I have been a member of First Baptist Church for most of my life. My family joined the church in October 1962 when I was 12 years old. I went every Sunday, sang in the choir (as a boy soprano) until I went to Architectural school at Ball State in 1968. For several years, I was not active at FBC although I maintained my membership. Ted Gibboney, former FBC choir director, talked me into singing again in the choir (as a bass) in 1991 and I have been singing ever since. I also was involved with several drama productions with Drama Director Eileen Ackman. After several years, I was named the choir’s bass section leader, which I am still today even while COVID has currently halted our singing in the choir.
I would describe my relationship with FBC as cordial. However, my being a gay man and in a loving relationship with another gay man was closeted to the church for several years. My parents were supportive of me as a gay man and embraced my gay partner (Darrell). When the United States Supreme Court allowed for gay marriages and a three-day window opened in Indiana, my partner and I were married in a civil ceremony in the City County Building in June 2014. My mom was supportive and even gave wedding rings to each of us that had been in the family for several years. My dad died in 2013, but I am confident he would have supported this major decision as well.
After visiting other churches that were welcoming of gays and gay relationships, I wondered if FBC would ever be that church. Even though I had a cordial relationship with FBC, I wished that I would be supported for “all” that I am including being in a gay marriage with a loving companion.
Back in the 1990’s, I attended the openly gay Jesus Metropolitan Community Church. Because they met on Sunday evenings, I was able to add to my worship experience by joining the choir, while still being in the FBC choir on Sunday mornings. I attended several services with my partner and now spouse Darrell. I felt that my worship experience was greatly improved. Unfortunately, we developed a disagreement and stopped going. I felt that my worship experience had suffered a setback.
In early 2019, I heard that a Welcoming and Affirming Committee was forming at FBC, and I eagerly joined to see what was being discussed. I was pleased there was frank discussion about FBC becoming more inclusive. Pastoral staff participated, along with several FBC members, some from the choir, and many that had an interest in this topic. Some were gay, or had a gay family member, or wanted to participate despite not being gay themselves. I also learned that welcoming gays was only part of the wider LGBTQ discussion.
When the FBC Administrative Council unanimously approved forming a task force for discernment and education related to LGBTQ inclusion, I thought this idea was starting to develop. When I was asked to be a co-chair of task force by Pastor Evan, I realized that this effort was approaching the next step of educating the congregation to allow for enlightenment to occur. I felt I needed to be part of this effort.
We started as a task force in May of this year. Despite COVID, we have had many discussions among the task force members via Zoom. The Espiration has been presenting articles from members of the task force and others from our congregation sharing their experiences of the LGBTQ discussion. The task force has a positive message of discussing how FBC can be welcoming to all including those who identify as LGBTQ. Pastor Evan and Pastor Laura, both participate in these discussions. The LGBTQ workshops are allowing more FBC members and other non-members to be enlightened.
The discussion held this summer about the book, One Coin Found, written by Emmy Kegler, was eye opening to me. An openly gay woman pastor discussed the many challenges she had as she grew up, entering seminary, and her experiences as a pastor. I was impressed to find despite the adversity she grew up with for her orientation and her questioning of God, she kept her faith in the church. We had the privilege to discuss the book with the author. She felt confident what FBC is starting to accomplish with the task force will help those that are touched by our church’s welcoming and affirming efforts.
I am impressed with the members and non-members of FBC that feel the LGBTQ Task Force is on the right path of bringing Christian love to all.