End of semester Chats I
Tuesday 14th May 2019 @ 7:11 am
The end of the college year affords me the chance to take a breath – and invites me to think over what has happened – what has changed – what should change – what can change.
As I have been reflecting on this last semester, two communications from different students sit bluntly at the forefront of my mind.
They both brought a tear to the corner of my eye. For very different reasons.
Details are changed to protect individuals and places.
The first one concerns a student who identifies as lesbian and had one of the most God–inspired years in college I have experienced a student to have. We’ll call her Karen. This year Karen has awakened in faith. She has begun praying, reading Scripture, sharing fellowship and speaking about God with everyone who will listen. She is particularly inspiring because she was not brought up in a family of faith, in fact, her family have been incredibly wary of her Christian faith (if not antagonistic), urging her extreme caution. She takes her studies seriously and wants to align the learning in her studies to her desire to know God better. She is truly an inspiration.
Several weeks ago she came into my office after sending a message saying, (paraphrased) “need to talk – somethings gone very badly wrong.”
We chatted. What had gone wrong was she had come out to a member/leader in one of the church groups where she has been joining fellowship.
This is tough for me to write – I know folks in this church, and I know them to be honest, authentic, and passionate about faith.
However, it turns out that the conversation had not so much been a coming out, as being dragged out. An invitation had been given to confess & share any sin in a safe space – anything – anything could be talked about. ‘If there is anything you need to share – really – we can chat about anything. We all have sin in our lives.’
So Karen, said, ‘OK, seems like you might know, but I like girls.’
The ‘confession’ was met with a warm welcome and embrace. And a book on conversion therapy, which this leader offered to meet Karen with every week to chat and work through together.
I was livid. In many ways, this conversation was missing the mark.
I’m pretty orthodox in matters of Christian faith. Although I recognize that in Ireland, orthodox doesn’t mean what orthodox does in most of the rest of the world, rather it is akin to right wing conservative evangelical. Which I am not. But I am still orthodox.
I’m happy to discuss the passages on sexuality, happy to have a theological difference with you over interpretation, happy to see the kingdom of God as our ultimate aim in such discussions, but I am devastated when a gay member of a community of faith that I am part of is treated in a way to leave her feeling excluded, diminished, sinful, dirty and confused at the hands of the Christian church.
I didn’t do a very good pastoral response. My face and my actions betrayed exactly what I thought. I am still sad at the hurt caused Karen.
It is hugely to her credit that Karen has taken the circumstance better than me. She has used it to clarify and critique her life, evaluate her understanding of Scripture, and her understanding of who she was born to be. She now has an even more honest desire to have the spirit of God meet her in her deepest self in order to bring healing love and transformation to her life and through her to the world. Not, by the way, so she will pray away the gay, but rather because she has now decided she wants to be baptized, publicly, with her family and friends present, in order to keep the kingdom of God coming out on earth. She is part of our world Christian church, and we are part of her. God is in us all. I only pray for an inch of the courage and passion she is sincerely demonstrating in her faithful actions these days.
The other communication is the next blog, and yes, I did ask Karen to OK this blog, it’s her life, and I don’t want to share her story without her permission!
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