Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private facebook group for moms of lgbt kids

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Serendipitydodah for Moms was created as an extension of the Serendipitydodah blog. The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. The group was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,000 members. The space was specifically created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBT kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBT kids. In addition to providing a space for members to share info and support one another, a special guest is added each month for a few days. The guests include authors, pastors, LGBT people, bloggers and public speakers.

 

For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Learning & Growing Together #4 – Stages of Faith

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This “Learning & Growing Together” series includes posts I have shared in my private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The group, Serendipitydodah for Moms, is a place where moms of LGBTQ kids share a lot of support, information and encouragement … it is a place where moms of LGBTQ kids are learning and growing together with the purpose of developing and maintaining healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBTQ kids. One thing I love about the private Facebook group is we are all both teachers and students – we all learn from each other. I love that kind of community learning. The wisdom and insight is so rich. For more information about the group email me at lizdyer55@gmail.com

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Real life often leads us to look deeper and wider at the things we believe. As we begin to dismantle our beliefs, in order to understand what we believe and why, it often feels like we are losing our faith. The struggle to hang on to our faith can fill us with anxiety and fear. One of the things that was very helpful to me when I felt like my faith was slipping away was something called “The Stages of Faith” or “The Critical Journey.” Not only did it make sense, but more importantly it let me know I wasn’t alone. Knowing that there were others who would understand what I was experiencing, who I could share my questions and doubts with, who I could turn to for wisdom and insight relieved me of enough anxiety to forge ahead into the process of deconstruction so that I could eventually start to rebuild a life of faith that was simple enough to be sustainable but rich enough to be compelling.

Take a look at this helpful chart before you start reading as the following is the commentary for the chart.

This is a long read but if you are struggling with your faith this is definitely worth reading.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Commentary for The Stages of Faith:

The critical journey is composed of six stages.

The first three are primarily external; the second three, internal.

In the first three stages, our faith or our spirituality takes its expression most frequently in ways that are prescribed by external standards, whether by the Church, a specific spiritual leader, a book, or a set of principles… Stages 4 through 6 represent a difficult personal transformation and reemerging that require a rediscovery on a different level of what faith and spirituality are all about. These are inner healing stages (spiritually and psychologically) for which the journey cannot be prescribed.

The First Three Stages: The External Journey

Stage 1 “is the discovery and recognition of God”. Accepting the reality of God can begin while one is young, or it can occur later through a religious experience or conversion. This conversion can be instantaneous or can occur over a long period of time.

Our first experience of God is wonderful and refreshing in its newness.

Regardless of our age, however, it seems true that most begin the journey in a childlike way. We come to it with innocence and freshness which is seldom ever again as vivid or vital. Consider the way we feel during the first stage of a romance or new friendship. Swept away by the experience of the relationship, we do not look at any of the negative aspects.

Stage 2 is “a time of learning and belonging” labeled “the life of discipleship”. This stage primarily involves learning in a community setting from spiritual leaders or religious writings. “Now, we stumble upon a set of ideas, a belief system or a group of people who show us the light and answer our questions. It is such a big relief and feels so safe and secure – like a haven in a storm. And for now, that is what we need.”

Stage 3 is “the productive life” and involves consciously serving God through one’s spiritual gifts. The truths learned at stage 2 find an outlet in service at stage 3.

Most evangelical models of Christian growth stop here. The implication is that the pinnacle of Christian maturity is faithful, committed service (usually in the context of a church). The most committed people serve professionally in the church. However, it is obvious that a person can arrive at this stage and still be self-serving, legalistic, immature, and inwardly unhealed. Christian service is not the best determiner of spiritual maturity. This is the value of Hagberg and Guelich’s model. According to them, “the productive life” is important, but it is not the goal. Indeed, on the map of the Christian journey, those at this stage are only half-way there!

Stages 4 – The Inward Journey

Stage 4: The Journey Inward Stage 4 is “the journey inward” – “a deep and very personal inward journey” that “almost always comes as an unsettling experience yet results in healing for those who continue through it”. In this stage, our former views of God are radically challenged. The disruption can be so great that we feel like we are losing our faith or betraying loyalties.

At this stage, many face an abrupt change to almost the opposite mode. It’s a mode of questioning, exploring, falling apart, doubting, dancing around the real issues, sinking in uncertainty, and indulging in self-centeredness. We often look hopeless to those around us.

The move from stage 3 to 4 is most often precipitated by a crisis in our life or our faith. That crisis makes many of the former truths and answers inadequate or inappropriate for the next phase in the journey.

The crisis “shakes our strongly held beliefs or assumptions and we feel adrift on a restless sea, fending for ourselves. Our sense of God is shaken and we can find no new direction, only more questions”.

The crisis shocks our system. We lose comfort and question our convictions as our previous faith-supports crumble before our very eyes.

For the first time, our faith does not seem to work. We feel remote, immobilized, unsuccessful, hurt, ashamed, or reprehensible. Neither our faith nor God provides what we need to sooth us, heal us, answer our prayers, fulfill our wishes, change our circumstances, or solve our problems. Our formula of faith, whatever that may have been, does not work any more, or so it appears.

Why does advancing to this stage usually demand a crisis? The reason is simple: No one would choose this kind of experience on their own!

Most of us are so comfortable and self-sufficient at the previous stage (called the productive or fruitful life) that we have no natural tendency to move at all. In fact, stage 4 does not even look like part of the journey for those of us at home in stage 3. It does not appear to be an extension of our faith and growth.Consequently, we are not drawn in this direction.

Our aversion to stage 4 is increased because of the very real dangers that accompany this stage. “Sometimes people drop off the journey totally at this point. Overwhelmed by pain or crises in our lives, we absolutely cut ourselves off from God”.

The end of stage 4 involves an experience of “the Wall” – “a face-to-face experience with God and with our own will”. It is impossible to go over, around, or under the Wall. One can only go through it. “The Wall experience is the place where… psychology and spirituality converge. Up to this point, one can be religious, spiritual, or fruitful and not be healed psychologically, or vice versa”.

At the Wall, we become “aware of all the lies we have accepted about ourselves”. We are forced to “face the truth” in order to move forward. “The Wall invites us to integrate our spiritual selves with the rest of us. And that involves facing our own and others’ demons. We must face that which we fear the most, and that is why it is so unsavory, and why so many people only enter the Wall under duress”.

Only through self-acceptance and surrender to God’s will can one go “through” the Wall to deeper levels of spiritual growth. “The power behind the transformation at the Wall is this: learn to embrace your whole story with loving, forgiving detachment”. We must accept ourselves with all our wounds and imperfections. We must experience God’s love and acceptance of us as we are in all our weakness and humanness. And then we must fully and completely surrender to God’s will, even though we remain in the dark.

If the description of the experience of the Wall and the solution to the challenges it provokes seems ambiguous, it is intended to be. The authors are aware of the great amount of mystery that surrounds this point of the Christian journey.

So the mystery of the Wall remains a mystery. We sit in awe of the process of surrendering and going through the Wall. But, as we emerge, we are able to move along on our journeys with much less clarity about the direction and much more assurance of not having to be in charge of our lives. We are being transformed, turned inside out.

Surprisingly, through doubts and difficulties we come to know God and ourselves better. Communicating this stage to others who have not experienced it is difficult. People at stage 1 can’t imagine such an experience. Those at stage 2 view it as a lack of conviction. Believers at stage 3 wonder whether we have become apostate altogether. It is hard for those at previous stages to recognize that doubt is not disbelief – doubt is faith taking itself seriously. Willfulness, not doubt, is the opposite of faith.

The Journey Outward Again: Stage Five and Stage Six

Stage 5 is “the journey outward” where our “focus is outward, but from a new, grounded center of ourselves”. At this stage, “we surrender to God’s will to fully direct our lives, but with our eyes wide open, aware but unafraid of the consequences”. We possess a new-found confidence that God loves us fully, just as we are. “There is a human tendency to think that if God really knew us God would not love us… At stage 5 we grow into the full awareness that God truly loves us even though we are never fully whole. God loves us in our humanness”.

With newfound inward resources, we “venture outside our self-interests to others”. We are weak, but whole. Aware of our faults, we are confident that God will work through us.

Wholeness looks a lot like weakness at this stage. Wholeness does not make us stronger; it allows God to work through our weaknesses. Wholeness means being very aware of our faults but not letting them trip us… God can use us most in our brokenness, a truth that was very hard to accept until the Wall experience.

To those still at earlier stages, we appear impractical, inefficient, and out of touch.

Frequently, we appear to be impractical and out of touch with reality. The way the world functions around us, people who are other directed, whole, selfless, and called by God are counterculture. When we love people despite their having failed miserably in our society for whatever reason, we are called naïve; when we stay with the grieving, we are considered caretakers; when we give money away, we are considered poor managers; when we yield, we are considered noncompetitive; when we let go, we are considered weak. We just do not fit with the realistic expectations of a world that is out to be productive and to win.Even the productive Christians at earlier stages in the journey think we at stage 5 have lost our edge…

At stage 5 we are not as oriented toward productivity with outward signs or products. Consequently, we appear less productive and slightly isolated. We are in fact quite active. But we have a tendency to do things behind the scenes or on a one-to-one basis. We never realize that we are hardly noticed. This style can be very confusing and even frustrating for those who want us to be leaders in the more traditional way.

Stage 6 is “the life of love” where God’s love is demonstrated through us “to others in the world more clearly and consistently than we ever thought possible”. By losing ourselves, we find ourselves. God’s presence is experienced in all relationships.

Our times alone with God come during the quiet times away as well as in the everyday, unceasing conversations. We have little ambition for being well known, rich, successful, noteworthy, goal-oriented, or “spiritual”… We are Spirit-filled but in a quiet, unassuming way.

We love with great compassion modeled after God’s love. We live with less and delight in doing menial tasks.

At stage 6 we can reach far beyond our own capacity and love our fellow human beings with deep compassion, because we know that all come from and are loved by God. As Jesus was compassionate even in Gethsemane, at his trial, and on the cross, so we are compassionate under extreme hardship…

At stage 6 we become aware that the more of God we have, the less of everything else we need. We do not renounce material possession. We simply learn to need them less; we become detached from things and people as props or bolstering devices…

We are full of surprises because we are so free, so full of God, and so whole. We can say or do preposterous things because we are not afraid of death. We can deliberately give up our lives, materially, physically, mentally, and emotionally for the service of others without feeling afraid of the deep loss.

Our expression of love is selfless rather than needy. We love without the need to be loved in return. We passionately love others in a dispassionate (disinterested, detached) way. We are not egocentric (self-centered), but theocentric (God-centered), christocentric (Christ-centered), and eccentric (others-centered). We love others, not for our sake, but for their own sake; not with our goodness in mind, but with their goodness in mind.

Having shed the false self – no longer rooted in possessions, accomplishments, and human acceptance – we embrace our true self, that of being eternally and fully loved by God.

Insights from the Six-Stage Model:

Embracing Hagberg and Guelich’s six-stage model sheds light on the Christian journey.

It demonstrates that: The stages are normal. For those who are unfamiliar with the normalcy of stage 4 in Christian experience, their newfound doubts feel like an abandonment of faith rather than faith’s rediscovery and enriching. A faith-map that helps them see this as a normal and necessary step along the way to the life of love is priceless.

Growth is painful. Ask any person who is currently transitioning between childhood and adolescence and he or she will affirm this wholeheartedly. Growth comes at a price. It involves more than enthusiasm. It involves commitment, determination, and perseverance. Although we may desire to grow rapidly, our awareness of the difficulty involved in the transition from one stage to another should curb our desires to move ahead too quickly.

After reading about the stages on the journey, you may find yourself wanting to move because it looks better or will move you further along on the journey. This for many is a natural response, especially at stages 2 and 3. But look at some of the consequences. Moving from one stage to another always causes confusion. We are in a time of limbo between two stages. We may find it exhilarating and exhausting. Nothing seems certain. Something undefined lies ahead. Frequently, the move means loneliness, and can be very upsetting… though the change may be welcomed, it leads over an emotionally rocky road.

Maturity takes time and experience. There is no quick fix to spiritual maturity. There is no silver bullet to a deep, intimate relationship with God. Instant intimacy is an oxymoron. Just as in any human relationship, deeper trust and intimacy only comes through trials, struggles, and periods of doubt. The “critical journey” proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that real growth only comes through the crucible of suffering.

A Higher Call Than Service:

Most, if not all, contemporary evangelical models of growth climax at stage 3. For example, the “Purpose Driven Church” model assumes that a person is spiritually mature when they are part of the “committed core” – serving in and through the church according to their gifts.

But it is entirely possible (and indeed, quite probable) that many people minister for selfish reasons. Church activity is not an indicator of maturity. Busyness in church activities does not automatically lead to spiritual growth.

The church primarily focuses on stages 1 through 3 because the contemporary church is best equipped for these stages.

The church is generally best at working with people in stages 1 through 3, so the fact that the highest number of people is in stage 2 fits with how the church sees itself. It does raise some issues through, as to what and how the church relates to people beyond stage 3. So many people leave the church when they experience stage 4 or the Wall, since there are few resources or programs available for them, and they feel estranged when the faith they held dear does not work for them any more.

In his book, Exit Interviews, William D. Hendricks demonstrates that most of the dechurched (those who formerly attended or even served in a local church but have since left church-life altogether) have not lost faith in God. They have lost faith in the church. They have “grown disillusioned with the church and other institutions of Christianity” and have “lost the energy and enthusiasm they once had for programs of spiritual development.” Consequently, they “are now looking elsewhere to meet their deepest spiritual needs”.

The dechurched leave primarily because they are disillusioned with the church. They claim it is not “spiritual” enough – that it is stunting their growth.

Perhaps we should take their criticism seriously. Maybe the dechurched have exposed a very real weak spot in many evangelical churches – a stunted model of spiritual formation that leaves little room for questions, doubts, and rediscovery. Could it be that the stunted growth of the evangelical church comes from a stunted model of spiritual formation?

 

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group created as an extension of the Serendipitydodah blog. The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. The group was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,600 members. The space was specifically created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBTQ kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBTQ kids. In addition to providing a space for members to share info and support one another, a special guest is added each month for a few days. The guests include authors, pastors, LGBTQ people, bloggers and public speakers.

For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 

 

Free Mom Hugs Tour

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I have a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. We have more than 1,600 moms in the group. The group was especially created for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids who want to develop and maintain loving, healthy, authentic relationships with their kids. One of the bonuses of the group is that many of the moms become passionate advocates for all LGBTQ people. Sara Cunningham and Laura Beth Taylor are two of those moms! They are both passionate LGBTQ advocates who pour their hearts into working to make the world a kinder, safer place for all LGBTQ people to live and this spring they plan to hit the road and take their love and support for LGBTQ people across the country and they are calling it the “Free Mom Hugs Tour.”

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photos by Taylor Elaine

I’m really excited about the Free Mom Hugs Tour that Sara Cunningham and Laura Beth Taylor are putting together!!!

Their adventure will begin in Oklahoma City and end up in New York City on Mother’s Day near the historic Stonewall Inn. Along the way they will stop at 10 cities where they will meet with local community leaders at a planned luncheon to discuss the necessity and value of supporting the LGBTQ community. Following each luncheon they will march through an area of each city with the Free Mom Hugs banner.

The purpose of the tour is to demonstrate what love and support for the LGBTQ community can look like and educate community leaders about the unnecessary risks LGBTQ children, youth and young adults face on a daily basis.

Sara and Laura put out a press release this week and it has lots more details.

Please share it if you can!!

PRESS RELEASE:

Oklahoma City, OK – On May 1, 2017, the first ever “Free Mom Hugs Tour” will launch in Oklahoma City, making its way through 10 cities and wrapping up near the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City on Mother’s Day.
 
The purpose of the Tour is to reassure the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) community that they are valued and loved, and to raise awareness of their dignity and worth.
 
The Free Mom Hugs Tour is the brainchild of two mothers of LGBTQ children: Sara Cunningham of Oklahoma City and Laura Beth Taylor of Dayton, Tenn. Cunningham, the parent of a gay man and author of How We Sleep at Night, is a well-known advocate for participating in PRIDE events, carrying her “Free Mom Hugs” banner. When she reached out to Taylor, a transwoman who is the parent of LGBTQ children and author of Shattering Masks, the plan took shape.
 
“This isn’t a march; we’re not setting out to protest something, but rather to attest that all people – regardless of the margins in which they find themselves – are deserving of love, dignity and compassion,” Taylor explains. “Our goal is to express that in each city we visit as we encourage others to do so, too. It’s a simple exercise of loving our neighbors,” she adds.
 
Cunningham notes, “Every time I’m out with the banner, I meet more youth and young adults who need reassurance that they are not alone, that there are people who love and support them. I also meet parents who need to be encouraged on their path of loving and accepting their LGBTQ kids. That’s the message we will carry along with our banner.”
 
The event will include a luncheon for civic and faith leaders in each community along the Tour, followed by carrying the Free Mom Hugs banner through an area. Cities on the Tour include May 1 – Oklahoma City, Okla.; May 2 – Tulsa, Okla.; May 4 – Kansas City, Mo.; May 5 — St. Louis, Mo.; May 6 – Indianapolis, Ind.; May 8 – Cincinnati, Ohio; May 9 – Columbus, Ohio; May 11 – Pittsburgh, Pa.; and May 13 – Philadelphia, Pa. The Tour culminates in New York City on May 14, which is Mother’s Day, near the historic Stonewall Inn, considered by many to be the birthplace of the LGBTQ equality movement. Subsequent annual Tours will conclude on Mother’s Day at other landmarks significant in the history of the LGBTQ equality movement.
 
The overall rate of homelessness and suicide in the LGBTQ community is nearly 10 times the rate of the general population, according to the CDC. Furthermore, it is estimated that 25 percent of LGBTQ youth who come out in religious circles are immediately turned away by their families. The Free Mom Hugs Tour will demonstrate what love and support can look like and educate community leaders about the unnecessary risks LGBTQ children, youth and young adults face on a daily basis.
 

For more information:

Sara Cunningham sara@sophiasojourn.com 405-473-2913
 
Laura Beth Taylor laurabeth@sophiasojourn.com 817-676-2739
 

Mama Bear Story Project #8 – Maria De Santis

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

MD

It was at a family dinner for my son – who had just come home from a holiday overseas – that it all happened. Before he left he had told me “I need to go away and find myself”. I gave him my blessing and told him I would always be here for him.

During dinner my son took me aside and expressed he wanted to share something very important with me and he hoped I would still love him and respect him as I had for the past thirty-six years.

I felt uneasy. Did something terrible happen to him while he was away? I knew that whatever trouble he was in I would support him because he was my son.

The words I was about to hear next were to change my life as I knew it. “Mum” he said “I’m gay. I cannot hide this anymore, I cannot live this lie any longer”.

It seemed like an eternity before I was able to comprehend what he had told me. My first thoughts were about me and I wondered what had I done wrong to have a gay son?

I cannot describe the overwhelming shame I felt as my mind was rushing to process the information I had just been given. Minutes earlier I had told myself that whatever was wrong I would support him because he is my son.

But all that changed when I heard the word “homosexual”.

How could he do that to me? How could he hurt me like this? How could I face anyone? How could I live with the shame of having a gay son? That only happens to other people, it can’t be true!

The next time I saw my son I was still in shock and drained of all “motherly” feelings. I could not face him or be in the same room as him.

He pleaded with me to say something. All I remember is saying words that I now and forever will regret – words that were full of rejection and shame.

I questioned later what kind of mother am I? How could I turn my back on my own flesh and blood?

If I had known from conception that he was gay, would I have felt differently towards him the first time I held him in my arms? Would I have not comforted him when he was hurt or sick or not told him how much I loved him?

Sure it was a shock – no parent wants to hear that their child is gay. But if we as parents don’t love, support, nurture and accept and respect our gay children, how can we expect society to accept and respect them for who they are?

They are the same wonderful loving children that they were when they trusted us and felt safe enough to emerge as their real selves with their dignity.

To say it has been easy for me would be a lie. It has been a painful journey, one of great discovery and new challenges. I have learned that to move forward can bring much pain, but with it comes a new understanding of ourselves and of our children.

I have learned to look at my son through the eyes of a mother who is warm, loving and humble. His sexuality is only one part of who he is and of all the wonderful qualities that he carries within. We have been able to heal from the wounds I caused with my initial reaction. My son has forgiven me and I am so grateful to him for his forgiveness.

I want to reach out to as many families as possible to tell you that it does get better and that there is life after “coming out”.

You are not alone – we are all traveling the same journey with our gay children.

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,600 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Stories That Change The World #34 – Undercover Mama Bear

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Stories have the power to change the world … they inspire us, teach us, connect us. This is the thirty-fourth installment in the “Stories That Change The World” series.

I have a private Facebook group for moms of LGBT kids. We have more than 1,600 moms in the group. The group was especially created for open minded Christian moms of LGBT kids who want to develop and maintain loving, healthy, authentic relationships with their kids. Our unofficial nickname is Mama Bears because are both cuddly and fierce when it comes to loving and protecting our kids.

One of the bonuses of the group is that many of the moms become LGBT advocates and pour their hearts into working to make the world a kinder, safer place for all LGBT people to live.

Janie Romine is one of those Mama Bears.

Janie recently went undercover in order to help a reporter from ABC news investigate conversion therapy camps for LGBT youth. She was recruited by ABC News and the work she did helped create a documentary that aired on 20/20.  The documentary exposed horrific abuse and torture of LGBT youth that takes place at these camps.

I asked Janie to share, in her own words, what she discovered while doing the undercover work and pretending to be a mother who was considering sending her son to the camp.

Janie

“Parents cannot visit once their kids are enrolled. All correspondence and communication is monitored and censored.

It’s a money making venture so just like privatized prisons there is no incentive for a quick turnaround. The minimum commitment is 2 years. One boy had been there since he was 12, turned 18 the week after we were there and was being put out since his family didn’t want him back.

The Bible and the belt were what Brother Gary said he used to get the kids on the right track. However there was a room without windows at the top of the stairs that we weren’t allowed to enter and I suspect it was used for isolation, perhaps even more than that.

The tuition is $1,750/month and the families must supply suits and ties and work clothes as the boys grow.

Sending birthday gifts and Christmas gifts aren’t allowed. Only cash or gift cards can be sent and I suspect those are never given to the boys.

I wasn’t aware at the time that Brother Gary had a criminal past but I was also not surprised. I don’t believe he had any credentials or a college degree. I believe he was a self professed pastor.

Because he operates under the guise of being a church facility his income (which exceeds $500k annually) is tax free.

There is always a waiting list – because that many parents are that messed up.

Because parents keep sending their kids to him and the money keeps pouring in, Brother Gary believes God is endorsing his work.

The kids at the camp are made to work 16 hour days, 7 days a week.

Brother Gary informed us the kids go to school 4 hours a day, which he said was “mostly the Bible and a little math” and claimed the state considers his teaching as complete and transferable. They get Jesus and Geometry.

The kids are basically trained to be manual laborers. They have no exposure to the arts or science or anything in the outside world. There are no phones or internet or cable tv. They are literally held as prisoners by people who appear to be religious zealots but may be nothing more than people using religion as a weapon for their own pleasure and personal gain.

Surely Jesus weeps.” – Janie Romine

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The fact that camps like this exist is horrifying and disturbing. It is hard to read Janie’s description but it is something that needs to be known.

I was glad to hear that one of the so called pastors was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison, but, I think it is important to point out that there would not be a market for these camps if churches did not teach that all same sex relationships are sinful.

As long as we have churches, Christian leaders and Christian organizations teaching that the bible condemns all same sex relationships there will be Christian parents looking for a way to “help” their kids.

So, in conclusion, I want to include a list of people who I consider to be indirectly responsible for the torture and abuse that go on at these camps. These people have a lot of influence and many Christian parents listen to what they teach. I personally hold them responsible for the pain and suffering that so many LGBT youth endure. No matter how kindly or lovingly the message is delivered it is damaging and leads parents to harm the children that they love and cherish.

Franklin Graham

Tony Perkins

James Dobson

Robert Jeffress

Anne Paulk

Michael Brown

Janet Parshall

Greg Laurie

Al Mohler

John Piper

Jim Daly

Roger Jimenez

David Lane

Jerry Fallwell, Jr.

And any other pastor, Christian leader, church or Christian organization that holds the position that all same sex relationships are sinful.

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group created as an extension of the Serendipitydodah blog. The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. The group was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,400 members. The space was specifically created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBT kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBT kids.

For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 

 

 

Mama Bear Story Project #7 – Dana Huntington-Smith

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

DanaHuntington-Smith1

My first-born son, Conner, came into this world with big blue eyes that took in everything.  Every early picture we have of him is of his big eyes looking at the world and taking it all in.  Even as a toddler, he wasn’t one to rush into a room of other toddlers; he would stand at the door and watch the activity before deciding where to go first.  Around the age of three, we began seeing signs that were more on the artistic side.  He liked basketball and hitting the baseball, but he would rather sit and play quietly or color.  He didn’t like loud noises or rough housing.  My parents made comments then about him possibly being gay, but who worries about that when their child is a toddler?  I pushed it to the back of my mind.

We enrolled Conner in Kindergarten at a small, neighborhood Christian School.  It was an Evangelical Methodist School and I didn’t think much of it.  I knew it was more of a conservative faith than what I had previously attended, but it didn’t raise any red flags.  (If only I knew now what I was so innocent of then!) Everyone was very welcoming and friendly, and I thought we were very lucky to live so close to such a wonderful, private, Christian school.  After my youngest entered the First grade, I began working as a substitute teacher at the school.  A couple of years later, I began working as a Teaching Aide, and then as a Teacher.  Around the time Conner began 8th grade, we started attending the church at the school so that I could take a teaching position there.

I thoroughly enjoyed teaching at the school, but wasn’t altogether comfortable with some of the Bible lessons that were in the curriculum. I’ll never forget one story was about a young boy in Africa that had never heard about God, but because he couldn’t see the glory of God all around him and accept God as his Savior, he was going to Hell. One wide-eyed student asked me if that was true.  I felt deep inside my heart that it was most certainly not true, but I just nodded.  I’ll never forget the look on her face.  It was as if I told her that her parents were not really her parents.  All of the wonderful attributes she believed about God went out the window.  She now saw a God that was unforgiving and unfair.  It was at that moment that my faith in what this school and church believed was not what I believed about a loving God, but who was I to question what these Bible educated people said?  This was just one example of my faith in the school starting to crumble.

This is a legalistic, fundamental church.  I didn’t really understand what this meant in the beginning, but now I can tell you that it means following rules and judging those who don’t follow the rules!  I began contemplating leaving the church which meant leaving my job.  It just so happened that two weeks before Conner started 11th grade, he came out to me.  He had been really sick all summer, was depressed and cutting, and had many physical ailments that we came to believe were from Chronic Lyme Disease.  He was being treated with many medicines to combat this disease, and was seeing a Psychologist for the depression and cutting.  Having told the Psychologist that he is gay, he felt more confident giving me that answer when I asked him.  I had asked him if he was gay a couple of times in the past, to which he always denied.  One time, when he was in ninth grade (and dating a girl), he made an offhanded comment while riding in the car, that he once thought he was gay, but now he knew he wasn’t.  I think I grabbed on to that like a life raft.  I have a dear friend, who is gay, and I know the trials he has faced because of it, and I didn’t want my sweet son to have to endure any of those prejudices.  I know now that he was testing the waters to gauge my reaction.  What I should have said was, “It doesn’t matter if you’re gay.  You are who God made you to be, special in every way.”  I don’t remember saying anything heinous, but because I felt such relief, I let it go without further discussion.

In addition to Conner coming out, I received a call from the principal of the school about a week before school began, explaining that enrollment was low, and would I consider moving up to the high school building to teach computer classes?  Of course, I agreed and fervently read the computer manuals in preparation for the new school year with a very heavy heart.  I tried to convince Conner to change schools and not continue to go to a school where homosexuality was preached as a choice, a sin, and therefore, an abomination to God.  Conner wasn’t comfortable in new situations or with new people and decided that he would tough it out for the next two years.  He was a very good student with great grades, a member of the Honor Society, active in the plays, and never a discipline problem.  His teachers liked him because he was an easy student to teach, kind, and compassionate.  He didn’t have a lot of friends, just a couple of really good friends who were mostly girls.

Looking back, I see God’s hand in pulling us away from that church.  All at once, things started to unravel, but off into the new school year we went.  Conner’s symptoms of Lyme were debilitating at times; he had a hard time focusing on his work, getting the lowest grades he had ever had.  Some mornings, he couldn’t get out of bed.  His cutting became worse.  He would spend hours and hours on the computer.  Some days, he was so despondent, I couldn’t even get him to smile or engage in any kind of conversation. It was so hard to tell the difference between the symptoms of Lyme vs the symptoms of depression. How can someone not be depressed when they’ve been told for years throughout their childhood that if they have homosexual feelings they are an abomination to God?!   Since I had not taught in the high school, I hadn’t attended high school chapel.  Now, I attended chapel every week and was appalled at the amount of time spend condemning homosexual behavior.  Conner had confided in me about the other students at the school who were gay, but hadn’t told their parents.  It made me feel sick to my stomach knowing that these kids sitting in those pews hearing that God hates them!  And, maybe worse, was that the straight kids were basically given permission to stand up against those who are LGBTQ and tell them they are going to Hell.  The church is making bullies!

One sad day halfway through his 11th grade year, I was called into the principal’s office because of some rumors floating around about Conner.  He explained that Conner had made some comments about homosexuality not being a sin, and was wondering what was going on with him.  I told him that Conner was having some severe problems with depression, and that he had been struggling for some time with his sexuality, and that I was going to have pull him out of school to homeschool him. This being said, he offered to talk to Conner and show him in the Bible how he is not gay.  I thanked him, but quietly refused this help.  I had hit the internet hard when Conner came out to us.  I read the horror stories about reparative therapy and wasn’t about to put my son through that.  The principal offered to keep Conner in the school’s system; that it was like he was still coming to school only I would be teaching him the lessons and turning in his work to his teachers.

Letting Conner stay home seemed to be a mistake.  Now that he didn’t have to interact at school, he seemed to become more depressed.  By the beginning of March, he had become so zombie-like, and had cut his knees so deeply that I took him right to the doctor.  While I sat in the exam room and watched him not even attempt to put on a good face for the doctor, I knew it was bad.  The doctor asked him if he was contemplating suicide.  Conner was honest and said he was.  Then she asked if he had a plan, and he said he did.  At that moment, she looked right at me and told me that he needed to be in a residential facility that day; that we couldn’t wait to get an appointment with a Psychiatrist.  She told me she would call ahead to the hospital and let them know we were coming.  She made me promise that I would go straight to the hospital.  After an excruciating week in a mental health facility, Conner was back home with us, but another devastating blow was just a week away.

My husband and I got summoned to the principal’s office again.  He informed us that a church member had found a Facebook page of Conner’s that had a picture of him with a “Hello Kitty” bow drawn in his hair and glitter on his cheeks.  Some of his FB friends had written things about how cute he looked, but because they had used the names of “Jesus” and “God” inappropriately in their sentences, and some other inappropriate words, it was found offensive to the principal.  At this point, I thought I was definitely going to Hell because, honestly, I didn’t really see anything wrong with the picture or the comments in the grand scheme of things.  For goodness sake, he wasn’t making plans to blow up the school, or making comments about hating people or wishing they were dead!  Such a total over-reaction!  I think I totally gave up on organized religion that day.  In addition, the principal said he had canvassed his fellow students who admitted they thought Conner was gay.  So now this is a witch hunt?! He informed us that Conner was no longer welcome at the school; that he couldn’t be associated with them.  He tried to soften this blow by telling us that if Conner were himself again, then he was welcome back to attend 12th grade.  My husband and I could only look at each other and shake our heads.  This is what Christians do when they don’t agree with someone; turn them away from the church?  Isn’t this when Christians should be reaching out to offer support and comfort?  Not once, as Conner was going through the treatment for Lyme Disease, or when he was expelled for being gay (not to mention he had not even acted on these feelings!), did the pastor of the church reach out to us.  Not one person, other than the principal, reached out to us.  It was like we had leprosy.  People who I thought were friends, now blatantly avoided me in the grocery store.  It was very hurtful, and it has been a shocking realization that you can’t count on all churched people to act like Christ just because they call themselves Christians.

So, now the despondency and severe depression turned into anger and raw determination.  He was angry at the school, angry at God, angry at the doctors, probably angry at us, although he never said that.  I marvel at his forgiveness for me every day.  My husband never thought being gay was a choice, but I was hoping against all odds that it was, and that he would choose not to be.  While I had spent the past 8 months reading everything I could on both sides of the homosexuality argument, and talking to people about their experiences, I had gone into the closet myself.  I hadn’t told anyone in the family.  I had told my closest friends just 2 months before.  Everyone thought Conner was in the residential facility for complications of the Lyme medicine.  I just wasn’t ready to combat the arguments.  I wanted to feel more confident in my beliefs before I had to defend them. After how we were treated by the Christian school and the non-involvement of the church “family”, I had definitely reassessed my beliefs.  I never believed homosexuals were going to Hell; the church could never make be believe that it was a good thing for any human to tell another they are going to Hell.  There is only one judge, and how many times does the Bible tell us not to judge, but to love?  So, when Conner was expelled from school, something inside of me exploded, and I began telling people.  It really was no surprise that our friends, who went to other churches, or our un-churched friends, didn’t hesitate to tell us how much they loved and supported us, and how much they loved Conner no matter what his sexuality is.  What a relief!  Our family was supportive as well, although there are some I still haven’t told because of their religious beliefs.

Conner decided not to finish school, but get his GED instead.  He passed this easily, even receiving a certificate for achieving such a high grade.  He began classes at the community college and won a part in the college play about people struggling with addictions and disabilities.  I think this really helped Conner flourish because of what he had been through.  In the meantime, the parents of the few friends he had at school refused to let them have any contact with Conner now.  It’s kind of comical looking back on it now.  The things that church people are best at are arranging meals for the sick members of the congregation, or for those who have lost a loved one.  I guess there’s nothing in the church manual about what to do if a church member is battling depression, or has come out as gay, because we never received any meals from the congregation, but when my mother passed away a few years prior, I was inundated with good meals for a week.

Now that Conner wasn’t allowed contact with his “live” friends, it was his internet friends that sustained him.  The fear that I had when he had spent so much time on the computer with people he didn’t know, was replaced with gratitude that he could find people who accepted him for the loving, caring, sweet person he is, without any care about his sexuality.

All of this was four years ago and I’m a changed person.  I still consider myself a Christian with a huge emphasis on Christ.  I will never judge anyone; I know too well what that feels like.  We all have a story and we all need to listen with a compassionate heart.  To all of you who are just going through this process, please know it will get better!  Conner is happy and has been in a relationship with a wonderful young man for 3 years.  I have surrounded myself with other moms of LGBTQ kids, walked in a PRIDE parade, and co-founded a local PFLAG group to help others navigate through these unchartered waters.  I will continue to fight for the rights of everyone with love, compassion, and understanding.  I’ve learned to love first and ask questions later.

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,500 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #6– Beth Wiggins Baswell

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

beth

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. I taught every group there was to teach, sang in the choir, worked tirelessly in the youth department, and truly believed in every pat answer we were given for the “whys” within Christianity. The most hurtful and shameful part is that I swallowed the beliefs about the “gay lifestyle” hook, line and sinker. I will grieve over that for the rest of my life because this belief came through in raising my own wonderful children, and I would give anything to take a GIANT eraser and erase every careless, painful thought, statement and word from their lives. I take some solace in knowing that now that I know better, I am doing better!!

I believed these teachings fervently and, therefore, refused to allow the questions in my heart to bubble up to the surface of my soul for so very long. I saw small things in our son that may or may not lead one to think their child is gay, but since he isn’t effeminate, I kept telling myself not to stereotype. I spoke with several youth ministers about my slight concerns but didn’t find much help or insight from them. Although they were called to work with our youth, they were typically uncomfortable discussing anything to do with sexuality. The advice I remember receiving was to pray over him and “this” will go away.  At home I continued to teach our children that homosexuality was wrong. If the subject came up on a television show or in a conversation I would take the opportunity to remind them. In my mind, I truly believed it was a choice.

As time went on, and our son entered college, I began to feel more uneasy about his lack of interest in dating and in girls in general. I felt something wasn’t right, but never once gave him a place of grace or mercy to lay his precious tortured soul. That still TEARS ME UP to write or say that —but it is the truth and I know it. UGH!!! Our son waited until he was 25 years old to tell us he was gay. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OLD to come to his CHRISTIAN mother who PRIDED herself on ALWAYS being able to talk to young people so easily. We didn’t blow a fuse, but as much as my husband and I had discussed this possibility, it still came as quite a blow. Ultimately, in our world, his coming out of the closet meant us going in. We totally shut down for a while and found each other crying in closets and walking the floors at night with broken hearts.

We found out our son was gay on November 5th 2011, and then he came home for a visit during the Christmas holidays. I have actually laughed about this with him recently, but at the time, I was so backwards when it came to this issue that I was trying to prepare my face in the airport for the moment our eyes would meet as he walked toward me in the terminal. I had promised myself if he walked towards me in a checkered Britney Spears outfit I would run towards him. LOL!! I laugh at myself and NOT at transgender people.  I was so uninformed at the time that I didn’t know the difference in gender identity and sexual orientation. I thought it was all one and the same. But when he walked off of the plane and towards me he was the same person I had always knows. He was still my very handsome 6’5″ chiseled bone structured son! He was that same ADORABLE PRECIOUS baby I was absolutely in love with from the moment he was placed in my arms. He was the same son who loved to aggravate and torture his sisters with his hilariously funny pranks. He was the same teenager who tried so desperately to find his place in this world. He was the young man who had endured a grueling schedule at a very demanding vocal program at a well-known School of the Arts. He was and IS an amazingly articulate, caring, funny, hard-working, intelligent and sensitive young man.

One night, when I was still trying hard to understand everything, he and I stayed up talking late into the night. At one point he looked at me with his penetratingly beautiful blue eyes and used two words that I have never heard him use in his entire life. He just doesn’t speak like this at all, but he frustratingly said, “Mom, if you suspected that I might be gay, why couldn’t you ever give me a place of ‘mercy or grace’ to share?” I still get cold chills when I remember that night because It wasn’t just my son speaking, but Jesus speaking through him in the only way HE knew I would ever be able to hear. From that very moment on, something began to change inside me and I began to read and study EVERYTHING I could put my hands on. Not conservative Christian literature where James Dobson says, this is a choice and has to do with the father/son relationship. Our son couldn’t have a father who loves him any more than my husband does; a father who took all of the children camping all by himself while I went back to college and even coached our son’s ball teams. There are differences in their personalities and they are not always interested in the same things, but I see MANY father/sons with different interests who aren’t gay. This theory makes no sense whatsoever and doesn’t account for single parents

As I began to study this topic, I learned that I had been VERY WRONG. I know there are people who haven’t experienced this journey with a person they are willing to die for who will continue to struggle with this issue because as much as it breaks my heart to say this, I am afraid, had I not been blessed with our son, I would still be that same person I was before–ugh! But I do have a son who is gay and it has helped me be free of that! As the majority of young people do, our son struggled with coming to terms with being gay. He NEVER CHOSE this–it’s who he is. I too am looking forward to finding a way to work with this type of ministry. It GRIEVES my heart to no end, but I want to make it very clear, that as I took this journey, there was an EVER ABIDING PRESENCE on every walk I took and every prayer I prayed. God gave me glimpses of Himself that I have never before seen. There are so many unanswered questions when it comes to Christianity, but there is one thing I KNOW with certainty … I KNOW that God LOVES all of HIS children and HIS heart aches when ours does.

Our son isn’t involved in church and my husband and I have found ourselves somewhat distant too lately. Why in the world would he want to go to a place where HE IS TURNED AWAY unless of course he denounces who he is, and why would his mother and father want to be in a place that would not accept our son for who he is—especially if, as some Christians believe, WE were the ones to make him gay? Many churches literally believe they have the right to turn one of God’s children away from GOD’S HOUSE! That is so very wrong and I believe there will be a day of reckoning over this!! How in the world are LGBT people supposed to come to know who Jesus is when they aren’t allowed on the membership roll? There is an ENTIRE generation of people running as fast as they can from knowing their creator because of Christians? WOW! I MISS church and never in a million years thought I would ever be anything but Baptist, but honestly, I just can’t do it anymore. We plan to look for a church where you can be made in any shape and fit in for the simple reason that we are all children of God.

One more thing, to all of you LGBT people, I ask your forgiveness from the deepest part of my heart, and I want you to know that I believe you are the BRAVEST most COURAGEOUS people in the world. You are here for a reason, and you have truly taught me how to LOVE, and for that I will be forever grateful.

** A recent update: We have found the most amazing Inclusive Progressive Christian Church, and this past Christmas, our son actually brought someone he is dating home for Christmas.  It was the BEST Christmas ever because for the first time, I was able to see my son sharing his life with someone rather than standing in the background while everybody else is coupled up. We are all different people and wouldn’t change our lives for anything. This journey has taught us all to LOVE BETTER. God is bigger than I ever dreamed and I have such a beautiful peace in my heart and soul.

 

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,500 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 

The Clobber Verses

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I have a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The group is called Serendipitydodah for Moms and was created in June 2014 for moms of LGBTQ kids. The group has more than 1,500 moms and is a place where a lot of support and information is shared. A simple, but thorough, explanation of the seven scriptures that are often referred to as “The Clobber Verses” is one of the most frequently requested resources. The following is from a booklet written by Janet Edmonds and is one of the best explanations of “The Clobber Verses” I have come across. Janet uses and sites well respected, credible resources to compose a concise, thorough, easy to understand explanation of these verses. One thing I especially like is the short summary that is included near the end as I find it very easy to share with others.

Please note that I am sharing this with Janet’s permission.

sfmhearts

 

An Analysis of the Seven Scriptures Often Referred to as “The Clobber Verses”

Some Christians believe the Bible tells us that homosexuals are sinners. The current trend of increased acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community is distressing to these Christians who sincerely want to follow the Bible. They feel it’s wrong to encourage homosexuals in any way because it would mean going against God’s Word. This is one of the main reasons some people have so much trouble accepting homosexuals. They are using the words that appear in the scriptures in the Bible, at face value, to condemn homosexuals. Does the Bible actually condemn caring, consensual homosexual relationships? What was the original intent of these laws, lessons and guidelines written in the Bible so long ago?

This booklet examines seven scripture passages sometimes quoted that appear to some individuals to take a negative view of homosexuality. The work of several authors will be used who have studied the Greek or Hebrew words that appeared in the original texts. In addition, these authors have taken into consideration the customs, beliefs, religions and cultures of the time the Bible was written, in order to explain the original intent of the authors, as they wrote the laws and stories of the Bible centuries ago.

When the Bible was written, the Hebrew culture basically ignored the concept of a loving, committed, adult, homosexual relationship. One author, James Brownson, has pointed out that the Bible is essentially silent in addressing the contemporary experience of a consensual, same sex relationship. (Brownson, pg. 41) In addition, the Bible doesn’t use any words that explicitly mean “homosexual”, nor does it specifically talk about rules concerning equal same-sex relationships. The question for us to answer is, what was the original intent of the ancient Jewish and early Christian authors who wrote the books of the Bible and how do these texts apply to homosexuals today?

The Bible is a living book and as Christians we can use the teachings of Jesus to help us interpret it. Author Adam Hamilton said that he believes it is acceptable to raise questions and to wrestle with the Bible when something in its teaching seems inconsistent with, among other things, the character of God revealed in Jesus Christ. (Hamilton, pg. 298) According to Jack Rogers, when we read the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry, we can see that both the Old and New Testaments command us to accept those who are different from ourselves. (Rogers, pg. 15) We should remember that Jesus was often challenged to interpret difficult questions concerning laws of the scriptures.

Jesus teaches us that loving each other is far more important than strictly following Jewish laws. He said that the first commandment is to love God and the second commandment is to love others as you love yourself. This booklet will give people who want to follow God’s Word in the Bible an opportunity to see that the Bible does not condemn consensual homosexual relationships. This information allows people to dig deeper than just the face value of the words of these texts in the Bible. Included here will be research, historical facts and insights about the Bible from various authors that may be surprising to some readers. As Christians we know that God is always working on us and that lessons for us can be revealed through reading the Bible.  It is often from reading the words of the Bible that we are taught how to be the best we can be, so that we can truly love our neighbor, as we follow Christ.

All of us can admit that through the centuries Christians have made changes in the way we interpret the Bible on some important issues, such as slavery, the role of women and food laws. Jack Rogers asks, “How could most Christians for more than 200 years accept slavery and the subordination of women with not a hint that there was any other view in the Bible?” (Rogers, pg. 17) He explains that in the case of slavery, society accepted a pervasive prejudice and read it back into Scripture, with tragic consequences for those to whom these verses were applied. (Rogers, pg. 18) The text of I Timothy 6:1 requires slaves to “consider their masters worthy of full respect”. (Other similar passages that support slavery are found in Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-24 and 1 Peter 2:18.) In the ancient world, slavery was a given, but in the modern world we recognize that the master-slave relationship is a violation of the gospel and of human rights. Concerning women, I Corinthians 14:34-35 states that “women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” The author of this passage, Paul, may have originally had a point to make, but today if we took this lesson to heart, where would our churches be? Women are often the backbone of the leadership in our modern churches. The contributions and importance of women pastors and women leaders in our society are impossible to ignore. We have certainly changed our attitudes and left behind this instruction by Paul. In reference to food habits, most Christians have decided not to observe the kosher laws found in the Old Testament pertaining to clean and unclean food. So there are rules and laws written in the Bible that we no longer follow. Our interpretations of the Bible can be changed.

Whether we realize it or not, we are each interpreting Scripture and making decisions as to how strictly to follow the laws in the Bible every day. Can we change the way we interpret scripture passages that appear to condemn homosexuality just as we were able to change our attitudes on slavery, women and food laws, despite the fact that some Bible passages appear to be to the contrary? What were the original authors trying to teach us? Are there other ways to interpret these scriptures rather than assuming we know what these words from so long ago mean for us today? Knowledge of the ancient culture which surrounded the original authors will certainly help us answer this question by shedding light on what these passages meant to their original audience.

Unfortunately, some of the writing here may be disturbing because by necessity it will focus on sexual relations. Many stories and parts of the Bible are disturbing, but we need to take a deeper look at these uncomfortable sections to learn what the Bible authors really meant and how this might allow us to compassionately interpret these scriptures for our lives today.

The Bible quotes are taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

A brief SUMMARY about each of the seven Scripture passages can be found near the end of this document.

Genesis 19:1-14 and 24-26

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the square.” 3 But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; 5 and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they replied, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down. 10 But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door. 12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city – bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up, get out of this place; for the LORD is about to destroy the city.”. . . 24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25 and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

This story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about hospitality and the social requirement of helping visitors. When reviewed carefully it becomes evident that it is not a story having anything to do with homosexuality. The men in the town decide to do one of the most inhospitable things possible – rape. It would be unlikely for all the men of Sodom to be homosexuals, so why would they want “to know” (the euphemism used in the Bible to mean sexual relations) the two foreigners/angels except to have forced sexual relations with them. In the Near East during ancient times (and today in wars occurring in Africa and the Middle East) soldiers commonly used homosexual rape as a way of humiliating their enemies. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 5, citing Greenberg, pgs. 130, 147) The soldiers wanted to break the spirit of their defeated enemies and “treat them like women” by raping them. The practice was not driven by sexual desire, but by brutality and hatred toward the enemy. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 5) The sin of Sodom is about hard-heartedness, abuse, insult to the traveler, and inhospitality to the needy (Helminiak, pg. 46), not about committed homosexual relationships that exist today.

One of the most disturbing parts of the story occurs when Lot offers his two daughters “who have not known a man,” to the town crowd. The story assumes that Lot is expected by societal norms to keep the visitors safe and that they have priority over his own daughters. Lot’s offer makes graphically clear the value of women, relative to men, in that culture. In this story women are not protected, and women become the means by which men are protected. (deGroot, pg. 22; Dwyer, pg. 8) In addition, if the men of the town were homosexuals, Lot would certainly have known that they would have no sexual interest in his daughters. Adam Hamilton states that he doubted any of the men of Sodom would have considered themselves homosexual by our definition today. Genesis 18 tells us the people of Sodom regularly practiced evil. This attempted gang rape was just the latest in a long line of horrible things the people of Sodom had done. (Hamilton, pg. 268)

Sodom is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible (Isaiah 1:10-17 and 3:9, Jeremiah 23:14 and Zephaniah 2:8-11) but the sins of Sodom, as identified in those texts, are injustice, oppression, partiality, adultery, lies and encouraging evildoers. (Helminiak, pg. 49) Even Jesus makes reference to Sodom in Matthew 10:5-15 as he talks about the rejection of God’s messengers (Helminiak, pg. 49) but he, also, makes reference only to the town’s lack of hospitality. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.” Jesus is teaching his disciples that they will face rejection and predicts judgment against those who won’t listen to God’s word. If the main lesson to be drawn from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is an anti-homosexual message, wouldn’t Jesus have mentioned that? Since he didn’t, we are drawn to the conclusion that the Genesis passage has nothing to do with committed, homosexual relationships as we know them today.

Judges 19:1-30

This is a story, even more disturbing than the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The two stories have many parallels. (To save space, only parts of this scripture will be included.) During the story, a man, his slave and his concubine (also referred to as his wife) travel to Gibeah, a Jewish city, where they thought they would be safe. They are finally taken in by an old man. This quotation starts with verse 22:

22 While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house so that we may have intercourse with him.” 23 And the man of the house went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. 24 Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine, let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them, but against this man do not do such a vile thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and put her out to them.

The story ends with the brutal rape and death of the concubine. The same lessons can be learned from this passage in Judges, as in the story of Sodom in Genesis, that rules and expectations of hospitality are the key theme, while homosexuality has nothing to do with this scripture. Rape, as a form of brutality and power, is another theme of both stories. The near rape of the two men/angels in Genesis 19 (the story of Sodom) and the gang rape of the concubine/wife in Judges 19 assist in shaping an understanding of how society should not act in Old Testament days. (Dwyer, pg. 19) The ancient authors wrote these stories to provide a powerful lesson that hospitality to the outsider was very important for the Hebrew culture. Here in Judges, there are no lessons whatsoever that are related to consensual, homosexual relationships.

Leviticus 18:22

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

To interpret these passages of Leviticus, it’s important to know that this book of the Bible focuses on ritual purity for the Israelites, and setting guidelines for the Israelites to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors, the Egyptians and Canaanites, who lived in the lands before they were settled by the Jews. This is shown in Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20 by three specific scripture passages (Leviticus 18:2-3, 18:24 and 20:23) that state that the Israelites should never do what the Egyptians and Canaanites did. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 10) Biblical historians tell us that the Canaanite religions (which surrounded the Israelites at the time Leviticus was written) often included fertility rites consisting of sexual rituals in their temples. Sex with temple prostitutes, family members, and homosexual sex was performed at the Canaanite temples and thought to bring good luck to help crop and livestock production. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 11).

To Bible readers of today, the word “abomination” conjures up disgust, horror, or evil, but to the ancient Hebrews the word we translate as “abomination” simply meant unclean, taboo, or forbidden. The Old Testament uses the word “abomination” in reference to numerous things that were forbidden for the ancient Israelites, many of which make little or no sense to us today. For example, the Bible declares it an “abomination” to sow a field with two different kinds of seeds, or to weave a cloth from two different kinds of fibers (Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11). It also uses the word “abomination” in Leviticus 11 in reference to a long list of foods that the Israelites were forbidden to eat, including shrimp, crab, pork, rabbit and many kinds of birds. (Helminiak, pg. 58) In discussing the Levitical texts that declare it an “abomination” for a man to “lie with a male as with a woman,” Jack Rogers points out that all these texts were concerned with “ritual purity” and were intended to distinguish Israel from its pagan neighbors. (Rogers, pg. 69; Helminiak, pg. 58) Rogers sets this concern over and against the teachings of Jesus, who is concerned not with ritual purity, but with purity of the heart (Matthew 15:10-20). (Rogers, pgs. 68-69; Brownson, pg. 42).

It is difficult to recapture the meaning of “clean” and “unclean,” “pure” and “impure,” as it was viewed in ancient Israel. (Helminiak, pg. 57) The ancient Hebrew people had very particular ideas about man and woman in relation to purity laws. Men were not allowed to touch women during menstruation (Leviticus 15:19). For a man to have sex with another man was to mix and confuse the standards of maleness and femaleness, and go against the accepted gender roles and disrupt the ideal order of things and thus was unclean, taboo or forbidden. It was against the purity laws and was therefore, by definition, an “abomination.” (Helminiak, pg. 58) The predominant topic of the Book of Leviticus was holiness and Chapters 17-27 are instructions from priests to the people of Israel. (Dwyer, pg. 24) If the Israelites did not follow these rules, they would not be holy and according to their ancient views, a consequence of not being holy would be the loss of the land that was being gifted by God. (Dwyer, pg. 25) Keeping the land given to them by God was an enormous priority and that’s part of the reason that the penalty of death was attached to breaking purity laws as written in Leviticus 20:13.

In addition, the growth in the number of people within the Israelite community was crucial to the survival of Israel. (Dwyer, pg. 30) Hartley argues that this is one of the chief reasons for these rules about sex and sexuality. The survival of the nation of Israel was at stake if it did not reproduce in appropriate numbers. (Dwyer, pg. 30, citing Hartley, pgs. 298-299) The androcentric (male-centered) mentality of the time and the cultural and societal need to increase the population of God’s chosen people led the priestly authors of Leviticus to want to control women’s reproductive capabilities, as well as to protect “the seed,” thereby increasing procreation. (Dwyer, pg. 31, citing Cooper & Scholz, pg. 38) Again, this may have been why the authors decided to attach the death penalty to what could be seen as men wasting their “seed.” For a man to act as a woman, and to act in a manner that did not keep the power-center in the man, would be shameful. This action would bring humiliation not only upon the man but on Jewish society and would interfere with how power was structured and understood. This type of behavior would challenge the patriarchal system that existed in that society and culture. (Dwyer, pg. 29)

An important point to remember is that these verses of Leviticus were saying, “Do not participate in the kind of immoral sex that was done in pagan temples because it is unclean and taboo in our Hebrew society and does not keep us different from the pagan societies that surround us.” Back in ancient times it’s understandable why the Israelite authors of Leviticus would include these rules in their writing, but for today it is evident that they were not referring to a committed, consensual, homosexual relationship.

Romans 1:18-27 18

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.  19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Miner and Connoley suggest that in this scripture the author, Paul, is moving through a logical progression. He is talking about heterosexual people who refused to acknowledge and glorify God, began worshipping idols, were more interested in earthly pursuits than spiritual pursuits and gave up their natural, i.e., innate, passion for the opposite sex, in an unbounded search for pleasure. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 14) The behavior Paul was addressing here is explicitly associated with idol worship (probably temple prostitution) and with heterosexual people who, in an unbridled search for pleasure (or because of religious rituals associated with their idolatry) broke away from their natural sexual orientation, participating in promiscuous sex with anyone available. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 14)

Dwyer points out that in the Greco-Roman community to which Paul was writing, sexual relations between males were a given. These sexual relations between men were a part of the cultural life, the religious life, and the political life. (Dwyer, pg. 55, citing Byrne, pg. 65) But these were not the committed homosexual relationships that we see today. In that culture, their only perspective was that “natural intercourse meant the penetration of a subordinate person by a dominant one.” (Dwyer, pg. 55, citing Jewett, pg. 176) The laws at the time in Rome allowed a master to demand sexual services from any slave, male or female. “Intercourse between masters and their male slaves was normal and in accordance with the standards of a male-dominated society.” (Dwyer, pg. 55, citing Jewett, pg. 180) Roman culture was very hierarchal with those in power having free reign to act out sexually as they pleased among those who were of a lower cultural and societal standing. In Romans 1, Paul was speaking to the Gentile Christians and setting forth a counter-cultural stance that differed from the conduct of the surrounding community. (Dwyer, pg. 55) Paul is not talking about mutuality or love in a homosexual relationship. He is talking about the use and misuse of power and authority, and how that impacts one’s relationship with God. (Dwyer, pg. 57) Paul is saying that early Christians must worship God appropriately, not “use” each other in a sexual or other inappropriate way.

Adam Hamilton’s view is that when Paul takes up the issue of same-sex relationships in Romans, he seems to have in mind ritual sexual encounters tied to pagan worship/idolatry and the idea that what was natural or normative was clean and what was not natural was unclean and sinful. It has been thought by many that Paul was describing ritual prostitution practiced in some of the pagan temples. Hamilton goes on to say that if this is what Paul was condemning, then most would agree with his condemnation of these practices. But these practices, and the motivations behind them, are very different from two people of the same sex, sharing their lives as loving companions. (Hamilton, pgs. 270-271)

Some people interpret Romans 1:26 as referring to female-to-female sex, that is, lesbianism. Helminiak supports a very different interpretation. According to Helminiak, verse 26 refers to women and men engaging in sexual practices that were not the ones people normally performed in that culture. (Helminiak, pg. 79) He believes the Greek phrase para physin, translated as “unnatural” in Romans 1, would more accurately be translated as atypical, unusual, peculiar, out of the ordinary, or uncharacteristic. (Helminiak, pg. 80) The passage would therefore mean “simply that both the women and the men gave up the expected way of having sex for something else, whatever it might be.” (Helminiak, pg. 87) So Paul’s mention of “out of the ordinary” female sex might refer to heterosexual sex during menstruation, sex with an uncircumcised man, heterosexual oral or anal sex, or anything else that would not be considered the standard or expected way of having heterosexual sex. If verse 26 actually does refer to lesbianism, the passage is quite puzzling because lesbianism is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, including the parts of Leviticus (discussed above) that declare sex between males to be an “abomination.” Brownson thinks that sex between females is not mentioned elsewhere because, unlike male-to-male sex, which was linked to pagan cultic practices, there were no assumptions regarding honor and shame surrounding sex between women, as there were if a man did something a woman was supposed to do. (Brownson, pg. 272) The bottom line here is that translation difficulties make the meaning of Romans 1:26 uncertain, and its supposed ban on sex between women is not supported anywhere else in the Bible. For these reasons, the Romans passage should not be relied upon as support for a blanket condemnation of lesbian sex. (Helminiak, pg. 89)

According to Rogers, Paul’s condemnation of immoral sexual behavior cannot be appropriately applied to contemporary gay or lesbian Christians who are not idolaters, who love God and who seek to live in thankful obedience to God. Today we know of gay and lesbian Christians who truly worship and serve the one true God and yet still affirm in positive ways their identity as gay and lesbian people. Paul apparently knew of no homosexual Christians, as we do today. (Rogers, pg. 76, citing Siker, pg. 143) Condemning the LGBTQ community was not Paul’s intent.

I Corinthians 6:9-10

9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

In this passage, Paul lists several types of people he regards as sinful, and there are two words in the original Greek text that are relevant here, malakoi (the plural of malakos) and arsenokoitai (the plural of arsenokoites). Many people do not realize that the Bible does not contain a word equivalent to our English word “homosexual.” (Brownson, pg. 273) The concept of homosexuality, in the sense of a sexual orientation or in the context of a caring relationship toward others of the same gender, was unknown in the ancient world. Instead, this I Corinthians list of vices includes words that reflect sexual roles that were part of male behavior in the culture of the first century. (Brownson, pgs. 273-74)

The first word is malakoi, which literally means “soft” and is translated in the NRSV as “male prostitutes.” (Miner & Connoley, pg. 18) In terms of morality, during the first century, malakos referred to attributes such as laziness, degeneracy, decadence or lack of courage. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 17, citing Martin, Arsenokoites and Malakos, pg. 124). In the patriarchal culture at that time, being “soft like a woman” was a common insult. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 17) First century Romans believed that any man who was more interested in pleasure than in duty, was woman-like. So Paul may have been referring to men who were weak or effeminate, such as those unfit for military service. In fact, the King James Version translates the word malakoi as “effeminate.”

Malakoi was also sometimes used to refer to male prostitutes, particularly young boys who were the passive partners in sexual relationships with men. (Dwyer, pg. 63) It was common at that time for married heterosexual men to keep a boy, often one who had been captured and castrated, for sexual pleasure. (Dwyer, pg. 63) So Paul may have been referring specifically to male prostitutes rather than soft men in general (Miner & Connoley, pg. 18), and this would certainly be appropriate on a list of sins. Of course, this sort of abuse would be abhorrent and intolerable to modern Christians, but it does not refer to consensual relationships between same-sex couples.

The second Greek word used here is “arsenokoites,” translated in the NRSV by the ambiguous term “sodomites.” Arsenokoites is a composite of two Greek words, arseno, meaning “male,” and koites, meaning “bed,” with the connotation of sexual intercourse. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 18, Helminiak, pg. 109) But when these two parts of the word are put together, the meaning is unclear. It may refer specifically to a man who has sex with another man, or it may be referring to a man who has sex with anyone, outside of marriage, including possibly a woman. Think, for example, of the English word “understand.” It is composed of two words, “under” and “stand,” but its meaning does not relate either to the act of standing, or to being under something. (Rogers, pg. 70)

One way to learn a word’s definition is to analyze it in other contexts. However, the word arsenokoites is extremely rare, appearing in only one other place in the Bible, I Timothy, which will be discussed below. The Greek word, arsenokoites, is not found anywhere else in Greek literature prior to the first century, when these passages of scripture were written. It appeared in only a few writings after that, most of which were derived from the vice list which appears in I Corinthians, without any context to shed light on its meaning. (Miner & Connoley, pgs. 18-20; Brownson, pg. 42)

There are, however, a few stories in non-Biblical Greek literature that suggest the word arsenokoites refers to instances where one male uses his superior power or position to take sexual advantage of another. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 20) Many scholars therefore conclude that the term refers to forcible male-on-male sex, or to sexual exploitation involving prostitution. (Miner & Connoley, pgs. 20-21; Helminiak, pgs. 109-110; Rogers, pgs. 70-71, citing Martin, Arsenokoites and Malakos, pg. 121) In fact, several scholars emphasize the link between these two terms (malakos and arsenokoites) and the common Greek practice of pederasty, which is the sexual use of younger boys (possibly the word malakos) by older men (possibly the word arsenokoites). (Helminiak, pg. 110) In this context, these words are certainly appropriate on a list of sinful vices.

Another possible meaning derives from the fact that in the Septuagint (the Greek translation from Hebrew of the Old Testament), the two words arseno and koites are used separately in the Leviticus passages, previously discussed, that refer to a man lying with a man. (Dwyer, pg. 63) This raises the possibility that arsenokoites may be a shorthand way, in Greek, of referring to the acts forbidden in Leviticus. (Helminiak, pg. 111) It’s possible that I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10 (discussed below) may be repeating the prohibition in Leviticus 18:22, which (as we have seen) was specific to Jewish purity laws.

In short, no one is really sure what the words malakos and arsenokoites mean in this I Corinthians passage. The most that can be said, with any certainty, is that the passage appears to condemn sexual abuse and exploitation (Helminiak, pg. 113), a position with which all modern Christians should readily agree. Given this uncertainty, the varying English translations of these obscure Greek words are a very slender reed on which to rely in condemning all homosexuals as sinners. (Helminiak, pg. 107) Ancient abusive sexual practices should not be used to justify the condemnation of consensual, committed, same-sex unions today. (Brownson, pg. 43) The meanings of the words are too vague to justify this kind of sweeping negative generalization about homosexuality based on Paul’s list of sinners. (Rogers, pg. 71, citing Nissinen, pg. 118)

I Timothy 1:8-11

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. 9 This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching  11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

These verses from I Timothy are similar to the passage from I Corinthians 6:9-10, discussed above, in that they contain a list of various sinners. Were the authors specifically saying that homosexuals, in an equal relationship, were sinners, too? Again, we must go back to the original Greek words and culture of the time to help us understand if the author’s intent had anything to do with caring homosexual relationships of today.

The relevant Greek words that appear in verse 10 are pornos, arsenokoites and andrapodistes. (Dwyer, pg. 76) Over the centuries, these words have been translated into English in a number of different ways. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV, quoted above) translates them as “fornicators, sodomites, slave traders.” The King James Version (KJV) uses “whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers.” The New American Standard Bible (Updated) (NASB or NAU) uses “immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers,” while the English Standard Version (ESV) uses “sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers.” The New International Version (NIV) uses “for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders.” These varying translations illustrate the difficulties inherent in grasping the original meaning of this passage.

The first word, pornos, refers to a male having sex outside of marriage, that is, fornication or adultery. (Dwyer, pg. 76)

We have already discussed the second word, arsenokoites, and the difficulties in translating it, in the preceding section on I Corinthians. To review, the only relative certainty is that this word refers to male same-sex relationships that involved some level of exploitation, inequality or abuse. (Brownson, pg. 43, citing Martin, Sex and the Single Savior, pg. 43) It would be wrong to compare this kind of abusive same-sex relationship to a committed, loving, homosexual relationship.

The third Greek term, andrapodistes, is translated as “slave traders.” In the first century, both girls and boys were commonly kidnapped or captured and sold into sexual slavery. (Helminiak, pg. 113; Brownson, pg. 43) This may be why the word occurs next to arsenokoites in the list of sins in I Timothy 1:10, since both involved sexual exploitation. Many scholars believe that the three terms in this list belong together: kidnappers or slave dealers (andrapodistes) acting as pimps for their captured and castrated boys (pornos) to service the men (arsenokoites) who use these unfortunate male prostitutes. (Brownson, pg. 274)

The author of I Timothy was certainly condemning the stock list of vices drawn from the culture at large. Scholars are in agreement that the lists from both I Corinthians and I Timothy were not originally Paul’s. (Helminiak, pg. 112) He used these lists to encourage the early Christians to be good people by reminding them of the evils of the day, including same-sex behavior that involved exploitation, inequality or abuse. (Helminiak, pg. 112) Must all homosexual people be considered sinful just because the sex acts of first-century people known as malakoi and arsenokoitai were regarded as such? It is justified to have a negative view of these abusive ancient sexual practices. But this attitude cannot be carried over to justify the condemnation of consensual, same-sex relationships. It is too much of a leap from this passage of scripture to a blanket condemnation of same-sex relationships that are equal, committed and loving.

A SUMMARY of Each of the Seven Scriptures Often Referred to as “The Clobber Verses”

As we have seen, the seven Scriptures sometimes claimed to be about homosexuality are not at all related to the consensual, committed same sex relationships we see today.

  1. Genesis 19:1-14, 24-26: The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of what happens when God’s people do not live up to God’s expectations. It is teaching a lesson about the importance of hospitality to the stranger. The cruel men of the town were planning to rape the visitors and were definitely not homosexuals.
  2. Judges 19:1-30: This story parallels that of Sodom and Gomorrah and provides an example of how the townspeople plot to rape the visitor. It is yet another example for the ancient Jewish culture of how not to act by showing the extreme inhospitable behavior of the town. Some mistakenly interpret the townsmen’s behavior to be somehow related to homosexuality, but this was an example of the brutality of one group of men toward a group of visitors.
  3. Leviticus 18:22 and … 4. Leviticus 20:13: These texts state that a man should not lie with another man, and that if they do it is an abomination. The rules were meant to set the Israelites apart from the Canaanites and Egyptians who at that time participated in fertility rites in their temples that involved different forms of sex, including homosexual sex. Male-to-male sex was seen to mix the roles of man and woman and such “mixing of kinds” during ancient times was defined as an “abomination,” in the same way that mixing different kinds of seeds in a field was an abomination. This scripture occurs in a section of Leviticus called “The Holiness Code” which has as its main purpose to set out laws to keep Israel different from the surrounding cultures. (Helminiak, pg. 54)
  4. Romans 1:18-27: The behavior Paul was addressing here is explicitly associated with idol worship (probably temple prostitution) and with heterosexual people who searched for pleasure and broke away from their natural sexual orientation or their natural ways of having sex (both male and female) and participated in promiscuous sex with anyone available or used methods not culturally accepted. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 14) In the surrounding culture it was common for men of a higher status to take sexual advantage of male slaves or male prostitutes. Here Paul is instructing his readers to keep pure and honor God. Paul is talking about the use and misuse of power and authority and how that impacts one’s relationship with God. (Dwyer, pg. 58) Paul didn’t have in mind specifically prohibiting consensual same-sex relationships because they were never considered in his cultural context.
  5. I Corinthians 6:9-10: Paul’s list of sinners includes malakoi and arsenokoites. Malakoi means “soft” and is also interpreted as male prostitutes. Arsenokoites is difficult to translate, but it probably refers to a male using his superiority to take sexual advantage of another male. Paul is right to condemn these sexual activities, but this has nothing to do with a consensual homosexual relationship.
  6. I Timothy 1:8-11: This passage is similar to I Corinthians, above. This time it is a list of sins (as opposed to sinners) and includes the words pornos, arsenokoites and andrapodistes. Pornos most likely refers to a male having sex outside of marriage. Arsenokoites can probably be defined as male same-sex relationships that involved some level of exploitation, inequality or abuse. Andrapodistes can be translated as “slave traders.” Scholars believe that the three terms were used together in that slave dealers (andrapodistes) would be acting as pimps for captured boys (pornos) who would be taken advantage of by powerful men (arsenokoites). (Brownson, pg. 274) These are sins that certainly need to be addressed, but this Bible passage does not relate to homosexuals in a committed relationship.

An Example from the Bible of Affirmation of a Sexual Minority:

Acts 8:26-39 – Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: (Isaiah 53:7-8) “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

When the New Testament was written, the term “eunuch” meant a man who, for a number of possible reasons, was incapable of or disinterested in having sexual relations with a woman. In Matthew 19:11-12, Jesus described three types of eunuchs:

  • those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,
  • those who have been made eunuchs by others, and
  • those who have been eunuchs from birth.

The first category to which Jesus may have been referring would include men (such as Roman Catholic priests) who take a vow of celibacy in order to serve God.

The second category would include those who are incapable of fathering children due to castration or injury. (See for example Deuteronomy 23:1, “one whose testicles are crushed”.)

The third category, those who are born eunuchs, would have been understood in Jesus’ day as including men with stereotypically effeminate characteristics and behavior. Jesus thus acknowledges that some people are sexual minorities from birth. (Rogers, pg. 131)

This does not mean that all eunuchs were gay but such men were commonly associated with homosexual desire. (For a more detailed discussion, see Miner & Connoley, pgs. 39-46).

Eunuchs were often placed in charge of the harem in royal households because they had no sexual interest in the ruler’s wives and concubines. The resulting access to the royal household sometimes enabled such men to move into trusted senior government positions, and this was apparently the case with the Ethiopian eunuch discussed in Acts 8. He is described as the official in charge of Ethiopia’s entire royal treasury.

When Philip encountered the eunuch, the man was seated in his chariot reading Isaiah 53, a passage he may well have connected to his own situation. (Rogers, pg. 132, citing Jennings, pg. 155) As a eunuch, he probably felt humiliated and marginalized from the rest of society to some degree. (Rogers, pg. 132, citing Jennings, pg. 155) He had perhaps even been mistreated by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, where he had gone to worship. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 43) Miner and Connoley suggest that the eunuch may have been familiar with Isaiah 56:3-5, a nearby passage that makes great promises to eunuchs who keep God’s commandments. (Miner & Connoley, pg. 43) Ancient prohibitions in the Old Testament barred eunuchs from entering the Temple or a worshipping congregation (Leviticus 21:16-23; Deuteronomy 23:1). (Rogers, pg. 133) But in Isaiah 56:4-5, the Lord specifically welcomes eunuchs who hold fast God’s covenant. (Rogers, pg. 133) The passage states:

For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

The Ethiopian eunuch was a trusted official, but definitely a sexual minority and possibly a homosexual. Yet an angel of the Lord and the Holy Spirit specifically directed the apostle Philip to seek out this man. Philip knew the Ethiopian was a eunuch, but there is no record that he questioned the man about what kind of eunuch he was, the gender of his preferred sexual partners, or whether he had chosen to be celibate. Instead, Philip simply proclaimed the Gospel and the Ethiopian accepted the good news immediately, thereby becoming the first recorded Gentile convert to Christianity. When the Ethiopian asked to be baptized, Philip again saw no barriers and asked no questions. He simply got out of the chariot and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch on the spot.

It is difficult to overstate the significance of this story about the Ethiopian eunuch to our modern quest for Biblical insights into homosexuality. The Holy Spirit could have chosen anyone to be the first Gentile Christian, but the Holy Spirit chose an African, sexual minority who showed faith. (Rogers, pg. 134) The conversion of this man of unconventional sexuality was of such great significance to the early church that it is included in the Books of Acts. The Bible’s unmistakable message here is one of inclusiveness and of God’s love for all people, regardless of their sexual preferences.

Conclusions:

Many Christians want to remain faithful to God’s Word through the Bible. This has caused Christians who read the Bible without background information or cultural context, to have difficulty accepting homosexuals. They see gays and lesbians as sinners who need to change and repent or remain celibate. But when we study the seven scriptures typically used to condemn homosexuals, it’s evident that none of them have anything to do with consensual homosexual relations. At no place does the Bible refer to equal homosexual relationships, simply because such relationships were not recognized by Hebrew society when the Bible was written. Rather, the authors of the Bible directed the seven passages at the ancient Jews or early Christians to teach them to follow purity laws, to worship God and not idols, to be holy and honor God, and not to exploit vulnerable people sexually. These scriptures do not pertain to loving, homosexual relationships today.

When interpreting Scripture, we can use the teachings of Jesus to redirect us so that we can understand how to apply these scriptures to our lives today. Rogers states that we need to read the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry and accept those who are different from ourselves. (Rogers, pg. 135) When the Bible seems to teach us something that causes us to be unfair to the human rights of others is exactly when we need to re-evaluate and use the principles of Jesus to interpret these scriptures. Jesus was radical in many of the ways he interpreted the Hebrew scriptures he had learned as a boy. The New Testament scriptures show that Jesus regularly put the importance of the human individual over the ancient Hebrew scriptures and laws.

Whatever the specific behaviors the Bible is condemning, the seven passages studied here cannot be used to condemn committed same-sex unions today. These ancient texts are speaking against pagan practices, abuse, and violations of what back then were commonly embraced standards of decency and “normality.” As such, these scriptures do not refer to committed, mutual and loving same-sex unions. The Bible is actually silent when it comes to addressing the ethics of committed, consensual same-sex unions. Some may be tempted to think that these seven passages might be construed as referring to homosexuality, but as we dig deeper we see that they were rightly condemning other things: gang-rape, temple prostitution, idolatry and pederasty (sexual relationship between adult male and adolescent boy). (Hamilton, pg. 271) These were the concerns that the Biblical writers were condemning, and rightly so. These practices and the motivations behind them are very different from two same-sex people sharing their lives together in a covenant relationship. (Hamilton, pg. 271)

As a society that obtains much of our moral guidance from the Bible, we need to move beyond these seven scriptures sometimes used to condemn homosexuals. We know that these scriptures were written for the Jewish people long ago, and for the early Christians for purposes very different from those for which some try to use them today. With confidence we can interpret these ancient Bible passages using compassion and love as our guide, as Christ would ask us to do.

References:

Brownson, James V., Bible, Gender, Sexuality, Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013).

Byrne, B., Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. VI: Romans (The Liturgical Press, 1996).

Cooper, A. and Scholz, S., Global Bible Commentary, Ed. Patte, D. (Abingdon Press, 2004).

deGroot, C., “Genesis” in The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary (InterVarsity Press, 2002).

Dwyer, John F., Those 7 References, A Study of 7 References to Homosexuality in the Bible (2007).

Greenberg, David F., The Construction of Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press, 1988).

Hamilton, Adam, Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today (Harper One, 2014).

Hartley, J.E., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 4: Leviticus (Word Books, 1992).

Helminiak, Daniel A., What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, Millennium Edition (Alamo Square Press, 2000).

Jennings, Theodore, The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament (Pilgrim Press, 2003).

Jewett, R., Romans: A Commentary (Fortress Press, 2007).

Martin, Dale B., Arsenokoites and Malakos: Meaning and Consequences (Source: Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996)).

Martin, Dale B., Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation (Westminster John Knox Press, 2006).

Miner, Jeff and Connoley, John Tyler, The Children Are Free, Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships (Life Journey Press, 2011).

Nissinen, Martti, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective (Fortress, 1998).

Rogers, Jack, Jesus, The Bible, and Homosexuality, Explode the Myths, Heal the Church, Revised and Expanded Edition (Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).

Siker, Jeffrey S, “Gentile Wheat and Homosexual Christians: New Testament Directions for the Heterosexual Church,” in Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture, ed. Robert L. Brawly (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996).
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The author, Janet Edmonds, is a longtime member of Bethesda United Methodist Church in Bethesda, Maryland. Currently, the official policy of the United Methodist Church does not allow self-avowed practicing homosexuals to be ordained ministers, nor does it allow United Methodist clergy to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies or to hold these ceremonies in United Methodist churches. In addition, The United Methodist Book of Discipline currently states that, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Janet wrote this booklet in September 2016 to help people understand that the Bible doesn’t say that homosexuality is a sin and with the hope of someday changing these United Methodist rules. As Christians, we are asked to seek justice. It is the author’s hope that this booklet will help to bring justice for LGBTQ individuals who have been condemned far too long.

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,500 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #5– Carolyn Loewen

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

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I was a latecomer to the mother status, as I had my son, Kevin (my firstborn) when I was 39. As you know, when a woman experiences pregnancy later in life, the chance of complications increases. I often wonder if this was responsible for my son’s issues. I knew things were different when I was pregnant, not from previous experience, but from what I had been told. Aside from some morning sickness, I hardly knew I was pregnant until my 6th month.

After Kevin was born, things were also not as I had expected. He didn’t sleep well, and he had nightmares early in his life which I did not realize were nightmares until much later. Kevin was a quiet boy, except when he wanted to talk. I tried to make a point of listening to my children (Kevin has a younger sister), no matter how “boring” it got. I believed if I listened to them when they were young, they might talk to me when they were teenagers. He would spend hours walking around the yard with a stick in his hand. When he started kindergarten, I worried about his social skills. His teacher asked for an ADHD assessment, although I was certain he did not have that problem, which he didn’t.

In grade 1, he acquired his best and only friend, who somehow stuck with Kevin even though he was different. Finally when he was in grade 6, Kevin was diagnosed with ASD, Asperger’s Syndrome. After a very steep learning curve, we learned to manage his situation.

When Kevin came out in March 2013, at age 19, I was devastated, but I vowed to love my son no matter what. Growing up in a Christian home and community, I was still on the conservative side of the theological debate, although, for the most part I tried to ignore the issue. Now, that was no longer possible, so I started dealing with it. At first, my son said to tell no one without his express permission. This was very hard for me as I am always in need of venting to a friend. I got permission to tell a few people, and after a few months of suffering in silence I sort of got used to it. I read lots of books. Our pastor at the time recommended “Torn”, by Justin Lee, and I found others. I also found a wonderful Christian female counselor who helped me sort out my feelings, and I am now fully affirming of my gay son.

In November 2015, I ‘came out’ to my congregation. I was not sure who all knew what, and I was tired of the uncertainty. With approval of the pastor/council, at an evening congregational meeting, I read a personal letter, detailing my journey, and talking about my concerns regarding all the bullying, etc. that LGBTQ young people are subjected to. That remains on my heart and I would really like to find a way to interact with youth in my town and be a support to them, as I am sure that many of them are in need of it.

After my son came out, he started educating me on all things LGBTQ. He is a very bright young man and had done a lot of research. I made a point of trying to listen to everything he said, no matter how uncomfortable it might make me. He also told me he would answer all my questions, but I should only ask what I really wanted to know.

One thing that my son discovered in his research and shared with me was the connection between LGBTQ and ASD.  It turns out that the percentage of boys with ASD that are also gay is much higher than in the general population. This made me very sad, because in addition to struggling with social issues related to ASD, he also had to come to terms with his sexuality, and his fear of telling his parents. That is a lot for any one person to cope with.

But people do what they must and aside from periodical struggles, which is called life, we are doing well!

I recently came to the realization that, if I had a choice between my son being gay or being straight, I would choose for him to be gay. Otherwise, he would not be the exact person he is today, and I want my son to be exactly the person that he is!

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,500 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #4 – Sherilyn Hickenbottom

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

 

bricks-bw

When Bethany was thirteen she asked me what I thought about bisexuality. I was a bit thrown by the question and answered in a way that I wish more than anything I could take back. I said “If you have a choice in who to love then choosing a same sex partner makes no sense. It just makes your life too difficult so why do it?” I didn’t analyze the “why” of her question too deeply and I certainly didn’t invite a discussion. I believed it would come back up when she was older and I was bit wiser. Well, she didn’t talk to me again about the subject for several years. She suffered with confusion, unhealthy experimentation, loneliness and suicidal thoughts all by herself. I could have made life easier for my child but one flippant answer caused years of pain and an estrangement that I didn’t even know existed.

Fast forward seven years and our daughter sends us a letter informing us that she is bisexual. This was not a surprise because we weren’t totally unaware of her romantic interests and as a novelist she had been writing LGBTQ+ themed books. We expected this formal coming out but weren’t quite ready for what she told us several months later, “I am transgender and am starting the process to become a male. My name is now Seth and I know this will be hard for you so I’ll give you all the time you need to process it”.

We learned that she had been living as Seth for a while. Everyone around her referred to her as Seth including our other three children. The new information was not as shocking as the fact that we were the last to know. Of our three daughters Bethany was the one that hated sports and preferred ballet. She loved writing, art and ethereal creativity. She was head-turningly beautiful and we considered her to be incredibly feminine. In hindsight, I realize that those feminine perceptions were placed by us because of the way she looked. Our perceptions were wrong – we see the world differently now that we have researched gender, sexuality and living authentic lives.

Loving him unconditionally was never a question for us but it hasn’t been a simple light switch either. I’m upset that he doesn’t have the name that we painstakingly chose for him, although calling him Seth has been much easier than calling him HE. I still say “my girls” when I talk and it makes me sad that there are only two, not three of them. BUT this is what I’ve learned… He is still the same person. He is creative, compassionate, insightful, intelligent, irreverent, sarcastic and one heck of a good writer. He is also an exceptional friend who is drawn to those that have suffered and know sadness, abuse and hopelessness. He is a beacon of survival, courage, hope and faith. My pride is immense! His genitals matter very little to me but his heart is everything.

Over a year later, Seth is finishing up his MFA in writing and has a caring FTM boyfriend. Yes, I use a lot of acronyms nowadays. He came home for Christmas and seemed very secure in who he is and what he wants for his future. The confidence was a beautiful thing to witness. The semi colon tattooed on his wrist reminds us all that this is not a trouble-free life. Sadly, our church ended up not being a safe place and we’ve had people attempt to devalue our faith and who our child is within it. It gets ugly, but our family is united and strong. We’ve learned how to love wholeheartedly and we absolutely see God’s eternal love flowing through our family. This isn’t easy but it is real and truthful and we love each other deeply. Our greatest hurdle and fear comes from a world committed to threaten, marginalize and legislate identity and love. Yes, I say LOVE a lot nowadays too.

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,500 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Moms of LGBTQ Kids Express Gratitude to Katie Couric & National Geographic

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group created as an extension of the Serendipitydodah blog. The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. The group was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,500 members. The space was specifically created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBTQ kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBTQ kids. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 

The following is a letter to Katie Couric signed by more than 400 members of Serendipitydodah for Moms.

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Dear Mrs. Couric,

We are members of Serendipitydodah for Moms, a large private Facebook group of more than 1,500 Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

Our group was created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBTQ kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBTQ kids.

More than 400 of us are signing this letter to express our gratitude to you and National Geographic for the wonderful work you recently did for the two-hour special documentary, Gender Revolution.

Your willingness to explore, inform and educate about gender identity allows this issue to come out of the shadows and exist in a place where misinformation and false ideas can be confronted and corrected. The respectful manner in which you engaged with those you interviewed set a tone that has often been missing in this conversation. And your down to earth, easy to understand, friendly style eliminated the defensiveness that can get in the way of people opening themselves up to listening and learning about a subject that often makes some uncomfortable.

Katie, we noticed and appreciated the way you focused carefully on important details. Your sensitivity and concern were apparent and it meant a lot to us. We think you were the right person for the job in every aspect. The work you have done has encouraged us greatly and given us much hope about the future for our kids. We sincerely believe the Gender Revolution will serve as a catalyst to help change the world into a kinder, safer, more loving place for all LGBTQ people to live and because of that we will remain forever grateful.

Thank you for everything you brought to the project. You have made a lot of Mama Bears happy and as a result you have a whole bunch of forever fans.

With sincere gratitude and respect,

Liz Dyer, Founder & Owner

Abby De Fiesta Cortez

Adele Berardi

Alecia Moss

Aletheia Wall Zambesi

Alise D Chaffins

Alison Defrese

Allena Brown

Amanda Corry Thorderson

Amanda Curtis Dwyer

Amanda Dalton

Amy Goad

Amy Hansley Bennett

Amy Rueter

Andrea Larson Schultz

Angela Maria Coble

Angie Laws

Angie Silver

Angie Stratz Ashmore

Anita Jewell Carter Cockrum

Annie Shelton

Ann McGee Green

Ann Zweckbronner

Arlene Schulz

Barb Cressy

Beau Simcoe

Becky Cantrall

Beth Barndt Ruthenburg

Beth Breems

Beth McGill-Rizer

Beth Wiggins Baswell

Bethany Kirwen

Betsy Bruce Henning

Billie Jo Marrs

Bonnie Miranda

Brenda Holloway Bratcher

Bridget Murphy

Candace Winters

Carie Poynor Downes

Carla Iturregui Picasso-Brown

Carla Michaelsen

Carla Short Spivey

Carol Mason

Carol Smith

Carole Bass

Caroline Williams Joyce

Carolyn Cage Johnston

Carolyn Walker

Carrie Black

Carrie Colladay Stell

Carrie Garske Shank

Caryle A Cox

Cassy Taylor Campos

Cathleen Frantzen Schaber

Cathy Ledbetter Lafever

Chasity Davis

Chelsa Nunn Morrison

Cheri Nill

Cheri Simpson

Cherie Walker

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Cheryl B. Evans

Chris Behne

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Cindy Morgan

Cindy Richard Broussard

Colleen Hepler Brassington

Colleen Kane

Connie Dupuis

Crista Mason

Crystal Baker

Crystal Squires

Crystal Wagner

Cyndi Silva Raugh

Cynthia Corsetti

Cynthia Gaye Rahm-Clark

Dana Baker

Dana Huntington-Smith

Danette Mohring

Dawn Bellotti

Dawn Bennett

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Deb Foreman Cyr

Deb Gallagher

Debbie KIng

Debbie McCullough Hayhurst

Debbie Rogers Greenan

Debbie Wasielewski Tavarez

Debby McCrary

Debi Jackson

Debi Tucker Boland

Deborah Carlyle Enman

Debra Honeywell Myott

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Deleise Carper Brewer

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Jennifer Robinson

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Kathy Ann

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Kathy Green

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Kelly Beane

Kelly Cantwell

Kelly Dembiczak

Kelly M Hunsaker

Kelly McKinsey

Kelly Rae Holiday

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Kim Freeman Weill

Kim Kendall

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Kim McMahon

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Lisa Golden Dugger

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Liz Dyer

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Lori Bradley-Lewis

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Lori Rogers

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Madai Girard

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Maria Breeden

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Ʀosaııie Ĺane

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