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Gay Christian Testimonies

 

Stephen's Testimony

Stephen's testimony

"I grew up in a Christian household. I have the most wonderful parents, and one equally wonderful older brother. Looking back, I have to say that I had a very happy childhood. I have many fond memories from that time, which even as I write are flooding into my mind and making my heart smile.

Our family attended a local methodist church for the first few years of my life, but we moved to a new non-denominational evangelical church while I was still very young (the church we still all attend to this day), and I attended with my parents and brother until my early teens. I remember going to events such as Spring Harvest (a week-long Christian conference holiday) a few times when I was younger, and the last time we attended I remember that I really started to feel God's love and to know what it was all about (this is a memory that has only resurfaced since I came to Christ in early 2009). I have an image of me, worshipping along with several hundred other young people, arms up as high as they could go, feeling totally elated. I think, had other events in my life not caused me to walk away from God and the church, I would have given my life to Jesus as a much earlier age.

Unfortunately, what little faith I had wavered and I began to find church boring, and by our early teens, my brother and I had both stopped attending church, and had no interest in going again. My parents had never forced their faith upon us (again, not that I realised this at the time), and as we were old enough to stay at home by ourselves, they never nagged us to come. Of course, at this time I didn't know that this broke their hearts that neither of us was showing any interest in Christ, but as I neither understood, nor wanted to understand, what Christianity was all about I was quite happy to stay in bed on a Sunday morning.

By the time I started secondary school, I'd pretty much figured out that I liked boys. I don't remember how long it took me to work out that this meant that my parents wouldn't accept me (this was the fear at any rate - unfounded I hasten to add!), but I kept it quiet. I had crushes on a few of the boys, but I certainly didn't want to tell any of them! I was petrified. During my second year at the school, I developed juvenile arthritis in every joint of my body, and I was also fairly severely bullied (verbally), throughout my time at secondary school due to the fact that I wasn't the smoke-behind-the-bike-sheds type. I'm not sure if any of them thought I was gay or not, but I certainly wasn't like most of the other boys, so I got teased a lot either way, and my health issues didn't make this matter any better. I HATED going to school, and I fell behind with a lot of the work due to countless days off with ill health (a lot of the time due to my own depression, although I always pretended it was something else). I missed 50% of my final year, which severely affected my exam results, although I still managed nothing lower than a D, which was in many ways the first glimmer of the acadmemic promise that my parents had always thought I would have.

Throughout this time, I was always petrified that someone would find out I was gay. I had only told two friends while I was in school, and this didn't help a lot. They were always good friends, but the first friend I came out to was far from accepting when we ever spoke about it. The fact that I had decided I'd fallen for him didn't make this any easier! In fact, telling him I liked him was actually the first time I'd come out to anybody, so I guess I was braver than I realised! I'm happy to report that the crush went (after a couple of years!), and that he became one of my closest friends (unfortunately he took his own life in 2006, but he remains one of my closest friends and will always live in my heart and memory as one of the most caring and gentle human beings I have ever had the pleasure to associate with).

Going on into college, I came out to a few more people, and during this time I also came out to my parents. I'd had an argument with my father about something the one evening, and he'd made me cry, and I just locked myself in the loo, and cried and cried and cried. I'd spent so many years bottling up all this emotion, and hiding my true self away, that the argument just acted as a release and I just couldn't stop the tears flowing. I have never cried so much in my life. My parents soon realised that I couldn't just be crying about the argument. They eventually persuaded me to unlock the door, and I went downstairs, still in floods of tears, and just sat in an armchair. I knew what was coming, but I was petrified that this would be the end of my relationship with my family. My mother eventually got out of me, with all tenderness, that whatever it was, I was scared to tell them. Skipping through the rather awkward conversation that followed, she eventually came to realising what I was trying to tell her, and she shared that with my father. Well, they didn't react as I had expected, but I did get the questions about whether I was sure, and also that it could be just a phase. It certainly wasn't what I was anticipating, but it was far from what I had hoped for either. That night, my mother came into my room when we were all going to bed, and told me that her and dad loved me no matter what, and nothing would change that.

So, fast forward about a year, and my brother found some rather unsavoury pictures on my computer (I was a teenager with no faith, so forgive this part, but it's part of how I came out to him!). He didn't say anything at the time, but a short time later he asked me if I was gay, to which I responded that I was. He told me about the pictures, but I just pretended that, although he now knew I was gay, the pictures had been put on my computer as a joke by a school friend. I don't think he believed me, lol! Oh well!

During the next 4 years or so, I didn't talk much about my sexuality with my parents, until I started getting interested in gay guys who didn't like me back, and just needed their support as any lovestruck teenager does in times like that. I had several arguments with them, and decided that they'd been treating me differently ever since I'd come out to them. Far from true, but it felt like it. I can say that it took them a good 4 years to really become comfortable with the idea that they had a gay son and that I wasn't about to change. They borrowed resources from the church to try and help them understand a bit better, but the one time I started watching one of the videos, I was far from impressed. By my early 20s I was out to most people who knew me closely, and I didn't really keep my sexuality a secret. I was proud of who I was, although I still had major self-esteem and confidence issues. I'd been discharged from the arthritis treatment, so that was a blessing, but I was far from happy.

I had become increasingly disillusioned with the church during this time, and by my mid-twenties I was decidely anti-religion. I wanted nothing to do with it, and so when my brother came back from a difficult time in America, and started going to church again, I was far from happy. When he became a Christian (about 3 years before me), I was not impressed and just thought "oh no, not another one". I now see that my hostility towards Christians, and their (often perceived) hostility towards "people like me", had created a wall between us.

My brother moved out again, and in 2008 he invited me to a party at his to hang out with a load of the 18+ friends he had made at church. I had a really great time, and over the next few months got to know quite a lot of them really well, and enjoyed their company. I was integrated into the group, so that when an opportunity to join them, for free, on their 18+ weekend away came in late 2008, I decided to go along. I took a self-help book that I'd been reading at the time, and spent a lot of the weekend alone in my room while the others had their worship sessions. I still enjoyed the weekend though, and during the weekend I came to the realistion that I no longer felt threatened by Christians.

During this time, I also met the lady named Val who was to become one of the greatest treasures on my road to salvation. She had not wanted to go and spend the weekend with a load of young people, but God had made it very clear that he wanted her there. She couldn't understand it, but on the 2nd evening we were there, she came up to me and said "are you ok? Aren't you coming into the worship?". She had such a calm presence about her, and something about her shone. I was sure I'd met her before, but I knew I hadn't (I now know this was Christ I was seeing in her), but I went upstairs as they went into their worship session with the nagging though in my head "I need to talk to that woman". I had no idea why, but the thought would not go away. About an hour later, I just had the thought "I need to go downstairs now", and I obeyed that thought, deciding that I would go and get another hot drink. As I came down the stairs, there was Val at the bottom of the stairs. She'd left the meeting to go and check that someone else was OK, and had heard God telling her to bring her coat and cigarettes! She also didn't understand this, but then I came down the stairs, and we ended up chatting. I shared with her that I was gay, and that this was why I wasn't keen on the church, and we ended up having a long walk in the moonlight, in which she shared her (amazing) testimony with me, and we just spoke about faith, and God. A real chess-piece moment as we like to call them!

After that weekend, I started asking questions, and both my brother and Val were amazing. They told me about "coincidences" that couldn't have been anything but God. I must mention at this point, that as well as the gay issue, I also wasn't sure I believed that Jesus was the son of God (a rather important part of Christianity I'm sure you'll agree!), and with the gay issue resolved for the moment, I still had that question to think about.

I had also heard God's voice very clearly telling me that if I wanted to change minds, I had to be amongst those who needed to hear me. My brother convinced me to start the Alpha Course, the first session of which I shared that I was gay, because I decided that if they were going to accept me, then that's exactly what they needed to know...ME". I also went to one of the Cafe Church events that the church organised. Val shared her testimony there, and was so touched that I'd gone to support her, despite my lack of Christian faith at the time, and we chatted some more, and I shared with her that I wasn't sure about Jesus. She gave me the mad, bad, or God answer, and I had to concede that she had a point. I confided to another non-Christian friend soon after that I felt they were 'luring' me in again.

My brother had an amazing chat with me that evening, and gave me some books to look at, including a copy of God's smuggler (still one of the most amazing books I've ever read), and he even asked me if I wanted to become a Christian. I said no that night; even though I was feeling a physical tug in my torso. I had spent so many years saying that I would never become a Christian. I'd started looking at meditation practices, and was feeling quite content, but still that tug was there.

We had an old family friend round a couple of weeks later, on February 20th 2009. He had lost his wife a few months before, and was very lonely, so we'd been looking out for him, and had invited him over for a meal at our home. He was searching so much, and was asking many questions about God, and about faith, and I realised after a while that I was answering as many of his questions as my parents and my brother were, and with as much passion. As I was answering them, I kept thinking "oh, I think that now do I?", and I realised that I probably needed to do something about it. I was upstairs shortly after, and my brother came and sat with me. I asked him if he'd felt ready when he became a Christian, and 'good enough', as I said I still didn't understand a lot if it. He of course said that this wasn't really the point, and that I didn't need to be ready; I just needed to want to make the commitment. Anyway, I suprised him somewhat by saying "right, lets get on with it then". He asked me if I was sure, and said there was no pressure, but I'd made up my mind, and so he guided me in what sort of thing I needed to pray, and left me in my room. I sat in my chair, and the tears came; and then I prayed the prayer!

Needless to say, my family were overjoyed. After an initial "did I pray right?; I don't feel any different", within 5 minutes I had the most amazing feeling of joy, and freedom, and for about the next half hour I couldn't stop laughing. I just laughed, and laughed and laughed. It was wonderful. The family friend was still in the house at the time, and when I went back in to where my parents were still talking with him, even he said he was proud of me!

So, that was the best night of my life. I felt very odd, but also very good, because I'd just done something that I never thought I would EVER do.

Since that time, my faith has grown, and I have loved my Christian journey. I was baptised in June 2009, on a wonderful sunny day, surrounded by many people, including many non-Christian friends.

OK, so what about the gay Christian bit? Well, I felt that God had moved the issue to one side for the first few months after I became a Christian, to give me space for my faith to grow. I think if the issue had come up sooner, my faith might have crumbled. However, during the summer of 2009, the issue did start to resurface, and my church have so far been amazing in listening and trying to understand. They welcome me into the church, and see me as a whole Christian, despite the fact we are still on seemingly different pages about how far the gay Christian should go in terms of acting out both faith and sexuality.
It's something I am still working with them on. I did have a big spiritual dip when the issue first came up again, and the tears did flow.

I'd discovered an online Gay Christian website since I'd become a Christian, but had initially presumed it to be a good resource, but largely focused on those in America, and I was beginning to get desperate for closer friendships with other gay Christians in the UK. I then discovered that there was a good sized group of members in the UK, and after an inital enquiry about the group and how to get involved, I was quickly put in touch with the leader of the Europe group, who sent me an amazing message of welcome, and made me feel so much better. It was just what I needed.

Then, when I was still feeling very tender, God did two amazing things on the same day. First, I discovered that one of the members in the UK was a guy I already knew, who went to my church! I was elated, because I was no longer alone. As always, God gave me this knowledge at just the time I needed it, and so that I knew it was from him, he also sent me another blessing on the same day. I'd asked my parents to read the 'Letter to Louise', that had been sent to me, and this prompted the first discussion I'd really had with them about my sexuality since coming to faith. My father told me that he was now at the stage that he believed God was fine with my sexuality (they were already at that point to be fair), but that he also believed that if I entered into a relationship with another man, as a lifelong, commited, monogamous relationship, that God was also totally fine with that also. As you can imagine, it made my day to finally hear my father say this. My mother was pretty much at the same conclusion also, and has since come to be at that place also.

I still have struggles with coming out to people at church, and I sometimes have times when I just want to tell people to leave me alone and let me be who God created me to be, but having that support from my family has been such a blessing and my faith is growing every day. I LOVE being a Christian, and it's funny to think that considering my church hate only the year before, I now feel that God is calling me to work in church and mission circles.

So, that's me so far. My testimony is far from over, as most of it hasn't been lived out yet! I have plans to do a year long YWAM discipleship training school/mission placement from August 2011, so that's the next big step for me, and I am now so excited about what life will bring."

~ Stephen, United Kingdom

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Dave's Testimony

Dave's testimony

"Hello, I have been asked to share my testimony with you, I would rather call it a brief life story, a story that started many years ago and hopefully has many years to go; like any story it has a beginning, a middle and an end, the middle probably happened about 15 years ago and the end, well that is in Gods' hands, as with hindsight I can see that all my life has been in His hands.

I was born at an early age, with more hair than I have now, but I want to start my story from when I was approximately 12. That is the age when I realised in a physical way that I enjoyed guys more than girls, though before then I had done the usual experimentation. But from the age of 12 I began to learn more about my sexuality and experimented in various ways, culminating me becoming a rent boy at about 13 until I joined the RAF at 17.

I was brought up in a loving and caring Christian family, not rich and not poor, my dad was a postman who loved Jesus and loved me, my mother was a lovely women who again loved Jesus and also always had time for others. Many a time I remember her giving her Sunday lunch to a “man of the road” that my dad had brought home. Of course there were problems in the family, money was scarce but love was not, food was basic but cuddles were bountiful, I say this to dismiss the views that were given to me that said I was gay because my dad was not a strong manly character.

I knew from an early age that I was different, I knew that girls did not do it for me, though I did have a girlfriend. The area that I lived in was quite prosperous, we were not, and sometimes this led to me being bullied at school etc. So I looked for company outside of school and found it and soon realised that I could make money out of my youth and at the same time enjoy what I was doing. No I was not abused by that man in the cinema, I chose and enjoyed it. That man did not make me gay, I was and am gay. At that time I did not think that it was wrong as a Christian, I just knew it was against the law, the church I attended never talked about sex etc.

When I was 19 and in the RAF in Germany I became a Christian, even though I had been brought up this way and was member of the band at the corps, I made my own decision to follow Jesus, this was whilst I was in Amsterdam, a bit high on drink and cannabis, to cut a long story short Jesus found me. I remember sharing with a friend about my homosexuality and he said that it was against the Bible and that I had to repent and change my ways etc. This was the beginning of my guilt. The funny thing is that when Jesus accepted me I felt him say Love yourself as I love you, in hindsight I can now see where he was going with that. But alas I listened to friendly advice and accepted that being gay was wrong and against the Bible.

I felt that being gay was not compatible with being a Christian, so tried to go straight. At 21 I was chucked out of the RAF for being Gay, the funny thing here was that the officer investigating me from the special investigation branch was a Christian that I knew. We were able to pray together, but I felt being gay was wrong, thus I was guilty, court marshalled and sacked. At that time being gay was not acceptable in the forces or society as a whole. I remember at that time going through hell and writing to a Christian Magazine (Buzz) about the need for teaching on homosexuality, they did not print it but sent the letter to a Christian pastor near me, who visited me and prayed for deliverance etc. He was and is a lovely guy and I had great support from him. But after being dismissed from the RAF my self esteem was very low, I had tried to change but I fell so often. I often cried myself to sleep and cried out to God to change me.

After being chucked out of the RAF I attended a church in Ilford. I shared with one of the elders about my so called gay past and was prayed for deliverance etc. Thus reinforcing my belief that it was wrong. At this time I went back to my routes the Salvation Army and I started to train for the ministry and was asked to visit a psychiatrist about my homosexuality. We had a good chat and he recommended me for acceptance to the ministry, as he felt my life was OK. I was accepted for training to be an officer in the Salvation Army, but left due to theological reasons. Throughout this time I was still fighting the demon of homosexuality!! and had ministry and prayer for healing.

My wife and I separated about 18 years ago, not due to my homosexuality, but due to lack of communication (on my part). She knew about me being involved in the gay scene before we married, I was open to her about it, but I fell in love with her (and still love her) and we had 5 lovely children (all boys). For that I will always be thankful to God, what a privilege it was and is to be a father of 5 great sons (I am now a grandfather) and to have a very supportive wife, though we are separated I thank God for her. I suppose one can say we are better friends than husband and wife, but I would not want to diminish the great time we had together as husband and wife and good time we have now working together with the charity that we formed www.peachy.me.uk.

One of the gifts that God had given me was working with young people, I was young then as well; and I had the privilege of seeing many young people come to faith in Jesus, the sad thing in this was that I found it difficult to minister to gay young people as I did not want them to go through what I was going through. While I was doing this, I still had gay feelings, but never acted upon them (except in my mind, though sometimes did stray), this led me to feeling even more guilty, as I had been "prayed" for and delivered. I do feel that it was those guilt feelings that were the reason for my lack of communication in my marriage.

I could not share them because people thought I had been "cured" as did my wife; I felt like a failure and could not understand how God could bless what both Trish and I were doing in the Church. Before we got married we had letters sent to us saying I was leading her into hell and that she should not marry me etc. Whenever we went to a new church someone would write and tell the pastor/elders about me, fortunately I always told them first. To cut a long story short, my wife and I separated (on good terms and still are very good friends), she is a great support for me even now.

I did try it on with a young person (over 21) in 1993, due to this I resigned from leadership, not because I was asked to (the leaders did not know) but because I felt I should. I told the elders why. The church I was attending was a Baptist church and very evangelical; my faith floundered after this, and found it very difficult to get back with God. In 1995 God found me again, the Church split (2 different visions) I was asked by the new church to oversee the children’s and youth work, I talked it through with them, about my homosexuality etc.. and they still wanted me to do it. The Lord really blessed the work, young people were finding Jesus nearly every week, most of them from non church backgrounds and the drug and drink culture. One of the young people was from a broken home (a Christian home) and he started to come round nearly everyday, and became part of the family, like an elder brother to my 5 sons (he was 16) and was very homophobic, he is not now. His mother encouraged this, when he was 18, I was accused of having an affair with him (which was completely untrue), mind you he was cute. I was asked to consider my role, at a church meeting it was brought up and I was asked to share my past. I had already shared this with the young people, when the rumours were going around the church. The young people were brilliant, they stood up for me and encouraged me. But some of the church members walked out and I was asked to resign from the leadership team and to stop leading worship etc.

I did not realise at the time the effect it had on my own children (9 to 16 at the time). My eldest son had already told me he was gay when I asked him, and I just hugged him. The elders of the church asked me to carry on with the older group (18+) but not as the leader, I did. The reason for this was that they were afraid of losing the young people if I stopped doing it. After a year, I stopped as my faith in the church and God was diminishing, I could not cope any more. It was like I was a non-person in the church, the young people were still very supportive, but it seemed that I was no longer accepted by the adult members. My children took all this very badly, my eldest refused to attend church and completely lost his faith in Jesus (though I still say to him it was in the church not Jesus), since then I have found out how he was mentally abused by the church due to his sexuality. My middle son (15) who was suffering from depression anyway, got worse. But he was still involved in the church as were the other children, and loved singing and dancing in the church. However he got worse in his depression and used to self harm (my wife and I are both trained counsellors), after 4 months he was finally given an appointment to see a psychiatrist on July 4th 2000, however I came home one Sunday evening and found him dead in his room (he hung himself). Full story on his memorial page www.douglasmoreton.com. I am not blaming the church for this or even God, but a few months after Douglas died my eldest son said how he hated the church for what they had done to me, him and Douglas, and that Douglas had told him how mad he was with Christians for what they had done to his family, but that he still loved Jesus. He is happy now and is dancing with the angels. At his funeral over 600 people attended, and many of them were the young people that had been involved with my family over the years, it was great and a real encouragement to me.

I don't know why I have written all this, all I can say is that my thinking over the years about homosexuality has begun to change, I was never "cured" as they say, and all that that ministry achieved was to fill me with more guilt, self hate and condemnation, many a time I wanted to end it all, but I could not because of my sons; if crying and praying could have cured me of my sexuality, I am sure 25 years of it would have helped. Just before my son’s death I remember praying and as I was praying I remembered something that happened to me when I was 16. I was with a friend driving to Cornwall and at 4am we stopped for a rest, as I lay on the grass looking at the stars I felt God say to me “You see those stars? If one of them blows up I can create another one, but, if you blow up I can never create another you, you are unique” then I remembered what I felt God had said to me when I became a Christian many years ago in Amsterdam “Love yourself and accept yourself”. For years I had been teaching that to the young people and as I prayed I felt in my heart God saying, “I accept you why can't you accept yourself?” It was no theological argument that showed me being gay was OK (that came later). It was the overpowering generous love and acceptance of Jesus. 8 months after this my son died, my faith was on tenterhooks, my belief in myself was non existent, I was a failure as a father as a husband and as a Christian; but even through this I knew that God loved me and accepted me, but I had moved away. It took me another 3 years to get back to God, in that time I completely came to terms with my sexuality and that God accepted me being gay and that as a gay man I can stand proud with Him my Father. In the past when I ministered to young gays, I always said to them ask Jesus what He thinks, He will show you and be proud of yourself. However I could not do that myself, as I felt it was wrong, but I did not want them to have the same guilt that I had. I even said that to my son, be proud of who you are. Now I can say that to my self and my vision is to see many LGTB and straight come to Jesus, not through preaching, though that has a place, but by His people showing His love in a non judgemental way and accepting that we all have different ways of thinking, different paths, different beliefs. We are called to serve not to judge, we are called to love not to condemn. Jesus came that we may have life, life in all its fullness. So let’s live that life...NOW. I intend to live the life that God has given me, no more guilt, no more condemnation. Yes my beliefs have changed and some may say that I am no longer an evangelical, to be honest I do not care, I am fed up with labels; liberal, conservative, evangelical, high church, low church etc. There may be a place for them but my concern is to try and show the love of God, and if that means being seen as a liberal, so be it.

There are many things that I have missed out, so much has happened in anyone's life that it would take a book, I have tried to include the things that I felt were relevant, if you want to ask me any questions, please do contact me via this web page. All I really wanted to say to you all is thanks. Thanks for showing me that one can be an evangelical, with evangelical theology and still be gay.

There may be some reading this that remember me when I felt being gay was against scripture and I may have said things that hurt, for that I am so sorry please accept my apologies."

~ Dave, London, UK

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Testimony of an ex-Monk

Testimony of an ex-monk

"When it comes to homosexuality, we, who are gay, know from medical research and also from the Bible, that our orientation is not our own choice, but it is something that God has given us from the day we were born (see Matthew 19/11, 12). There are eunuchs from birth (likewise, there are those who have themselves been eunuched or eunuched by others). Unfortunately, the Church (let's call her that way) has been trying for centuries to put into her doctrine a new homophobic god who doesn’t resemble the evangelical Jesus at all, the Son of God who loved us while we were sinners (unbelievers). I was unfortunately one of many who were taught by the local "church" that the Lord is homophobic, and that, therefore it takes a long, hard work, pain, fasting, faith, prayers and tears to make the Lord have mercy and correct his own mistake by making us straight. The proof that God is infallible in his creation is that there are thousands and thousands of LGBT people in the world. We are not evidence of imperfection of God's creation, but a blessing, and I realized that after I passed very difficult, painful and, I can say bloody path of self-discipline, or perhaps it is better to say, the pious self-destruction. This is actually a small part of what I have went through in my painful Christian way, but if I wrote in more details it would be a huge book. If anyone thinks that sexuality is changable and does not believe my testimony, let them try themself to change it and God will certinly show them it is not, I am sure. And even in the Bible itself it is not written anywhere that God has ever changed anyone's sexual orientation, which He created, by the way. My parents have baptized me in the Orthodox church of St. George in 1993 when I was six. However, I became a Christian ten years later, when I was 16, when for the first time I heard the gospel of Christ, whom I had belived as personal savior. The same year I began my Bible correspondence course and a daily Bible studying. I understood that salvation results from faith, but I became confused because of the Orthodox environment in which the Gospel of Christ is not preached, so I put myself in a religious, ceremonial system of my own environment. It was very upsetting to know that because I was gay I didn’t have any equal right to be a member of the church if I didn’t change my orientation, but the same church had promised me the help from God in which I really never doubted because I knew He was almighty. When I was seventeen years old I began to fast regularly, to confess and partake in my local church. In my town, in the temple of Holy Mother of Jesus I came across a group of people who have turned me away from studying the Bible and told me to read Bishop’s Nikolai books and start studying the lessons of Holy fathers. Momentarily I dismissed my individual Bible studies as heretical, and started learning of the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. What I found in this doctrine was crystal clear, it was the teaching that salvation is possible either through straight marriage or through monasticism. Oh, how I was suffering and wept in despair, wondering is it really possible that there was no salvation to me, even though the Bible teaches the opposite (John 3/16, 5/24, 20/31, Rome. 10/9, the first John 5 / 13, Efes. 2/8, 9). I decided to fight. To give my best, to the end. In next few years I have been working diligently studying the lessons of Bishop Nikolai, the various Orthodox books of practical, spiritual, moral, and so on. Already at the age of eighteen, under the influence of books of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnitsa I got a sincere desire to spend the rest of my life serving Christ as an Orthodox monk and a firm resolve to endure in this way, believing that I will eventually change myself with God's help. Then I started going regularly to explore the surrounding monasteries, both in Serbia and abroad. I kept praying, asking from God to clear my misdirected sexuality as they taught me it was, but also to clear myself from all of my sinful thoughts, words and deeds. I visited some of monasteries in Greece as well as the famous Meteora. I was collecting various relics, praying and making hundreds bows to the ground every day, praying sincerely and with tears doing very hard daily prayers which my spiritual father gave me to pray. Oh, I tried so hard. I was going to spiritual conversations with various elders, very known monks from all parts of Serbia. At the same time I was always obedient to my spiritual father, listening to all of his advices. I learnt and tried to do my best to change myself. I met many monks, nuns and absorbed all their spiritual teachings. So, I came in contact with my future abbot from the Monastery of Holy Healers. He guided me spiritually, slowly preparing me for life in monastery and I had to study some of monastic books like The Ladder, various editions of Svetigora (Holy Month); Otacnik, Philokalia according to this I was living sincerely with all my heart and faith as a monk even before I went to manastery. In all of my confessions I was saying every single sin of mine in great details, because the monks told me so and I was even making the list of my sins every day. But nothing helped, although my spiritual father was praying for me a lot, regularly mentioning me in prayers on the (Liturgy) prothesis, spraying me with holy water, covering me with holy oils, even reading exorcisms above myself. Nothing was better off. I was still me. With my twenty-one years, I began to sing regularly at the Divine Liturgy in the church of St. Athanasius in my place. Every day I went twice to church for morning service and evening. I didn’t miss any vigil, nor petohlebnica (bread sanctifying), akathists, all of that in order to make me better spiritually armed. I prayed to hundreds of various saints, angels, archangels, Mary, but I just kept staying with all my sinful nature which I deliberately suppressed improvising God's action. Thousands of times, I was in despair, I threw myself to the ground in prayer, hating myself because I could not be what I was taught that the Orthodox Church want me to be. It was a horrible experience. Hell alive. That same year I went on pilgrimage trip to Romania. Worshiping the relics of St. Parascheva in Iasi, bowing in monastery Sihastria in elder Cleopas grave, in great hope visited monasteries Chetatsuia, Neamt and Golia with bitter tears, and love spending hours in prayer to the Holy Spirit to change my nature. And immediately after returning, I went to Mount Athos in Chilandar. Then I moved to another town. Immediately, I received the blessing of my abbot, to start serving in the civilian military service in Gerontology Center. I was spending my days, visiting the old and sick, spending time with them, reading them the Bible and the Prologue of Ohrid (Saint’s biography) and teaching them to keep everything what is prescribed by the Orthodox Church. Along with my civilian military service I was daily going to morning and evening services at Holy Trinity Church, where I also sang in the kliros on services. Then, I became a member of the choir of the church of St. Nicholas and was often hired to work on cleaning the candle burner in the temple of the Holy Emperor Constantine and Helen, and also I started working as an assistant of priest and chanter of one of the priests from the same temple. And people, they admired me, watching me as the new St. Sava and admired my life, which made me even more sad so I just often cried. I visited various local Churches and monasteries of the local diocese, visiting the monasteries of the old ras (place in South Serbia) and the famous monastery Ostrog, crying to God to change me. On the internet I connected with various orthodox monasteries around the world in Australia, America, Asia and other countries of Europe and sent them all packets and some gifts requesting them to pray for me. After all of the mighty effort, fasting, sackcloth, mad abstinence, with a heavy bucket of tears spilled suffering, mighty prayer, I never forgot alms. Almost all of my clothes I donated to the poor and with less personal things, upon completion of the civilian army, with my 23 years, strengthened by the blessing of the Serbian Patriarch, and the blessing of my dad I went to the monastery of Holy Healers and became a novice. In the monastery I humbly performed many of obedience such as, singing in the church, cleaning and maintenance of the dormitory, cultivation of bees, working in the garden, making incense and bottling of wine and brendy, doing missionary and caring of the guests. With the blessing of my abbot I learnt icon painting, translated from English akathist to Holy Chinese martyrs as well as various Internet sites about Orthodoxy in China and wrote missionary tracts. During I was novice, I occasionally visited the monasteries of the diocese of Zica (Jeetsa). I also went to Croatia to the monastery of Lepavina to miraculous icon, and then went on a tour of Mount Athos monasteries Chilandar and Esphigmen, and visiting on way back the monastery of elder Paisious St. John the Theologian in Suroti. In the meantime, I experienced many shocks. I realised that the Holy Spirit does not really change people by default, and that it's terrible to try to improvise its actions. I learned that about 70 percent of Orthodox monks in monasteries are actually gay or bi. Many of them have secret relationships, they all used to hope that this could be changed but no, it's impossible. Likewise, my old spiritual father himself (who was 62 years old by the way) had a gay relationship with the other monks, and another brother who was with me in the same monastery was in love with me and for that I forced myself to change the monastery. After nine months of being a novice with the blessing of my abbot, I went to another monastery dedicated to the Nativity of Virgin, and there I spent a month and a half. There I found the same situation, at first the abbot himself felt in love with me and insisted that I sexually satisfy him which I refused, and then another brother started flirting with me and I had my first gay relationship with him. After that, some young monks who knew I was gay almost gave me marriage proposals, inviting me to go and live with them in their monasteries. There was an abbot who was so in love with me and insisting that I cross in his monastery, so then my local abbot even gave me blessing for a gay relationship with a brother within the monastery I belonged to, so that I would not leave the monastery nor tear down the integrity of the brothers. That was already too much for my soul. I could not do it anymore. It was not that I was abused for I was born as gay too, I was actually shocked by this knowledge, and also felt sorry for them, because these people have to hide that they need to be loved. The things have been crystal clear, especially when I found out of some gay bishops’ certain activities. No, that will never change. I left the monastery. Illumined by the Gospel, knowing exactly in the monastery that salvation does not really results from acts, but results from the faith, and reading the Bible, after nearly a year, only a few months before my own official turning to a monk was planned, I left the monastery and returned to my parents' house. For the next six months I was working as an assistant priest in the temple of the Holy Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena, where I assisted in the kliros and altar. It is important to mention that at last I even began to pray for help and some Catholic saints, but they also did not help me to change and become something who I am actually not. You cannot change it. Finally, I found my way back to apostolic Christianity since I came into contact with a pastor from the Evangelical Church in which I was baptized and became an active member. Now, I'm an evangelical missionary withim my local church by referring others to the Gospel of Jesus and the fact that Jesus loves everyone no matter who we are. I’m glad that today, with my life partner, with the blessing of our church I can live my life as a rescued child by the grace of God and constantly rejoicing and celebrating in the joy of the gospel of the One whose love we will never be apart of (Rom 8/35, 39). To Him be glory forever and ever. Hallelujah!"

~ An ex-Monk, Serbia

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Kārlis' Testimony

Karlis' testimony

Religion and Me

"I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious family. As a child growing up in Chicago, I attended Sunday school because that was one of the things that Latvian kids did. We went to church on November 18, which is Latvian Independence Day, for what to a child seemed like interminable sermons. We had little prayer sessions every morning at the Latvian Saturday school and summer school that I attended. I knew the Lord’s Prayer, and I knew the Latvian Lutheran order of worship.

But it was somewhat later that I found a relationship with God. I was working as a television correspondent in Topeka, Kansas, in the late 1980s, when one Sunday I felt a very specific call to go to church. That was the Metropolitan Community Church, which was established in 1968 by a defrocked Pentecostal pastor called Troy Perry. Topeka had a branch, and I quickly found good friends and a home there. The MCC was founded especially to provide a sanctuary for LGBT (back then, in truth, it was only LG) people who could not establish a relationship with their traditional churches. The pastor at MCC Topeka was a gentle bear of a man called Paul Evans, who among other things was a phenomenal singer.

After Topeka, I spent my first year in Latvia and regularly attended morning services at the Dome Cathedral in Rīga. The building dates back to the 13th century and has one of Europe’s largest and most magnificent pipe organs. Services at the Dome were something of a chore for two reasons. First, the church’s very elderly pastor was being eased out of his job and had a second pastor who delivered the sermon each week. The elderly pastor apparently wasn’t about to give up his role, however, and when he got up to make the “announcements” for the week, we basically got a second sermon with his interpretation of the Gospel text of the day. The other reason was that this was during the period when Latvia was re-establishing its independence, and more often than not, sometime during the worship service, the pastor would say “God, bless Latvia,” which is the title of the Latvian national anthem. The great pipe organ would crash into triumphant sound, and everyone would sing the hymn but me, because I would always be crying too hard to sing. The combination of the magnificent organ and the hopes that we all had for Latvia’s future was just too much for me.

After that first year, I lived in Washington, DC, and attended the MCC in America’s capital city. This was a festive church, with and organ and a piano, a gospel choir and, inevitably, someone with a tambourine. The pastor was called Larry Uhrig. He was HIV-positive and delivered painfully true sermons about subjects such as “why do we barter our bodies for a moment of affection.” When I left DC to return to Latvia, leaving MCC-DC was one of the most difficult elements in the process.

Back in Latvia, I returned to the Dome Cathedral until, in the early 1990s, an American missionary called Arden Haug re-established the English speaking congregation at the church which had been Rīga’s Anglican church until the start of the Soviet occupation. During the occupation, the church was the social club of the Rīga Technical University, which was a good thing, because this kept the building from being desecrated in the way that was common throughout the Soviet Union. True, the interior of the church was painted bright purple when we got there, but that was easily rectified. I became a founding member of St Saviour’s English Congregation of Rīga and have been a member of and lay worship leader for the church ever since. The decision to attend the English speaking congregation was by no means a difficult one. For one thing, I had entered the world of worship in English. For another, the traditional Latvian churches are united by homophobia. The Latvian Lutheran archbishop, for one, declared some time ago that LGBT people are not welcome to receive Holy Communion in his churches. In other words, I and lots of other people were excommunicated. Of course, this begs the question of how a Lutheran pastor is supposed to know who among the communicants is gay or lesbian, but to me the bottom line is that if the church doesn’t want me, then I don’t want it, either. I am now an Anglican, I suppose, and I feel far more welcome there than I would in any of Latvia’s Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist or other churches. Among other things, Latvia has an extremist congregation called “New Generation,” which has links to the most radical religious organisations of so-called “reborn people” in the United States and is loudly and institutionally homophobic. How charming.

As to religion and me, I have to say that I believe in God and cannot really say why. There is no empirical evidence of His existence, but I have felt His blessings time and time again. If nothing else, then it is nice to have someone to talk to at times that are difficult or, for that matter, when times are good. As to organised religion, however, I have very concrete problems. I believe that Jesus had been dead for about two seconds when his followers began to recast the church in favour of their own interests. The cornerstone to this problem is this: Jesus spoke of one church. He declared St Peter to be the rock upon which his church would be built. So why is it that today we have Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Anabaptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Charismatics, the Church of the Latter Day Saints and so on? Why can’t Roman Catholics take Holy Communion in a Lutheran Church? Because all too often, members of the relevant churches have been told that they cannot. Does that suggest that Holy Communion in one is different than in the other? Of course not. It is all down to human ambition, and not in any positive sense, either.

My second problem with organised religion is the Bible. There are plenty of people in my native country of America and elsewhere who insist that every word in the Bible is gospel truth. This is nonsensical for two reasons. First of all, the Bible is full of internal contradictions. “Eye for an eye” and “Turn the other cheek” are not compatible concepts at all. Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount was delivered on the mount only in Matthew. It was delivered on a plain in Luke. In Matthew, Jesus’ last words were “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In Luke, his last words were “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit.” In John, his last words were “It is finished.” In all three cases (and in many others), if one is true, then the other cannot be true. So much for the incontrovertible and universal truth of the Bible.

The second problem is that people who insist that the Bible is absolutely true and that all true Christians must follow every one of its precepts are hypocrites. The Bible speaks to owning slaves. No one in the modern world owns a slave. The Bible has detailed instructions on animal sacrifices in church. When was the last time that someone brought a bird to a modern Christian church to be sacrificed on the altar? The Bible says that when a woman menstruates, no one is allowed to sit on any chair upon which she has sat. How many Christians follow that principle? Plenty of Christians are prepared to use the Bible to denounce LGBT people, because the Bible says that men should not lie with men and so on. First of all, when Jesus said “whoever believeth in me shall inherit eternal life,” he didn’t say “except for LGBT people.” And second, when have you ever heard a fundamentalist rail against divorce, which is both a process that is forbidden by Jesus and one that is much, much more common than homosexuality in our world? For that matter, how many Christians can name all ten commandments, to say nothing of how many Christians observe all of them religiously (“Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house” seem to be two commandments that today are seen as recommendations and nothing more)? And what about the fact that there are two separate sets of the commandments, one in Exodus and one in Deuteronomy?

There is much in the Bible that cannot be seen as anything other than fiction. The rules of Leviticus were written in the context of the society of the day. You had to bring a pastor in when you had mildew in your house because you didn’t have modern cleansing agents. You were of lesser worth as a woman than a man because you lived in a firmly patriarchal society. You knew nothing of newspapers – your information came on a clay tablet or on papyrus. The authors of Leviticus had nothing to say about the Internet. How could they?

And yet the central principle of the Bible, or at least the New Testament, is as valid today as it has ever been. It is this: Be nice to one another. If everyone observed that principle in all relations with everyone else, the world would be a much better place. Basically, that’s why I’m a Christian. I believe that people should be nice to another. Of course, you can be a nice person and not be a Christian. There are nice Jews, for instance, and does God see them as something lesser? For that matter, if there is only one God, isn’t He the one who is called Yahweh by the Jews, Jehovah by others, and Allah by the Muslims?

I am comfortable as a gay Christian. I believe Jesus’ statement about “whosoever.” I grieve for the millions of LGBT people in the world who cannot reconcile their sexuality with their faith. I resent the churches which close their doors to “others” when Jesus clearly said that the “others” should be brought inside. I am sad about the fact that in so many places in the world, Christianity is regressing, not progressing. And yet I say again: I am comfortable as a gay Christian. I hope that I am a better person for bringing Christianity into my life. And I believe one central thing: Life is good."

~ Kārlis Streips, Latvia

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Salvo's Testimony

"Hi everyone! My name is Salvo, I live in Italy and I'm 36 yo. I have always believed in God but I didn’t care of Him, I wanted to live my life as I liked, I had been spoken about God and His commandments but in my opinion they were just rules to be followed. I have always been a shy boy, I felt different from the others guys, I didn’t fit into the majority male behaviour at the school.

At the age of 13 I began realising I liked guys but at that time I didn’t want to accept it. When I was 16 years old I knew I was gay. I had my (real) first sexual experience when I was 20 years old. I studied foreign languages and literatures, so I decided to go to London to improve my English. I worked during the day, but I went to some gay club during the night. The following year I went to France, to improve my French. I lived there for 2 months, and during that period I often went to a gay club.

When I was 18 years old I had a terrible car accident, I broke my right elbow (almost crumbled). I underwent an operation, and I spent 3 years trying new methods to heal my arm but they didn’t worked. I can’t move my right arm totally (not even half) but fortunately it is not evident, even because I’m good at hiding it. I almost hated God, I thought it was His fault.

When I was 21 years old, a friend of mine invited me to go to a catholic church, I didn’t like at the beginning but I learned about God’s love, and I fell in love with Jesus but I wasn’t happy, I still had a hole inside my heart. I spent a lot of time in my church, and at the age of 23 I felt the desire to become a priest. Later I met some evangelical believers who talked me about Jesus (not about rites) and the truth written in the Holy Bible. After 4 months of doubts and struggles, I finally gave my heart to Jesus, I become a real Christian.

Jesus gave me peace and joy, I was proud (a holy one) to be a son of God. I was sure I would heal from my homosexuality (nobody knew about it). I was close to God, I served Him in many ways, first of all singing (that’s my passion) for His Glory. But as time went by my homosexuality was still there. I fasted and prayed a lot but every time I took a step forward I took a step backward; in short, I was always at the same point.

When I was 27 years old, I met a man who I had sex with. I couldn’t believed it, I was totally destroyed, discouraged; I realised I wasn’t healed at all.
I spoke about my “problem” with my pastor; he is a real servant of God, he listened to me carefully, he encouraged me but he couldn’t understand me, understand my pain (he still prays for my "healing"). I was alone, I cried for help for years, praying every single day and fasting once a month but nobody answered. I struggled for such a long time with no answers that I can say that if He wanted me to be straight He had already changed me many years ago.

I just want to live my life in the best way, as a Christian and a gay man. I talked to many "ex-gay" who were not "ex", some of them just avoid going to the park alone, some others don't even watch tv anymore (they told me there are too many cute guys there...are they "ex-gay"?), and a few of them tell they are not attracted either to men or to women (I'm glad these few had this gift, but many people have not the gift of celibacy, they need their half).

Now I thank God for leading me to Alma and to the wonderful persons (other gay believers who are able to understand me) I met so far. I thank God for you all."

~ Salvo, Italy

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Gijs' Testimony

Do not let me choose my fait:
I was allowed, I did not dare.
Oh, the mistakes will be great,
if I had this choice to bare!
Like a child I understand,
so I cannot find my way:
take my hand in your hand
and lead this child through this day.

"This is my translation of a part of an early twentieth century Dutch hymn that I was singing in the early spring of 2011. During these words my voice suddenly stopped: I couldn’t get these words out of my mouth. I started to get tears and I started to pray.

Almost a year before that, I finally recognised my homosexual feelings. For a lot of gays this marks the end of a lot of personal struggling. For me it was different: my hardest struggles had yet to come. I fought with myself, with Christianity and with God. This struggling with God is something I am going to tell about. I always knew that God accepted me for who I was, but there were a lot of questions left. I did not know how I, as a Christian, should deal with homosexuality. I wondered if I ever could get a boyfriend, or if I in my future had to be by myself. I was scared, because the people around might condemn me when I would start a relationship. On the other hand, I did not look forward to a life in solitude, for I was scared of loneliness.

I knew that God had the answers, that he could show me the best path, or at least, the least worse one, that I could follow. God was silent. How does one deal with a God who doesn’t speak, who doesn’t give any directions? I prayed, I read books, I informed a few friends on my problem, but most of all, I felt that no-one wanted to look with me for a solution. And how does one deal with a silent God?

This is why I couldn’t sing the words of this hymn anymore. I literally cried to God: “Father, I’m willing to follow your ways, whatever they may be. But I need a little help down here: all I ask is a little direction, a small hint for my next step. I cannot follow, if you don’t guide. I don’t know if I can take it any longer, I don’t even know what to do in the minutes to come!”

And God, he saw my tears in the small chapel upstairs. He caught them in his hands and lead me to a friend. I didn’t know that friend very well back then, but we talked a lot. It eventually changed the whole way how I dealt with my homosexuality, until this very moment.

For my situation now I would like to tell a story I like to relate to. It is the story of the young Samuel. He was the fruit of his mothers, almost exaggerated, child wish. Because of a promise his mother made he ended up in the temple at an age of two years. Once a year he saw his mother. The situation in the other parts of the country wasn’t very well. It was, symbolically, stated that ‘the lamp of God had not yet gone out’. We all know that God used this left behind child to turn everything around, he eventually anointed the messianic dynasty.

Like this little Samuel, I was born into a situation that I never preferred. But maybe, in the moments when I’m lonely or down, I just have to say: “Speak, for your servant is listening”and God will walk amazing roads with me."

~ Gijs, The Netherlands

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