Why We Must Look For a New Church Home

Randi ReitanWhile Amy Gage’s Sept. 10 Seeker’s Diary "The courage to leave — or to stay" hit home with me, it doesn’t speak to the reason a person leaves a faith community.

Sometimes it is not the lack of courage but the fear of losing the very faith you hold dear. It is the fear of becoming bitter souls no longer able to live in the precious gift of grace Christ gave to us all.

Our family has a gay son. We have struggled with the issues surrounding that issue in our church as our denomination spent the last four years studying homosexuality. It was a difficult time as the church discussed our son and all in the gay community as subjects in a research project. But we held on to the hope that through education, the day of acceptance and understanding would dawn.

This August, at the national assembly, the Lutherans voted to keep in place their discriminating policies. They tried to open the door a little by stating the bishops don’t have to discipline a congregation that calls an openly gay noncelibate pastor, but what remains is simply discrimination. It teaches society to view our son and all in the gay community as either sick and sinful based on their sexual orientation or as lesser children of God.

We can no longer be Lutherans. We honor those who feel the pain yet continue to stay and work to change this church — but for us the pain is just too great and we have grown weary in this struggle. We need to nourish our battered souls in a church that lives in Christ’s teachings.

Our family has been Lutheran for generations and it is hard to leave behind our heritage in this church.

Phil’s family has Lutheran clergy in all generations. His great-grandfather preached in Swedish many years ago in Minneapolis; both his grandfathers were pastors here for many years; his father started as a pastor at Oak Knoll Lutheran Church, and his brother’s first parish was in Minnesota after graduating from Luther Seminary

My family life centered around our small Lutheran church in northern Minnesota. My dad was a surgeon and he wanted us to experience the mission field, so he took our family to Madagascar for a summer while he did surgery at Manamboro Lutheran Hospital. My mom was one of the pillars of our congregation, as well as leading programs on the conference level. There was never a Sunday morning our family wasn’t sitting in the fifth row on the left side in our little white church.

When it was time for me to go off to college, my dad said I could pick any college as long as it was Lutheran. Phil and I met and fell in love at that Lutheran college. We wanted to start our marriage in service and we spent a year teaching on the mission field in Chieng Mai, Thailand, through a Lutheran organization.

With thankful hearts, we brought our four dear children to the baptismal font and raised them in the Lutheran Church.

To leave this church, which was at the core of our family, is one of the most painful things we have done. But we can no longer worship in a church that treats God’s beloved gay children as sick and sinful based on their sexual orientation.

We can no longer sing songs of justice on Sunday morning, knowing the injustice this church lives each and every day with its policies against God’s beloved gay community. We can no longer hear pastors preach of God’s love for all people when the church policy treats its beloved gay members as lesser children of God. We can no longer hear words of love and concern spoken to us in private but never hear them spoken from the pulpit or never see the hierarchy of the church lead with justice.

We have prayed for guidance; we have met privately with the presiding bishop, many other bishops, pastors and lay leaders; we have stood vigil at church conventions, written hundreds of letters; we have helped with educational forums and luncheons; we have flown in speakers and held benefits in our home. We have tried at every level to see change come to this church that nourished our family for generations.

We are weary of fighting a battle that never should have taken place in God’s House.

We know without a doubt our gay son is God’s beloved. He is precious in God’s House. Now we must find a church home that truly understands that most basic truth.

Randi Reitan lives in Eden Prairie.