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Growing Closer After Changing Faiths


Now to one woman's story about how changing her faith brought her closer to her son. Kathryn Ross grew up in a religious family. Her father was a minister in the Church of Christ, a conservative Protestant denomination.

KATHRYN ROSS: We went to church Sunday mornings, Sunday night, Wednesday night. We had Bible studies in our house. Our - basically, my whole life revolved around being a part of the church.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When Ross had her own children, she followed that tradition, taking them to services every Sunday. But things started to change for her after her son Caleb told her that he's gay. The Church of Christ rejects homosexuality.

ROSS: The more that I studied myself and the more that I prayed about it and thought about it, my beliefs just did not align with the Church of Christ.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ross eventually left the church. But through a connection on Facebook, she found a new religious home in the United Methodist Church, which she felt was more welcoming to LGBTQ members. She joined two months ago. This past week, though, at a national meeting, officials and lay members of the United Methodist Church voted to maintain a global ban on same-sex marriages in the faith. The vote also affirmed its stance against LGBTQ clergy. Ross's own church is now wrestling with that decision. I spoke to Kathryn Ross about the challenges she faces in her new faith and how it's affected her relationship to her son.

I want to ask you about your son because we're speaking to you because this is your religious journey. But your son is not religious, I understand.

ROSS: No, he's not. But he always went to church. He even went to a private Christian school when he was in third and fourth grade. So he knows a lot about the Bible and - just not something he ever really bought into.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I have to ask you. What was your reaction to the vote this past week against same-sex marriage?

ROSS: Initially, I was heartbroken. Our pastor sent us out an email that day and invited us to come to the church to meet Monday night when the preliminary vote had been taken. And I went in. And, you know, she handed us all boxes of tissues. And I think we went in expecting this to be kind of a mournful night. But it ended up being a night of rejoicing because my son had actually come to that meeting with me. And we had all come together and talked about how this story isn't over. You know, this is a journey. And the journey is starting. And there are people that are standing up with us, literally and figuratively. And so when we walked away from that meeting, my son turned to me. And he said, yeah. I want to be a part of this.


ROSS: Yeah. Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That must have been so meaningful coming from your son who wasn't religious.

ROSS: Yes - very much so. And it's something that never would have happened had I remained in the Church of Christ. He told me further when we got in the car. He said that was the first time since he came out in eighth grade that he had bowed his head and closed his eyes and said a prayer and prayed with the group.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow. Some people listening to this may think, why not just leave the church? If churches have such difficulty embracing someone like your son, why not just leave organized religion altogether?

ROSS: I tried that (laughter). And that was a very sad time. I need church. I need to come together with my faith family and receive the support and the love that they give every Sunday. And you just - you can't do it by yourself.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why do you think it's so hard for the United Methodist Church to come to a decision where it embraces members like your son?

ROSS: Well, there's no denying that the Bible says some pretty harsh things regarding homosexuality. There's no turning away from that. And it's - you know, it took me many nights on my knees, many nights of prayer and tears and heartache trying to process through myself what I thought that meant. So I don't - you know, I don't begrudge those who believe that it is sinful. But because of my own intimate experience with my own son, I have to then come to the conclusion that God created him to be who he was. And I think that's what we are called to do as God's children - is to read and look beyond into the heart of who God is not just the black and white words that are on the page.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Kathryn Ross is a recent convert to the United Methodist Church. She lives in Anna, Texas. Thank you very much.

ROSS: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.