A Question...

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Joined in 2011
August 11, 2011, 23:33

Hi All,

I’m a straight 38 year old, and have been a Christian for most of my adult life. But more and more I find myself struggling with my role in the church. I’m an elder in the Presbyterian Church, a denomination with a particularly strong and vocal stance against GLBT people. We claim to be inviting and welcoming, but the reality is you’re only welcome if you fit a certain mould.

The struggle for me is that I actually love the community and the relationships we have there. Both my family and my wife’s family are deeply connected to this church. But I don’t know how much longer I can look my gay and lesbian friends in the eye and justify me being a part of this church, let alone an elder. I’m not being true to my beliefs, and I’m not living up to the role that the Pressie church expects from an elder.

Here’s my dilemma… do I make a stance, leave the church and find one that is GLBT friendly? Do I step down as an elder, but stay within the community, friends and family? Or should I stay on as an elder, and try to be a voice for change and acceptance?

Joined in 2009
August 11, 2011, 23:58

Welcome fizban! There’s certainly a bunch of pro’s and cons with all of those options, but I’ll just offer my two cents.

It sounds like you might be doing yourself (and your family) a disservice by leaving the church altogether. If you don’t agree with your church’s stance on sexuality, then I don’t think you have anything to justify to your LGBT friends.

My partner and I attend a Sydney Anglican service. I disagree with lots of things that denomination espouses, but I like that particular service, I like the people that go there, I learn interesting stuff, and I don’t think that’s a problem. And if it’s not a problem for me, I don’t see why it should be a problem for you.

That said, I am not an elder at my church (and couldn’t be), and while I suppose I would think it reasonable of you to question your position as an elder, I don’t think your very membership in the church needs to be questioned here. You don’t need to be an elder to be voice for change and acceptance, and indeed, if being an elder actually prevents you from advocating for that, then maybe that adds clarity to this decision. On the other hand if you think you can remain as elder and be even more effective, then that sounds great too. I think of the three options you’ve mentioned, the latter two both have merit, but only you know your church community well enough to decide which is best.

If every member of a conservative church decided to leave over this issue, then the churches would take forever to break down the barriers of ignorance.

Joined in 2010
August 12, 2011, 00:10

G’day fizban73,

They’re tough questions you ask. As a straight pastor I’ve been in a similar position, but the Baptist denomination here in Melbourne is at least a little more accepting….

I decided to stay and try and change things from the inside and have committed to studies that will hopefully produce resources for others to equip themselves to do the same. I’ll be honest though and admit that I worry what the cost will be to me and my family. I’ve been threatened by the national body with removal of my accreditation as an ordained minister though at state level I’ve received nothing but support. I could be fired down the track, but I’m not sure how likely that is.

In my current church and the one before this, I asked in my interviews whether two guys who turned up at church on Sunday morning holding hands would be welcomed – simply because I would not serve in a church where my friends would not be welcome. There was an uncomfortable silence, but in the end I got an honest “We hope they would be welcomed like anybody else”.

That was enough to begin the process of education and acceptance.

Of course, I’ve had some people leave my congregations because of the “homosexual issue” and a couple of leaders step down. Fortunately, we have a big chunk of families that have gay or lesbian kids and they have finally been able to talk about their experiences – and shed a new light on what it means to be gay and be rejected by OUR church.

IN two weeks we’re having a Sunday where we focus on sexuality. The sermon on the morning will be on Biblical perspectives on sexuality, followed by a Q&A session over lunch, and then some time for me to share my 15 year journey with the LGBT community. I’m looking forward to see what happens!!

Anyway, that’s a long winded way to say you’re not on your own struggling with this issue. You can’t ignore it and it won’t go away. Whatever you do maintain your integrity and keep the faith, no matter what expectations are put on you by church authorities. Remember, people, especially young people, are taking their lives over this. Those young people might be our kids one day, or, at very least, good friends of our kids.

I have two boys that are in the early years of primary school. I pray they grow up treating everybody with the respect they deserve as human beings, but I also pray they show Gods love and compassion to everybody in the same way. If they are to do that, it has to start with me. Now.

Your thoughts?

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
August 12, 2011, 10:47

Hi fizban73

A big welcome to you! How did you hear about us?

In answer to your dilemma, I guess it depends on a few things including your personality type and how you feel best able to flourish and help others. Some people are meant to be catalysts and advocate strongly in the face of great opposition and others are meant for a quieter but no less effective path. There are ways to make a difference with either style whether you choose to stay or leave the church. In making your decision, it’s important to know who you are and be true to that.

You said:

I’m not being true to my beliefs, and I’m not living up to the role that the Pressie church expects from an elder.

It seems that you’re weighing up your role in the church and how you see that associated with the church’s official stance against LGBT vs your love for the community and the loving relationships established there. Is there a way you can update/change your role so that it reflects your desire to better demonstrate love to the LGBT community? I’m interested to know what you believe an elder should be and also what you think the Presbyterian church expects of you in that role..

Thanks for sharing with us. It’s great to have you here. 🙂 The fact that you are asking these questions and grappling with them means a lot.


Ann Maree

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