|Jeff (left), Sammy (center), Dave|
San Francisco, California
Born in 1963, I was raised in an independent fundamental Baptist church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Following my parent’s example, I chose (at the age of 9) to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Although this decision was made at an early age, I made it after I knew that I was gay (though I didn’t know the term gay or homosexual). The loving household that my parents created was also staunchly anti-gay. I learned to live a double life by the age of eleven.
As I grew into adulthood, I struggled to reconcile my deep faith journey with my natural sexual orientation. This struggle significantly delayed and detoured my faith journey and kept my personal relationship with Jesus from being as close as it could have been. Even so, I relied heavily on my faith during times of verbal and physical assaults from classmates, friends, and strangers. I even subjected myself to a different kind of assault when I became active in a local Tulsa chapter of Exodus International, and organization devoted to ‘helping’ gays. Although only associated with Exodus for a short time, I felt abandoned and rejected while allowing myself to be ‘helped’ by well-meaning but misguided Christians.
I contemplated suicide. At that moment of deep despair, my relationship with Christ became extremely personal and the most real for me. I suddenly recognized that God had blessed me. My homosexuality was a gift from God and I was denying it. I then prayed and asked God to forgive me for trying to deny God’s give to me.
Jeff (left), Sammy (center), Dave
After relocating to San Francisco a few years later, I searched and polled local Baptist churches and quickly realized that Tulsa did not hold a monopoly on Baptist churches operating under legalistic Christianity fueled by fear, ignorance and misinformation governed by well-meaning, but misguided Christians. Fortunately, God led me to the Dolores Street Baptist Church in 1993 just a month after a ‘hate-inspired’ fire destroyed their historic church building.
God continues to bless my life. I met Jeff (my spouse) in 1993 and by 1995 we had a beautiful commitment ceremony officiated by our Baptist minister (also coming to Lynchburg). Through circumstances too numerous to detail, we have accepted the responsibility of raising my 2 1/2 year old nephew, Sammy. We love him so much. He adds tremendous joy to our lives and we thank God each and every day for him.
Why Am I Coming to Lynchburg? I cannot change people’s beliefs, but I can try to change their incorrect perception of me and my beliefs. By meeting with members of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg. I am NOT going to change their beliefs; however, I can change their perceptions of who I am. We should all be working together for Christ.