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Goodbye, Church (part 3)
Some of you may be wondering why I left the church instead of staying and trying to help change the church from within. (See Intro, Part 1, Part 2, and part 4 if you’re new to the Goodbye Church mini-series).
Well, believe me when I say that I tried.
I tried to change the church.
At least my church.
I spent the last three years at my church trying to help the leaders inch their way towards affirmation of LGBTQ folx. And this was before I realized I was queer (it’s all so funny now).
I truly believed my work and my voice mattered and that my leaders were taking it seriously.
I truly tried to cling to the hope that my church would someday be affirming.
Then I realized I was queer.
All of a sudden, I saw things very differently.
I actually look back and see how much time and energy I wasted those last three years at my church because my church had/has no intention of becoming an affirming church.
I spent those last three years spinning my wheels but literally getting nowhere.
I can’t help but think of all the productive ways I could have used my time and energy at another place than at a church that had/has no intention of changing their stance.
It’s exhausting, emotional work to try to help an institution change their way of thinking.
But what makes it unbearable is when a church refuses to take an explicit stand on whether or not they’re affirming.
At least with a non-affirming church, we queer folx know where NOT to go.
And with affirming churches, we obviously know of a place where we CAN go.
But when churches play this wishy-washy ‘third way’ stance, it does more harm than good to the LGBTQ community.
These 3rd way churches are really intentional about the way they address/dodge/frame the “LGBTQ issue”. The pastors will say things from the pulpit that make a queer person think the church might be a safe place, but they’re never really sure. So each week, queer people enter the church guarded and alert while straining to hear any word from the leadership that they welcome and love and affirm them for who they are. But the leaders never explicitly say such things.
They hint at it, they allude to it, they might drop the word ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ once in a blue moon but not without shrouding it in a million other words so as not to raise any alarms. They’ll use words like ‘welcome’ and ‘accept’ but intentionally avoid the word ‘affirm’.
These churches care more about keeping their (mostly straight) congregants comfortable than welcoming, including, and making space for the marginalized. And that is diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus.
So after 3 years of trying to help evoke change from within my church to no avail, I left.
The marginalized shouldn’t be the ones doing all the work.
Those with power need to start doing the work themselves for once in their lives.
They need to educate themselves and proactively work to dismantle systems of injustice and stop blaming the marginalized for not ‘trying harder or longer.’
Stop shaming us.
Stop blaming us.
And stop doing all of this in God’s name.
I had a dear friend, who is also a pastor, come over yesterday.
We chatted and laughed and swapped stories from our childhood.
We then talked about where I’m at in life, particularly on this journey of deconstruction/rejection of the Christian church.
With tears in her eyes (and one eventually slipping down her cheek like a scene from a freakin movie), she shared how she wasn’t concerned about me but that she was sad at the Church’s loss of my gifts, calling and leadership.
And my heart ached with her.
Because I feel that loss immensely as well.
I had loved the Church fiercely.
I had loved Jesus fiercely.
But because I refused to fit the mold and play the (small, quiet, submissive) part, I was forced out of the Church.
The Church declared there was no room for me.
So I became an exile quite suddenly and surprisingly.
And I wept. A lot.
Church had been my home. My language. My community. My source of support.
And now it was gone. All of it.
What does one do when suddenly found in the desert of exile?
Well, it does many things. It causes many feelings and fears to rise to the surface.
But it can also do this:
- It frees you in ways you never knew you needed freeing
- It empowers you to stand on your own two feet for the first time in your life
- It snaps you awake from any delusion you might have been believing, saving you precious time and energy
- It emboldens you to live a life you actually want to live, versus living a life you’re supposed to live
- It forces you to let go all that no longer works for you and to only believe in that which your mind, body, and spirit completely align with
- It fosters tremendous growth
And while I would never wish for someone to experience the losing of one’s entire community and support system, I truly am grateful for the pain of my past.
Because look where it has brought me:
- I am at a seminary I absolutely LOVE
- I have an amazing community that knows, honors, and celebrates every part of me (#AllTheTears)
- I have found abundance and love and beauty in ways I never thought possible
- I am helping set others free through my work as a life coach
- I am more confident of who I am than I have ever been in my life
I wouldn’t go back even if I could.
I’ve made it through the pain and the waiting. Now I am rising.
And I’m bringing others with me.
[Featured Image: Evan Kirby]