It is only recently that I have become personally aware of the vital importance of the Reconciling United Methodist Movement. I've recently been pleasantly surprised to find a place of worship where I am welcomed and accepted as a gay man.
I was raised in the United Methodist Church and attended with my family throughout my childhood. As a teenager, I struggled with my homosexuality and all the feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing that were forced upon me by people who teach the "all-encompassing love" of Jesus. I felt unable to confide my feelings in anyone. Thus, I created a wall around myself. It is a horrible way to exist.
Unable to communicate my feelings, I found that God had given me the gift of music. So instead of talking with my family or minister, I played the piano and sang to express myself. I poured myself into my music study. Soon, music was pouring out of my heart through the piano keys. It was the only outlet I had to express happiness, anguish, and the fearfulness that engulfed my life as my own homophobia crushed me tighter and tighter.
My gift was soon recognized and I began playing at churches. I was a church musician by my Junior year in high school. For the better part of the next ten years, I played in church nearly every Sunday. I was employed by Methodist, Southern Baptist, and Independent Baptist Churches, both small and very large. Ironically, no one ever welcomed the REAL me. Had anyone discovered my sexual orientation, I would've been fired. Thus, I came to consider my music as only a job. It was a paycheck, as I did not feel welcomed to worship.
Fortunately, salvation is personal and I came to accept myself and felt confident that surely God would accept me "Just As I Am". Anger and guilt festered inside me as I became dependent on the paycheck and felt forced to deny myself. On several Sundays I sat quietly at the keyboard, jaws clenched, as the minister spoke with apparent disgust about homosexuality. (Not realizing he was speaking of his valued pianist.) Many times I have regretted not standing up at those moments and walking out in front of a thousand people and never looking back.
Finally I quit playing for church and thus, quit attending church for over five years. I had become successful by mine and many other people's standards. I have health, stability, wonderful friends and family, a good job, and a partner of over eight years. I am happy and at peace. Only recently did I have the opportunity to substitute at a local church. It turned into an option to play full time again. Most refreshing, was the fact that the pastor actually KNEW I was gay, and accepted me anyway without judgment. Imagine that! I was welcomed into this wonderful, warm and friendly church. As I interviewed with the Music Committee, I disclosed that I also accompany the Triangle Gay Men's Chorus -- and not one nose turned up. Imagine that! It is terrific to finally be accepted and free to express and share my real self. I also discovered to my surprise, that I had been nearly spiritually starved to death. I am grateful that God brought me to this beautiful church family that is willing to accept me. It makes ALL the difference. Hopefully this story drives home the importance of how the people of God affect lives. There are countless people that have given up on the church. Who could blame them? Do you want to go where you know you are not welcome?
Thank you for providing this forum. I hope my story helps inspire someone to move toward reconciliation -- and honest love and acceptance of ALL God's children. There are more people in your community waiting for you to welcome them than you have seating for in your church!