06 • december 15, 2017 • LOSANGeLeSbLAde.cOm
Fighting bad theology at the source CONTINUED FROM PAGE 04
Jane Clementi, mother of Tyler Clementi and Soulforce founder Mel White Photo by Rich Harrington
inner turmoil I was going through.” She often drove home drunk. “I just didn’t care,” she said. But the drinking didn’t work. “I woke up with shame and guilt.” The inner turmoil was hell. The church told her that her same sex attractions violated her relationship with God. “But I never fully believed that. There was something wrong with that message. I realized that the church’s evangelical conservative fundamentalist teaching is wrong. It is deeply, inherently wrong. And that was the only thing that kept me alive,” she said. Green credits two DUIs with saving her life at 25. “I should be dead,” she said. The court-ordered programs made her feel “like the scum of the earth,” so “naked and vulnerable, so empty” as she “crawled back out to life again.” Green became successful in the fashion industry. “I found dignity through work,” she said. But at 27, she was also extremely depressed. She sought help with an affirming therapist who helped her understand God would not condemn her for being gay. “I realized this was the root cause of much of my depression and anxiety. It just goes to show how deeply affected people can become from the church in a very negative way,” she said. “I felt I had one foot in the grave. I just felt dead inside with no hope.” Eventually Green was burned out by work and walked away. She decided to go back to school to pursue her love of Scripture. It was in one junior college class that Dr. Tom Elson, a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), introduced her to stories she never heard from a pulpit. Women weren’t submissive to men—they had been leaders in the church in the first century in the New Testament. Green was shocked—but even more so when the professor was affirming about homosexuality. She came out to him and he told her about scholars who had revised their thinking about homosexuality: Mathew Vines “God and The Gay Christian” and “The Bible’s Yes to Same Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart” by Mark Achtemeier. Achtemeier persecuted pro-LGBT congregations. “Then he realized something was wrong and he reevaluated everything,” Green said. “That book changed my life. I
thought, ‘Oh, my God—this is me.” Green gave the book to her mother who realized the pain the church had caused her daughter, left the evangelical church and joined PCUSA, too. Green applied to Biola University to further her biblical studies because they had an LGBT community on campus. It turned out, however, that the group was underground. She was unexpectedly asked to take over and boldly invited Mark Achtemeier to speak on campus. But Green quickly encountered issues with professors teaching ugly homophobic lessons and disregarding her corrections. “I was the black sheep on campus,” Green said. When she started to feel unsafe, she transferred to Azusa Pacific University, but stayed on as leader of the Biola LGBT group. Since then Green, now 36, has been working with the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which recently merged with Faith in America, and Equality California to ensure private religious universities do not discriminate against LGBT people. Green continues to hold demonstrations protesting Biola University’s permission to have an anti-LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ speaker on campus. “As a Christian and mother of a college student who died by suicide after being cyberbullied on campus because of his sexual orientation, I am hoping that Biola University will follow Christ’s commandment to love their neighbor as themselves,” said Jane Clementi, co-founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, at a Dec. 4 demonstration at Biola. “Biola University cannot simultaneously abide by the Christ-like compassion of the Golden Rule, while also supporting policies, speakers, and laws that harm our children.” The academic piece of Scripture in the Bible is so critical,” Green said, noting she wants to become both ordained and a professor. “The more opportunity we have to get Christian leaders and LGBTQ leaders and people of color in these academic settings where we’re teaching seminarians or teaching people who want to be in biblical studies—that’s the way we can start to make systematic changes within the church.” Having the evangelical church change its mind on homosexuality seems a doomed goal. But then—Alabama just elected a pro-life, pro-LGBT Democrat over Biblethumping Roy Moore. Miracles do happen, with work, heart and smart thinking.