“The Closet is a Spiritual Tomb!”
The first time I heard these words I was at our General Conference in Los Angeles. It was the early 1970s, and a young preacher by the name of Howard Wells had gotten up to speak. Over a thousand people were in the auditorium that day and when he spoke you could hear a pin drop.
Here was a man who had left his former denomination with all its prestige and had come to what was then a fledgling, dynamic ministry called the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). He began to preach the Gospel in a new and dynamic way to those of us who were considered to be the lepers of this society.
Why? Because as the Rev. Wells, almost in tears, proclaimed, “The Closet is a Spiritual Tomb!” He said, “I can no longer live my life in Christ the way the world tells us we must, hiding who I am as a human being in order to belong in the institutional church. I am a man of God who happens to be Gay!” Living a lie is destructive to the human spirit – to the soul – because what we are saying to the world, but more importantly, to ourselves, is that who we are is not good enough! When we do this, we accept a life of shame and denigration and we can have no true peace. Those gathered for this worship service came to their feet, most in tears, cheering and shouting out a profound “Halleluia!” People from many faiths were united as one, free at last!
Almost all of the 1,000-plus people gathered there on this day were gay men and lesbians (bi and transgender were not yet part of the dialogue). Most were people who had been shut out from their churches just because of their sexual orientation. Most of us had once bought into the condemnation and hostility of the institutional religions whose hatred and/or fear-filled language and actions had driven us from the arms of God. They had convinced us that God no longer wanted anything to do with us, costing us so much pain: loss of family, jobs, self-worth, hope and, all too often… our lives.
But now I pray that you will join us in saying, as we did on that day, “Never Again! By the grace of God I am who I am! I know I am loved, I am loving, and I, too, am a holy child of God!”
Come out! Come out! wherever you are! Take that first step and come join with us on Friday night for our Coming Out Support Group! Our policy is that everything said in the group is confidential as is your name and presence with us. The candle burning in the window is for you! Come join us!
In solidarity, Rev. Sky Anderson, Minister of Community Life at MCCSJ
Please click the following link if you would like more information about MCC San José’s Coming Out Support Group.
MCC is one of the member churches of the UFMCC as seen in the TV movie “Prayers for Bobby.” All are welcome here!
This reflection was originally published as part of MCC San Jose’s weekly reflection series. Please click the following link for more information about MCC San Jose’s weekly reflections.