This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Tenth Annual Gay and Lesbian Baptist Retreat in Texas. A few months ago I discovered University Baptist Church, but this weekend, I discovered AWAB - The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. Below is my letter to the executive director which was forwarded to the board.The discovery of AWAB has been a watershed moment in my faith, even moreso than the introduction to University Baptist Church. As I shared at the retreat, the moment I accepted myself as a gay man, I became closer to God because the barrier of pretended heterosexuality I had erected between myself and Him was a lie I could never overcome. While I was very active in a church, my relationship to God was academic. I was a teacher and a leader, but my relationship to God did not exist in any personal way. I read the scripture, studied the scripture, and interpreted the scripture, but now I can look back and see that I did all those things without the guidance or presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.
My faith was an expectation of the community, but not a reflection of me.
Years ago I was introduced to University Baptist Church as the congregation who was disassociated from the Southern Baptist Convention because they ordained an openly gay man. That introduction to me was incomplete. I knew that event, that action from that body, but I never investigated or imagined it would mean a church body could be Baptist and inclusive, so when I came out and moved to Austin, I did not even consider UBC as a potential church home.
And maybe I'm glad I didn't make that move six years ago. I was not ready for a church to accept me because I was not ready to accept a church.
When I was finally introduced to UBC this summer, I knew from the first Sunday I set foot in the building, that the body of believers who called that place home, was Christian in the Christ sense of the word. I spent a month considering the move of my membership to UBC before I finally did it because I wanted to be certain. I have never looked back.
This weekend, discovering the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, in many ways was an explosion of my faith. Not only do I have a congregation I can call home, there is an association in relationship with many other faiths across the nation I can call a friend. The weekend is not even over, but I sense the impact this discovery has had on me.
As a child, I always thought I would be a minister. As a teenager I reasoned I could never be one because God would never let me. After this weekend, I have the hope that I may be able to impact people in service to the Lord again.