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

Denny Moon: “Saved”

Rev. Denny P. Moon

All I could hear was the deep breathing and occasional snore of the students asleep in the back of the van.  As a youth pastor I was taking high school students from New England to visit North Park College.  The young man in the passenger seat next to me, the only other person awake in the vehicle, asked me in level tones just audible over the radio, “Does Jesus really love homosexuals?” I was just glad to have him talking, helping me stay awake until we reached the hard comfort of a floor in the Covenant church in Youngstown, Ohio. I paused to think before responding. “Yes.”  I spoke slowly. “I think he has to, because he loves everybody just as they are, without changing anything.  I mean that’s basic Christian stuff.”

Frankly, I didn’t want to say any more than that, because I was afraid he might take my words home to his parents and I could get in trouble. I ignored the obvious questions: “Then why does our church call homosexuality a sin?” “Why does no one ever talk about homosexuals at church?”  “Why do Christians condemn homosexuals?” I just let it ride. For several moments we heard only the periodic thump of the wheels over the uneven asphalt sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  “Oh,” he said, “I just wondered.”

Had I been a better youth pastor, I would have asked him some open ended question that would have helped him understand his wondering, but I didn’t.  He sensed my fear and stopped talking.

Ten years after the van conversation I had moved to a new church and the questioning young man drove two and a half hours to have lunch with me.   I was glad to see him and relive memories of our times together.  But there was an urgency about him and over our greasy pepperoni pie he told me he that he was gay and had come out to his family.  Our eyes were full and his anxiety palpable.  He said, “I came here to thank you for saving my life.”  I said, “I didn’t save your life, you did.”  “No,” he said, “There was more than one time when I really wanted to take my own life, but I remembered what you said ‘Jesus loves homosexuals… just the way they are.’ These words saved me.  So… thanks.” Continue reading Denny Moon: “Saved”

Surrendering Perfection

Last fall, I wrote the following letter to my family on Thanksgiving. I share this letter here, especially mindful of those families with LGBT children. But I also share it because, though it may be addressed to my biological family, the message is equally one for my church family, my ecclesial family.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve listened to some of my friends relate their feelings in anticipation of going home for Thanksgiving. Some are excited: because they love and miss their family and can’t wait to see them again, or because this is the first time they’ve been welcomed home for a holiday in years. Some are ambivalent about family time, because they expect to sit quietly and peacefully coexist without really talking about the stuff of life. Others are downright anxious about going home, fearing harsh words, difficult conversations, and judgment. And some won’t go home at all, either because they’re not welcome or they’d just rather avoid the awkwardness and spare everyone the difficulty. All of my friends’ feelings in relation to their parents and family – excitement, ambivalence, fear, anxiety – stem from the fact that these friends also happen to be gay. Continue reading Surrendering Perfection

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?”

No One Should Stand Alone

It was a Sunday morning and I had just preached my heart out in front of the congregation. They were good people, just on the reserved side. If they had been moved in anyway at all I just wish that they would have informed their faces. But they were good people and just because their faces were impassive I knew that at least some of them on the inside were responsive.  At any rate I had laid it all on the line that morning and even gave an invitation.

As we sang the invitational hymn I stepped out from behind the pulpit to the center of the chancel, exposed, as absolutely no one came forward. Midway through the hymn I saw a teen age boy in the balcony bolt for the door. No sooner had he left the balcony than the door onto the sanctuary floor burst open and he charged up on the chancel, but instead of coming to stand in front of me, to confess his sin, this young man, stood beside me. He put one arm around me, held up his hymnal and began to sing. Surprised, I asked him – “Devon, why did you to come forward?”  He turned and looked at me and said, “Pastor Brockett, I didn’t come forward, I just looked at you standing down here by yourself and you looked so lonely, I didn’t want you to have to stand alone.” Tears came to my eyes – this boy had sensed my loneliness and had come to stand with me. Continue reading No One Should Stand Alone

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

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

Finding Place in this Church [UPDATED]

Andrew Freeman

Several months ago, I received the latest issue of The Covenant Companion, which contained the cover story, “Our Place in the Covenant.” In anticipation of the denomination’s 125th Annual Meeting, the Companion featured several short stories and testimonies from Covenanters of varying backgrounds on how they have come to find a place in this church. In that same issue was a letter to the editor by my friend and fellow blogger, Ralph Sturdy. Ralph pointed out what he referred to as a “sad commentary”: that support for parents and friends of gay and lesbian children in Covenant churches has been relegated to a back-page classified ad for a confidential email. “Are they being asked to hide behind a veil of secrecy and shame?” Ralph asked. “Are we saying to our gay and lesbian children, many baptized in Covenant churches, that there is no place in the Covenant for them?” (emphasis mine)

Here, in the same issue about finding place in this church, an issue that celebrates belonging and Covenant identity, was a letter about quiet marginalization. Here was a letter raising a voice for those whose place in the church has, ever so subtly, been moved to the borders, to the fringes. The sad irony wasn’t lost on me, because it was and remains a dichotomy I have been forced to wrestle with every day of my life. And so, I felt compelled to write and submit to the Companion the following response: Continue reading Finding Place in this Church [UPDATED]