My name is Joey. I’m a gay Christian. I need to say that more often.
Five years ago, I went home from university for the weekend to tell my Mum that I’m gay. I’d spent my first year as a student embracing Warwick Chaplaincy life, where I was welcomed with tea and cake and made great friends. For the first time, I met gay Christians who showed me that no sexuality stops you from having a faith. How it all worked together I wasn’t sure, but I knew I liked guys and I knew I believed in God, so that was enough.
Then I graduated. The cosy Chaplaincy community I treasured was gone. I went back home to Essex, before moving to Liverpool and now London. I worked at a Church of England school and at a Christian charity but never came out to my colleagues. I sat in church as we were led in a prayer for the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. I carefully chose my language and talked about my brother’s partner, instead of his boyfriend.
Why did I stay silent? I’d reverted from being a gay Christian to being gay or Christian, depending who I was with. I feared that church members would judge me. They saw Joey the missionary doing the Lord’s work, helping the youth group, writing the prayers. If I told them I was gay, they’d see Joey the Sinner. This wasn’t my super friendly, super inclusive Chaplaincy. This was real-life church.
Most painfully, I sat in the prayer evening at my new church in London and listened to the guest speaker telling us that Britain was broken because we had welcomed the wickedness of assisted suicide, abortion and same-sex parenting. I walked out before her diatribe ended.
I think it’s obvious why one-third of UK church goers hide their support of same-sex relationships - I’ve only heard messages against same-sex relationships in church on a Sunday. For too long I told myself that the person speaking at the front knew more than I did, and believed that everyone else sat in the service silently agreed with them.
I was foolish to think that. Usually silence in church is a mix of agreement, worship, being polite, being British and thinking about what’s for dinner. By staying silent myself, I was part of the same make-believe congregation I feared. I was propping up the myth that all the church is against same-sex relationships.
Now I look to well-known Christians like Rev Richard Coles and Vicky Beeching who celebrate their faith alongside their sexuality. I go to SCM events and Greenbelt where diversity and doubt brings colour to the black and white faith too often presented from the pulpit. I read my Bible, trusting my interpretation is as valid as my vicar’s.
After walking out of my church’s prayer evening, I came out to the curate. He apologised for the insensitive speaker, but I decided I couldn’t continue to worship there. I found it too ignorant of diversity at a time when my faith feels wafer-thin. I’m now using the Inclusive Church directory to find a new church.
As I continue to come out in my faith life and my evangelical workplace, I want God’s grace to be at the heart of our local churches, building the respect, community and conversation that everyone can speak freely in. I want to continue showing people that you can be a gay Christian, especially when you still have doubts and questions about faith.