I grew up in a non-religious home (eldest of three brothers) and became a Christian in my first year of uni after reading a Gideons New Testament. I was baptized almost immediately and started going to a Uniting Church. After about a year and a half there, I felt I wanted more and left to join a Pentecostal church.
So I have been a Jesus follower now for about 11 years.
Unlike a lot of stories that I have read, I don’t think I really realized that I was gay until I was probably about 18, shortly after I became a believer. In the early days of my Christian walk, being gay just wasn’t an issue at all. I just didn’t think about it.
It wasn’t until I was about 24-25 that I went through the “God, make me straight” stage, spurned on by stories from the web of people who claimed that they had changed. It was also about this time that I finally came out to my parents. It was emotionally draining but they accepted it fairly readily. I was lucky.
I actually was spurned to come out by another story on the web. It was one of a teacher (I am also a teacher) who came out (to the whole school, mind you) in his 50s. He subsequently described it like starting a new life. I didn’t find the prospect of coming out in my 50s very appealing, and so I came out very shortly after reading that story.
I have been progressively coming out at church for about a year now. The fact that I support gay marriage was a concern to a person of influence in my group, and I was “encouraged” to go and see the pastors, since I was preaching and had a finger in a couple of leadership-type pies. So I went. I was removed from preaching (though not roughly), but told I could continue on the other behind-the-scenes things that I was doing for the time being. These things finished themselves, and I was thus left with nothing.
Rather perturbed, I went and explained that the decision to not have me preach was having a negative effect on me. The decision hurt at the time, but I went back because it continued to hurt. Thankfully my mentor, a person of influence in the church, while not being supportive of gay marriage, is supportive of me, and having him there helped add credibility to the conversation.
So I am currently in the process of negotiations with the church about making the church a safer place for GLBT people. The pastors have given me their commitment that they will seek to learn more about homosexuality from some of the resources that I have given them, and hopefully we will continue to meet to discuss things.
I still don’t preach, but I hope in time the church will build bridges. Whether my presence there ends up having a significant impact on the acceptance of GLBT people (particularly young people) in the church remains to be seen. But I remain hopeful, and act with patience, imbued with the confidence that my church has a different character to many others, and spurned on by the thought that I could make a difference to the generation of GLBTers coming after me.