For those seeking spiritual homes, moving beyond the homophobia isn’t always easy
A few weeks ago, a man named Jason Thomas made headlines when he shared the story of how he was forced to leave Watermark Community Church, a nondenominational evangelical Christian megachurch here in the DFW Metroplex that he had attended for some time.
Thomas had posted a letter from the church telling him he was no longer welcome there because, after years of trying to “convert” or at least stay single, Thomas fell in love and began a relationship with another man. The church insisted he break it off; when he refused, Thomas was told to leave.
While many people in the LGBT community and among its allies were chastising Watermark church, Dallas Voice staff writer David Taffet wrote a blog that basically chastised Thomas for even wanting to stay in a church that required he hate himself and deny his identity as a gay man, when there are so many churches that affirm their LGBT members.
David’s column caused me to think back on my own spiritual journey. And while I appreciate his point about how we shouldn’t expect sympathy for being thrown out of churches we know we’re not welcome in, I know that sometimes it’s not that simple.
I was raised Southern Baptist. In my late teens, I moved on to churches that were even crazier, and I was briefly a student at a local non-denominational Bible college.
It’s takes awhile to leave all that behind.
My first ventures out of the closet were in the mid 1980s. I met a nice guy at a card shop on the Cedar Springs Strip called Off the Street. We started dating and at some point, we started going to Metropolitan Community Church-Dallas. (I’m talking about the old church at Reagan and Brown. Cathedral of Hope and MCC of Greater Dallas both trace their roots back to the congregation at Reagan and Brown. That campus is now part of Resource Center.)
Several months passed and my first boyfriend moved away. I joined MCC-Dallas and kept going for a couple of years. That was my first round of unlearning the toxic theology of my youth.
Jobs that required me to work weekends or to be “on call” kept me away from regular church attendance for much of the 1990s. So my unlearning of toxic theology was basically on hold for most of that decade.
In the late 90s, I went to the Dignity Dallas masses on Sunday evenings, and in 2001 I converted to Catholicism. There I found a more beautiful worship experience than what the churches of my youth offered. And the parish I was part of was mostly welcoming.
This was a move that challenged my thinking. But I’m not sure it involved much unlearning of toxic theology.
The years from 2005 to 2012 found me at three different liberal protestant churches that were mostly welcoming as well as visiting a local Reform synagogue for a few months in 2011. But at those churches, I felt isolated from the LGBTQ community.
But in the fall of 2012, I found my way back to Cathedral of Hope.
Since then I’ve been more seriously learning what I call a “healthy intolerance” for any politics or religion that doesn’t accept me unconditionally. Today, I have reached the point where I really have no use for any religious or political group where I’m not fully welcome.
It’s been quite a journey for me. As a teenager I thought Jesus was the only way to heaven. Or to put it more accurately, “the Baptist version of Jesus” was the only way to Heaven.
And then my first ventures outside of Baptist churches took me to churches that were even more conservative and intolerant. I mostly learned to have more fear and be more intolerant from them.
MCC-Dallas was the first church to challenge that intolerance and close-mindedness. Liberal protestant churches, the Unitarian church and the Roman Catholic church offered even more challenges to my early beliefs and way of thinking.
Still, after these adventures in tolerance and acceptance, I still returned to these more conservative churches. I think it was because they were familiar and, in some important ways, comfortable.
To put it bluntly, they were comfortable because they weren’t challenging me to learn and grow.
If I’m in church now it’s either a welcoming United Methodist congregation (usually Northaven United Methodist) or Cathedral of Hope, and I spend at least a few minutes almost every day reading about Judaism.
Wouldn’t that be a spiritual journey — from fundamentalist Christian to Reform Jew! Not saying it will happen. But, I wouldn’t rule it out.
My point is this: Find a spiritual home where you are welcome. As you are. No strings attached.
Don’t waste your time and please don’t waste your money on any person or group that considers you to be anything less than a beautiful creation of God. But once you get there, remember your journey, and don’t judge others harshly because they aren’t yet where you are.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2016.