CHRISTIAN AND GAY: ONE DISCIPLE’S EXPERIENCE
Every June, our congregation celebrates the glory of our diverse and welcoming God with an LGBT Pride Month celebration during Worship — then gathers on our front lawn for our annual Community Picnic. On this Sunday, BPC’s Ed Haralson (pictured below) shared his struggles as a gay Christian across the decades — and the healing that comes from being honest.
On this Pentecost-Pride-Picnic Sunday, I have the honor of sharing a bit of my journey with you.
Let me start with middle school, when I realized I was a boy who liked boys, although I didn’t understand what all that meant. In high school, I fell in love with God. But in order in order to love God, I realized I couldn’t be a boy who liked boys. So I learned how to embrace a lie – I didn’t really like boys – in order to hold on to a truth. I went to Bible College where I learned to put God in a box, but men who like men were not allowed in that box.
I soon transferred to William and Mary where I became involved with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, attended a conservative Presbyterian church and later then an independent charismatic church (also conservative, but with tongues). After graduating I taught English in western Virginia where I attended a Pentecostal church where I learned a new lie. I wasn’t a man who loved men but a man possessed by the demon of loving men. That summer I shared a house with another teacher, who, I soon realized, was gay. And to my surprise, he wasn’t a demon. But my lie kept gays outside the box where I had placed myself and God.
After a year, I returned to Williamsburg and supported the work of Inter-Varsity. My spirituality shifted from embracing dogma to embracing promise. I began to understand that what God had promised I would become in the finite existence of my present had already been fulfilled in the infinite reality of His eternity. From my finite point of view, I struggled to become the reflection of the image of God. From God’s infinite point of view, I already was that image.
I remember vividly walking across campus and God saying (in that personal way in which God speaks to all of us), “Edmund, you know there is no reason why you cannot be that which you are.” That is, unless what you think you are and what God says you are, are two different things.
God and his truth had broken out of the box. I and my lie stayed in it. I eventually became a campus minister with Inter-Varsity in Kansas. I attended a Presbyterian church. The box I was in got bigger and bigger, but not big enough to include men who loved men, men with my history. I could reel the tape back to middle school, see the faces I had loved – and they were all male. They were the faces I was not allowed to love. And I knew the ministry I was in taught that God’s infinite love was, in the end, finite.
So I took my box and my lie and left this ministry. I returned to Northern Virginia, found a new church, and developed many relationships of great love and trust. I came to realize that I was not a Christian struggling with homosexuality, but a homosexual struggling with Christianity. I let go of the lie.
And because that church was a “no gays allowed” club, I left, leaving the lie behind, keeping the box, but following God. I found myself at the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia, where God was open to everyone. The congregation was filled with straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered folk. The infinity of God’s love was available to the infinity of God’s people. And you can’t put infinity in a box. The box was blown away. This struggle between being either Christian or gay was transformed into harmony, a harmony of light, a rainbow of light. Things were not black and white with shades of grey. They were a full spectrum. There was more light in the infinite universe of God than I ever knew existed.
One day someone told me there were Presbyterians who knew about and embraced this broad spectrum of God’s rainbow. I eventually found myself at Clarendon Presbyterian in Arlington where I learned about a group calling themselves More Light Presbyterians. I threw myself headlong into this church and into this movement, and I burned out. I left. And in leaving, I found freedom. Freedom to return to my first love of teaching. Freedom to leave the country and move to Bangkok, Thailand. Freedom to fall in love with a man, my partner Bom.
I returned to America, moved to Foggy Bottom, looked for a More Light church, found one, but things didn’t really fit. I recently moved to Chevy Chase, looked again for a More Light church, and found you guys. On this Pentecost-Pride-Picnic Sunday, let me say why being a More Light church is so important. There was a man named John Robinson, a spiritual leader of the Pilgrims who died in 1625 before he could join those who had earlier transplanted to America. We all know the Mayflower, but there was another ship called the Speedwell. In his farewell message to the Speedwell, Robinson said, “If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth from my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word.”
Looking back upon my history and journey, I can see that I have received more and more and more light. And the word that God broke open to shine more light in my direction was not The Word of God, the scripture. It was the word of God’s people. The children of God are living words of God. Just as God breaks open the Word of God, and more light shines forth, so too does God break open the people of God so that more light, more understanding, can break forth.
Being a More Light congregation doesn’t mean that your theology or mission statement is watered down, easier to swallow and less filling like some light beer. No, by choosing to be a More Light Presbyterian congregation, this church has accepted the challenge of being a source of more light. Of becoming the people of God who are willing to be broken open so that more of the light of God’s eternal love shines forth.
A More Light congregation is one which welcomes, embraces, strengthens, invites – more than invites, it is one which goes out and seeks and finds and brings in those who have been denied the full love of God and humanity for far too long. A More Light congregation dares to declare to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community that there are no boxes which keep God in and keep people out because we are all eternal children of an eternal God born of an eternal love. A More Light congregation is one which has declared that it is willing to be broken open in order to become a safe and welcoming place for members of the LGBT community.
So on this Pride Sunday, you should be proud to be a More Light church. Thank you!