Week One: "Our Families"
Gay and Christian
Both of our speakers arrived early, which was of some consternation earlier this week when our lady guest emailed me that she was suffering from the flu. She assured me last night that her health had improved, and she did look and sound good when she came into the classroom.
I had requested more chairs for this week, since last week we had needed more than originally imagined. Instead of the 50+ we used last week, I requested 75. The room filled quickly, but apparently the building staff did not give us the number of seats we’d requested. I found someone on staff to add as many chairs as they could find. Some ended up along the side wall, and every chair was filled.
Our two speakers came from two different Methodist churches. The gentleman came to us from a friend’s recommendation to me; the lady was an acquaintance of the class leader. I was to introduce them. I had their basic bio information, but when I stood before the class, most of it flew out of my head. That doesn’t usually happen to me; but I knew that the audience wasn’t here to hear me and it didn’t really matter. I introduced our guests by name and they came to the table to speak.
“Linda” spoke first and movingly about growing up gay in a Christian home. She didn’t specify this time that she was a PK—a preacher’s kid—but it was clear that she grew up in a loving home. Because she was so fearful of the reaction, even from loving friends and family, she did not come out to anyone until she was in her late 20s. She did not suffer from any discrimination, beating, or vitriol; but she was well aware of the possibility, and it kept her silent. Linda teared up a few times and the audience was respectful. You could hear gasps of response to painful moments in her story. She emphasized how happy she is now in a committed relationship and a strong Christian faith. She closed her story with quotes from elected officials about their views. It was pretty ugly, and she emphasized that this is the message that the gay community is hearing more than any other.
“Roy” was raised in a loving home as well. He described himself as a “Bible geek,” truly interested in what the Bible had to say to him. He was at various times moving, funny, eloquent and well-versed in explaining his complex journey, which included a number of years in an ex-gay ministry. He finally realized that he was meant to be gay and Christian, and that it isn’t an oxymoron to be both. He is in a long-term committed relationship, and he and his partner have recently adopted a young boy. His “gay lifestyle” consists of tons of laundry, trips to school, chores on the weekend, and work.
I had to stop class five minutes after the closing time. It was apparent that no one wanted to leave. No one was looking at the clock or rustling papers. They were waiting their turn to enter the discussion. Again, as in last week, all of the responses were positive. When I dismissed the class, our guests were rushed by a number of people eager to continue the discussion.
Several came up to me to thank me, and I got a chance to speak to the gay man who approached me last week. I told him that I had discussed his request for a support group with our senior pastor. Because in the past month we have broken the silence in the pulpit after 170 years; initiated a discussion in this series of classes; and publicized this week the new support group for parents of gay children, that it would be circumspect to slow down. We have to give our congregation time to digest this new information and let the dust settle before we introduce yet another aspect. If we move too fast we can incur a lot of resistance. We haven’t felt yet the full impact of our current actions.
“Darren” was gracious and understood the need for pacing. He had already waited all of his life for this; a few more months were okay. He went further to tell me some of his own story, and it is book-worthy. It was a private conversation that I hope someday he will be willing to share. Powerful stuff.
Clusters of people continued to talk in the classroom and hallway. The ripples in the pond are widening. As the room slowly began to empty, I decided to count the chairs to see exactly how many had attended (since every chair was filled). We had exactly 75 people. Normal attendance for this class is about 25. Last week we had over 50. I think next week we might expect 100, and the last week—the one on Bible interpretation—I think we’ll need a new room with seating for at least 150.
My resource table is getting good reviews. I need to find more for next week about the science behind orientation and gender. Lots of handouts are being picked up, so I’ll continue to produce those as well.
I haven’t heard about any pushback that the subject might have caused, but I’ll bet our senior pastor has. I’ll ask him about it if I see him. Meanwhile, we move forward, in grace.
Next Sunday: “The Science of Orientation and Gender.”
Image courtesy of Christ First Church of Gainesville, GA.