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Should I go back to my church?

Discussion in 'Coming Out Advice' started by mellissa, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. mellissa

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    When I joined this website, I stopped going to church due to Covid-19. I also stopped answering the emails and phone calls of my pastor and church friends. I was in a really dark and sad place due to my sexuality and thought that I should distance myself from them because of the clearly homophobic environment.

    Now, my mom made me talk to my pastor and church friends and they want to know when I'm coming back. Restrictions are easing here. I told them that I would be back this Sunday.

    However, I'm scared. Being on this website helped me feel better with my sexuality. I'm worried that going back to this environment will bring back all the pain I had. However, I don't know how to leave my church, and I do miss my friends there.

    What do I do?
     
  2. Revive

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    Hi! It's okay that you're struggling. What's it that you're afraid of?
     
  3. ChescaC

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    Mellissa,
    The decision to go back to ones church can be scary. I should know, I stopped going to church when I went away to college. After I went back home after a semester, I still didn’t go back. At least not until I lost my twin sister later that year(November 2011). I went because my mother said it would be good for me. I stopped going in earnest in the latter half of the first quarter of 2012. It stayed that way for over 9 years.
    I made my return last year in September, went somewhat off and on until the shutdown(actual in person services aren’t happening until restrictions are fully lifted). But back to my return;
    I shocked people with it. People were surprised that I had returned. But they were also very accepting of me, as the last time I had been there I’d been male. The day I made my return, one of the members made an announcement during the part of service where the congregation could profess joys or acknowledge concerns.
    I always knew that the church itself was very queer friendly(the organist there when we started going was openly gay, the current organist is very much the same), I just never knew if my brand of queerness would be accepted there. But it was, is accepted. While I am a Pagan(and everyone there knows it), I am accepted there. Once things reopen, I’ll be going back.
    When I left I was in pain, I didn’t go back because I had other pains. Once I was able to resolve those pains(the first through coming to accept the new normal without my twin(though she still exists within me), the second of the pain of who I am, a third relating to my substance use) I found myself in the proper mindset to go back. Sure there are some things that I don’t do(like addressing Iehovah as savior, or participating in the sacrament of communion(as a pagan, I’d be desecrating it by participating)), but I go. Because the other members of the congregation love me, and I for the most part love them.

    I was scared, but I faced that fear and was met with love.

    Much love,
    Chesca
     
    #3 ChescaC, Jun 17, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
  4. mellissa

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    Thank you very much Chesca for sharing. I'm happy that your church is nice to LGBT+ people and that your friends are cool. My church is not LGBT+ friendly. There have been multiple times where homophobic and transphobic things were said during service or outside of that.
     
  5. mellissa

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    I'm scared of falling back into a depression I guess. The homophobic things that are said hurt and make me so depressed. For a long time I have been conflicted between my sexual orientation and my faith. I'm a devout christian. Yet, I can't shake the feelings that I have for women, nor can I produce the feelings that I lack for men. For a while I felt that in order to please God, I would either have to become celibate or try conversion therapy/pray-the-gay-away. Both of these options made me feel helpless, because I feel that I have a lot of love to give and that when I mature as a person, I would like to have a wife.

    However, since I stopped going to church, and joined EC, I talked with many great people. I started to feel better about my sexuality and faith. I just started to feel that maybe being lesbian isn't a sin and that I shouldn't try pray-the-gay-away and other conversion therapies. In the end, I guess I'm scared that when i go back, I'll hear those comments again and that they will pull me back into the dark hole I was trying to get out of.
     
  6. Unsure77

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    Are there other churches in your area? There are denominations that are more gay friendly. Like Episcopalian or a lot of Methodist churches, UCC, or some Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. I’m thinking seriously about visiting my local Episcopalian church once it’s safer. That or possibly a gay affirming Presbyterian church with a lady I’ve dated off and on.

    I’d also maybe look at the Queer Christian Network or the Reformation Project YouTube channels and websites. They’re super comforting. At this point, I’d also recommend watching Vicky Beeching interviews or read her book. I have a strong suspicion her story might resonate with you. She was a Christian worship leader and song writer who’s a lesbian who had stayed closeted for a very long time to be able to stay in evangelical circles. She talks about those experiences and the impact it had on her.

    If it makes you feel any better, I’ve got the same struggle to figure out where to go that’s safe and where I don’t feel like a complete fraud. It’s hard.
     
    #6 Unsure77, Jun 17, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
  7. mellissa

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    It is nice to meet you again. It is thanks to you and others on this website that I started to feel better about myself.

    There are no LGBT+friendly churches like the methodist or Episcopalians near me. I visited a Presbytarian church once last year, but the comments on women were enough to make me change my mind.

    Yes it does make me feel a bit better to know that I'm not alone in this struggle. I hope I will know what to do by this Sunday.

    Back to my original question: What should I do? Should I go back? If not how do I break it off properly?
     
  8. Unsure77

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    If it were me, I wouldn’t go back. Not if they’re damaging your mental health, which it sounds like they are. I’d look for other ways to get spiritual nourishment. And honestly, long term, I might look at eventually moving maybe somewhere a little more progressive when you graduate school. That time is a perfect reason and excuse to do that. To find somewhere you can find a community that fits you.

    But, it’s also not my life. It’s yours.
     
  9. mellissa

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    How would I be able to leave though? I can't just leave without warning and never answer their calls. I feel very attached to the people there. Like I said in previous posts before, sometimes I feel that i'm the problem. I worry that accepting my homosexuality maybe wrong and that I should listen to the conversion things at my church.
     
  10. PatrickUK

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    Homosexuality is not wrong. There is no basis on which a church can reasonably argue that homosexuality (as we understand it in the modern context) is wrong.

    If the church in question supports or endorses conversion 'therapy' (it's NOT actually therapy at all) then you should steer well clear of them and find a church that is welcoming, affirming and properly in touch with the basic tenets of the Christian faith, and that doesn't include manipulating people and doing harm.
     
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  11. Unsure77

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    You absolutely can just stop going. You can write them a letter if you need the closure, I guess, but I’ve left multiple churches in my life and never done so. You’re not wrong for being gay. They’re wrong for making you feel bad about being who you are. Shame on them for making you feel that way. You don’t owe them your mental health. I know that’s hard, but it’s the truth. And again, it’s a truth I’ve had to come to terms with myself. They’re hurting you. You don’t have to give them that power.

    Conversion therapy is abuse. It has a 0% success rate and makes people who undergo it 8 times more likely to attempt suicide. They’re 6 times more likely to suffer from depression, according to the Trevor project. If they’re trying to talk to you about conversion, then they’re trying to talk you into abuse. That is not love.
     
    #11 Unsure77, Jun 19, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  12. mellissa

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    I need the closure. I don't feel right just getting up and leaving without giving a reason. I don't want them to think that I'm dead, nor do I want them to think that I hate them. I don't hate anyone there. In fact I love many of them and feel that if I do say goodbye, I have to do it the right way, aka with an explanation.

    Nobody is forcing me to go to conversion therapy. They don't even know that I'm lesbian. I'm sure that if I told them they would encourage me to pray the gay away, and that they would pray for me as well, but I don't think they would force anything on me.

    Was it strange leaving your churches the way you did? Did you ever run into some of your former friends. My church is close by. I already have ran into some of my friends there. I would most likely run into them and things would be super awkward if I just stopped going to church without an explanation.
     
  13. mellissa

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    I don't think they want to harm me. Nobody there knows about my sexual orientation. It is just that at times, they include homosexuality in the list of sins and that hurts my already fragile mental health. However, nobody there willingly wants to hurt me. I would like to go back because I miss everybody, but I fear that I will hear homophobic things and that this will hurt me. I'm scared of leaving and don't know how I would do it.

    I just need to know should I stay? If yes, how do I prevent the comments on homosexuality from affecting me?
    Should I go? If so, how should I go about that?
     
  14. Really

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    @mellissa
    Even with the easing of restrictions, you are perfectly justified in saying you aren’t comfortable going somewhere people are gathering in numbers much larger than your current circle of contacts. Use the current situation to your benefit so you can have more time figuring out what you want to do re: finding a new church, leaving your old one, having the confidence to stand up against the homophobia even if it’s just to say, “Hey! That’s not very Christian of you to say that!” without having to come out yourself if you’re not ready to.
     
  15. mellissa

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    1)So they want to do online church because as you know most places in Canada are not letting religious gatherings take place. So sadly, I can't use Covid-19 as an excuse.
    2) While we do the online church, I'm still worried about hearing homophobic things.
    3) Although I would like to challenge some of there statements, I would be too scared of them thinking I'm a lesbian. You see a part of me wants to come out. Since being here on EC, I'm feeling more comfortable with myself and want to be honest with my friends, not family members, about my sexual orientation. However, I know I could never come out to the people at my church and that going back means going even deeper into the closet.
     
  16. Unsure77

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    If they've said homophobic things in the past, they're likely going to keep saying homophobic things unless something happens to change that (which is unlikely). It's not just going to magically change. The other ugly truth is that they don't know the queer person in the congregation is you in particular, but they do know darn well it may be someone and they just don't care. Again, I am describing my own childhood. These are circles I've gone in with friends and with my therapist. It's still hateful and crushing, even if they don't know it's you specifically they're aiming it at and you're saying yourself it's still doing damage to you every time they do it. I grew up southern baptist literally in the state where Boy Erased took place and I'm older than that dude. I get it. I lived it. It was done with smiles and youth group lock-ins and pizza and oreos and concerts and dinners. It damaged me literal decades on just the same. I'm still digging out from it.

    Maybe things are different in Canada vs the US. Let me ask you this: Do other people who leave your church make grand exits with explanations and justifications for why they're leaving? In the US, we don't. You just stop going and if you eventually join a new church, they send a letter to your old church saying to remove you from the roles. The most I've ever done is call a church office to ask to be removed from the roles of a church after they did a transphobic sermon. Usually I just stop going.

    Either way, I would recommend maybe seeing a gay affirming therapist. They might could help you work through this either way you go. You're either have to learn to cope with your church periodically telling you you're a horrible person for exchanging oxygen while being gay or you're going to have to figure out how to make your exit and then likely grieve that loss and figure out your next steps. Neither is going to be easy. And you probably have things to work through just from a lifetime of them telling you're a horrible person for existing while being queer. Maybe you're a stronger person than I am. That eventually came crashing down on me personally.
     
  17. PatrickUK

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    No you should not return. If you return you will constantly be wondering how long it will be before homosexuality is again referred to as sinful and you will never be able to relax. Faith should be life enhancing rather than life limiting. A church that uses the Bible to bash and exclude people and tear them down is a failed church. Do you want to be part of a failed church?

    I would urge you to look for a church that has a mature and rational approach to faith; a church that is grounded in values of love and decency and welcomes all people in the name of Christ, who opened his arms for each and every one of us. You should only attend a church that has embedded those values into its worship, preaching and outreach. Take a look at this website https://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church/ to see if there is an affirming church nearby.

    As previously stated, you need offer no explanation at all. At the age of 18 you are free to make decisions about faith and worship for yourself - and you should. Don't stay, just because it's familiar and don't feel forced into offering explanations.

    I also have to tell you that any church that preaches the sinfulness of homosexuality is a harmful environment for members of the LGBT+ community. Churches make a conscious decision on matters of theology and doctrine Melissa. These things don't just happen.
     
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  18. Unsure77

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    Churches are billed and as the spaces that are welcome and safe for all. That’s what we were taught by the people we trusted the most. But, the reality is that a lot of churches (probably most) are not psychologically safe spaces for people like us. And in many churches, the reality is that we are not actually welcome as we are. The only way we’re welcome is to lie to them and ourselves about who we are. It can be hard to accept and come to terms with. “These churches are safe spaces for everyone....only not you.” But, it’s our reality.
     
  19. Tightrope

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    I really no longer go to church. But it's not all about sexuality. Some congregations are toxic. It can be the congregants, the clergy, or both.

    You seem to have been blessed that you found people you like very much and like you. Since they come at human sexuality from a vitriolic angle, I don't feel you owe them any explanations, especially since you are discovering and shaping who you are. But since you seem to really value some of them, would it be possible to keep some of these friends and join another congregation? At the very least, one that does not harp on sexuality?
     
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  20. Really

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    Since you’re “going” to the service remotely, why not take this time to find somewhere that’s also offering online services but with a homophobia free experience? Take the time to do a little research which might lead to you finding a local church that is, in fact, truly welcoming of all. I’m not sure how much socializing and catching up you’d be able to do anyway with a virtual format. Seriously, don’t logon just to have your mental health bashed around for an hour or more. Never mind the lasting effects! You’re worth more than that. Take care.