I’m Coming Out of The Closet!

weddingringesequalitysamesexmarriage2World Vision sure stirred the religious pot over the last couple of weeks!  In case you missed it, they made a public statement that they would lift their ban on hiring those in a same-sex marriage.  It was a very bold statement and move by a Christian organization, and many of us here in the Northwest applauded them.  However, it wasn’t long until some very prominent evangelical leaders openly condemned them, and several thousand donors cancelled their child sponsorships over the new policy.  A few days later World Vision realized they were going to lose a substantial amount of funding, and released the following statement:

“We listened to [our] friends, we listened to their counsel. They tried to point out in loving ways that the conduct policy change was simply not consistent … with the authority of Scripture and how we apply Scripture to our lives,” said Stearns. “We did inadequate consultation with our supporters. If I could have a do-over on one thing, I would have done much more consultation with Christian leaders.”

“What we are affirming today is there are certain beliefs that are so core to our Trinitarian faith that we must take a strong stand on those beliefs, We cannot defer to a small minority of churches and denominations that have taken a different position.”

“Yes, we will certainly defer on many issues that are not so central to our understanding of the Christian faith, but on the authority of Scripture in our organization’s work [and employee conduct] … and on marriage as an institution ordained by God between a man and a woman—those are age-old and fundamental Christian beliefs. We cannot defer on things that are that central to the faith.”

I wish that I could say that this is all surprising to me, but unfortunately I understand the fundamentalist world much too well.  This is going to come as a shock to some of you, but growing up in the Baptist church I heard one or two people talk poorly about gay people.  In fact, I was taught that God opened up a big ole can of whoop-ass on a city because of all the homosexuality.  By the time I was a teenager I was fairly fond of boobies so I was extremely thankful that I was not going to be burned to a crisp for being a “lover of my own kind.” And since I didn’t know of any openly gay people it wasn’t something I spent much time thinking about.  And then I met Steven!

I was in my first semester of seminary, and working for a large radio company when I met Steven.  And he is one of those gay men that didn’t come out of the closet quietly…he ran out of it screaming “I am gay hear me roar.”  In fact, we were on the same radio show together, and he went by “Big Gay Steven.”  Did I mention this was in TEXAS?  I have to admit that I was a little scared of him at first.  He was purposefully flamboyant, and because he knew I was studying to be a minister he enjoyed watching me squirm.  He would often ask me for a hug, and ask me if I thought “queers would go to hell?”  As time went by something very strange happened…I began to consider Steven a dear friend.  And in the process I also learned a great deal.  One of the most important things I learned was that who someone finds sexually attractive is not a choice.

For the last few years I have lived in the pacific northwest where I have had the privilege of getting to know many who are gay.  I almost used the phrase “gay community”, but they are not part of a gay community…they are part of the community.  They are wonderful folks that love their partners, their children, and believe it or not…some actually love Jesus! And I personally believe that Jesus loves them as well.  The heartbreak in the World Vision story is the fact that there are Christians and Christian “leaders” who are using their power to bully an organization into discriminating against a part of our community.

Let this sink in for a moment…people withdrew their financial support of starving and sick children, because World Vision said they would consider hiring those in a same-sex marriage.  World Vision didn’t say they condoned same-sex marriage or a homosexual lifestyle they simply said they would not discriminate against them, and that caused people to get angry, lash out, and withdraw support.  I can’t help but wonder if the same thing happened years ago when companies stated that they would begin hiring certain minority groups. I hope those who disagree with World Vision will take the “high road” and still continue to support the children who need it.

Now, let me end by telling you why I’m writing this on my blog that is supposed to focus on midlife issues.  It’s because I have reached the point in my life where I have decided to be me.  For too many years I said what I thought others wanted me to say, did what I thought others wanted me to do, and followed belief systems that were handed to me by others. And I allowed that to keep me from stepping forward and showing my love and support for those who are gay.  So I want to come out of my closet, and openly express my support for a group of people who for far too long were forced into the closet.  My wife Amy is truly the love of my life, and I can’t imagine someone saying to me, “Tony because of my religious beliefs I can’t allow you to get married, and share your life together.”  It would crush my spirit to live in a world that didn’t allow me to share my life with someone that I love.  I don’t think we all have to share the same belief system, but we should all be able to share our life with those we love.

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6 thoughts on “I’m Coming Out of The Closet!

  1. Nancy April 3, 2014 / 1:52 pm

    Thanks Tony for a very well written blog. I had heard about the World Vision stance, but not about the backlash– so disappointing. I will donate to World Vision today! I am a supporter, but had a busy week and never followed up with them to express my support for their decision. Isn’t it crazy that we are even blogging about this? I think the key point you made is that when someone you love is gay, you get a new perspective on grace and what it means to follow Christ and to love one another as he first loved us!


  2. Rick Rhodes April 3, 2014 / 2:15 pm

    Tony, I wasn’t always open to the idea of marriage equality. When I was younger, I felt uncomfortable being around gay people. Then I met my wife and some of her friends, but I still wasn’t supportive of Gay Marriage. Then when I looked at history, I looked at Loving Vs. Virginia and the history slapped me in the face. My wife is bi-racial. Within my lifetime, it would have not only been allowed, but in some places I could have been imprisoned or ran out of town for marrying the person I loved. I then realized that if I couldn’t be denied the right to marry who I loved because of a difference in races, then how could I possibly support denying anyone else the right to marry the person they loved because of gender. That was when I became a strong advocate for all human rights.


    • Tony Russell April 3, 2014 / 7:16 pm

      Thanks Rick and I agree…It simply comes down to equal rights.


  3. MC Wright April 3, 2014 / 11:51 pm

    great thoughts Tony, thanks for sharing…we will be running another round of World Vision sponsorships at SVA to hopefully cover many of the children who were dropped over the issue. It is amazing to me how quickly Christians could break a covenant they made to help a child because they disagreed with a policy in an organization. Jesus was pretty clear to let our yes be yes, and our no be no To be people of integrity and keep our promises, no matter what. We live in a culture that is always looking for a loop-hole, and guess what, you will always find one. It’s time for the church to take the high road, not the political road…


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