Should I stay or should I go? Being part of the church can feel difficult when you do not belong to the perceived majority. Women have their own struggles with the patriarchy and hierarchy which still exist in many areas of the church. Women who identify themselves as lesbian have the added burden of being true to themselves in a climate which often tries to dismiss them or treat them as somehow falling short of some ideal of ‘Christian/ biblical womanhood’. The dilemma is whether to work from within the church to bring the voices of lesbians to the notice of those in power; or whether to challenge the very system which renders us invisible and makes many of us desire to leave for more affirming pastures elsewhere.
But we are here at every level in the church, as lay people, clergy; married with children, single, in relationships with women, celibate. Lesbians exist in every congregation but are for the most part invisible. Our contributions to the church are worthy, acceptable, considerable and yet we are expected to not be hurt by endless references to happy families or by the constant covert and overt homophobia that prevails at every level in the church.
I am a Christian because another man fell in love with me. My whole life was transformed. We are still partners now after 23 years. From my teens onwards I knew I was gay. I had been confirmed and was in the church choir and enjoyed it enormously. No one ever preached about homosexuality but I sensed it was something the church condemned.
At 17, I was still too young to know that what the church thought and what God thought might be different. I couldn’t deny who I was, so I let go of God and spent 10 years feeling atheist and agnostic by turns. I said and did nothing to or with anybody.
And then John declared himself. We had been working together for a year. it had never crossed my mind that he was gay. We enjoyed each other’s company and spent time together. Eight months later I moved in with him.
He was a Christian for whom the question of ordination had been around and was to come to fruition a few years later. We talked about faith and he pushed Christian books my way. The moment of conversion was quite sudden. We were out walking on the Sussex Downs one afternoon. There was a small, isolated church on the route and I slipped inside. Quite unexpectedly, I found myself on my knees, praying. Seven years later I was ordained. When John fell in love with me I discovered, as if for the first time, what it meant to be loved, and I was suddenly able to respond to the love of God who opened his arms to me through John and welcomed me home.
Bradshaw, Timothy, Ed. The Way Forward? (Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church)
Coward, Colin, Ed. ‘The Other Way?’ (Anglican Lesbian and Gay journeys)
Germond, Paul and de Gruchy, Steve. Aliens in the Household of God (Homosexuality and Christian Faith in South Africa)
Glaser, Chris. Coming Out to God (Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, their Families and Friends)
John, Jeffrey. Permanent, Faithful, Stable (Christian Same-Sex Partnerships)
Stuart, Elizabeth. Daring to Speak Love’s Name (A Gay and Lesbian Prayer Book)
Vasey, Michael. Strangers and Friends (A New Exploration of Homosexuality and the Bible)