Nathan Sobers is a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and currently serves as co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians, a group advocating for full inclusion of LGBT Presbyterians in the life and ministry of the church. Nathan also serves as Clerk of Session for his home congregation, Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church in Seattle. He and his partner Michael recently celebrated their 26th anniversary.
How has your personal journey as a Gay Christian strengthened or challenged your faith?
I grew up in a very devout Latter-day Saints home. When I came out at the age of 17, I was convinced that, because of my upbringing, God didn’t want anything to do with me. My excommunication from the Mormon Church when I was 19 served to confirm, in my mind at least, the fact that God’s back was turned to me. I went through what I refer to as my wilderness years, a period of 10 years where I only stepped foot in a church to work as a church organist. When I stumbled across a little Presbyterian church in need of an organist, it seemed like just another job. Boy was I wrong! This scrappy, poor little church embraced me and loved me because of, and in spite of, myself. This group of Christians has strengthened my faith by giving me space to explore just what being Christian means.
Is there a prayer or meditation that helps you make it through trying times?
The Fray has a song on their latest album called “Be Still.” It’s a modern take on the 23rd Psalm. It’s such a great reminder that God is always there, no matter what.
What is one of the defining moments in your life as a Christian?
Coming out on the floor of Seattle Presbytery during the 10-A debate and realizing that no matter what happened, nothing could separate me from the love of God. Intellectually I knew this was true, of course, but something about the honesty of coming out 15 years after ordination opened a door that I hadn’t even been aware was closed, and I really got what it means when we say that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God. That realization has, quite simply, changed my life.
Do you have a story of a person who embodies Christ’s teachings?
I want to tell you about Miss Lottie. Miss Lottie White was the chief usher at Madrona Grace for 40 years. It didn’t matter if you’d known her for years or had just met her for the very first time; she would always greet you like a long lost friend. She always had a smile and a kind word, no matter how bad of a day she might be having herself. Her hospitality, warmth and grace set an example I’ll never forget.
In your mind, what are the Biblical foundations for LGBT inclusion in the church?
Galatians 3:26-28 “You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ.”
What would you say to those Christians who have a different view on inclusion?
I would remind them first of the Galatians passage I mentioned and then reiterate the fact that Jesus was all about radical hospitality. Jesus went out of his way to engage and interact with the most marginalized elements of the society he lived in. How can we do any less?
What can we do to foster dialogue and build bridges with people with different views on inclusion?
First of all we need to live our lives with honesty and integrity. Doing so gives us a moral foundation to work from. Secondly, reach out beyond our comfortable little groups. It’s so easy to interact just with the people that agree with us, but that doesn’t get us anywhere. Third, treat those who don’t share our views with dignity and respect. It’s very easy to demonize those who don’t share our views, but name-calling and accusations do nothing but divide us.
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke eloquently about the “Beloved Community” which is a vision of a totally integrated society, a community of love and justice, where brotherhood would be an actuality. This to him was the ideal expression of Christian faith. We aren’t there yet, but building the bridges and talking with others who disagree with us is the only way we’ll be able to achieve the Beloved Community.