Martin said he formerly lived in Pauls Valley but moved to Norman several years ago after his immediate family rejected him because he is gay. He said leaving behind his church and family members was difficult.
“To be gay and be told by your church that you are less than, that you're not worthy of God's love, is a hard pill to swallow,” Martin said.
He said attending another church “was not on my to-do list” because of the rejection he had experienced. He said a friend suggested he try St. Stephen's and he has been a church member there for about four years.
“To find a place in Oklahoma that was welcoming was an oasis,” Martin said.
Venable said a St. Stephen's Sunday school class called Challenges and Choices initially became affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network, a network of United Methodist people, congregations, campus ministries and other groups working to create full inclusion of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Martin said the church is now celebrating its fourth anniversary as an open and affirming church and the church is now one of two Oklahoma City area churches affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network. Epworth United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City is the other Oklahoma City metro area church connected to the network. The Open Minds Class at First United Methodist Church of Tahlequah also is listed on the network's website as an affiliate.
Martin and Marilyn Nicely serve as co-chairmen of the St. Stephen's Reconciling Ministries Committee. Martin said as such, they worked closely with other church members and several students in an OU public relations media class to see the video project come to fruition.
The videos can be viewed on YouTube and the church's website. Venable said the series together has received about 1,800 hits and some of the single videos have had about 500 hits each.
She said people at one Minneapolis church saw the videos and said that the videos helped them decide to join the Reconciling Ministries Network.
Martin said he believes that the Lord opened the doors that connected him to St. Stephen's.
He said he is hoping the video series has the same affect for others in the community.
“Not too many faith communities are really talking about issues such as gay and lesbian issues,” he said. “We want to let them know on a personal level that there are resources out there for them and places in Norman that are welcoming.”
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