I graduated from Bob Jones University in 1980.
I am a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, serving as Senior Pastor at LifeJourney Church, a thriving, Christ-centered congregation in Indianapolis, Indiana.
And I am gay. I’ve been married to my spouse David Zier for 20 years.
Those are the headlines, now let me back up and share the details. I was saved at age 13 at Burge Terrace Baptist Church in Indianapolis. As a teenager, God was everything to me. I felt called to ministry. So when it was time to pick a college, I chose to go to BJU with all my friends from Church. My parents weren’t too enthusiastic about my choice. They had hoped I would attend an accredited mainstream university. But my heart was set. I was adamant I wanted to go to a Christian college.
I loved being at BJU. In public school I had always stood out as the fundamentalist nerd. At BJU, I finally belonged. But all was not well in paradise. By my sophomore year at BJU, I became self-aware enough to realize I was what people would call “homosexual.” I had never acted on that impulse. But I knew it was there. I was attracted to men.
Scared to death, I began to pray earnestly. I spent countless hours walking back campus, under the stars, asking God for healing. But nothing changed.
By my senior year, decisions had to be made. With all my heart, I wanted to serve God as a pastor, but realized I needed to get “healed” before following that call. Meantime, I would need a cover story, so no one would suspect my problem. I began telling everyone I felt God calling me to law school. I was stunned when I gained admission to Harvard. I believe I was the first BJU student ever admitted to Harvard Law School. (I’m sure the Harvard admissions office viewed me as an interesting experiment. I can hear them saying, “Let’s let this fundamentalist in and see what happens!”)
Oh, was I ever a fish out of water when I first arrived at Harvard! I had gone from the safe cocoon of BJU to the cultural melting pot of Harvard. My salvation was the Harvard Law School Christian Fellowship. I was leery of rubbing shoulders with so many different kinds of Christians in the Fellowship. It’s what we at BJU would have disparagingly called an “ecumenical group” – Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, Pentecostals, etc. To me, it didn’t matter. I was just immensely grateful to find people who shared my core faith, and as I began to see the light of Christ shining in them too, I had to re-examine my Baptist prejudices.
But throughout law school, I continued to hide my homosexuality and prayed unceasingly for healing. Three years later, when it was time to graduate, still no healing. I was beginning to feel despair. “God, am I doomed to live my whole life in celibate silence?” If that’s what God wanted, I was determined to try.
I took a job at a corporate law firm in Washington, DC, settled into an evangelical Presbyterian Church with a huge young adults’ ministry, and started leading Bible studies for young adults. Meanwhile, something started to shift inside me. In my heart, I knew that I wasn’t Romans 1. The downward spiritual spiral described there bore no resemblance to my own path.
Looking back, I could see signs that I was attracted to males as early as puberty. Ironically, the same year I was saved, age 13, was the first year I began to experience sexual attraction – which happened to be toward males. That attraction grew and developed over the years even as my relationship with God grew. I prayed daily, I read the Bible devoutly, I led youth group – not because anyone made me, but because that’s where my heart was.
Instinctively I had always known I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” just as God intended (Psalm 139:14). By the time I graduated law school, I was finally confident enough to begin exploring whether the anti-gay theology I had always been taught could withstand careful scrutiny. I spent the next several years reading everything I could find about: (a) how Jesus approached ethics; and (b) what the Bible says about homosexuality. What I found brought me to a place of great peace. I finally realized I didn’t need “healing.”
At that point, I had still never knowingly met another gay person. Now I was free to begin to seek people who were like me – followers of Jesus who happened to be gay. I soon discovered a small Bible study group, and someone in the group invited me to attend his Church – Open Door Metropolitan Community Church in the suburbs of Washington, DC. I learned that Open Door was part of a small denomination of churches – Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) – that embraced gay Christians. Finally there was a place where I could pursue my call to pastoral ministry, while living with authentic openness about my sexual orientation!
At Open Door MCC, I met my spouse David. After dating for two years, we were married in our Church and began making a home together. Meanwhile, I began taking MCC’s coursework for ordination, while continuing my legal career. It was a slow process, but after 13 years of lawyering, and a long road of discovery, I was ready for ordination in MCC in 1997.
That year David and I moved home to Indianapolis and I became Pastor of the only MCC located in Indianapolis, LifeJourney Church. Fifteen years later, we have a thriving congregation of 400 that is doing great things for God. We have a vibrant discipleship program, missions program, a pastoral training program, and evangelistic outreach. We have conducted four citywide billboard campaigns challenging our fellow Christians to re-think their anti-gay prejudices. As culture changes, increasingly straight families are choosing to worship at LifeJourney. The world is changing faster than anyone could have imagined.
If you are still struggling with questions about homosexuality and the Bible, I would invite you to read a book I’ve co-authored called The Children Are Free: Re-examining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships. You can find it on Amazon. You’ll find sermons I’ve preached on homosexuality and the Bible at www.WouldJesusDiscriminate.org.
And if you’ve moved beyond the struggle about being gay and Christian, and just want general support for your daily walk with Christ, visit my Church web site for free daily devotions and weekly sermons: www.LifeJourneyChurch.cc.
It is so important for those of us who grew up gay and fundamentalist to speak up! By doing so, we are furthering Christ’s mission to “proclaim release to the captives” (Luke 4:18-19). Within the next 30 years, the day is coming, I predict, when young men and women who are gay and lesbian will be welcomed with open arms even at BJU – for “with God all things are possible” (Luke 1:37).