This is something I should have written years ago, but didn’t have the courage to say clearly and unequivocally...
But first: a backstory.
For those who read this and don’t know who I am, I’m going to give you a brief background. For those who read this and do know me, sorry. 😏
[On second thought, if you just want to read the apology, skip this altogether. I want to make it clear this isn’t about me, just want to give context to the apology]
>>>>> I grew up like many in the South: in a deeply entrenched conservative, evangelical subculture of Christianity. This was my first exposure to religion/spirituality/faith and the one I predominately grew up in, found my call in, ministered & got ordained in. This was what I knew and what I was comfortable in... this was the “bubble” I decided to “wrap” myself in. I went to conservative, evangelical higher education institutions and received all of my formal academic training in said institutions. I had one narrow view of how to interpret and teach the Scriptures. There was no room for questions. No room to waver. No room for debate. This was made clear in my upbringing, my education, and my work.
This leads to my mid-20s. After a crisis of faith and, frankly, a crisis of life; I decided while I was finishing seminary and was working in the local church as a youth pastor, a profession I was burning out in... I would seek to know more about healthcare chaplaincy through a program called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). I received my CPE at a major pediatric hospital system. I had wonderful supervisors, fellow interns and residents, and staff chaplains to learn alongside with and to receive training and teaching from. Most of all I received a gift I too this day am so grateful for... a safe space to question, to be challenged, and to change.
During my time in CPE, I was in community with those not like me; those I determined to not know and “stay in my bubble” from: female clergy, progressive Christians, people from other faiths, and LGBTQIA+ individuals. At first I was hesitant, afraid, and in a state of confusion. How can a gay person be a clergy person? How can a non-Christian be a chaplain? Or a female be a pastor?
I WAS SO IGNORANT Y’ALL!
But the short of it is... CPE changed my life in many ways. (I need to write a separate post on this...)
The one thing it allowed me to develop was a deep sense of empathy, compassion, uncertainty, openness, and peace.
Once I left CPE, I was never the same. I went back, stupidly, into youth ministry into conservative, evangelical churches, foolishly, because I played it safe. I got scared and didn’t finish CPE like I should have.
I was depressed & miserable. Why? Because I wasn’t the same person, the same minister, the same Christian with the same beliefs. I was different and I didn’t fit in anymore. How am I going to do ministry in these contexts that will stifle me and make me “fake it”? Well, eventually I couldn’t do it so I quit ministry. God knew I needed to and God reminded me that there was still a plan and that I would be used in a greater way... chaplaincy.
Ever since my time in chaplaincy, I have been the happiest I’ve ever been. I get to meet people where they are at. I get to love them and support them. I get to hear their stories. I consider it a true honor, and I get to do it as my authentic self. <<<<<
Now, for the apology. I realized that for 10 years of my life... and possibly longer in my younger years... I believed, internalized, and preached a dangerous, destructive message. A message that has oppressed people. A message that has caused people to take their lives. A message that as subjected people to violence. A message that has tried to change people when they can’t and shouldn’t be changed.
I believed in, internalized, and proclaimed that homosexuality is a sin. Those who are homosexual and practice this lifestyle are sinful and will be separated from God for all eternity in hell.
I have said this from the pulpit. I have said this knowing there were either LGBTQIA+ youth and/or adults in the audience. I can’t imagine my culpability in the pain and trauma they most likely experienced in the church because they were told they were “sinful”.
Well, I’m here to set the record straight on what I believe now:
Not only do I NOT believe that homosexuality is a sin, but I also believe that those who are LGBTQIA+ are beloved of God, are not in sin, and deserve a full place at the table of faith. That means that not only should they be a part of the life of the church as a member, but they should serve in leadership roles. They should be clergy, elders, deacons, staff members, Sunday School teachers, youth & children’s leaders, you name it.
I believe this with every fiber of my being. I believe this after years of studying Scripture, reading academic works on this subject, and most of all knowing and doing life with people in this beloved community. Hearing their stories, listening to their struggles, and seeing their lives make a difference in the church and in the community.
So to all of those whom I have hurt with my hateful, incorrect dogma and theology; I am so deeply sorry and my prayer is that you have found healing from the trauma and pain and are living your best life in a faith community that loves you for you. And if you haven’t found one, that you will find one. And if you have left the church, that you will come back... or at least hang out with some God-loving people who will love you just the way you are.
Please reach out to me if you know me and if I ever hurt you because you were just being you. I want to apologize directly to you and tell you that I do love you and that God loves you.