Nan and Peggy’s Story

Peggy and I celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary in September 2006. Peggy was raised Catholic and I was raised Episcopalian. We joined First Methodist in Omaha because they are a congregation who truly welcomes diverse groups of people, including gay people. Peggy never doubted that God loved her, straight or gay. I struggled, finding it hard to believe God loved me at all. I knew I was gay at eleven and a half. Because society and the church were so negative toward gays, I tried hard to be straight. When I finally faced the fact that I am gay, I felt and thought I would have to give up my Self or my God. I didn’t see how I could live without either.

I studied the Bible thoroughly on the matter. I consulted ministers. I concluded that people who condemned me for who I am were misguided, interpreting passages wrongly, too strongly, out of context, or without being willing even to consider modern scientific findings or social structures on the subject. (Social structures? There were no loving, committed gay couples, nor even such a concept, in Biblical society. How could these writers condemn something they’d never heard of?) Intellectually, I was satisfied. Emotionally, I carried years of shame and self-loathing.

At that time, I was an avid practitioner of relaxation and visualization techniques, for stress management and self-healing. I had, in my imagination, a lovely mountain meadow with a lake and brook, surrounded on three sides by mountains & pines, a cottonwood near the lake where Jesus hung out, approaching me when I invited him to. Peggy and 1 had already met. When we first met, I claimed I wanted just to be friends. I may have been still pretending on may have admitted we were “dating”. I can’t remember for sure. 1 do remember I was still scared to death I’d lose Cod’s love if I entered a gay relationship, even a committed, long-term, loving relationship.

One day, during visualization, Jesus and I were walking beside the brook, my right hand in his left. There were wildflowers of all shades in the meadow, across the brook to our left. We came to a grove of very tall, white-barked trees on our right. I had never seen them in the meadow before. There was someone high up in one of the trees, who began climbing down. He? She? walked toward us. It was Peggy. How nice! Jesus took her left hand in his right, we continued to walk beside the clear-running, cold, chattering brook. How lovely! Friends in Christ! As we kept walking, Jesus gently placed Peggy’s hand in mine and my hand in Peggy’s. He stopped and stood on that spot. He watched us with affection and approval as we continued together, hand-in-hand, taking in the beauty of creation and the beauty of loving another human being.

When in “real life”, I told Peggy about this visualization, she told me about the trees (sycamore?) in MillerPark across from her childhood home. She used to play in the park and frequently climbed those trees. I can’t remember whether at that point Peggy had already driven me by her childhood home, where her mom still lived, or not, or even if I might have met her mom and dad. Whether we had driven by or not, gone in or not, I had not consciously noticed those beautiful trees. And I certainly didn’t know Peggy had been a tree climber as a kid. I took this visualization as an indication that Jesus approved of Peggy and me as a couple. I took the fact that 1 had “seen” trees I hadn’t consciously noticed and Peggy’s tree climbing, which I didn’t know anything about, as, well, a “sign” from God.

The minister who led Peggy’s and my ritual to celebrate our love and our twenty-fifth anniversary, called this story a direct revelation of the truth from God.

Nan Knicely

Peggy Ryan

 

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Nan and Peggy’s Story

Kathy England: A Mother’s Story

“What do you think about homosexuality?” Nearly 20 years ago our then 18 year old son, Scott, posed this question during his college Christmas break. Having no real reason to think about it, I thought, I told him I did not understand the “choice” or “lifestyle”. Why would anyone want to be gay knowing how society might treat him — bashing, zero protection for housing or job selection, denial of many basic rights like serving one’s country in the military, lack of acceptance in most churches, or denial of freedom to marry and all the benefits that automatically come with that (i.e. joint insurance, filing joint tax returns, shared home or property ownership, next of kin healthcare decisions, to name but just a few of these benefits).

“When did you first choose to love men, and Dad in particular?” It was not a choice, I had just always been attracted to men, and it was part of who I was. “Same for me Mom, I just remember always feeling this way. It is not a choice.”

Dad’s response was clear and simple. “You are my son; I love you and support you just as you are.” While I echoed this, I needed to know and understand more. So I began to search for something to help me. I finally found a book, Beyond Acceptance, by a group of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) parents that began to help me understand we were not the only family struggling with so many questions. We found a local PFLAG chapter and began to feel the unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves as parents and for our son. The hardest part of Scott’s coming out was his clear statement about the church that he had grown up in. “The church does not want me as I am and I do not need the church.” Many times over the years as our church and so many others made hurtful, even hateful statements about gays, I tried to remind Scott that the church is people and that God did not reject him, He continued to love and care for him. God made him as he was and must surely continue to love His child, even as Dad and I did. This has been a long hard struggle for Scott, but today he has found a church that loves and accepts him as he is. He is active on the church council, the outreach committee and has taught Sunday school for more than six years. His church has blessed his union with Kelly, as have both families.

Today he is a pediatric Intensive Care RN, respected by his peers, honored by his employer, Children’s MercyHospital in Kansas City, loved and respected by his church and active in the gay community (he testified for the passage of Kansas City’s Protection and Support of Domestic Partners Bill). Scott and Kelly sing openly and proudly in the Heartland Men’s Chorus that always brings not only a great musical presence, but a strong and positive message to each concert.

Twenty years ago I knew I loved my son just as he was. Today, I have come to know and love so many in “the gay community” that I might never have known except through our journey with other PFLAG parents.and their children and friends.

We will continue to work with other reconciling United Methodists for acceptance and full inclusion in our church for all of our children and friends. Indeed, we look forward to the day when all of our churches not only speak about but fully embrace the vision of Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors. This is not an easy task, but a loving challenge by God to live His unconditional love that we all enjoy as His children.

 

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Kathy England: A Mother’s Story

Rev. Don Marsh: Haven’t We Come a Long Way?!

My story is not one of coming out, but of finding out. Having grown up in a time (born in 1924) and place (rural Nebraska) where the issue of homosexuality was unspoken and not described in home, church, school or community. Having served during World War II in the U.S. Army (1944-1946), when its policy on homosexuality was basically “Don’t ask, don’t care, don’t even think about it,” and having graduated from seminary with nary a serious in-class discussion of how to deal with the issue, I was ill-prepared to cope with it in my early ministry — more than I knew! I tried to be open and nonjudgmental in my counseling style, but I had little real comprehension of the depth of pain and sense of exclusion involved.

Then, while at Hanscom Park Church in Omaha (late 1960”s, early 70’s), I helped establish and served as an anonymous volunteer telephone responder for Omaha’s first telephone HELP-Line—long before the 911 emergency system was established. For seven years, my weekly on-call schedule was from 11 p.m. Friday to 7:00 a.m. Saturday—a time when parties happened, inhibitions faded, rash deeds and thoughts occurred, with guilt and fear crashing in. We kept a tally of our calls, not by name but by situation. Over those seven years, an average of two out of seven of the cries for help on my shift came from callers, mostly men, wrestling with their homosexuality. Among those who were high-risk for suicide, the percentage was even higher. The church? That’s the last place they’d think of for help—some after bitter trials. Moving right along…

After I retired in 1990, I volunteered for seven years with the Nebraska Aids Project in Lincoln. Following training, I was assigned as an AIDS-Buddy. That was when AIDS was a dark, burgeoning epidemic,. Positive diagnosis was tantamount to a death sentence, Several of my Buddies, all gay, died—some as prison inmates. Many of our AIDS buddies were estranged from their families, and especially from their churches. Some religious leaders called AIDS God’s punishment for the sin of being gay. I conducted a dozen funerals for AIDS victims. Most had grown up “in the church,” but felt cast out. Parents estranged from their sons for years because they were gay were often reconciled at the AIDS deathbed, crying softly in their sorrow at having wasted years in separation. As to the church, most of my AIDS Buddies in Lincoln and those desperate HELP-Line callers in Omaha shared a sense of utter abandonment. The church has come a long way in the last half- century, haven’t we? Haven’t we?

 

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Rev. Don Marsh: Haven’t We Come a Long Way?!

Foreword to Stories of Sacred Worth

Stories of Sacred Worth

Foreword

By Phyllis Burrows

I am very proud to have been chosen to put this book together.  I am straight but I do have a story that explains why I care so much for all diverse people, especially the gays and lesbians that we lovingly accept in our church family.

When I was about eight years old, we had a neighbor who was a woman, but she always had her hair cut like a man’s and wore men’s suits and ties, etc.  She was a really nice person, but I couldn’t understand why she dressed as she did.  One day I asked my mother if she knew the answer.

Mama took me into the living room and had me sit down on the sofa.  She told me she wanted me to listen carefully to what she said, and to remember it all my life.

She told me that Jeanette was a very nice woman, but she was different in some ways.  She explained that she was attracted to women just as Mama was attracted to my father who was a man.  She said that was a God Given attraction, and that there were also men who were attracted to men, and that they were living as they were supposed to live.  She told me to continue to like Jeanette, and to respect her and anyone else I would meet whose life was the same.

That was a very long time ago, but I have remembered my mother’s kind words regarding our neighbor, and have always respected any GLBTs I have met.  FUMC is a truly outstanding church family, and I am proud to be a member.  This booklet is a tribute to everyone who has the courage to live their God-Given Attraction.

 

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Foreword to Stories of Sacred Worth

Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society

Some readers may recall that one of my brothers responded during the family discussion by mention of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society.  In the next preceding post, His Spirit Is Crying Out and Yearning, the reader will hopefully recognize that the issues of homosexuality and transsexuality, when considered in the light of actual lives, aren’t so easily identified or judged.

Why do I juxtapose these two statements?   Because Niebuhr understood that one cannot do theology in the abstract.  His prayer, known as the Serenity Prayer, has been an inspiration for those confronting addictions based upon 12 Step programs.   It recognizes that when one “does theology” in the flesh, one must struggle “to know the difference” between what we can change and what we cannot change.  He has been cited by both extremes of the political and religious spectrum and all points between.  In the 2008 presidential election, he was quoted by both President Obama and Senator McCain.

For an excellent discussion of Niebuhr’s teaching and influence, particularly as relating to his book, Moral Man and Immoral Society , see http://www.onbeing.org/program/moral-man-and-immoral-society-rediscovering-reinhold-niebuhr/feature/five-conversations/2253.  That National Public Radio website describes Niebuhr’s contribution: “We explore the ideas and present-day relevance of 20th century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, an influential, boundary-crossing voice in American public life. Niebuhr created the term “Christian realism:” a middle path between religious idealism and arrogance.”

 

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Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society

8 Joann’s Reply

Dear
Rob,

I’m sure your friend Julian appreciates your friendship.  Of course he
should be welcome in the church.  The church is the body of Christ and the
pre-requisite to admission is a belief that Christ is the redeemer promised by
God and a desire to live as He taught and witness the fact to the world.
The church gives us communion with other believers and encourages us as we
worship, learn and share in each other’s lives.  Being composed of
imperfect people results in all kinds of imperfect behavior.  However, it
is blessed by Christ himself as we seek to worship truly and love as He loves.

It seems that the only examples of people being cast out of the early church
were those who professed Christian faith and lived arrogantly claiming they
were now free to do anything they wanted because they would be forgiven.
Obviously their focus was on themselves and not on pleasing God.

I’m not sure what you meant that Julian hasn’t been accepted into the
church.  Do they shun him?  Have they refused to let him
“join”?  Are they just rude?

Is it because some people think he is practicing homosexuality?  Even if
that were the case that is not a reason to not accept someone into your
fellowship.  However, the church has the responsibilty to give teaching
positions only to those who live as close to biblical teaching as
possible.  Julian’s genetic situation is not common but the situation of
his soul is common to all people.  We do all need to be forgiven and
changed. We all need to recognize that we are selfish creatures created by God
for communion with Him.  Christ came for the express purpose of making God
known to us and to substitute himself to pay the bill for our willful, sinful
core so we can be made like Him. So as Christians we know we are loved by God
and have the opportunity to accept Christ’s subsitution for our
wrongness.  I hope your friend knows the peace of God’s forgiveness and
love.

Have a great day.  Too bad we are separated by so many miles.  Love
to [your family],

Joann

 

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8 Joann’s Reply

6 Joann’s Reply

Hi again, Rob,

Just a quick response until later as I have company until Tuesday (unless I am up in the night).

Julian’s genetic code that results in confusing sexual identity is not his fault and just “is” as you said.  I believe you are right, his response to his situation is between him and God.  Practically speaking I would say that it seems better to live out the sex that is the most obvious but that is only opinion and I know people’s feelings about their sexual identity are a reflection of a lot of things.  I do believe that the scriptures are consistent in their condemnation of homosexual activity.  I do not believe it is a specially awful sin.  All sin separates us from God.  As far as trans-sexual identity and altering parts goes I don’t know the answer in his case.  That is why I focused on our relationship to God as persons primarily.  That is clear.  In regards to those who chose to change their sex who do not have ambiguous genes I do not think it is something that is necessarily approved by God just because the person feels different.  All the transsexual people I know were abused sexually as children… ALL of them.  The identity change choice is the way they deal with it.  Only God can change a person’s heart and heal the awful pain from abuse.  Just a few thoughts for now.

love, Joan

 

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6 Joann’s Reply