By Theresa D. McClellan
So a recent response to a billboard outreach to the gay community by a Toledo church has prompted another church leader to erect nine billboards stating, "Gay Is Not a Gift"
The message is that "no one would choose this."
Often I hear lesbian,gay,bi-sexual,transgender (LGBT) and heterosexual people say; why would anyone choose to be hated and demeaned?
When actually the question should be, why would anyone choose to demean, diminish and dishonor any of God's creation; especially in the name of God?
For me, gay is definitely a gift. It is one of the many gifts God has blessed me with and that I have CHOSEN to embrace. It wasn't always so. Societal pressures, media messages, even messages from some pulpits, leave no doubt that fully embracing all that God has made you to be is not ok if you do not conform to expectations of masculine and feminine.
The fallout from this pastor's message will have some - who already wonder and question why they are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender, feeling unsure and unsafe.
But that is why there are allies, LGBTQ organizations and a continuously growing number of safe places of worship where people can explore how to be all that God has meant them to be.
As the Faith Advocacy Coordinator for the "Gay Christian? Yes!" Campaign under GIFT (GaysInFaithTogether.org) it humbles and pleases me to see the collaborative efforts here in Grand Rapids for the upcoming Oct. 11 National Coming-Out Day Service at St. John's United Church of Christ, 1934 Bridge St. NW.
With Scriptures that salve and a meaningful message from the Rev. Dr. Randal Jelks, this 7 p.m. Tuesday night service will hopefully heal wounds and open doors.
With powerful music from the West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus, poignant messages from those who have made the journey out of the closet and an original gospel song celebrating and affirming all of God's children, this worship service will prayerfully help answer the question, "Is Gay a Gift?
The answer is a resounding Yes! Gay is a gift. So is being heterosexual or however God made you. There are no mistakes.
After the Tuesday night service, visitors will be able to come downstairs for a dessert reception where we will fellowship with one another. There are more than two dozen churches on GIFT's ever-growing list of gay-friendly churches.
We are getting responses daily of their intent to be represented at the service with tables of information, sermons, adult-education programs, support.
My prayer is that those here in Grand Rapids who have been shamed and demeaned because of who they are, will realize they are not alone.
My prayer for Toledo, and the rest of the world, is that those who have been hurt because of how they are made will not drive by and see harsh words condemning them. They will look up in their community, whereever they are, and see hope.