Ellen rejected her young friend Becky when Becky came out to her. Years later, Ellen apologized for reacting with the “learned church response” instead of Christ’s love, acceptance and compassion. Here is her letter, with permission…
September 15, 2013
I so pray that you will read this letter. If not, I understand you not wanting to re-open a painful chapter of your life—but there is so much I want you to know. Maybe hearing my journey will help bring a tiny measure of healing. Promise me you will read the whole thing—it won’t make sense otherwise.
You remember our son, Tyler. You didn’t know him as a little boy, but he loved action figures, imaginative play, and swimming, and he had no interest in sports involving a ball. The requisite tee-ball experience was him standing in the outfield throwing sand in the air and gazing mesmerized at the patterns of the falling sand! His good friends—all girls—loved to hang out with him because he was gentle and kind. (He still is and they still do.)
As Tyler began high school, our relationship stalled, and we had no idea why. That was the frustrating part. From 14-18, he wanted nothing to do with us. Of course, he still slept in his bed and ate meals I cooked—but no eye contact and no conversation. He viewed us with contempt (though he was rarely outright rude—he is compliant and respectful by nature). I cried many times, just wanting my son back.
Over the years, I occasionally wondered if Tyler might be gay. Even as a little boy, there was something different about him than the other boys around us. In high school, he seemed to have no romantic interest in any of his many friends who were girls. This sense that he might be gay increased, and of course, this worried me.
One fall day, during Tyler’s senior year, I drove down Anderson Street, longing to be restored with Tyler. With no other way to describe it, God just peeled it all away and I realized that Tyler had rejected us so that we wouldn’t reject him first. Because, he was gay. He’d been in our church. He’d listened in on the weekly Bible Study in our family room as he picked through snacks in the kitchen pantry. He’d realized that Christianity didn’t look too kindly on people who claimed to be gay. (We had one really, really conservative couple in our group…) So, he preemptively rejected us and our Jesus. I literally “saw” all of that in an instant, as I drove to Walmart.
I began to pray for the right time to talk. God brought that time as Tyler and I made a campus visit to an Indiana university. We talked about his growing up and I said his path might be different from what we would envision for him, but as an adult, he would have to find his own path—and we would love him whatever decision he made. “Uh, speaking of finding your own way, uh, do you think that there is any chance you might be gay?” I asked, with much more bravery than I felt inside. “Yeah, Mom, I’m gay,” Tyler answered with confidence. I took a deep breath.
So began a two-hour conversation, over coffee at a Holiday Inn—the longest conversation by far I’d had with Tyler in four years. It was a relief to both of us. I asked him lots of questions and he asked me some. We had a long talk about his faith, or lack of it. I told him what I thought scripture taught about same sex relationships (that it wasn’t God’s intent for us), but that scripture never advocated hate. He was surprised—anticipating a much more negative reaction. It crushed me that he could think we would ever reject him. Even though we agreed to disagree on some things, we walked away closer than we had been.
Then I began to read more and more about the issue, looking for support from other parents in my shoes, and what I found has smacked me in the side of the head. I have been very wrong. And my wrong beliefs have hurt people. They hurt you.
In the many hours we spent together when you were at Ohio State, I told you that being gay was a choice and a sinful choice. I communicated that something was wrong with you and that you needed to become a heterosexual in order to please to God. Of course this left you confused and ashamed. And I was wrong. I had wrongly interpreted God’s word. “I am sorry” does not seem enough. But, I am so sorry for hurting you. I now see that being gay is not a choice—it is how God made you. And God loves you just as he made you.
I had read Leviticus 18:22 where it says “don’t lie with a man as with a woman,” but certainly had no problem wearing polyester or eating shrimp—which are condemned in the same section of the book. I saw where I was guilty of picking and choosing arbitrarily what I applied from the Bible. Other passages, such as Romans 1, seem to apply to idol worshipers, sexual rituals, or gang rape—not loving, committed same-sex relationships.
I don’t know if you remember this or not, but I gave a break-out session at that conference on “A Christian Response to Homosexuality.” I now cringe at what I taught, gleaned straight out of Exodus materials. I am embarrassed and full of remorse at what I taught during that time. You may have heard that Exodus has recently shut down, apologizing to the LGBTQ community and acknowledging that 99.9% of those undergoing “therapy” never became heterosexual.
I was wrong to counsel you to become straight in order to have a legitimate walk with God. I fully realize that I brought you much pain. I would love to talk in person, but I realize I have no right even to ask, and I don’t blame you never to want to see me again. I just wanted you to hear my story and know how sorry I am. You are wonderfully and fearfully made.