Part 6: Acceptance & Affirmation

We are too focused on picking on the things that we can see. His is an outward struggle, while most of us fight within ourselves. We take the stance that he is welcome, but cannot serve. Well, what do we do with the liars? With the adulterers? The gossipers? At the end of the day, we still have to love him in Christ; agape, unconditionally, without reservation or complication. My plan is to love this guy out of despair. And, through the expression of his gifts, help him find a true relationship with God.

By Neil Brown

I was sitting in the youth Bible study recently when I was asked about my biggest fear. I donít generally talk about my fears much because, primarily, I have a tough enough time opening up to people. Furthermore, I recognize that by doing so, Iím also trusting the other party to hold water, which it seems that church folk just cannot do. I suppose that after youíve been hurt so much and talked about so much and hated so much and people have been jealous so much and youíve been shot down so much and stabbed in the back so much that eventually, your faith in the good of people is shaken. I donít like people playing with my emotions or my life or things close to me. And I suppose that the thing I have the most problem with is ministry. As you know, I know that ministry is more than pulpit detail. Real ministry is what happens on Monday morning when we go out into the world in which we live.

So, here in Ourtown, Colorado, we have an individual who, in outward appearance, looks homosexual. Weíve talked about it and him for years. Well, over the summer, I suppose, he vanished from the church and fellowship. He has re-emerged with a new identity. He has started cross-dressing and is wearing makeup and long nails and stuff like that.

Of course, itís not something that I approve of. Iím talking about the cross-dressing and not the alleged homosexuality. See first of all, Iíve not seen him in the act of being intimate with another guy. And, trust me, Iím not going to pry around in the bushes to see if I can catch a glimpse, either. But, yesterday he came to church.

Yes, Iím working on the Jesus House, a Christian Halloween alternative that consists of a theatrical production and a musical. There is a church full of young people who do see him and know him. Heís decided that he wants to participate in the choir and in the play. I said, yes.

And folks have a problem.

Well, Number One, I cannot prove that the boy is gay. And neither can anybody else. He hasnít come out to me. I can say yes to the fact that he has a lot of "girlish" qualities, but that doesnít mean homosexuality, I donít care who you are.

Number Two, he hasnít been in church in a while. His presence at the rehearsal was a surprise even to his father who wasnít expecting him, either. So, I figure that this young man is torn; trying to understand who he is both sexually and spiritually. I cannot tell him what he is or isnít because he needs to figure that out for himself. My job is to pray for and with him as he goes about the business of self-discovery. He needs to understand his relationship with God. My force-feeding the God Hates Gays rhetoric would hardly help that process.

The church is good at sweeping important issues under the rug. We never deal with anything except for the next annual day or the next musical, but we have to deal with the next soul. We cannot continue to walk by him because of what we think. We have to extend the love and the compassion of Christ.

So, you best believe someone pulled me aside to ask about my thoughts on how we are to handle this situation in the ministry. He is still Godís creature. He is Godís child. And, because he lives in America, he has the right to come to church. Now, just because I accept a person, that does not mean that I accept his lifestyle. But, he is a person, God's creation, who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Whispers and snickers behind his back only display immaturity in Christ and showcase why we fail at ministering to him. Because we have no desire to see him blessed, because we'd rather see him ridiculed.

Well, thatís wrong and totally goes against what the bible says. I know what the Word has to say about homosexuality and so does everyone else. But, if we put him out or reject him, we put blood on our hands and he leaves the ark of safety forever. That CANNOT happen.

At the end of the day, I still have to love him in Christ; agape, unconditionally, without reservation or complication. When this experience is over, I want him to be able to remember, whether he stays in church or not, that someone gave him a chance. While heís finding himself, he needs a safe haven. Lifeís brutal enough, ainít it?

Number Three, he has gifts that he can share.

He still has a heart. He still has things to offer us. Why should we miss out on a genuine opportunity to not only minister to him, but also where he can minister to us? And, who knows, it could be through the expression of his gifts that he finds a true relationship, full of sincerity, because he was given the chance to give. Furthermore, we are so focused on picking on the things that we can see. His is an outward struggle, while most of us fight within ourselves. So we are able to see his struggle and make a spectacle.

Number Four, because his is an outward struggle, something that, again, we cannot prove, we take the stance that you are welcome, but you cannot lead. You cannot serve in a position of leadership in the church. Well, what do we do with the liars?

What do we do with the adulterer? What about the fornicator? The gossiper? What do we do with the one who sows discord among the brethren? If we pull one young man or individual because of his "obvious" sin, shouldnít the same rules be applied to the rest of us? That would mean that I could not minister again. Some folks would no longer be deacons. Some lady couldnít be president of the missionary society.

I can just imagine how many of you are probably now thinking that I must be one of them. Clutch your pearls! Well some of you have already spread rumors that I am gay anyway. You donít say it to my face, but you will behind my back and in private meeting spaces and in special get-togethers and in phone conversations. You figure that because Iím not married, there must be something wrong with me. So I know pretty much how this guy must be feeling. Lost, alone, confused, torn, tattered, conflicted, burdened, perplexed, hopelessness. All I know is if I ever caused anyone to ever feel this way, I have no choice but to apologize. I just didnít know any better.

But now that I know better, I can do better.

My plan is to love this guy out of despair. My plan is to give him one of the most memorable and most riveting experiences of his life. The Jesus House is about outreach. That means I have to reach out. Tell the boy thanks for the lesson in real Christian love that doesnít require a sign or a demonstration with TV cameras and photographers. Iím learning and Iím processing. And because youíre patient with me, Iím going to be patient with you. Oh yeah, my biggest fear? Falling, but thatís a different article yet to be written.

Part 7: Church Leadership

Rev. Neil M. Brown
17 October 2005

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