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US Lutheran pastor tells how gay sons made him embrace same-sex marriage

Retired Lutheran pastor Gilbert Rossing has told of how his gay sons forced him to change his mind about homosexuality and Christianity and come to support same-sex marriage in backing gay couples’ right to wed in Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Photo by Razvan Orendovici

A retired US Lutheran pastor has shared how his sons coming out to him has inspired him to question his beliefs and come to accept same-sex couples as acceptable for marriage in the eyes of God.

Gilbert Rossing, a former minister of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Portland who now lives in Washington state, told his story in a bid to urge people in Oregon to support efforts to put same-sex marriage on the ballot for 2014 elections.

‘The last 40 years of advocacy for people who are gay and lesbian set off difficult times for me,’ Rossing wrote in an op-ed for The Oregonian.

‘My own journey of understanding came about through the most personal of catalysts. On a March night in 1987, our oldest son - now a Portland business owner - told his mother and me that he was gay.

‘My first, determined response was to counsel him both as father and pastor, and both academically and biblically, to turn back from this identity. When he tearfully pleaded, “I don’t want to lose you!” I realized that my pontificating was driving him away.'

Rossing wrote that he realized he needed to ‘listen and learn’ and that he quickly found it difficult to reconcile the reality of his son’s morality and the condemnations of homosexuality in the Bible.

‘When I first wrestled with Scripture passages, I was struck by the disconnectedness between the idolatrous and sexually abusive behaviors the Bible condemned in contrast to the high character and integrity of my son,’ Rossing wrote.

‘Through ensuing years I developed an understanding not only of my older son, but also my younger son, who is gay as well. I was fortunate to become friends with dozens of devout, godly people who are gay, lesbian and transgender. I saw that we may seem different, but we all have a lot more in common.’

Rossing wrote that gay people want to be able to get married for the same reasons as straight people.

‘They want to grow old and be there for each other, in good times and bad,’ Rossing wrote.

‘They share similar dreams, like building a life together, and similar worries, like making ends meet. Imagine if you’d already been doing the hard work of marriage but were told you could not marry the person you love, or that your relationship didn’t matter when sickness or death came knocking.

Rossing wrote that for him same-sex marriage was not just an issue for his sons but for his own religious freedom

‘I believe, as do many other clergy, it is a Godly thing to bless and celebrate the love of same-gender couples,’ Rossing wrote.

‘The freedom to marry in Oregon would allow that to happen. That freedom would also give me the religious freedom to officiate at the wedding of my Portland son and his partner of 15 years, much as I did this year at the Washington marriage of his brother.’

Rossing is a former member of the David Douglas School Board and the author of the 2009 book “Dignity, Dogmatism and Same-Sex Relationships.”

Earlier this month Oregon announced it would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries where they are legal.

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