We Were the Minority Straight Couple in our Supper Club

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My grandma attended the same church for over 40 years. She was faithful and dedicated, volunteering, contributing, and always ready to listen. I dont know how many pastors she saw through the years, but I do know she liked some better than others. Though she never unpacked sermons the way I like to, a comment was made here and there that helped me recognize she did think critically about her community. And yet, she stayed.

Im part of a generation of church hoppers. In fact, when I was in high school and asked one too many questions, my youth pastor reminded me that there were other options in town. He thought I might be happier elsewhere. Finding a new community, rather than staying and working through the questions was something expected and encouraged.

Ive never been affiliated with a particular denomination. My high school years were spent at an Evangelical megachurch, where my questions and digging werent welcomed. My college years were spent at an Anglican church in the heart of Paris, where I learned to lean into the questions. I learned there that church and social justice can go hand in hand, and the encompassing love of God looks different for everyone. When I returned to Denver after college, I tried a number of churches from Episcopalian to Vineyard to a tiny arts-based house church. Like Goldilocks, none was quite the right fit and, faced with a plethora of choices, I kept searching.

I finally settled at what a friend and I had dubbed “the make-out church” after we sat behind an enthusiastic couple one Sunday. Awkwardness aside, the sermon was fine, the theology seemed sound, and the community was thriving. I joined a social justice Bible Study that morphed into a weekly theology book club that sustained my faith for close to a decade.

Frank and I met on a snowshoe hike at this church and followed one of the pastors as he opened one of the first affirming and inclusive Evangelical churches in Denver. At this new church, we grappled with our own views on what the Bible really said about inclusion. We were the minority straight couple in our supper club, and we learned so much about that encompassing love of God.

A learner at heart, I normally dive into books and articles when Im curious. At this time, there were a small number of books about homosexuality in the church. The online world was still very small, at least for me, so a lot of these questions happened in real life, with face-to-face conversations. I had grown up with the teaching of love the sinner, hate the sinand had never thought about how damaging those words could be. As I listened to stories of conditional love and acceptance with limits, I realized that Jesus called for something much more radical. He called us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Full stop, without caveats.

I remember driving home from church in those early days, after the announcement had been made, when half of our congregation left and two-thirds of the funding went with them. We wondered if we would leave too. We realized that this call to love meant leaning into an unknown. I didnt know if being gay was a sin, but I did know that calling it that deeply hurt people I worshipped with. I didnt know what God would judge any of us for, but I did know I am called to love my neighbor, without judgement.

I had been journeying into a faith that accepts the unknown for a few years, but this was the first time I really put it into practice. I could have researched and dug into the biblical text more, but instead, I leaned into the relationships we had formed. I leaned into the unknown aspects of our complex Bible and embraced the mystery that surrounds my faith. We decided that we were ok being deemed theologically wrong if it meant that we loved people better. For someone who likes facts to back up decisions, it was a leap to make this move based on the stories I heard by people I loved. I realized I didnt need any airtight arguments to know what Jesus had asked me to do.

Being part of a progressive church that claimed the label “evangelical” was incredibly freeing for me. I needed to remember that labels can be used to do deep and often irreparable damage, but they can also be redeemed. My faith was pushed in hard and good ways and I learned that my questions were welcomed and needed. Listening to stories from my friends who were shunned and rejected by the church, but still loved God and Jesus so deeply they couldnt let go of the institution that shunned them, made me look at my own faith and gripes with God. Would I stay, even if others told me I was unwanted? Did I love God that wholeheartedly? 

This past January, we left that church of ten years for a new community. This decision was not made lightly. In fact, it took about a year of grappling and discussions and questions before we finally made the decision to move. Leaving is never easy and even now, that church will always be home. Its not that our theology changednot at all. Its that because of proximity and a growing city, it was hard for us to make those connections that also make a church home. After years of struggling to make friends outside of the Sunday services, we knew it was time to join a community that would be part of our day-to-day lives.

Our new church is much more conservative, though I think in the grand spectrum its much more toward the middle than I realize. I’d attended their Mothers of Preschoolers group for six years, so had an idea of their beliefs. Going into it, we knew their official view of LGBTQIA+ persons and families was not openly inclusive. We knew this would be a shift in what we had been used to, but for so many other reasons, we also knew this was a place we needed to attend.

Its an interesting experience to move back to a place that is in the grappling phase of a particular issue. Its been a while since Frank and I have had to think about “why” we are inclusivenow, its simply second nature. e

As we step back into a place where this isnt a given, I wonder if weve made the right decision. How will this impact our girls? Yes, they have more friends and a more vibrant community at this new church, but what are they learning? Yes, I know what I believe and am confident in the research and journey Ive taken, but how does this change impact my acquaintances who only see the current denomination? Will this diminish my place as an ally?

Then I remembered my own journey and how there were voices who were steps ahead of me as I became LGBTQIA+ inclusive. They encouraged and listened and helped me find my way. They normalized the idea of an all-loving and all-inclusive God. They reminded me of a God who sees Creation and, as the Jesus Storybook Bible reminds us, exclaims, “You are good!

Remembering my own journey gives me hope at our new church home. As I have conversations with people who wonder and wrestle with their stance on what inclusion means, I remember those days when we had these same conversations. Its necessary to work through those questions and discomforts. As more and more of the congregation join the ranks of Christians grappling with what the Bible “really” says about sin and love, maybe I can be that person who listens and encourages and is helpful along the way, just as so many were for me.

I think back to my grandma, who stayed in the same church, regardless of how she felt about the current pastor or worship style. Im reminded that the deep work of change first starts with building relationships. This takes time and commitment. It takes giving up my own pride in my own journey and remembering to turn back to walk alongside others. Its a reminder of the countless people who have done and who are doing the very same thing for me.

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Annie Rim
I live in Colorado where I play with my daughters, hike with my husband, and write about life & faith. I have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I am honored to lead the Red Couch Book Club here at SheLoves. You can connect with me on Twitter & Instagram @annie_rim or on my blog: annierim.com.
Annie Rim
Annie Rim

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Annie Rim