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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.

Shirley Carley MBSP1

People who have known me for many years wonder what happened. They think I am not the same person I was before. In a way, they are correct. I am the same loving, caring person I have always been. I am the same strong Christian I have always been. What has changed is my understanding of what God calls sin.

I was brought up in a strict church. It was not as strict as others I have seen. One church I was in was so strict I would classify it as a cult. I didn’t stay there long. Although I was taught certain things were sins, I always wondered why some sins seemed to be condemned by Christians more than others. In school we were taught to think for ourselves and not just follow the crowd on stuff. Even in church, I learned to “try the spirits” to discern if they were of God or not. For this reason, I always questioned if what someone said from the pulpit was really what the Bible said or not.

Most of the time, I discovered it was indeed what the Bible taught; however, I was still struggling with what the church called sin that seemed to me may not actually be sin. This included divorce, people living together in a committed relationship, homosexuality, and other such sexual questions. One day, about 5 years ago, a friend introduced me to the teachings of Martin Luther. I had known that Luther was the spark for the Protestant movement, but I had never been taught his beliefs on sexuality. The church steers clear of such matters! I read his thoughts on the subject and found it intriguing. So I began to study the Scriptures about human sexuality.

For my study, I consulted Greek or Hebrew dictionaries to see what the original texts said and what the original words meant. During the course of my study, which took three years to complete, I discovered that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed because of homosexuality. This captured my attention! I continued to study and eventually came to the conclusion that homosexuality was not a sin.

At this time, I was still in my Southern Baptist Church. My daughter had a group of friends at school who had, at various times, came out as lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. I loved these kids very much. My daughter loved these kids too. She came out in support of them. What I didn’t know at the time is she was pansexual. I tried to get my daughter to not be so vocal about her support, especially at church, because these people would not like it. I too kept my mouth shut about being affirming, though I did start saying things like we needed to show love to the LBGT community if we wanted them to see the Christ we serve. I took a lot of ridicule from people who “loved the sinner but hated the sin.” Since I didn’t think it was a sin, I didn’t agree, and their actions didn’t seem loving to me. So, I continued to remain silent.

Then my daughter came out to me. Again, I encouraged her to remain silent. She did tell a small group of friends she thought she could trust, including one youth leader. She soon found out that the youth leader told a pastor.

She began to get bullied by “friends” in the church and she even got bullied by some of the leadership. While traveling to a mission trip with other kids, one of the girls asked her about what groups she was in at church. She mentioned GSA. The girl asked what it was and she told her Gay Straight Alliance. Well, my daughter, unbeknown to me, had been told she was not allowed to discuss homosexuality on this trip. She attempted to change the subject but the girl kept asking questions. Also unknown to me or my daughter, the woman in the car had been told to report back to the youth pastor if my daughter talked about it.

Next thing you know, she is being disciplined for talking about it. She tried to say she was just responding to a question and tried to change the subject and the adult woman called her a liar! She had to watch everything she said or did the rest of the week.

A year later, she still hasn’t come out, as I wasn’t letting her. Only her family and those few close friends knew she was more than affirming. It came time for the mission trip again and she was told she could not go. When I asked why, I was told she was being disciplined for disrespect. I called for a meeting to find out what was going on, and it was very clear they were disguising punishing her for supporting gay rights, not for being disrespectful. They wanted her to follow a “discipleship plan” that included a book criticizing the “gay agenda” as well as reporting to a staff member about that book, another book, and sexuality! This was all while she was a senior studying for finals at high school.

We left the church that day and never looked back. That week, my daughter came out publicly. I came out as affirming publicly. A week later another daughter also came out publicly as pansexual. A dear friend seeing the attacks we were getting on Facebook from our fellow “Christians” let me know about a support group for moms like me. After joining that group, I began to feel sad for the way I had stifled my daughter and very burdened for the way the LBGT community was being treated.

Thanks to being in a group of loving mama bears, I have been able to openly support the LBGT community. I have joined Equality Virginia so that I might be able to do more than just talk about it. My LBGT friends I have had for years always knew I loved them and did not condemn them, but now they have an ally, which is even better. I have always loved unconditionally, but I never knew that loving unconditionally would help in dealing with some very unloving “fellow Christians.”

I am so thankful to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am thankful that He saves from all our sins, including being judgmental. I am thankful that I have learned the phrase “Gay Christian” is not an oxymoron! Looking forward to many more years serving the Lord and loving unconditionally.

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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 2,000 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

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