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Thirteen Churches & One Good God: Jesse’s Story

As part of Equip’s “More Than (just) True” campaign, we’re sharing the stories of LGBT+ people and loved ones about their search for God’s good and beautiful. Check out this reflection from Jesse White, Equip’s Gender Incongruence Resource Specialist.

In twenty-six years, I’ve been a part of thirteen churches. Statistically, I should have left the Church a long time ago, yet I’ve chosen to remain connected to it because of my love for Jesus and His love for the church.

My dad pastored ten of the thirteen churches I’ve been a part of. Out of those ten, eight of them forced him and my family out. My parents loved these churches. They devoted themselves to caring for their congregants and to engaging the world with the gospel through their presence. But eventually, my dad’s nuanced views and bold conversations on “controversial” topics or even just his charismatic success in ministry would unintentionally ruffle feathers and people would find any way to get rid of us. My parents’ desire to partner with the good and beautiful mission of the historic Church was regularly met with rejection because it wasn’t the “right kind” of good and beautiful according to some of the local congregants.

Growing up with this reality, church people became unsafe. I saw the way people gossiped and gave sideways glances to minorities and those who looked different than the majority. Still, my parents persisted. They endured more hardship from church people than most ministers I know because they love the Church and the call to care for those within and outside the Church. My parents’ ongoing faithful ministry in and through local congregations grew within me a deep love for the Church. However, as many queer Christians know, that love was not always reciprocated.

I’ve been following Jesus since I was six years old. From a young age my parents taught and modeled for me the truth of Scripture, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the significance of the Church. Even at the age of six, I knew that there could be nothing better than Jesus and the plans He had for my life. People told me over the years that my faith at such a young age couldn’t have been genuine, that I was just doing what I was told or that I was brainwashed. And I listened. I pondered my faith, wondered if it was real or if I was just simply doing it because I love rules and pleasing my parents. Ultimately, I realized that I did truly believe the truth of the Scriptures. I knew that God did love and care for me because I had seen Him provide for me and my family.

When I was twelve, my dad was a youth and children’s pastor at a church that did not allow their staff to be a part of the armed forces. My dad joined the military and was deployed to Afghanistan that year, and the church fired him. Our relationship with that congregation was destroyed. Simultaneously, I was coming to grips with my queer sexuality, gender dysphoria, dealing with abuse from a peer in another youth group, and essentially having to step in and parent my siblings as my mom dealt with deep depression. I was also convinced that telling anyone at that church or in my family about what I was experiencing would do even more damage to our family and my parents’ ministry.

But God, our rescuer, our redeemer, our restorer, sustained my family amidst this season. For many, this level of rejection by local congregations naturally leads to a rejection of God. Yet somehow, our faith was sustained.

My family needed community, friendship, spiritual and physical support. We may not have gotten it from pastors and members at the time we wanted it, but we always had it from God. And eventually God provided us with the tangible help we were looking for.

Today, I am in the very early stages of belonging at church number thirteen. I was scared and exhausted coming out of my last congregation. Yet the Lord provided for me in unexpectedly beautiful ways with this new group of believers.

Often when I share this testimony of God’s kindness I get looks of sympathy and people apologize for what happened. While I appreciate these things, that is not why I share. My story is a testament of how God is kind despite the hindrance of some people in the Church. I still love the people who in many ways have told me (and others like me) that I could not be the “right kind” of Imago Dei. I love the eight congregations my family ministered to that eventually turned around and threw us out once we had served our purpose.

I love the good congregations my family has been a part of, where I and my family experienced healing and restoration. I love the ways that God has used these people, these experiences, to draw me nearer to Him. And I love that despite all the hurt and anguish I and many others have experienced at the hands of parts of the Body, the Church is still God’s good and beautiful way of revealing Himself to a lost and broken world.

So don’t view my story as a tragedy. Rather, think of it as a psalm where the author laments for many passages, or maybe prays imprecations, but at the end the psalmist writes that God is good and praiseworthy.

Discover Equip’s vision for LGBT+ Christian thriving, read more stories of communities leading the way, and give today to help more churches offer LGBT+ people something more than just true at

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