He has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18)
Every Christian who identifies as a member of the gay community has experienced the pain of isolation, rejection, and loneliness. Sometimes the pain has been caused by other gay individuals. Unfortunately, history has taught us to also expect it even from those who are members of our own families and those who profess to be followers of Christ. Faith groups seldom have a stellar record for welcoming those who are admittedly ‘different’. We don’t want their sympathy, but we welcome their understanding that ‘different’ people have the same spiritual needs as themselves.
Gay Christian Fellowship is not the result of a group of church leaders recognizing that we were unwelcome among their parishioners. It happened because two hungry ‘believers in exile’ had nerve enough to ask for spiritual food. I want you to hear their story. April, 2010, two ladies watched Paul Trittin painting the doors to Zion United Church of Christ in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Paul and I, Marvin Baker, were renting the parsonage adjacent to the church. I came checking on Paul’s progress and discovered his vocal observers. I joined the conversation and asked if they would like to see the sanctuary. We weren’t even members of the church but since we were renting the parsonage they had given us a key to the church which only had a student minister and he lived forty-five miles away.
The beauty of the sanctuary triggered something for one of the ladies for she hastened down the center aisle and knelt at the front and began praying. We learned that the lady talking to us had been a bouncer at the local gay club on occasion. Soon the lady who had gone forward to pray swaggered back and announced to us that she was ‘gay’. She lost her shock value when Paul placed his arm around my shoulder and said, “We are, too.” That ended her challenge and when they left a few minutes later we assumed we would never see them again.
Fifteen days later before the Sunday worship service had begun, these ladies came in sat in the pew with us. At the end of the service, the bouncer asked, "Do you have a Bible study at this church?"
Without a moment's hesitation I said, "It you'll be there, we do now." I was a retired minister, but not from this denomination. However, you never want to disappoint someone asking for spiritual help. I secured permission and on the following Wednesday at 7:00 those two ladies and the partner of the one who had challenged met with Paul and me in the Fellowship Hall of the church.
Through the summer we continued our Bible study every Wednesday evening with food, faith, and fellowship. One evening in September we had a serious discussion. We agreed we were not reaching as many gays as we had hoped. One man was blunt, “My friends aren’t interested in a Bible study. The name has no appeal.” Heads were nodding in agreement. “So . . . what do you suggest?” I asked. One of the first lesbians in an exasperated voice said, “Look . . . we’re gay, we’re Christian, and we’re here for fellowship. Would that work?” Gay Christian Fellowship was born.
Soon they were asking, “Could we have communion?” Some had not had communion for ten years, but I was not currently authorized to officiate.
As a result the UCC district asked if I would serve, and they appointed me as Minister to the Gay Community in St. Joseph, Missouri. Until we moved to Kansas City in December, 2011 we met every Wednesday evening with as many as 29 in attendance.
Without an online gay prayer ministry, Marvin Baker and Paul Trittin would never have met. In God’s providence Baker shared a request for a youth pastor who had been outed. Trittin knew an official in the denomination involved and offered to intercede. Over a three week period there was extensive conversation, but it ended when the youth pastor’s lover committed suicide. However, a friendship had been established between Baker and Trittin and they had shared interest in ministry to gays. Five months later they met face to face.
MARVIN'S STORY: Marvin’s wife of fifty-four years had died three months before. At seventy-five he had served as a pastor, minister of music, a university professor and administrator, and an administrator of a parachurch ministry. He had been a contributing author for a youth periodical and composer for monthly choruses for the Sunday school department of the same denomination. He and his oldest daughter had finished a manuscript for Mark’s Story, a transliteration of the Gospel of Mark for tweeners, eight to twelve year olds.
PAUL’S STORY: Paul was divorced about four years before they met ending a twenty-eight year marriage. His career had included management in family-owned businesses before he was asked to be one of four men to start a denominational university in Belgium to provide third world mission and educational materials.
For sixteen years he worked with authors from every continent preparing and distributing religious books and educational materials from first grade through seminary levels in five languages. He traveled through Europe, Africa, and was privileged to visit Russia at the invitation of Russian banks.
In mid-August, 2001, we established our home and became active in Christian publishing until we moved to St. Joseph, Missouri in 2009 and rented an empty parsonage. Then ‘ministry’ took on a new meaning. GCF suddenly made us Christian gay activists.
You don’t just meet gays. You discover their world and its heartaches, battles, and what life ‘out of the closet’ really will be. The growth of GCF resulted in greater exposure to the problems between the gay and faith communities.
Expecting to retire we moved to Kansas City, but it proved only to be a limited reprieve. We took our love for the hurting, marginalized, believers in exile with us and settled in a gay center there. We have not yet decided if it is easier to be gay in churches or Christians in the gay crowd.
Learning how to do the right thing at the right time became increasingly difficult with the contentious debate over gay marriage. However, we found gays in K.C. interested in faith and fellowship so we had GCF Bible studies in different churches for about three years.
Fully intending to stay retired, we moved to Carson Cit y to take it easy. We were delightfully surprised recently when gay men north and south of Carson CIty let me know they were interested in having fellowship with Christian gays here. We had our first exploratory GCF Gathering on November ninth and have scheduled the next one on December fourteenth. REtirement is so flexible.
What is a gathering? It's never a crowd. It's just a few - forgiving and being forgiven one heart at a time - sharing faith, hope, and love. Come and see.
· We accept the reality that each person has the inherent right to exist.
· We affirm each individual has the right and responsibility to make their own choices within the bounds of civil law.
· We agree to establish and maintain a relationship with one another whether we agree or not.
· We agree that we are all equal in the eyes of God..
There are pleas for financial assistance for many projects, but seldom are we asked to become involved in problem solving through reconciliation. That needs to change. We are asking you to become actively and deliberately involved in working toward reconciliation between the faith and gay communities. We are offering a simple way to remind yor to get involved.
Print the statement below. Sign it and place it where it will see it daily and be reminded of your privilege and responsibility to be a part of reconciling a major crisis of our time.
A PATH TO RECONCILIATION
I am working to achieve reconciliation between
the Faith and Gay communities
one heart at a time.
Signed: _____________________________________ Date: _______________
Sponsored by Gay Christian Fellowship, LLC
New products are coming soon!
International Book Fair, November 18
Miami Dade College, Miami, Florida
Mark Remembers, Coloring Book
Your child can add the color to these 24 exciting contemporary illustrations of the Gospel of Mark which Paul Trittin created in 2002 for Mark's Story, written especially for "Tweeners."
Southern California native now living in Carson Valley, Nevada
· Attended Vanguard University
· U. S. Army, Vietnam Era, Congressional Liaison
· Global University, one of three founders recruited by Christian denomination
· National Flemish Art Exhibition, Brussels, first non-Flemish artist to participate
· Life Publishers International, Miami, Director of Operations and Editorial Board member
· Understanding Russian Banking, contributing author invited to Russia to consult on further moves