Occasionally, readers of my blog ask me why I regularly return to the topic of sexual orientation–as I did again last week. My answer is that it hasn’t been the last time either, because in the faith community which I call my spiritual home, full acceptance of LGBTQ people is still a long way off. Two things led me to raise this issue again this week.
I received a request to read a manuscript of a book that is about to be published in the US. The intention was that I would write a few lines as an endorsement for the book, which could be placed on the back cover (depending, of course, on whether I felt I wanted to recommend the book!) After reading it, I gladly complied with the request. The manuscript is written by an Adventist pastor who came “out of the closet” as a bisexual person after a lengthy struggle. She lost her job, but not her faith. In the first chapter she describes her journey. It is impressive and at the same time shameful. She has since married a woman, but would have liked nothing better than to remain a pastor. Unfortunately, that could not happen . . .
In response to my blog of last week, I received a brief comment from a certain David, a reader from Australia. When I saw his last name, it rang a bell. Was he the person about whom I had heard the vague rumor that he had come “out of the closet” as a gay man? He replied at length to the e-mail that I sent him. His story, he reported, was not a secret, so I could feel free to talk or write about it. He was indeed the person I was thinking of. For several years he lived with his parents in England. Immediately after his studies at Newbold College he had married. He became a minister in Australia and worked for the church in various capacities. In the meantime, he had also become the father of three sons. .
David had hoped that he could silence the voice of his sexual orientation by getting married, but that proved impossible. When he “came out of the closet” in 2006, after twenty years of inner struggle, it not only meant the end of his marriage, but it also ended his career in the Adventist Church. His ex-wife found someone with whom she could be happy. His children accepted their father’s decision, and David himself found a partner to whom he has been married since 2014. Their marriage took place in New Zealand where “same-sex” marriages were already possible at the time, and their relationship also received a legal basis in Australia a few years later.
That’s how it goes all too often—unfortunately also in Adventist circles. People are urged to marry someone of the opposite sex–against better judgment, assuming that the “other” orientation will wear off. The result in most cases is a mountain of misery, often ending in suicide. David has kept his faith, but has he lost his job and also lost his church. A homosexual ex-pastor had no place in the Adventist congregation of which he was a member.
Perhaps it is still a bridge too far to expect that someone with a “different” orientation, who is in a monogamous same-sex relationship, can become or remain a pastor in our church without difficulty. But at the very least, people who are eager to remain part of our faith community must be warmly welcome and be allowed to actively participate in the life of the congregation. As long as this is not the case everywhere, I will from time to time dedicate a blog to this subject. I cannot change the world-or my church–singlehandedly, but together with others I must make my voice heard and will do so until the goal is reached: full equality regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.