Minister about gay son: 'I'm thankful to be his father'

Feb. 15, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 15, 2013 at 8:16 p.m.

"I'm thankful for having grown up in the church," Simon King, left, said of his time spent in church with his father, Rev. David King, right. "I've learned a lot." Simon, who is openly gay, no longer attends church but his father says that he strives for all to be treated with care and compassion in the church, regardless of their sexual identity.

"I'm thankful for having grown up in the church," Simon King, left, said of his time spent in church with his father, Rev. David King, right. "I've learned a lot." Simon, who is openly gay, no longer attends church but his father says that he strives for all to be treated with care and compassion in the church, regardless of their sexual identity.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

Leaning across a wooden booth in a quaint, downtown Victoria restaurant, the Rev. David King and his son, Simon, reach for a fried pickle appetizer.

As they wait on their main entrees to be delivered to the table, they nosh on the batter-covered pickles and make small talk on family matters.

"You and Dad are wearing matching shirts," King's daughter, Ruth, 19, points out from across the table. She giggles as Simon opens his brown leather jacket to show off a maroon T-shirt and black jade stone crucifix necklace hanging around his neck.

"Oh yeah. We are," Simon, 20, replies, laughing.

David King chuckles and glances down at his maroon dress shirt and gray sweater vest, realizing his conservative attire boldly accentuates Simon's youthful and more edgy wardrobe.

Smiles and laughter occur frequently during lunch, even when the conversation turns to God, church and Simon's homosexuality.

"I'm appreciative of having grown up in the church, but I don't go to church anymore. ... It was just so boring," Simon giggled, recalling his youth as a pastor's kid and the many days he spent in his father's church. "I'm sorry, Dad, but it was."

David has known about and welcomed Simon's struggles with spirituality for many years and has always invited his children to speak openly about life with them.

"It doesn't bother me that we don't believe the same things. I want them to come to their own conclusions about God, just like I did," the pastor said.

The same openness applied five years ago, when Simon came out to his family on Christmas Eve.

"We were all hanging out, eating apple pie and ice cream, watching TV, and I just said, 'Family, I have something to tell you. I'm gay,'" Simon said.

But David said he never struggled with the information.

It was always a non-issue, he said, even if it goes against the Methodist theology he preaches Sunday morning at the First United Methodist Church in Palacios.

"The most important thing I wanted him to know when he told me, and I said this at his birth, was that I'm thankful and proud to be his father, and nothing will change that," he said. "When he came out, he kind of laid out his process of why he believed he was gay, and we listened and said, 'OK,' and that was it."

Ruth giggled, slightly, remembering she thought her brother was joking.

"Not because I didn't want him to be gay, but because he was always joking around with us. But we were all fine with it," the Texas A&M University freshman said. "I didn't know that what our family was weird or odd until I went to college and everyone told me how other families were" when a gay family member came out. "I always thought everyone who was gay, their parents automatically accepted them."

Simon said he never felt fear to be open with his family about his sexual preferences. He knew, even in a home that was led by a Christian pastor for a father, that his parents would understand him and listen to his struggles.

"I was pretty sure it was going to be OK," Simon said.

David recalled that early in his ministry nearly three decades prior, he met and befriended three gay men who were dying with AIDS. Because their families didn't want the men to be shamed or condemned by the church, the families buried the men in secret and told friends and family they died of cancer.

David promised himself then that his heart and church would always be open to everyone because the God he served is an accepting and forgiving Lord.

"It's not that I have some cause for gay rights. My cause is for humanity, to love and accept all people," David said. "I think it's easier for some people to look at my problems and point fingers at me than it is for them to look at their own."

At high school, however, Simon's experience was a bit less forgiving.

"I was called a faggot every day. They would spit on me. I was afraid to go to the bathroom alone because I thought I'd get jumped," he said. "It was bad, and I was really depressed. I don't know how they knew. I wasn't open about it, but I guess they could sense that I was different."

Every night, Simon said he cried himself to sleep and begged God to help him understand why his peers were so hateful.

The pressure and fear of school bullies and violence eventually motivated Simon to drop out of Memorial High School in Victoria and obtain a GED. For many months, he agonized silently and twice attempted suicide as a way out of the pain.

"We had no idea it was that bad at school. We knew he was going through a difficult time and feeling betrayed by his friends, but that was it," his father said.

But where Simon's friends fell short, his family offered unconditional love and support.

"After I dropped out, I started seeing a counselor, and it all got better from there," Simon said. "My family had always been loving and supportive, but it's hard when you're dealing with that at school, to talk about it with people, especially to the ones you love the most."

Two years later, Simon has moved on from the trauma of high school. He lives with his parents in Palacios and works as a waiter in an area restaurant. But he's ready to move on to bigger things he said, and he's now considering a move abroad where he hopes to work in modeling, fashion or simply travel the world while he's young enough to do so.

And at home, the Kings said they're not concerned with how others may view their relationship or their ideas that churches should welcome homosexuals in their congregations.

"That's one of the things that's always chapped me. The perceived lack of compassion by the church. It's why a lot of people don't come to church because they think the church will judge them if they have a child who is transsexual, or bi or gay," the pastor said. "I don't know any evangelical gays who are going around trying to get straight people to try out homosexuality."

Simon, a self-professed Jesus follower, said his ideas about God are slightly less "Christian" than the rest of his family. He believes the Bible is more interpretative and allegorical than historical fact, but he said he has a strong relationship with God and enjoys dialoguing with his family about spiritual matters, especially when processing scriptures on sexuality.

"I don't think it's a sin," said Simon, on being gay. "And that's one of the things that really bothers me about the Methodist Church because if I ever got married I would want my dad to marry me, and he can't. It's something I've always wanted. He means the most to me. Ruth wants the same thing."

David explained he is forbidden to officiate same-sex weddings as long as he's a minister in the Methodist organization.

"It would be such an honor to be able to do that for Simon. It's the act of joining two people that you know God brought their hearts together, whether they're gay, lesbian or heterosexual," David said. "But the official Methodist stance is that homosexuality is not compatible with how we understand the Christian faith."

David said he hopes Christians as a whole will one day become more open and accepting toward gays and in the interim, continue to emulate Christ in their actions with all people.

"I don't know why we would feel like we have to meet some perfect measure of purity. It's not like gay just happened. And gay doesn't mean you're broken," David said.

Simon hopes others who may be struggling with sexual identity will remember they are not alone.

"I would tell them to love themselves for who they are, and be yourself always, no matter what people are telling you. There's someone in the world who will be your friend," Simon said.

His father added, "And I would say to other parents to love your child more than you love other people's opinions of you."

"These two children and my wife are daily examples of God's grace. I look at them and know this is what I've succeeded in my life. It's these three people."



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