Sometimes the best support we can give is just the message that it gets better, that things will change. While our lives may not be perfect, we want to tell you that someday it will get better. Here you can read our stories. Here you can read that you're not alone.
In the spring of 2002, I graduated from Cedarville with a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology. However, my education started at Bob Jones University, which is a staunchly conservative, fundamentalist Christian school in South Carolina. As a forewarning, my coming out experience was pretty traumatic, but I tell it at a point in my life where I feel completely well adjusted and where life couldn't be more beautiful. My fiancé and I live in South Philadelphia with our family: Bijou a 7 year-old German Sheppard/Lab mix dog and Charlie and Johnny Spoon our 10 year-old cats. Recently, Robin and I got engaged and are planning a New Jersey wedding to be held in the next year and a half. I am an attorney barred in New Jersey and Pennsylvania practicing GLBTI estate and family planning. Robin is the executive director of a youth health empowerment program in Philadelphia.
Here is my coming out story:
Before starting college, I just felt like I was different from all my girl friends. I wasn't interested in the boys and I guess I just assumed I was a late bloomer. When I arrived at Bob Jones, I spent every waking moment with this girl I met on the first day of classes. Typical of many coming out stories, she was my best friend. Instantly, I became infatuated with her, still not knowing that it was a crush. I fell hard. During the falling-in-love process, I had severe anxiety attacks. I wasn't sleeping. I felt like I was losing my mind. And I still had no idea that I was gay. One day in my freshman year my best friend kissed me and everything finally made sense to me. The anxiety got worse as we quasi-dated. The preachers at the school delivered "hell, fire, and brimstone" messages everyday and I constantly felt this dread that I was going to hell.
My second year of college was awful. I was a mental health mess. Just before exams first semester, one of my roommates turned me in for being sexually active with my best friend. I think we were pretty obvious. I begged the school to keep me and to counsel me regarding my feelings toward my best friend. Even with this, I still didn't realize I was gay. I just thought it was her. Sadly, there was no grace or compassion from Bob Jones. In fact, they expelled me. They forced me to call my parents and tell them that I was gay (even though I didn't think I was). My best friend and I were not permitted to say "goodbye." It was almost two years before I spoke to her again.
The Dean of Students at Bob Jones told my parents that they were banning me from coming back to school for 3 years and that they were calling all the Bible schools with which they affiliated and asked them to honor their discipline. To please my parents, I applied to a few Bible schools but was rejected because of Bob Jones request. My parents then put me into a form of reparative therapy/biblical counseling for 9 months prior to my acceptance at Cedarville. Every single night during those 9 months, I would BEG God to take me in my sleep. I didn't want to wake up. The emotional pain was so intense that I actually felt physical pain at all times. My chest felt like it was caving in. I truly didn't think I would live long. I felt sure that I would have a heart attack.
Cedarville was the only school that accepted me. I remember walking in my first day and going straight to the admissions office. I sat and cried as I thanked the admissions counselor. His response was that Cedarville believed in grace. My two years there showed me something that my legalistic upbringing could never have showed me about God. I am still thankful for my time at Cedarville. I continued in reparative therapy there. But instead of trying to make me "straight," they focused on my mental health problems that had gone untreated and on sexual purity. I truly appreciated that focus as opposed to the legalistic counseling back home because it helped me see myself as human and not some freakish reject. My counselor encouraged me to get closure with my best friend from Bob Jones. That advice was incredible for me. I found out that she was pretty ruined from what happened. Her family kicked her out. To this day she hasn't finished college and all her childhood dreams have fallen to the way side. When I think of her, I still feel sad that she never recovered from that experience.
Despite how great Cedarville was for me, I still couldn't successfully date men and I developed a bitterness toward God that bordered on hatred. I almost married an amazing man I met while at school. But I just felt so dirty when he would so much as cuddle with me. It felt so unnatural. After graduation, I broke off that relationship and finally accepted myself for the lesbian that I am. All anxiety and sleeping disorders disappeared within weeks of giving up on being "straight and normal." I started making true and lasting friendships. I entered a family and community of gays and lesbians that just felt like home. All hatred and bitterness left me. I was never able to reconcile my faith with my orientation and that's always concerned me. But now I look back on the time of emotional and mental anguish and I have no idea who that girl was. I cannot imagine what that pain felt like anymore. Life is so beautiful and my life in particular is SO AMAZING.
I am very thankful for a website such as this one that encourages the integration of spirituality and orientation. I know God made me this way. I know I'm not sick or a freak. But finding spirituality in it all is so difficult when the church shuns our community as though we are lepers. Their hateful attacks on us, whether in our faces such as "Repent America" led by Michael Marcavage, or by trying to regulate our way of life through hateful legislation, Christianity has turned our community away even though some crave spirituality just as any other human being.
I hope in the near future to reconcile my orientation with some level of spirituality because there is a void in my life. However, I refuse to turn my back on who I am. I will never go back to that bitterness, hatred, and mental instability. I am searching to resolve my spirituality in a personal way. At least I will know for myself that I am right with God.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone grappling with these awful feelings would be to be authentic as to who you are. At the very least be authentic with yourself. Coming out to yourself as a Christian is probably the hardest part, but it's an act of personal strength and integrity that is unparalleled. After that, being authentic with others about who you are is so freeing, like shackles are being lifted. Everything will fall into place and you will be empowered. Nothing is worth feeling enslaved to your own private world. Not your family, not your church, not your friends. God loves us even though people will turn their backs on us. Always know that the church in its collective form is not God, but rather flawed people looking for hope just as you and I are looking for hope. Make your spirituality personal, because God does not want you to feel shunned from Him. For my family of GLBTI friends out there, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
. I'm excited to make friends with others who are seeking spiritual integration with their orientation.
I graduated from Cedarville University in 2002. I majored in Applied Psychology and was active in Alpha Psi Omega (the psychology organization) during my years at Cedarville (2000-2001 VP; 2001-2002 President). I did not realize I was gay while I was at Cedarville, and I cannot tell you how thankful I am for that. I know individuals who were aware of their orientation, and I know how much pain they went through during that time as they felt (accurately or not) that they would be judged and despised if they let even their close friends know of their feelings.
My realization came somewhat gradually. I was strongly drawn to the gay community for some reason, yet I did not know why. I went to some online groups where gay people met and joined in on conversations as an ally who wanted to increase her understanding of the world. I grew up being told that homosexuality was wrong, but I never understood why it was wrong other than people telling me that that's what God said.
I honestly do not see how love between two people can be so widely condemned. I find it confusing why some of the more vocal opponents to homosexuality focus so much on the topic. There are thousands of issues facing the world today: poverty, violence, health care, war, etc... why focus on something that honestly does nothing but discriminate when there are so many more pressing issues? Sure, people say that gay marriage would demise marriage in our culture, but I'd like to know how. How does two men or women in love negatively affect anyone's marriage? I've never heard anyone say, "My spouse and I have not been able to communicate well at all after that gay couple moved in next door. Their gayness just undermined our entire relationship." You never hear that because 1) it's ridiculous, and 2) it's not true.
But aside from that, I fully came to terms with my lesbianism on August 28, 2003. It was that evening that I realized I had a crush on a lesbian friend of mine who I had known for a couple of months. We were instant messaging when I quickly typed out my feelings, and then promptly ran away from my computer, as I had never expressed my feelings for anyone before and I was terrified beyond belief that the feelings would not be returned and, more importantly, that I was going to puke all over my laptop. However, my fears were quickly subsided when I realized that feelings were mutual and we began a relationship. While that ended 9 months later, it was not before teaching me valuable lessons on relationships, because while I was 23 years old, I had never before been in a relationship of any kind. I didn't even participate in those elementary "Do you like me? Circle Yes No" situations. They did not make sense to me. I kept telling myself that I'd be smart and wait until I went to college to find the "man of my dreams" because I knew it was silly to start up a high school romance that would have to eventually end.
Oddly though, when I started college I still did not seem to be drawn to the dating scene. The pick-a-dates seemed so awkward. I enjoyed them because the activities were always fun (who could turn down a chance to play laser tag?), but the uncomfortable and uneasiness was just a bit too much. Now, I'm not going to say that I find all men unattractive. That is not the case. I can see a good-looking man and appreciate it, but that's where it stops. I don't have the normal straight girl response of "Oh, I wonder what he smells like"; "I wonder what it would be like to kiss him." I would just think, "Wow. He's pretty." And move on. It was kind of like looking at a piece in an art gallery. Appreciation. Admiration. Then you move on.
But even in college my orientation never hit me. I would be asked out by some guys here and there and while I enjoyed being with them as friends, I felt so awkward having them pay for me because it seemed like I was leading them on. I can honestly say that I used the cheap, "I don't think it's God's will for us to go out anymore" line numerous times. I did not know how else to explain why I wasn't interested in being anything more than friends, and I just assumed that since my feelings weren't there that it obviously wasn't in God's plan. After all, if he wanted me to be with one of those guys, he would have given me some sort of reaction/feelings, right? But nada. Nothing. I even made a commitment to not date for an entire year so that I could get my life right with God. I really had no pressing concern with my spiritual life that warranted such a dramatic act, but it sure did take the pressure off whilst trying to explain to others and myself as to why I wasn't dating anyone.
The journey since then has been an interesting one with ups and downs, falling in love, falling out of love, heart break, etc. But I wouldn't change my orientation for the world. When I realized that summer night in 2003 that I was gay, my life finally made sense to me. I could retrace my childhood and realize that the really weird butterfly feelings that I had felt for certain babysitters and girl friends were crushes, and not a reaction to something I had just eaten. My fear of marriage and my complete disinterest in dating quickly evaporated as well.
I am currently enrolled in a Master's program at the University of Indianapolis. There I study sociology and hope to someday create and present research that will benefit human rights. I greatly appreciate the individuals who started up cedarvilleout.org. Not being accepted and feeling alone and isolated is a common reality to those who are gay - I think this website is a great way to reach out to others that are struggling to let them know that they are okay and that there is nothing wrong to being gay. The only thing wrong about homosexuality is the refusal to accept it.
My name is Jonathan Anderson. I attended Cedarville from 1980 to 1984, graduating with a B.A. in Accounting. While at Cedarville, I used the nickname "Jon," so if any reader is wondering if I am the "Jon Anderson" they knew during those years, the answer is yes!
Like many who have attended, currently attend, and will attend Cedarville, I was raised in a loving, conservative, Baptist home, with my father being my pastor until high school. I have two brothers and a sister, and I am still quite close to all of my family (e.g. parents, siblings, nephews, nieces).
About the only major "point of contention" I have with my family, and they with me, concerns the big "G" issue. My family believes "being Gay" is a choice, and a bad one at that. I, however, know that for me, being Gay is who and what I've always been, as far back as I can remember.
I remember around five or six years old, that I knew that I was somehow "different." I wasn't sure what made me different, or why I felt that way, but I knew, even at that early age, that I wasn't like most. I also remember (around that same age) being uncomfortable around certain men, for I "sensed" something different in them, and intuitively felt they sensed the same "something" about me. I look back now and howl with laughter. Those of us who are Gay many times use the term "Gaydar" (a variation of the word "radar"), denoting our ability to intuitively sense (with uncanny accuracy) other Gays, even without exchanging a word. Not too surprisingly, while at Cedarville, I was able to "spot" other Gays - only I didn't know at that time what it was that I sensed.
Because of my upbringing, I was taught that any thought of sex (including "straight" sex) was wrong, until marriage. I was probably a "prude among prudes," even at Cedarville! It wasn't until several years after I'd graduated from Cedarville, that I began my personal journey of discovering I was Gay.
I started by finally admitting to myself (at age 29) that I found myself sexually attracted to certain men, and never to women. I struggled with this realization for about a year (during which time I was "admitting" to myself that I might possibly be bisexual), and finally decided to prove, once and for all, that I would be utterly disgusted at being even near a known homosexual. I attended an event intended mainly for Gays (but friends of Gays were also welcomed). I was astonished to find that most of the men were "normal" looking and not dressed as women (I later discovered that a very small percentage of Gays cross-dress), most of the men were "normal" acting, no one tried to accost me, all were friendly, many held the same beliefs about God as I held, and I felt I had found answers to many questions.
I battled with the teachings of my upbringing (that being Gay is a bad choice) versus what my logic, intellect, and body told me, for about a year. I was over 30 years old before I had my first sexual experience, which was Gay (trust me, a naked woman was, and still is, perfectly safe around me). I had hoped beyond hope that my sexual experience would be so awful and traumatic, that I would somehow suddenly spark a sexual interest in women and would "turn me" into a "normal" man. Nope. Not even close. Thereafter, I struggled another year or so with the same battle as before, attempting to reconcile (1) my family and my upbringing saying I was wrong, that I was really heterosexual and I'd somehow made a decision to go against the natural attraction to a woman, and "decided" to be Gay, compared to (2) my personal and absolute knowledge, of how right it felt to be with a man, how my logic and intellect told me that for all of these years I'd sensed something different about me and to discover it was my Gaydar, and to know that I had tried so hard to make the decision to be straight, and not Gay, and yet it just wouldn't work.
As I said earlier, I'm still very close with my family. We did have to agree not to discuss homosexuality, since my family continues to be amazingly critical, and in a not-so-kind manner, about this issue (which is in sharp contrast to my family's normal attitude towards and about me). I include this to perhaps offer advice to other Gays/Lesbians, in that your families will almost undoubtedly continue to love you, but some/many will refuse to ever "accept" this fact about you, regardless of the amount of debate in which you engage.
I have been happily partnered with Logan (a physician) for the past 14 years, living in sunny, Southern California. I've earned a J.D. and an LL.M. since Cedarville, using the same logic and analytical skills I used discovering that I am, in fact, Gay.
I know that there is a God, and that He created me, just as I am. I also know that God doesn't make mistakes, and He didn't make such when creating me. I know that I didn't choose to be Gay, just as no heterosexual can ever tell me the point at which he/she "chose" to be straight. I also know that I can't "choose" to be heterosexual just as no heterosexual can ever tell me that he/she could "choose to be Gay" (and isn't it astounding that that simple logic seems to escape most heterosexuals). I still see God working in my life, answering prayers, and providing me with undeserved opportunities and blessings, for which I'm thankful.
I hope this website and our stories will help other Gays, Lesbians, and similarly-situated people as they make their own journeys of self-discovery. I hope this will allay some fear and feelings of bewilderment that you or someone you know somehow did something wrong; that they somehow managed to make a terrible decision that will detrimentally impact the rest of their lives; and that they have somehow managed to disregard God's will and intent for their lives.
If you discover you're Gay/Lesbian, great! If you discover you're not Gay/Lesbian, that's also great! God made you who and what you are - revel and take peace in that knowledge.
I found the theatre before I found Christianity. My entire life has been spent around those creative types: the awkward, misunderstood, and the kids who never really found a place to fit in. And those people were my friends, my cohorts, and my soul mates. I never questioned who I was. I liked to read, and act, and talk a lot.
As I got older, it seemed like bad luck that I went from super deep friendships with girl after girl. I was definitely the girl who was devastated when her best female friend got a boyfriend, or moved away, or you know, didn't call back. I thought I just really, really wanted a best friend, and none of the girls could handle that. I thought all girls felt that way.
When I became a Christian in high school, I was under the impression that in order to be a Christian, you must hate gay people (well the sin, anyway). I pushed away some people I loved very much in just a couple short years. The safe place we had in the theatre was marred by my newfound disapproval for half of my friends. And the feelings I had for that girl in my youth group were no longer a normal part of who I was; they were the secret part.
By the crazy hand of fate, Cedarville was the only school I wanted to attend. My four years there were academically and professionally successful. While there, I met some of the most compassionate, amazing, and intelligent people I will ever meet. I was forced to actually read the Bible, not just repeat pastoral platitudes.
While the general air of Cedarville is one of ultra-conservativeism, I find that was hardly the case with the people I encountered and associated myself with. I was engaging in real conversations about what it means to love God and love people.
I was once again part of a small, artistic, intellectual community where we were all a little strange, and everyone was free to be whoever they wanted to be. And I knew there was nothing wrong with us. I pursued and enjoyed my ministries, the gospel choir, my jobs and my major, ashamed of the couple years I had convinced myself that I was broken.
When I was suddenly, not surprisingly, in love with a woman, it didn't really matter. Senior year, aside from normal senior year stuff, was absolutely wonderful. I was honest with who I was, I was in my first relationship, and friends with the kind of people who supported my health and happiness.
When I told my parents of my relationship, I was met with little surprise, and no condemnation: only love, support, and understanding. They continue to support me and have never expressed anything but love for who I am.
I know that this isn't the case for most of us. My situation, my Cedarville experience, is not the norm for most members of this group. Most of the LGBTQA students of Cedarville have much to fear with embracing who they are. Expulsion, shame, being cut off from family and friends, self-loathing, and a whole myriad of things I cannot even fathom. This grieves me so much. Please know that you aren't alone. Who we are is enough. We are beautiful, and we are whole.
I grew up like a lot of other Cedarville students: regular church attendance, very active in church youth group, K-12 in a conservative Christian school, etc. I was the obedient, compliant child in my family and always got good grades.
However, from a very early age, I knew that there was something different about me. I didn't know what the word "gay" meant until I read Preparing for Adolescence by James Dobson. In that book, he says that "homosexuals" (I hate that word) have severe psychological problems; and, for many years, I believed just that. I believed that I had deep, unresolved, severe problems that made me a bad person. I believed that if I prayed hard enough and long enough that I would like girls. I believed that every time I had a sexual thought about a boy or looked at a man with lust that I was committing a serious sin. I know that my parents didn't intend any harm by exposing me to that book, but those words haunted me for years.
Luckily, my conservative Christian high school discouraged dating before college, so I didn't feel much pressure to date in high school.
These feelings became even stronger when I went to Cedarville. I finally felt like a grown-up; I was on my own (albeit in a dorm), away from my family, making friends on my own terms, listening to music that I wanted to listen to, etc. But I still had these feelings, stronger every day, of wanting to connect with guys, not girls.
I was continuing to pray that God would take away these feelings; and I was reading all these books by "anti-gays" about how God rescued them from their lives of sin and gave them wives and kids.
The summer after my sophomore year, I lived in Columbus and worked for a regional theatre company there. Living in the heart of gay Columbus and seeing so many gay men for the first time in my life totally changed my perspective. I still prayed that God would give me desire for women, but I saw that gay men weren't these depraved, dark, brooding molesters that I imagined. I became friends with some gay people and grew to love their company, culture, and attitude toward life.
My efforts to "pray myself straight" continued, but not for long. During the holiday break of my junior year, I finally came out to myself, to a few friends, and to some co-workers.
The next summer, I lived in Columbus again, but this time as an out gay man. It was heaven. I didn't make the wisest choices that summer, but I definitely enjoy the memories of that "wild" summer. I had my first boyfriends that summer, and one became a long-term boyfriend of five years. He would come and visit me at Cedarville during my senior year, staying with me in my off-campus apartment.
I graduated from Cedarville in 2001. By that time, I was out to most of my friends and co-workers but not to my family. That wouldn't happen for a few more months.
I do not regret attending Cedarville. My time there changed my life -- I discovered a love of theatre, made some awesome friends that I'm still in touch with, came to accept and love myself as a gay man, and actually received a pretty good education.
If there are any Cedarville students reading this, struggling with their sexuality, and just need someone to talk to, please contact me at email@example.com
. It would be a privilege to provide a listening ear.
Looking back, I always knew I was different -- I just didn't understand what it was. Being brought up in a Regular Baptist Church and having a family even more conservative than the Church made me pretty sheltered to even know what gay was. I dated women in high school and at Cedarville -- even was in a three year relationship with plans to get married.
The thing was, there was never any desire for physical intimacy with any of the girls -- and, to be honest, breaking up and not getting married was actually a relief. Since I was brought up that premarital sex was wrong, I always felt "safe" in a relationship with women because I had an excuse for not getting physical. I felt something was wrong with me and feared it was unfixable - so I put it aside and decided not to deal with it until I got married (scary).
After I graduated in 1985 from Cedarville College, I jumped into my career and tried again to date. It was after I had moved away from family and friends that I started to really look at myself and try to figure out what was so different about me. I think part of the reason I didn't look at myself as gay was that my perception was they were guys that were feminine and wanted to be a woman -- how could I be gay? I was masculine and would never want to be a woman. I know now that sounds naive, but that is how gay men were shown as even in the secular world back then. (This was before movies like "Brokeback Mountain" and TV shows like "Brothers & Sisters" that show what I feel is a more true perspective of gay men.)
Anyways, once I was on my own, I made friends with a guy and it turned into a relationship. Though it was short term, it made me realize that I was gay and I ended up opening up to some of my family. My brother's response was the best - he just said he would always love me. My sisters seem to take it real well and I figured I was home free, but little did I know that they were actually very concerned and sure I was on my way to Hell. A brother in law told my mother and she showed me unconditional love - but still suggested counseling to fix it - or maybe I had a hormonal imbalance and it could be fixed that way.
It was years later that my Dad found out (again from a "concerned" brother-in-law) and surprisingly he also gave unconditional love but to this day makes comments that I need a "help mate" (woman) to complete my life. Because of the love my family gave me and their attempt to understand and listen to me - I found myself trying to fix myself. I prayed and prayed that God would change me. I read the Bible, read books on how to become straight, and even looked into the "Exodus" program. I finally just came to a point that I realized I was gay and that I couldn't change it. For some reason that is what God chose for me and I had to accept it.
Accepting myself for who I was and realizing that God was the one that made me this way lifted a big load off my shoulders, but doing this also caused a division in my family. There was talk of "kicking me out" of the family until I changed my ways. This was hard for me because I was very close to all my family -- but I could not sacrifice who I was and live a lie to please the family that I loved so much. It wouldn't be fair to me or them. I haven't been to a Christmas for 10 years because of this issue - and was told by one of my sisters that it would be inappropriate to visit my mother last year on Mother's day because she was planning to be there too. (To this day I have not told any of my family that I am in a relationship because I do not want to cause more friction). But to be fair, how could I expect my family to accept me being gay when I still had questions on whether it was sin or not? It took me 20 years for me to really understand that it was not a sin.
I knew in my heart that I was born this way - for one thing, I wasn't abused when young. And though I was close to my mother, I was even closer to my father through my childhood years, always doing projects with him because our interests were a lot the same. It was when I read how Jesus responded to his disciples in Matthew 19:11-12 after speaking on His strict teaching of divorce. He gives reasons for why certain men should not marry a woman. "Not every one can accept this statement", Jesus said, "Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." Back then a "eunuch" was often associated with homosexual desire. I realized what I knew all along - I was truly born this way! A book that I would recommend is The Children are Free by Rev. Jeff Minor and John Connoley. It helped answer questions on how I could be a Christian and be gay.
I have been in a long term relationship now for over ten years - he is truly the love of my life and I know it was God that put us together. I feel blessed that God gave me Bryan and look forward to growing old with him! It has been a hard road, but looking back I see that there is very little I would change. If my story helped you out or you need someone to talk to - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Realizing you are gay is a personal thing and each person goes through things differently -- but don't let anyone make you feel less of a person because of who God made you to be -- He doesn't make mistakes.
My name is Samantha and I am queer. I am a Christian, a feminist, and a graduate from Cedarville University. I grew up in a conservative Baptist home in Saint Cloud, Florida. I have always been one to ask the questions that got me into trouble. "Why are boys allowed to be boys?" or "Why is it always white old men who make decisions?" or "Why can't two girls get married" were just samples of questions I asked. My parents were good about most of the questions, except, as you can imagine, that last one. I received that typical 'gay is wrong and a choice and gross and evil, but we have to love people who live that lifestyle'. It was the 'love the sinner, hate the sin' mentality which has always felt dehumanizing to me. You love someone but hate who they are? It never seemed to connect to me.
I was a typical tomboy growing up. I just wanted to keep playing Pokemon and basketball and wear cool cargo pants to carry my Gameboy in. I was awesome! However, in middle school, because of my tomboyishness, I was abused tremendously and labeled as a lesbian at ten. (This was based on society's binary gender norms, which of course aren't really how humans interact. And what someone likes does not determine their gender or their sexuality.) To me, at the time, that was the worst thing to me. I kept hearing in my head, people laughing and calling me a lesbian. I always heard it in my head every day. Why does this hurt me so much? I shouldn't care. But I did.
As I got older, I began to realize my attraction to women. I had conservative parents and was scared that I would lose them if I was even honest with myself. My mom told me that she would always love me no matter what. The only thing she couldn't take would be if I was gay.
I went to a community college my last two years of high school. After that, I transferred to Cedarville University in the spring of 2010. My first semester was terrible, trying to deny my sexuality to myself. The fall semester of my junior year, I came back to school, focused on my studies and focused on killing the part of me that was gay. That was until I fell in love with a girl that very semester. I didn't understand it. I was so frustrated. Finally, one night, I was so tired of fighting and so tired of caring that I was gay. I sat up in my bed and whispered to myself, smiling, "I'm gay. Alright. Let's do this." That year was filled with coming to terms with myself, coming out to friends I could trust, and really just being me. It was a grand year, my favorite year at Cedarville. I didn't allow the pressures of Cedarville and "gay is evil" to influence me. God still loves me and He always loves everyone. I don't find it to be a sin. I find it to be just another way to love. I honestly do.
Was my time at Cedarville hard? It was. My senior year consisted of me trying to have others see that people are people and to stop judging them, specifally people in the LGBTQ community. And I tried every day to avoid judging those who judge me. But it is hard. It's so hard.
But you have to keep fighting. I will keep fighting. I will keep getting myself into trouble by asking questions. I found my right answer from God, not other people. God was directing my life with certain questions and certain experiences for a reason. One day, I hope to be a voice for the LGBTQ community and speak on behalf of my experiences and God.
Oh. Spoilers, it does get better.
It really does.
Matthew Eric Nelson
A comprehensive "testimony" of all that I have underwent with respect to the maturity of my faith and the discerning of my sexuality while at Cedarville University is beyond the scope of this task. In a conversation with the openly gay Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Gene Robinson, over hors d'oeuvres after the "Gays and God" conference at the Kennedy School of Government, I shared a very large portion of this "testimony" with him, to which he responded, "This is truly the stuff of publication." So when I attempted to write this piece for Cedarville OUT, I encountered difficulty. It is so tempting to want to comment on the ruse that is the "inerrancy" of Scripture, or the relative nature of the institutional claim to "critical thinking," or the noble Communication Arts professors who prompted me to scrutinize the dogma that the Bible Department was peddling.
As I have said, the issues are many, the story is complicated, and the details are sometimes revelatory. My worst attempts at writing this small testimony are due to an effusion of emotion, experiences, and theoretical ideas that have log-jammed my thinking, and my best attempts have turned into the narrative and analysis that I would one day want to tell the world in whole. Though, what is important about speaking something, however small, about my life in rural Ohio is that you who may be reading this may be helped even in the slightest way. Above all, I hope that my record will be edifying to you, and glorifying to G-d, who is "the Author and Perfector of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
The best metaphor that I have encountered for my experiences while at Cedarville of confronting my sexuality in relationship to my spirituality comes from the Catholic mystic tradition. Saint John of the Cross, a post-Inquisition Spanish saint, spoke of the "Dark Night of the Soul," which is a lonely, painful process whereby the Soul is brought into mystical union with G-d only after a spell of despair, demoralization, and unknowing. During this treacherous period, everything is questioned, identity is examined, and consciousness is smeared. While I could never claim to have the intimacy with G-d that this Carmelite mystic details in his spiritual classic, I can say that I resonate with the earnestness with which he sought after the Holy, the liminality of gender and sexuality that is exhibited in his writings, and the existential upshot of his faith in Christ.
Though many did not know, because I was often good at compartmentalizing my life, but since the end of my Sophomore year (2002) I was gazing deeply within to know who I was, and I was Descartian in my doubt of everything. The postmodern critique of modernist epistemology was especially influential upon my thinking, which gave rise to my interest in all things heterodox (if only to hear all sides of an argument) and counterpoint (esp. to religious exclusivism, heteronormativity, moral absolutism, and republicanism). In Saint John's articulation of the process of purification of the Soul in this Dark Night, the Soul responds to G-d by purifying itself, and then submits to G-d's purification. By the beginning of my junior year, especially after a summer of this Dark Night where I experimented with and tested my identity and consumed as many books as I could in three months, the purging had begun.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, who is credited with popularizing mysticism in the 5th to early 6th century and inspiring Christian mystics like Saint John, teaches that such purging of oneself and questioning is to give way to illumination, which is the next step in the process toward mystical union with G-d. It is one of these first instances of illumination that I would like to share with you.
I have always known that I was gay in some sense, but had never been able to align myself entirely with this truth because of the false stereotypes and derogatory generalizations by which the Church characterized these folk. However, for about six months now, in the Dark Night of spiritual self-examination, identity-questioning, and un-learning and learning anew I had begun this process. While at Cedarville, I was so alone. On the one hand, this was ruinous because I did not feel like there was anyone that I could talk to safely about this, because it was never my intention to want to be anything but myself. Though I felt guilt when I had a hidden crush on a guy at Cedarville, I never prayed away my sexual orientation -- only the incongruity between my strongly-felt Christian faith and my identity. On the other hand, such a setting proxied the cloister of Saint John of the Cross who was present to G-d inwardly by design of his holy order. In other words, even in the midst of all the students at Cedarville in residence, in chapel, in class, and in ministry, I was utterly alone to dwell upon my beliefs, my worldview, and most secretly my sexual orientation. So, ironically, at college I explored my identity and spirituality in stealth. It must be said that there were many professors with whom I had a close relationship, but none of whom gave me the impression that I would have a "safe space" - absent of any judgment, reprimand, or consequence - to talk through my thoughts and feelings.
Therefore, my dorm rooms in St. Clair and South Hall became "ground zero" of my monastic experience - and I had the freedom to do this because I was the resident assistant in and resident director of both locations respectively. In the closet that was my cloister, I collected all the materials for my journey. I sent away, through Ohio-Link, for all my journal articles about homosexuality vis-à-vis biology, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and of course the Bible and Theology. And Amazon.com brought to me a parade of books to study and meditate upon; for example: Robin Scroggs' The New Testament and Homosexuality; Ed. David Balch's Homosexuality, Science, and the 'Plain Sense' of Scripture; Alistair McGrath's After Virtue; Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality; and Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian.
Sometimes paranoid that I would be found out "to be contemplating a homosexual lifestyle," I hid my books in drawers and under my mattress. I remember vividly reading Dirt, Greed, and Sex by L. William Countryman in the main courtyard at Antioch College for fear that the book cover's large print would catch the eye of a fellow Cedarville student and then the inquisition would commence. I used to do my devotionals from Chris Glaser's Coming Out to God in a picnic area in downtown Cedarville. As I write this, the picture of the setting sun upon my face and the reading of the following lines was representative of the limited sunshine in this Dark Night of mine:
I lack a certain courage:
To risk abandoning all my closets
To fulfill life's dreams,
Giving up securities, pretensions,
Fears - especially fears -
To be all you claim I am,
To be all you call me to be,
To be all you hope for me,,,
For all of this cloister-dwelling, I had really only known the bitter darkness and prayers of purgation as the one above. I had yet to receive illumination as to when or how I would actually begin the process of reconciling what was in my head and in my heart. Saint Theresa, another Carmelite mystic and a contemporary of Saint John, talks in her Interior Castle about the abject pain that comes before the benefits of illumination. It is this decisive, painful experience in my life that I would like to recount to you.
After breakfast at Chuck's in the Stevens Student Center, I rushed to the bottom of Centennial Library with a used copy of Mel White's acclaimed memoir, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. Amidst the stacks of books, with as much discretion as I could hope for without having to enact the ritual of departing from campus, I gripped Mel's book anticipating a moving read. I had no idea that I was about to open Pandora's box. Mel writes:
The truth is, from the beginning up to this day, homosexual thoughts and desires have been as much a part of my life as was my heart beating or my lungs taking air... After more than four decades of struggle, I know for certain that my sexuality was a part of God's creative plan. But in those early years, I thought for certain that my secret longings were a sign that my Creator had abandoned me. (29)
As I quote this to you, I thumb-through tear-stained pages with "me too!" in my hand-writing littering the margins of many pages of the book. The correspondence between Mel's thoughts and feelings and mine were uncanny and ominous. Truly, the abandonment that he felt was the Dark Night that was my Hell. As I read in the bottom floor of the library, as if I was reading any of the Preexilic prophets who foretold the future of Israel, I saw what my life would be like if I did not start to try to consistently link all that I thought about myself, Christian faith, politics, world view, and my integrity.
Mel White tells the story of how he came to terms with his sexual orientation as an Evangelical. Over a period of twenty-five years Mel was counseled, electric-shocked, exorcised, excoriated, prayed for as he attempted to understand his sexual orientation in relationship to his faith in Jesus. Encountering only hostile opposition to his personhood from the church, Mel was driven to the brink of suicidal ideation. Meanwhile, he ghostwrote for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Billy Graham, and was married with children. Again, the feeling of self-alienation and hypocrisy that Mel battled, was one that I knew all too well. My theology, politics, and worldview were changing so drastically, yet I was pretending to be what Cedarville wanted me to be - the "orthodox," republican, heterosexual student.
Mel continues his autobiography detailing his slow, methodical "coming out" experience and how it lead to advocacy for the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) folk. By 2:00 p.m. I had read Mel's 300-page book. My face was streaked with dried tears, and I was filled with the conflicting emotions of confidence and uncertainty; enlightenment and confusion; and euphoria and frustration. My "Dark Night" was far from over - indeed, the long road only became more treacherous and doleful - but this experience had provided enough illumination for me to determine a course of action to be self-authentically me: Christian, gay, inquisitive, flawed, compassionate, holy, unholy, knowledgeable, etc.
This period of Dark Night made manifest to me the love of G-d, and G-d's presence in my life. Even though I was alone, G-d brought to me the books that I needed as dialog partners in this journey toward unity with G-d. Saint John is famous for writing "...the endurance of darkness is preparation for great light." Truly, I can say as I look back that G-d's providential hand had been present each step of the way, even in the darkness, to prepare me for the work that I do today (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). As a theology teacher in a boarding school in Northern California, a part-time advocate for GLBT individuals, and a consultant on all things religious and social-justice oriented, I believe that my Dark Night and subsequent illumination that the Christian Mystics have spoken so eloquently about is the sustaining force of my vocation. I live each day questing after truth, wherever it may be found, desiring (though failing at many points) for this rapturous unity of which John, Teresa of Avilla, and others speak.
This experience is only one of dozens that are significant in demonstrating what it was like to be gay at Cedarville. I will one day tell the complete story. Surely much of my growth occurred during my time of transition from Cedarville to graduate school at Harvard Divinity School, and this all is also very important to understanding who I am today. My spiritual pilgrimage, the support of a Presbyterian pastor, religious violence, the oldest research University in the country, being disowned by my father and rejected by some in my family, the enduring love of my mother, working for SoulForce, etc. are all part of the whole picture. Again, one day the story will be told in full.
To you, friend, who may be reading this and finding yourself struggling with your sexual orientation or just being a free-thinker or your own person at the 'Ville, know that you are not the only one. At the very least, G-d is there for you to turn to when no one else is, and right knowledge (to borrow from the Buddhists) is the key to liberation. Be assured that justice will prevail (Isaiah 9:6-7), and strive to be exactly how G-d created you to be, for you cannot be any other.
To anyone deeply questioning sexuality or theology in an environment such as Cedarville, I implore you to genuinely give weight to your personal experience: to what your intuition and your life tell you.
While I attended the university, I considered the Bible absolute and inerrant truth, regardless of what my "gut" told me. I went to all the Bible classes, chapel, attended a Baptist church, prayed, followed the traditional Biblical person of Jesus with my soul, and tried desperately to convince myself that loving a girl was wrong because everything around me said so. I was incredibly unhappy, unhinged, guilt ridden, manipulative, full of lies, angry, confused, afraid.
Today, I do not view the Bible with the same unquestioning attitude. My perception of Jesus is much different; many at Cedarville would label it heretical. I am with another woman and openly share this with others, as well as have close friends (several are Cedarville grads) who don't care if I am same-sex attracted. I am happy, calm, much more healthy, have no guilt, live a peaceful life, know who I am, and am comfortable with that person when I lie alone at night.
It is confusing to many from the conservative Christian background to look at these two lives and accept the latter as correct. How can someone turn from "truth" but live, outwardly and inwardly, in a healthier manner, one more consistent with the "person of Jesus?" It means there are different ways of living and thinking not aligned with one idea of truth, that conservative Evangelical Christianity is not the only way. This is incredibly difficult to accept, and has a blasphemous ring to it for many of you I would imagine. As a young, inexperienced woman, I do not claim to know much about the world, but I do feel confident saying it is hard to argue with that second life I outlined above. It is not perfect by a long shot, but it is whole.
Let's put it this way, if you find that you are a lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual, or sexually-dysphoric student at the great place we all know and love that is Cedarville, it is eminently important that you carry, on your person, at all times, a color photo close-up of hermaphroditic genitalia. This point can't be driven home too hard. Our stories on this website are so shockingly similar that adding another testimony of samesy, angsty, personal trials and all the praying to "the Jesus of Junk" that mine would work differently seemed more than redundant. Instead, let's focus on you, and get back to that photo I was talking about. You will find it useful, and this is how: you can take it out at any moment, in any polite public conversation or private bathroom stall and prove to yourself and/or others, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God made you this way, and it's okay. You see, there's a lot of what I like to call, "pig-eyed, sack of shit theology" out there running amok, and unchallenged in the world, and Cedarville was one of those places, when I attended it, that absent-mindedly, even lovingly, promulgated said theology in spades.
You've no doubt heard from your mother, pastor, friends, and even that cloying, questioning voice inside your head that God does not make gay people. He only makes straight people in two types: Adams and Eves. Eve's take a little longer and require a rib bone as a starting material, not unlike sourdough bread, but that's how it's done, and it's only in those two ways and only with predictable, rational, loving results, because God never makes mistakes. It is at this very moment in the conversation you are having with yourself or others that your production of the photo is crucial! You whip out that bad boy/girl thing that oozes with the juices of both and you say, "HAH!" with all your might, followed by "What kind of non-mistake, loving, predictable, result would you say this is?" *No disrespect intended to the hermaphrodites in the room.
At that moment, the argument falls apart, as it really needs to do. It needs to fall apart in living rooms, dorm rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms all over this great land we call Jesus Country, in the same way it was important to point out to the Catholic Church that the world was not indeed flat, and that adjusting theology to encompass this newfound reality will not rip salvation right out of your beating heart. Another solid point is that no authors or presenters of said information needs to be burned at the stake.
The faiths of many peoples have been astoundingly ignorant when it comes to addressing the concepts of gender and sexuality, but who can blame them? There is no natural mode for honest conversation about human sexuality to occur. We lie prolifically in bars, bathrooms, gyms, sports fields, bedrooms, campsites, dorm rooms, fraternities and sororities, glee clubs, bath tubs and circuses. But we save the extra special, burn-in-Hades-forever, pants-on-fire lies for religion. These whoppers come flying out of our mouths at church, church groups, church sponsored events and even at meals made from recipes collected at church pot lucks! The cheesy-bake is listening! It is upon this body of lies that St. Peter built his theological tenets of sexuality that I referred to in the first paragraph. It's a predictable formula: oversimplified, peer-pressure driven ignorance in… inerrant, infallible scriptural authority out. It wasn't until the twentieth century that we began asking people to report on human sexuality with the aid of anonymous forms, and boy/girl did we learn what liars we are! This brings us back to that photo.
The results of nearly all of those double-blind, anonymous, psychological studies in the twentieth century confirm what the biological sciences have been telling us about gender and sexuality for years: namely, that it is a slippery slope. Gender and sexuality result from a selection of chromosomes, albeit sometimes an unfortunate selection, that is influenced by waves of hormones washing over the mind and body of a developing fetus. This process formulates the design and function our individual junk and minds when we are born and then puberty starts the engine of this roaring machine. Interestingly, science tells us we all start out as Eve's and it's the Adams that require the extra work. This developmental process produces results that mirror the answers on the honest surveys. Instead of the vast majority of the population being straight, with a small minority of gays, it is more that the vast majority in the middle are variously bisexual with small minorities of straights and gays on the far ends of the spectrum. This perspective on human sexuality has been confirmed for me over and over through anecdotal experiences and honest confessions and testimonies of the faithful and pagans alike.
Now what should you and your photo do about your religion? Many of the people on this website have come to terms with Christianity in a form that does not conflict with their experiences as gay people and have found these communities of faith deeply beneficial to them personally and a source of continued strength and meaning in their lives. If that is a path that you would like to consider, please seek one or more of them out and they will be happy to talk to you about your religious options given your gay reality.
In my case, I did not settle on a traditional religious path. Maybe I felt too "punked" by my faith to go back and give another version of it a chance, and maybe organized religion is just not something that works well for me, but for whatever reason, I ended up agnostic with spiritual interests. The process of parting with my dear old faith was almost more difficult than facing my family and friends and honestly introducing myself to them for the first time. If you find that you are struggling with your faith and you fear you are heading for a steeple-and-pew –free-future, feel free to contact me at email@example.com
. I'd be happy to listen. Fare well, love well, respect those around you and the beliefs they have formed, even if they are the pig-eyed sack of shit variety, and don't forget your photo! It could save your life!
I graduated from Cedarville in 1984. My time there was marked by much joy, as I developed life-long friends, from all areas of the college -- the student body, administrative staff and faculty. I was involved in theatre (my starring role as "Peter" in The Robe and "Bottom" in Midsummer Night's Dream are legendary. OK, that's a joke), traveled with a missionary team to Australia, and was the pianist for the Kingsmen Quartet (our songs are still played on the Cedarville radio station, CDR. That's not a joke).
Back then, I was closeted and believed my homosexuality (we didn't call it "gay," that was too happy) was my thorn in the flesh -- something to pull out any way I could. I went to therapists who believed in "reparative" therapy, and went to numerous "ex-gay" meetings in order to purge this "thing" that I was told was so evil. The first friend to whom I confided my secret attraction to men was from Cedarville. I closed my eyes because I was certain she would walk away, and I would never see her again. She didn't -- even as we both agreed it was something I needed to overcome, at any cost.
After many years of prayer, struggle, book-reading, therapy and much, much pain, I realized that being gay wasn't a sin. I wasn't an ex-gay, and no longer needed to define myself by something I was fighting. I was plain and simply, gay. It was a cathartic moment to realize I could be gay and a Christian, and that God embraced a life lived with integrity.
Cedarville provided an excellent education in critical thinking, which played a major role in my intellectual and emotional journey towards freedom as a gay person. Currently I'm a Professor in the Communication Studies Department at California State University, Los Angeles, focusing on rhetoric and performance. I'm happily partnered for five years (we met at an evangelical gay men's group, Evangelicals Concerned
) and attend All Saints Episcopal Church
in Pasadena, a place that welcomes all people, and yes, drinks real wine at communion.
It has been a rough road for me spiritually in the last 15-20 years. I graduated Cedarville in 1994, and left confused and bitter on the inside, even though I managed to hold it together on the outside.
I spent the rest of the 1990s going to counselor after counselor; attending a 20-week ex-gay program called Living Waters (an Exodus affiliate); and praying, clawing, pleading, hoping, and working for an inner change that would take away the desire for an "unnatural" relationship with another man.
I gave up the fight in early 2000, and spent 18 months trying to make up for lost time--hooking up, dating, etc. (This can be an inherent danger in bottling up these emotions and desires-they can express themselves in unhealthy and dangerous ways.)
Thankfully I met Jason, my partner, in late 2001 and he is one of the very few reasons that I cling very tenuously to a belief in a loving God. Jason is a wonderful man who works as an advocate for the elderly population that is homeless or at risk for homelessness. We became registered domestic partners in Oregon when it was legalized in 2006.
Throughout the last 10 years, I have struggled with anger and bitterness toward Cedarville and the rest of the "Christian" subculture, toward God (or who I thought was God), and even toward well-meaning Christian friends. I moved to Portland, OR from Ohio in 2004, partly to get away from my church and from a work environment where my boss was one of the biggest advocates for the anti-gay marriage amendment in Ohio (which passed in 2004).
Moving to Portland with Jason has been the best move of my life. If there's any hope for me finding out what is true and what is false about God and about Jesus, I'm going to find it here rather than in a region of the country where politics and religion are so enmeshed that being a Christian automatically means being a Republican.
In early 2010, for reasons too countless to list here, I decided to come out to my immediate and extended family. There was much fear going into it—I didn't fear being rejected, but I did fear causing them pain, disappointment, and guilt. I feared that they would blame themselves somehow, thinking that "bad parenting" led to my homosexuality. It's not true--my parents are loving, kind people who gave my sister and me a wonderful home and a wonderful childhood.
It wasn't easy. My parents and a few of my extended family have been loving and supportive; my Mom especially has made the effort to understand and also to get to know Jason. However, I would say the majority has chosen to give me the following "1-2 punch": (1) Write a letter expressing concern over my "sin," "lifestyle choice," or some other similar word/phrase. (2) Immediately withdraw and ignore. It has been REALLY hard, because I love my family and have never been in a situation where they disapprove of something about me. However, I don't regret coming out, and I am leaning on those family members who ARE being supportive as well as Jason's family, close friends, and the Cedarville Out community.
Today, I'm definitely in the middle of a spiritual journey and nowhere near a destination; and not even close to the type of spiritual journey I envisioned when I was at Cedarville. I would be more than happy to share more of my story as well as listen to yours – contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I grew up in the South, terrified of being effeminate and calling unwanted attention to what lay just below the surface of my carefully constructed façade. I never told my family the real reason I wanted to quit school in the sixth and seventh grades was because I was tortured by the epithets of "gay" and "faggot" and "fairy" being hurled at me every day. Instead, I did what most people who grow up in a hetero-normative environment do to deny themselves: I dated girls. The more I tried, the more uneasy I became deep inside of myself. I knew why I "hadn't found the right one" yet and that dissonant revelation painfully twisted my insides. Over time, a slumbering courage would awaken within me, but it would be many months before I would embrace the pain as a means of regeneration and resurrection.
This tension within myself, that I had ignored and chosen not yet to address, exploded when I set foot on Cedarville's campus my freshman year. However, I quickly learned how to survive, how to play the game, and how to hide what was really going on in my soul. I was elected freshman class president, represented my class on homecoming court, and had set my eyes on running for student body president. During this time, I was in denial of myself and the ramifications of this suppression.
During my sophomore year, my mother was diagnosed with cancer as I was preparing for my student government campaign. I won and found myself staring into my junior year—the "student leader" of the campus, motherless, and very much afraid of myself. It was during that fall semester, when counseling would not—and could not—provide me the answers and perspective I needed that I looked myself in the mirror and resolved to discover the truth that was hidden deep within my soul.
Senior year was filled with tears, loneliness, joy, and sadness. I spent much time in research, reading, and conversation with others as I sought to confront myself. I didn't want to make a hasty decision and I believed the process of "coming out," to myself and the world, was something that should not be taken lightly or something not to be done quickly. When I began talking to people, I was terrified, but was pleasantly surprised by the love and graciousness that many showed.
The moment came when I could no longer contain the truth and the reality within myself, and I have paid the price for my honesty, openness, and authenticity. No longer is it a secret to be kept, a fear to be nursed—it is a truth that resounds deeply. The painful process of awakening has worked its way into the crevices of my being: my passion for advocacy, justice, and reconciliation across denominational and religious boundaries has been refreshed with new purpose; my love for things spiritual is renewed, and my desire to live a life of integrity and character has been made resolute.
I will not be silent. I will speak against oppression, abuse, and intolerance. I am a pursuer of authentic truths with the capacity to love deeply. I am excited of who I am becoming and where I am going. I am a Christian, a recovering evangelical fundamentalist, a former student body president of Cedarville University, and I celebrate my queerness.
To my beautiful brothers and sisters who may share similar strands in our stories: You are not alone. You are beautiful. You are whole. Embrace your time at Cedarville—time that can be spent in deep self-search, reflection, and conversation with understanding and compassionate individuals who are students and faculty. Be humble, but firm in your story; do not let others co-opt it or twist your words. It took me many years and much struggle to reach the place I have in my story. Above all, do not rush this process. Every one of us is unique, therefore, every one of us will go through a different process in reconciling ourselves with our faith and the world. Think deeply, read broadly, and search for theological answers outside of the bounds of evangelical fundamentalism, if you must. If you would care to reach out to me with questions—or concerns—please email me at email@example.com.
Per Ardua ad Astra: "Through Adversity, to the Stars."
Brought up in a loving, evangelical Christian home, I entered Cedarville in 1983 with a burning desire to serve God with my life, and deep traditional convictions about the Bible. I graduated four years later having received a solid education, having grown to love the Cedarville family, and having had many rewarding experiences.
On the outside, I was a model student -- a hard-working double major (music and psychology), a resident assistant at Lawlor Hall, president of Pi Delta, and well-known for my piano and organ playing in chapel and for concert groups. I was proud to accompany President Dixon to preaching engagements as "special music," and to receive academic honors in both majors.
But on the inside, I was tormented by a single question: "What if they knew?" What if they knew that ever since puberty, I was never attracted to girls but instead had crushes on boys? That countless hours of tearful prayer, counseling, daily devotions, and attempts at dating girls could not eradicate this sinful "sickness?" What if they knew that, despite wanting to be heterosexual in the very depths of my soul and firmly believing homosexuality to be a corruption of God's plan, I kept falling in love with men instead of women?
A couple of close friends and trusted faculty members did know. To their credit, their response to my frightened disclosure was compassionate, but they agreed with me -- I must keep fighting. I must never believe that being gay was good. So I soldiered on, bearing the torturous burden of believing my commitment to Christ was somehow not strong enough, despite every conscious desire willing me to try harder. And when trying hard failed, I "let go and let God" in "absolute surrender." But, nope: after all that, still gay. I graduated believing something inexplicably dark and terrible was wrong with me.
In graduate school, while working with an evangelical psychotherapist and a spiritual advisor from an "ex-gay" ministry, I finally reached the breaking point. I looked down the road and saw a lifetime of despair. And I said no: I will no longer believe that I am defective, or wonder if God is cruel. I will stop beating down my innermost longings at every turn. I will dare to trust my own heart.
Fearfully, gingerly, I decided to try embracing the whole person I knew myself to be, and to stop defining my heart's desire as sick. A Cedarville faculty friend with whom I was still in contact warned me, "Eric, I fear that if you do this, it will destroy you." I was afraid, too. Afraid that once I crossed this Rubicon I'd be swallowed up by a sea of iniquity, or that my soul and psyche would slowly rot away. Afraid that I would end up broken and alone.
Almost twenty years later, I am blessed to be sharing my life with a wonderful, loving man. I have a rewarding professional career at the Boston University School of Public Health
, where my colleagues all know and like my partner, Jordan. I've continued to pursue my music as a pianist, organist and composer
, and have had the pleasure of hearing my work performed in Carnegie Hall. Jordan and I live in a community where our being a male couple is a non-issue, and we're shopping for a house. I know many accepting, Christ-like people of strong faith who understand the Bible quite differently -- but with no less love for God -- than those I knew at Cedarville.
I now understand that my desire for an intimate, loving and committed same-sex relationship harms absolutely no one, myself included. Indeed, embracing it has been my path to peace. Along the way, I learned of mounting scientific evidence strongly suggesting that sexual orientation is not chosen, and may well be at least partially inborn. I found out that same-sex romantic love has been expressed in an astonishing array of civilizations across time and around the world. I saw that Biblical proof texts have been used to "clearly" defend slavery, persecute Galileo, and deny women the right to any position in church or society. But as encouraging as these facts were, the real proof has been in my own life. I have never looked back.
Sexuality is a gift that must be used wisely to life-affirming ends. Gay and lesbian people are no more immune to immature, unsatisfying expressions of their sexuality than are heterosexuals. But perhaps the greatest damage of all is done when gay people cannot embrace who they are, and in their self-loathing are driven to live a lie, or even to destructive and predatory behavior. The church has witnessed this within its ranks too many times.
But the stories on this website paint a very different picture, one that has remained hidden at Cedarville for too long. We love people who happen to be of the same gender. We love ourselves. We love God. And this has brought us joy.
Bonnie (Vesilko) Price
When I arrived on the Cedarville campus, I was like so many 18 year olds. I was scared and confused about life although I had to wear confidence and Christian joy on my exterior. On my very first day at Cedarville, I met a delightful fellow freshman. He became my best friend from that day and throughout my Cedarville years and beyond. He and I prided ourselves in being "just friends" while others teased us for the next 4 years about how we were such a cute couple and expected us to invite them to a inevitable wedding. It wasn't until after we graduated that we finally were able to vocalize even to each other that we both were indeed gay. The admission to each other was totally liberating.
Cedarville taught me many things. It was truly a quality education. I was well prepared for my career in education. I have now had a long career being a public high school teacher and college professor. I even began and ran my own private high school for over 10 years where many gay students were welcomed. After many years of being out of the church because of judgmental attitudes, my partner and I have found a place of worship where being a gay couple is a non-issue.
Mostly, from Dr. Greer's philosophy classes to the painstaking Dr. and Mrs. Grosh's courses, I learned to think. I learned to think for myself and to think out of the box. And with that seeking spirit, in time I learned that God was very big and good -- big enough to have sexual diversity in among his people and good enough to bless me with a life partner.
Being gay and a Christian is certainly baffling to some. Being in a committed, loving relationship with someone of the same sex is not comprehendible to some. I debated those issues myself while at Cedarville. I understand how some reading a site like CedarvilleOut.Org will be prone to judgment and criticism. I challenge you of that mindset to remember how God doesn't fit in nice, neat little black and white boxes. He is the Supreme Creator of gay and straight alike. He blesses His own with wonderful, fulfilled partnerships and purpose filled lives.
I began my time at Cedarville in much the same way as most of the other freshmen -- fresh-faced and ready to do great things for the cause of Christ. Even before my first year, I remember visiting with my parents and thinking about all of the great things I could accomplish by being immersed in the Cedarville culture. I also remember thinking that this was my last chance to rid myself of those "sinful" attractions toward my own sex. I was certain that those feelings I had when I saw a cute guy walk by was just another attack from Satan, and I had already spent a considerable amount of time in prayer asking God to take away those feelings and desires.
I knew for a fact that going to Cedarville would help take away those wants. The only problem was that Cedarville didn't lessen the attraction; it merely made the cravings stronger. Worst of all, I knew that if I had shared my secrets with anyone else I was in threat of being kicked out of school. So I kept it all in, afraid of what consequences would await me if I slipped. By the time I was a junior I had gone from being the "model Cedarville student" to a young man embittered by his situation, unable to overcome what I had been taught was the ultimate abomination.
I managed to graduate in 2003, moved to Orlando then to Indianapolis where I joined the Indianapolis Men's Chorus. I developed great friendships with men who had gone through similar experiences as I did. I realized that being gay was not a curse, but a gift from God and that I could use my story to help other men who at one time or another felt abandoned by their faith. Over the years since graduating I have learned not to begrudge Cedarville for their attitudes. I have learned to appreciate the friendships I made there, the experience I gained. I hope that in the future they can begin to see through the intolerance and lack of understanding. The Christian faith is about love and acceptance -- not hate and rejection.
My name is Matthew Scheerschmidt, I graduated from Cedarville in 2012, and I am gay.
As with many Cedarville students, I grew up in a pretty conservative family. I went to a Christian school from kindergarten through high school. Suffice it to say, I was pretty aware of how the Christian culture viewed homosexuality.
When I was about ten, it was discovered that a family member was gay. I was not very cognizant of what exactly that meant, but I could tell from my family’s reactions that it was one of the worst things a person could be. When we did visit that part of the family, neither I nor my siblings were allowed to be left in a room alone with him for fear of what he might do to us. Every character flaw he had was blamed upon his homosexuality and, therein, his inherent lack or morals. This made clear my family’s view of homosexuality.
As a pretty theatrical and dramatic child, I would often spend weekends and evenings singing along to musical soundtracks or belting out love ballads from the radio. I always enjoyed singing the women songs better because I could transpose them easier into my octave, and I naturally identified with them more. But when I would sing along, my mother would act disgusted. She would often tell me to either sing with the guys or change all the pronouns. It was offensive to her for me to be singing about a man even as an innocent youth.
So when I realized as an early adolescent that I preferred men over women, I knew I would have to keep these feelings a secret and try to cover them up.
I had my first girlfriend when I was 17. It was a girl I had been close friends with for quite a while, and all my (equally female) friends told me that the next step was to ask her out on a date. So I did. We dated for about four months, and I resented her the entire time. I hated being near her because I knew she would want to be physically close to me and hold my hand and, maybe one day, even kiss, and I did not want any of that to happen. This was clearly not working.
But I kept trying to play the part of the straight male. I think I ended up dating three or four different girls over the next several years, but it never got better. I finally knew there was no chance of me having a successful heterosexual relationship when I had my first and only straight kiss with my last girlfriend. It was terrible. We both hated it. And we both knew that this relationship was clearly a fraud. So we continued dating for another four months.
I came out to her a month after we broke up, and she politely feigned surprise. I had secretly come out to two friends previous to this, but this was the one that really got the ball rolling. I had soon told all of my close friends, a few strangers, and at least one family member. But this was still during my senior year at Cedarville, so I had to keep it relatively secret.
By the time I graduated, I had completely come to terms with it. As a Christian, I could not see how God could create humans with a deep desire for closeness and intimacy and then deny an entire subgroup the ability to develop that intimacy. And as a person, I knew I wanted to develop that closeness with someone in the future.
I finally told my parents a few months later, and they were pretty supportive, considering. I still conflict with a lot of what my family believes, but they are trying their best, and that is a lot better than most. And I can finally say that I am living as my true authentic self.
John E. Sidle
I attended Cedarville from 1981 to 1985. I have some great memories of my college years and the great friends I made there. Coming from a very strict upbringing by Baptist missionary parents, Cedarville provided a good transition for me as I learned to think and live on my own. Nevertheless, I have known I was gay since I was in grade school, and I found myself very conflicted over my sexuality and my religious beliefs during my time there.
Following graduation from Cedarville, I moved to Philadelphia where I worked for a few years before attending medical school at Temple University. I moved to Indianapolis in 1993 to complete a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Indiana University. Despite my assertion that I would never stay in the conservative Midwest, I took a job at Indiana University School of Medicine after residency. Since 1998, I have been involved with the IU-Kenya Partnership, a partnership between IU and Moi University in Kenya.
I currently live fulltime in Kenya where I run a rural HIV/AIDS clinic for AMPATH, Kenya's largest HIV/AIDS treatment program. I am also a Field Director of Research for the IU-Kenya Partnership and oversee collaborative research projects between the two universities.
I was over 30 before I became comfortable with my sexuality. I tried dating women and praying for my feelings to change, but eventually I came to accept the fact that being gay is just an intrinsic part of me-not a choice, just a fact. Acceptance of myself has made my life immensely better and happier. It has also improved my spirituality. My intense conflict over my sexual orientation was actually an impediment to me finding any spiritual footing at all.While I retain a strong belief in God and consider myself a Christian, I know that spirituality is a progressive journey for me. The God I believe in today is very different from the one I was raised to believe in. Luckily, I had some wonderful friends and a very tolerant Methodist church to help me along that path.
I am hopeful that our stories on this website will help some other conflicted young men and women to accept themselves a little earlier than I did. It took me years to say this, but I'm happy that God made me gay.
Hey my name is Alex, but you probably don't remember me as "Rachel" if you were around for the '98/'99 school year. I was painfully shy and awkward back then. Though, if you were around you may have seen a chick that always wore a ball cap and a grungy pair of airwalks (topped off with a long black trench-coat) with her skirts.
I grew up in various GARBC churches, was homeschooled for highschool, and sent off to SUMMIT (a VERY conservative worldview indoctrination camp - thing) the weeks before coming to Cedarville. There we were warned sternly the dangers of secular education (which I didn't have to worry about ;) ) and homosexuality. "Don't become a homosexual," we were admonished, "and if you do, don't come crying to me when [insert list of 'consequences']." I came to school repressing my sexual attractions as well as I could, even if I failed at hiding my gender non-conformity. I left after two terms due to severe depression. One of the most pivotal memories from my time there was a special lecture that was given one afternoon. I think it had something to do with debate, but I remember very clearly the woman who was talking saying that she had the gift of prophecy and had she been born a man, she would have been a preacher. She said this very matter-of-factly with no bitterness or sorrow. My heart sank. My spiritual gifting profiles always scored high in prophecy and I wanted to be a preacher, but knew that God didn't approve of women in that kind of leadership capacity. I left depressed and angry.
During my short stay at Cedarville I had spent some time locked up in my dorm chatting with a church acquaintance from back home. We became online friends and then real life friends when I returned to home to Binghamton, NY. The next fall she enrolled in a local Bible college. One afternoon when I was visiting her dorm I told her that I needed to take some distance from her. We had grown close, and I knew that it was too close for me and my "weakness." She was hurt and confused so I took a risk and admitted my romantic feelings for her. Even more confused than before, she admitted that she had feelings for me as well. I spent most of that fall sneaking into her room and hiding under her bed during room checks. I was on campus so much that a lot of the students knew me a "camo girl" (due to that fatigues I was always wearing). That relationship was every bit as dysfunctional and intense as you'd expect a first time lesbian relationship between two young internally homophobic Baptists to be. I truly felt that what we were doing was wrong. I cared, too, which didn't help my depression. She didn't care about the "contradiction" and wanted us to have children. We broke up (badly) and I tried to do the ex-gay thing for a bit, crying bitterly for weeks "battling" in prayer and listening to Focus on the Family and desert stream ministries as well as devouring books and resources from, the now defunct, Exodus. I even married a man as I started to pursue the ministry through the Free Methodist church. They had rid me of that nonsense about a woman's place in leadership. A part of me was still miserable, though.
One fateful Sunday afternoon I headed to the little gen-X church plant my husband and I were involved with. We went to church separately that night because he was doing something else earlier in the day. Apparently one of his friends had just started dating someone from the singles group in our parent church. My husband offered to give them both a ride to the new church. He had to pick up something from our apartment and on the way he was talking about his new bride, "Rachey-this" and "Rachey-that." As he approached our street the new girl realized that she was riding with her ex's husband. I can't imagine the nausea she must have felt at the prospect of seeing me (I was not a great "ex" back then). So after 3 and a half years, I ran into my ex-girlfriend.
The hermenuetics that led me to be okay pursuing ministry had me second guessing the clobber texts - oh, the slippery slope. I made a hard decision to return to my first love, a love that I had made a commitment to. Somewhere deep down, even "Bondage Breaker" (the spiritual warfare guide I had gone through with some church counselling) couldn't pray away that vow. That was in 2003. By 2006 I had been immersed in queer culture enough to have a good understanding of gender identity and was hit with an epiphany that set me on the road to "becoming me." I began my hormonal and social transition to Alex. I am now confident, happy and so glad I rejected the advise that perhaps this was just my "thorn in the flesh." I no longer believe that some folks are born to lead a life where happiness and righteousness are mutually exclusive. I don't have to "just get by" relying on grace. And despite those who think my trans* identity is an affront to God, I do not believe that "God made a mistake." I am thoroughly grateful for this journey and the things I would not have experienced otherwise. Though my conservative Baptist family doesn't have much contact with me, I have a wonderful family of queer sisters, brothers and siblings of non-specific gender, as well as 2(.5) kids with my wife (legally - YAY, NewYork!). For a time I lay-ministered in a small Metropolitan Community Church congregation here in Binghamton - letting the queer and allied folks here know that God loves them unconditionally. That chapter, too, has ended and I am now starting to get active with the Unitarian Universalists - a tradition that can accommodate the breadth of my varying (a)theologies.
I grew up in a church that posted "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" on the roadside sign. So when my parents found me looking at gay porn as a teen, I soon found myself in Christian therapy. And I was entirely on board. I spent two years taking 2 hour trips once a month to see a Christian counselor who specialized in people struggling with same-sex attraction. My family had changed churches—going from KJV only to a preference for NKJV or NIV—and the youth leader at the new church was a Cedarville grad. When it came time to decide on a college, Cedarville became an obvious choice.
I came to Cedarville still working to overcome my same-sex attraction. I ended up in the Dean's office and Cedarville's counseling. After talking with my counselor at Cedarville, I decided to tell my roommate and RA about my struggle. They both took it fine and were open to encouraging me. Oddly, about a day later, one of my friends, Corwin, came out to me. So of course I then shared my struggle. We were in two different places: Corwin had admitted to his homosexuality while I was still denying mine. We had a lot of conversations about it, neither of us budging, perhaps partially because we're both so stubborn.
A couple months later, Cedarville hosted their first Critical Concerns series on homosexuality. The speaker gave his details on a study conducted to determine if people could get rid of homosexuality. And the results of his study were basically: some people can change, sometimes, maybe. Hearing that I was devastated. I had been working so hard to get over this. And for what?
After the series David Olsen hosted the meeting for Cedarville Out. Corwin knew about it and told me to go. I went to Beans N' Cream for the Cedarville Out meeting. While there I heard David and other members talk about their lives. I realized for the first time that someone could be gay and Christian. It was a huge realization.
I ended up meeting with David the next day to talk. I was quiet and stammering. Thankfully David knew what was what and who was gay (me). So once I finally muttered, "I think I'm gay," we were able to talk for a while. I was still struck by how someone could be gay and Christian. I had never really seen it up close before. It was normal! (As normal as David is, anyway.)
I took a while to work my way to total acceptance, but after that night I knew I was gay and there was no changing it. David put me in touch with another Cedarville Out member who had a similar childhood as I did. I was able to talk through a lot of the issues I had and come to terms with being gay.
And I quickly came to terms with it. I was soon scouting the boys of campus with Corwin. (Sorry straight boys, sometimes we do.) I spent my next two years at Cedarville stuck in the odd Cedarville closet limbo of being not-quite out. Senior year I moved off campus with Corwin and another hall mate, which made life much easier. I still felt frustrated by being stuck in Cedarville and in the closet. But I had great friends around I came out to that provided the support I needed.
After graduation I sent around emails to old friends from high school. I got mixed reactions. Some took it well, saying they had known. Others sent rather scathing replies disguised in love. I know they had good intentions, but it still hurt as I felt the friendship end. I also moved to Boston for grad school and started new friendships with people who instantly accepted me for all of who I am. I found a church welcoming to everyone, including gays.
Life still isn't perfect, but I feel so much better after coming out and being able to live fully out. Being gay is no longer a problem or even an oddity. I still appreciate my time at Cedarville for the education I received and the friends I made. But I came to realize that the rest of the world doesn't work the same way. The rest of the church doesn't work the same way.
Rev. David Gregory
In the early 1970's the broader culture was just beginning to talk more openly about homosexuality. But it was fundamentalism that seemed to provide definitive answers to this "problem" that had confused and terrified me from the time I was a young teen. I arrived at Cedarville in 1975 prepared to do the "right" thing. In 1979 I graduated, married a wonderful woman who was also a student there. We went off to seminary, had two magnificent sons, and ultimately I served three churches over a period of 14 years.
By the time I was in my mid thirties, though, the internal dissonance became deafening and apparently not well hidden. My wife confronted the issue with me and we spent three miserable years working through "ex-gay" therapy and support groups. Wanting to do everything I could to keep our family together, I was really quite naive about the damage that ex-gay ministries do to the lives of those who come to them for help. For me it led to depression, despair, suicidal thoughts, and ultimately a complete breakdown.
In the process I lost my marriage, my family, my home, and my vocation. My parents were both terminally ill at the time. I got to my 40th birthday just fighting to survive.
At that point I could look back on many years of tearful prayers, cycles of confession and self-hatred. I had memorized huge portions of scripture with the promise that healing would come. Besides therapy and counseling, I threw myself into my work to try and outrun it, but as I learned the hard way, the human body will only take so much before it starts a rebellion. There was only one thing I had NOT done: to dare to think that God had lovingly created me exactly as I am, and that rejecting my true nature was the same thing as rejecting the God who made me. This was the turning point that saved my life.
Today I am once again an ordained minister, now in the United Church of Christ, a place where I can flourish without having to lie about who I am. I have two grown sons and a grandson with whom I share a happy loving relationship, and a magnificent partner with whom I share a vital, happy, and interesting life.
Of course I would do so many things differently had I known how things would end up, but then again it was exactly the path I took that brought me to the life I now live, and I would not change a thing.
Laura (Walker) Mitchell
I didn't want to do it -- go back to Cedarville, that is. I gave myself plenty of excuses to avoid going, but none of them held up to the underlying issue. I had to be there when Soulforce visited Cedarville's campus, because maybe, just maybe my being there would make a difference. Little did I know at that decision making time, the greatest difference would be, in me. Thanks to my partner Kim's patience, and my daughter knowing me all too well, I finally made the right decision. I was going back to Cedarville as an openly gay woman.
Arriving on campus was slightly unnerving, not to mention confusing. Everything had changed since I was there last. The entire campus had re-oriented to the north and huge structures had been built to accommodate the university sized population. I was amazed, a bit lost, and feeling quite jealous...all the girls were wearing pants! Oh how things had changed.
Kim and I arrived in time to attend chapel and did so with over 3,000 students and faculty. My nerves weren't quite ready to untangle yet, so I sat there, rigidly listening to the uplifting voices singing and the testimonial of the guest speaker. I needed to get grounded and the best way was to get out and walk the campus a bit. Memories swept over me like the winds which always blew across Cedarville. Our first stop was to Printy Hall were I had dormed my sophomore and senior years. It's amazing how so much has changed, yet so little. Unit doors propped open, I entered into my old units and simultaneously stepped back in time. Maybe the girls living there had changed, but it felt as if I could've been there myself: Furniture seemingly the same, the doors adorned as we had those many years ago, and one of the residents sleeping in and cutting chapel like some other people I knew. The place even smelled the same.
I had one other place I had to go before meeting up with some of the Soulforce Equality Riders for lunch. The H&R Dairy Bar. Despite its being renamed "Mom and Dad's", it felt exactly the same. I swear the same creaky spring door was at its entrance. Ordering one of my basic food groups from back in the day, a chocolate milk shake, I shared the delightful sweet with my partner Kim. Sometimes it's the ridiculously small things that are most profound. There I was in my old haunt, since there was absolutely no other place to go unless you had a car, and I didn't. I sat with my partner -- you know, of the same gender -- and enjoyed a favorite from the past.
Lunch at Chuck's Cafeteria was a grand spread, and the Cedarville staff generously treated us. The facility was different, dining no longer in the renovated gymnasium of the AC, yet customs remained the same. Students scanned their way in and dashed to save a seat by tipping the chairs, a ritual all of us had used at one time or another. Kim and I had the good fortune of dining with Brandy Daniels, the Soulforce Cedarville organizer, Luke, the student government president, and Debbie Stephens, a member of the CU board of trustees. Our conversations were curtailed only because of the voluminous chatter of the setting. Kim and I spent most of our lunch talking with Debbie about Soulforce's founder, Mel White, and on into my Cedarville experience.
I'll be honest, I initially told those asking that I did not "struggle" with being gay while at Cedarville. I even told Dr. Dolph, my professor of Abnormal Psychology then, who still teaches the class today, I didn't remember the topic of being gay ever being talked about. I then confessed I cut his class a lot since it was in the Spring quarter...sunning in the Maddox courtyard could be considered a requirement of attendance of sorts. It wasn't until later that night, reflecting on the day and reviewing my memories that I realized I had been struggling. My emotions, thoughts, feelings all conflicting with my wanting to live a good Christian life. I suppressed that conflict, not easily mind you. I remember the flashes of anger, jealousy, and confusion within me, and turned my energies, as best I could, into doing what I thought was right and expected of me.
The conversation over lunch about acceptance, the need to stop the spiritual violence so often perpetuated in the name of Christ towards the LGBT was an open and honest one. I knew the Spirit was with us as Debbie, Kim and I shared our personal stories. I felt my own heart begin to open, putting away my anxiety and fears of returning to Cedarville. Healing began, and I think, understanding was built by all involved.
Kim and I attended other presentations by Soulforce and the scheduled forums with Cedarville professors. I listened, really listened to what everyone was saying. It was not a debate or argument over the Bible, rather both sides used the Bible to identify the need for Christ's grace, love, tolerant acceptance, and no one is to judge the spiritual path of another. My healing continued. Oh sure, I could dwell on the things said that I didn't agree with, we all know where we stand differently, but I choose not to. I listened to David Olsen speak during the Q&A following the forum and to the others making statements or asking questions. I was moved and given the strength to address those present. I will be very honest, I was afraid, had nothing prepared, and unfortunately I cannot recall most of what I said thanks to nerves causing my body to tremble. I do know that I was deeply touched and proud. I was proud of Cedarville's administration, faculty, and students to step beyond their comfort level, engage openly in discussion, the hospitality given, and the willingness to be most Christ-like by demonstrating love without conditions. This day with Soulforce and a few gay alumni being on campus was risky for our hosts, and not wanted by some, yet it happened.
I barely remember being at the microphone and walking back to my seat. My thoughts then were, "Please don't pass out," because I was shaking so badly. The first forum ended with my statements and I was amazed and became even prouder by those who made a point to speak with me further. Students and professors alike. It gave me such hope and continues to do so.
The day I attempted to avoid and not be a part, became one I'll never forget. I didn't know what to expect going in, only minimally admitting my own fears riddled with anxiety. Being on campus that beautiful Thursday in April was redemptive. I know it was for me, and I think it was for others. I believe Jesus was proud of us all that day.
I attended 1978-1982 but dropped out before senior year for a couple of reasons. I returned to Cedarville in 1986 and switched my previous English major to Bible. I graduated in 1987. For the last 20 years I have been working in the HIV community: As an educator, social service provider, administrator, etc. Since 2003, I have been with Abbott Laboratories as an Advocacy Relations Manager, providing HIV education for patients, providers and the general community in the Southeast. I have lived in Atlanta since 1988 and am happily partnered with Domingo Perez. We are raising a co-dependent, obese cat named Mel.
James Edward Deaton
I attended Cedarville from 1995-96, and then again from 1997 until I graduated in 2000. At graduation, I had completed my B.A. in Professional Writing (it's called Technical and Professional Communication now), and then fulfilled the academic requirements for my second major, Comprehensive Bible, three years later. I was involved in several campus ministry groups while at Cedarville, such as: Not Ashamed, a drama group sponsored by the Greene County Crisis Pregnancy Center; Dayton Gospel Mission, an inner-city food kitchen and mission in Dayton; Jubilaté, a mixed ensemble choral group; and Zion's Light Tutoring, a tutoring ministry with Russian immigrants in Columbus. Also, I was a four-year member of the Cedarville chapter of Sigma Tau Chi, the student honor society for the Society of Technical Communication.
Since graduating in 2000, I've lived and worked throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. I've worked as a technical writer for a variety of telecommunications and industrial leaders, such as Motorola, 3Com, and General Electric. In the fall of 2005, I decided to return to academia, and I'm so pleased to announce that I will graduating in May of 2007 with a Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a United Methodist seminary on the campus of Northwestern University just north of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois. I hope to pursue ordination in the United Church of Christ and continue my dream of becoming a freelance curriculum and devotional writer for a Christian publishing company.
I am happily partnered with a wonderful musician and cook, my spouse Jason, and we co-parent our lively and fuzzy cat Marty. Jason works for a gourmet food store chain, Foodstuffs, here in the north suburbs of Chicago, and he is also the Music Director at Irving Park United Methodist Church in Chicago. God has blessed me with a wonderful Christian man who shares the core values that have molded me into a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. I am proud to share my life with him.
"Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God-and all the more toward you." (2 Cor. 1:12 NRSV)
As written by Michael Shirzadian April 17, 2008
Last year, Soulforce Equality Rider Vince Pancucci challenged Cedarville University to ask how her thoughts, words, actions, and biases harm her homosexual brothers and sisters.
Pancucci joined Michael "Enku" Ide to illustrate the spiritual violence that well-intended Christians so often inflict on the lives of homosexual men and women.
Ide explained how hostility and narrow-mindedness drove him away from the Church, and only the authentic, unconditional love of a handful of Christians he later met brought him back. "Their faith was alive," Ide said, "you could see it in their lives."
Let us, almost a year later, accept Pancucci's challenge. In what ways do our thoughts, words, actions, and biases harm our homosexual brothers and sisters?
To answer this question, we turn to Ricky Smith and his Cedarville experience.
Ricky was an enthusiastic, highly involved Cedarville student. He was a small group leader and class officer. As a communication major, Ricky enjoyed working for Resound Radio. He led a ministry and poured himself into the lives if his friends. Like most students, Ricky came to Cedarville nervous yet excited about his college experience.
Ricky is also gay.
Despite his enthusiasm about Cedarville, Ricky transferred to Ohio State University last semester; Being a homosexual student at Cedarville University, explains Ricky, had grown too difficult. Ricky's story begins early his freshman year.
"Freshman year," explains Ricky via a telephone interview, "the deans had reason to believe I was gay." Ricky met with a Dean Smith, Associate Dean of Campus Life, and together the two discussed homosexuality at Cedarville. "Dean Smith told me that many people at Cedarville struggle with homosexuality. He said there's at least one homosexual guy in every hall."
Pursuant to Dean Smith's suggestion, Ricky attended counseling for two semesters. "Nothing he said, nothing he gave me to read, and no one he asked me to talk to made me change at all. I quit counseling after freshman year."
Despite leaving counseling, however, Ricky desired, as he always had, to overcome his homosexuality. It wasn't until April's Soulforce visit that Ricky's approach to his sexuality began to change.
"When I heard that Soulforce was visiting, I decided to read a lot of their material. After praying about it, I sincerely believed that nothing was wrong with me. The problem was with Cedarville."
Despite his skepticism towards Cedarville, however, Ricky did not intend to leave. It wasn't until last semester -- when Ricky's church and family learned about his sexuality -- that things began to change.
"When my pastor called, he labeled me a filthy sodomite and questioned my salvation." The following week, Ricky's church voted him out. A week later, Ricky withdrew from Cedarville.
Today, Ricky is a junior communication major at Ohio State University. Within his first few weeks at OSU, Ricky joined the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group raising awareness about homosexuality.
Looking back on his Cedarville experience, Ricky is disappointed at the manner in which students treated both him and the question of homosexuality.
"People emailed me explaining that they have homosexual friends that are sleeping around, going to clubs, getting AIDS, and dying alone. They told me that no one goes to their funerals. These are the stories people told to 'quote' change me."
"One girl," explains Ricky, "suggested that, to overcome my homosexuality, I try to act more masculine. The ignorance floored me."
Ricky further explains that his hallmates talked about him and his sexuality behind his back. "Everyone talked about me," says Ricky, "but no one talked to me."
Ricky suggests that [gay] students at Cedarville begin by speaking with someone they trust. "You shouldn't have to be alone," says Ricky.
Ricky encourages [gay] students at Cedarville to contact him at Smith.firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Tim Ronk. I was born in Belgian Congo. My parents served there under Baptist Mid-Missions. Later we went to Guyana for two four-year terms. I attended Cedarville from 1977-1981, majoring in English. I minored in Journalism and bulked up with loads of philosophy classes when not guzzling chocolate milk and the cafeteria's "burp burgers", as we affectionately referred to them. I worked with the Cedars layout team and wrote a column called "Conversations with Self" for the paper, as well as articles for the alumni magazine.
To encapsulate the spiritual journey of half a lifetime in a few paragraphs is a daunting task. How can I be honest? By that I mean, how do I account for all the dips and rises and tediously level terrains? What of those minutes, sometimes days, weeks, even months of doubt, disbelief and despair which only attain significance when set against the heights, where grace descends, when reasoning and answers do not matter anymore, indeed are vanity; when, bowing before the mystery and beauty of a dark and bright world, my spirit rejoices in the Source in whom all souls live and have being?
I start by telling you of a moment I do not recall, only "remember" through my missionary parents' repeated telling? "You were four when you knelt beside the bed and asked Jesus into your heart." Do I place my faith in that forgotten moment? Or do I place it in one of the many moments thereafter, when just to be sure, to be safe, I repeated that same prayer, over and over, fearing my own unsure heart, terrified I had not had quite enough faith during the most recent of the confessions and submissions to His will to be welcomed as one of the redeemed? Over the years growing ever more skeptical of my parents' excessively eager recounting of their son's salvation, I asked the Holy Spirit, Does the story of my early salvation hide some concern for my soul, or theirs?
So, do I then place my faith in the moment when, as a young teen, I walked down the aisle at a missionary conference in Iowa to rededicate my life to Christ, knowing that I still was not willing to "surrender all" and "go into all the world" to become a missionary like my parents? Definitely not, I have little faith in that particular moment because for the preceding week I'd had a crush on the handsome minister who now stood at the front of the auditorium to draw me into his arms, and praise my good intentions before the congregation. My motivations and passions, like everyone else's, have always been mixed. I have been Judas, Peter and Thomas. This adolescent crush and "duplicity" I dutifully confessed immediately, silently, as one of manifold sins, a habit I'd fallen into as a necessity for spiritual survival, to overcome the abomination I was, and I kept repenting perverted lusts that assaulted my imagination, hour upon hour, day after day, though my hormones never got it.
Well then, does true faith and hope begin on one of those golden evenings at Cedarville when I paced campus footpaths as the sun went down? Tortured, I imagined myself to be like the apostle Paul, with a thorn in the flesh. I felt I was a special case in those days, and alone. I was alone; this was the seventies, "gay liberation" a phrase describing a lifestyle very far away, unrelated to me. The few on campus whom I sensed to be my sort, I denied. I distanced myself, certain I was not like them. I was not effeminate, or so I imagined, and so I strived never to be. I refrained from being in their company. I was like a certain Pharisee.
I prayed and I prayed all the more. I jogged six miles a day, often near midnight, after studies. By this time I'd moved off-campus, to get away from temptation, to be yet more isolated. I dared not talk to anyone about It. I rarely took time out to have fun. I was an overachiever. I took pride in my monastic life, and confessed that pride as sin, and surrendered and re-surrendered myself to my Savior, "Lord, I am yours, I will do anything for you if only you will purify me, change me, turn my love of men into a love of women. Work your miracle in my heart." But He didn't. He never did. Not that miracle anyway.
Maybe it wasn't a thorn after all? Maybe I thought too highly of myself? Maybe I was no martyr? Maybe I was a lot like you?
Questions: they've turned a profile heavy on abstraction and short on biographical details into a rhetorical pose which somehow seems apropos, for from a number of engaging and funny, tough and kind professors at Cedarville, I learned the importance of dialectic. (Among them were Ron Grosh, my sister Jody Grosh, Uncle Al and Dr. Grier.) But by posting this profile I may well be damning myself in the eyes of some I have known. Perhaps others I have never met will view this attempt at rapprochement from the compound of a superficial compassion that quickly draws from an arsenal of Bible verses, yet hesitates in disbelief, turns back at the barbed wire, preferring support of the ego by solicitous overtures and patronization to taking that one fatal step, the one step over into - but I hope not. To look out through my eyes of joy at a world I have accepted as right and good, one for which I am grateful, that Tim wishes upon you, yes, I want you over here, to break bread and share the wine of your experiences with me, to open my eyes to you.
At Cedarville we kept inquiring in my small circle of friends, which included Bonnie Price, though I never breathed the truth about my sexuality, not even to her, my best friend. Encouraged to question everything, we did: preconceptions, one's family prejudices (however camouflaged), philosophical underpinnings, cultural frame, one's limited reading, an interpretation of a passage of scripture selected only to advance a particular cause, the history of conflicting interpretations of the Book as a whole, even our awareness of how the Book came to be. Not all of these cerebral investigations flowered the ramifications I see today, but the buds formed then.
For a long time my heart shied away from some questions to protect my faith. (I do not doubt that questions still hide up ahead to waylay me; my journey is not over.) Thus a weakening faith atrophies until a personal crisis exposes it. Not that it was always a sham, but at puberty I had begun to compartmentalize my life. Instinctively I must have known that faith and sexuality alike permeate the whole person, but I tried to keep them in closed chambers, sealed off from each other and from the open air and sunlight where the realities of an outer existence continue. You see I could never give up the fight, the fight for certainty. But my desire for certainty was misplaced. I could not open the fist of my hand and let go, nor fall backward into the Everlasting Arms. I would not put away childish things, though I was becoming a man. My will had to be broken.
I assumed my old faith had merit. I wanted my faith to function absolutely, in only one way, like a set arithmetic equation. I wanted it frozen in time. My earliest questions were not really questions, for they were expressed within a framework that had all the answers. All of us had been trained to think too highly of ourselves, to shake our heads in sadness at the foolishness of our wayward brothers and sisters. We had 20/20 vision when reading the Bible, didn't we? Everyone else needed spectacles. We sold the lenses. Such a faith may like to think it holds 'unmerited favor' as one of its tenets, yet it refuses the captive heart the spacious room required for the dance between belief and its eternal shadow doubt to the tender music of divine grace. Only after I opened myself, accepted the disturbing gift of my sexual orientation, did I hear again the first strains of that Love Song. Rooted thus to the earth the Lord had made, I understood for the first time the phrase, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
Rev. Paige Wolfanger
I came to Cedarville in 1991 as an enthusiastic, fired up, Jesus-loving, somewhat sheltered, 18-year-old girl. I graduated in 1995 deeply and forever changed. I do not look back on my time at the 'Ville with particular fondness, and given the choice, I would never repeat it, but I do know that I would not be who I am today without the experiences I had there. Mostly, I like the person I am today, and so I am thankful for all the experiences I have had, and grateful to the God who has brought me through them all.
I grew up in a conservative Christian home and a far more conservative church of Dutch Calvinist extraction, not even being fully aware that there were people labeled "homosexuals" in the world. (Funny how the absence of one single word from your vocabulary can skew your whole worldview, isn't it?) I was fully aware, however, that when I went to the movies, my attention was drawn to Jodie Foster, rather than to Kevin Costner; that I didn't have a huge interest in having a boyfriend in high school, but when I had a fight with my best girl friend I cried for days; that blue jeans and a nice short haircut felt far more natural on me than dresses and eye shadow. I didn't have a word for it, so it wasn't quite a reality, either.
It wasn't quite a reality, that is, until Cedarville. At Cedarville, the reality that emerged for me was one of fear and loathing. At Cedarville I learned, in daily chapel, in various classes, in dorm room gossip, in special presentations from groups like the Creation Institute, that there is a word for what I felt, and I was "Lesbianism." And it was a sin, an abomination to God, and so terribly, terribly against the long list of rules at the 'Ville.
By the end of my sophomore year I had gotten used to going to chapel nine times a week, used to wearing a skirt every day of the week, used to mandatory, graded outreach and mission, used to praying about everything from the salvation of the world to finding a good parking space at chapel, but I had also fallen deeply, hopelessly in love with a woman. For the first time in my life, my body woke up, and there was sexual desire as well as emotional desire. For the first time in my life I knew the name for this malady. And for the first time in my life, I was ashamed of, and absolutely terrified by, myself.
For the better part of two years, I was sure that I was losing my mind. That was the only explanation I could find for this dilemma, because good Christian girls simply didn't burn with the urge to have sex with other good Christian girls. None of my other friends in the dorms or classes talked about this problem. The only time it was ever brought up in conversation was by a friend who had caught her roommate kissing another girl. The Dean of Women was called in, and one of these sinners was expelled, and the other, the victim in this scenario, had been allowed to stay on the condition that she go into serious counseling for her sickness. I figured I must be sick, too, sick in my very soul, and I had no idea what the cure might be.
So I prayed, every day, on my knees. I memorized scripture and repeated it over and over again every time I felt attracted to my friend, or another woman. I started seeing a Christian counselor, as far away from campus as humanly possible. I begged God to take this desire away so that I could remain a good Christian girl. God didn't take it away. But through grace, God also showed me I was still a good Christian.
A lot happened between my graduation from Cedarville and the time I finally and officially came out. And then a whole lot happened between my coming out and my present location in life. Some was good, and some was not so good, but in all of it, I am convinced that the God who made me in the Divine image has walked by my side every step of it, giving me the strength and love I needed to get me through.
Today I am an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, an open and affirming Christian denomination, one of a handful that will ordain glbt persons. I work as the co-pastor of a congregation outside Chicago, and hope that through my ministry I can share the same welcome and grace I have found. I pray for all those Cedarville alumni, students, faculty or staff who are are gay and being told they are sinful. Hear me now. You are not. You are a child of God, made in God's own image. Don't ever let anyone tell you different. I also pray for the Board and Administration of Cedarville, other Christian colleges, and all Christian denominations and congregations that continue to build the fences that Christ tore down. Want to talk? Email me at email@example.com
. May the peace of Christ, who welcomed and loved all, go with you.
My name is Timothy James Rivetti, though my family and friends simply call me T.J. I attended Cedarville College from 1984 through 1987.
From time-to-time I think back on my years at Cedarville with great appreciation and fond memories. I was blessed with some wonderful friends who are still in my life, experienced many '"firsts" and started to formulate my view of the world and my place in it.
Though I did know I was gay while at Cedarville, I tried to convince myself it was only a phase. I earnestly prayed my feelings towards men would somehow diminish and attraction to women would take it's place. Even though my feelings/desires didn't change, I learned how to integrate these feelings into my life as an adult.
I'm most thankful for the experience at Cedarville because it provides me perspective on how the Evangelical World views homosexuals. I firmly believe the views of many Evangelical Christians are changing regarding this important cultural/moral issue.
My hope is this web site facilities a discussion throughout the past and present Cedarville communities on the issues surrounding Gay Civil Rights and their view of homosexual acts as sin.
I live and work in New York City, though split my time between Sharon, Pennsylvania (where I was born and am now renovating an old house) and my Apartment in the Chelsea section in Manhattan. I love New York. It's a place I'll probably be connected to for the rest of my life in some way. I've made great friends here and really do feel like it's home. Since moving here in 1999 -- after living in Washington D.C. for 10 years -- I am constantly amazed at the energy and pace of life here in the Big Apple.
I am currently the Product Integration Director for Inverness Medical Innovations. After 15 years in the Pharmaceutical Industry working for Merck and Johnson & Johnson, I took a job in Marketing at Inverness Medical where I've been since 2004. My current job centers around our HIV Diagnostic Tests where I am heading up our government relations efforts and Public Health initiatives for Rapid HIV Testing. I am gratified that I work in an area of importance to the Gay community. HIV infection is still a huge problem in the U.S. I've learned a lot about HIV/AIDS in the past few years and am humbled to play a small part helping to stop the spread of the epidemic.
My Faith Journey continues to evolve. I converted to Roman Catholicism soon after graduation from Cedarville (my late Father, Anthony Rivetti, was Catholic). During the last 5 years I've withdrawn somewhat from the Catholic Church and now think certain doctrines/beliefs regarding Gays/Lesbians and the role of Women are simply, wrong. The Eucharist celebration does and will always remain a belief I cherish. But for now, I feel a sense of exile from my Church. My belief in God remains strong, but my place in the visible church here in America is peripheral. What I truly believe at this time in my life about religion, sexual orientation, politics and most of all faith, guide me in what institutions and organizations I support with my time and resources. Thank you for taking the time to read our web site.
The winter of 2004, I was sitting somewhere in the vast Pennsylvania wilderness for my school's annual "snow camp"—a period of time where several fundamentalist Baptist schools came together to bring spiritual revival into the lives of their students. The particular session which I found myself in was led by a passionate preacher who was trying to explain how one becomes a "real" man to his awkward, gangly audience of teenage boys. As he whipped his audience into a frenzy of righteous zeal by decrying worldly influences such as cologne and hair products, he came to the climax of his message.
"You know what the greatest danger to masculinity is in America today? Those homosexuals. Unless we get some real men to rise up and take our country back, those prancing fairies are going to flood our streets with their perversions."
All around me, the audience erupted in cheers. Outwardly, I mimicked my peers. Inwardly, it felt like another piece of my spirit had died. For a year, ever since the wave of hormones that marks the beginning of puberty had arrived, I had known that I was not attracted to women as I felt I should be. Instead, while my male friends discussed the intricacies of female anatomy, I found myself becoming more and more drawn to the broad shoulders and the rough faces of the men around me.
My whole life had been within the walls of the church, and I knew what they had to say about what I was experiencing. Men who were attracted to other men were evil, degenerate and bound directly to hell. Fearing the reactions of my family and friends, I buried my feelings of same-sex attraction hoping that if I ignored them they would eventually dissipate. They didn't.
For five years, I lived like this; hiding my inner thoughts and feelings while pretending to be the good, Christian little boy which those around me had always known. This double life completely wrecked my mental, emotional and spiritual health. By the time I was a freshman at Cedarville, I was a self-identified agnostic who was starting to exhibit signs of depression and anxiety disorders. Some days I would be unable to sleep for extended periods of time. I would wander around town early in the predawn morning experiencing moments of sheer panic as I thought about what would happen if people figured out my secret. Other days, I couldn't get myself out of bed. I would lie there missing classes and other social obligations as I tried to gather up the strength to make myself move. Throughout this, I experienced a raging anger towards the being whom I thought was the cause of all my misery—G-d. I had asked him to change my sexuality; I had begged and pleaded with him to make me into a person which would be accepted by the mainstream church. If he hadn't answered these prayers, then all the internal pain I was experiencing was G-d's fault. It felt like I was stuck with an abnormal sexual identity and a G-d who didn't care about me.
Fortunately, I was able to find friends whom I was able to share my hurt and pain with. They did not judge me, but instead offered listening ears as I poured out years of pent up fears and anger. Through the help of this community, the many broken parts of my spirit and psyche began to heal. Eventually, I was able to reevaluate Christianity through a new perspective.
I knew that I would never be able to get rid of my same-sex attractions. If there is a dichotomy between being gay and being a Christian, then it seemed like I had been predestined to not be a Christian. Having those feelings of same sex attraction had never been a choice and after several years of attempting to purge them from my life, they continued on unabated. If this was somehow incompatible with a Christian lifestyle, then obviously I could never be a Christian. Fortunately, I have met many gay Christians since then who have shown with their lives that the divide between a Christian identity and a gay identity is a false binary.
Throughout my life, I had seen the church as a hostile, unwelcoming institution which wielded G-d's holy wrath upon the world. Slowly, I began to see that instead the church is meant to be a community of diverse individuals who are lovingly trying to restore this broken world towards G-d's kingdom. G-d does not hate me because I am gay. The church has a place for those who do not identify as a heterosexual individual. There is a place in G-d's kingdom for everyone who loves G-d, loves others and works to actively bring that love to the world in a concrete way. In this paradigm of the church, I could be a part of G-d's community without purging myself of my sexual identity.
While I still have many barriers of bitterness and anger to overcome in my spiritual life, I have come back to the faith of my youth. I am not a pervert. I am not a debaucherous miscreant. I am just a Christian who happens to be gay.
Not pictured: Ryan Culpepper, Daniel Rudd, Sharon Pinkerton
When I was 11, my mom and I went to the library together. As we were leaving and pulling out of the parking lot, she said to me "You know, if you're gay, I still love you and nothing is going to change". Knowing that I was not, I smiled and said "Thanks, mom".
Obviously, I didn't grow up in an environment where people were viewed as wrong just because they were different. It was a great experience, but as I went to church more and more, and hung around people that believed that being LGBTQ was a sin, my opinion began to change. I started to adapt the belief of "hate the sin, not the sinner". I had LGBTQ friends and family, and though I never treated them differently, I harbored the belief that they could not help their desires, but that they should not act on them.
I went to Cedarville with this belief, and was reinforced in this while I spent my two years there. Maybe not by everyone, but definitely by the culture itself. Especially during my time at Cedarville, I prayed about and learned as much as I could about the LGBTQ community and what the bible says about the issue. As I grew in my faith and learned more about the bible and all that it says, my beliefs began to change. I stopped with the "hate the sin, not the sinner" attitude and began to love people whole-heartedly. I now hope to be the ally that people deserve and a light in the darkness that the Christian culture casts on the LGBTQ community.
I've now heard every insult possible because I am a straight Christian who supports the LGBTQ community. I'm backslidden or unsaved; I'm a hedonist; I'm a blemish on the Christian faith. I'm no longer afraid of the labels because I've heard them all, but even so, I can't begin to imagine what my gay and lesbian friends at Cedarville have gone through. They have suffered so much heartache at the hands of fundamentalist Christian ideology, and I'm writing this statement so I can publicly support their struggle.
When I graduated from Cedarville with a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies in 2004, I didn't have all the answers, but I knew the part of my classes that resonated with me most was love. Love for the poor, for the widowed, for the defenseless. For everyone at the margins. For everyone whose "otherness" shocks the supposed guardians of righteousness. That's what Christ did, and in this life, that's what I will attempt to do.
I have known many amazing gays and lesbians, and their kindness and love towards their community has been an example to me. Their commitment to each other has rivaled the commitment I've seen among the long-married heterosexual couples I admire. And I cannot believe that the Christ I see in the Bible—a Christ that never once mentioned homosexuality in his earthly ministry—would support ideology that discourages committed love, regardless of gender.
When I think of the spirit of the Bible, I think of love for those society ignores and despises. And as long as the LGBTQ is ignored and despised by some members of Christianity, I will stand beside them.
I only hope that one day, the school that gave me my Bible degree will find the courage to stand by them too.
By the time I came to Cedarville as a freshman in 1999 I was already beginning to question many of the dogmatic and conservative stances I had grown up with. I was pleased overall with the education I received at Cedarville, and I met many bright and open-minded students and professors who continue to challenge me intellectually and personally to this day.
At the same time, I was consistently frustrated by the resistance at Cedarville to open dialogue and a free exchange of ideas. There was a refusal to recognize difference. Let me rephrase: there was a refusal to recognize any difference as legitimate. Of course, there were quasi-liberal and humanitarian, even compassionate individuals who "welcomed difference," but only so that they could promptly eradicate it in the name of "outreach," "ministry," "tranformation," or something else. This forced and artificial homogeneity affected me and many of my close friends negatively.
I was lucky enough to find a wonderful, welcoming and supportive community of friends who represented all sorts of differences from the Cedarville definition of normal (acceptable, legitimate, holy): political difference, ethnic difference, sexual difference, theological difference, etc. Each of us faced his or her own type of alienation and rejection at Cedarville. Each felt she or he had to obscure some part of her- or himself during ordinary interactions on campus. Each of us felt unrepresented by the dominant "Cedarville culture." We didn't see ourselves in the "Cedarville family."
By the time I left Cedarville, I was convinced that the beliefs of U.S. Protestant Christianity (as separate from a Christian ethic) were simply incompatible with the reality of human life, which is characterized by plurality and diversity. Beliefs and practices that seek to deny or suppress this reality are necessarily incoherent and unstable. Let me assure anyone who is beginning to question his or her relationship to such reactionary beliefs: they are indefensible logically, philosophically, ethically and pragmatically. That doesn't mean, however, that these beliefs and practices are powerless to frighten us or to wield power over our sense of self. Coming to terms with the conservative beliefs I was raised with, evaluating them soberly, critically, lucidly, and ultimately finding them untenable, was the scariest experience of my life.
Anyone going through such a turbulent process deserves patience, support and real compassion. At the same time, many people, many more than you think, even at Cedarville, have these same questions about their place within the set of Protestant Christian doctrines. Sexual difference is, of course, perhaps the most feared and marginalized of the differences from Christian normalcy. But there are many GLBT individuals, and many more individuals who differ in other ways from this normalcy, who are devoted to respecting difference and to rejecting the narrow, exclusive and indefensible standards for normalcy that right-wing Christianity would like us to believe are natural or God-ordained. Like my community of friends at Cedarville, we are responsible to be a community of support and respect for one another.
After graduating from Cedarville in 2003 with a double major in English and Spanish, I served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine until the end of 2006. In 2007 I married Teresa Ott, a Cedarville alumna, and I am now working on my PhD in Comparative Literature at University of Toronto in Canada. From this vantage point, I would like to say to anyone who is experiencing the real and legitimate anxiety of moving away from the world of conservative Christianity that it's really okay on the other side, and that there is literally a world of challenges and support waiting for you outside the constraints and uniformity of "Cedarville culture." I would be happy to talk with anyone further about my or their experiences.
I graduated from Cedarville University in 2011 with a BA in philosophy and am currently a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Arkansas. I grew up believing and being taught that gay sex was sinful. It went without saying that since gay sex was sinful, all sorts of other things were sinful (e.g., the "LBTQ" parts of the "LGBTQ"). But I often felt compassion on LGBTQ persons because I was often mistakenly regarded as a gay person. While never embarrassed of this, I was wounded by people, many of them friends, who believed that I was something I wasn’t and, worse, something they believed was somehow defective or sinful.
My story, in brief, primarily concerned a friend of mine, S., who was a closeted lesbian for years before coming out to her husband. Her church excommunicated her and a member of the congregation physically assaulted her. While I knew few traditionalists who would act so cruelly, this incident prompted me to think more carefully about what I believed and, by extension, how I loved.
While my heart was behind the LGBTQ cause long before I said so, the biggest obstacles for me were intellectual ones. Both the Bible and natural law theory seemed to oppose gay sex. Dale Martin’s book Sex and the Single Savior1
was instrumental in convincing me that traditionalist interpretations of certain biblical passages were dubious.2
While I never quite accepted natural law theory, I never quite rejected it either. But the criticisms made me doubt two things: (1) that natural law theory is true3
and (2) that natural law theory is incompatible with taking a progressive stance on gay sex (among other LGBTQ issues).4
Additionally, I was persuaded by James Rachels’ compelling observation that demanding a restraint from gay eros would, for many gay persons, be demanding that they live unhappy lives.5
This would hold less moral weight if what made persons happy was wrong, but I am unpersuaded that there is anything which makes gay eros wrong.6
I realize I’ve given something considerably less than a demonstrative case for the moral permissibility of LGBTQ "lifestyles." But that wasn’t my goal. I simply sought to paint the broad outline of how I changed, how I came to love others differently – differently and better, I think. Occasionally, there’s disappointment in myself for the way I’ve behaved before, for the squandered opportunities to love better than I loved. Yet, though my full support is late, it is I hope loving, and love (being always good) is better shown late than never.7
Dale Martin. (2006) Sex and the Single Savior
. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. See esp. chapters 3, 4, 9, and 10.
Here’s an excerpt from Martin’s book (ch. 3): http://www.clgs.org/arsenokoit%C3%A9s-and-malakos-meanings-and-consequences
John Corvino. (2008) "Homosexuality, Harm, and Moral Principles." Laurence Thomas (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Social Philosophy
. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing. 79-93. I don’t mean to suggest that this debate is over. (It isn’t.) I merely mean to suggest that I came to regard natural law theories as questionably true.
Evan Fales. (2012) "Naturalist Moral Realism." R. Keith Loftin (ed.), God and Morality
: Four Views. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 13-34. See esp. Fales’ comment on homosexuality (32-33, fn. 20). While Fales falls short of explaining how a naturalist moral realist might account for such a possibility, he (as a naturalist moral realist) still endorses it, and how Fales might come to this conclusion might be inferred from more general features of his account.
James Rachels. (2011) The Elements of Moral Philosophy
(Seventh Edition). McGraw-Hill Publishing.
I’ve neglected the page number as I currently lack access to the book, but here’s a link to the chapter: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~stich/104_Master_File/104_Readings/Rachels/Subjectivism%20in%20Ethics.pdf
See also Justin McBrayer. (2012) "Christianity, Homosexual Behavior, and Sexism." Think
(Summer 2012). 163-179. His essay is accessible here: http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/jpmcbrayer/Christianity_Homosexual_Behavior_and_Sexism.pdf
If you want a copy of either Fales’ essay or Corvino’s essay, or if you’d just like to chat, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
In regard to the Soulforce visit to Cedarville
After graduating from Cedarville in 1997 I spent four years in vocational student ministry, and four years as a senior pastor. During that time, I've had the privilege of observing God's redemptive work in many contexts. However, I have never experienced a situation where an individual experienced Gods grace through exertion of force, majority power, shame, or legislative action.
So when I read the prayer requests regarding the visit from Soulfource, I was surprised and concerned by the emphasis (in each of the categories).
There are a number of passages in scripture which make mention of activities that devalue human sexuality and dishonor God. And a few of those passage do include examples of heterosexual people engaging in same-sex intercourse (typically in the context of self-destructive excess, or idol worship). However it seems at the very least questionable, that these limited glimpses, which are steeped in contextual circumstances, offer some sort of conclusive answer to the sincere questions being asked by our Christian brothers and sisters in the GLBT community.
To further insist that these secondary clauses from a few passages of scripture comprise the gospel in a greater or more essential way than God's relentless cry for advocacy on the part of the marginalized; seems to cast a sinister light on the work of the cross, and the heart of historic orthodox Christianity.
It is my prayer, that Cedarville University, Dr. Bill Brown, Dr. Carl Ruby, and all Christians from all backgrounds, will refocus our attention on those ways that we have not embodied the gospel in terms of justice, mercy, and humility. I pray that Cedarville's administration, faculty, staff, and students will sincerely engage in a hospitable dialog as Soulfource visits.
I pray that its leadership will exhibit the kind of self awareness that humbly articulates their own biblical interpretations, without posturing them as the only faithful, or the only "biblical position."
I pray that this dialog would not be hindered by the backhanded implications of "lovingly sharing the gospel" with those who claim the name of Christ, and demonstrate the fruit of the spirit.
I do pray for "wisdom and unity for Dr. Carl Ruby, worship presenters, and the task team." But I do not pray for uniformity. I pray that Cedarville University would always be a place for thinking Christians to humbly seek God's truth and engage difficult question; never in fear of negative repercussions. And if there are repercussions, I pray for the courage needed by those who should face them.
I pray that Christians everywhere (certainly myself) would always be open to God's work, that our "hearts and minds would be changed by God's truth." But I pray more specifically, that Cedarville University would not be a place where impressionable minds are trained to direct that challenge outward instead of inward.
Christianity carries with it far too many historical stains. Far to many times, Christians have spilled blood, empowered or condoned oppression, and dehumanized those whom God has called us to treasure and defend. All this under the guise of defending a God whom we believe to be omnipotent.
As a Cedarville Alumni I encourage hope that students, faculty, and administration will consider the broader picture, and partner with Soulforce in their essential kingdom work.
I grew up in a dysfunctional, conservative family. I went to a Lutheran elementary school, public middle school, and a Christian high school. The majority of people I have ever known in my life are staunch republicans who dislike people that don't hold the same "white, right-wing" worldview as they do. I think I spent way too many years pretending to hold these views just so I would fit in. Of course, this included the "love the sinner, hate the sin" view of those who identify as LGBT.
I play the violin. I have played violin since the age of 7. This is when my "sympathetic views" of homosexuality started. I grew up in the world of music. Music is the very first gift God gave me. Well, growing up in the world of classical music, about half of my male friends walked the path of discovery of their homosexuality. These were my friends. They were good friends. But the conservative, religious folks in my life kept trying to tell me that they were perverted, sinful, deceived, etc… I had such a difficult time believing these things about my friends.
Then I went to college. I loved my time at Cedarville University. I was quite rebellious because I didn't blindly believe and conform to their expectations. But still, I made wonderful friends and received a terrific education. I met my wonderful husband and got married before my senior year. Life was wonderful.
I remember when it came time for the Bush/Kerry presidential elections. I was strongly leaning towards supporting Kerry for president. I received a phone call from a family member telling me that if I voted for Kerry, he would allow gay men to be scout leaders and that my future sons would be molested if they had a gay scout leader. I was and still am horrified that this is being taught in our conservative, evangelical circles.
Well, life continued and I ended up giving birth to my first child – a son, that we named Elliot. I have my degree in early childhood education, and as Elliot grew, I noticed things that were different about him from other children I have worked with. By 18 months of age, I was convinced he had autism. We put him in every early intervention therapy we could afford – and I am happy to say that today he is doing remarkably well today. He is now just the quirky kid with a speech disorder!
Anyhow, my real change of thought regarding homosexuality occurred when Elliot was 2. He started receiving weekly occupational therapy sessions. His therapist was openly gay. He was such a wonderful man. And I have to say this - Elliot screamed and cried around any adult that was not his father or me – this was one of my clearest indicators of Elliot's autism. He didn't even like grandparents. But for some reason, Elliot loved this man. The whole hour of therapy was filled with laughter between him and his therapist. Not just his therapist – his gay therapist! A friend asked me how in the world I could let my son be alone with this man for a whole hour, given the fact that he was gay! I was angry that instead of celebrating the victory of my son with autism sharing a fun, social experience with a person other than me or his father turned into accusations of homosexuality and child abuse. I combated my anger by using logic. This man was educated – he had his master's degree in occupational therapy. This man clearly had passed his fingerprint and FBI background checks to be allowed to work in private therapy with children. He was subjected to the same scrutiny I was when receiving my teaching license. This man was not going to molest or hurt my son. He helped my son!
I am now a full supporter of gay rights. It has been 3 years since Elliot has been in occupational therapy. But I will never forget that man. He gave me hope for my son's future and fulfilled my true thoughts about gay people.
I don't expect people in religious, right-wing circles to start supporting homosexuality or not viewing it as a sin. What I want is for these people to start reacting to this issue with love, grace, and compassion. The people who claim Christ should follow His example. I know for me, if I were naturally attracted to women, there is nothing that would stop me from pursuing a loving, committed, sexual relationship. Right or wrong – it doesn't matter. I'm not going to judge because I would do the same thing. (I would wager that most conservatives would too.)
My argument to those who believe such lies about homosexuality is this: Where would American literature be without Walt Whitman? Where would classical music be without Tchaikovsky? Perhaps these men were great because they were gay—not in spite of it. Just think about it.
My name is Lauren, and I am a Christian, a feminist, and a supporter of all my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who fit into the LGBTQ community.
My Cedarville experience completely changed my life. I entered Cedarville as a naïve, closed-minded, ultra conservative teenager. My first two years at college as well as my middle and high school years can be defined by a quote from one of my all-time favorite novels Let the Great World Spin: “Sometimes we just walk into something that is not for us at all. We pretend that it is. We think we can shrug it off like a coat, but it’s not a coat at all, it’s more like another skin.” Thankfully, due to many awesome conversations in several literature courses at Cedarville, I realized that I was not the person I thought I was. I was actually completely different.
When I walked off that stage in May 2013 with a B.A. in Integrated Language Arts Education, I had a passion for showing people of every age, gender, or sexual orientation love, especially Christ’s love – that kind of deep, passionate, equalizing love that transcends any and all boundaries. I not only want to show this kind of care and love to my future students, but I also want to show it to everyone I come into contact with because everyone deserves love and acceptance. My prayer is that through my story, someone may realize that there are people out there who care about who he or she is as a person, regardless of who that person may love.
I want to end with a timeless and encouraging quote:
“Life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”
*Taken from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Eulogy of the Martyred Children,” 1963
Lisa "Wisnoski" Robbins
Dr. Martin Luther King wrote these words:
"I have always felt that ultimately along the way of life an individual must stand up and be counted and be willing to face the consequences whatever they are. And if he is filled with fear he cannot do it. My great prayer is always for God to save me from the paralysis of crippling fear, because I think when a person lives with the fears of the consequences for his personal life he can never do anything in terms of lifting the whole of humanity and solving many of the social problems which we confront in every age and every generation."
I am standing here with the GLBT community of believers to offer my respect and my support. You are not alone in your journey. There are many of us out there who welcome, love, support, believe in, and encourage you. I graduated from Cedarville back in 1981, and understand how heartbreaking it can be to be judged by those you love. So I stand here with you and will fight against the paralysis of fear so we can change the Church --- one Christian at a time.... in this generation. Be strong and courageous!
My name is Sharon Pinkerton, although while I attended Cedarville College (1980-1984) I went by "Sherrie." I received a good education at Cedarville, although I was and am ambivalent about the evangelical world view. While my own views on homosexuality (and other issues) have developed since I was at Cedarville, I hope that I always maintained a willing attitude to listen and discuss. I don't believe being gay is a sin.
After graduating with an accounting major, I worked for PWC for almost 3 years before heading to law school at the University of Florida. From there, I headed to Capitol Hill where I worked in politics for almost 13 years. I've gone from attending Presbyterian to an Episcopal church here in DC. During this time I learned that several of my friends from Cedarville were gay, but not out at the time. With some of these friends, I've been able to follow along closely in their struggle with being openly gay and coming to grips with how family, friends, and colleges view them.
I still live in DC and have gone from being the head of policy at the Federal Aviation Administration to running government affairs for the association that represents the airline industry. I continue to have gay friends and colleagues, but I don't view them through that lense. I hope conversations about these issues deepen everyone's understanding.
I woke up one morning and I knew I was supposed to love God and my neighbors. ALL of my neighbors!
My years at Cedarville were a pivotal point in my spiritual journey. It was there that I would begin to question the rationality of the fundamentalist framework that had shaped me from my childhood. And it was there that my exploration of theology, psychology, philosophy and sociology would plant the seeds of honest doubt that would ultimately open the door to a place where I would experience the beautiful terror of chaos and the peaceful severity of God's mercy.
Cedarville, for better or for worse, defines itself within a particular interpretive framework of the biblical narrative. It desires that its students define themselves that way, too. When they don't, the resulting dissonance often pits students against the institution, or students against each other, or even worse, students against themselves. Reading through the stories shared on this website of our experiences, both gay and straight, it is clear that those who differ from CU in conviction and belief are destined to run against its walls of tradition.
Here's the good news: there IS a way. It's not an easy path, but hopefully it helps to know that others have struggled and survived. More than that, many of us have emerged transformed. We understand that being Christian and being gay are not mutually exclusive. That loving God and loving your partner (no matter her or his gender) are not antithetical. That one can live a life of faith and honesty and openness, no matter their sexual orientation. That being gay is no more a sin than being straight.
I add my voice to the chorus of those here with the hope that all our voices, together, will help others find theirs.
I attended Cedarville from 1993-1996. My time there, while at times difficult, was memorable and formative in some very important ways. Originally, I came with the intent of going into the ministry. My plan was to major in Bible and go on to seminary, possibly even becoming a missionary. Of course, like for so many of us, plans changed and I ended up majoring in Philosophy instead. As a result, I never made it to seminary either -- I now practice law in New York City.
While attending Cedarville, I got involved with different student organizations ranging from the Philosophy and Intercultural Clubs to the student 'ministry' clubs to local universities and inner-city areas. I had good experiences participating in all of these.
Unlike many, however, my experience at Cedarville did little to strengthen my religious beliefs. In fact, it did the exact opposite. In my search to find sound, logical reasons for my faith in Christianity I was presented with arguments that, in the end, were lacking in cohesiveness and credibility and which left me with many questions and few answers.
Among other things, I found the attitude at Cedarville towards homosexuality troubling to say the least. Although at the time I knew no students personally that were openly gay or lesbian (how could they have been), there were male and female classmates of mine who (looking back on it) clearly were. Although at the time, I was mainly involved in promoting racial diversity, awareness and sensitivity I often wondered how long would it take until the question of sexuality was addressed as well since the same people who use the Bible to support the slavery and racism also use it to condemn homosexuality. Ultimately, I figured a place like Cedarville would be unlikely to ever deal with these issues constructively.
Having said all that, I am happy to see that groups like Soulforce and Cedarville Out have been making inroads into what are ostensibly some of the last true bastions of conservatism left. I want to also say that I am in full and 100% support of the cause. I work in and around NYC's theater district and have many gay and lesbian friends. And they are just as human and just as real as the rest of us. And I believe that it is just as natural for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to be attracted to members of the same sex as it is for heteros to be attracted to our opposites. In other words, we are all God's children, perfect just as we are. It is time for the oppression and persecution of others based on nothing more than who they are attracted to come to an end. If it is in fact true that Christians are called to lead by example, why not demonstrate that by showing tolerance, acceptance and love instead of persecution, rejection and hate. Surely that is not what the Bible teaches.
As a 'straight ally' of the GLBT members of Cedarville Out, I would offer an ear to anyone gay or straight who wishes to discuss this matters. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com