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  • Israel Alvaran

The Church is My Spiritual Home

I am speaking as a person in exile from my country, the Philippines. The Philippines is my home, not just a central conference. Home is very important to me. I live in San Francisco but I only use the word “home” for my home country. Sometimes I cannot even say I am going back “home” when I return to San Francisco.

The church is my spiritual home. Yes it is an institution and I do not want to preserve an institution that is harmful, but I see the church as a gay man and a clergy person as home and it shapes my advocacy. People continue to be harmed but no one is going to force me out of my church home. I am at home in the United Methodist Church, not because someone said so, but because of my baptism. My baptism makes me part of this community. Unfortunately, people in the church have not always fulfilled the promise of unconditional love.

In Tagalog, home becomes more poignant. The Tagalog worrdfor home is TAHANAN. The Root word is TAHAN which is the word used when you are crying and your mother tells you “don’t cry.”  TAHAN is where we go to cry and be comforted. Home is where I am comfortable, welcome and comforted--where I don’t need to cry--where I feel safe.

Home is deeply connected to grace. Grace is the cornerstone of Wesleyan Methodist beliefs. I see my queerness as part of God’s saving grace. My dad was very conservative and I was raised conservative. I went to a calvinist Bible college where movies and dancing were not allowed. Chapel services were segregated male and female and we awakened at 5am for prayer and chores. I was a teenage evangelist. My home church was the first Protestant church in the Philippines. I was invited to be one of the evangelists and preached to my elders.

My queerness was a means of grace because all along, the fact that I am gay made me question everything. It is a gift to all LGBTQ people because it forces us to ask questions. We hear the teachings and the contradictions and forces us to accept ourselves as God has created us--and ask questions when others are ignored or excluded. In the light of prevenient Grace, God made me gay in my mother’s womb.

When a person’s baptism is dismissed by judgemental people, they are not judging us, they are judging God. Their exclusion is defiance, disrespect and disobediance to God’s grace.

I don’t come to this struggle as the victim. Even though I am treated as second class and given crumbs, and although I want to rant about my hurt, I see my identity as a gift from God and an instrument of Grace. My being queer is God’s sacrament of Grace to the church. Queer people are a mirror to the church. My presence in the church helps the church not to sin.  We are God’s message, ”You can do better.”

The LGBTQ people in the pews are oppressed, but we are already children of God. Will the church continue to block God’s grace? I think about those who have committed suicide and left the church. I am blessed by supportive parents. I am in a job that allows me to be an out gay man. I was a witness to Bishop Karen Oliveto’s consecration. I have received so many gifts.

I am still here and am willing to remind the church that this is my home. I have no right to tell others they have not place in this church. I can simply say, I am still here by God’s grace and I can offer that grace to you, even though you harm me and my people. We are called to share this spiritual home.

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