In news that may unsettle some conservative Christians, Matthew Paul Turner, a popular evangelical writer and former editor of a magazine devoted to Christian music, announced today that he and his wife of 16 years are separating because… he’s gay.
He wrote in a Facebook post this morning that being gay “isn’t a new discovery for me” and that he has long struggled with “fear, shame, and self-hatred” which is to be expected when you belong to a religious tradition that is largely homophobic (my word, not his).
Being gay isn’t a new discovery for me. However, as someone who spent 30+ years in fundamentalist/evangelical churches, exploring God through conservative theologies, I’ve lived many days overwhelmed by fear, shame, and self-hatred. Though my own faith evolved long ago to become LGBTQ+ affirming, my journey toward recognizing, accepting and embracing myself took much longer. But for the first time in my life, despite the sadness and grief I’m feeling right now, I can say with confidence that I’m ready to embrace freedom, hope, and God as a gay man.
His wife Jessica echoed many of those sentiments in her own post:
My husband, my best friend has bravely shared his deepest truth this past year. He is gay. While this doesn’t change how much we love him, it does change our relationship. We are moving forward with ending our marriage, while remaining deeply committed to our family and each other.
We have worked for more than a year on trying to make our marriage work, even in light of Matthew’s truth, but it wasn’t healthy or fair to us or our children. We feel confident that this is the next right step for each of us and our family.
I wish them all the best. It’s hard to come out of the closet. It’s hard to get divorced. All of that is amplified when you belong to a Christian culture that treats both of those things as moral failings when they’re not. The fact that someone like Turner, who earned my respect a long time ago for calling out bad behavior in his own community, is willing to do this publicly will hopefully make it easier for others to do the same.
If nothing else, he shows there doesn’t have to be a conflict between being gay and being Christian… but there’s still an open question of how he’ll navigate future dating. While even many evangelicals say they have no problem with LGBTQ people, they tend to take a hard-line stance against same-sex relationships (much less same-sex marriage). It’s not clear to me what Turner thinks about those issues just yet. But at least he’ll have the freedom now to figure it out for himself.
(Featured image via Facebook)