This blog currently seems to be an account of unfortunate circumstances in my life. Despite what these brief updates might suggest, I am actually fairly chipper. I don’t tend to add up the sum the of things going on in my life and wonder “why me?”. These things are all just part of life.
There is something else to add to the list though. In case this has not been clear to you, my partner is female. Not such a revelation you might think, and for most people it isn’t. But for one part of British life it is, the church – more particularly the evangelical church, which in my case is the Baptist church. The evangelical church has very specific views on same sex relationships. Since my teenage years I have been to church, and have been a church member i.e. on the formal membership roll, for about twenty years. But that is soon to change.
I don’t go to church very often, but I went today because I was on the bookstall rota. I stay on the rota because it gives me a reason to go to church or else my attendance would probably diminish to nothing. The person who oversees the bookstall is the mum of a friend of mine. She asked if I could go over for a cup of tea this afternoon. I asked if everything was ok and she said “I saw the card you sent [her son].” “Oh” I replied.
Let’s rewind back a week or so. My friend and his wife had a baby. I sent a congratulations card, which was signed by both me and G. My friend’s mum read all the cards that had been sent and then began to wonder about the card sent from me. She asked more about it and realised that all was not as she had thought.
When she returned to London from seeing her new grandchlld, my friend’s mum spoke to one of the ministers and the pastoral assistant at church about what she had found out. The conclusion was not good, hence her conversation with me.
She was really lovely when she spoke to me. I know her very well. I even lived with her and her husband for a year. But none of those things took away the bitter pill that she delivered. My role in the church is under review. It is very likely that I will no longer to be able to cover on the bookstall. I will also probably be required to resign my church membership – and if I don’t resign it myself they will probably withdraw it anyway. If they remove your church membership, they do this at a church meeting and explain the reasons for it to all the church members. At least if you instigate the resignation yourself they don’t explain the circumstances, unless you have asked them to do so.
I listened to what she said and explained that this was exactly why I had never said anything. I knew the theology of it all and “get” how the evangelical church views such things, but I said that ultimately it was all very personal and it was rejection – which was what I found so hard about it.
She said she’d never seen me cry before. She said that I would still be able to attend the church, but wouldn’t be allowed to have any responsibilities (that means nothing, not even handing out a notice sheet, and certainly not working on the bookstall where I could be peddling immorality) and would not be allowed to be a member. (I know that I also wouldn’t be allowed to take communion.) I said that I wouldn’t be attending any more in those circumstances because the church would have rejected me and ultimately would be telling me that I’m not good enough. She said that it wasn’t about being “good enough”. But it is really.
I guess some might wonder why I even care. Over the years, some people at that church have shown me great kindness. I wanted to keep going there because it felt so final to stop, as though something that had been so significant in my life was finally over. In times when I had greater faith than I do now, it was a great place to be and I made some good friends there. I also care because it hurts to be rejected.
I sent my friend a text to tell him what had happened. He phoned me straightaway. He was totally shocked and was really angry with his mum and appalled that she had told other people my private business. He had no idea she was going to do that and I had to talk him down from phoning his mum and having a big go at her. He says he is still really angry about it, but was going to take a bit of time to decide what to say. He lost his faith many years ago and this just impressed on him how little he misses that part of his life.
It hasn’t been the best day.
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