My name is Jason Biel and I’m from Lacombe, Alberta.
I’m musician. I did my undergrad at a small Adventist university in Lacombe. It’s about as conservative as you can get. So while studying there, my organ professor, she gave me opportunities to perform quite often at the church there.
It was in 2014, during my last year of my undergrad there, that she asked me to come in to play. And it seemed like any other day. It was when the sermon started that things seem a little different. It wasn’t the usual head pastor who was doing the sermon. They had a chaplain from the university doing it.
The service started like any other – I played the prelude and the hymns and sat down. And the pastor got up to give his sermon. I can’t remember the exact topic, but it was along the lines of the address in Matthew 5, where people are told to be a light unto the world. And so it sounded like it would be okay. That’s usually a good message for people to hear because we were encouraged to to address the world as we see it, often not very positive, and to try to bring a message of hope.
When he started in referencing Leviticus 18, which is quite homophobic for lack of a better word, or perceived as homophobic, then I wasn’t really sure what to do. I was faced with a choice to sit, as everyone else does, as per usual, and listen to this message be delivered, or I could do something.
So I literally got up and walked out the door. The pastor didn’t know I was gay. Most of the church did not know either. I was in the back for a couple of minutes while he was still doing his speech.
And a couple of my friends, a couple of straight allies they were at that point, they came to the back to see if I was still there and say, “Hey, how are you? What are you going to – how’re you feeling about this? What’re you going to do with this? We can’t believe that he’s saying these things.” They convinced me to go back and finish the job and hopefully honor my professor in that way and not just bailing on them. It was a very emotional ending to a service. But once it was finished, and I went back into play.
I found out later on that a number of people in the service had noticed that I left. In particular, the head pastor noticed that someone got up at a fairly poignant time in the sermon. And so he decided to address that. It seems that, from what I’ve heard, the church community is becoming more open-minded, more accepting.
I learned that it is okay to walk out of a situation when it seems to be going haywire. I learned that we all have the capacity to get up. If you’re a kid who’s hearing these sermons, I’d say leave and find a community that accepts you. And find a community that encourages you and loves you. That’s what I did eventually.