*I want to clarify that I know there are gay affirming churches out there. My home church MCC-D is one of them. However, they are often long distances and the list is often changing. My search is for a back up church closer to home on days when I can't make it to my home church. There are only 2 gay affirming churches in this area and they weren't to my liking so I'm still searching. This is not to attack or make all churches look so intolerant. There is, however, work to be done
My next church I thought I would try is one I've driven by a few time since I've moved here about 6+months ago. Most Church buildings give me the willies. They are like homes but yet not homes, and businesses but not businesses. They often have an architecture with sharp points and a sense of being closed in and trapped. I probably wouldn't feel that way if I haven't experienced being enclosed with a large group of cold "god worshippers". However, I know my feeling about this is, due in part, to my past experiences. I know the terrors that can go on "in Jesus' name" in these places in which you can guilt yourself for not being more "god-like" when it's all cold-hearted stuff reigned over by egocentric ministers who look holy but are hallow performers who need the attention.... so perhaps it is good I'm cautious.
Nevertheless, this particular church felt very open in its structure, lots of windows that weren't stained glass (though I love stained glass, sometimes it is overdone and reminds me of being trapped in Catholicism). The name of the church on the signage involved the word "journey" and gave me hopeful feelings. So I looked them up online.
I instantly recognized some things on their page that stood out. They have what are called Celebrate Life groups. My old fundamentalist church had that and actually they were very good. I went to those for a long time instead of the church itself. They are built on the 12 Step program but it is done more like a buffet. 12 steps for grief, boundaries, anger, depression, addictions etc--you choose. I had gone to a men's group and met 2 men who were huge supports to me in my life for quite some time. They were there for me in a particularly dark time and we were friends until I moved on to different groups and they became more fanatical in their beliefs.
Another dynamic feature this church has which I have never seen is a service specifically geared toward special needs and their families. Since I work with special needs, I was like "Whaaat!?!" Awesome! What church even acknowledges special needs rather than just tolerates them? And there were other things; AA groups, Bible studies, women's groups, craft days and painting days, community things, and an upcoming men's group possibly.
On the negative side (though maybe it shouldn't be?), anytime I have ever gone to a church website and went to their "what we believe" section, it is rarely good. It usually is some form of the Nicene Creed. I'm not against the Nicene Creed per say though there is controversy on the real way that creed came about. It still holds some core beliefs I can be good with. Nevertheless, most churches publish their own form of Nicene creed which is really often a hidden form of "talk to the hand" if you don't believe like us. Churches don't bother to detail that Jesus came from the Virgin Mary, that we are sinners, etc. unless they have strict interpretations about these things. All their ads in the world, online or on the radio will say "Come as you are!" but what they really mean is you can walk through those doors as you are but by the time you leave and come back, you better believe like us! And the belief you must get by some point to ever serve there is something along the lines that the Bible cannot be questioned, you better get your ass baptized, and look at how many times we can say the words "Jesus is Lord and Savior" so get with our lingo and do what we do.
This reminds me of a radio ad a local church put out that I went to years ago. I was torn about going because I knew the denomination's reputation but the ad was so appealing. It addressed loneliness and the desire to be accepted for who you are. The pastor sounded so compassionate. It ended up being the most hell fire, signs and wonders, cold-hearted church I ever experienced. My last ditch effort there was to sit with the pastor and share my struggles to see if he could supportive. He was limited in his understanding but was supportive. That very next Sunday? He was sure to include a scathing message about homosexuals going to hell. I never went back.
Truthfully as much as I love Celebrate Recovery groups and the program, they are typically tied with fundamental churches. Regardless, I wanted to have hope. Maybe the program could be tied to something more open. It is not like Celebrate Recovery even focuses on literal interpretations of the Bible at all. My gut feeling was this church could be more open than I may imagine. I chose to email them asking if I could come to worship with them as a man who accepts himself as a gay Christian. This was the response I got.
Nothing. Maybe the part in title "#2" is appropriate as a potty pun for this one.
Tonight I decided to look at their Get Involved page. Should I give them another try? The Get Involved page had nothing on how to get involved. It was just pictures and bios of their ministry staff. What scared me about the pictures was the group looked like a crew off of the TV Show Pawn Stars or a bit more shaved version of Duck Dynasty. I often ask myself when I see a minister, "Does he exude a presence of care? Would he or she be someone I could see myself safely confiding in times of trouble?" The answer to this crew was for the large part no. When someone looks more like a car salesman, or someone who would warmly take you out back into the woods to teach you to man-up by scolding you down with Bible verses and if necessary kick you in the shins while maintaining a Cheshire Cat grin...I've learned to watch out. I used to blame myself for being judgmental. Now I know to follow my gut. I'm actually probably still a little easily deceived by initial kindnesses and welcoming.
Even so, I've chosen to write them again with more direct questioning. I doubt I will get an answer but if I do, I will post it.
The pastor from the Church I posted about in Part One, never responded. So much for discussion!