Debating My Gay Marriage? Don't Do Me Any Favors

As a gay man who has been with my partner for almost 13 years and married for almost two, it felt nice to hear these two Christian groups making an effort towards gay people. But the feeling didn't last long.
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It has been a pretty raucous couple of weeks at the Vatican with bishops meeting for the Synod on Family. Pope Francis promoted an open discussion that resulted in a surprising midway document that included such language as "welcoming the homosexual" and acknowledgment that gays have "gifts to offer Christian communities," as well as the sacrifice and precious support that can be present in same-sex relations.

During the same time, a major world-wide evangelical organization called the Hillsong Church was meeting in New York. During a press conference, the founding pastor Brian Houston essentially dodged the question about same-sex marriage, saying they were "on the journey" with the question of gay marriage, and that they would not take a stance on it one way or another.

As a gay man who has been with my partner for almost 13 years and married for almost two, it felt nice to hear these two groups making an effort towards gay people.

I was glad to have my relationship with Brad -- which is the most important thing in my life, which is the way I experience love, which has brought me through deaths and new births, which has made me a better Christian and a better person -- to possibly be considered as "OK" and to recognize that it might have merit in the eyes of these big religious organizations. It felt surprisingly and embarrassingly good.

However, the feeling didn't last long.

Even these modest nods towards my life appear to have been too much for the bishops and Hillsong. By the end of the week, the Catholic welcome for the homosexual had turned into a more clinical "providing for" the homosexual, and gone was any positive affirmation of same-sex relations. In a similar way, the Hillsong pastor decided that it wasn't good for business -- ahem, his faith -- to say that he wasn't clear on same-sex marriage and referred people interested in his own thoughts on homosexuality to the anti-gay writings of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

I guess I should be hurt, given my gladness at the initial generosity. But I have to say that this last flipping and flopping from elements within the Christian church has left me completely and finally "over it."

The idea that some random people are debating my life and my love now seems strange and insulting. While I will continue to pay professional attention to these debates, as someone who works in the media and as a member of the clergy who cares about justice for all people, on a personal level I couldn't give a shit what these people think about my life. I'm not going to give them that power.

That doesn't mean that I no longer care about my faith in God or my commitment to Christianity in general. It is not a choice between my faith and my love. They are intertwined. I have worked in Christian churches across the country where LGBT people are completely embraced and unreservedly part of the congregation on every level. My partner and I were married in an Episcopal Church and it was one of the happiest days of my life, made more sacred for us because it was in the context of the rites of the tradition. We plan on having our ashes placed next to one another in St. John's Cathedral when we die. I love my faith and how it brings Brad and me closer together.

Not caring about what certain Christians think about me and my marriage also doesn't mean that I won't want to work side by side with them on issues of poverty, peace, mental health, and international aid. The Catholic Church and evangelicals, for instance, do a lot of good in the world that I would love to promote and partner with.

However, I am done with the debate on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. It has reached the tipping point.

The same week as the Catholic Church walked back even a modest welcome for gays and lesbians, a poll from Pew came out saying that over 85 percent of young American Catholics accept gay people, and 75 percent of them support gay marriage. Couple that with a survey done on millennials, a third of whom said they had left their religion because of the negative treatment of gays and lesbians. The conversations at Hillsong and the Synod seem more and more divorced from the reality of gay people, who are their family, friends and neighbors.

Many people who closely watched the Synod felt that within all the back and forth there were good signs for the future for gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church. And probably, there is a silver lining in Hillsong story as well. I wish them well as they work their way through the "issue" of homosexuality. But I will no longer hope for their approval. I know I was beautifully made by God and that my relationship with Brad is blessed. They can call me when the debates are over and they can (finally) see that as well.

Rev. Dr. Nancy L. Wilson

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