As we move closer to Karlsruhe, our publications subgroup has gathered the following testimonials from our friends and members across the world. They give a flavour of the kind of difficulty – and happiness – found by LGBTQI+ people of faith, and as you will see, these do not always come from the most obvious sources. We thank them for their open-heartedness, and present excerpts of their true stories below.
More than anything, these stories are testament to the strength of these individuals in the face of often terrible adversity, rejection, and even danger to their lives. At times of deep darkness, community can be the thing that illuminates a pathway forward. We stand by all rainbow pilgrims of faith, wherever they may be and however they may be suffering. We hold that these stories show why our work is important.
“It is better to be rejected for who I am than to be accepted for who I am not” – Ecclesia, a lesbian woman in South Africa
“My journey to serve God and to reconcile my sexual orientation and gender identity with my spirituality has been a complex one, full of learning, frustration and ultimately of hope and love.
“My faith has always been important to me. I was born in Johannesburg, into a Charismatic Christian home. When I came to the conclusion that I am a lesbian, I realised that this discovery would not be acceptable to my family or the church and so I concealed it. I tried to fit in by being in heterosexual relationships.
“But it wasn’t long before others found out about my sexual orientation. I was told in no uncertain terms that I cannot be Christian and a lesbian. The Church’s stance on homosexuality sent a clear message of rejection to me which forced me to leave the Church. The pain and loss were immense.
“Several years later I had an encounter with God and I returned to the Church. I knew that God loved and accepted me, and I renewed my commitment.
“By God’s grace I met someone. No longer able to bear the soul-destroying silence, I announced my intended marriage to the congregation. I was overwhelmed by their support and good wishes. I realised that it is better to be rejected for who I am than to be accepted for who I am not. My wish to marry a person of the same sex led finally to the discontinuation of my ministry in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA). I decided to take the matter to the courts. This put huge stress on my marriage and we then took the painful decision to end our marriage. The courts however decided that the matter be referred back to the Church.
“I have been able to share my journey with my family, which has brought new perspective and healing to our relationship. And the MCSA have changed their policy in October 2020 to be fully inclusive of same-sex couples. Today, I am happily married and lead an organisation called Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) which is a faith-based NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa, founded in 1995.”
“The grace of God in my life never diminished at all due to my sexuality” – Uchenna, a gay man in Nigeria
“I never thought that my sexuality was abnormal or unnatural, not until my young adult years when I heard the sermon of Sodom and Gomorrah. The preacher said emphatically how homosexuals would rot in hell. The term homosexual was new to me then. I felt confused at the time and emotionally distressed.
“The search for truth and reconciliation of my reality and faith led me to abandon that Episcopal Church and join the Pentecostal church. I was in dire need of a tangible reassurance of God’s love and validation of my sexuality, but damnation was all I could get.
“But due to the fact that I understand my sexual orientation to be natural, and with all the efforts I have made to the contrary, I have not been able to reverse my sexuality. I therefore looked out for an organisation that works to promote the human rights of LGBTI persons in Nigeria. I now volunteer as a peer educator, having begun my journey of self-acceptance through various training and seminars.
“During my journey of reconciliation, I found out that the love and mercy of God is ever sufficient in my life. The grace of God in my life never diminished at all due to my sexuality. Though the church is slow to accept this reality, but I believe that with more dialogue there will would eventually be inclusion and affirmation.”
“Our bisexuality was branded as “promiscuous” by our LGBT but conservative Christian community” – a bisexual female couple in Hong Kong
“We are a female bisexual couple born and raised in Hong Kong, a semi-westernised and highly patriarchal Chinese city. We soon learned that bisexuality was branded as “promiscuous” by the LGBT but conservative Christian community we tried to find refuge in, so we retreated retrieved into a “safer” identity of a lesbian couple and played into the expected roles of butch and femme, which was not authentic for us and contradicted our longing for a relationship of equals. At the bottom of such gender role-playing lies insecurity, fear and self-doubt.
“Life for a bisexual couple is doubly challenging. Ridding ourselves of gender roles was not enough to live our true selves. Fortunately, we ran into a few friendly counsellors and, after a few years, we were able to unlock our authentic selves.
“Through our 25 years of acquaintance and 13 years of committed relationship, we have battled with our faith, the concept of marriage, our conservative yet loving families, and a gay-dominated faith community. We are now married as a bi-/pansexual Christian couple. Life continues to be challenging: it is best understood backwards, yet one must live it forwards. When it calls for difficult decisions to be made, choose authenticity, honesty, and truth. Such choice lets us experience Jesus’s teaching first-hand: “the truth will set you free”.”
“My relationship with God was very poor” – Felicia, a lesbian woman in Ghana
“There has been great struggle when it comes to my sexuality, my faith and my relationship with God. My Sunday school teacher had always made me believe that homosexuality is the greatest sin on earth, and it comes with the greatest punishment among other condemnations. This put so much fear in me as I was growing up, creating what I termed some years back “interpersonal conflict”.
“As I grew and realised I had feelings for and was attracted to women, the fear of receiving the greatest punishment put me into a tight corner. I always felt guilty, sitting silently, and when such words from my Sunday school teacher hit me, I became emotionally unstable.
“Soon I was confirmed, and joined the main church services. Yet I was never able to take part in any church activities or even take the Holy Communion, because those teachings from the Sunday school were still haunting me. Meanwhile, my feelings and attractions for women kept growing.
I never found peace in the house as my grandmother would pour insults on me anytime she sets her eyes on me; all sorts of humiliations. All those living in my area heard about my sexuality, as my grandmother took the chance of shouting every morning at me in an ever-louder voice. No one in the family wanted to associate with me.
“My relationship with God was very poor: no church, no praying and no others that could strengthen my relationship with God.
“That is, until I joined some LGBT organisations and groups. This has empowered me a bit, and gradually I am hoping to strengthen my faith and relationship with God, even though I haven’t joined any church yet because of the possibility that they will put the same fear in me. I have plans to pray without ceasing, and to read my Bible more often and abide by the teaching of the Bible.”
Full versions of these testimonials will be available as a printed publication during the WCC General Assembly in Karlsruhe in September. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.
Learn more about all our global member groups here.