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.
I’ve been on a journey. As with any journey, the road has had ups and downs, twist and turns. Let me tell you how my journey started and where it has led me.
A few years ago, my oldest child was home from her university. I don’t remember what day it was or what I was doing but I know I was sitting on the floor (which means I was probably folding laundry or petting the dog). My daughter said she needed to talk to me. The way she said it made me ask her if she was pregnant. She said “No, I’m gay”.
So the journey begins. I’ve always been liberal politically and religiously (surprising since I grew up in a Missouri synod Lutheran Church) so this announcement was not difficult for me to hear. We went on with her visit and soon she went back to school. I don’t know how she came out to friends, but I soon saw some posts on social media. The most noteworthy was a twitter post on national coming out day. For a while after that, she didn’t talk too much about relationships and we didn’t meet or hear about anyone special. I don’t think my relationship with my daughter changed much during this time. We have always had a good relationship and it has only gotten better since she has become an adult. She is fun to talk to and we have a lot in common.
In Jan 2018, my daughter went to Spain to study aboard. My husband and I were blessed to be able to go visit her when she was done with her program. We traveled through Spain with her and I saw once again what a wonderful young adult she has become. After we left Spain, she stayed another week before she flew back to Chicago for the summer.
My husband met our daughter in Chicago the following week and moved her back to the apartment. She was planning to stay in Chicago for the summer to work. That was a big deal because for the past three summers, she had worked at a Lutheran camp as a camp counselor. (She had been a camper there since 7th grade). Since her faith was important to her, she was active in our church and Living Water Ministries while in high school.
Fortunately while at Loyola, my daughter found a home at a Methodist Church. Not only did she worship there, but she also worked in their after school program. I was able to visit a few times. It was much smaller than our home church but it was very welcoming and very progressive. I noticed this even before I entered the building. There was a “no guns” sign as well as a pride flag out front. The sermon was social justice focused. Every time I attended, I was welcomed with open arms. I always saw God’s love shining through when I visited.
Meanwhile, my church (an ELCA church) announced that they would be holding a series of three forums on same sex marriage. The purpose was to help the church council establish a policy about whether to perform same sex marriages. It never occurred to me that the church didn’t already allow this, so I started researching and learning. As I said, I’ve always been liberal politically and religiously, but this was different. This was my baby girl we were talking about and this was the church where my baby girl grew and developed her faith.
Ironically, at about the same time I found about the upcoming forums, I found a Facebook group called Serendipitydodah for Moms-A place for unexpected discovery. This is a closed Facebook group for mothers (mainly Christian) of LGBTQIA+ kids. I joined the group and quickly posted a question explaining what my church was doing and requested resources and books to help me learn about gay marriage and the Bible. The other moms responded right away with books, articles and other resources. I was worried about what my church would decide so I started reading and researching. I read everything I could.
I also started thinking about the LGBTQIA+ community in my town. To be honest, I knew little about it. From conversations with my daughter, it didn’t seem that her high school had been LGBT friendly. I wondered what other LGBT folks thought of our city. Although I want my children to live wherever they feel comfortable as adults, it made me sad to think my child may not feel comfortable where I lived. I started following the local Pride Center on Facebook. I went to their parent’s group a few times and met some lovely people.
I also continued going through the resources that I had learned about on line. First, I read the book “Torn” by Justin Lee. Although I already believed that homosexuality was not a sin, I didn’t really know why I believed that (outside of the fact that I believe that my God is a loving God). This book helped me to begin to understand how this is biblically true. I shared the books and resources with my husband and we seemed to be on the same page.
Next, I listened to a podcast called Blue Babies Pink. It was created by an evangelical Southern Christian. It was his life story of coming to terms with his homosexuality. His story was amazing.
I continued to read books and resources throughout the summer and fall. David Guhee’s “Changing our Mind”, “The Sin of Certainty” by Peter Enns and “A Bigger Table” by John Pavlovitz were all wonderful. These writers really helped me see that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. I started learning about the “clobber verses” and how they were traditionally interpreted. I started to learn a new way to understand those verses. I also began learning about affirming churches.
As I was discovering all these resources, I found out about many local events that were happening and attended several. I heard John Pavlovitz speak at a United Church of Christ service. John was an amazing speaker but what was more amazing was the church itself. The pastor was a gay married man with whom I had the opportunity to speak after the services. I told him what was happening in my church and he said he would pray for us. I drove home filled with much peace and joy and was more sure that gay marriage is okay in the eyes of God.
I learned that the local Christian Reformed Church has a group called All One Body which advocates for unrestricted participation in all areas of church life by all members who confess Christ, whether single or partnered without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. This group had speakers come to a local CRC church so I went to a few of their events. One was Justin Lee (author of Torn). I had been moved by this book so I was glad I could hear him speak. He was amazing! This group hosted another speaker who was a local pastor, Rev. Jim Lucas who founded GIFT (Gays in Faith Together). Hearing his story and testimony gave me one more reason to believe God did not condemn gay marriage and homosexuality is not a sin as many Christians believe.
A local United Methodist Church hosted and event called Inclusion First. It was a week-long series of events to “transform ourselves, our churches and our community to be more inclusive to our LGBT+ neighbors”. My husband and I had the opportunity to hear a panel discussion with several LGBTQIA+ people that was nothing but inspiring.
The more I read and saw, the clearer I was that the Bible is not against gay marriage. I was seeing scripture in a whole new way and was becoming very passionate about this topic, but I started to get worried about my own church. What if my congregation does not vote to allow gay marriage? What if my church did not allow my daughter to get married there if one day she wants to? I also started to wonder what the conversations were going to look like at the forums. What would happen if people I have been friends with for years would look at my husband and me from across the aisle and say they believe that homosexuality is a sin and for that reason your child cannot get married at our church?
While those concerns were heavy on my heart, I spoke with a co-worker who identified as LGBTQ+. I told her about what would be going on in my church. She shared with me that her wife might have some more resources (because of her occupation). The two of them were gracious to take a Saturday morning to meet with me over coffee to talk about all of this. It was wonderful to hear their stories and viewpoints and get to know them better. Their love for each other and their compassion for me as I struggled with my fears was clearly a gift from God.
Shortly thereafter, I was in Chicago visiting my daughter and her girlfriend (she is now in relationship with a lovely girl). It was getting closer and closer to the date for the first church forum and it really hit home how important this is to me. I read numerous authors that wrote so intellectually about what the Bible says and doesn’t say about homosexuality. I understand the clobber verses in a whole new way. I have met many members of the LGBTQ+ community in Grand Rapids and West Michigan. I saw what several other churches were doing and I wondered about the ELCA at large. This led me to a website called Reconciling Works: Lutherans for full participation. It’s a program for Lutheran congregations to publicly welcome LGBTQIA+ people and be placed on a Reconciling in Christ roster. I learned what it meant to be a truly Affirming Church.
I continued to be worried about what my church’s forums would look like. What would it be like to sit across from someone I call a friend and find out that they don’t believe like me? I decided to ask one of my pastors if we could meet prior to the forums. We talked about what I had been learning and reading. He let me know that our congregation had people on both sides of the aisle when it came to gay marriage in the church. That made me sad because after months of reading, learning and talking to people, I didn’t know anyone in my congregation could be against allowing gay marriage.
I went into all of this to educate myself so that I could be well spoken about why I believe that my church should allow same sex marriage, but I think God had more in mind. Now I want more than just having a policy that allowed our church to preform same sex marriage. I want a congregation that loudly and clearly shouts “LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ, you are loved and welcomed here. We want you to be comfortable here within our walls. God loves you, we love you. You are welcome and safe here”.
This has been my journey. I know it is not over and I’m not sure where it will go from here. What I do know is that I love my children. I do know that God loves my children. I hope and pray that my church will also show that same love to all of God’s children. I hope that our church becomes truly affirming.
( A post script: My church will have the same sex marriage policy completed in Jan 2019)
Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears”
The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 3,800 members. For more info about the private Facebook group email firstname.lastname@example.org