by Meg Mottola
Growing up, I had a very difficult time with my faith. It was so hard to have this push and pull within me where I so desperately wanted to be myself, but felt like I wasn’t allowed to because it was wrong, according to what I had been taught all of my life in church.
It was a struggle and for a long time, I gave up on faith and wanted nothing to do with it. It didn’t make sense to me how people could tell me that God loves me no matter who I am, but then would tell me that this part of me was wrong and that I couldn’t have a relationship with him because of this. It got to be so confusing for me that I lost faith for a long time. But then as I got older and became more comfortable with myself, I met others within the faith community who were accepting and loved me for me. They didn’t try to change me or think that what I was doing was some awful thing. I’ve learned that my relationship with God is personal and it’s MY relationship and no one else’s. He made me beautiful and wonderful and I am not a mistake. I did not choose to be gay and I know that God loves me no matter what.
After enough time, I also became tired of hearing people use the Bible to justify their reasoning for not agreeing with those in the LGBTQ community. If you cannot understand how one person loves another person and you don’t understand love because love doesn’t know gender. That is not how love is defined and if you can’t see past two people of the same sex loving and caring about each other or a trans folk who loves an individual, then I’m not really sure that you understand what love really is.
I believe that faith is like a glass foundation that we stand on but many people don’t want to see it that way. The reason is because when our beliefs get challenged, our faith can shatter beneath us and everything we’ve ever been told and taught seems to crumble beneath us. So as a result, we remain ignorant and we keep our heart and our mind closed. I fully recognize that for some people this is really hard to grasp, but all I ask is that you try to open up your heart and your mind. Maybe you need to be questioned; maybe you need to be challenged; maybe you need to recognize that the floor is glass. But remember not all glass shatters. Sometimes it just provides more clarity to look through.
After I came out in college, I knew I wanted to get back into my faith and I sought out a church near my university and that church made me feel more at home than any church I had ever been to. And it just so happens that the first service I attended was on a series called “When Christians get it wrong: On homosexuality.” It was such an eye-opening service for me and really made me feel validated as a gay person of faith. I had the pleasure of talking to the pastor and each week I would go and talk to him about this. It felt so nice to find somebody within a church who was beyond accepting, but even advocated for the LGBTQ+ community. I didn’t feel like I had to hide myself or censor who I was. I could talk openly about being gay and it wasn’t frowned upon and I didn’t get the sense that anybody was trying to change me or “find God’s path.” I’m so grateful that this pastor was willing to sit down with me and answer some questions. I think it’s really important to get the perspective of somebody who preaches the word of God. He has definitely experienced some backlash and that’s really upsetting because if there’s anything that God preached it was to love all and never judge. So here is the interview I had with him back in 2015.
1. How long have you been a pastor for?
I have been in ministry for nineteen years.
2. Was there anyone in particular who influenced your decision to become a pastor?
I would have to say that it was the United Methodist congregation I was attending at the time in Port Washington, NY. They had modeled for me what it meant to be Christian. In the process of becoming more involved in the church and my faith journey I began to feel God’s call into the ordained ministry
3. What was the LGBTQ community/talk like when you were first starting as a pastor?
Back in 1995 I had not been exposed to much discussion, or debate, regarding the LGBTQ community. However, I had occasional discussion with my pastor at the time (who was quite liberal in his thinking and theology), around LGBT struggles. He was a freeing influence on my learning to apply what I felt and believed in a more responsible, biblical manner. Once I began seminary the dialogue was quite diverse and heated at times. I found myself in classes with people who were already pastors with very divergent views and interpretations of the bible regarding homosexuality. It had quite an impact on me. But again, I felt encouraged and inspired to discuss why I supported my LGBTQ friends and family from a perspective of faith, biblical interpretation, and my understanding of a loving, affirming God
4. Do you have any family or friends that are LGBTQ?
Yes. I have some relatives who are gay. And since my years in college as a music major, many of my friends and professors (some of whom I have remained close with) were gay. At this point in my life a number of my friends, colleagues, and church family members are part of the LGBTQ community
5. How do you feel about same sex marriages?
I support full marriage equality for my gay sisters and brothers in the faith
6. Have you ever had community church members approach you based on your view of same sex marriages? If so, how how have you handled it?
Some of my church members have approached me to discuss my view on same sex marriage. Most have approached me knowing that I support equality with regard to marriage and ordination. Most have approached me because they also support equality in this area. However, some have approached me in order to discuss the issue and sometimes debate it, as they respect my opinion while not agreeing with me. I simply see my task as praying over this issue and offering my opinion regarding why I believe what I believe in as clear and loving a manner as possible. I have found that compassionately sharing my understanding of God’s truth in love is helpful much of the time. Nevertheless, sometimes folks make it difficult to have a respectful discussion. I always try to handle the conversation with respect as many of the people who come to me who don’t agree with same sex marriage are often struggling with this issue as they have people in their lives they love who are gay. While some might be seeking to change my mind, many are honestly seeking better understanding and answers. To me it is always a privilege to be invited into the sacred ground of discussion that has the potential to change hearts and share concerns, misunderstandings, and even fears. For it is in our vulnerability when true relationship and sharing can take place, especially when we do not agree
7. How do you feel when people use the bible and certain verses as a way to go against homosexuality?
It certainly feel pain and disgust when I witness people using/misusing God’s word to inflict judgment, pain, and/or limiting labels upon others. All too often we misuse God’s word while judging others in order to make us feel better about ourselves. God’s word was not given to judge, or imprison, but to free us from the sin and insecurity that affects us all
8. What advice would you give to LGBTQ members who are struggling with their faith as a result of standards set by society/church/the bible?
I would want to let them know that God created them and loves them just as they are. That the world and the church takes time to change, but not to give up. Talk with people, state your position, “speak the truth in love,” as the apostle Paul would say, and live your life in a way that is faithful to your understanding of God’s word in your life. Not everyone will agree, but there are plenty of good, loving Christian people of faith who welcome and accept LGBTQ folks for who they are — just as Christ would. The church and the world are changing — slowly, unfortunately, but changing. While I cannot speak for all people, I can say that my gay brothers and sisters in Christ will always be welcome and accepted in the church that I serve.
To the church back home that helped instill faith again, thank you.
Love and light,
About the Author:
Meg Mottola is an east coaster but a traveler at heart. Aside from her work with Matthew’s Place, she is an advocate for mental health awareness. She is in recovery from a 10+ year battle with Anorexia. In addition to writing, Meg enjoys running, traveling, jamming on the guitar, and photography. She believes the key to joy in life is to surround yourself with positivity, express gratitude, and always choose love. You can follow her Instagram, @megmott!