Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Dear YoungLife & the Modern-Day Church,

Throughout my grade school career, my church and YoungLife family was my refuge.

When I chose to stop hiding my sexual orientation to my family and community, I knew I would be met with mostly iron fists and burned bridges. I lied and covered myself for years at the expense of those around me to maintain a sense of normalcy. It worked for a while until it didn't. When it didn't, I came face-to-face with the hardest time of my life.

My YoungLife leaders carried me through the moments I could not get through by myself. I saw a Jesus love there, and I knew I was wanted there for who and what I was at that very moment. My leaders were - and still are - some of my best friends. 

My church, to which I was a faithful servant to the best of my ability for over ten years, while welcoming me to continue coming to public services, denounced me from any and all forms of service positions. Everything from small service such as serving as a kitchen volunteer, to larger service such as assisting on the children's ministry was all robbed from me. Because of my truth, I received a very clear message that I was no longer even fit to work in my Father's house.

People I served alongside never called me again. I never received a thank-you from my immediate ministry partners for my years of dedication. When your position in your Father's house is robbed, you lose a sense of your position in this world. 

That summer I left the church. For many weeks, I received hate-mail from various church members. People lied and said they reached out and tried to embrace me, but in reality they never did. I had the select few that still maintained their contact and friendship with me, and I thank God for them. The majority, though, did not. An overwhelming truth is if the church is not a body of ALL people serving at the feet of Jesus, then the church does not bear the image of Christ.

It is the blood of Christ that saves and anoints and atones for the sins of all people, not heterosexuality. It is the blood of Christ that empowers me to stand in confidence in his presence full of life and full of passion.

I attempted to shed light on this reality on social media, to which I was urged to remove the posts "since it might hurt people." That is typical of these kinds of situations - the organization that discriminates against gay individuals and then shuns them, takes no responsibility for their own policies, actions, and words. It is the gay individual that has been marginalized and stands up for themself since nobody else will that is responsible for all the negative consequences apparently. It is speaking out against prejudice and bigotry that's the problem, I guess. My mistake.

When I left the toxic atmosphere and accepted the end to a longstanding end to my service in Daddy's house, I turned to YoungLife. They accepted me for who and what I was, and I could not be more thankful for the kindness and love I was shown at club, camp, and any other YoungLife-related activity.

It wouldn't be until my second semester in college, when researching how to become a potential YoungLife leader myself to continue the legacy that was given to me, that I met deja vu. This was a very similar feeling to what I faced with my own church family. While reading YoungLife's Statement of Faith and Conduct Policy, I read these all-too-familiar words:

"We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God's grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ. We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life."

What I think they really mean is that you are welcome to attend club or camp in the hopes that you will somehow "see a light." I fell apart. I have lost the ability to serve MY FATHER in all of the organizations that are close to my heart this side of heaven. Until I reach Glory, these organizations have demoted me to nothing more than a seat-warmer, a lost-soul, an outsider.

Dear Younglife & the Modern-Day Church: I am deeply troubled by your actions. A question we all must ask ourselves is, "Do we mar the world, or do we mark the world?"

I think God foresaw this. He spends a lot of time in the Bible telling us - telling me - how he sees His children. It's almost as if He saw it coming that outsiders would try to define us. He knew we would look in the mirror and hear ugly; that we would be left by those we trust and hear unworthy; that we would sometimes seemingly drown in discouragement and hear forgotten; that we would sometimes be shut out by closed doors and hear rejected; that we would turn to other vices and hear addict; that we would allow our pain to cripple us until we wouldn't even know how to let anyone in and hear lonely. It is overwhelming. 

I see a vision of a generation of Christians that knows what our Father says, because I have learned that people should all stop forming opinions about you because there is only One who has an intimate knowledge of you. 

My Father says I am the head and not the tail, I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I am the light of the world. I am called. I am Jesus' friend. I am a citizen of Heaven. I am totally and completely forgiven. I am holy and blameless before my Father. I have been justified. In my Father I have redemption, wisdom, and sanctification. My Father says I am a chosen nation, and there is nothing I have done or will ever do that can separate me from his love.

Do you know what your Father says?

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  1. wow, Bryce. So well and thoughtfully written.

  2. Keep the faith. Only you are responsible for you. Those that truly love one of God's children will never waver in their love. I love YOU!