We felt lost when we had to leave our home church of over thirty years. I was under-employed then and I found a nice job in a city 300 miles away. Our church was the only one we had called home up to that point since we became Christians in the late-1970’s.
Moving for a job, however, was not the only reason we needed a new church.
We were long-term members of a conservative Evangelical church and our gay son came out shortly before I got the job. I was on the church board as an elder after having been the chairman for a few years. My wife was the church administrator and was heavily involved as the women’s ministry leader and the small group coordinator. I was supply-preaching when the pastor was unavailable and was neck-deep in ministries to recent immigrants and new Christians. Other than our open-minded pastor and very few close friends, we didn’t share our son’s situation.
Mind you, we accepted our son’s sexual orientation. It wasn’t easy but it’s not because of the theological angle. It’s just that we thought we had one son and now we had to say “goodbye” to a part of what we thought he was and embrace a side of him that we hadn’t known before. It’s the same son and we love him more than ever, knowing a little bit what it’s like to be gay in a conservative Christian environment.
It’s not that we’re ashamed of him or anything when we didn’t “come out” ourselves; we just didn’t know how to break the news to our Christian friends who were predominantly anti-LGBTQ, love-the-sinner-and-hate-the-sin type of Christians.
We felt we needed to protect our son from Christians like us — at least the way we were just a few years earlier when we were strong supporters of anti-LGBTQ doctrines.
You see, we experienced a transformation of biblical views about same-sex attraction even before our son came out. It was a major turning point and I will share more about this significant faith event some other time. For now, it suffices to say that God seemed to have prepared us for our son’s coming out by changing our perspective in advance.
When this job offer came along, we accepted it with a great sigh of relief and looked forward to a fresh start with another Christian community far away. We hoped to find a church where we could be ourselves without being viewed as hypocritical, irresponsible, or rebellious Christian parents in our loving affirmation of our gay son. We planned to join a church who would accept our situation and we would continue our fellowship and servanthood with the Body of Christ.
Or so we thought.
To make a long story short, we went through four churches in the new city in eight years. The first one was a fair-sized typical suburban Evangelical church where we could attend somewhat anonymously. We made some friends and started a Bible study group in our home, a group with which we openly shared. A couple in the group, with whom we formed a close friendship, accepted our situation with a gay son but was surprised to know that he was a Christian. Until that point, they thought it was an oxymoron — a gay Christian. They were loving and truly didn’t have a mean bone in them. They were simply like the way we had been a few years before, not knowing there were legitimate alternative interpretations of the Bible’s texts on this subject different from what our fundamental Evangelical churches had taught us.
We hardly knew anyone else outside our group. We offered to help but we received no response from the church office. The church was soon rocked by discord and infighting among its hired staffs and the pastor was ousted. We continued to meet with our small group but felt it was time to find a church where we could contribute.
Wanting to attend a church nearer home, we found another Evangelical church downtown. It didn’t take long for us to hear from the grapevine that people there felt we had compromised our faith in the Bible’s teaching in order to accept our son. Nonetheless, we made some great friends from the church, a couple of them secretly gay. Our ability to serve in that church, other than arranging chairs and running the PA system, was severely limited because of our acceptance of a gay son as a legitimate Christian.
So, off we went to a third church. This time we wanted to depart from the Evangelical culture to try a “mainline” church that was LGBTQ-friendly, a three-minute walk from home. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “mainline churches”, it represents several major traditional North American Protestant denominations. A few of them, after much trauma, had adopted LGBTQ-affirming doctrines. This mainline church we attended had a most beautiful choir with a huge pipe organ and the people were friendly. When we tried to start a Bible study group, however, we found little interest. We believe church “happens” not just in Sunday services but especially in smaller gatherings where people share their lives, faith, doubts, prayers, joys, and sorrows. With the priest’s and the board’s approval, we started a study group for Lent one year and got an enthusiastic endorsement afterward. When we suggested we should continue after Lent, the response was, Well, may be for next year’s Lent.
Our fourth church was from another Evangelical denomination. We talked at length with the pastor, who was LGBTQ-affirming. There were mixed opinions in the leadership, however, and they had decided wisely not to make that an issue, kind of like “Don’t ask; don’t tell.” It wasn’t quite what we had wanted but at least there wasn’t an obstacle to worship and serve there. Then our first grandson came along, 300 miles away, and frequent weekend trips started. Since our busy work week didn’t afford much opportunity for mid-week meetings, we didn’t connect with the people as much as we had wanted.
In between attending these four churches, there were many Sundays at home. We grieved not having the relationships we’re used to. We as a couple maintained a vibrant intimacy with Christ through personal Bible studies, joint and personal prayers, and relating to other Christian friends through emails, calls, and occasional visits. But we yearned for the frequent face-to-face interactions and the intimate fellowship.
We had great neighbours and coworkers. But, to be frank, there is a mystical intimacy when we relate with others who hold Christ supreme and the Cross central. We missed that closeness.
After almost nine years of not having a church we would call “home”, we moved again, closer to our grandson. This time it’s a smallish city in a farming setting. It’s big enough to have a Best Buy, a Canadian Tire, a Michael’s, and a large mall, and Costco is coming soon. What else do we need?
As soon as we settled, we tried another Evangelical church in the new community (we were slow learners). After a few weeks, we met with the pastor for three hours to see how we could fit in and serve, only to be told in no uncertain terms that we’re not to have any teaching influence. He feared that we might contaminate his flock. The pastor told us that we were “redefining sin” by affirming same-sex relationships. Well, that was a non-starter.
Having previously attended for two years a mainline church where the Sunday service, the choir, and community social activities pretty much defined all there was to “church”, we were lost as to what to do next.
We were very much in prayer, almost like pleading with the Lord to find us a church home. Desperate and feeling burnt about trying another Evangelical church, we decided to try the “mainline” route again. We were hoping to find like-minded Christians who would also endorse the predominantly Evangelical culture of personal prayers, Bible studies, evangelistic outreach through words and deeds (not to “score” conversions but to share the love of Christ), and Biblical centrality, but without pushing the anti-LGBTQ doctrines. We weren’t sure how we would find such a church.
After driving around, we pretty much randomly picked one, and decided to go there. Being unfamiliar with the city, we drove the following Sunday to a different church “by mistake”, not the one we had intended to go. But that’s the way God works sometimes, isn’t it? In didn’t take long for us to realize that it was the kind of church we had been seeking for almost a decade.
Without going into too much detail, we feel God has led us to this church. The pastor was relatively new at that time. He had Evangelical background and beliefs, although he’s been serving in this mainline denomination for some time. He calls himself a “liberal conservative preacher and a conservative liberal pastor.”
Through a number of “coincidences” we discovered, even before we met the pastor, that some of his best friends were our best friends. We had never crossed paths previously and had no prior knowledge of each other. Further, years ago, he was the pastor at an Evangelical church where my wife was the secretary before his tenure. When he was pastor there, his secretary, i.e. my wife’s successor, was one of my wife’s close friends. Through these and other “coincidences”, we and the pastor sensed the divine hand. We soon formed an informal “pact” to bring more of the supremacy of Christ, biblical centrality, and small group ministry to this church, which includes some members who deny the divinity of Christ.
We have been at this church two years now. We feel we have a purpose. We are members of the first pilot small group that started last year. With the support of the pastor and the leadership, we intend to bring small group ministry with the mission of Sharing our Lives, Studying the Bible, and Serving Each Other and the Community into the general congregation.
We are supporting the pastor in conducting an Alpha Course for people who want to investigate Christianity or deepen their faith.
We found some like-minded families and we are cultivating relationships with them. Our grandson when visiting has already made friends with some of the children. We feel we’re home again.
Last but not the least, our son and his partner will be welcome to worship here.
To the parents of LGBTQ children and the DEvangelicals: Do you have similar stories? Have you experienced a similar journey? Are you still seeking to join or rejoin the Body of Christ? What are your experiences — good and bad — in relating to the Body of Christ? It’d be great if you can respond with your stories.