Ginny Lawley found a seven-year old letter from me in the archives. It was an email exchange on March 2, 2000 between me and a guy who wanted to come to Granger but wasn't sure if he could because he was gay. Below is his letter and my response. Do you think I should have responded differently? Letter from gay guy...
Email Subject Line: Which song do you sing, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ ‘God Hates Fags’ or ‘Come As You Are?’
Letter: Hello, I'm going to be switching shifts at work, and will thus have my Saturday's free, and am looking for a church to attend on Saturday nights...Was wondering if you could provide me with some information on your church.
First I should tell you that 1) I'm not a Christian. I would call myself a seeker. I am atheist, but my path isn't well defined yet. And 2) I'm gay. Although I don't flaunt my sexuality, I'm not going to put myself back in the closet either.
Though this is the year 2000, I realize there is still a lot of intolerance and bigotry in the religious realm so I try to ask a few questions before intruding on someone else's holy ground: In the 1900s the church overcame using the bible to support racism, in 2000 I'm confident that it will overcome using the bible to support homophobia, but we aren't there yet in some churches.
So, as an out gay, non-christian, 23 year-old male will I be accepted in your church? What is your churches policy on homosexuality. (How does it view the scriptures which some fundamentalists claim condemn homosexual behavior?) Is this a church where I could bring my boyfriend to services?Is this a church where I could hold my boyfriend's hand during prayer?
I’m so glad you are continuing to take steps in your spiritual journey. GCC is specifically targeted for people just like you…we design a service every week where those who are just checking out the claims of Christ – a “seeker” in your words – can do so in a safe environment.
At every service we have people just like you – people who aren’t quite sure yet about Christ. In your words, their “path isn’t well defined yet.” We love those people and accept them. Indeed, hundreds of people are giving of their time and money to make a comfortable place for those people.
Your leading question was – “Which song do you sing, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ ‘God Hates Fags’ or ‘Come As You Are?’.” God is a God of love, and there is no church that can back up the phrase that “God hates fags.” He is in His very essence a God of love. “Come As You Are” would definitely be the best way to explain GCC. Even though the Bible teaches that having an affair outside of your marriage would be sin – we still love and accept those people. Even though the Bible says that lying, stealing and abusing is sin – we still love and accept those people. Even though the Bible says that premarital sex is sin – we still love and accept those people. In fact, our church is full of all types of sinners in every service. Sinners will not find condemnation in our services or at our church.
If the song title was “Come As You Are and Stay As You Are” then that would definitely not be us. Our mission statement is “helping people take their next steps toward Christ.” So, while we encourage people to stay anonymous and explore – we are also constantly encouraging everyone to be taking their next step. Our pastors will often talk about their own personal next step(s). We all have one. For the person having the affair – it is our hope and prayer that they would begin to take steps. At first, they may not even be aware that it is wrong. As the truth of God becomes evident to them, they’ll begin to take steps. They will develop relationships with others who can stand with them, encourage them and support them. Eventually – I believe they will make the right decision, end the relationship – and rebuild their marriage. That might take three years or longer – and all that time they get to take those steps in the context of a loving and supportive environment.
So while we believe that homosexuality is not God’s intended relationship for intimacy – you won’t find GCC to be an intolerant environment. You’ll find quite the opposite – a place where all people are accepted exactly where they are, encouraged to soak in the love of God for awhile and then to take their next steps toward Christ. Your first step is not to “go straight” or to end your homosexual relationship – your first step is to get in an environment where you can learn the truth about the love of God, and where you can grow in your faith.
I hope this has helped answer your question. As a gay, non-Christian, 23-year old male – you are absolutely accepted at GCC. Yes, absolutely you could bring your boyfriend to our services. Yes, you will find GCC to be accepting, relevant and spiritually uplifting.
You matter to God – and you are taking steps in the right direction. Keep it up!
He wrote back and thanked me for my response, and said he would visit sometime (although I don't know if he ever did).
If I were writing the letter today, I can see some words I would change. What are your thoughts...was the letter to harsh? Too soft? Too vague? Too direct?