Monday, October 18, 2010

Pentecostal preacher-father can’t get past the fact that his Yale-student son is gay

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, October 18, 2010. Bronz, NY.

Truck Darling, left,
and Jose Ortiz,
New Haven, Conn.  Oct. 2, 1020

There is a certain kind of joy and excitement in meeting other gay people of faith. There are common threads each party shares in the fabric of their respective gay Christian lives. Often, a first-meeting between gay people of faith is like a family reunion or a coming home experience.

This was especially true for Jose Ortiz when, on Saturday October 2, along with Truck Darling who is member of Other Sheep Task Force, and myself, the three of us took the Metro North to New Haven to give an Other Sheep presentation to Yale students on “LGBTQ & Religious Communities in Developing Countries.” The small Yale group of students met in Morse Fellow’s Lounge. The meeting was arranged and hosted by Bridges, Yale’s LGBTQ and Ally interfaith group led by Joan Gass.

When Jose introduced himself as a Puerto Rican from an evangelical/some-what Pentecostal background, one Yale student, also Puerto Rican, named Julio responded, “We’ve got to talk.”

Left to right:  Joan Gass, Bridges leader, Truck Darling,
Jose Ortiz, and Steve Parelli. Morse Fellow's Lounge, Yale
October 2, 2010
Turns out, Jose and Julio grew up in the same Puerto Rican Christian denomination, a very small, small fellowship of churches scattered throughout the United States among Spanish speaking communities. Julio’s parents are both ministers in the denomination. As a young person, Jose was very active in the denomination from age twelve through his college years and young adult life.

Jose and Julio’s meeting is especially unique because of the small size of the denomination. Remarkable, that two gay men, Jose in his mid-forties and Julio a sophomore at Yale, having the same denominational background would meet: Jose, now traveling the world summers, empowering LGBT people of faith, and Julio an up-and-coming young man at Yale.

Julio, Yale student, left, and Jose Ortiz.
Morse Fellow's Lounge, Yale.
October 2, 2010
These two men, without having known each other until now, share in that common thread of being totally misunderstood by their Puerto Rican Christian denomination, and often feeling rejected by that denomination, as they stand on the outside looking in.

Jose Ortiz, left, and Julio, Grand
Central, Manhattan
October 17, 2010
On Sunday, October 17, Jose and I spoke briefly with Julio at Grand Central in Manhattan. He was passing through New York City on his way to New Haven, coming from his sister’s wedding. He told us that his preacher-father, who has known since Julio was a young teenager that he is gay, spoke to him about someday getting married. The father is not yet able to entertain the thought that perhaps his “Biblical” view on same-sex love is ungrounded and that his son’s sexual orientation is not a problem, but rather a gift to be embraced.

A couple weeks back, on September 30th, Jose turned forty-four. He received a phone call that brought tears to his eyes. It was his very best friend from his Puerto Rican church from his “youth group” days and his twenties, a friend who while always “loving” Jose found it difficult to be himself with Jose once he learned Jose was in a gay relationship, and silently stayed away, and eventually losing Jose's phone number.

Such are the common threads that gay Christians share: a Pentecostal preacher-father who can’t get past the fact that his Yale-student son is gay; and a life-long church-going best friend who doesn’t know that his now-openly gay friend is still the same wonderful “Joey.” And for Jose and Julio, this common thread of being misunderstood by those one loves dearly, runs within the same small Puerto Rican Pentecostal Christian denomination. Now that’s commonality that makes strangers quick friends; like coming home . . . together.

Julio gave permission to use photos of him, his first name, and to reference him as a Yale student, but asked that his last name and the name of his denomination not be used.

Truck Darling, Jose Ortiz and Steve Parelli
(third, fourth and fifth from left)
with Joan Gass (left) and three other Yale Bridges students.
 Morse Fellow's Lounge, October 2, 2010.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a world we live in! Homosexuality is not a viable option for a Christian. Perverting and twisting the Word of God to fit in with your desires is detestable in God's eyes. I know that what you are doing feels right, but the Bible warns us that the way that seems right to us leads to destruction. At the very least, do not involve God's name in this. That is just taking it too far.