Gay Christian comes out ‘to make the church a kinder place for LGBT people’
A LGBT+ inclusive church has shared the touching story of one of its members who came out to “make the church a kinder place for LGBT+ people”.
Grace is a member of Church From Scratch (CFS), a “radically inclusive” Baptist church in Southend which says it offers “a community of welcome, embrace, inclusion, affirmation and sanctuary” to all people, regardless of orientation or gender identity.
Grace said her whole life revolved around religion growing up, but when she went away to university she realised she was “missing a part of [her] identity”.
Realising she was attracted to girls was “a big release”, but also came with difficult emotions.
She said: “I was confused, I was really angry at God and I felt really isolated. I didn’t know anyone who was gay and a Christian.
“I knew a lot of gay people, and I knew a lot of Christians, but I didn’t know anyone that was both. That felt really, really lonely.”
As part of her degree she did a placement in Tanzania with a Christian charity, and met a friend who allowed her to talk about her sexuality.
“But, some other members of the team one day decided to have a debate about LGBT+ people,” Grace said.
“They said some really toxic and damaging things in that debate, and those things really stuck with me. They were hard to shake off for a long time.”
Internalised “shame” and “homophobia” from the church severely impacted Grace’s mental health.
Towards the end of university, Grace developed an eating disorder.
She said: “Internally, I was really struggling. Over the years, I’d internalised a lot of the homophobia and the shame that I’d heard and it started to manifest as an eating disorder.
“I thought I didn’t deserve to be loved, and I thought my family and my friends would only love me if I was ill. It took a lot of therapy and a lot of time for me to link that back to coming out.
“I think it is a big lesson in what shame can do to a person, and how it can really impact their mental health. I don’t think people in the church realise the impact of their words, and of their silence.”
Grace took some time away from church, but when she found CFS she told them from “day one” that she was gay and had a girlfriend.
She said: “They just embraced me and celebrated me and loved me, for that and for everything that I am. It gave me so much healing and really helped me to learn that, actually, God does the same… which has been life-saving.”
Grace is now a part of a community of LGBT+ Christians and CFS said it hopes Grace’s story will help other churches on their “affirming journey”.