Each Monday in Lent we are providing a Lenten Reading from the Lamoni Heartland Mission Center Diversity Team. This week’s reflection comes from High Priest Deb Crowley of Northwest Congregation, and LHMC MCP Counselor, Community of Christ.
Our 25 year old son sat at the kitchen counter while I prepped for supper. I teasingly asked if he’d considered asking a cute girl at his residence out on a date. He said, “No mom. She wanted to, but she was interested in a deeper relationship and I could not honestly go there.” Our conversation continued and he revealed that he was gay. I rejoiced and said “Yes, finally the answer to my final question is answered, “gayness’ is not a choice!”
Ben had been raised in our home, had never suffered physical or emotional abuse, and even had been taught the wrongness of “gayness” as a life choice. But I had been on a fifteen year journey when the church began exploring human sexuality to try and understand the acceptance stance of so many ministers I admired and looked up to. Thus began years of reading, listening, struggling, and reshaping conditioned “truths” from my own upbringing. That my own son would honestly admit his sexuality, not as a choice, but as a fact of who he is and how God created him caused my heart to rejoice.
But there were issues back in 2005. The hate in society for the Matthew Sheppards of the world, the prejudice, the oppression, inequality, and fear of persons like my son entered our personal world. Ben chose not to share at that time with our church family. He held the office of Priest and one of his greatest joys was counseling at youth camps. He felt threatened to lose both if he were to be open about his self-discovery. So we held it to ourselves, sharing with only a very few in our circle of friends.
After 2010 World Conference, our congregation began dividing. It wasn’t personal animosity but policies toward acceptance and full participation of LGBT persons threatened many. It was during this time of turmoil Ben chose to reveal his identity during a worship service. And, yes, it was poorly timed and created great conflict. However, I was amazed that while our church family squabbled over Ben’s revealment, not one single person approached Mel or I with a kind or supportive word for the deep concern we had held in our hearts for five years.
It wasn’t a “pity party” moment. Rather an awakening to my own lack of sensitivity to others in our congregation, our church family, who carry or had carried deep concerns for the welfare of their loved ones and did not feel safe sharing their burden with us.
What are my first reactions to situations that threatened to shake the foundation of my deeply held beliefs? Judgement? “They should haves?” “How could they?” “keep them away from my children?”
I surely must repent of these short sighted, unrighteous responses. Instead, work toward a first response of “Wow, how can I reassure them of God’s love? How can I accept where they are at and provide support? How can I deeply listen?”
There are not just two sides to any story or situation, there are dozens! We mustn’t dwell on the past but learn and grow from it. God calls us to find unity in the midst of diversity, find the worth of all and cover them with love. It’s a recipe for growth, freedom, peace and joy!
March 22, 2021