When our daughter came out to us, church was the first place we could not go because it was the most condemning place of all. We tried. Several times. But, as often happens, we went into the closet as our child came out. We were afraid: of what people would say, of what people would think, of what people would do. And we were most afraid in church.
We sat through several worship services figuratively looking over our shoulders, wondering who suspected, who could see the scarlet letter on our chests, the neon sign over our heads. The fear became even more intense when the service was over and we had to talk with friends and fellow church members we had known for as many as twenty years. We constantly had to monitor ourselves and what we said, as we also scrutinized what others said to us, or asked us. Did they suspect? Were they fishing for information? Had we said something to "give us away?"
It was horrible. The fear, the constant being on guard, the feeling that we were judged. All this in the place that had been our "home" for so many years; where we had been on committees and boards, and where our children had grown up attending Sunday school, Bible School, UMYF, church camp. Where our daughter was baptized.
Finally, we decided we could no longer endure being in a place where we felt so unwelcome. Even though we told no one "our secret" we still felt unwelcome. We were suddenly "outsiders" and "other." So we stopped going to church.
But, if it was this awful for us, how horrible it must have been for our beautiful, talented, smart, creative, wonderful daughter!!! No wonder she began resisting going to church when she reached high school and really began to struggle with her sexual identity. But, being unaware of her struggle, we insisted that we go to church as a family, never knowing the agony she was going through. When we experienced it for ourselves, we were amazed at her strength - and so sorry we had put her through that.
In all of this, before we knew our daughter was lesbian, in all the years of her childhood, in all the years of our own growing up in the Methodist church, no one ever said out loud in the church, "Homosexuality is a sin, and anyone who is homosexual is not welcome here." But we knew. The very silence around homosexuality (in fact around all sexuality) proclaimed loudly and clearly that this was such an awful thing that no one was allowed to talk about it (except to make snide remarks or "'jokes"). And, if you were "that way" you had better not let anyone know. You had better get yourself "straightened out."
This is the message of the church. Not, "God loves you. You are welcome here more than anywhere," but rather, "You are unwelcome, because the church considers you 'incompatible with Christian teaching.' Go get yourself 'straightened out' so you are just like us, and then come back and we will welcome you."
How sad. How wrong. How sinful.