We're sharing this story by Rev. Dr. In-Yong Lee so our friends and supporters will know that-- no matter what happens with the Book of Discipline-- our witness at General Conference is changing hearts.
Who would have known? I went to Tampa, Florida in 2012 as a first-time General Conference clergy delegate with one mindset on the issue of human sexuality... and came back home with another.
Prior to the General Conference, I heard stories of the LGBTQI people - a DS with wife and children who killed himself because he couldn’t live with the conflict between his sexual identity and the church’s expectation, teenagers who couldn’t take it any more in a society where they were ostracized, shunned, and attacked and who killed themselves, and more. I thought, “If it leads to a life and death situation, it is serious.”
There came an eye-opening moment at the General Conference. A white, male clergy delegate in the same legislative committee all of a sudden changed his attitude towards me after a vote on a petition that had to do with same-sex wedding and ordination of gay people. I happened to be the only person in the subcommittee who voted for the petition. Immediately after that, his kindness and friendliness was all gone and he stopped looking me in the eye. I couldn’t understand it, and I thought, “Hello, what happened? I thought we were friends. If you do that to me because of just one vote, what would you do to gay people themselves?”
Then there were the silent demonstrations by the LGBTQI community, which struck me with glimpses of their pain and suffering. I was compelled to hug an Asian young man with his eyes closed and crying while he stood among those who lined up outside the plenary room. I sat beside a young adult delegate who was devastated and cried throughout a long break, when the petition to get rid of the phrase, “Homosexuality is incompatible to Christian teaching …” was defeated, and I comforted him.
One afternoon during a lunch break after heated discussion on this very petition and before its vote, a seminary professor and fellow delegate asked me, “What is your opinion on this petition?” He knew that I had just defended successfully my Ph.D. dissertation in Christian ethics at Duke. I thought for a while and answered, “Homosexuality might be incompatible to Christian teaching, BUT I would rather be theologically wrong than not loving.”
One afternoon in early August, my husband and I were talking casually in our room at home. Our sons came in and joined us. Our older son, 21 back then, said calmly, “Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you.” We said, “OK. What is it?” He said, “I’m gay.” …Gosh, hadn’t I been prepared for that moment? I said, “It doesn’t change anything, baby. You are a wonderful person, a wonderful son. We love you.” He shed tears of relief, and we hugged him. Praise God, who had prepared my heart in time! Praise the Lord, who had helped me to be there for my son in time!
This was the front-page story on our May 20th magazine. Download the whole magazine here.