I began attending Watermark Community Church around five years ago, after a girl I was dating invited me to a young adults ministry. The pastor on stage was open and authentic about his life and "struggles with sin." This instilled a sense of comfort within me because of all of the things I was hiding about myself,
I began attending weekly services and volunteering as much as I could. I attended training sessions and read through my Bible.
About six months in, I met a man who has become a dear friend. He shared with me that he was gay and trying to change his orientation to heterosexuality, and he encouraged me to open up to several others. I connected with programs designed to help gay church members, spent time with the gay success stories at Watermark, and read books about how to change my orientation.
It soon became very obvious that I would not be able to change my attraction to other men. I came to realize that, according to Watermark, God was expecting me to be single for the rest of my life, and I became comfortable with that idea. I was so sure of myself that when I moved in with one of my close guy friends, we shared a bunk bed. I felt that I was not alone even though I was single; I was happy to have a tight church group around me. I began sharing my story at church with others. (Start listening at 43:38).
Then, what seemed like all at once, more than half of my group started dating and quickly got married, my bunkmate included. I realized what it meant to face the prospect of being alone for the rest of my life. I couldn't expect my friends to avoid falling in love on the account of me.
Naturally, I rebelled a bit. I joined a gay volleyball league, met other gay people and even began to date a bit. These were not horrible, disgusting people, as I had been led to believe. These were some of the most caring and loving people I'd ever met, and finally, I was not alone. I discovered that many of my new friend, like me, had been wounded by the church.
Back at Watermark, my new community group urged me to quit hanging out with the gay volleyball crowd and urged me to attend Watermark's 12-step program to overcome homosexuality, or "struggles," as they put it. So I did.
Once again, I felt hopeful that God would come in and save the day and remove my "struggles." Then, I began to hate myself. I wanted so badly to change and yet, nothing came. I never felt so alone, sad and angry with God. Why wouldn’t he help me?
For my own safety, I quit the program halfway through. I started dating a guy shortly after. I experienced so many feelings that I had only heard about from straight friends. I remember waiting by the phone for him to text and looking forward to hearing how his day went. Even the most boring aspects of our relationship were exciting, and I realized these are the feelings they’d been talking about.
About six months into our relationship, my small group pushed hard for me to break up with him. I tried to convince myself I had other reasons to end the relationship; soon, I made these demands a reality. I became physically ill at the decision I made. I couldn't sleep, think, or do anything without crying. We decided to get back together a week later; I never should have done what I did and I knew it in my heart.
The group brought in church leadership due to my "rebellion." Nine of them sat in a half circle across the room from me. They interrupted me, talked down to me, and accused me of not giving effort. And they removed me out from official church membership.
After getting kicked out, I was picked up by a couple of gay friends that I met at Watermark who'd also left or been pushed out the door. We are now a growing group of people connected to the Gay Christian Network.
There are so many gay people who have been deeply hurt by the church. It is not uncommon to hear of suicide attempts from people who went through these similar experiences. We are people, we have feelings, desires, and morals just like everyone else. We desire to be loved just like everyone else. We deserve to be loved just like everyone else.
Watermark revoked my membership based on their reading of Matthew 18:15-18, where Jesus lays out a process for handling sin within a group. This passage begins: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault."
But translations of this passage vary. Some say say: "If your brother sins" and some say, "if your brother sins against you."
One of these gives you permission to hold anyone accountable to any sin. The other is talking about reconciliation. So, which one is correct? We don’t really know.
Later in the chapter, verse 21 provides some color: "Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
Jason Thomas , Contributor[Twitter: @Jason1TM]