I don’t like silence.
My friends and family know that I don’t rest well in silence. I prefer music, or TV, or conversations to occupy my eardrums. No matter how loud those conversations may be, silence always seems so much louder, it can be deafening.
My sense of hearing has always been very important to me. Being born with a visual impairment, my other senses have learned to compensate for my sense of sight. My love language is touch, I love to eat good food, I’m super sensitive to smells, and my hearing is pretty finely tuned (pun intended). So when I say I prefer a chaos of noise over silence, it means something.
For the past six years I have been living part of my life in silence. Only recently have I started beating my fists against the wall of my sound proof box that contains the part of my life that needed to remain not just quiet but silent. Even as I write this I am listening to worship music because the thought of sitting and writing this in silence seems overwhelming. My hatred of silence runs deep because in those silent places are where the painful memories and terrifying thoughts of the future hide.
So, if I hate silence so much, why have I forced a part of myself into silent submission for so long? Because I thought I had to.
What could I be containing in this little soundproof room that I was only allowing certain people to see? Sometimes I could not even accept it myself. It seems silly that it is even hard to type the words and see them appear as my cursor moves across the screen. So here it goes, the first step to shattering the sound proof walls that keep part of me silent… I’m gay. Some of you reading this won’t be surprised. Those who are will ask, “I thought you were going to be a pastor? How can you be gay?” These are great questions. The answer is quite simple, or at least it should be.
In Genesis 1:27 it reads, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them.” So… how can I be gay?
God created me that way.
Now for the next question, “How am I going to be a pastor?” This question requires a slightly more complex answer. Not because I think it should, but because the current state of The United Methodist Church requires it. According to the current Book of Discipline Self-avowed practicing homosexuals are unqualified for ministry. Why? Because the Discipline says, “Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” That’s some pretty strong language. When I read/hear this sentence I hear, “YOU are incompatible with Christian teaching.” That’s a pretty large pill to swallow.
I grew up in The United Methodist Church, so much of who I am has been formed though many Sundays spent in worship, youth group, and community with The UMC. Growing up it was easy because I did not realize I was attracted to women, so I fit in. Well, sort of. Growing up I was the “visually impaired kid.” Not in a bad way, my vision plays a big part in my calling as well. It’s the part of my calling that is much easier to talk about with DCOM or fellow pastors and seminarians.
When I was in high school and all of my friends were getting their driver’s licenses and I couldn’t, I was angry. Angry at God, angry at my friends, just angry. One night, I was reading my Bible (like good youth group kids do) and asking, “God, why am I different? What were you trying to accomplish by making me different?” As I read, I came across this passage in John 9.
“As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
“He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” To me this sounds like, “You were born blind so God’s works might be revealed in your life.” I know how exegesis works, and I realize we contextualize Bible passages to say what we want them to say. So what you’d like about it, but this passage changed my life. In that moment in my bedroom as a junior in high school, I began to hear the soft, sweet whisper of God calling me to something so much bigger than myself.
I didn’t understand this whisper for a few more years. The first time I shared my story the response was incredible. One lady told me, “You don’t need your vision to see. You see through your faith.” That will stick with me for the rest of my life. Through those experiences I felt led to pursue ministry as a vocation. The first step was attending a small Christian liberal arts college in the middle of PA.
I learned much more than I ever expected there. I learned about the Bible, theology, psychology, curriculum writing, pastoral counseling, and that I like girls. The last bit is not something I expected to learn at a Christian college. As I was learning to speak in ministry through teaching and preaching, I was also learning to keep very silent about parts of my life. I could share parts of my journey with God, like my vision, but not my same-sex attraction. This community that taught me that vulnerability was key to an effective ministry also taught me that being too vulnerable would get me in trouble. Like when I was had to attend counseling when my freshman RA found out I was dating another girl who lived on our floor. This counseling was required, or I would have had disciplinary charges filed against me that could get me kicked out of my major and the Biblical and Religious studies department.
That incident taught me to keep that part of my life locked away. I learned to lie and tried to cover up who I really was by dating guys and trying to convince myself that it was “just a phase.” That part of my life was locked away in the soundproof room where it could be overlooked by everyone, including me.
During my time at this school I began to hear God’s call resonate even louder. I started to feel called to ordination in The UMC, specifically as an Elder. Those dreams took over as I learned more and more about what it takes to be ordained. I came across the previously mentioned section of the Discipline that said I was incompatible with Christian teachings and unsuited for ministry. So those parts of myself got locked further and further away. Even though I was in a same-sex relationship, I told myself it didn’t matter. If I had to pick between having a love life and following my calling, I would pick my calling, because the part of me that liked women wasn’t meant for anyone else to see.
Then slowly things began to change. I took a chance and confided in a few very select people. When I started opening up to my friends two things stood out to me. The first thing was the unconditional love and support I received. The second was the number of people who said, “Me too.” Apparently my Christian college is known as the “closet school” because so many students are LGBTQ but too afraid to tell anyone until after they graduate.
Through these experiences I was slowly learning it was okay to let people into that sound proof room. But I was still too afraid to really acknowledge that room existed in my world.
A year and a half ago I moved to Washington DC to pursue my Masters of Divinity degree. I told myself that I wouldn’t tell anyone at seminary about my little soundproof room, and that I would fall in love with some wildly handsome man and we would live happily ever after, never speaking of that room, keeping it silent and hoping it would disappear.
Well, you know the saying, “We plan, God laughs.” Yeah well that pretty much explains how well that plan worked out. Within the first two weeks at seminary I had started to let the door to my soundproof room open and let others in. Once I began to accept that it was there, I found myself surrounded by a community that encouraged me to explore the little room and let some of the sound in.
I began to realize I didn’t have to choose between my calling and a love life. I will never forget a professor saying, “The more you pursue your calling, the more God will shape your heart to match God’s desires for you.” In that moment I realized the more I pursued earning my M.Div. and worked towards ordination, the more I realized I was attracted to women.
So this is me, busting down the walls of that little room and letting the world hear, loud and clear. I am a gay Christian who is created in the image of God and who is called to pastoral ministry.
If you think my sexual orientation disqualifies me for ministry, I’m sorry for you. But what you think of me does not diminish my worth or my calling. I won’t let what you think of me keep me silent any longer. I have the support of my loving family, my amazing friends, and my God whose love casts out fear. So I will stand, bravely and proudly of who God has created and called me to be.
That little soundproof room has been demolished. Now let my story ring loud in the ears of all who hear it.