Our Other Sheep 2011 work in India actually began while in flight from New York to Dubai where
we made a connecting flight to Trivandrum, India. Our seating – in a row of three-seats –
placed me right next to a middle-aged Indian who I will call Deepak. Deepak, who has lived in
America for 16 years, is a nationalized American citizen originally from Chennai, India. He was
returning home to India to attend a wedding. His wife and children had returned earlier for the
special event. He was happy to be joining them.
Deepak had noticed the Bible Steve had passed to me to place in his seat pouch. He soon
asked if we were Christians. When we answered “yes,” he responded with a broad smile
(reminding me of that joy I would feel upon discovering a stranger to be a Christian) and said, “I
am, too.” His spontaneous smile communicated to me his sense of enthusiasm in finding
another Christian. I told him Steve had been a Baptist pastor and I . . . , but, as if on cue, he
interrupted and immediately told us about the Baptist Church he attends in Florida where he
lives. He asked if we had heard of his pastor, giving the pastor’s name and ministry.
At some point he asked us why we were traveling to India. After learning that we did human
rights work for gays and lesbians in religious contexts and that we were a gay Christian couple,
he politely said he would have plenty of questions for us during our flight. We welcomed this
and said we would be glad to discuss anything he desired.
I was pleased by the fact that he kept a cheerful, friendly demeanor even after discovering our
sexual orientation and our divergent view on homosexuality. I thought, this fellow might actually
engage in an interesting interchange with us. I would not be disappointed.
After talking about the pronunciation of Thiruvananthapuram (the capital of the state of Kerala,
our first destination in India, also known by its shorter name Trivandrum) we settled into polite
discourse on the largeness of the plane, the proper use of the onboard-entertainment screen
and the contrasting weather between the Twin Cities of Minnesota and St. Petersburg, Florida.
It wasn’t long before I saw he had a wonderful sense of humor. He watched the TV comedy
show “Big Bang” with great relish. He engaged me in some humorous speculation, asking if
perhaps the flight attendants could go to the roof of the plane and adjust the external cameras.
Our flight had departed JFK airport (New York City) at 11:00 PM. Sleep was overtaking us.
Steve continued working on his laptop while Deepak and I slept some. After waking, and when
the captain announced that we would be arriving in Dubai in an hour and forty-some minutes,
Deepak began in earnest with his questions for us.
“I want to ask you a touchy question, kind of personal,” he said. “Go ahead, feel free,” I said.
“How do you reconcile (I think he said something to that effect) your Christianity with being . . .”
“Gay?” I interrupted.
“Yes,” he said sheepishly.
I felt good supplying the word that he was searching for or reluctant to say. It was empowering
to use the term “gay” and apply it to myself before someone else did and to link the word to a
central part of myself: being a Christian.
I explained to him my understanding of the six clobber passages. Once I was done he said he
had learned something new. He seemed genuinely interested and open-minded. He followed
up with the question “What about having children? You can’t be married if you can’t
reproduce.” Steve interjected, “Who says every marriage must produce children in order to be
I then explained the point concerning the purpose of the book of Genesis: “Genesis is about
beginnings, about origins, how things started, not necessarily about design intended for all
time. Steve added: “Eve was created to complete Adam; it wasn’t good for the man to be alone
the text says; nothing about children in that definition of marriage.” When Steve said “Nowhere
would civil law revoke your marriage license if you did not produce children,” Deepak laughed
and agreed. Having children is not a condition that qualifies marriage.
I shared with Deepak my observation that good Christians disagree about several issues, and
yet they still remain amicable and maintain a sense of connection with their disagreeing
Christian brother or sister. It is perhaps only in this one issue, I told him, that the tension of
disagreement is so great that it often destroys all hope of possible fellowship.
To this he stated that he did not follow a particular denomination’s teaching but only the Bible.
His comment led to a discussion about “one's grid” through which one reads the Bible and to
the idea that we all have a grid, whether we realize it or not.
Overall, I sensed Deepak was receptive in learning about our perspective. He asked us a very
“evangelical” question along the lines of what is our walk like, our fellowship like, our day-to-day
faith in Jesus like since our acceptance of ourselves as gay and Christian.
Steve explained how his faith is characterized less and less by the “Jesus and Me evangelical”
bent which Steve assessed as an American phenomenon that missionaries have carried
worldwide, and, instead, more and more on the love-your-neighbor message of the gospel as
Steve currently perceives it. In addition, Steve spoke on the meaning of the cross, suggesting
its meaning to the first century Christian may have been more in context to the marginalized
who were dominated by an oppressive society than in the context of Reformation theology that
was attempting to answer the question of eternal condemnation and quilt.
Deepak is an Indian who was raised in the Church of South India (CSI) and has lived in the
United States for 16 years now. During his time in the States he’s been attending Baptist and
Assembly of God churches. It is only on this trip back to India, he tells us, that he meets gay
Christians for the first time.
Deepak is, to a degree, the evangelical world in miniature when it comes to knowing little, if
anything, about a firsthand meeting/discussion with gay Christians. And so, to India, and the
world, we say: We are gay and we are Christian. Meet us, speak with us. Let’s talk. We are
your sons, your daughters, your fathers, your mothers. We exist wherever you find humankind.
We are your friend at church and gay, though unknown to you as gay (we are afraid to say so);
we are your choir director, your lay-leader, and at times even your pastor, priest. (And we exist
within all the great faiths of the world: Christianity, Muslim, Hindu and others.)
As gay and Christian, we are the unseen outcasts within the church, especially within the
evangelical Christian strand of Christianity or wherever Christianity is especially marked by
conservatism and/or tradition. Not just the churches of India, but wherever the evangelical
message has gone throughout the world. We are, until now, the unseen outcast in the
evangelical church. But we have found our voice. Yes, we welcome your "touchy, kind of
personal question" as Deepak put it.
Steve and Jose
July 2 - August 12, 2011
We are the unseen outcasts within the church
July 1, 2010 - Written by Jose Oriz - Dubai International Airport
|By Jose Ortiz and Rev. Steve Parelli
Dubai International Airport, July 1, 2011, and
Classic Ave. Hotel,Trivandrum, India, July 4, 2011
|We are the unseen outcasts within the church
Jose, during our more
than 7-hour lay over in
Dubai, writing out his
Deepak while in flight
Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz (left).
Dubai International Airport, July 1, 2011
Photos above and below:
Jose Ortiz typing out his hand-written
composition on his in-flight conversation with
Deepak, an American Indian Christian from
July 1, 2011. Dubai International Airport
“Gay?” I interrupted.
“Yes,” he said sheepishly.
I felt good supplying the word that
he was searching for or reluctant to
say. It was empowering to use the
term “gay” and apply it to myself
before someone else did and to
link the word to a central part of
myself: being a Christian.
Steve explained how his faith is
characterized less and less by the
“Jesus and Me evangelical” bent
which Steve assessed as an
American phenomenon that
missionaries have carried
worldwide, and, instead, more and
more on . . .
Deepak is, to a degree, the
evangelical world in miniature
when it comes to knowing little, if
anything, about a firsthand
meeting/discussion with gay
|This web page was built in and
published from Trivandrum, Kerala,
India, on July 4, 2011.
Visits to this web page since July 4, 2011:
Steve & Jose's Other Sheep
Asia 2011 Ministry
India, Singapore and Nepal
Table of Index
India (Index Page)
July 2 - August 12, 2011
- Young Lay Leaders Conference
- Day 2 - Jose presents
psychological dynamics of
church bias towards
- Day 3 - Future projects
Singapore (Index Page)
August 13 -16, 2011
- Steve & Jose present "Is There
Such a Thing as 'Ex-gay'?"
- Steve & Jose present a
Powerpoint on their India 2011
Nepal (Index Page)
August 17 - September 1, 2011
- "Putting a Face on
Homosexuality" - Meeting with
Nepal Evaluation Report: