I was there in 1988 and I remember the intensity of how people in the pastoral charge I served grappled with this issue and the General Council decision. From some congregational members there was intense anger, verging on hatred for people they thought had chosen a wicked lifestyle that God hated and rejected. The minister before me had come out of the closet before he left and many people were shocked, angered and hurt. In 1988, there were also congregational members who knew someone or had a family member who was gay or lesbian. Although it wasn’t always the case that our “study” was considerate, we did open the possibilities of talking about what our church was grappling with.
I studied at VST [Vancouver School of Theology] from 1980, so I knew candidates for ministry who were openly gay or lesbian and some who were actively exploring orientations. Some comments by my congregants hurt me deeply because I loved and respected these colleagues and fellow students and wanted their calling affirmed and gifts to be shared.
I remember preaching a sermon when the storm seemed at its wildest. I reminded people of the storminess in parts of the church around 1925 and the decision about Union. In my pews were some former Presbyterian families who knew the stories well. There were divisions in families, there were people who changed denominations because of it or who remained fiercely Presbyeterian. But the United Church was born nonetheless and we were grateful. I remember using an L. M. Montgomery novel to illustrate how people of that day came to embrace and love church union. So might we be challenged by this choice, so might we come to be glad we made it, a courageous step, with God’s grace.
Since that difficult time, I have been present to the coming out of my (now former) husband, and grieving the loss of our marriage while at the same time supporting him. I have a child who is lesbian. I have been able to support extended family as children have come out in small towns or rural communities.
I am grateful for so many people of courage in the era of 1988. I know there continues to be lots of growing to be done.
~ Signed, Diane
(Shared with permission of Diane)