Good afternoon, Nazarene brothers and sisters. My name is Kara Hudson, and I grew up in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru and Guatemala. We spent months in the United States between these countries, 6 to 12 months.
I learned about love from the students at the Nazarene Bible Institute in San George Rivas, Nicaragua, from the Vista Hermosa Church in San Salvador, from the church that began in our home in Lima, Peru. And for my dear friends at the zone 13 Church of the Nazarene in Guatemala City.
I learned from these folks that when we love each other, we greet one another with a smile, we look each other in the eyes. Our arms are open. We listen to one another. We reach out our hands to shake them and we kiss each other on the cheek. These experiences were very different from the experiences I had when I came to the United States. I was a stranger in this country. I didn’t know anybody and nobody knew me.
It was the Latin American church that taught me that love is alive with eyes, ears, arms and cheeks. It was personal. When the first Avatar movie came out, I liked how a blue creatures’ way of saying, “I love you” was “I see you.” I agree.
In 2022, my last Nazarene pastor approached me to ask me if I would be interested in telling my story for the anthology Why the Church of the Nazarene Should be Fully LGBTQ+, Affirming. It was the first time someone Nazarene had asked me of my experience. And 15 years had passed since my very difficult story had occurred.
First, I thought, I don’t know if I want to enter into a conversation with people who have so profoundly rejected me. But after a few days, I decided to be part of it because the truth matters. My essay is titled, “Scandalous Woman.” Then I called my mom, who had been the director of theological education by extension for Latin American pastors for decades. She decided to share how her heart opened. Her essay is titled “The Scales Fell Off.” Then I thought of my cousin who was sexually abused by her father, a youth pastor, and then she was rejected by her church for being queer. Her essay is titled “Queer for Life, Nazarene No More.”
I also invited a friend from years ago because she loves her queer son, her essay is called “Saved, Sanctified and Queer.” And I called a friend whose daughters were in our youth groups and came out later on. He explored, “what do I need to do with my theology to love my children?” Because he wasn’t going to stop loving his children. His essay is titled “Without Humility, The church will implode.”
And there were so many others, so many stories of special people, many of whom are no longer part of the Church of the Nazarene because of their biological identity or because they love their children. Their stories are difficult, painful, deep and sacred.
It appears I was not the only one who reached out to others who were rejected by the church. The number of essays exploded quickly in a few months. Soon, Thomas and Alexa Oord published the book just before the 2023 General Assembly.
At some point, a Nazarene District in Honduras found out about this “forbidden book.” They seemed to feel the authors of the essay shouldn’t have a voice. None of these pastors spoke English, and the book was published in English, and yet they decided to create a video condemning the content of the book without being able to read it.
It is so very important to be careful before forming an opinion. And opinion means that I know more than what another person states. But if I’m not willing to hear what the other person has to say, how do I know that I know more? That would mean I would have an opinion based on ignorance if that is the case.
It was then that I realized that the Latin American Church needed to know the very vulnerable content of these essays before forming an opinion. So, the book was translated and each essay was read. Every single one. We wanted the Church of the Nazarene in Latin America to have the opportunity to know what these essays were about before forming an opinion.
Each essay is the story of a person who has been harmed by the church for their biological identity, for wanting to speak on the topic, for loving someone who is LGBTQ+, for advocating for them, for disagreeing with the inhumane policies that the Church of the Nazarene has created for their members. These members are no longer allowed in the church for their identities or for their love of people who are LGBTQ+.
The church has sacrificed its own children.
We just finished recording every single video. There are over 90 of them, and they can be found in Spanish on our YouTube channel called “Nazarene Should Accept their LGBTQ+ Neighbors.” And there is a Facebook page called “Loving Nazarenes” in Spanish. We’ve closed down all the commentaries because we figured the authors had enough trauma already, and that’s why they are writing the story. We left open the scholarly articles where pastors, laypeople, and educators are welcome to communicate with each other and to dialog about what the scholarly articles are about.
All the authors who remain in the Church of the Nazarene and didn’t write anonymously have been targeted for simply asking questions as they look in the eyes of their children and brothers and sisters in the church. They are at risk for simply asking if it’s okay to talk less and listen more before forming an opinion or creating a church policy that does not listen, learn, nor love its own children in the church.
The church is sacrificing its own members over their identities.
Now, I had help from some precious people to read these videos. I wanted to mention each one of them with a grateful heart. This is a very big project. I offered each of them an opportunity to tell a little bit about themselves and their participation in this project. Some are willing to share more about themselves and others prefer their privacy.
I’d like to start with Charles Avando. Charles Avando is the son of Nazarene missionaries who served in Latin America. He was raised in the church and attended the Nazarene universities to achieve his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Although he is no longer a member of the Church of the Nazarene, he attends the Nazarene Church. However, he feels more comfortable in denominations that openly affirm LGBTQ+ affirming positions and with an active interest in social justice.
The next person I’m going to introduce you to is Cynthia Avando, and that would be Charles’s sister. Cynthia is an interpreter for an urban school district in California, where she serves as a bridge between languages and cultures. She provides access to multi-faceted, equitable, multilingual spaces to relatives, students, educators and specialists. She was rooted in a church, the Nazarene family in Colombia and Mexico. As a professor in two evangelical universities in California. She was an ally to various social justice causes, including the LGBTQIA+ even before she discovered herself was queer. Her Christian faith is embraced and shared in a church that affirms that every person is a divine creation loved by God, and nobody is excluded from this love.
The next person I am honored to introduce you to is Garnett Teakell. Garnett really honored this project with his biblical and theological knowledge and choosing to read his favorite essay, which happened to be “Grider’s Gridlock. Should We Honor his Life and Legacy?” As you know, Grider was a well-known theologian, professor at Nazarene Institutions for his love for marginalized people. However, he was rejected by the church in his later years for loving too much. Garnett also read the essay of their father and daughter, both ministers called “Knocking Down Doors.”
The next person I want you to know about is Nestor Hernandez. Nestor Hernandez says “I’m a third generation Nazarene. I was born in Puerto Rico. My dad has been an administrative minister since before I was born. I received a call to ministry through the church, the Nazarene, at age four and achieved my first minister’s license by age 17. I was the leader of the church at a local district and global level for over a decade. I have a lot of love for the Church of the Nazarene and it still has a very special place in my life. There are many Nazarenes around the world with whom I consider I to be family to this day. This is why I would love to see the Church Nazarene become a safe place for everyone to cultivate a relationship with the God of love in the Scriptures. Why am I involved in this project? I consider everyone who decided to be vulnerable and participate in this great book to be extremely brave. Being part of telling these stories has been a gift.” Nestor also helped us with the appearance of the YouTube and Facebook pages we created for these essays. He was so helpful for me as one with whom I could consult on the creation of these pages.
Sarah is amazing. She actually read 15 articles. I am so grateful for Sarah. She volunteered. She’s a Spanish teacher. She is amazing and she really was helpful. She says of difference and of diversity, “We embrace God.”
the next person is my mom, Sheila Mee. She says, “I was a well-respected Nazarene missionary for 25 years, serving primarily as a theological educator.” Like I said, “in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico due to spiritual growth and her healing and changes in my theology and my life. I left the denomination a number of years ago. I continue to have a deep appreciation and love for the good people in that part of my life.”
My mom took it upon herself to read all the scholarly articles except for two; Garnet read one, and I read another one. She felt a sense of real purpose and responsibility in being part of the change towards more love that is necessary in the doctrines and policies of the Church of the Nazarene. As she worked through the project she had a strong feeling about the harm the Church, the Nazarene has done in closing its heart to the more accurate biblical interpretations, medical science, and social sciences about the children of the church.
Steve Brown says, “I was born into the church Nazarene pastoral family who later became missionaries. Many fellow missionary families became my adoptive family and still are to this day. At a young age, when my parents were missionaries in Nicaragua, I felt very clearly that I was to become a pastor someday. I did become an ordained Nazarene minister and served for over 25 years in ministry. I filed and turned in my credentials two years ago after being inactive in any Nazarene church or ministry. Growing up in other countries has given me the desire to love and appreciate all people and all cultures. I never knew I was a gringo until I looked into the mirror. It was normal for me to be a chameleon and melt in with those I was around. So that’s why I felt it was good, easy to love and interact with people of all races, religions, LGBTQIA+, economic needs and so on. I also think of the Beatles song “All You Need is Love” putting the real stories of real people’s own journeys as LGBTQ plus in Spanish. Might just speak to someone who is in the Church of Nazarene or other denomination who needs to hear other stories and struggles. It is my hope that they will be encouraged that they are not alone. I have been given the gift of the Spanish language and I consider it a blessing to use it to help someone who may not hear these stories otherwise.”
So as you can tell, I am not a professional. These video essays are not professional. Our Spanish accents are not perfect. Sometimes we use an incorrect word and we make a mistake. Please forgive us. This is a work of love, and we appreciate your patience for our faults. We do it face to face, looking you in the eyes. We are not hiding from you.
Since we began creating these video essays, I’ve had various types of contacts by people. There are people who I once knew who appreciate the vulnerability and honesty found in the essays. They appreciate the contact and seek to recover the love and friendship we had before. They extend their hand and extend a hug and they hear us and listen, even if they don’t agree.
There are some precious people who have never been able to speak openly about the circumstances of being closeted in their families and churches in Latin America. They fear the judgments of condemnations of their family members and churches, and they tell me, finally, I’m able to speak about this with someone I knew in the Church of the Nazarene.
Others have communicated with me to ensure that I know if they condemn my desire to speak directly with them about this topic, they want to admonish me without even watching the videos. They offer dogmatic opinions without any knowledge of what we are offering them. Their eyes and ears are closed, but their voices are loud and their mouths are open. But we carry on.
I appreciate all those who watched our videos, watching and listening. We don’t demand that you agree with every author. We only offer you more information about a forbidden topic in the Church of the Nazarene. Enter this conversation with your eyes and ears open, hands extended in peace and in love with open hearts towards people who have been profoundly wounded
by the Church of the Nazarene. Every essay was written with great humility. Each author made themselves vulnerable before the church family and turned the light on in the home of their identity and their experience.
We invite you into our homes. You are welcome. And thank you for the privilege of your time.