The Coming Out Pilgrimage of a Presbyterian Pastor
For most LGBT people, coming out is a pilgrimage filled with “concrete, tangible, markers by which one can discern where one is located on the map of coming out.” Rev. Brett Webb-Mitchell, a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor, shares his courageous coming out pilgrimage in the Huffington Post. His story demonstrates the risks and suffering of coming out in a church that turned away the gifts and graces of LGBT people and also illustrates the importance of the passage of Amendment 10-A.
Reflecting God’s heart in the new G-2.0104 in the Book of Order goes far beyond ordination and helps keep relationships together, children protected and ministries intact.
Seventeen years ago I awoke early one morning and began my coming out pilgrimage. Though I had long imagined what it would be like coming out, the very act of coming out of my closet brought both unbridled joy and literally scared me to death. It was these polar opposite feelings that effectively stopped me from leaving the closet’s narrow, loathsome confines. I was paralyzed emotionally, wanting to embrace the emotional, relational, intellectual, spiritual, and physical attraction to men, yet could not accept being gay because I believed society’s and my church’s hateful condemnations against the “homosexual lifestyle.” To keep my mind from dwelling on being gay, I busied myself with the academy where I worked, the denomination I served, and the family I loved, to fend off any rumors that I could be gay. But one morning, after a year of counseling and months of strategizing, I simply left the house I shared with my wife and kids, and moved to a small studio apartment, never to return. Even though I was consumed with fear that I would lose my place in the institution of higher education where I worked, be defrocked as a minister, and lose my family, I nonetheless could no longer live the lie I was trying to live. I wanted and needed to live life as fully “me”: a dad, professor, writer, pastor, partner, and pilgrim who happened to be gay. As pilgrimage starts with a step forward, so does coming out. And nothing is ever the same.
I live a pilgrim life, both as a Christian pilgrim and as a gay man. I live in the amazing parallels between these two movements of body, mind and spirit. Both pilgrimages start from a beginning point; are more about the journey than the destination sometimes; use stories as a way to navigate the way forward; require taking good care of ourselves; and lean forward toward reaching a destination and a life radically reformed. The close parallel of an actual pilgrimage and coming out is more than mere metaphor: an intentional pilgrimage provides concrete, tangible, markers by which one can discern where one is located on the map of coming out.
Follow the complete coming out pilgrimage of Rev. Brett Web-Mitchell at the Huffington Post.