Sophie Mei Lan felt that the Church would never be the place for her after witnessing hatred towards her gay dad based on "religious beliefs".


Source: Josh Willink / Pexels

Being a Christian wasn’t even a consideration growing up, no way could I even contemplate joining a religious institution that rejected the loving relationship of my dad and his partner Mark. I had my hair burned, my coat slashed and had been continuously harassed about my dad’s sexuality. Even though this wasn’t in church, on many occasions, the behaviour was justified as "religious beliefs" rather than the hate crime it was. 

When it wasn’t bullying and the “batty boy” chanting, those who discovered my dad was gay, asked me the same questions: “How did he come out to you?” “Is he camp?” and cruder questions about his sex life.  To me, my dad and his partner, were two integral father figures in my life, who love my sister and me unconditionally and their home was where we spent half of our lives growing up. 

But for my dad who grew up in an exceptionally homophobic society, exploring his sexuality was not even a consideration as he shared with me how he faced prejudice from a young age. He said: "Homosexuality was both alien and an abhorrence – both abhorrent and sickening – hatred fuelled by lurid stories in newspapers; stories of men who haunted public toilets looking for sexual encounters only to face arrest, possible imprisonment and forever being tainted with the criminal offense of gross indecency. Family members proffered frequent advice against going into public toilets and being wary of men like this, equating their behaviour with that of paedophiles. Growing up in such a world, where hatred of homosexuality abounded, where gay men, in particular, were vilified and seen as deviant and predatory, was not the best environment in which to develop a healthy attitude to one’s sexuality.”

On many occasions, the behaviour was justified as "religious beliefs" rather than the hate crime it was. 

Fortunately, as homophobia became increasingly frowned upon, it has become slightly easier for people to express their sexuality and even for some of those to do so who are part of the church. This diversity in church congregations eventually helped me to meet Christians who didn’t just tolerate my dads’ sexuality or "forgive them for their sins", but they just believed in creating a loving and harmonious world without such divisions.  

After many years of studying the philosophy of religion and ethics, I found myself moving from the atheist side of the debate to the Christian one. I had opened my broken heart to God and he embraced me and began to heal some of the pain I had endured as a child, not from my two loving households but from all the prejudice I faced in society. 

While society became increasingly accepting of someone’s sexuality, the Church seemed to be stuck in the dark ages. Not only that I heard of exorcisms and conversion therapy treatment all trying to change someone’s sexuality.  God certainly didn’t call me into his kingdom to promote hate, it was to spread love, and peace and fight social injustice. 

There was a systemic failure to accept a range of people including the LGBTQ+ community into the Church.

I started to realise that while the homophobia in Christianity came from individuals within the church, there was a systemic failure to accept a range of people including the LGBTQ+ community. Church leaders seemed more concerned about debating and standing against same-sex relationships and marriage than they did about spreading peace in war-torn countries or addressing some distressing issues within the church itself, deflecting the focus away from their own backyard.

So much so, I was scared to tell my dads that I had become a Christian as I never wanted them to believe that I would support such hatred by human beings. I had hoped however, that with the banning of conversion therapy in the UK, we were taking a step forwards. But despite civil same-sex marriages becoming legal, again the Church of England which is governed separately dug its heels in and denied religious couples the same rights. 

And now the church is only suggesting a mere "blessing" in church for a civil marriage, a minuscule step forward, and still there’s much debate and furor around it. I believe this is just pure outdated homophobia with people selecting Bible passages to suit their own needs and ignoring those that don’t fit their viewpoint. The Church is not about a building nor an institution but it is a family everyone belongs to. Everyone is welcome at any point, into what I believe Church is made by God not man.

The Church is not about a building nor an institution but it is a family everyone belongs to.

I believe anyone who is in a committed loving relationship and wants to demonstrate that in the eyes of the Lord should be allowed to do so. It is a humiliating travesty that the Church is more divided on this debate than searching for ways to ensure everyone feels included in society and love, putting more energy into division rather than unity of people and spreading love and peace.  The hypocrisy of this all is that two devoted loving Christians who happen to be of the same gender and in love could not get married in Church yet a heterosexual couple despite their actions could get married in church.

So, no my Dad didn’t throw a coming out party and declare his sexuality to my sister and me because it was an extremely challenging time for all my parents. But for us as children, we had been born as God meant it with open minds just wanting to be loved and to love.