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Faith home, finally found

News | August 16, 2017

The very first time Ethan Bettis walked into St. Paul Lutheran Church, it was for worship on a Sunday morning one year ago.

The 17-year-old was there with Cheyenne Griswold, who encouraged him to come with her. Ethan, who is gay, was hesitant – he had actively tried to become a part of other churches, only to be rejected because of his sexuality.

His friend was not hesitant. She knew he would be loved and accepted at St. Paul for exactly who he is.

“She walked up to Andy Langdon (director of youth ministries), and said, ‘This is my friend, Ethan. He’s gay,'” Ethan said. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Ethan has jumped right into life at St. Paul – joining the mental health team on the NAMI walk, singing in the youth choir, attending worship, being a part of Sunday Night Live, presenting an adult learning session on Sunday morning about living out his faith through activism. Unfortunately, he just missed going on the youth mission trip last year…but made up for that this year.

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Ethan started to go to church when he was 10 years old. Life had taken some rough turns – his younger brother was diagnosed with cancer, and his grandfather died.

“I thought maybe since I wasn’t going to church, God was mad at me and gave my brother cancer,” he said. “I was angry at God, that this supposedly almighty and powerful being could let something horrible happen to a helpless child. “But we became closer as a family and avid church goers.”

As time went on, Ethan came to understand that he is gay. And as time went on, he found himself rejected by the people at two churches.

They said: “We don’t hate you, we hate your sin.” Ethan wasn’t quite sure what he was being told. “I was still trying to figure out this being gay and Christian thing. I eventually gave up on church and decided I could worship through the way I lived my life and didn’t need to attend a church to be considered a Christian.” But anyone who knows Ethan knows that community is very important to him. Then the invitation from Cheyenne came.

“I immediately fell in love with the entire place, the people, music, building. There are a lot of reasons we are drawn to and from God. I’m particularly in tune with welcoming (or unwelcoming) because of my sexuality. I was really wary of how people would react here at St. Paul, but when I found out the ELCA was an inclusive church, I was all in.”

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Ethan graduated this year from Pleasant Valley High School. In the fall, he will attend Scott Community College. He hopes to be a cardiothoracic surgeon someday, in honor of his grandfather who died when Ethan was 10. He also is interested in hospital administration. And, there might be a few people at St. Paul who are encouraging him to consider church work, too.

This summer, Ethan was one of the 118 people who ventured to Jonesville, Virginia, to help make homes warmer, safer, drier. He updated his friends and family about the work there on Facebook.

“This week… man oh man. It has been hard. It’s hard to be away from my family and animals. It’s hard to do work that I don’t know or want to do but I’m doing it because I need to. God says that humility is shown by not words but actions (1 Corinthians 12:7-10).”

And he is thankful for St. Paul.

“I’ve found a church that welcomes me. For years, I didn’t know how to be gay and Christian. What does it mean to be gay and Christian? It means I am a person searching for God. I am loved by God, redeemed by Christ.

“My sexuality doesn’t keep God’s love from me, but allows me to be embraced by a supportive community who knows I have value and worth as a person.” He then says a version of the blessing prayed at the end of each Sunday Night Live – St. Paul’s high school youth group: “I am a child of God, wholly and dearly loved. Jesus loves me and others do too.”

One comment on “Faith home, finally found”

  • Becky Morgan

    August 17, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    Yay, Ethan! I’m sorry I’m not there to meet you in person, but thinking of you from Washington State. What it means to be gay and Christian is the same as what it means to be of any sexual orientation and Christian. We just have to pray that others who have fears about sexual orientation–or about anything in another that makes them seem “different” and somehow scary–can find the love and strength to overcome their fears. The problem isn’t you, it’s the fearful other. All the best to you and for your future. And may you continue to be blessed by the St. Paul community as you continue your life journey.

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16“THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17“AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”