Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rough Draft

Dear Bishop,

I apologize for how long it has taken me to contact you since our last meeting. Time was taken to gather my thoughts as I did not want my words to come across as offensive. If they do so, I sincerely apologize – such definitely is not my intent or the emotion behind what I am writing.

That being said, after having met with you, I realized that it was not yet time for me to return to church. I know it is almost impossible for you to understand, but it is not a safe or healthy atmosphere, being told and expected to struggle with who I am.

I am gay. I do not “struggle with same-sex attraction.” I do not “struggle with same-gender attraction.” I am gay. I fall in love with men. My most compatible spouse and parenting partner is male.

Trying to force upon me the false perception of challenge, temptation, burden, etc. by trying to invoke guilt or shame; inferring that such is what God expects; emphasizing possible excommunication; invalidating my feelings and sense of self-worth; or advising or counseling with the implication that you know better than I is emotionally abusive. While I understand that you and the Church are not purposefully acting in an abusive manner, the atmosphere is nonetheless abusive, and such is augmented significantly when my willingness to live a celibate life is still deemed not good enough to be a member of equal standing to any other member.

For example, in order for me to be fully trusted as a representative of the Church (as would any other member), I must revert back to a lower sense of self-worth, believing myself to be flawed and handicapped in a way I simply am not. I must hide an integral part of who I am, which part has substantially influenced my strong relationship with God.

I am confident in who I am, in my relationship with God, and in understanding how valuable I am to God and His children. I will no longer surround myself with advisors or churches who would ignorantly tear this down. If my sense of self-worth and relationship with God is not appropriate for the Church, then the Church must resolve such within herself if she truly wants me to return to her pews.

The Church was made for humankind, not humankind for the Church. The Gospel was made for humankind, not humankind for the Gospel. I will not confirm to or obey the doctrines, claims, and teachings of any church or gospel that would make me – or anyone else – less of a human being.

Sincerely,

Andrew Pankratz

10 comments:

  1. This is an incredible letter.

    If you have a really cool, progressive bishop, he'll totally respect this. I know I would. I know a lot of Mormon's who would.

    But if you've got an "old school" "letter of the law" guy, then you could have some hostility. Because the church only allows repentant sinners in it's fold. And embracing your "natural man" which is inherently sinful to them, is basically flipping off their idea of God.

    Just my thoughts.

    Very powerful writing. I kinda want to steal that. But I won't.

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  2. "I am gay. I do not “struggle with same-sex attraction.” I do not “struggle with same-gender attraction.” I am gay. I fall in love with men. My most compatible spouse and parenting partner is male."

    I think that is a incredibly important point...You shouldn't have to sugar-coat it so it is more pallitable (sp?) for him. Thanks for posting this.

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  3. "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!" (Mark 2:27)

    Great letter. Sounds like one I would have written to my previous church.

    I would go ahead and send that as it is. Stand up to their ignorance and their judgment of you, as Christ did to the Sanhedrin of His time. You deserve so much better...

    Amen.

    Peace,

    Andrew

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  4. Andrew you rock. You should do a general release and authorize every gay Mormon to use this letter themselves if they want. A lot would do it, I think. Bravo.

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  5. For example, in order for me to be fully trusted as a representative of the Church (as would any other member), I must revert back to a lower sense of self-worth, believing myself to be flawed and handicapped in a way I simply am not.

    EXACTLY...why I cannot attend church.

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  6. Are you really looking for advice on this?

    If you're really going to send this to your bishop, I would tone it down slightly.

    For instance, rather than saying "it is not a safe or healthy atmosphere" I would say, "I do not feel safe or healthy there," etc. Focus on your feelings and your needs, rather than characterizing the Church as this or that. If you do this, I think it will be much easier for your bishop to receive what you say.

    Instead of saying "trying to force upon me the false perception," etc., I would discuss a specific statement or situation that invalidated your feelings or self-worth. Technically, he can't "force" anything on you since you are free to leave. From his point of view, he has an obligation to the Church and to you to uphold Church teachings and standards. He doesn't feel (and isn't) free to modify this. However, if you talk at a more personal, concrete level about the impact that official Church teaching has had on you, that will at least give him something to think about (even if he can't change Church teaching or practice for you).

    The last half of the letter seems to be stressing that you simply can't accept the Church's position on this issue, and therefore you want nothing to do with the Church. Again, this is something that your bishop simply can do nothing about -- no matter how sympathetic he may or may not be toward you. If he is a very broad-minded and deep-hearted man, he may empathize with you, and he may simply accept this last half of the letter as an understandable expression of frustration and anger. If he is made of more ordinary stuff, this part may actually make him feel resentful, as it will come across as blaming him for something over which he has no power.

    If your intention is to resign from Church activity and/or membership, a simple statement of what you need and an explanation of how the Church isn't meeting that need is probably most appropriate, especially if stated in a way that makes it clear you understand this is a situation neither of you have control over.

    There are things your bishop can do to help. And if that is what you want, you need to simply ask for it. For instance, my bishop has assigned me home teachers at my request. He encourages me to sing in the ward choir and participate in other ward activities that don't require me to be a member. What he can't do (and what I don't expect him to do) is change church policy for me.

    Does that make sense?

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  7. Fabulous. My favorite by far is the paragraph Grant mentioned. Beautiful.

    And I don't know. I like it as is. While I see J G-W thinks you should tone it down, your experience with church is what it is. You're not the only one to find it unsafe and unhealthy. There are far too many gay and lesbian members who have killed themselves because they've concured on some level.

    Have you ever heard of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons? A good exmo friend of mine is their Young Adult director (or assitant director?). His name is George Cole. If you're on facebook and are interested, look him up and mention me (you have my name, right?). He's on the site, too. http://www.affirmation.org

    I'd send this as is though I'm certain it will force you to make a huge decision very soon.

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  8. Forgive my lack of specific replies; suffice it to say that my next post, "First Draft," is an edit taking into consideration each and every comment on this post.

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