Category Archives: LGBT

An Open Letter to ECC President Gary Walter from a Gay Covenanter


Dear President Walter,

Andrew Freeman

As I’ve watched the unfolding developments in the Covenant Church’s struggle with the topic of LGBTQ inclusion, I have felt at various times anger, frustration, disappointment, hurt, and deep sadness. I grieve for our church not only as a gay man who cannot fully thrive under our current position, but also as a lifelong Covenanter who laments that the process we have followed in this conversation has strayed from the wisdom of our heritage and brought us to a place of such deep divide. I am writing this letter publicly, but welcome your private response and will hold our correspondence in confidence. I want to speak to you candidly, from one Covenanter to another, and there are a few things that I want you to know.

The first thing I want you to know is that I have been hurt by your words and your leadership. I have read and watched your remarks on this topic over the past year, and I want you to know how some of your words sound to the ears of one who is actually gay: they hurt.

When you describe my sexual orientation merely as an “attraction” that I must “navigate,” that hurts. It undermines the legitimacy of the love LGBTQ people feel for their partners. It reduces our relationships to an attraction and denies them any credible depth and meaning. And it suggests that our orientation is a burden rather than a gift. In short, it makes me feel that you haven’t taken the time to fully understand me or my life.

When you list my orientation at the end of a list of alleged sexual sins, right after adultery and pornography, that hurts. It is dehumanizing. It takes part of my identity and smacks a negative label on it. And when this is the context for your first mention of the existence of non-heterosexual individuals, it makes it difficult for me to receive anything that follows with a spirit of love and good intent.

When you cloak our denomination’s position on same-sex marriage under a broad discussion of “the issue of human sexuality” and say that our position is “a high challenge to all of us”, that actually hurts, too. It feels a little like saying “All Lives Matter” at a racial justice rally: Yes, it’s technically true, but it misses the point of naming the unequal burden placed on a particular minority group.

When my life is reduced to an “issue”, thus making me negatively one-dimensional, that hurts. Why must LGBTQ individuals always be spoken of in such contentious terms? Even within our stated position, can we not affirm that God has equipped LGBTQ individuals with significant gifts for ministry and that we have much to offer the church? We are not an issue, we are the Body of Christ.

In every correspondence that has come from your office in the past year, I’ve been lead to believe that LGBTQ individuals played little to no role in your discernment process. This hurts. It feels as if our stories and our voices are not important. It feels as if you are talking about us without a willingness to talk with us. It feels as if we are some sort of pariah or outcast you are afraid to come into contact with, a headache that you wish would go away.

I have been hurt by words you have spoken, and I have also been hurt by that which you have left unspoken. Over the years I’ve heard many unkind, even hateful, things said about LGBTQ people. While I have pretty thick skin, our youth and others across our church who struggle to accept their orientation or gender identity are extremely vulnerable. In an age where hate crimes and suicide and depression are significantly higher within the LGBTQ population, we need to be able to call homophobia what it is: sin. And the church should be leading the way in the opposition of hatred and violence in all of its forms. One of the ways the church is uniquely equipped to combat hatred is with our core message that ALL people are created in God’s image. Which is why our church’s silence in condemning homophobia hurts so much. If we aren’t part of the solution, we are part of the problem. Homophobia is sin, and our church is complicit.

Although your words and actions have been hurtful to me, the second thing I want you to know is that I forgive you. I know you are an honest and good man of deep and sincere faith. I don’t doubt that you have studied scripture carefully and have sought God’s guidance through these matters. I believe you have reached your position honestly, and that your intentions to love others are heartfelt. We may disagree, yet I trust that you are coming from a place of love. And even though our ideas of love differ, and that difference has caused much pain in my life, I forgive you.

The years I spent in the closet were dark years. I lived in fear of the judgment I would receive from the church. When I came out of the closet, I was surprised by the magnitude of the love and acceptance I received. The freedom I experienced allowed me to let go of my fear. I found a new sense of security, rooted in the knowledge that I am created and loved by God, gay and all. And that is part of the reason I am able to forgive you: I am able to forgive because of the affirmation I received from many in the wings of our church that spoke a love one cannot find within our current guidelines. Their ministry brought a healing grace into my life, and now it brings a threat to their ministerial standing. So I want you to know that I forgive you in spite of the church’s position, not because of it.

In a spirit of reconciliation, the third thing I want you to know is that I am committed to being your companion in this long and difficult journey. One of the most troubling aspects of the recently released guidelines for clergy and the accompanying resource on dissent was the suggestion that clergy who find themselves in ongoing dissent with the church have only two principled options: to yield to the church’s position, or to conclude their service with the church. Two options: yield, or leave. This sort of fork-in-the-road approach seems antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus, one who was consistently finding a “third way.” And it feels contrary to the Covenant I have known and loved, a church which has prided itself in finding a “via media” – a “middle way” – when faced with hard questions.

I believe that the Covenant Church is uniquely positioned in these contentious times. We can show there is a difference between hard and harsh conversations. Hard conversations are part of discipleship. They can lead to greater fidelity in our walk with God and in service. Hard conversations are entered to build up and make better. Harsh conversations are entered to win and destroy. They breed greater recalcitrance and polarization. One of our six affirmations is “the reality of freedom in Christ.” This means we focus on the evident biblical center of what unites us in Christ, not on peripheral matters not clear in Scripture. Within the boundaries of all of our other affirmations, we extend “space” to each other. The Covenant is not a self-contained echo chamber that only reinforces to each other a single voice or perspective. At our best, we speak into one another, not past each other. We want to live respectfully in the polishing cross-currents gained by wrestling with matters together biblically and with hope.

This is the Covenant Church at its best. It’s the Covenant I grew up with and served throughout much of my life. It’s the kind of Covenant Church I still believe in. And I hope that you still do, too, because I didn’t write that last paragraph – you did, in 2010. Your words tell me that in order for our church to navigate these troubled waters and find that middle way, we are going to need each other. And that is why I want you to know I am willing to have this hard conversation with you. I suspect many of my LGBTQ Covenant friends would similarly be willing to meet with you, if you would be willing to hear our stories. Will you have this hard conversation with us?

The final thing I want you to know is that I will pray for you and all who serve in Covenant leadership. I pray for your health and strength, and for wisdom and discernment to respond to the vast demands placed on you. I thank God for your commitment and dedication to this church and her mission. And I join you in praying for our dear church, that even in great tumult we may join together in common mission, for the sake of the gospel in the world, and for the flourishing of all God’s children.

Your faithful companion on the middle way,
Andrew Freeman

Mark Novak, Executive Minister, Develop Leaders
Dick Lucco, Executive Director of Ministry Development
Andy Sebanc, Chair, Board of the Ordered Ministry
Will Davidson, Chair, Executive Board of the ECC 
Council of Superintendents
David Kersten, Dean, North Park Theological Seminary



Author’s note: Through much of last winter, my mother Bev regularly spoke of how she wished she could have an opportunity to speak with President Gary Walter. “I just want 10 minutes of his time,” she’d often say. She died from cancer on April 17th, far too soon, and before she had the opportunity to have that conversation with Gary. My mother devoted much of her life to serving the Covenant Church, and she was heartbroken by the pain and division she saw being caused by our inability to have this hard conversation. My mother loved everyone with a fearless love. She wasn’t afraid of hard conversations, and in fact knew how to ask the hard questions that brought people together and challenged them to examine themselves and then look beyond the current challenge to see the bigger picture. She was an exceptional leader, she was a “churchwoman” par excellence, she was a true Christian. More than anyone in my life, she was the prime example of what it means to be “a companion of all who fear the Lord.” I miss her and her voice every day, and humbly try to follow her example wherever I can. And so it is in that spirit, and in her memory, that I have written this letter.

Broken Hearted: By Adam Nicholas Phillips

On February 4th I was informed by Covenant leaders that they were terminating their partnership with me as a church planter and Christ Church: Portland as an official church plant of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The reason: my personal convictions and advocacy for the full inclusion and participation of LGBT Christians in the church at all levels of membership and leadership, receiving the same call as any other Christian would to discipleship and faith, community, fidelity in relationships.

In terms of my position on human sexuality, I agree with the arc of the Covenant’s position, which: upholds celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage as the Christian standard. I only differ in my convictions that the call to celibacy in singleness and the call to Christian marriage be extended to both “straight” and “LGBT” followers of Jesus in our churches.

In 2004, the ECC’s Board of the Ordered Ministry offered this word, which stood as Covenant policy on human sexuality matters, with the caveat that “The following is a report from the Board of the Ordered Ministry to the 119th Annual Meeting in 2004. It represents what we have discerned thus far.”

For more on the Covenant’s position, read:…/Human-Sexuality-Guidelines-for-M…

In the run-up to that official 2004 declaration, and all along the way since then in my licensing and ordination conversations, church-planter’s assessment, and in private consultation with ECC leaders at all levels of local, regional (Conference) and denominational leadership I shared that I believed the policy statement was incomplete, and the call to continued discernment, as inferred by the Board of the Ordered Ministry, was a good word that we should continue to reflect on. I was urged that the Covenant was a safe place for me to hold these personal convictions and that discernment would be, of course, an ongoing matter as we rooted ourselves in Christ, dwelled deeply in the Scriptures, listened with pastoral ears to our local communities, and followed the movement of the Holy Spirit.

I, in no way whatsoever, believe that LGBT inclusion is an essential matter of faith. For me, it comes down to my pastoral sensibilities and concern for my local community and broader ministry context. It’s my pastoral convictions that undergird my advocacy on such matters, as they have in my advocacy around poverty, racism and global health.

Let me be clear: There are wonderful, faithful Christians who seek to include LGBT persons in their local ministry contexts and congregations, stopping short of Christian marriage. They are doing wonderful work on anti-bullying and other such challenges that the LGBT community face every day.

I count such congregations and their leaders as companions and colleagues in the great journey with Jesus we’ve each been magnificently gifted by a God who loves us with a love we can barely comprehend. We’re better together.

My sincere hope and desire was that we, in the Evangelical Covenant Church, could maintain our historic ethos of Christian freedom on such matters.

In recent months, as I heard the testimony of faithful Christians who happened to be gay, the narratives were immensely similar: experiences of exclusion, alienation, with many suffering from clinical depression or suicidal thoughts. Hearing these stories happened during a season in which I was pigeon-holed by Covenant leaders to articulate my personally held convictions once again. I could no longer keep fully silent on these matters. In fact, I heard God calling me out to speak faithfully on such matters.

As a result, we lost not only our faith family support system in the Covenant church, we lost the next two years of funding. Curiously, I remain ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church and will have a meeting with ECC leaders in March or April to further understand the parameters of such an ordination, serving a former Covenant church plant.

I share this testimony, an open letter to my Covenant friends, to live in the light of my convictions. I share it out of a spirit of love and unity, not hostility or division. I share it in the hope that in the end love and faith triumph over conflict and fear.

I’m also excited to share that you’ll hear from members of Christ Church’s core team a week from now, about who they are and why they’re excited to be part of our brand new congregation, taking root in Portland. Stay tuned.


1. Where can I read more about Biblically rooted, Christ-centered inclusion of LGBT folks in the church?

I’d start with a handful of books including: “Changing Our Mind,” by David Gushee, “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines, “Torn” by Justin Lee, “A Letter To My congregation” by Ken Wilson,” “Does Jesus Really Love Me” by Jeff Chu. I’d Google Vicky Beeching and hear her story. I’d check out the video debates held by Tony and Peggy Campolo on said topic. I’d check out what Steve Chalke and Oasis UK have released on inclusion.

But most importantly, I’d reach out to LGBTQ friends, family, or fellow congregants and share a cup of coffee or tea and listen, listen, listen. And listen some more.

Also, check out – a group of Covenanters committed to a Biblically, Christ-centered conversation on LGBT inclusion.

2. What about those Christians who believe that they are only called or Biblically guided to live out their LGBT orientation only in celibacy?

It’s monumentally important to honor these convictions. And I’d also read

“Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill, a gifted Biblical scholar with a pastor’s heart.

3. What about reparative therapies for LGBTQ Christians?

It’s my conviction that we must listen to and honor ALL of these stories, including those that have undergone, what they discern, is a successful transition to heterosexual living. I have dear friends whose experience would be similar and I do not in any way

4. Is Christ Church: Portland a one-issue church?

Absolutely not. As we’ve gathered for worship and mission these past 11 months we’ve been focused on both discipleship and compassion, mercy and justice. We’re particularly passionate about our partnership with a local public school who is bridging the education gap for at-risk kids, we’re particularly passionate about our work on racial reconciliation in an ever-gentrified context, and have worked on homelessness and hunger, immigration reform and fighting human trafficking and serving members of the sex-industry in Portland.

5. How can we learn more about Christ Church: Portland?

Visit our website: or check us out on Facebook

Also, please prayerfully consider supporting our Indiegogo campaign here:

“Surviving the Care of the Church” : Jack Woodin

woodinfamI grew up in the Catholic Church, and discovered the Evangelical Covenant Church 29 years ago when I met a wonderful young woman who would eventually become my wife.  Amazed by the Christian love and fellowship that I had not had in my life of faith, I embraced the ECC whole-heartedly.  I joined the church and in 1986, I was married at Bethany Covenant Church in New Britain, CT.  I had dreamed of this ideal life for all of my growing up years, and the icing on the cake was that it came with the incredible bonus of a new journey of faith.  In that church which eventually relocated to Berlin, CT, I learned about what it meant to follow Jesus.  A whole world of faith and family was opened up to me! Over the years of our marriage, through many struggles, the constant that kept us afloat was that abiding love of God and the gift of a loving, caring church family that walked with us down every road. I have worshipped, laughed and cried in that place and served in numerous leadership roles including a few years as church chairman. I have been heavily involved in the music programs and the eventual evolution of contemporary worship for the church.  As our church motto states, for me Bethany Covenant Church was truly a place where “people come to life!”

After 20 years of marriage, I found myself growing increasingly unhappy.  I had everything I had wanted, and still something was wrong.  My joy was leaving and I could not get it back.  I sought counseling and spent a lot of time praying and working through childhood issues and emotional challenges but not really getting to the root of my pain. I took a break from that counseling and in my alone time and prayer time I began to realize what was so terribly wrong.  I returned to counseling and in that first meeting with a new therapist I sat down and said, “this is what I’m here for”; “I have been married for 24 years and have a great life and family but I am terribly unhappy because I have realized that I am gay!” Just saying those words aloud was both one of the most frightening moments of my life and one of the most liberating ones.  This was not in my plan for my life and yet everything within me told me that this was the missing puzzle piece. That summer while vacationing at Pilgrim Pines in New Hampshire, a Covenant Camp and Retreat Center, our pastors Adam Phillips and Aaron Johnson talked about rewriting your story through the prism of your faith; looking at your past life, mistakes, patterns and trials and prayerfully setting out on a new path.   “The rewrite happens when you realize that the program for the first act of your life does not work for the second half”, they said, and I realized that this was true of my story!  I could not keep silently fighting the battle. My story was flawed.  I spent 2 years in that therapist chair exploring this new reality.  I worked through the question “how in the world can I change my life and somehow not lose all that I relied on?”  I struggled to know “ what the “right” thing to do was for both  me and my family? “ Not only did I fear the loss of my family, I feared that I would have to give up my church and that worst of all, that Jesus would not love this new me.

With the help of a great Christian therapist, I knew what I needed to do to make sense of my life.  I made a plan to have the “coming out” conversation with my wife. In January of 2013, we sat down and I dropped the bomb. There was no explosion!  She listened intently, quietly cried and then told me that she really knew or suspected for some time and told me it was okay and gave me the most gentle and affirming hug.  What a gift.  The conversation I had dreaded for so long was behind me and I could share with the person with whom I discussed and confided everything for so long the one thing I had kept  secret from her.  Together we talked and solicited help from our counselors to prepare for the eventual separation, and to make a plan for how and when we would include our kids then 17 and 12 in the story.  In June of 2013, we told them the reality about Dad and that ultimately we would divorce.  My kids have been a marvel.  They love and support me and are ready to take on anybody who does not.  They know that the same man who loved and cared for them and taught them about the love of Jesus is still with them. It is just that life at home will look different.

I had spent many years singing with the praise team at Bethany and I continued in that role.   My wife and I kept our reality very close to the vest and inside our family for many months. At the end of the summer of 2013, I decided that out of love and respect it was time to let the church know what was happening in our home.  After all, I had shared with the people I loved the most, my wife and my kids and the world had not stopped turning, rather I received love and support.  I felt empowered to have the same conversation with my pastor and include my other love, the church, in the loop.  My conversation with the senior pastor was very kind and I was greatly relieved.  At that point, suddenly the dam began to crack and the mood changed.  The pastor met with church officers to discuss our situation, and they made the decision that I could no longer lead worship and sing with the praise team.  Church leadership asked me to step out of my role in the music ministry. The message was that this “break” was only about the dissolution of our marriage and a breach of our marriage vows not about the fact that I was gay.  At the same time leaders and church staff learned of our situation, we found that questions about our marriage and our problems were a topic of discussion both inside and outside the walls of the church. Because of this, I chose to tell my story and sent messages to people within the church that I valued and told them what was happening with us. This proved to be very painful for our family. A private matter that we had been handling with great care and gentleness was now under a spotlight.  Forced to explain my absence from the worship team, we had to endure the watchful eyes of many in the congregation. I received hateful communications from a member whom I hardly knew.  Dear friends who once lovingly engaged with me now completely turned away and ceased all communication.  A letter stating the “decision” of the church was hand-delivered to us.  It felt like our innermost concerns were now “posted” at the church for all to see. The letter referred to a period of reflection and “care” from the church, but it felt like punishment and rejection. I had heard that term “under care” used before when clergy members were involved in personal struggles, but the difference was that I am not a pastor and not even on church staff.  My only public role was singing worship songs on Sunday mornings. How could this church, where I had learned about Christian love, and  faithfully following the teachings of Jesus, now push me away? I was blindsided.

Where we are now is complicated.  I have moved out of the home and we are finalizing the legal separation that is inevitable for our family.  We are a family forever and our love and care for each other has not diminished. Initially in our pain and surprise during this period of “care”, we avoided being present at the church, but we realized that our kids loved it and wanted to be there. We wanted to support them as well as teach them about how you face adversity particularly within a family and what we do when the going gets tough.  “No running away.”  We also knew that the majority of our social connections and extended “family” were there. Being absent from there was a tremendous loss for us all.  Last fall, I attended a men’s retreat at Pilgrim Pines lead by Pastor Judy Peterson from North Park Seminary.  Judy and her preaching has had a tremendous impact in my life.  My thought going into that weekend was that I needed to find some private time with Judy to ask “what do you do when you know that Jesus loves you and the church doesn’t?” I never asked the question because in her message she gave me the answer.  The message was that Jesus loves me and wants care for me in a gentle and loving way.  I do not always have to be strong and just as Jesus told the disciples in the boat when they were afraid of sinking “do not be afraid.”  Judy said Jesus is telling us, “don’t focus on the storm, don’t look at the wind; don’t look at the waves… look at me and you won’t be afraid.  I wept as Judy prayed and I knew we were going to be okay.  This message was so simple and yet so profound.  Jesus is my strength; the church and all the politics and awkwardness are the storm and I can endure if I keep my eyes on Him.

We continue to attend and wait for God to show us if this remains our home.  So many dear friends in the congregation have stood with us and loved us, and for them I am eternally grateful.  Will I ever return to full “citizenship”?  The answer is unclear. In January 2014, I again met with the pastor and church chair.  I posed the question, “when my divorce is behind me, when and how will I be fully welcomed back?”  The reality is that I am a gay man.  “When the day comes that God blesses me with a new partner, will it be okay for me to worship with that man in my church?” The State of Connecticut says I can be married to that man if I choose, but the church does not.  “Would I be asked to take another break?” The response was that this is something that the church will need to work through before I will have my answer.

I know in the depths of my heart and soul that when God created me he did not make a mistake – I just did not understand or see the beauty in his creation for a very long time.  In my early years, I neither saw nor wanted to see it, and then later when I did see it, I fought so hard to live the life to which I thought I had been called.  Doing so nearly destroyed me.  I am a child of God and a follower of Jesus.  I am a sinner saved by grace that can now live life to its fullest and trust that God is pleased with me. The Covenant church has been my teacher, my pastor and my friend for 29 years, so I would like to stay and help the denomination evolve in their position on homosexuality, but I also know that I need to be somewhere that I can be my true self.  I believe in the value of the Covenant Church, and my prayer is that time and good communication will shed a positive light on the subject and lead to change.  I believe the people in leadership in my church are truly people who desire to do what is right and do not harbor ill feelings toward me but they are people with their own preconceived notions, fears and baggage.  The challenge will be for leadership within the local church and the denomination to discern when it is time to lead the people through this difficult discussion and to take a stand from a place of love. Then, the “care of the church” will look much more like love and acceptance rather than punishment and judgment. I would like to think I would be there when it happens but time will tell.  At the moment I am standing tall under the “care” of the church and resting in the knowledge that I am a child of God… fully loved and fully accepted.  This church struggle is only the storm, the wind and the waves, because when I lift up my head, I see Jesus and I am not afraid!

Calling All Parents…..

“Mom, I have something to tell you…I’m gay”.  “Dad…I think that I am in the wrong body, I think that I am really a boy”.  

(Coming Out Covenant is pleased welcome guest poster Laura Statesir from the Marin Foundation and to invite your participation in developing resources for families of LGBTQ children.)

One of the most difficult and life changing statements a parent can hear is that of their child coming out to them.  When your daughter tells you she’s bisexual or your three year old son insists that God made a mistake and he is really a girl, what do you do?  Like a bomb being dropped, this revelation has the potential to tear families apart.  Parents often feel scared, angry, confused, anxious, hopeless, and very alone.  Their hopes and dreams for their children are shaken and replaced with fears of discrimination, AIDS, and stigma.  For parents of the Christian faith, the questions may be even more complicated.  What does the Bible say?  How will my church react?  Will my child go to hell?  What does this mean for my faith?

The Need:

Over the years the Marin Foundation has received numerous requests for help, guidance, and advice from the parents and families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) children.  Most of these parents identify as Christian and are struggling to reconcile their faith and the sexuality or gender identity of their child.  Although many resources exist for the parents and families of LGBTQ children, few of these resources offer a framework for exploring this issue from a loving Christ-like perspective.  Therefore, the Marin Foundation is launching a Parent Resource Initiative to identify the needs of Christian parents of LGBTQ children and then develop new resources to help them keep their faith AND love their child at the same time.

The Marin Foundation: 

The purpose of the Marin Foundation is to help build bridges between the LGBTQ community and the church in a non-threatening, research and biblically oriented fashion.  More information can be found on our websites, and


Our goal is to interview 200 Christian parents of LGBTQ children as well as others involved in supporting families (therapists, support group leaders, etc.).  We want to hear your story! 

We are looking for a representative sample of parents from all over the United States, of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and ranges of Christian beliefs.  Whether your child came out to you two days ago or twenty years ago, we would love to hear about your experience. 

Participation consists of a written survey and an interview.  The interviews generally take 1 to 2 hours and can be done in person (within the Chicago area), over the phone, or through Skype at your convenience.  The survey is online and takes about thirty minutes to complete.  All information is kept confidential.

A Safe Space

We would like to provide a safe space for you to share your story without fear of condemnation or judgment.  Regardless of your religious, cultural, political, or other views on this subject, we want to know what this experience has been like for you.

To Participate: 

Please contact Laura Statesir at the Marin Foundation for more information.   You can email her at or call 773-572-5983.

I Am Being Weaved: Matt Vickers

I am Gay and I am Christian.

I am done hiding. My past has laid a lot of burdens on me and I couldn’t be happy and I couldn’t be myself.  For so long, I had no idea who I was, I was afraid to be who I was and was afraid what people would think of me. I battled with identity issues for a long time and was afraid to confront them.

So here I am and here is my story. I graduated from North Park Spring 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Advertising and a Certificate in Nonprofit. Like I said, my past has laid a lot of burdens on me. For 20 years, I kept a lot of pain and suffering to myself. I did not want it to contain me any longer so I told a few of my friends and began questioning my sexuality and began drinking heavily to ignore my insecurities. As I continued to drink heavily and created a new addiction to porn I did what I knew best and that is to run. I continued to run from my insecurities and ignored all the emotions and issues that were bottled up. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions and never had friends that cared about my personal life. As I continued to run, I pushed away friends and did not allow anyone in.

At this time, I wasn’t part of a community until I transferred to North Park. The community at North Park was loving and supportive but I was too afraid to expose myself.  I just continued to drown my emotions and pain with alcohol and continued my porn addiction. I did what I knew best, and that was to not allow people in my life and continue to drink. As I continued these habits, in the fall Semester Junior Year I began to slowly collapse and slipped into depression and took off the semester. As I began counseling, I was afraid of the outcome so I did what I knew best and that was to run, yet again. It wasn’t until I met Amy (North Park Student), that I really trusted that there was a person in this world who would love me for whoever I was and whatever I went through.  She was the very first person I allowed into my personal life and she was my very best friend from that point on.  I relied on her prior to graduating where things began to collapse quickly and I slipped into a deep dark depression that changed my life dramatically.

At this time, I left my pride behind me and began counseling again. At that moment of joining counseling I knew I had issues that would resurface especially my sexual identity. This was frightening because I had never allowed myself to be true to my sexuality or let it be exposed because I thought my family would deny me. When the sexual identity issues started to resurface I began to think I was ill for having same sex attraction. At the same time, I thought I would overcome the same sex attraction through counseling and the support of family and friends. As I continued to attend counseling the depression worsened and I began to have severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and no hope. Here is a blog from the midst of depression (October 27, 2011):

“Through this process, I have felt alone and afraid. More and more, I want to end my life. I feel that I have no support with friends and family; no one seems to understand. I repeat and repeat my feelings of sadness, suicide but nothing seems to trigger friends and family. Simply, I just need support. The hard part is not knowing what support I need. You can continue to try an help but it won’t be enough. It’s a continuous feeling of not having enough support and love. This continues to be a battle.

When I continue to reach out to family and friends; nothing seems to be done. When will family and friends support me, when I try and commit suicide? This is not what I want to do but when will they get it. I don’t want friends and family only there when something tragic happens, i need the support now.”

This is just a small glimpse of the depression I encountered.

Looking back, I think, how did I get through this? When I really think about it, I realize that it was a God thing. Each day Christ was carrying me through the depression. I say this because in retrospect I know there was absolutely no way I could have carried myself through the depression. (James 1:2-8)

When I really began questioning my sexuality and coming to terms with it I began to pray daily. I researched about homosexuality and watched documentaries. I knew if I was gay, I needed to know where it came from–in the terms of history and understand what the bible says about it. As I began to slowly come to terms with my sexuality I continued to pray and allow God to be part of this.

I remember the day; I finally admitted it to myself. I was sitting in my parent’s basement and admitted to myself that I am gay. At that moment, I knew for a fact, that Christ had planned that for me and I was born that way. I was proud and stood strong in my sexuality because Christ created me this way and so, I came out to my friends. All my fears and thoughts about being abandoned, abused and not loved by friends were torn apart. I remember my friend Becca saying, “Matt, I missed you and I love you,” and I knew that I had friends that were supportive and would love me no matter what. I felt comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my entire life.

Through the coming out process, my North Park Community was the biggest support system through the coming out process to my family and without them I would have never made it. My coming out process went something like this:

On November 9th: My parents asked me to stay home and wait for a delivery but fortunately the delivery ended up coming in the evening. I prayed all day and talked to my (North Park) friends and they prayed for me over the phone and told their friends to pray too. I was loved and blessed. On this day, I wrote my coming out letter and came out to my parents. The rest is my parent’s story to tell.

All I know is each coming out story is different and some people get denied by their family or their family is completely supportive. Whatever the story is, we are all there for each other and you have to find your family whether that is friends or a Church that supports you. Fortunately, I have both. My friends and Church are my family right now and I know that this is a process for my family and it may take a few years, or even 10 years.

My quote during all this: “My puzzle may be complicated but he still knows where the pieces belong.”

Light and Hope!

While we prefer to publish author’s names sometimes circumstances require that we publish  posts anonymously. This post is written by a North Park Student.

I would describe my childhood as midwestern and suburban and my family as conservative and… well, conservative. I was a normal teen girl: loving to hang out with friends, being on sports teams, and going on missions trips. I fought with my parents about chores and grades. When I turned 16, pulling into the driveway 10 minutes after curfew seemed like the end of the world.

My upbringing was also heavily involved in the church. Some of my first memories are of watching my uncle preach while I tried to be quiet and patient in the front row. Some of my best memories are of spending summers watching God work in all the ways he does at church camp. And yet, some of my worst memories are of people of the church discriminating and degrading myself and my friends.

I am Bi. I figured it out the hard way by falling for my best friend in high school and since then, I have been taking the journey toward figuring out who I am despite that the people around me saw it as wrong.

It was a Tuesday night in September when my parents sat me down at the kitchen table. From their faces I thought someone had died. They explained that they knew something was going on that I was trying to hide, that what I was doing was wrong. I was given an ultimatum: cut all ties with my girlfriend and never see her again, or be forced to sit down with her parents, mine, and my camp director and explain our actions to all of them. I obviously, yet unwillingly chose the former and was sent to my room with two strict orders: to have no communication with the outside world and take the neatly written flash cards with bible verses on them and memorize them.

I was so broken and angry I don’t even remember most of the next week. Days later I was able to find a phone during school and call my girlfriend to tell her everything. I heard her voice break on the phone as if someone had kicked her in the stomach. We told each other how much we meant to and loved one another, and that was the end of it all.

My parents did everything you aren’t supposed to do when you find out your child is gay. I was angry at them for using my God, the God that loved the WHOLE world and brought my relationship together, against me. I was angry at how I was supposed to sweep a year of my life under the rug. They selfishly asked me to pretend I was happy so that everyone in our lives, including them would think that they didn’t have a messed up kid. Throughout all this, I kept quiet. Not to tend to my parents wishes, but because I started to believe them. For over a year, I didn’t tell even my closest friends. I sought after God and had to convince my parents again and again that I could be a “good Christian girl” and be in love with one too.

The rest of high school was a blur after that. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I wanted to be able to live in the community of a Christian college. Growing up in northern Indiana and longing to live in the city, Chicago was an obvious choice. Leaving the familiarity of home and my parents was surprisingly healing for me and North Park felt like a new home rather quickly. Then, almost exactly when I felt I could go back home to work at camp that summer a new person, I got a phone call.

The coming summer was a whirlwind of explaining my past to camp elders while they juried on whether or not I was suitable to work there. In this situation though, I wasn’t the main victim. My friend that had grown up going to this camp with me was being interrogated because although she put her personal life on hold every summer, the parents didn’t want a gay staff member working with their children. I stood behind her as we fought with all we had to work the rest of the summer at our favorite place in the world. That July, it all came crashing down as we were fired and told to leave the premises within the afternoon for “endangering” the morality of camp. If our parents not approving of our lives wasn’t enough, our second family was kicking us out as well.

I think after everything that I have been through I have been blessed. Blessed that I have had a whispering voice inside me time after time telling me that the hate I see in the world is not of God. And although my story is probably similar to a lot of people out there, the one thing that I think sets it apart is the fact that out of all the communities I have been a part of, the Covenant denomination, and specifically North Park have been the most affirming and I have met so many people that stand behind me whether I am gay or straight. There is a long way to go, but I see Light and Hope in this place, and while I am here, I want to fight to nourish that and make it grow.


Coming Out Covenant Celebrates One Year Online!

Philip K. Brockett, Coming Out Covenant blogIt is now one year since Andrew Freeman and I launched this blog! Our purpose in doing so was give voice to our desire to see the Evangelical Covenant Church become more welcoming of members of the gay and lesbian community by creating a space for Covenanters to share their “coming out stories.” Coming Out Covenant is our first attempt at blogging and it has been both informative and rewarding. As a way of celebrating our one year anniversary I thought I would share 5 things I’ve learned from this first year of our blog.

1. First of all, COC has reinforced for me the power of the internet and social media to create community and to bring about change. Just a few years ago any interest or support for a more accepting view of gay and lesbian people in the Evangelical Covenant Church was limited to a small advertisement in the Covenant Companion. While I’m certain that many people across the covenant were rethinking this issue there was no way for people of like mind to communicate with each other or to offer mutual support for a different point of view. Now however, it is possible to quickly and easily establish “a community”within the larger Covenant community in support of LGBT inclusiveness. This is what COC is beginning to do.

2. Second Coming Out Covenant is part of a wave of change regarding homosexuality that is sweeping the Evangelical world. This past year, groups have been established at Wheaton College, (One Wheaton) and other Christian Colleges, Universities and institutions. (Resources from One Wheaton) Just as in the  past God’s Spirit changed people’s understanding of scripture regarding  such issues as slavery and the role of women, the Spirit is at work today to open our eyes regarding what the bible says and doesn’t say about people who are created in the image of God with a same-sex orientation. I am convinced more than ever that anyone who believes that change is not coming in the Evangelical world regarding this issue has their head in the sand and that wise church leaders and congregations are beginning to discuss and study this issue rather than ignoring it and hoping it will go away.

3. Third, the changes that are occurring in the evangelical world are coming from the grass roots up. The covenant does not have an ecclesiastical hierarchy which declares dogma or policy. We operate in a congregational system in which congregations function autonomously. The Covenant will become inclusive only as individual congregations decide to become open and affirming of LGBT people. This is how other denominations of congregational polity have progressed on this issue. I look forward to that day when individual congregations will have studied, prayed together and by congregational process decided that their doors are open to fully include our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. When that happens then we will be tested to see if can live by the historic covenant principle of “agreeing to disagree but not breaking fellowship” and by the founding verse of our denomination, “I am the companion of all who fear thee.” Our true and complete companionship needs to be expanded!

4. The response to our blog has been at one and the same time incredibly supportive and painfully disappointing. First of all THANK YOU to everyone who has posted, commented, “liked”, linked, forwarded, or reposted from our blog! This is how the internet works!  I don’t know how anyone can read the stories that have been published this past year and not be moved to tears. These are real human stories often of people who have suffered in silence, feeling trapped in their own skin, beset by the condemnation of others from the outside and self loathing from within. Many of the people who have posted have chronicled their experience of coming to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and acceptance that challenges my understanding of God’s grace and makes me leap for joy.

However at the same time I’m deeply saddened by the fact that so many people choose to stay on the sidelines of this issue. If you read the stories published this past year you must realize that our silence is creating an environment within our churches that causes individuals irreparable emotional and even physical harm. It is time for people to have the courage to let others know where you stand on this issue. Please understand I’m not advocating for argument or dissension instead I am advocating “for the freedom in Christ” that creates openness for respectful dialogue and which recognizes that there is room for a differing “biblical” points of view on this issue. While we are grateful for retired covenant clergy, and for Covenant clergy serving in other denominations who have posted and commented, only a few “active” Covenant clergy have made comment on this blog and only one “active” covenant pastor has written a post.

Many other clergy while sympathetic have chosen to remain silent. I understand this silence for it was only after I stepped out of serving a church that I found the courage to speak out. I am told by some that conference and denominational leaders have counseled clergy against associating their name with this blog for fear that doing so will limit their ability to receive call to a church. After all who wants to see anyone in this economy loose their source of livelihood? Despite all these factors I am forced to ask a question, “Where is the prophetic voice within our clergy and church leadership?” Who will be the prophets and the missionaries of this movement? Who will the Doug Cedarleafs of our generation?

5. Finally I have learned first hand the difficulty of being an activist. I think that I can speak somewhat for Andrew in this regard also. Perhaps you have noticed that this blog has had its periods of activity and inactivity. There have been two causes of this lack of consistency. First it has been due to the sporadic submission of content. Our foremost stated purpose has been to publish “Coming out stories” of people. These stories include straight people such as myself whose understanding on this issue has changed and more importantly the stories of LGBT people within the Covenant. Our reason for this is the belief that the one thing that changes people’s mind is knowing someone who is gay and hearing their story.

Most post submissions to the blog have come unsolicited as the spirit has moved. Typically when we have content we publish it but this is not completely true because the second reason for the up and down nature of our blog is the waxing and waning of our energy. While both Andrew and I feel strongly about this issue we live somewhere between enthusiastic activism and discouragement. We struggle with how much of ourselves we are able to invest in this issue especially when both of us have other dimensions of life that require our energy. Bottom line is we don’t want to be the sole carriers of this flame. If this issue is to move forward it requires other people’s involvement. So please don’t sit on your hands and think that we have it covered. If something moves in your heart regarding this issue then contact us. We welcome your ideas, comments, posts, and involvement in ways that we have not even thought of yet.

So that is what this past year of COC has taught me. I am curious what you have observed and learned from the “Coming Out Covenant” experience. Has it made you mad, sad, or glad? Are you empowered, afraid, or just so-so? Do you think we are prophets heretics, or apostates?  After all Jesus did say, “beware if all men speak well of thee?” So please post a comment on the blog or on Facebook.

For your information here is a score card of Coming Out Covenant’s activity for this past year.  From 37 posts, we have received 446 comments, 26,410 unique visitors, 71,279  visits, 451,045 page views and 543 “Likes” on facebook.  At first I was impressed by these numbers but I have learned that by internet standards they are small indeed and yet for a denomination the size of the Evangelical Covenant Church they are significant. Most important, I know for a fact that the blog has given individuals who felt they were alone and isolated, HOPE and comfort and the knowledge that they are loved by God and others and for this reason they no longer need to be afraid for the scriptures tell us that “….perfect love drives fear away.” I John 4:18

Philip K. Brockett 1-30-12

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: Still Waiting for Repeal in the Evangelical Covenant Church

Andrew Freeman

Note: This blog was created for people to share their stories. Until now, I have mostly refrained from sharing details of my own. This is one part of my journey.  

Just over nine months ago, I sat on the piano bench in a church sanctuary, one eye on my music and the other on the screen of my smartphone. It was a Saturday morning, we were rehearsing for the upcoming Sunday School Christmas program, and between songs I was checking my newsfeed. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell had finally come to a vote, and I watched anxiously as the results came in. When repeal passed the Senate, I kept my excitement to myself, picked up my phone, and updated my Facebook status: “well, the U.S. Military is now officially on its way to being a more open and welcoming place than the Church.”

My sarcasm had some personal bitterness mixed in. You see, I was serving as a closeted gay associate pastor to this Covenant congregation. With the recent disclosure of my sexual orientation to denominational leadership, my future in Covenant ministry was feeling in jeopardy. I only had a few more weeks left at the local church, just a few more weeks of hiding at work. I had come out to essentially all of my friends (except those who were related to congregants) and to my entire family. The last vestige of the closet was at work, around the people with whom I was supposed to have formed authentic and meaningful relationships. Yet these relationships were limited by fear – of hurt and division. I loved the people I was serving, but worried they might not love me if they really, truly knew me. I hid to avoid causing pain for all of us, but the silence was slowly killing me. I was tired and miserable and ready – anxious, even – to be free.

That’s why the news of DADT’s repeal stirred up some mixed emotions in me. On the one hand, it was certainly an historic moment in the LGBT rights movement in our country. And my heart rejoiced with those soldiers who would soon be freed from closets of secrecy and shame, finally able to serve with honesty and dignity. Yet at the same time, this news only drew further attention to the reality that the church is lagging far behind. I was angered by the revelation that I could now, theoretically, openly serve in one of the last places on earth I would want to serve – the US Military, while the one place I most wanted to serve, the place that has been my home, my family, my source of identity, the place I had practically pledged my life to – the Covenant Church, no longer seemed to want me. Months later, when publicly sharing my story, I quipped, “Ironically, I’m a pacifist, and yet as an openly gay man I now have a better shot at firing a gun in the U.S. Military than preaching the peace of Christ every week in a Covenant Church.” I want you to know how deeply it pains me to say such a thing.

Fast-forward to the present. As of last Tuesday, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is no more. Once faceless gay soldiers now appear on TV, names and faces fully visible. The veil has been lifted. A young man films the phone call to his father in which he comes out, and the video goes viral on YouTube. One can’t help but feel moved by these stories and celebrate the progress this represents for our country. Yet still I ask: what progress have we made in the church?

I chose to disclose my sexual orientation to leaders in the church after deciding that the closet was not a healthy or sustainable place for me to live. In response, I have been told two things: 1 – sexual orientation alone does not disqualify a candidate from ordination in the Covenant Church, and 2 – there are gay and lesbian Covenant pastors who, living in accordance with the ethical guidelines for ministers, have been ordained. So, in essence, I am not alone and I can technically still seek ordination. Good news in theory, perhaps, but not so in reality.

When I asked to speak with these other LGBT Covenant clergy for solidarity and support, no names were given to me. Apparently, they are all still in the closet. I suggested that my name and contact information could be given to any closeted clergy who might contact me in confidence. One year later, I haven’t heard from a single person. Not one. I’ve been told that I’m not alone, but my only company is anonymous. In reality, this is not a safe church for ministers to be honest about who they are, and so I continue to stand alone.  One can be closeted, gay, and ordained in this church, but what about those who feel called to live in the light on the other side of the closet door? Turns out, there are costs to “telling,” but those details are for another post.

I made the decision to come out fully aware of the consequences it might have on my call to serve the Covenant church. I felt as if I had been forced to choose between my call and my integrity. I had to choose integrity. Yet this is not a choice the Church should require its ministers to make: one’s call and integrity should always be interwoven. I do not question the integrity of the lives of those who have chosen to remain in the closet. I do, however, question when that choice cannot be freely made from a place of safety, personal preference, and prayerful discernment, but is rather driven by the pragmatics of church policies and politics. Choices driven by fear seldom turn out to be life-giving.

It may not be an official, explicitly written policy, but the cultural realities I’ve described here essentially form our church’s own version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Not only is it unfair and unjust, it is also unbiblical. Ours is a God of revelation, who favors truth-telling. So I want to give others out there a space to safely tell the truth, even now. That’s largely why we created this blog, but for those who can’t yet risk such public exposure I’ve set up a private and confidential email: – write to me! I’d love to hear from you and walk this often-lonesome journey with you. Your story is sacred, and I will treat it as such – receiving it with respect, holding it in confidence. If the military can move past the days of serving in secrecy, isn’t about time the Church did, too?

Anonymous: “It Gets Better”

This author was part the Covenant Church since birth, attended Covenant Bible College, North Park College and Seminary, and has done ministry in Covenant Churches. She no longer attends a Covenant church, but is writing anonymously out of respect for her family who does, and in order to avoid hearing comments that cause emotional pain from people in a church she has loved.

I had a dream a few years before I came out. In it I looked pregnant. In the dream, some people were telling me I was carrying a tumor and it needed to be cut out and destroyed. Others were telling me that I was carrying a baby and something precious to be born that was a part of me.

This dream was the start of my coming out process. For years I had been saying to myself “it’s a tumor, I have to kill it”. However, the more I tried to kill it through therapy and workshops to heal gay people, the more ill I became emotionally and mentally and spiritually. When you are not truly yourself, your relationships with God and others are not real. It felt yucky and fake to even think of dating men who I never felt attracted to. Everything about me felt fake because of the effort I had to expend to look straight. This tension manifested itself in suicidal thoughts and some unhealthy self harm, because despite years and years of trying, I was unable be straight. After my dream I realized that I was slowly psychologically aborting myself to be who the church said I was supposed to be.

After I had this dream, I reached out for help to someone who saw this as a baby and not a tumor. I did this because for me, it was either come out or die. I decided then that I would rather be alive and all of myself than living a life of self hate.

Coming out was not easy. My family still avoids talking about it to their fellow Covenanters even though they need support. I know they are not the only family with a gay child who are struggling.

In spite of the risk and how hard it was to come out, since then I have not had one suicidal thought. I no longer spend all my emotional energy trying to kill a part of myself. I also have found my relationships with God and others are more honest and real. I found Covenanters, some whom I didn’t expect, surprise me with their love for me even after they knew. There are amazing Covenant people at all levels of the church who get it, and who care for me even though I no longer have the option to minister in the Covenant Church.

After coming out I met my wife. A seminary classmate of mine married us. We now attend an Episcopal church which announces our anniversary right along with those of straight couples from the pulpit. We have found a place to minister and a church that accepts us just as we are. I do miss the Covenant Church. I also know God continues to do great ministry through Covenant people. I thank God for the Covenant who was used by God to bring my grandparents, my parents, and me to faith in Jesus. And that faith is what I take with me to the larger body of believers. It is my hope that one day the Covenant will be a church that sees no difference between my marriage and that of others. But for now I go where I am called by God.

And for anyone out there who is in the place that I was, hearing people say you need to get healed or change, etc., I want you to hear that it does get better. There are amazing Christian communities who will someday announce your wedding anniversary from the pulpit or put it in the bulletin with everyone else’s. You are worth keeping and if it takes leaving the Covenant to be healthy, know that God is not bound by one church. There are an ever- increasing number of churches who would love for you to join them and to minister and serve God with them. Although for now I have left the Covenant, the Covenant Church and the ministry of key people in it is something I take with me.

Casey Pick: “A Broken Family”

Casey and Amy (L-R)

Over the course of our friendship, Amy and I have discovered that we are in many ways mirror images of each other – very similar in some ways, and yet such complete opposites in others that it is faintly ridiculous and evidence of God’s presence in our lives that we are friends at all. Given this, it was fitting that we each independently discovered “Coming Out Covenant” simultaneously. She found it because of her lifelong affiliation with the denomination. I found it because of my work as a professional activist fighting on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community who specializes in outreach to conservatives and people of faith. Together we celebrated its existence, and speculated as to what this conversation could mean for the Evangelical Covenant Church that we both love.

It wasn’t until one day as Amy – further proving her mettle as a true friend – was helping me move that she told me she’d been waiting impatiently for my contribution to the site. I will never forget the look on her face when I told her I wasn’t planning on writing one, that I didn’t feel I could. You see, this is a website for people who consider themselves to be a part of the Evangelical Covenant Church – and I didn’t, not really. Not yet. Continue reading Casey Pick: “A Broken Family”