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Church Proposes Split Over Gay Marriage

By Fernando Alcántar ~

The United Methodist Church has proposed a historic split over gay marriage and LGBT clergy. And it was a long time coming. How do I know? I lived it.

You see, I worked in high levels of leadership for the United Methodist Church in the peak of my Christian ministry from 2008-2011. I was the Director of Leadership Development for Young People for the California-Pacific Conference of the UMC (Cal-Pac)—which in that time oversaw almost 400 churches across Southern California, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. In my job, I oversaw youth and young adult ministries across the region, ran conferences, led leadership councils, and took part in the activism young people had in legislation—among them the always hotly debated issue of acceptance of gay marriage.

Fernando Alcántar on the cover of the last edition of The Aquila, an e-magazine he had created for youth and young adult ministries.I came to the UMC after spending 8 years at Azusa Pacific University (APU)—the second largest evangelical college in the nation. Unbeknownst to anyone, part of the reason why I was making the change was because life had put me at a crossroads between internal and external realities. If god is real, why is there so much suffering in the world? If the Bible is true, why does the evidence in the world contradict it? If god has complete control over my life, why, in the deepest and darkness corners of my soul (I feared even accepting it myself), god hasn’t healed my heart from the filthy same-sex attraction that had plagued my heart for so long? And I cried… so much.

Walking into Cal-Pac headquarters in Pasadena, California for my first interview, I saw the cover of their newspaper on the front desk stating how deep the division was over gay marriage. I picked it up, and trying to make sure the receptionist didn’t notice my personal connection to the issue, I said something that in reality was meant more for me: “At least we’re finally talking about it.” Why? Because I had personally ran out of prayers, fasting, Bible studies, mentoring, mission trips, retreats, psychology classes, counseling, and every other type of Christian tool I could think of to heal this, or so I thought, tainted heart of mine.

I later saw these United Methodists, during region-wide conferences, not so united as they screamed and fought over how their god told them each to vote on it. Half the crowd say god told them he made people gay—that it is a gift. The other half says god tells them marriage is only between a man and a woman—homosexuality is an abomination. And in private, so many of those leaders, young and old, whispered a truth that seemed prophetic, that the views went so far deep that the only solution appeared to lead to an unavoidable split. Why? Because though people prayed and prayed and prayed, their god, which is the same god, would not convince the other half of what that same god had already convinced the other half of.

After two and a half years with the UMC, I entered a deep state of internal crisis that eventually led me away from Christianity. Yet, I remained for another year as part of church leadership, an example of Christianity, while I figured out what would be of me. And then it would take me another two years, through a hard process of dogma detox, to finally confront myself with the then scary reality: “Oh shit. I think I like boys.”

Fast forward 8 years, and I look at the comments on the Facebook timelines of all the friends I know from Cal-Pac and I wonder, I really do, was I also so desensitized? Why the difficulty seeing the obvious? Or is this evidence of true faith?

Christians believe their god can tell them who to marry, who to vote for, which college or career to choose, what to have for lunch, which clothes to wear that day… clear as day! They believe this god can move mountains, part the sea, walk on water, raise the dead from the grave… BUT... this god says something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, to the person they are LITERALLY holding hands with, as they both pray to the EXACT… SAME… GOD!

Let that sink in for a minute.

Maybe, just maybe, It is so much easier, less stressful, to tell ourselves the comforting story that gods speaks to all of us in confusing and mysterious ways about life and death, about phobias and biases, about pain and hate. Maybe we accept the idea of a god who coincidentally shares our personal biases, our personal values.

I recommend reading my book, To the Cross and Back: An Immigrant’s Journey from Faith to Reason. It is a love letter to anyone who has ever questioned, suffered, and hoped for a love that seemed distant. I am gay, I am an ex-Christian, I am an immigrant. And I lost almost everything because of whom I was at the hands of the people of god who were doing his will. It retails my journey through The UMC, APU, my life as a missionary, leaving religion, coming out, and the steps I took to recover from Religious Trauma Syndrome.

Maybe it’s time, as I did, to refuse to leave unanswered. Maybe the question should no longer be, “did god make them gay?” Maybe we should ask, “did we make up god?” Maybe god didn’t create us in his image. Maybe we created god in ours. And that’s why we hear what we want to hear and the
others don’t. Maybe it is as simple as that.