God Welcomes Us

Candace - Camden, South Carolina
Entered on April 5, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

“You’re a false shepherd, ma’am, leading people to hell!” the protester yelled as I walked by him to get to my car.

As his verbal assault continued behind me I had to marvel at how protesters in the South still remembered their manners when yelling insults at a woman – even a woman in collar.

The church in Columbia, South Carolina where I serve as assistant pastor had just broken ground on a new building and we had drawn the ire of these protesters. You see, our church, Garden of Grace United Church, is predominantly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and to some that is anathema to being Christian. At least it was to these protesters who were so sure that I was helping to lead our flock to the fiery pit.

As the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister I know the beliefs of these protesters like the back of my hand. I understand where their rage comes from when confronted by a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person. That rage – rooted in fear – used to be my rage, only pointed inward and not outward. I was angry, not just at God but at myself, for not being able to will myself to be “normal” like all the other kids in school.

It took me years of earnest searching to finally reconcile my sexuality and my spirituality and arrive at a place where I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that my sexual orientation was given to me by God, to be used with integrity and fidelity. That assurance led me to found an Internet magazine for GLBT Christians called “Whosoever.org” and then led me into seminary to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a minister.

But, that rage is never far behind. It continues to haunt me, testing my faith and tempting me to go back to doubting. The protesters were a temptation – beckoning me to lash out in anger, revealing to them and to myself that I had not yet come to a place of peace with my own beliefs. I had given in to this temptation before, going nose to nose with protesters as we called each other everything but a child of God.

This spring afternoon was different, however. The protesters continued their taunts behind me but the scene before me revealed my partner of five years, her arms open to receive me, her smile warm and inviting. I believe that’s how God looks in those moments when doubts assail us with raised voices and tempt us to strike out in fear and anger at those who may disagree with us. God smiles, opens her arms and welcomes us with unconditional love and a grace large enough to enfold even those who would shout us down, whether or not they remember their manners.