I recently visited Jacksonville for the purpose of coming out to all my friends face to face. If somehow I missed you - I apologize. I have come out to the credentials committee of the Church of God as well. A copy of the letter is below. If you guys have any questions, please feel free to ask.
To the Credentials Committee of the Church of God:
I am writing today for two reasons. First, I have recently received notification that my ordination is now official, and I want to thank you for bestowing this honor upon me. It has been a long road and I have worked very hard to ensure I will be a good representative of Christ and the Church of God. Second, I am writing to make you aware of a recent development in my life. For the past few years I have been studying a particular theological issue and have come to the conclusion my previous beliefs were misaligned. It is my understanding that the Church of God believes homosexuality, and its practice, to be a sin. I no longer believe this to be true. I do not believe the Church of God has treated the biblical passages on this issue, as they treat other passages. For example, Paul’s view on women speaking in the church, when taken literally, would prevent my ordination on the basis of gender. However, the Church of God Reformation Movement has chosen to interpret the scripture through the culture for which it was intended and has thus ordained women since inception. I believe the same needs to happen for the biblical passages dealing with homosexuality. It is not my intent to write a treatise on the subject as this point. My purpose for writing today is to make my theological position known to the committee. However, as a starting point I will direct you to “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality,” by Daniel Helminiak, Ph.D., “Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality,” by Jack Rogers, and “The Augmented Third Edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible,” NRSV.
I feel I must also make the reason for my study of this issue known. If it were not for my personal experience I would have taken it for granted that the scripture is to be interpreted literally on the subject of homosexuality. However, my life experience and relationship with God have taught me otherwise. I have known since I was five years old, when I accepted Christ as Savior, what it means to be a Christian. I have also known since the age of 13 that I am attracted to women. Because I have grown up in the Church of God I have been taught homosexuality is sin. So, I treated my attraction as sin. I denied it, I ignored it, I cursed it, and I rejected it. I asked for forgiveness, cleansing, and begged God to take the feelings from me. I prayed, I read Scripture, and I fasted multiple times. Yet my attraction remained. So, I continued to ignore it and prayed for strength to be a straight woman. As you know, I even denied it to the point of getting married to a man. I honestly did love Dana with all my heart and if it weren’t for his choices I would have stayed by his side forever. However, since he did not choose to work things out, I found myself alone with God. After the divorce, my feelings seemed to magnify as I found myself completely free. My struggle became more pronounced. The trauma of the separation and divorce forced me to deal with the issue I had been pushing away for 12 years.
At this point I started to see a professional counselor. My ordination interview was coming up and I did not want to go through with it knowing how I felt, and also knowing the position of the Church of God. I did not want to hide anything from the committee. At this point I was still struggling to reconcile my faith and my feelings. As my counselor and I worked through some of these issues, I decided to go through with the interview. Ordination in the Church of God has been a goal of mine for quite some time. I know I am called to ministry, and the Church of God is where my heart lives. I am proud to call myself a Church of God minister. But I need to be completely real about who I am.
I am gay. It is not by choice. If I believed there was any way to rid myself of this, I would. I have tried it all. I have tried ex-gay ministries, I have tried complete ignorance, and I have tried complete surrender. This is who I am. This is who God created me to be. I know He loves me, just as I am. And I believe that I was made this way for a purpose. The damage, which has been done to the homosexual community in the name of God, is sinful. Gay people feel judged, condemned, and damned to hell without even stepping foot in a church. And some believe God feels the same way about them as the church does. If something is not done, they will never have the opportunity to know His love. And, everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, is loved fully by God. It is our responsibility as Christians and as ministers to show the love of God to the gay community. I believe I am called to minister to all God’s children, including those who have been rejected by “well-meaning” churches.
I know how it feels to be afraid of who you are, and afraid of how you feel. I know how it feels to believe you cannot be gay and a Christian. For a long time I believed I had two choices. I could either continue in ministry and not be gay, or I could be gay and leave the ministry. I was unable to reconcile the two. As I studied the Scripture and attempted to understand, I also stopped talking to God. Since He is the ultimate authority on matters of morality, I was afraid if I talked to Him He would reject me. I believed He would convict me and be disappointed in me. So, I did not speak to God for over a year. When I started seeing the counselor the first thing she told me to do was talk to God. When I did, I heard these words clearly, “Just let me hold you.” I felt God’s love and acceptance. As the Holy Spirit and I have worked through interpreting scripture and grown in our relationship, I now believe being a gay Christian is not a contradiction. These three things I know to be true. I am a Christian. I am gay. And I am called to ministry.
I do not know what the outcome of this letter will be. My inclination is to believe the committee will vote to retract my ordination. I hope this is not true. I am still the same person you interviewed and have known all these years. I am the same person you have entrusted with the title Reverend. It is still my intention to minister within the Church of God Reformation Movement. However, I will be ministering as God has made me. I can no longer deny who God has created me to be. I do not believe it is a sin to be gay. I do not believe it is a sin for me to be in a relationship. I do not believe this is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ or other clear teachings in the New Testament. If it is the position of the committee that to be gay is sin, then I will gladly give up my ordination and seek to minister elsewhere. I ask that you receive this letter with open hearts and minds. As written, in “Our Beliefs,” on the Church of God website:
“There is room for differences of opinion in the fellowship. Perfect agreement on minute details of doctrine and practice is not required. An open mind and an open heart are characteristic of a vital group of Christians.”
I look forward to a response from the committee with a prayerful heart,
Rev. Shannon Morgan