Robert H. Fernández

Teaching Elder, Ordained 1957.

The call to be a minister first appeared in my heart and consciousness during my early teens.  The awareness that I was gay began a little earlier than that, although I did not know what all that meant—only that I was somehow different than other young men as a sexual being.

These two parts of my life journey, however, grew disproportionately.  The call to ministry took priority—sensing that God was leading me strongly.  My secular and religious education was focused on the goal of seminary and eventually ordination.  The early part of my religious education toward this goal taught me that homosexuality was against God’s purposes and sinful, and having no other points of view to consider or a role model to follow, I accepted this perspective as a fact and suppressed my sexual orientation and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church.

I entered into a heterosexual marriage based on an honest emotional love for my wife and became the proud and loving father of three daughters.  It was my hope that my homosexuality would disappear, but the deeper sexual orientation lingered and strengthened.

In my 40’s, after much study, counseling, and prayer, I finally came to accept my sexual orientation, but chose to remain quiet about it lest I lose my ordination—I was fully dedicated to being a minister.  This undoubtedly took its emotional toll, and I went through a painful divorce.  On the other hand, I have been in a committed and nurturing relationship with my partner, Jerry, for 32 years.  I have also had the love and support of my daughter, Sarah.  Not once, since my acceptance of being gay, have I questioned my call to ministry or the fact that God created me as a gay man.

I served joyfully and faithfully for 21 years in four parishes, for 20 years in two presbytery executive positions, and retired 14 years ago.  Colleagues and Christian friends who fully knew me have loved and encouraged me enormously, thus alleviating most of the pain of remaining silent about my sexual orientation.  During these years I have been able to work from within the church for change.  I served on the General Assembly Task Force on Human Sexuality and on advocacy groups such as Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, and, eventually, as a Commissioner to the 2010 General Assembly that changed the ordination standards.

I am thankful that God has given me the grace and strength to live my life as a gay man and my call to ministry, and every breath now seems to come more freely even though there is yet much work to do and misunderstanding and hurt to heal.

The Rev. Robert H. Fernández, Honorably Retired, Sacramento Presbytery

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