Words cannot express just how disappointed I am. Shocked. Appalled. Saddened. The list of adjectives goes on. When I spoke with your representative (kept nameless not for lack of caring but for consideration for his privacy), I expected a peaceful, kind-hearted parting of ways. I did not expect an indictment, to be sure, and I surely did not expect one so mind-bendingly cold and unnecessarily severe. It seems you believe I am destined for hell – never mind the near tiptoeing around the implication, because I know as a PCA “covenant kid” what is meant by “God’s teaching on marriage relates to the very core of the gospel and our hope of eternal life.” I’m shocked you had the gall to actually say it, to be God’s mouthpiece of salvation.
I would like to here let you know that I had every intention of leaving peacefully. For me, agreeing to disagree was enough. I spent the better part of two years away from FPC, living my life exactly as I do now without a single word from you. It baffles me that out of the blue you would decide that now is the time to make a big deal of this. I am the same Justin that served in your church for two years. I am no more gay now than I was then. When I left, I assumed that we had disagreements, but I also assumed that because of the good terms we were on, I wouldn’t hear any more – that I could leave in “quiet disgrace.” When your representative called, I asked that my membership be removed peacefully, that I would not blame you or make a fuss. Apparently, you care more about following protocol than for the people in its wake. As a result, I am compelled to write this response.
I will in this letter to you address every single point presented to me. I do this not merely to finally provide a salve to the unattended wound that has been the church’s abuse in my life, but so that everyone reading may know exactly where I stand. Let there be no more ambiguity. I write this so that gay people in the church know that they can have a voice. I write so that these actions and the hurt they cause may no longer go unseen and swept under the rug. You are certainly free to believe whatever you think you must, but you must see that there are casualties. For a church who claims to act out of love, I need you to see just how un-loving your words and actions are. My words will be angry. My words will be raw. I choose in this moment to write under the full force of my hurt so that you all may see its exact effect.
When I opened your letter, I barely made it past the very first sentence. To even frame the entirety of my life using the phrase “homosexual lifestyle” proves an insane tone-deafness to those other than yourselves. I do not live a homosexual lifestyle any more than others live a heterosexual lifestyle. This is a tired argument, and yet it still needs to be made. If this is what you plan to “charge” me with – living the life I’ve been given – then yes, I am gay and I am not ashamed of this fact, nor can I change it. It is true that I was in a dating relationship with a man. Where is the sin here? Does sin start at feelings? At holding of hands? The vagueness of your “concern” over my relationship only further proves your overall unwillingness to believe I am even capable of such a thing as purity in love.
And here we come to the most baffling part of the entire letter, wherein I see a new theology never once presented to me during my entire lifetime in the PCA. Apparently, belief in marriage between a man and a woman is necessary for salvation. Try to persuade me that there is any other way I can take this section. My personal favorite sentences states, “This teaching cannot be ignored without denying God’s original creation of Adam and Eve…” Wait. So I have to believe marriage is between a man and a woman to believe Adam and Eve existed? “…and if this truth is denied, then the atoning power of Jesus’ sacrificial death and our hope of eternal life must also be denied.” Ok. We just went from A to B to the Andromeda Galaxy with NO connecting points. Jesus has no atoning power without the concept of marriage between a man and a woman. Interesting. Not at all scripturally supported, but interesting.
In case you can’t tell by now, I’m angry. I’ve played the better man for a long time now, and this letter was the final straw. Being looked down on and told I was a distorted, pathetic excuse for manhood my entire life wasn’t quite enough to break my spirit, but telling me outright that I’m incapable of receiving God’s grace without believing in your narrow interpretation of what scripture teaches on marriage has gone just a bit too far.
We then come to the most hurtful thing in the entire letter. “We hope you have not forgotten that we love you very much.” Just an aside. A token. A conscience easer. To literally close the door in my face, to not just question but outright DENY my salvation, to take two years of service I gave to your church and spit on it…and then to say you’re doing it out of love. My tone may be harsh. Believe me when I say it could be far worse.
Next comes business. In bold and italics, we see what I, the accused, stand charged with. I can only assume this comes from a template, because such grandiose and impersonal language in such a shameful run-on sentence cannot possibly be anything else. My charge is “living out a lifestyle of sexual sin and falsely promoting this lifestyle…” Never mind the fact that not one person so much as asked if I had ever engaged in sex of any kind. And who are my crimes against? “…against the peace and purity of the Church, and the honor and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the King and Head thereof.” Wow. I’m being gay…at the church. At Christ. I’m doing this TO you. AGAINST Him. Omitted from my post of this letter are the names of the witnesses to this indictment, again for their privacy, though it should be noted that placing their names on so hurtful a document only adds to the insult.
Lest you think I misunderstand you, I know that you believe yourselves to be acting only how you are commanded. Your hands are tied. This is no joy, merely a necessity. The problem is you cannot deny me the ability to love and be loved and treat it as a minor inconvenience to yourselves. If you want to know why so many people think the church is unwelcoming and unloving toward gay people, THIS is why. You are saying, rather explicitly, that I and people like me are not welcome. What was my crime? I loved. I was loved. I am capable of love. It is abundantly and sadly clear that you do not understand this. You ask me to either live a lie or live in shame. If I cannot provide my own shame to live under, you will take action to shame me by force. This is not because you want this to be my life. This is because it is what you believe is decreed to be my life. My being gay has barred me from the joy of union either with a life partner, or with the body of Christ as you manifest her at FPC. Forgive me, but after seeing how you treat those like me, I choose the latter.
“If these reports are true, we consider these sins to be general and public in nature.” Then let it be so. If my life is to be laid bare, so are your actions. I lived in peace, asked for peace, and strove for peace. You bring me a rod for my beating and call it love. This is one wound too many. To borrow some of your grandiose language, I hereby denounce the PCA, its disregard, nay its contempt for God’s LGBT children, and its twisted and unscriptural view on salvation as it relates to marriage. Let me be found GUILTY AS CHARGED.