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Are God's loving words meant for the ears of heterosexuals only?

What an exciting time to live as "an active, practicing, self-avowed, unrepentant, ordained homosexual" -- rather unfriendly words my Presbyterian church uses to describe me and others who openly seek full spiritual rights for lesbian, gay, transsexual, transgender or bisexual people. We are created by God, saved by Jesus and surrounded by the Holy Spirit.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, the first time our people stood up and said, "No more second-place status, no more discrimination," we are what we are and we will have human rights. This has translated into full spiritual rights.

As all minority groups have been, we are kept down by the powerful. In other civil rights struggles -- African-Americans, women -- the church was slow to help. In our struggle, the church is our enemy. Spokespersons for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, among others, refer to the church as "one of the three sewers of filth responsible for gay/lesbian bashing."

This hatred in Christianity is expressed in the three major religious groups: Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant. Then there is the "righteous right."

While the first three may have acted on our behalf in some civil rights efforts, they have consistently used selected, isolated verses of scripture as a weapon rather than finding words in scripture to welcome our people. Most will supposedly welcome us, but will not ordain us.

Some of the "righteous right" say they are fundamentalists. They really have a theology of pick and choose when it comes to which biblical verses they value and promote.

The other groups hold the Bible as the word of God and, in terms of our people, become loose literalists or phony fundamentalists and hurl isolated verses of scripture against us.

The challenge I put forward is: Locate the asterisk in the 23rd Psalm, John 3:16, the Shema or great commandment that says, "for heterosexuals only." It is this silent asterisk of homophobia and heterosexist tradition that keeps our people out or at least silent.

Do you hear passion, anger in my words? It grows out of both scripture and experience.

I am a lifelong Presbyterian, a child baptized, a youth of a church so loved, cherished and accepted that one night at a youth conference, God called me to ministry. At about the same time, I found the words to describe another aspect of myself, my sexual orientation.

As I grew up, I realized that I saw things differently from other boys. I had no words to describe this. I had a best friend in high school. I thought Bill was like me, but had no words to ask him. In Missouri, in the early 1950s, sex education stopped at the stomach and began again at the knees, so we didn't talk about or act on our sexual feelings. At 18, Bill went to a Methodist college and I went to a Presbyterian college.

Kids get together at vacations. Bill called, "Get in the car and get over here." As I walked into his room he said to me, "We (notice he said 'we') are called fags, queers. We are florists, sailors, interior designers, and I think Mr. Smith, our homeroom teacher, is one. We have sex in Swope Park and in the bar at the Phillips Hotel. You have the car, let's go."

What a rotten way to be introduced to your sexual self: We have anonymous sex in parks and bars.

How I wish I had been told what I heard heterosexuals being told by the church: "Your sexuality is a good gift from God and is to be reserved until you marry."

How different my life might have been had my sexual orientation been included as good and had I been told to reserve my sexual activity until a covenant relationship or a holy union ceremony. I might not have HIV/AIDS, and I might have sought a lifetime companion. Such options are open to my people today but rarely inside the church.

Meanwhile, the "righteous right" is using the hatred of us as a fundraising tool, a mobilizing appeal. Other groups stand silently by, watching their power erode and silently muttering, "peace, peace," when there is no peace. My question is, "Why don't you, the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, the mainline Protestants remove the asterisk of exclusion that blocks so many who wish to respond to God's love from doing so in your own organized religions?"

Inside or outside the church, we will not be stopped from being called and responding to that love of God. For God does not stop loving us and we cannot stop loving God.
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Title Annotation:Special Report: Gay Men and Lesbians Describe Spiritual Journeys
Author:Warren, Howard B., Jr.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 2, 1994
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