As Time Goes By…

As Time Goes By

Every Sunday night the local PBS affiliates plays a set of British sit-com classics. The third one is called “As Time Goes By”. According to IMDB, “Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer) and Jean (Judi Dench) were lovers many years ago at the time of the Korean War. They are separated by a misunderstanding but meet again [years later] by chance.” It isn’t the funniest of the four, but its plot is solid. We watch them fall in love again. They had both moved on, many missing years separated them. We watch as they struggle to reconnect in their later years, in a brave new world of the 1990s, and with grown children of their own. Its probably the least funny, going for subtle realism comedy over the slap-stick and puns of the others, but I still watch it week after week.

In this season of Lent, I find myself separated from my love, and in a struggle to reconnect to it.

I was like most of you, just a kid going up in a church with a funny name: Nazarene. The 30-minute drive down Interstate 35 from Overland Park to Olathe takes forever when you are 4 years old. But every Sunday morning and night, then once more on Wednesday, I could be found some where inside Olathe College Church. I did what everyone else my age did. With the exception of winning the pine wood derby contest and a few “big parts” in the children’s musical, I was perfectly ordinary. Homely if you will. I went to “Big Church” with my parents and passed notes the whole time. I was in the Victor just like everyone else at CCN. In junior high I raised money to go on mission trips. I did what I was supposed to do. Some might say, I was literally the poster boy for NYI.

It was at that giant church in Olathe that I fell in love with a Jesus who did counter-cultural things, who taught that forgiveness and peace were better ways to make sense of the world. I fell in love with the Church, and how it ebbed and flowed with the seasons. How it created ways for people to connect to others. I fell in love with being a part of something so much bigger than myself.

Then the winds changed; a dust storm. I was naive enough to think that I could escape the storm unharmed. My expectation did not meet my reality. I was confronted with the reality that the policy trumps people.  I was naive enough to think they would bend the rules for me. That this time it would be different. I wasn’t some outsider. I grew up here. I can show you where I was sitting when I left to go pray at the altar and ask Jesus into my life. Just a few feet away is where I stood when I was given Minister’s License. The chaos of the storm separated me from my Church. I could have converted the entire planet to Christianity, but it would have been meaningless to those in Lenexa because of one issue: my sexual orientation.

Because this issue has been blown out of proportion, I feel like that’s all anyone sees me as, a gay rebel-rouser who should stop complaining because “I knew the rules when I signed up.” In the solitude of Lent, and in the darkness of my personal Gethsemane I ask God questions I am too afraid to speak publicly:

“If Christians see me as terrible, maybe God sees me this way too…”

“Why did You make me gay?”

“Why did I even start this foolish blog?”

“Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is sinful to be gay…”

“Am I doing any good for You or the Church? Or am I just like that “reformed” guy but barking on the other side of issues?”

Lent’s introspection has forced me to deal with the spiritual pains of this separation. Will I ever get back to the church of my childhood? Will I find my childlike wonder in a new denomination? Or will I be forever jaded because of this whole experience? It is hard to separate the good from the bad in my memories. Even more difficult is determining what was real and what was fake about my Christianity. Bittersweet memories of a time gone by. There are times when I want to walk away from it all. Those questions circle my thoughts like vultures in the desert. Without a community of support it is harder and harder to fight them off when they land. It’s been 4 years, seems like 40, have we done anything? I’ve spent the last 4 years trying to hold on to a shadow. The dust from the storm settles, and I realize just how far removed I am.

For many gays, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer Christians, it is easy to get stuck here; in the separation. In the emotional rawness of being rejected by people you thought were on your side, but weren’t, or not fully, or are now but not when you needed them. The deeper the cut the longer it takes to heal and so we linger in the separation. But even those of us who once called the Nazarenes their own, need to be reminded that Easter is coming. The pain and hurt won’t last forever.

Like Lionel and Jean were reunited. Things were different between them, years had passed, but their love was still there. When Easter arrives, it heals wounds, eases pain, and helps us forgive. It will look different for everyone. My hope is they will, at their own speed get there. Getting closure doesn’t mean rushing back to the Church of the Nazarene. In fact, it may mean staying very far away. I just worry that some of us won’t get that closure, and will stay in the bitterness. Healing and closure, in all their varied forms, are our destinations.

Where am I now? I’m not sure… I wish I did. Until then, I’ll pray that the Lord will protect me, and those with stories like mine, from bitterness and that I will act in ways that bring the Kingdom of God closer to earth, that’s about all I know to do. For me, when Easter does arrive, it’ll will be a much anticipated reunion.

Haven’t We Been Here Before?

Dinosaurs

Ty

I grew up in Kansas’ public school system when evolution was removed from the curriculum. As a student I was getting mixed messages about what to believe regarding evolution; my Church said one thing, my school said another. It took time for me to reconcile both voices. 90 years after the Scopes Monkey Trials, those who oppose evolution have lost their steam, even amongst evangelical circles. My church has taken great strides to tone down its rhetoric and open up the conversation to allow for more voices to be heard on this topic.

As the tide for opposing evolution was waning, opposition toward the LGBT community was waxing in the evangelical church, and used the same arguments taken along. Again I was receiving mixed messages. I heard that we are subject to the “wrath of God” and being gay is “not compatible” to being a Christian. It took time me even longer to reconcile the dueling voices.

As this process was happening for me I noticed something very odd. The more I talked to people who opposed LGBT individuals being involved in the rythms of the Church; I couldn’t help but think that we’ve already used these flimsy premises and weak logic before. History is repeating itself. The labels have changed and the Bible verses have been swapped, but the underlying logic of the debate is the same: How do we use and interpret the Bible? It goes one level deeper. Deconstruct these debates and the motivation behind the opposition is clear: fear.

It is a fear of falling down the “slippery slope” which changes long-held positions “supported” by scripture, which erodes everything else in the Bible. If Genesis 1 is not literally true, then how can the rest of it be true? There is an underlying fear that if change occurs then everything else would innately be wrong as well. Why should we, The Church, fear new perspectives? But learning a new perspective on any topic doesn’t eliminate the rest of one’s belief. For example, learning Algebra doesn’t negate basic math elements like addition and subtraction. These conversations shouldn’t scare the Church; they should excite it.

The debate seems to be guided by a gripping fear of losing power and authority. The Church is especially bad at seeking forgiveness as an institution. The irony is that a central teaching of the Church is seeking out forgiveness from God and others. It took nearly 500 years for the Church to apologize to Galileo. Hopefully, it will not take the Church another 500 years to get on board with ordaining gay and lesbian pastors or officiating over gay and lesbian couple’s weddings.

Using the Bible as a science textbook doesn’t get us anywhere theologically, nor does using the Bible like Match.com, well in this case, ChristianMingle.com. There is dating advice in the Bible; it is love one another and be faithful and loyal to your spouse. Use the Bible to love. That’s it! Radical love. Loving your enemy as yourself. Replace fear with love and it changes everything.

It took nearly 90 years for the evangelical Church to tone down its rhetoric concerning its stance against evolution. Likewise it will take time before the Church starts to tone down its rhetoric against those of us in the LGBT community. This won’t happen through scientific studies and peer-reviewed essays like it did with evolution, but through radical love that casts out all fear. It will cause the Church to graciously reevaluate its ignorant rhetoric against LGBT people and the role we play in our communities of faith as pastors, laypersons, and mentors. It challenges the status quo and allows the decision makers to focus on people instead of a policy. Radical love starts one person at a time, one story at a time, one church at a time, and spreads like wildfire on the plains. Suddenly it’s not so radical after all.

Nazarene Ally Founder, Ty McCarthy, wrote this piece for the April 2013 edition of The Gayly, the largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender monthly newspaper in the South Central USA.

Hello.

Hello.

Like getting lost in the plot of a dream or completely immersed by the pictures of a movie only to be snapped back to reality when the alarm goes off, or a sneeze in the audience, such is the pretend world of Neal, who dared to dream of a Church free of discrimination and judgment and full of love, support, truly mutual respect and open arms, only to return to a reality where much work is needed to be done in order to achieve that dream.

At the time it was a very practical solution to a problem I had been wrestling with for years. How do I speak up for LGBT rights, my own rights, while being called to a Church that denies them? I created a character named Neal. Although I never thought people would actually refer to me as Neal, but more on that later. Neal was more than just an imaginary friend; he could dive into things I couldn’t touch; he could speak to people I was scared to speak to; he could think about things I didn’t want to think about. Neal challenged me from his very creation to kill him. Only in Neal’s death could I finally realize what life was like on the other side. After two and a quarter years of long, thoughtful and purposeful deliberations and arduous chronicling the moment has arrived.

I thought surely there would be a guessing game as to who I was, but there wasn’t. (And to my surprise no one ever asked either…) Then sometime in late 2011 it clicked. People personalized my ramblings. Suddenly I wasn’t anonymous. I was Neal. Light bulb! The message was interconnected to the messenger. In order for me to make any progress I would have to switch gears. I started maneuvering myself in November of 2011 for this very post. It took another year, but here we are. I’d like you to meet the real ‘Neal’.

My name is Ty McCarthy. I grew up in Kansas City. (The Kansas side for those wondering). I was raised Nazarene and grew up attending Olathe College Church of the Nazarene. I moved to Oklahoma City and graduated from Southern Nazarene with a degree in Theology and Ministry. I stuck around Oklahoma and got my Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in Norman. I attend Bethany First Church of the Nazarene where I’m currently a member. When not working downtown, I enjoy watching Doctor Who or exploring a new part of ‘The City’ on my bike. Someday, I want to go to the Olympics, and maybe visit every Olympic city. (Anything else you want to know you can ask, I’m going to stop here, otherwise this will look like a OkCupid profile.)

This has been really difficult to write, partly because I don’t want it to come off as too vain or self promoting (because I don’t), but mostly because I never thought I would tell anyone this in my whole life: I’m gay. But there is power in a name, a face, a relationship. I’m not some abstract concept or someone from outside the church. I’m very real, and very much Nazarene.

Looking back, it seems like a lifetime ago, since I sat on my hide-a-bed in my living room and began to type. I have been honored to hear your stories. I wanted to create a place where Allies could connect with Allies, where people can find support and love and know they aren’t alone. I did this because love this Church. I do this for the Church that raised me and saved me. It is not done with malice, revenge, or schism, but it was done out of love and respect.

My story is filled with imperfections and missed opportunities, but I hope you catch a glimpse of where I’m headed and the person I’m hoping to become. It is my hope that Nazarene Ally opens the doors to enable us as a Church to build more bridges with a people group we’ve long mistreated and ignored. This won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy. I am naïve enough to picture a Church where issues of sexuality and gender identity are a thing of the past. It is only possible if we all work together, keeping our eyes fixed on the Gospel: The Gospel, which is Jesus. When we truly love God, we can truly love others. What else matters? Together, the body of Christ can move forward. Together, we can do better.

TyTo my friends and family that may have found out through Facebook or by any means other than me, I apologize for any grievance or hurt find out this way has caused you. I hope you can forgive me. This is not how I wanted you to find out, I wish you had heard it from me. This has been one heck of a year, and I’m so thankful to my friends for sticking by me as I began my coming-out journey. I would not have made it this far without them. I am so blessed, and I am lucky I have them for support. I will continue my story here: www.tymccarthy.com as Nazarene Ally can now grow into something greater than just my story. It can be a place for all of our stories.

My name is Tyler. I’m Nazarene, and I’m gay, and I’m not alone.