Celebrating Through Listening. 

Scott's Intro

Cindy's Story

When I moved to Smyrna and started looking for a new church, it was the first time that I was basing my decision on what I wanted and needed in a church. Previously, a major factor in my decision had always been what activities were available for my 2 sons. It was important to me that they were comfortable and involved in whatever church we attended. But now they are grown and it was about finding a church for me.

One of the non-negotiable factors to me was that whatever church I landed in had to be LGBTQ+ welcoming. My oldest son is gay, and being a welcoming church is important to me. I also preferred a church that is fairly close to my home so I could become involved and not be limited to getting there only on Sundays. There were plenty of churches close to my home, even walking distance, but when I visited, I found that none were LGBTQ+ friendly.

I saw the Northside Drive Baptist Church’s video one day when I was doing a search for welcoming churches. There was a video on the website where Ken Brant talks about his experience with Northside Drive and his same-sex marriage that was held at the church. I hoped that the church was as good as it seemed and I visited the next Sunday. I was immediately greeted by several people and made to feel truly welcome. That next week, Pastor Scott invited me for coffee, where we chatted and he told me about the church. Since then, I have joined the church and am getting involved in different areas. I am so happy to have found Northside Drive Baptist. It’s a wonderful place!

Kieth's Story

A Gay Church Musicians Journey 

 As you likely know, the month of June is designated as national Pride Month celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.  June was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the riots that occurred at the Stonewall Inn in New York City beginning on June 28, 1969. This series of events brought the LGBTQ+ rights movement into the forefront.  In Atlanta, we hold our annual pride festival the second weekend of October, either on or near Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day.  

I attended my first Atlanta Pride in 1991.  It was held in June back then.  I was terrified that if a photo or video of me attending the event were to be broadcast on the local news in Augusta, that I would lose my job and my family would disown me.  I was not fully comfortable with who I was back then.    

When I started my journey into church music in the early 1990s, it was nearly impossible to open and out.  There were, of course,  closeted gay church musicians working prior to the 1990s.  They, however, were not able to be completely open about who they were without fear of losing their jobs or possibly being arrested, and serving prison time.  As much as some things have changed for the better, circumstances have not changed in all denominations or congregations.  I know of one large church in the metro area who fired a fantastic musician about four years ago when they found out he was gay.  Because of COVID and other circumstances, he was unable to find a job.  He reached a deep level of depression and ended his life last fall.  

Many gay church musicians even now face a level of discrimination from many congregations.  The split in the United Methodist Church is over the issue of same-sex marriage and ordination of homosexual clergy.  As a cradle Methodist, it makes me sad to see this happen.  The church where I grew up has voted to disaffiliate with the United Methodist Church and join the more conservative Global Methodist Church, which makes me feel unwelcome in a place where I used to feel at home.  I served this church first as a volunteer choir member, then as director of music on an interim and then a permanent basis. I was not fully open about myself in those days, and was terrified of being “discovered.” When I heard that they had voted overwhelmingly to disaffiliate, I was hurt and disappointed.   

Being openly gay and Christian is still challenging despite the many churches that have become more open and accepting.  I am grateful that I can be open about who I am at NDBC.  During my interview process, I told the search committee that I am gay and asked if that fact would be an issue. I was assured that it would not be an issue. As I close out seven years here, that has proven to be the case.   

I have begun reading the June Book Club selection, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee.  Justin’s experience is similar to my own story in many ways. We struggled with guilt and shame when we were young because of the negative messages from society. I think this is true for most, if not all, gay Christians. Unfortunately, the negative messages from society are not always easier to handle as we get older.  Even though I have developed strategies to cope with my past and present experiences, I still experience negative feelings stirred up by news reports and messages from self-proclaimed religious authorities who continue to vilify  the LGBTQ+ community.  We want the same thing as any heterosexual person: the ability to live a safe, fulfilling life.   

NDBC’s vote to affirm same-sex marriage after the Obergefell decision in 2015 was a good start toward changing the narrative.  The recent vote to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists is another great step forward.  As with many of life’s challenges, there is always work to do.  I look forward to working together as we take this journey to new places.