Speaking Against Spiritual Abuse, a Gay Communication Leader Comes Out

I remember being attracted to men as early as three years old. When my mother discovered these "unnatural desires," she sternly lectured me. A high school counselor solidified my belief that I was broken when they told me I couldn't be a Christian and be gay. God wouldn't love me. Faced with what I believed was deep moral brokenness, I tried everything to change.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11861
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Wow! Does this experience resonate with me. I never worked for the church, but I was an influential leader in my churches, serving as treasurer of the school for many years, elder, head elder, school board chairman for a decade. I was married for 34 years. I too tried to overcome being gay, trying sexual orientation change therapy twice. I met with Collon Cook in 1978, who gave me false hope I could “overcome” homosexuality. Listening to his “cure” led me try suicide.

I was faithful to my wife, but our marriage, which hadn’t been working for years, finally led us to divorce 6 years ago. We are still friends, but both of us are free from trying to make a failed relationship work that really couldn’t.

I left the church but not God. I feel older than my age, from literally decades of emotional and physical strain trying to change who I am. I wholeheartedly agree that the church has done a miserable job ministering to it’s LGBT members.

It’s very demoralizing living in a closet, knowing you are only one piece of information away from having people who have held you in high esteem in the church, totally throw you overboard, even though you are the same person you have been just minutes before they know.

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My heart bleeds every time I hear a story like yours. The church has failed you completely and has abdicated its duty to care for all of God’s children. I applaud you for so clearly expressing what it has been like for you to go through this. This simply should not have happened and should not happen to anyone else, but you and I both know it will, until the church becomes what it might be if it truly embodied God’s character and could lay aside ignorance and disdain for those who are different.

Being gay is perfectly normal, an outgrowth of what it means to be human. Humans are, by design, diverse, and that diversity extends into gender and sexuality. How could it be otherwise, since God designed our bodies to develop using the genetic systems he created. As a biologist who specializes in genetics, I can truly say that if there were not a certain percentage of humans born gay, nonbinary, bisexual, trans, etc. it would come as a complete surprise. The complexity of the interplay between genes and prenatal environments means there will be a broad range of outcomes, and all these outcomes are normal and should not engender disgust and accusations of sinfulness.

The only way such outcomes would not occur normally is if God were to directly intervene, and since he obviously has not, we should not condemn. In fact, I think we should celebrate the diversity of gender and sexual expression we see in humans and praise God he created beings capable of such variety. Oh that the church would get to a place where people like yourself are valued for who you are!

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That rationale for diversity is so to the point, why do we let a minority of the religious extremists tell us what is right or wrong. Doesn’t the spirit strive with all flesh? Aren’t we all in the sme boat so to speak?

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As a woman married to a very loving, kindhearted, and musically talented gay man for thirty years, I resonate with Jay’s story.

When my ex husband and I broke up because he could no longer hide in the closet, I can tell you multiple church members—people who adored his music and felt God worked through him, then questioned me for supporting his choice to be a single gay man. We both lost much of our church family. If I didn’t have a wonderful support network on social media—I might have left God and church too.

I raise my voice as a witness to many wonderful Spirit-filled LGBTQ+ people that have told me their stories. These are sincere, deep thinkers as evidenced by recent pastors who came out.

When I see the name John Freedman, I am reminded of a Sabbath around 2002 or 2003, when our SS class had a fellowship meal after church at the North Cascade Church in Burlington, WA. Freedman was the speaker that day. For some reason, no one invited him home for lunch, so my husband and I invited him to join our class potluck. We liked him. We felt he cared. I wonder now would he have been as comfortable dining with us if my husband had been out back then?

The truth is there are many LGBTQ Christians in the church hiding in the closet—they are greeting you on Sabbath morning, leading worship, telling stories to children, giving sermons and serving you a delicious lunch. They hide because they love Jesus and the Sabbath and this is their church, but they’ve been shamed into hiding. Because to come out is career and social suicide. This is not right.

The damage from my ex trying to pray away the gay and hiding himself has been huge and I blame the church—we were trained to be homophobic.

The Adventist church needs to stop excluding people. It’s not my table, nor is it John Freedman’s table—the table belongs to Jesus and we sin if we exclude those He calls to the table.

Thank you, Jay for sharing your story. I pray healing for you and your wife and every person who loves Jesus, but just can’t fit into the church’s binary boxes. May God open eyes everywhere. May justice be done.

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Amen. The table is larger than most people are able to imagine. Jesus invited prostitutes and swindlers to his literal dinner tables when he was here on earth, so even if living as a gay person were a sin (which I unequivocally believe it is not a sin), they would be more than welcome.

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Thank you for investing the heart it took to write this, Jay. I am grateful for your service to our faith community and hope it can continue in some way. I am also sorry for the harm we have done you. Yes, we have done this badly in so many ways for so long.

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I have observed a disconnect that might be helpful to explore.

Many Christians will relate well to their homosexual neighbors and friends–with little impulse to ‘correct’ or castigated or distance–until they enter the context of the church structures.

Why is that? Could knowing what drives that help us map a better course?

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Not a chance.

Churches are all about judging others and the genesis of all organized religions is the pretense of appearing holier than non-church goers, “wrong’ church goers, or other people in one’s own church.

Looking for love and acceptance in a religious context is like trying to find peace and quiet at a Rolling Stones Concert.

(Oooops. Might have just dated myself with that flashback!!!)

In any case, the idea that Jesus was all about starting a new religion is probably as antithetical to his gospel as is the delusional insistence that a man who hung out with losers, wasn’t married and traveled around with 12 other guys for at least three years couldn’t possibly have been gay, himself!

:crazy_face:

(BTW, and not that there is an equivalence, but Adventist youth are in for all sorts stigmatization and whole new levels of prejudice. For example I was born with certain athletic abilities, a desire to hear wailing guitars and a craving for bacon, all of which I spent years trying to “overcome” supposedly “for Christ’s sake”…and all with limited or no success!!! :wink:)

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Instead of making a longer table,.the church builds a higher fence.

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And tops it with razor wire and raises attack dogs to rip anyone who dares enter without presenting just right. :sob:

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I thought, or at least it feels like, the main purpose for the church’s existence is to keep Heaven pure and make sure that no one outside of the boy’s club gets in. (said tongue in cheek). What could our church look like if it shifted focus from witch hunts to actually caring about members and trying to make life better for everyone?

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I appreciate Jay speaking up. His story is repeated around the world in Adventist circles every day. Some survive. Others don’t. To hear Jay’s full story check out the Kinship Connects podcast interview with Jay here: Kinship Connects- Episode 14 - YouTube
Please help us by speaking out and joining the SDA Kinship collective voice to bring about more understanding that someone doesn’t change in the moment they tell you something that has been true for years.

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The sad thing is that there are many who claim that this is what the church is already doing, and calling out gays is just their way of “loving the sinner, hating the sin.” They seem blissfully unaware of the irony. But yes, what would the church be like if we actually practiced making life better for everyone, instead of judging and cajoling one another out of fellowship? I have to say I have experienced something like that within one SDA community, and that has been within SDA Kinship. I think the church could learn a lot from spending time with SDA Kinship. There are also a few local SDA Churches that I have visited and have experienced such a spirit. Why are such communities so few? :sob:

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Hey Floyd,

Thank you for the link to your interview with Jay. I really enjoyed watching it and sent it on to my ex.

So many have lived similar stories. In the interview, you brought up that Kinship is 40 years old. I find that mind boggling because for most of our 30 year marriage, we’d never heard of Adventist gays or Kinship. Even when we did hear of it via Herb Montgomery, we didn’t see it as something my ex could relate to. This is a tragedy.

It wasn’t until we read the story written by Ron Lawson of how the church has tried to sideline and hide and fight against Kinship that we realized how we’d been had. It’s a sad deception to pretend LGBTQ people don’t exist in the church and evil to push them out.

Keep up the good work!

Hopefully younger generations of Adventists can be their authentic selves. The question is will the church become a safe place for them—or do they all need to leave?

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See Comment #8 above.

Or for further details go to:

And, ironically, it’s probably based on a flimsy-at-best understanding of the biblical clobber texts they use to support their position.

Here’s some food-for-thought from Bart Ehrman. I find it far more informative than anything the SDA church as produced.

It’s a short post. Click the link near the end, “Does the bible condemn homosexuality?”, to load a video.

I didn’t get anything out of this at all, let alone information. Misses everything relevant to culture, time and practices. Some SDA scholars and historians have done better.

The most wicked person in this narrative is the one that wrote the letter, and they will face it in the judgment. It was the choice of the author, and no one else’s, that he did not share his orientation with anyone but his wife. He enjoyed his work; unfortunately it wasn’t enough and makes one wonder how so many single, divorced and widowed Christians manage.
The church has refused to accept the truth on homosexuality, and the secular obsession doesn’t help. It’s said it includes only 3% of the population which is hard to imagine given the publicity. As equals it shouldn’t be relevant.

The rest of us can’t begin to understand the suffering or relate to this story. Maybe we wonder why marriage with one’s best friend can’t work. But it’s even harder to imagine a church not accepting the talent and service of a celibate homosexual.

Of course, the church hasn’t come to the point of accepting SS marriage in employment, and one has to understand that before condemning the church for not employing them–it’s a personal choice–work or relationship.

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Those who employ empathy and compassion might be able to understand the suffering and relate. It’s important to remember that sexual orientation is much more than having sex—it’s how we view the world and relate to other people.

Marriage with a best friend is nice as long as we are 100% free to be ourselves. The straight spouse in a mixed orientation marriage is free to express themself as they are with no need to hide. In the Adventist church the straight spouse’s character is not in question even if they flirt with another person. In stark contrast, the gay spouse is forced to hide their orientation and pretend to be someone they are not just to fit into the church’s boxes—otherwise rampant homophobia will question their motives, position, and morality. That kind of pressure is cruel just because someone is born different.

And doesn’t it seem cruel to to say that unless someone loves like us—they must live alone and give up intimacy and companionship? I can’t see a God of love who created us—who knows we are made of dust—who designed us to love—who said it’s not good to be alone—deciding there is only one way we can love.

God is either the author of love or a tyrant. When we withhold approval unless people love like us—we make God look like a tyrant.

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