Read Faith and Equality Stories

Posted on: October 16th, 2012 by feyadmin

Submitted by William Carey:

This is my personal testimony:

I was born in New York City in May of 1958. Our family was Catholic, and I was taught to attend Mass regularly. I can remember being aware of my orientation as early as 1962. Of course, I knew nothing of sex, and it would be another seven years before I would first hear the word homosexual. But if you had asked me at four years of age whether I wanted to marry a man or a woman when I grew up, I would not have hesitated to answer: I wanted to marry a man. It seemed perfectly natural to me, even though I didn’t know any male couples at the time.

I was sitting in church one day when I was about seven years old, when God spoke to me. Although hearing the voice of God probably isn’t a daily occurrence for most Catholic kids, I was not at all frightened. He said simply, “You are not your own; you are bought with a price.” It would be years before I would learn that those words were in the Bible. I had never seen a Bible, and our family didn’t even own one. But I knew the voice was God, and I interpreted His words to mean ‘I have work for you to do, and you belong to Me.’ I accepted this as my call to the ministry.

Between the ages of seven and fourteen, many changes took place in my life. Rather than outline these individually, let me just say that I was now a fourteen year old Pentecostal boy living in a very small town in upstate New York. The call I felt from God had been intensified. I couldn’t wait till I finished high school so I could go to Bible School and train for the ministry. I was on fire for God, and excited about the things that lay ahead. Back in a corner of my mind, though, was one nagging thought: I was a homosexual, and the Bible said that was sin.

One of the greatest differences between Pentecostals and more liberal Christians is our interpretation of Scripture. Whereas less fundamentalist churches could accept arguments about portions of scripture being inapplicable to today’s society, such arguments were inherently invalid to Pentecostals. All the writings I had seen regarding homosexuality and scripture either condemned me outright, or used “invalid” arguments to justify me. I responded the same way so many others have: I condemned myself. I chose to hide my sexuality until the magic day when God would make it disappear.

In the late 70’s I confided in a close friend in the church. She was very sympathetic. She was also untrustworthy. She told the pastor. Unknown to me at the time, my pastor had been going through a similar struggle for years, but hadn’t even admitted it to himself. His reaction to finding out about me was one of fear. He somehow thought I was a threat to his ministry. Under the guise of helping me, he began weekly counseling sessions. Once a week for the next year, he told me I was worthless… to God, to the church and to society. He told me I was dirty and sinful. Then he told me that someday I would take my own life. I was totally blind to what was happening. He was my pastor, and I loved and trusted him. I never thought he would do anything to hurt me.

During this period, I also submitted myself to two “deliverance” sessions (more or less the Pentecostal equivalent of an exorcism, intended to drive out or away any demons). In my case, believing that being gay was caused by demonic influence, I was hoping to walk away as a heterosexual. Nothing changed. Many long nights spent alone in the church sanctuary, praying and crying for God to change me brought no results. It was the only prayer I had ever prayed that God didn’t answer in some way. With anything else, there was always an answer; maybe not the one I’d hoped for, but an answer nonetheless. But this prayer, my most earnest and oft-repeated prayer, accompanied by days of fasting, nights of crying, brought only silence.

It was in 1978 that my world caved in. My pastor’s seemed to be coming true: I wanted to die. I came very close to taking my own life. In fear, I called him for help. I told him I was scared and needed help. He scheduled an appointment with me, but didn’t show up. I made another appointment with him. Again he didn’t keep it. A few days later, after an evening Bible school class, he asked me to come to his office. There, with his assistant present, he started asking me for information about others in the church. I told him I wouldn’t tell him anything. He implied that if I didn’t, he would tell the whole church about me. Although I was terrified beyond anything I’d ever felt before, I still refused to give him any information, and told him he could take whatever action he chose. That week I left the church.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d experienced a breakdown. I lost my job, and for the next year, I couldn’t hold a job for more than a few weeks. I began to drink and stay out all night, frequently waking up with complete strangers the next morning. Without a job, I couldn’t keep an apartment, so friends let me stay with them until they could no longer tolerate my behavior, then they’d pass me along to someone else. I stopped living for God. I thought He hated me, and wanted nothing to do with me. I was angry, hurt, and totally out of control.

In the summer of 1979, everything changed. I was at work, one of my short-lived dishwashing jobs. I remember I was feeling lonely, empty and unloved. I had really believed my pastor when he told me that I was useless to everyone. I felt like I had no reason for living. The church had a new pastor now, but I didn’t see any reason to go back; I was convinced that God hated me. As I stood there in the restaurant kitchen, I suddenly felt the presence of God in the room. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt since leaving the church, and which I never thought I would feel again. I thought to myself, “What’s He doing here?” It was so powerful, and felt so good, that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. What happened next changed my life.

The radio was playing in the kitchen. Up until that moment, I hadn’t even noticed that it was on. Between the noise of the dishwasher, the cooks telling the waitresses to pick up orders, etc., it’s not unusual that I wouldn’t notice the radio; the kitchen was a very noisy place. I suddenly became aware of a song beginning, a song I’d never heard before. But even as it began, I knew that there was more than just a song at work here. Before the first word was sung, I knew God was speaking to me. He was using that song to tell me something He wanted me to know. I can’t really explain how I knew that, but I felt it so strongly, that I had no doubt whatsoever. Billy Joel began to sing, but I knew the words came from God:

Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before…

I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are…

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you?

I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.

It didn’t matter anymore that I was at work and other people were present: I began to cry. When the song was over, the same voice that called me as a little boy spoke to me again and told me that all the condemnation I had felt came not from Him, but from people. He told me His love for me was unconditional.

What about the Scriptures? I had to know. But when I asked Him, He said only, “Study.” My favorite hobby, ever since I was little, has been studying foreign languages. By the time I was fifteen, I was teaching French. In my late teens, I was teaching Hebrew. I have a gift for languages, and could pick up a new language and be semi-fluent in a matter of months. I always thought it was just a hobby, and nothing more. But now, as the Lord told me to study, a new purpose for this gift became clear: What God wanted me to study was the Scripture. Not English translations of the Scriptures, but Hebrew and Greek. It was in those ancient languages that I would find the answer to my question ‘What about the Scriptures?’

In reading the Hebrew and Greek Bibles, I find no condemnation whatsoever of homosexuality. In fact, Romans chapter 1, verses 26 and 27, those verses so often used against us, when read in context do contain a condemnation, but not of homosexuality: those verse condemn tampering with one’s own sexual orientation. I learned that my sexuality was a gift from God and was not to be despised or tampered with. He was not going to magically transform me into a heterosexual. If He’d wanted me to be that way, He would have created me that way. It is not man’s place to tamper with God’s creation.

With a newly found faith in God, and a knowledge that He loved me, I returned to the church. I knew their opinions had not changed, yet I refused to pretend to be something I wasn’t. I came back without so many things I had left there with: I came back without my fears and doubts, without my self-hatred, and most of all, I came back without any need to live a lie. Only my faith in God made me unafraid to face the potential wrath of the church.

The church’s new pastor was an old friend of mine. But he was an old friend who had not known that I was gay. He put me in a position where I had no choice but to leave again. But it didn’t matter this time. God had renewed my call to ministry, and had given me the charge that I must share with other men and women the love He had given me. In July of 1980 was born the National Gay Pentecostal Alliance, the very first Gay-affirming Apostolic Pentecostal church in the world, and the second Gay-affirming denomination in history. (NGPA later merged with another newer denomination of similar faith, and then with a third. At present, there are no fewer than four LGBT-affirming Apostolic Pentecostal denominations with headquarters in the US, and one of those, the Affirming Pentecostal Church International, has churches in Europe, Africa, South and Central America.)

Today, I continue to do the work of God. I have not forgotten the miracle God worked in my life in that restaurant kitchen in 1979. Nor have I lost sight of the despair so many of my Gay Brothers and Sisters feel when they believe the lies they’ve been told. I’ve made it my life’s work to reach out to them and share the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. In doing so, I have set aside many other goals I used to have. But nothing in the world matters now as much as doing the work He sent me to do. I finally understand now that I am not my own. He paid the highest price imaginable, and He did it because He loves me. And nobody can take that away from me. Romans 8:38-39