Sunday, March 23, 2008

Joe M. - Atlanta

Joe M. is a graduate student at Georgia Tech and shares the following story:

I was brought up in the southern Baptist tradition. If I visited my grandparents, we would sometimes get to go to my grandma's Methodist church. I always liked her church more than mine; however, I would be in big trouble with my family if I ever admitted it. Her church seemed to care more. The United Methodist Church entered back into my life on the first Sunday as a freshman in college. I wandered over to the Wesley Foundation where the only on-campus Sunday morning worship service took place.

In 2004, I had the opportunity to attend the United Methodist Student Movement Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. The hot topic of the conference dealt with whether the Methodist Church should include Gays and Lesbians in the life of the church. Myself along with a handful of other students from my Wesley Foundation strongly opposed anything that said the Gays and Lesbians are welcome or accepted. We were sticking to our "Morals" and holding our ground because we didn't want the church to succumb to the "gay agenda" that was rampantly affecting our world. My team of conservative moral enforcers held tightly to the fact that homosexuality is a choice.

On the last day of the conference, my group was enraged over the reconciling actions of the ministers performing our closing service. They did this while wearing Rainbow Colored stoles!!! On the outside, I was furious that the church I loved was losing its moral structure by pushing for full inclusion of gays.

On the inside I was battling my own feelings of hate towards myself for having homosexual tendencies. After that conference, I spent nearly 3 years in ex-gay programs and counseling that sought to change me… It didn't work and I grew extremely depressed and unstable. Suicide became a real option to help me end my state of misery last February. I continued to believe that a life as a gay man would be worse of a disgrace on me and my family than the action of taking my own life.

It was then, thankfully, that I completely surrendered my life to Christ and trusted that he would bring something good out of my situation. After a season of letting go and trusting that God wanted the best for me, I started to have compassion for those around me who were also homosexual. I shared my heart with my Wesley Pastor telling him my dilemma. He then hugged me and said that God loved me just as I am.

The more I learn about the UMC, the more I am convinced that our church should not be one that discriminates. Our church should lead by example and stop the homophobic message that Gays and Lesbians are anything less than children of God. Despite the horror stories of so many of my fellow Gays and Lesbians, I still see many of our UMC church leaders moving forward in their own hate and fear. I've seen this hate on the 2008 UMC delegates faces while I shared my story. It's the same hate that I had towards Gays and Lesbians in 2004 while at the UMC student movement. Only by letting go of my own hate and discrimination was I able to move forward and be an impact on Christ's Kingdom today. I hope you will consider opening your hearts up to including all of God's children in our church.


Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful and tremendously brave letter. I struggled with this in my Christian life as well. For me, the difference was that I had this struggle after being openly gay for about ten years. In the process I lost a wonderful relationship with a supportive and loving partner. It's taken me five years to get my life and feeling of self worth back after it all was derailed with feelings of doubt fueled by the homophobia we experience as gay people. Having a supportive church is so important in the daily trials we experience as gay people. I look forward to every Sunday when I can renew my focus and get centered for the week ahead.

david said...

Joe, You are a precious part of our God's Creative genius. Your honesty and openness in telling your story will most likely help others to share theirs. It took me 40 years to get to the point that I could be okay with understanding that I am a gay man. About three years later I found Saint Mark UMC where I heard the gospel preached freely to all, and even as a 45 year old follower of Christ, I heard it fresh as though it were the first time because this time it was for me. I was not outside the arms of Christ any longer. I rejoice with you Joe in your Christian witness to me and others who may read this.

Christina DeAnn said...

oh gosh joe, i wish i knew what to say! i'm just so glad you are happy and staying in the fight to live and love the people around you. i'm glad you have found a community that feels like home. that makes me so happy.