My younger son is gay. For 12 years he’s been in a committed relationship in New York.
His response to the news that Minnesota will now become a marriage-equality state was:
“Great. One more state in which I get to choose not to get married!”
He doesn’t want to get married. He just wants for anyone who chooses the covenant of marriage to have that choice. He just wants to live his life.
In 1978 students at The College of Wooster began “coming out” to me in the safe space of my office at The Church House,” the campus ministry center that housed the offices of the College Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church. I served the dual role of pastor of the church and pastor to the College of Wooster.
Dr. Violet Startzman, the physician at the College’s Health Center, came home with the results of a three-year study on homosexuality commissioned by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Westminster sponsored public forums, adult studies, and less formal conversations about the core finding of the study: Same-gender orientation is not a choice; it’s part of the natural spectrum of human sexual attraction and love.
It was in that context that previously fearful or confused students shared in the privacy of the pastor’s office and found affirmation. They were active in the college church. They were ordained (student) elders on the church board.
My story since then is complicated, more so than I would like it to have been, in retrospect. Pastors are teachers and educators as well as advocates. Those of us who seek to minister to a congregation wear the mantle of conflicting responsibilities of conscience, patience, unity and advocacy. We are first and foremost rabbis (teachers).
Teaching is different from preaching, although the good preacher is also a teacher. And teachers begin by respecting their students, no matter what their views are on a given subject. Each of us perceives the world through eyes that see what experience has taught us to see.
Gratitude, then and now
When my son came out to us, we were grateful. Grateful for his self-knowledge. Grateful for his trust. Grateful that a (not-so-secret) secret was no longer a secret. So very grateful and proud of who he was as a young man and all that he had done and stood for.
Now, today, I am in Minnesota. He is in New York. I, like him, am grateful that there is one more state in which he can choose whether to be married.
Gordon C. Stewart is pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska. He writes “Views from the Edge: Social Commentary with Gordon C. Stewart.”
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