Out of the Closet, Into the Cold : Life after Coming Out as a Gay Loving, Homosexual Affirming Pastor

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As I write, it’s been a mere two weeks since I gave a message and wrote a blog post where in both, I “came out” as a gay loving, homosexual affirming pastor to my church, friends, and family. No big deal, right?

Honestly, I never quite imagined the kind of responses I would receive, each one walking me further along the tip of the iceberg of what one must surely experience when “coming out” as a gay person in our culture today. Perhaps I should have know, but who could really? I will tell you this, my perspective on what it can look like to “come out” as a gay person in America has forever expanded with disturbing awareness. The handling of homosexuals and homosexuality by many Christians has become no less than the new racism of the 21st century.

Just shy of death threats, which are probably not far around the corner for me, even as a front-line, controversial Christian writer and pastor, I have been shocked at the negative and hurtful responses from some. Even more disturbing is the calculative results that conclude all the hateful, vial responses have come exclusively from Christians, the very people who profess Jesus as the model for their life.

I prepped our church weeks before that Sunday, and even tipped my hand to the cards I was going to play in addressing more specifically the issue of homosexuality, hoping to ease us further into the waters that I had already increasingly tipped our toes into from the very beginning of the formation of our ministry. On that day, a few chose to not listen or even consider my teaching before I could even teach it, opting out of attendance. Among those, there was a stated fear of receiving new information that could potentially change their mind, others among them just walked away… no words, no communication, no nothing. People who had journeyed close by my side for some time, left it, without a sound, statement, or blink of an eye. The relationship in the end perhaps became disposable or just too difficult.  It was clear that some who came, already formed their conclusions, but went through the motions of being present before quickly telling me of their no longer future presence; of course, through a text or email.

I understand, I really do, this is a complicated issue. There are a lot of strings and traps attached. I have been on the other side of the fence. I get it. It’s a tough issue, it takes time. I hold nothing against. Same love, same respect.

I never asked anyone to agree and repeatedly communicated that one of the defining values we have as a church is that our unity is not based on us all agreeing upon a certain set of beliefs, but on our willingness to agree to disagree and yet have the maturity, tolerance, and humility to still love, respect, and do life and ministry together from a foundation of Grace. Our church is purposed on being less of a church and more of a table, where everyone has a seat in the conversation, the life, the relationships, and the feasting on the Grace of Jesus.

For some, this unique church ethos is a fresh wind of hope and delight they never knew could exist. For many, they are thinking, deconstructing, and reexamining their faith, asking the ultimate question of their biblical understanding, “have I read this right?” All, while still seated, connected, loving, respecting, serving, and experiencing authentic, spiritual community. Many our clapping on the insides with overflowing enthusiasm, others are giving Christianity another chance as they find this compassion, courage, unique church culture, and revelation of scripture something of the miraculous.

It is truly a beautiful thing.

Outside of church, there has been the silent treatment. People I always heard from, going unheard from. Glares, non-verbals of disappointment. The unspoken, yet clearly heard voices of shame. Others communicating their disagreement openly and respectfully, others, not so much. Waves of de-friending, all from… Christians.

I truly admire those who disagree with my perspective on the issues, yet still pledge their love, friendship, conversation and desire to stay by my side. They refuse to let their stance on the issues usurp their stance “with” me. In the same spirit that Jesus died for the ungodly, they are willing to stand with what they perceive is unbiblical and perhaps ungodly… me. Not from a condescending spirit, but from one of unconditional love, togetherness, and respect. This, I deeply treasure and joyfully extend as it’s been extended to me.

Some are more passive aggressive. Disagreeing on the inside, and acting on their disagreements in the shadows. Murmuring, chattering, making me pay subtly, behind the scenes, all the stuff you remember from middle school, now on display in adulthood. Precious, isn’t it?

And this, just “coming out” as one who simply affirms and loves someone and something certain people are against. I can’t imagine “coming out” as actually being a gay person, as hard as it has been for me in just affirming them. Holy crap, batman.

Yet, I wouldn’t trade it all for the conversations I have had with people who are gay or have family members who are gay. One person could barely control the speed of their words as their excitement couldn’t be restrained in finally having a pastor to talk with who understood and supported.

Tasting and seeing, breathing for the first time. Resurrected to life. One after the other.

I wouldn’t trade it all for the atheists, the skeptics, the undecideds, the “done’s” who are actually finding new faith or a faith restored because of this courageous, compassionate, conversational, free, humble, serving, unconditional loving, Grace flowing flavor of Christianity and “church.”  The original, the pure Gospel in flesh, and fleshed out, right before their eyes.

I wouldn’t trade it for all the friends who have shown themselves to be true friends. Who when the shit hit the fan, they stood with me and took it, and are taking it, boldly and even cheerfully. Some with even a Jesus-crazy, Grace-intoxicated smile on their face as if to say, “bring it on, you bastards.”

I wouldn’t trade it for the after-Sunday-service hug of my sixteen year old, heterosexual son, who had never quite hugged me that hard while speaking into my ear, “Great job dad, I am so proud of you.”

I wouldn’t trade it for the peace I have, and the sense of fully realizing the heart of Jesus in me and through me as I boldly and unapologetically love, affirm, and defend homosexual people and their families everywhere.

I will not stop. I will not be silent.

It may be cold…but this cold cannot touch the fire from above and from within.

I will fight as long as it takes, and I have breathes to take.

17 Comments

  1. Caught this post off of a follow on Twitter. I too came out to my church as affirming about two months ago. It has been almost the same journey for me. The response in my church has been relatively positive. The response from my friends has been less so. Just wanted you to know there are others of us working to spread the message of grace and love.

    Darrell Lindsey
    Harvest Fellowship Community Church
    San Antonio, TX

  2. Great Great post Chirs Amen my brother count me in as i will always stand with you side by side on this issue and i could care less what Christains say . Heck Christains have done so much damge to gods name and how the world views god that they have done far more Harm to faith and Jesus then what gays could ever hope to have done people tend to overlook all the Bloodshed and killing 100000s of people in GODS name all the wars and such but ohh thats ok even though Jesus never taught to go to war and kill one another. but for America and many other places as long as you go to War and kill in gods name its fine and dandy hmm wonder what Jesus would have to say about America about that????? i have a feeling if Jesus came down and talked to America right 95% of the USA would promby hate Jesus and want him dead just like the Jews so many years ago. funn how History tends to repet itself aint it and when you said The handling of homosexuals and homosexuality by many Christians has become no less than the new racism of the 21st century. man aint truer words been spoken aint if funny how Chirstains have always pointed the finger to everything they can Blacks and whites getting married Rock music and so on and so on now ofc GAYS are gonna be the cause of the end of the WORLD TO THEM!!!! well we all know thats BS . but such is Life all we can do is keep pushing keep showing Christains just how far they have fallen and How far away from Jesus they are as jesus said even though they worship me there Hearts are FAR from me.so so so true of Chirstains its sad but like i said i stand by your side and im dam proud of it 🙂 love you brother god bless you and your family and i wish you all the best from the bottem of my heart 😀

  3. I’m so sorry you have experienced so much rejection from people who should be embracing you, but unfortunately, I’m not surprised. As the fully affirming mom of a daughter who identifies as “queer” (her word), I have also seen that wall go up on people’s faces when I talk about my daughter, or felt the stony silence over the phone. I’ve concluded that most Christians are afraid that, if they admit they got this one thing wrong in how they read their Bibles, they’re going to have to look at a lot more stuff, and where will it end? You know, that good old slippery slope we’ve been warned about so many times. And it’s true, in many cases, but at the bottom of the slope is Christ, not hell.

    I am a member of several “secret” Facebook groups of Christian moms of LGBTQ kids, many of whom have been rejected by their churches, families and friends when their children came out and the moms stood proudly with their children, not trying to force them to change or leave their homes. These women have been deeply wounded by the church, and by Christians, many of whom honestly think they are reacting in a loving way. It’s so twisted and hurtful, and so very not of Christ! Many of these moms have done some extremely hard spiritual work of really looking at what the Bible does (and doesn’t) say about loving, committed same sex relationships, which has led them to re-evaluate many assumptions they have made or been taught about what the Bible “clearly says” on certain issues, and who Jesus is calling us to be as followers of Christ. Hundreds of Christian moms have said that having an LGBTQ child was the best thing that ever happened to them, because it woke them up, made them really examine their faith, and they now feel that their faith is deeper, truer, and more alive than it ever was before. Unfortunately, many of them no longer attend a church, because the wounds from their church family are so deep, or they don’t have a church in their community that would accept their child with Christ’s love. So, our online community is their church, where they are prayed for, encouraged and loved. Others are staying in their churches, engaging the pastors in dialog and seeking to start support groups for other Christian parents of gay kids, trying to start book study groups to help people see the issue from a different (equally Christian) perspective. We have become advocates and champions for our kids in a hostile church. Thank you so much for creating another safe place for families like ours to land!

    • Thank you for speaking up on our behalf, Marlene!

    • ckratzer

      October 3, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story, inspiring courage and giving hope to so many! We must all stand together.

    • As one of those moms, I want to say thanks to Marlene for bringing you to our attention. We will pray for you and the wonderful things you are doing on behalf of our kids. It pains me to hear that you are going through what so many of our members have – we often say it’s the silence that hurts the most. And you are right, if it is this painful just for someone who is an ally, how horrid must it be when it is directed at who you ARE? It’s no wonder our kids have left the church.

  4. We stop short of incarnating Christ.
    We expect people to meet us on the
    Thin iedge of a gospel verse. Jesus was
    Always on the outside(socially) looking in. I am so grateful for your witness as a
    Gay Christian.

    My questions to other more staid, conservative pastors had been if 40-50% of run a way youth are on the
    Street because of their being LGBT how do we reach them?

    I will keep asking the question but
    I am glad i see there is now someplace loving affirming to send them.

    God bless you, Sister.

    • ckratzer

      October 6, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      Hey Michael, not sure if you meant your comment for me specifically. Thank you for writing! Just to clarify, I am not gay nor am I a female. I am so grateful that you see this blog as a place of support and encouragement!

  5. I just discovered your blog this morning via FACEBOOK. my church, of which I had been a faithful devoted servant, kicked me out of the youth group( I was a leader for six years) for coming out. It was probably one of the most painful experiences in my life. This blog put tears in my eyes, to know that there are pastors who understand that we are not an abomination and that we are all God’s children who deserves love, respect and dignity. Thank you so much for fighting along side us.

  6. Please stand strong. I am so sorry for the reaction that you have received but I know that your words have made a difference in many lives – certainly my son’s life and mine. I couldn’t stop crying when I read your Love Letter to the Gay Community. I honestly felt like the message was coming straight from God. Many times I have felt like a lone soldier guarding my son’s heart out here in the cold. Never receiving any “warmth” from my spouse, my family, or my (former) church. My son and I had to find a new church after he came out. My husband and my family stayed at our former church. I have a new church now that is open and accepting but it is still difficult to get past the pain. Thank you so much for your words of love and comfort. Truly the Holy Spirit is guiding your words and your path.

  7. Thanks so much for standing with us. It means a lot.

    I’m sorry to hear that you been attacked for stating what you currently believe and for your actions.

    When we look at the life of Jesus in the gospels we see a man who was also attacked. He was the great rule breaker and was constantly attacked by the conservatives and religious leaders of the day for mixing with wrong people and going to the wrong places. Does that sound familiar?

    Jesus saw human beings not labels. His life and parables constantly remind us who are neighbours and how we can practically live out the command ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’.

    Phariseeism is alive and well in the church of the 21st century and some continue to judge, condemn and separate themselves from people they consider somehow outside of God’s grace. I still find it surprising that Christians who claim to be people of the Word can’t see the similarities happening today.

    I’m not sure this will be of enormous comfort but worth mentioning anyway.

    When any straight person from the Christian church actually stands on the side of the LGBT community they often experience hostility, vilification, judgment and personal attack. By standing with us though you get to experience something that is an everyday experience for many gay and lesbian people. 85% of gay men and lesbians experienced harassment or violence during their lifetime, with one in four gay men and lesbians being physically attacked. Not for anything they have done but simply for being who they are. In the eyes of the attacker they are abnormal outsiders who do not deserve to be treated like everyone else, that is, with dignity and respect. This is not a special right the LGBT community are asking for, it is a basic human right.

    Thank you for being like Jesus and being willing to show unconditional love it has not gone unnoticed by God and those who strive to be like the Master.

    And once we have a new consciousness or understanding we are empowered. It’s impossible to retreat to a place of ignorance. Too much is at stake. TRUTH. And it was Jesus who said you will know the truth and the truth will set you free

  8. “One step ahead you are a leader. Two steps ahead an innovator. Three steps ahead a martyr”
    Anthony Venn-Brown
    Author of A Life of Unlearning

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