My coming out was just a month before the Nashville statement swooped into the Netherlands. Suddenly my personal story was also the subject of national discussions. I felt threatened, especially when a University professor compared ‘genderideology’ with nazi-ideology.
I bought a rainbow flag and went to a protest at the gay-monument in Amsterdam. That’s where I saw representatives of the Amsterdam Protestant Church, COC Netherlands and the mayor on the same stage supporting christian LGBTI-people. I was in a colorful crowd with christians and non-believers and it was heartwarming. I met a few friends and they invited me to my first ‘Tafeltijd’, a christian meeting for LGBTI and interested parties. I was included in the LGBTI-community.
Then came Sunday. I was interested to find out how my church responded to the Nashville statement. I knew of some other gay men in my church, and was curious how they had experienced this week. The church had not put up a rainbow flag (like many other churches had), and did not make any statement. The church was searching for a new reverend at the time, and the guest-reverend acted very wise and said nothing about the Nashville statement, because “he was not our reverend”. I also didn’t dare mention it afterwards, nor did the other gay man, or anyone else. I had felt so included earlier that week, but now I felt very alone.
That bothered me. This church that I visited for years, where I made friends, where I volunteered and where I felt safe, that church suddenly felt unsafe.
I accepted the invitation to Tafeltijd and there I met a young man from my church. For the first time we talked about both our coming outs. Again I was bothered by the fact that we had both gone to a different place to talk openly about our sexual orientation. How wonderful would it be if there was such a safe place in our church.
In the meantime I emailed one of the church board members about my experiences that Sunday after Nashville. He was very understanding, but also told me that THE talk about LGBTI in our church had to wait for the new reverend and other strategy issues. I understood this with the left part of my brain, but the right part of my brain struggled: Why are other issues more important than including LGBTI? Are we not important enough? The church board is careful not to hurt any feelings, but saying nothing is hurtful too!
How many church members will only think of men in their underwear dancing on boats when they hear the word gay? Maybe they could get used to the presence of LGBTI in their midst if they knew that they are already there, and have been for years.
I invited the church board to come with me to a pink ceremony, and they accepted with enthusiasm. The pink ceremony is a monthly ceremony in Amsterdam, and it shows me how many people don’t feel welcome (anymore) in a regular church. Some haven’t celebrated the Lord's supper for years, and here they can. This is a task for the church!
A year and a half have gone by. There is a careful start of a plan to organise a meeting for LGBTI church members and interested others. We are still looking for people to help organise this, but the church board is on board. THE talk hasn’t been scheduled yet. But even without that official conversation, this church will be more and more like the House of the Lord.