Anna Wakefield asked Jesus to come into her heart when she was four. She sang praise music in her church in her teens. She came out as a lesbian, then graduated from a Christian college in her early twenties. Then, just before her thirtieth birthday, she committed suicide.
Until recently, most evangelical Christian churches have been made it all but impossible to be a well-adjusted openly gay member of their communities. As Anna experienced, gay Christians are considered oxymorons, and are frequently asked to remain celibate, or, even worse, to undergo "reparative therapy" to straighten them out.
Since then, she has started her own non-profit group, the TEACH Project (To Educate About the Consequences of Homophobia), has been on a number of speaking tours across the country, and was also featured prominently in the documentary God and Gays: Bridging the Gap as well as in the forthcoming For the Bible Tells Me So, a documentary about Christian gays and lesbians that will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. I spoke with Mary Lou last week to find out more about her conversion, and about her maverick role as an evangelical in support of gay rights. Rev. Astrid Storm
When did your daughter first come out?
Shortly after she came out, you wrote a letter to Anna in which you said, "I will never accept that in you. I feel it’s a terrible waste, besides being spiritually and morally wrong. For a reason that I don’t quite fathom, I have a harder time dealing with that issue than almost anything in the world." Why such a harsh response?
Your husband — Anna’s stepfather — has also been very active in promoting the rights of gay people in the church. Did you both convert at about the same time?
I’m curious: what’s the worst thing anyone has said to you in response to your views?
So your other daughter doesn’t agree with you?
No one in my family, really, except my husband. My ex-husband, daughter, son-in-law — they all think I’m completely wrong in this. It really hurts. And they all live in a small rural area within two miles of each other, so I don’t have many hopes for them changing their minds.
Do you support gay marriage?
I noticed that Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based conservative Christian group, says on its website that allowing gay people to marry would basically amount to allowing people to marry their pets. Respond to that.
What do you think of the growing number of heterosexual couples who are waiting to get married until gay people can get married?
I think they did. Would you say your views on sex are more open now than they were before — for instance, would you be supportive of people in non-marital sexual relationships?
Do you think Evangelicalism is having a sort of liberal revival, and do you consider yourself a part of it?
So you definitely call yourself "evangelical?"
Yes. Well, unless I’m around nasty evangelicals. I heard that the leader of one of the pro-gay evangelical groups in New York City recently criticized one of my favorite books about God’s grace being for everyone, an idea I’m really into right now. That made me not want to call myself evangelical.
But if enough people like you claim the name, then I guess he won’t be able to call himself evangelical before long. On a different note, do you think a lot of the anti-gay preachers have problems with their own sexual identities — like Ted Haggard or Paul Barnes?
What do you thing of Ted Haggard undergoing reparative therapy with help from Dr. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family?
If you and the church had been more accepting of Anna’s sexual orientation, do you think she’d still be alive today?
In your book, a gay Christian friend of yours says, "Don’t miss Christ because of Christians." What do you think Jesus would have to say about the way Christians are treating gays and lesbians?
©2006 Rev. Astrid Storm and Nerve.com