Carol McNair

Ruling elder, ordained 1996.

I grew up in the Presbyterian church.  As a small child, I used to love to go with my mother when it was her turn to clean the church.

There was something about the sounds and smells of the church when it was empty and being able to play in all the rooms.  I felt a sense of belonging and love as I grew up in the church.  Starting from the time I was a teenager, the Bible and theology fascinated me.  I was the only teenager in my church who regularly attended adult Bible study and questioned and wrestled with my faith.

I went away from the church for a number of years, but returned when I had children of my own.  I looked around in other denominations, but I came back to the local Presbyterian church.  I became involved in many programs of the church: teaching Sunday school, chaperoning youth events and mission trips, etc.  I was ordained as an elder in 1996.

In the spring of 2005 a major upheaval began in my life.  I had known I was gay since I was 12, but I was certain I could keep that “sinful” aspect of mine under control.  However I found that against my will, I had fallen for another woman.  Although the feelings were not mutual and nothing came of it, I felt I could no longer hide this part of me.

Unfortunately since I was happily married to the father of my children, and he worked from home and we homeschooled the kids, this was like a bomb going off in all our lives.  Our families and church families were also involved in the fallout, especially since no one had seen it coming.

Along with dealing with divorce and the pieces of our broken lives, I wrestled with what to do about being an elder.  I prayed and talked with Presbyterian ministers about what I should do.  In the end, my conscience was clear so I decided to stay on as an elder, even though the minister of my church continually urged me to resign.   Somehow another member of the church found out about my situation and decided to bypass the session and write a letter to the Presbytery calling for my resignation without consulting me or the session.  Thus began my ordeal with the church.

Eventually I had to go before a board of inquiry.  I admitted to having had sexual relationships outside of marriage but also that I had asked and received forgiveness from God for this.  Because I had broken church policy, I was told I had to resign, which I did.   Due to hard feelings between me and the minister and some members of the congregation, I left the Presbyterian church and attended the UCC for a little over a year.  I felt angry and frustrated and betrayed.

Although I was aware that I had broken church policy, I also thought what had transpired was handled in a completely unloving manner.

About a year later, a member from Butner Pres contacted me and informed me that the pastor had left for another ministry and that we had an interim minister that she thought I would like.  She was right; Lori was wonderful.  I began coming back to Butner.

A wonderful opportunity presented itself several years later.  A woman who was being considered for nomination as an elder happened to also be living with a man to whom she was not married .  Lori asked both of us if we would be willing to use this situation as a forum to discuss the present church policy, and we both said yes.  I was surprised at the number of people who attended the discussion and the compassion with which they listened to our stories.  I really felt they understood my lifelong struggle and the conflict between my sexuality and the church.  It was an emotional and heart warming moment for me.

Fortunately, after the amendment passed, both of us were elected to the session together.

I have seen the amazing act of forgiveness take place between myself and the person who wrote the letter to the Presbytery all those years ago calling for my resignation from the session.  It hasn’t been in words, but in actions and a changed attitude. The wounds have healed.

Over the past few years, I have received love and acceptance from my family and my church family.  I think it is so important for us to come out so that people are personally touched by gay people within their families and churches.  I have been encouraged by the (mostly) positive reactions.  Even those who disagree for the most part are willing to listen and engage in civil discourse.  I am amazed at the transforming power of the Holy Spirit as it moves among us.

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