These next several posts will probably be the hardest ones I’ll ever write. Some of this still affects me and will continue to affect me long into the future. I am in no way disrespecting my church, my pastor, the elders, or the congregation. I love attending my church and uphold them to the highest regard. Unfortunately, I was hurt by my church — and this is my story . . .
Around this time, I was doing pretty good with my walk with Christ! I was reading my Bible daily, didn’t have any desire to hook up with anyone, made pretty good grades at my university, had a pretty good job, and was very involved in my church. Though I was still a bit shy and quiet, I made some friends through Renovate, my college-age ministry.
Some of my friends asked me if I was going to attend a thing at my church called the School of Ministry, or SOM, for short. SOM is a one-year Bible seminar for anyone wanting to go deeper in their faith. Think of it like this: a four-year Bible college education packed into one year. Very grueling and intense but, in the end, very rewarding.
I was very interested in attending because my older brother went a few years back, and he came out a different person. He was already a strong Christian, but once he attended SOM his faith grew even stronger.
I wanted to have that same experience, learning more about the Christian faith and the Bible.
I told my parents that I wanted to put my regular college studies on hold and attend SOM because I felt that’s what God was calling me to do. They were up for it and wanted me to attend this school, too. With the additional support of my friends, I applied to SOM and waited to be interviewed.
While waiting for the call, I remained very excited to attend the school. I kept telling my friends about the school, how my brother learned so much there, and how he taught my family and I more about the Bible.
During this time, I held my church to an incredibly high standard.
But on the other hand, I also heard that people, for various reasons, didn’t make it into the school because the head director didn’t feel like they’d been actually led to attend the school. This made me a bit worried about my chances, but that didn’t hinder my hopes of making it.
A few days passed, and I got the call; it was my time for my interview. I went to the interview both nervous and excited. This was gonna be my next chapter in life, and I was praying for God to tear me apart in a good way.
I walked into the office, sat down, and was greeted by two people from the school. They looked over my application and said everything looked good — except for one thing.
While filling out my application, I had to submit my testimony. I typed out my entire story and gave them an overview of my past, including my struggle with homosexuality, and my present-day life. I was naively optimistic that my testimony would get me in.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
One section in my testimony was of great concern for them. It was this: when I was going through puberty, I experimented with another kid younger than me. I didn’t know that it was wrong, and I explained that this experimentation only lasted a short while.
But the school wouldn’t have it.
They explained to me that my past behavior was close enough to being a pedophile. They didn’t want me to have someone from the church find out and use that part of my life as leverage to threaten me to do something I didn’t want to do, getting the church in big trouble, too.
On top of that, they told me that I could never attend SOM in the future, be around the youth, get a job at my church, or officially become a leader in any department at my church.
I was in shock upon hearing this news but stayed calm, and I agreed that I understood the circumstances. They shook my hand and said that they were sorry, and I left the office with my head held high.
By the time I walked down the hallway of my church, no one there, I burst into tears. Everything they said hit me like a ton of bricks.
How was I gonna tell my family that I didn’t make it? What was I gonna do with my life now? What would my future look like?
It felt like I was being spiritually disciplined by my church, yet it was evident that I wasn’t in habitual sin. I wasn’t sleeping around, I was doing great with my walk — and my church decided to discipline me over something that I did a long time ago! I knew something wasn’t right about the situation, yet I felt that I couldn’t say anything because these people had pastoral authority over me.
At least I was right about one thing: I was torn apart by this event!
But this was just the beginning.
Have you ever been hurt by your church? What happened, and how did you move forward?
* Photo courtesy Pietromassimo Pasqui, Creative Commons.