So… this is my story. I am a 30 year old gay guy. Ex-pastor with a Pentecostal Church, and have recently been on a journey of painful honesty. It’s strange (and slightly surreal) that I am in a place that I can even type that declaration!
I first tried to come out at 15 to my parents (spurred on from a teenage relationship at the time). It didn’t go very well – my parents pressured me to retract my confession of sexuality, and in time I did. The shame of it all made me very quick to try to please my parents, and so I threw myself into a new Church shortly after. I became involved in youth and music, and built friendships. I still messed around with guys, stricken with fear about anyone ever finding out. And the guilt causing a stunted relationship with God (not that I ever let on to anyone around me).
During Uni, I took a break from Church, and the positions of leadership that I had stepped into, citing ‘burnout’. I still went along to Church (largely to reassure my parents that I wasn’t off the rails) but my relationship with God was pretty dry. I continued to mess around with guys, but never reconsidered coming out.
I accepted my first professional job away from home and with it threw myself back into Church (partly from a desire to rekindle a relationship, partly as a convenient social network in a new place). I quickly got invited to be involved in youth and music leadership, and in time joined the eldership team too. I genuinely struggled with my sexuality through this time, praying and desperately trying to retrain my brain. But my same sex attraction was constantly lurking at the edges. I hate to admit that despite my positions of leadership and my deep involvement with Church and God, there were plenty of ‘slip ups’ followed by guilt and a renewed commitment to try harder. My parents checked in regularly to see how I was going with the ‘fight’ and not wanting to discuss it at all, I was very dismissive and assured them it was no longer an issue.
As I continued my ‘rise’ in leadership, I was ordained as a Pastor and began to work full time for the Church. But the bottling in of my attractions and a deep sense of dishonesty were rotting me to my core. I was constantly wearing a mask – one that people in Church, and especially those in Leadership are often quick to take up to show strength, worthiness and some level of ‘having it all together’. I tried desperately to find a girl who I might be able to love and settle down with, hoping that the right one might assist in the conversion process. But I couldn’t seem to find the right one!
Early in 2011, after a series of sermons about living in truth, I came to a place where I decided I needed to tell a close female friend what I was struggling with in order to ‘get it out in the light’. In turn, I told my parents who were not necessarily shocked but still surprised. I started counselling (well removed from my particular circles) and quickly realised that there was only one outcome that I would be happy with. I was not prepared to ‘fight’ it any more, and knew that renewed attempts to convert would only delay the inevitable and cause me more grief.
And so I decided that I needed to relocate to a new place and create some space for me to walk through my own personal journey of truth – away from the pressure of Church scrutiny and familiarity. I resigned from my position and pastoral accreditation with the Church (knowing my denomination’s stance on the topic), telling my Senior Pastors (who were now close friends) my reasons for leaving. I had to go through some agonising confessions with Church leadership, close friends and family. But in hindsight, there is a strange liberty that comes with humiliating honesty.
Now, the people who matter most to me know the score. Not everyone has responded well, but I am at peace with that. If some friendships fall away as a result of this new life direction, I can cope with that. Because I know that this decision to come out will give me a chance at peace and happiness.
I hope in time that I will find a partner and have a fulfilling relationship. It will take some adjustment with family and friends, but I will deal with that challenge when the time comes. But I am excited by the prospect of this new chapter of my life, and feel like a weight has been lifted. No masks, just honesty.
There is still a journey of healing ahead. My (possibly warped, but traditional) theological view on homosexuality hasn’t changed just because I struggle with it, and so I have an awkward relationship with God (like a naughty child who is guilty and a little aloof because of it) – even moreso with the ‘Church’ because it unfortunately doesn’t deal well with this type of issue.
But I am absolutely confident that His Grace is sufficient. And that He still desires an intimate and personal relationship with me no matter what decisions I make. And that in time I will be able to somehow reconcile it all and accept His unconditional, rock-solid love for me. His love that NEVER fails.