Gay and Christian and Parenting

June 11, 2015 Comments Off on Gay and Christian and Parenting

Michael Cudney, his husband Keith Kelly, and their son Chris Kelly in one of their first parades.

Michael Cudney, his husband Keith Kelly, and their son Chris Kelly in one of their first parades.

Michael Cudney

I’ve been so fortunate. And I’m so grateful.  As a gay man now entering his 7th decade [well, just entered], I’ve experienced so much, traveled around the world and have the pleasure of so many friends, among whom are many St. Luke’s parishioners.  But nothing can beat the joy of having and raising a child.  On many Sundays I see same-gender couples in the pews with a new-born or young child and I think “They are so lucky. So dedicated. So loving.”  I know. I’ve been a parent for 22 years.

Gay and lesbian parents have many advantages. One is that we don’t become parents by accident.  It’s often a long and difficult journey, and even more so for some who may live in certain areas of the US.  There are long conversations, lots of research, seeking out others in the LGBT community who have children. And here in New York, we’re privileged to be in a city and state that has long been supportive of differently-constituted families from the norm.  And as members of the Episcopal Church, we also have a faith community that makes sure we feel welcome in the Body of Christ.  In fact, in my own case, having a child was what brought me back to church!

It was in 1993 that my husband Keith and I brought home our then week-old son Christopher. We were fortunate to find an adoption agency – in Texas, of all places – that was willing to work with single men [there was no marriage equality then] looking to be parents.

We knew before Chris even arrived that we wanted him to have an experience of a church, as both Keith and I had growing up.  For myself especially it was exciting, as I had grown up very active in my home-town Roman Catholic parish, and had actually majored in theology in college with an eye to entering seminary after.  But as with many things, I met Keith at the time, and began to grow further and further away from the RC church, in large part because of its anti-LGBT positions.  There were a few decades where we would go to church pretty much only at Christmas, and it was one Christmas that we went to the tiny Episcopal Church in our neighborhood.  It was nice, but at the time there was nothing to draw us back except the holiday services.

But we went anyway once we had Chris at home, not knowing what kind of welcome we’d receive.  Being a very small parish – maybe 15-20 on an average Sunday – anyone new walking through the doors was immediately scrutinized.  However, we were made to feel immediately welcome and part of the parish family.  There was absolutely no issue when we asked about having Chris baptized.  The only question the vicar asked us was ‘When?’

Gay men raising children in New York City, even over twenty years ago, is undoubtedly different than raising a child in other, less inclusive and diverse part of the country.  The same can be said of our experience with a church family.  Our church became a part of our lives. There were a few children around Chris’s age, and they quickly became friends.  Even now, Chris has a close friend from those years. Sunday school and church activities were a part of the journey.  And the parish sponsored a children’s theatre program into which Chris and family immediately dived in.

Things of course do change.  It’s not at all uncommon for a teenager to move away from church-going practices as they seek and learn and grow.  My family is no different in this regard.  I’m the sole ‘full-time’ church-goer these days. And that’s fine. But what I can say with full assurance, is that in both the church families that have been a part of our lives over the last two decades, there has never been a single instance where our sexualities or family structure was ever an issue.  For this we are grateful for the work of the Episcopal Church in including all – families and single persons, children and the elderly, straight and gay, male and female and those who choose another way of expressing gender.  At the same time I always try to remember that there are many families like mine, living in places where it’s difficult, even painful, to raise children. For these we must continue to pray and work for justice and inclusion that my family has been fortunate to experience.

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