by: Todd Andrew Clayton
Note: This piece was originally featured on the author’s blog and was reposted with permission. You can find the original here.
The table that we circled had listened to us for over an hour, carrying our questions, our flattened palms, our tears. After re-hashing biblical passages, examining social patterns, combing through church history, and fielding anecdotal offerings, the three of us sat, exhausted, uncertain as to how best to proceed.
“It’s a complicated conversation,” said my friend, sitting opposite me. “It will take some time to figure out what this means for the church.”
My hands were in the air, the lines on my brow betraying the frustration in my chest.
“I don’t have time for infinite musing. It’s not a conversation for me,” I cried. “By virtue of living, I make a claim.”
I struggle significantly with the practice of homosexuality being a topic of conversation among my friends, family and colleagues in the church. The issue, I should clarify, is not that it is being discussed. This, in fact, gives me great hope, and has ushered many people who would have otherwise silently wrestled with their identities into places of monumental freedom. The issue comes from the conversation remaining just that: a dialogue that often fails to boldly move beyond, into the gift of concrete claims about what a homosexual orientation means for one’s future.
For straight people, this ambiguous conversational space doesn’t have to be resolved. They can marvel at the apparent complexity, enjoy the throes of challenging discourse, and go home to their spouses and families, nestled snugly—and ideologically safely—in bed. For LGBT people, however, for people like me, leaving the conversation unresolved relegates us to a life of ecclesiological and personal limbo. By living my life, however, by my going home to a husband, by my rearing children, by my holding the hand of a person of the same sex as I walk down the street, by kissing him goodbye at the airport, I make a definitive statement, rendering long-term ambiguity untenable.
Because no one decisively spoke, I laid face down on my bed at age fifteen and wept, having woken from a dream where my friend’s dad and I were unmentionably close.
Because no one decisively spoke, the water ran down my eleven-year old head, carrying with it the disgrace-filled soap that I scrubbed in my hair, on my skin. As I showered, water would collect in the crevices of my collarbone and run down my chest like winding rivers of shame and discontent, swirling, ultimately, in the drain below. Scrubbing, I would pray for change.
Because no one decisively spoke, I snuck out of my literature class sophomore year, racked by guilt and shame, knelt on the bathroom floor, and vomited, the toilet my altar.
This week I found myself immersed, once again, in this conversation. For this reason, I find myself compelled to make a definite claim, to navigate the seemingly murky waters of dialogue about LGBT people in the church, but to ultimately end with a proclamation: to be gay and experience the partnership of another—emotionally, sexually, spiritually—does not call one into a violation of the biblical texts. On the contrary, the space within the church for people of all sexual orientations is great.
Todd Andrew Clayton wishes he were good at soccer. He lives in San Diego & writes at coffee shops & in his living room. Someday, he hopes that he can write & get paid for it. Until then, he’s going to grad school. He likes Thai food & wants to go to Ireland before he dies.