“IN MY FATHER’S CHURCH”
A Personal Look
I first saw “In My Father’s Church” (Women Making Movies) at the Reel to Reel Film festival last summer in Little Rock and thought it was wonderful. Now that I have had a chance to watch it at home, I have had more time to really think about it. Charissa King, a lesbian, is the director of this amazing documentary who made this extremely personal and moving film. Her reason for doing so came about when she heard that the United Methodist Church was suspending a pastor because he officiated a same-sex union in 1999. As she began her investigation of the happening, she discovered that homophobia ran deep and seemed to be inherent in the church and caused internal divisions. She suddenly felt alienated from the church she loved so much and of which her father was a pastor (even though he seemed to be supportive of her relationship wit her partner, Kelly). As she planned her own wedding she decided she needed to know where her father stood on the issue. He had remained silent on the matter and since she was about to become part of an issue that was dividing the church, it was important to discover what his real feelings were. The movie shows her mother’s reaction to realization that her daughter was a lesbian and likewise focuses on Kelly’s mother, a liberal, who vividly recognizes homophobia. Charissa and her father dance around the issue and Charissa agonizes over whether to ask him to marry her and Kelly.
Here is a study of the intersection of homosexuality and religion from the “perspective of a person who has something at stake”. As we watch the film, Charissa reveals her deep connection to her father and her own investment in the outcome of the debate over homosexuality in the Methodist Church.
Charissa wanted a church wedding and since her father was the pastor of the Methodist Church in the town where she lived, the situation was extremely complicated. He was supportive of her lesbian relationship with her partner; he knew his career would be at stake if he chose to perform her marriage ceremony. Clashes between the church clergy and gay couples began to make headlines in 1999 when the church suspended a pastor for officiating at a ceremony which wedded a same-sex couple. Charissa, disappointed over her father’s silence on the issue and his resistance to perform the ceremony. Yet she was determined to be married in the church she loved and continued to make plans for a church wedding. She managed to find support and eventually had her uncle perform the ceremony. The path to and down the aisle for Charissa and Kelly is an emotionally charged story of how one young woman attempts to reconcile her love, her faith, and her family and boldly brings to life the deep conflicts that gay marriage has brought about in many churches. The same conflicts affect the individuals who attempt to maintain their faith while preserving their identities at the same time.
Many of you who have read my reviews have undoubtedly noticed that I spend a lot of time on the religious issue in gay and lesbian life. I think I have managed to deal with my own issues and I know, deep inside, that I am okay with my religious views. I am a religious gay man and I love my religion and I am accepted for who and what I am. If I were not, I would leave my religion. It is such a deeply personal issue that it sometimes is difficult to think about but it is something that must be dealt with and dealt with on an individual and personal basis. Movies like this help to reinforce faith and instill hope in all who question. It is indeed worthwhile investigating and it is so important not to feel unwanted because you feel you are different. You are different—beautifully different. Accept that and share it with others. Do not shy away from it and explain it so maybe those who don’t know us will begin to understand. What you do with your sexual life is your own business and you owe no explanations. You should, however, feel a duty to yourself and to your God to enlighten those who do not understand. We are the most beautifully different and wonderfully amazing people on earth today.