forgive us for ignoring your pain.
Because you have become an agenda, and because we don’t know your story, we don’t understand the pain you carry with you each day. The church doesn’t understand the thoughts of suicide and self-harm that many of you carry with you from the moment you wake until the moment you finally fall asleep.
Please forgive us for treating your pain as somehow different than ours.
Please forgive us for acting as though your pain will contaminate our social gatherings. Our callousness is anything but Christ-like, and you deserve far better than the church has provided.
You deserve community. You deserve love. You deserve attention. You deserve the right to be heard.
Forgive us for refusing your questions
In those times when you’ve actually spoken, forgive us for shutting your questions down. You see, for so many of us, we’ve operated on a black and white standard our entire lives. We have been unaware of the shades of grey that reflect the sexual spectrum.
We’ve never understood the complexity of human sexuality.
As a result, when you share your thoughts, opinions and ask your questions, we’re unsure of how to respond. Simply put, your questions scare us, and this should not be the case.
Please forgive us for those moments when you have taken the chance and put yourself “out there” and found only silence or resistance.
Please forgive us. You deserve better.
Please know the grace we’ve received is far better than the grace we’ve offered.
There is a beautiful quote by the Christ-follower, Dorothy Day that says,
“As to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.”How often we’ve failed. How often we’ve missed the mark. These past few days, we’ve acted far more like a harlot than the bride of Christ.
And so I beg for your forgiveness.
My friend, in spite of what the Church has conveyed, you are a person of incredible worth, and you are a person who matters to Jesus.
I recognize this damage will take some time to undo. I also understand that many of you may never come around our places of worship again, but know that should you find yourself with questions, doubts, fears or loneliness, you have a place in my church.
You have a place at my table.
My church welcomes you.
You are loved.
A repentant pastor.