All posts by Phil Brockett

Nathan Albert: “Belong, Believe, Become”

Nathan Albert, The Marin Foundation

During my years working as a professional singer and actor I was often quiet about my faith, especially around my countless gay or lesbian friends.  I quickly learned that their experiences with the Church and Christians were almost always negative.  Many were kicked out of their churches, shunned by family members, and even spit upon by Christian roommates.  They didn’t have a positive view of Christians or the faith we professed.  From their experiences, I saw that many churches excluded rather than included LGBT people, had a closed-door policy rather than an open-door policy, and taught a type behavior modification rather than Gospel transformation.

These churches worked on the model of Behave, Believe, Belong.  Christians have told countless LGBT individuals that they must behave a certain way (be celibate or become heterosexual), believe a certain set of doctrines (this is right, that is wrong; this is sinful, that is holy), and then they are allowed to belong to the church community.  My fear is that this model might actually be more damaging than helpful.  My fear is that this model can distort our understanding of grace and our understanding of God.  My fear is that this model might force us to think that if we behave a certain way, believe a certain thing, then God will accept us.  Or worse, I fear that people will give up on God entirely because they are forced to behave rather than belong.

This is a very religious attitude.  Religion says we negotiate with God to try to get help in exchange for our good behavior.  We do what were told and, hopefully, God rewards us.  Because of religion in churches, we’re told you must be a certain way, act a certain way, behave a certain way, believe a certain doctrine, then belonging to our community can happen.

Instead, I think the Gospel presents a better model: Belong, Believe, Become. Continue reading Nathan Albert: “Belong, Believe, Become”

David: “Standing on Uncertainty Lane”

God asked Solomon a question that I wish God would ask me:

“What shall I give you?”

Up until recently, if I was asked this question by God, my answer would have been, “Free me from homosexuality,”  “take away this deep desire for me to be with another man.”  In my time spent in prayer, I was like the persistent widow constantly asking God for this. This plea has not “yet” been answered.   I say “yet” because I still hope that some day I will wake up and find myself attracted to the “GIRL-next door” instead of the “GUY-next door.”

This desire has intensified over the past couple months as I’ve found out that two of my closest Christian friends are engaged to be married.

Is this a selfish wish?  Is this a wish that is in line with the word of God?

I am a Christian man, born, raised, and worshiping in the Covenant Church, who also happens to be sexually attracted to other men.  I don’t like calling myself “gay,” because in my town, people (both inside and outside the church) associate “gay” with words like  “promiscuous,” “flamboyant,” and “queen.”  I do not fit any of these categories.

In my few failed attempts to connect with other gay men, I hesitate at calling myself a “Christian” because people outside the church (both gay and straight) associate “Christian” with words like “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “self righteous.”

For me, trying to find my own identity is incredibly bewildering.  Scripture and prayer has been an incredible source of comfort and guidance for me as I search for my identity. However, on the topic of homosexuality, it is lacking clarity.   “Mom” reads it one way; “Dad” reads it another way.  When getting an answer, I’d like to always go to the parent who will give me the answer that I want, but I’ve learned that neither “Mom” nor “Dad” is always right.

Graphic by David

Since these answers are unclear to me, I feel like I am standing at an intersection on “Uncertainty Lane” not going anywhere in life.  I am scared to pursue an intimate relationship for fear I will mess it up, and I am scared to share the Gospel with non-Christians for fear that I will be hypocritical or give people an inadequate image of Christianity.

In addition to the voices from the “Christian” community and the voices from the “gay” community influencing me, I also struggle with a very judgmental father and a mother who I love and do not want to disappoint.  I know from experience how bad decisions can hurt those people that you love, and I fear that a wrong choice on my part could deeply wound the people who I love the most. Continue reading David: “Standing on Uncertainty Lane”

Nancy Carlson: My Story

Carlson Family: (seated) Nancy and Al, (standing L-R) Pam, Cindy & Jim

I am a mother of a son who is gay.  I would like to tell you my story.  I was brought up in a Christian home and have attended the same Evangelical Covenant Church all of my life.  My grandfather was a founder of our local church in the late 1800’s.  I met my husband there.  We have three grown children:  two daughters and a son.  Our involvement at church has always been an important part of our lives and it still is.  We both sing in the choir and have served in many different capacities.  It was 19 years ago when our son, Jim, moved into his own home that he had just built.  I began to notice that he seemed lonely, sad and distant.  Of course, I was praying that he would meet a nice Christian girl.  He had many girlfriends but, one by one, they were getting married.

As a mother, you know your child.  I knew that Jim was deeply unhappy.  I mentioned to my daughters that I was concerned.  For the first time, I began to question Jim’s sexual orientation.   One night, I was so concerned for Jim that I could not sleep.  I went into the den and knelt down and cried out to God.  First of all, I prayed for Jim, asking God to surround him with His love.  Then I prayed that God would restore Jim’s sense of peace and joy.  Finally, I prayed for myself.  If Jim was gay, how could we accept this?  I was taught when I was growing up that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin.  How would our church handle this?  What would our friends and family think and say? Continue reading Nancy Carlson: My Story

Anonymous: My Story

As I’ve been reading the posts and comments here, I’m excited to see new dialog within the Covenant. I’ve seen views across the board about us. We are people, not an issue.  I am gay and a child of God.  These identities can and do coexist.

I have been a Christian all my life, and there was a time when I myself was strongly against what was already evident inside me.  I held it in the dark, too afraid of what might happen if my secret was out.  I must admit, though, that my fear did not come from the pulpit – well, maybe a few I happened to see on TV.  The pulpits were mostly silent about us. Instead, the hate, anger, filth, and outright lies came from the news, TV, and from movies. Most of all, it came from everyday people around me: from family, friends, and strangers. From those who suspected I was gay, it was the taunting and torture just about every day of my grade school and junior high life.  I’d been singled out and attacked, and I was constantly taunted by fellow students.

The taunting was still a problem in high school, but I made a small group of friends and stayed away from any extracurricular activities.  I limited myself to one activity outside of school: being drill leader for JROTC.  The rest of my time I chose to work instead of doing other school activities.  I worried this might affect me down the road when applying for college, but it wasn’t worth the risk to me.  Being out simply didn’t feel like an option.  My group of friends from high school never even knew until a couple years after I graduated from college. Continue reading Anonymous: My Story

Nathan Albert: “What is the Loving Thing to Do?”

Nathan Albert, The Marin Foundation

As a North Park Seminary student, I have spent the last ten months writing my thesis, which looks at the relationship between the Evangelical Covenant Church and homosexuality.  I have exegeted all the “clobber” passages, have read and reread the current documents the ECC has written about sexuality, and have read any book I can get my hands on the subject of faith and sexuality.  I also work for a non-profit that works to build bridges between the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community and the Church.  I provide pastoral care for countless youth who are coming out, parents who have gay children, and churches that seek to dialogue about this controversial subject.  I live in the gay neighborhood of Chicago and long to show the beauty of Love and Grace to my countless gay friends who have given up on God.

For years, my views on homosexuality were conservative.  But now, after life has unfolded, after reading Scripture over and over, after consulting every commentary I can get my hands on, after years of studying and praying, and after befriending so many gays and lesbians, my views are changing. Continue reading Nathan Albert: “What is the Loving Thing to Do?”

Benj Sullivan-Knoff: “Paradox”

(Benj is the son of Eva Sullivan-Knoff and John Knoff.  His contribution brings to completion his and his family’s story of coming out. Please, be sure to read the two previous posts by his mom and dad. Benj is a student and a poet. One of his poems was featured on NPR. Thank you Benj for sharing with us.)

Paradox: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

I grew up in the church: baptized at birth; confirmed in eighth grade; sang in the children’s and youth choirs; attended Sunday school before services, services, youth group on Wednesday nights, and every weekend or summer retreat I could. My dedication might have initially been bred of obligation, but it matured into genuine devotion. So when an attraction to men emerged, I turned to the God I loved, praying frequently, asking Him to dissipate my inclinations, or at least to allow me to be one way or the other, not trapped in eternal uncertainty. Doubt is a terrible weight; it pressed into my thoughts constantly, unsettling the identity I had prided myself in. Continue reading Benj Sullivan-Knoff: “Paradox”

John Knoff’s Poem: “To My Church”

This is a poem by John Knoff. It is a follow up to his wife Eva Sullivan-Knoff’s story which is found immediately below. Thank you John!

To My Church

Once a month on Friday evenings
he asked us
to drop him off at church
so he could go with the youth group
to the soup kitchen.

Then there were the monthly
Saturday mornings
when we brought him back to church
to help stock the food pantry.
I know he enjoyed the donuts,
but he would have gone
regardless.

His favorite time of year? Going
to church camp,
cooking over the fire,
climbing the high ropes course,
knowing God better.

Last summer youth
from churches
around the country gathered,
and as the speaker
encouraged them to live out
their faith
in truth,
with no masks
(she by the way took off
her mask—her make-up—on stage),
he went forward:
committed to God,
to living in truth,
no masks.

He has been busier
lately—getting straight A’s,
performing in plays and musical groups.
And being with friends.
How he cares for his friends!
I know he would do anything
for them.

In our society it isn’t deemed
manly for a son
to say “I love you” to his dad very often,
let alone almost every time he heads
out the door!
But how I treasure that he doesn’t
care what society thinks.

He is my son,
oh and I almost forgot to tell
you (not that it really matters)
—   he’s gay.

 

Our Story: Eva Sullivan-Knoff

Eva Sullivan-Knoff and Family

With my family’s permission, I would like to share our story. It is one that changed my and our family’s life. A couple of years ago our younger son came to my husband, John and I, and told us he was gay.  We have always intentionally sought to love and support our sons, and we told him we did still, but we still didn’t want what he told us to be true. We wondered if he really knew yet. Maybe he will change his mind in a few years, and realize he really wasn’t gay, that it was just part of his developmental confusion. I spoke with a therapist who told me, she’d known a few teens that discovered later they really weren’t gay. So I told my son, you know, why don’t you pray and live with it for awhile, and see if you still feel that it rings true.  I genuinely meant that, but we were also afraid. We didn’t want this to be his reality. We didn’t want it to be ours either. We had had different dreams. It had felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us. I think as human beings we don’t deal with things unless we have to. Unless an issue affects us, we’d just as soon ignore it, especially if it is controversial. Though a few friends had told me before they were gay, I didn’t really deal with it on a deeper level, until my son told us.

I didn’t want to deal with this. What I heard growing up in the church was that it was a sin. Since those few friends told me they were gay, and they are people I love and respect, and whose faith journey and faith in God I trust, I have been confused. What do I do with this? And though I listened and supported my friends on one level, I am sure I failed them on another because I didn’t understand on the level they needed me to. I wasn’t sure how to understand it, beyond friendship.

I knew with our son telling us I had to deal with this now on a deeper level, though I didn’t want to. What do I do with this? What do I do with what I had previously understood? I talked with people I loved and respected and I prayed much.  I began to read, but I was also afraid. I am a Covenant minister. I knew the stand the denomination, in which I grew up, took on this issue, and which I have supported. What will they say to me, if they hear I have a son who is gay? This is the church I love. This is the denomination that has been a part of my life in deeply significant ways. This is the church I serve. I am not pleased to say that I was filled with fear. However, this was also my son who I love dearly.  This was personal, and not just another theological issue to discuss and debate. Continue reading Our Story: Eva Sullivan-Knoff