Has the Church Failed GLBT Teens?

By Brian Kirk

Even as the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in recent days to allow the open ordination of non-celibate GLBT persons (a small but important victory for those of us calling for a fully welcoming and affirming Church), Sojourners magazine online was refusing to run an ad encouraging churches to welcome all families, including those with same-gendered parents. It often seems like one step forward and one step back when it comes to justice for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons in the Church. One has to wonder what impact all this debate and disagreement in the Church is having on gay teens, particularly those sitting in our pews. As congregations argue over scripture and tradition and who is welcome and who is not, many of our GLBT teens are quickly figuring out that there may be no place for them in the Church.

Bryan Currie is a former Baptist minister who now spends his time working directly with GLBT teens in New York City. Because of both his theological background and his passion for justice for these young people, I invited him to share his thoughts on the sexual orientation debate in the Church and the impact it may be having on the young adolescents in our care.

What in your background led you to devote your time specifically to serve GLBT teens?

Although I served in several churches during my ministerial career, through a tangle of circumstances that is beyond the scope of this story the bulk of my career was spent as a youth program consultant and headline speaker for youth worship events across the country. In essence, I was a freelance youth minister.

Many of my ministerial friends felt that I lived a charmed life. I didn't answer to a pastor, board of trustees, or finance committee. The bulk of my work consisted of developing creative programming, preaching, and working directly with kids. When I wasn't on an airplane, I was working from my couch in a pair of pajama pants. My colleagues and "clients" often reminded me that I probably didn't fully appreciate how "good I had it." What they didn't realize was that my southern, conservative, professionally Christian culture was crushing me. They didn't realize this because they didn't know I was gay.

Obviously, as a minister trained in a very conservative tradition, to reveal that I was a homosexual man would not only cause the usual emotional rifts that often come with "coming out," it would also end my career. I decided to come out anyway. I bowed quietly out of ministry circles and moved to New York City, a place with a much more temperate cultural climate. In the Big Apple, where I currently live, I am free to be both a person of faith and a person who is comfortable with his sexual identity. In NYC I stand with one foot planted in each of two divergent cultures. To my gay friends I am a mystery because I am a Christian. To my Christian friends I am an intrigue because I am gay.

Read the rest of the interview at Patheos here.

Rev. Brian Kirk is an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and currently serves an inner-city church in St. Louis, Missouri. He also teaches as adjunct faculty at Eden Theological Seminary, and co-writes the blog rethinkingyouthministry.com.