Nazarene Ally Founder, Ty McCarthy, wrote this piece for the largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender monthly newspaper in the South Central USA.
Oklahoma City, Okla. — The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have announced they will be delaying a revised policy on gay members and leaders until May. The longer they wait to make a decision the longer current gay boy scouts have to wait to have a gay role model in their lives. Positive role models come in all shapes and sizes, and that includes gays. When organizations, like the Boy Scouts, discriminate against anyone, it teaches the next generation within that organization that discrimination is acceptable and just. Is this really the kind of message that the Boys Scouts wants to be sending?
The Church of the Nazarene (COTN), too, could learn from how the BSA handles this issue. Like the Boy Scouts, my church works with youth from 6th to 12th grade. Instead of tying knots and starting fires, they are gathering to worship together and hear from the Gospel. And like the Boys Scouts, my church, the COTN, does not let openly gay or lesbian people serve in leadership roles. Church youth groups need positive role models too, and just like the Boy Scouts, they need to be aware of the dangerous message they are sending to the gay and lesbian students through their ban on openly gay youth workers. Whether they’re a troop leader or a youth worker, these mentors play an invaluable role in a teen’s lives. Having a mentor allows teens to see beyond the present and talk to someone who has been through it all before, which helps to give that teen a future.
I grew up in a church where there were no openly gay individuals in leadership. So I had no template of what a gay Christian looked liked. Before I came out, I had worked for a rather large Nazarene church in Oklahoma City. Still closeted, I let the fear of people finding me out keep me from being an exemplar to the other closeted teens in the youth group. After leaving that job, I couldn’t help but think that I failed those kids. I failed to let them know that they didn’t have to choose between their church and their sexuality. The idea of being gay and Christian just isn’t compatible for vast majority of the people in the COTN. Coming-out usually means leaving the church. A few found new denominations to call home; most stop attending church altogether. I had no one to look up to as a role model for being a gay Nazarene, and I hadn’t given the kids in my youth group one to look up to, either…
Like the BSA, the COTN has an opportunity in June to change its policy. The 28th General Assembly of the Nazarene Church is the “supreme doctrine-formulating, lawmaking, and elective authority” of the church and is taking place in Indianapolis, Ind. No doubt that any attempt to change the Manual, the governing book for the Nazarene Church, would be met with strong resistance. Maybe all we’ll learn from the Boy Scouts is to kick-the-can down to the next General Assembly in 2017.
Thankfully there are churches that are open and affirming to the LGBT community. Someday, my denomination will be one of them. We Nazarenes need to realize that Christ sees a person’s heart and not a person’s sexual orientation. To help that process, I created Nazarene Ally to help network other gay and lesbian Nazarenes with each other and with straight allies. I wanted to let people know they didn’t have to choose between their faith or their sexual orientation.
When the BSA allows gay men to be troop leaders, they will give hope and a future to closeted scouts. Suddenly the message they are sending the next generation of scout’s changes from promoting discrimination to abhorring it. When my church changes its anti-gay policy, it will be doing the same thing. I still hold out hope that the COTN is not too far behind the Boy Scouts. If anyone has the potential to prove to my church its stance on gays and lesbians needs reevaluation, it’s the Scout that says, ‘I’m an Eagle Scout, and I’m gay.”
This article was published in the March 2013 issue of The Gayly (The Gayly.com). The Gayly is the LGBT paper for Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Wichita, Western Arkansas and North Texas.