This year, at the Presbyterian General Assembly, LGBTQ people & allies of the upcoming generation will claim their birthright at members of a just & inclusive church.

24 June 2008

Personal Statement on G-6.0106b

Today I attended the hearings for the removal of G-6.0106B from the Presbyterian's Book of Order. Over 60 people signed up to testify for or against the deletion of this amendment. I spoke in favor of having G-6.0106B removed to the committee that will eventually vote to send it to the full floor of the assembly. It is hard to comprehend sometimes why any Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) person would remain in the PC(USA). Even with so many supportive and loving people in this denomination I am not sure why we continue to stick around. The church has made it explicitly clear that LGBT people are not welcome. Psychologists, therapists, and probably most people would say we are a bit insane. And to some degree I concur. It is a bit insane! I'll come back to this in a minute.

I first want to talk about the people who spoke to keep G-6.0106B in the Book of Order. The majority of people were part of the X-gay movement. I am not sure if they actually went through an X-gay degayification program, but you know what I am talking about. They would get up there and say, "I have struggled all my life with same-sex attraction. I even experienced life as a gay/lesbian individual and my life was horrible. Thanks to the church and Jesus Christ I was brought back to my heterosexuality. And here are the three children [holds up picture of children] that I have had with my husband/wife. So please keep G-6.0106B in the Book of Order." There were at least 7 people that said something like this while I was in the room today. First of all how sad is that? That was my first response. How horribly sad for these people. My second thought was how the HELL does this have anything to do with G-6.0106B? If a gay/lesbian person wants to live their life as a pseudostraight person then great! But how does choosing that path provide an argument for keeping someone like me from being ordained in the PC(USA)? The whole thing is just ridiculous.

The other thing that struck me today were all those beautiful gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals bearing witness to God's call in their life and the church's refusal to accept them as leaders. You can see it on every single LGBT person that has stuck with the church. You can see it in their eyes and you can see how their hearts ache. Beautiful children of God sharing what they know to be true. The church says one thing and yet we know that God's call is real and powerful. We know another reality exists. It always reminds me of the story of the blind man that was given sight in John's gospel. The Pharisees keep asking, "how could this happen!?!" And the blind man always responds, "I don't know I can only tell you what happened to me...I can only share the experience I know." That is all we can do as LGBT people...share the call God has placed in our hearts. We have no idea why it is happened to us no more than a straight person called by God. All we know is that it has happened. If the Presbyterian Church wants to know how this can happen...then my advice is for them to drag Jesus to the stand and have Him testify. But my guess is that the church is really not interested in what Jesus has to say about this issue even if they could get Jesus on the stand. The church is too busy trying to protect the purity of the church than to listen to Jesus.

So why again do we LGBT people stay in this broken discriminatory denomination? There are some things I guess we can never fully answer. For me I stay because I care. It sucks that I care, but I do. I wish I didn't and I could just walk away. But right now I care too much to walk away. So I am here in San Jose taking a week of vacation from my job to testify why the church should allow me and so many others to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

-from the desk of David Paul

8 comments:

RevFredA said...

What a moving statement! Thank you for sticking with us, even though we disappoint you time after time in our refusal to hear the call of Christ toward a fully inclusive church. May God forgive us and guide us toward being the church God intends us to be.

Anonymous said...

David,
Yes, that is the question: Why do we stay? At times I feel it's comparable to staying in a verbally abusive relationship. The Church (with the capital C) tells me I am not quite good enough, an yet I stick around hoping she'll chnage her mind if I'm really good.

What holds me is that the local church doesn't speak to me like that. The local church ordained me as a deacon without question. And the other thing that holds me is that time on Sunday morning where I meet God in the beuaty and love of that old serivce. At that time, the General Assembly and its doings seems unimportant.

Chrissy said...

David,

If it is indeed genetics that determines a persons sexual life style, then I am glad that my mother is a "seudostraight" person.

I have a simple question for you:
If God designs our sexual orientation, then why did He create Adam's mate to be a woman and not another man? I mean if both loves are equal, why did God see none other living being who was fit to be Adams' mate? Adam was a currently living being and God didn't just say "let me make another Adam, that they might live in the fullness of love." Instead God created Eve: A woman.

I would also like to respond to what Anonymous said:

1) "Why do you stay?" You stay for Christ.
2) "The Church (with the capital C) tells me I am not quite good enough..." It's not that you're not good enough, none of us can ever be 'good enough'. Rather, ordination is a matter of God's calling, if you have indeed been called by God to ministry, then who is man to tell you otherwise? Align yourself with Christ, be ever more Christ-like as the Bible calls us to be and He will lead you.

Lastly, why are you all fighting to MAKE people agree with you. If it's really this much of a pain: create your own church.

And by the way, I love you all, whether you are LGBT or not.

-Chrissy

Tom said...

Hi, I am one of those "ex-gay" people who spoke at the hearing regarding G-6.0106B. I am sorry if my testimony offended you, and I want to respond to your comments.

Although I appreciated the humor, I feel certain you know that we are not all married with three kids or even married. Some of us do not even date the opposite sex, but have found freedom from sexual desires that distorted our lives. We do not need to get married and have kids to prove anything, as if that proves anything.

As we both know, marriage is no cure for homosexual feelings, and I apologize if the testimonies gave that impression. You must admit that it is very difficult to give anyone a complete and accurate picture of one's sexuality in 90 seconds flat, while also expressing one's opinion regarding the codes being voted on. It was a pretty surreal experience getting up there to speak. Change in sexual orientation takes time, and just because it doesn't happen overnight without any setbacks does not mean it is not real.

For me it is not about proving anything or making a contrived political statement to the Presbyterian General Assembly, but being free to live a life that honors Jesus and His call.

I shared my story because it is true, not because I have been brainwashed. I chose to walk away from pursuing homosexual desires because I realized that God has something better for me. I also care about people who are where I used to be and think that there is no other alternative.

In my case I got married last year, and I am genuinely attracted to my wife, and it is much better than the empty fantasies I used to have that led nowhere.

It saddens me that you assume that any story of change must be bogus, and makes me think that you may belief that it is even beyond the capability of God to change one's sexual orientation. Christ gives us the power to make changes in our lives, so nothing is set in stone.

It is ironic to me that it is OK from the world's perspective to chose a gay lifestyle, but somehow choosing to leave it is hypocritical. It seems to be a one-way ticket with no return trip allowed.

If you are interested, we can have further dialogue about this. I have no desire to be your enemy.

God bless you and I hope that this helps you understand us "ex-gays" a little better, or me at least.

-Tom

Drew said...

I think my problem with reforming homosexuality, as it were, has to do with two comments that Tom makes that are unsettling to me:

1. "As we both know, marriage is no cure for homosexual feelings"

2. "In my case I got married last year, and I am genuinely attracted to my wife, and it is much better than the empty fantasies I used to have that led nowhere."

My concern is that if a homosexual desire remains, and I do not for an instance believe that homosexual desires simply and miraculously vanish by choice or fiat, is this a quite fair situation for one's heterosexual partner, one's children?

It seems to put homosexuality on par with raw addiction be it drugs, food, anorexia, or the like. yet there are far too many instances of homosexual relationships which actually reverse self-destructive patterns of behavior which is clearly contrary to other addictive patterns of behavior.

This is not to say that some can indeed re-direct their sexual desires. I am just not convinced that this is psychologically healthy in the long run. Of course we have to see how time will tell us this story since it is relatively new in the scheme of things.

But the tension of 1) Homosexuality is a disease and God demands that we cure ourselves from it, and 2) non one can change their orientations and those that do are to be pitied, is not going to be all that helpful ink the long run in my judgment.

My pragmatic question has never been addressed by anyone who is of the position that the Bible is absolutely clear about homosexuality and homosexuality is indeed sinful behavior that should not be supported: Can a mutually committed and loving relationship between two homosexual persons be a structure in which the true love of Christ can be received? It is this question, based on clear evidence to which I have been a witness, that forced me to restructure my beliefs on the issue. So what does the evidence tell you, and what does that mean for the practice of the church?

Tom said...

Hi Drew,

I appreciate your concern for the spouses of ex-gay people, and think that marriage in these situations is something that a man and woman need to go into with their eyes open and without any secrets. In the case of my wife and I, we both bared our souls to each other about 6 weeks into our dating relationship, and I told her all about me.

It may have been a little easier for us than in some cases since I had never had a sexual relationship with anyone. My desires were only in my mind. Before we had ever started dating, I made the decision once and for all that I no longer wanted to entertain the possibility of having a gay relationship.

Even though I felt I had very weak attraction to the opposite sex, I felt God leading me to sign up for an online dating service to see what the possibilities could be. After I met my wife and we started dating, I was very intentional about making sure that I was attracted to her before letting it become anything serious.

When we held hands at the movies on our third date, I discovered to my surprise that I was very alive to the opposite sex. But we had an emotional connection already before that discovery.

Of course I was concerned about the sexual part of our relationship and how that would turn out after we got married, especially since we both believed and still believe that sex is only intended between man and wife. It required some faith and trust in God that it would work after we were married.

Fortunately, our wedding night turned out very well, and our sexual relationship has continued to go well. Unfortunately, we have had two miscarriages since last August when we married and that has been very hard, and we are both still learning about each other in many ways, but we are doing well in this area.

It is not a redirecting of sexual desire in my opinion, because my past desires were always associated with guilt and shame and never gave me the genuine closeness that I was really longing for. My wife and I have an intimacy that feels good and pure and has no guilt associated with it.

To answer your question, even though a homosexual relationship may feel very loving and affirming and healing, I believe that it a sexualization of unmet emotional needs that are better met through healthy non-sexual relationships with other men as friends, comrades, peers, and mentors and father figures if that represents a previously unmet need in a man's life. Once those needs are met and continue to be met in healthy ways, homosexual desires decrease and a man can move on to relate with women in a different way.

This is how it worked for me through being involved in a Christian men's support group.

That is all I have to say regarding this. I do not want to really have to defend my position anymore about this. I think I have been extremely open about my life with you and David and whoever reads this, and would appreciate being treated with the respect and common courtesy that we all deserve, and I will try to do the same when sharing my opinions.

I will say that anyone who wants to criticize me and others like me should at least be willing to be as open as I have been about their own sexual life (without being graphic, please!) before they do so.

Thanks for listening for all that it is worth. God bless you and I pray that Jesus becomes more real and powerful in your life each day as you seek Him and His plan for your life.

Love Always in Christ,

Tom

Karen said...

Hi David,

Thanks for your blog post about this committee hearing. I was hoping to hear how other people experienced it. So, I appreciated your thoughts.

I was also there. I am one of the "ex-gays" you refer to. Though, I don't particularly like the term "ex-gay" personally. Some people who choose not to affirm their same-sex desires still have them.

I am not married with 3 children. I still have same-gender attractions. I am the one who got up and said that after 10 years of studying, praying, being in lesbian relationships, and evaluating pro-gay theology--I ultimately could not reconcile homosexuality with what the Spirit was speaking to me.

I respect that every person has to process this journey for themselves. And it is a challenge regardless of what side of the fence one is on. I would like to encourage you to also respect others who after much soul-searching have come to a different place than you. We "ex-gays" often have spent years reaching the conclusions we do. We don't do it lightly.

In your post, you write: "First of all how sad is that? That was my first response. How horribly sad for these people. My second thought was how the HELL does this have anything to do with G-6.0106B? If a gay/lesbian person wants to live their life as a pseudostraight person then great."

For someone so concerned about justice and respect for others, it is very strange to me that you would denigrate our stories as "horribly sad" and that those among us who have sinced married are now "pseudostraight." You don't even know us or the depth of our stories and yet you completely dismiss us. I get the feeling you have heard a lot of negative propaganda about ex-gays in order for you to say something like that.

As far as what our testimonies had to do with G-6.0106b-- Scripture says that God's ways and "shalom"--(that is, well being) are intimately connected. Even though I don't know you, I care about your well-being. Enough to want to tell you what I believe is the truth.

As much as I wanted to reconcile homosexuality with God's will, I could not. And, I trust God that he knows what is best. And because I trust that he sets certain boundaries for our best interest, I feel it important to share my story--what I believe God is speaking to me.

This is not an easy issue. And, regardless of where someone lands on this, I do not withhold my love and respect. I truly wish you the best in your own journey.

May God continue to give us all greater enlightenment to know him more clearly.

Take care, Karen

Drew said...

Tom,

Thanks for being so open about your own testimony. It is the same kind of constellation of deep pain that you have experienced that lead me to see the other side of homosexuality - primarily through experiences my sister and her partner have had in their own lives. They have now found healing on many many levels that any other arrangement would not have healed. It became hard for me to be a witness to her own process, which was not and is not unique by any stretch, and come to the conclusions you did.

Which is not to say that your own experience is not authentic or indicative other the experiences of others. However, what is interesting is that your concern and my own are rooted in the same set of variables - we have only come to opposite conclusions about what to do in response.

And it is regretful that you have gone through a couple of miscarriages. I would hope that no one would argue that is somehow "evidence" that you are wrong about your sexuality. But alas, I am sure some will, or have which is unfortunate.

What I fear is that your kinds of experiences will be mandated as necessary for all even as the experiences of my sister, or myself with my wife would be seen as necessary and normative. I think we have come to the point where, at least through the decisions of the GA this week, have realized that one group of response to sexual desire cannot and ought not be a prescription for all such circumstances or experiences. The wrong response to a given sexual situation can lead to death. It has, and continues to do so and that is what I do not wish on anyone.