Barry Condra – #TiredofHate

I grew up in a very small town where attending church was mandatory. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all were members of the United Methodist church, so I am steeped in that tradition of not just attending, but being involved and active in the church. I also knew growing up that I was “different”.

I knew in my heart that I was gay but also heard from the pulpit that God punishes those with sin and that “being homosexual” was definitely not what God ordained. Hearing the message of a wrathful God who “LOVED” all was very confusing for me growing up. How can God love everyone but not me because I was gay?  Being told that I was not good enough for God was also reinforced in all forms of media. I got the message!

I tried to change who I was and eventually married and had a child, but was not successful. After 2 suicide attempts and a painful divorce, I knew I had to begin the journey of becoming the man God intended for me to be. My biggest struggle has always been reconciling my faith with my sexual identity.

I heard about St. Elmo UMC from my adult Sunday school teacher in the late 90’s while I was still married. He stated “that church is letting queers attend and that is not what God wants.”  Fast forward to 2003. I walked in to the doors of St. Elmo, scared, beaten down and looking for a place that would accept me for who I was…..a Christian man who happened to be gay.

I knew that first Sunday I was finally at home in a place where it didn’t matter what label society had put on me. God was there. Love was there. Acceptance was there. The Jesus I have come to know during these last 14 years of being a part of this congregation is one who accepts and loves me no matter what.

I thank God daily for the opportunity of being a member of St. Elmo UMC. Together, we can stop the hate. Today, tomorrow and for all eternity.