Shamed: How Spiritual Abuse Contributed To My Son's Death

Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide

A kind, gentle, knowledgeable, and very socially conscious 16 year old boy arrived to join his circle of friends for a youth group prior to going on a mission trip. These kids and this place had been this boy's sanctuary from years of school bullying.

This group held a safe and sacred space for him as he experienced the laughter and joys of friendship.

But over the course of about a year, with the addition of a new conservative youth leader, a tension had been building between the youth leader and Ben.

The youth leader delivered a devotional. Sitting in the circle directly across from the youth leader quickly became excruciating. The topic was about the sin of homosexuality. After what probably felt like an eternity, I can imagine the breath of relief when the lesson finally came to a close.

The discomfort, however, did not stop. The spiritual leader, blurted out a strong attack: "You all know, we all know, that Ben is gay. Who here is comfortable being around him?"

Child by child, as each name was called, the leader required a response. The next question that was posed to each child in the circle was "Do you understand that Ben is going to hell?" Child by child, the leader pressured an answer.

Child by child, Ben's sanctuary was dismantled. 

Ben was told that he was not worthy of going on the mission trip. He had been shamed, humiliated, and betrayed. He was told that he did not deserve to be a part of the group—that he was no representative of God. 

Out of our front window, I saw the goldish colored Caviler abruptly whip into our driveway. Ben ran up the porch steps and stood in the doorway. One look and I knew something horrible had happened. The flushed sides of his cheeks quivered as did his lip. His breathing was rapid and his eyes just about to spill over. 

The church bus was loaded with Ben's friends to go on that mission trip while my betrayed and broken son walked alone around Salem Lake. He must have felt so very abandoned and isolated. 

While he never lost his compassion for others, I think that this was the day that he gave up on people and God. 

Our church was such a loving and supportive place, as it is now. We were crushed that our second home had been polluted with a vile and disgusting presence of hate and abuse. How could a place, with loving values, fail to protect our son and the other children in the room?

The other youth members had received the teachings that God is love and to have compassion, yet they were forced to participate in cruelty in the name God. Sadly, Ben was not surprised by the behavior of the youth pastor, but he was crushed that his friends left his side.

Ben later graduated from high school and became a student at the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA). Here, he finally found a community that practiced and promoted individuality. He loved it there. He had a shirt that said something like "Asheville, where weird is normal." His bumper stickers of "Books not Bombs," "Go Vegan," "Coexist," etc., no longer brought second looks.

This boy had found his place. We, our family, continued to want nothing to do with church, but we were so happy that Ben was happy and safe. He seemed to have soared above the experiences of his sad childhood.

I’ve observed something very powerful; each one of us yearns for our authentic selves to be expressed, seen, and celebrated.

Like water, we thirst for it, pleading: just let me be who God prepared me to be.

Some kids who are gay would give anything to have the love and acceptance of their family, and yet, they are rejected. What a painful empty space that is drilled into the heart. God, please hold that dear person and fill in the space with your love.

My son was fully accepted and cherished within his family. His being gay was just part of him. We loved him. Being gay is no different than my eyes are blue—they just are blue. Blue is not better or something that I chose, they are just blue. How could what was given by God be evaluated and judged? Sexual orientation is just no different than any other God given characteristic.

On May 8, 2013, at 12:20, I was at my work desk.

I received a call from a gentle but firm sounding officer who stated, “Ma’am you have not done anything wrong and you are not in trouble, but I need to speak with you. You need to come home." I journeyed home to find my fingers fumbling through my wallet to retrieve my license. My identity was verified and recorded, and the gentle man asked:

"Ma’am, I need to verify that you have a son in Asheville." Yes. "I am sorry ma’am, your son is no longer with us."

Quickly I was given the phone to answer questions from the medical examiner. "Ma'am, I am so sorry, but I need to ask, has your son suffered mental health problems, substance abuse, or self-harm?" No, nothing, I don’t know of anything like that.

The Resident Assistant had found Ben in a fetal position on the floor of his tiny dorm room during the end of semester room check. Twenty-one year old, William Benjamin Wood chose to end his life. I yearned to know why, when did his nirvana leave him? I learned from his friends that Ben was no longer doing so well in school. His grades and attendance had nosedived. He just couldn’t get motivated.

As it goes with depression, the things that you love most no longer matter.

His friends said that his greatest fear was the thoughts of having to move back to his hometown and getting stuck there with no way out. He understood that without being in school, he had no way to "be" in Asheville.

What amazing power love or rejection can hold over us. Even though he had been wrapped in the warmth of love in his family home, he would rather die, than come back to the community of his pain. It horrified him.

I have been asked if I think what happened to Ben at church caused his death by suicide? My heart felt response is "no." With depression comes distortions, confusion, and then hopelessness. But I do, with all my heart, believe that the outcome would have been different if he had not suffered humiliation, betrayal, rejection, and shame.

Yes, shame—shame for being the beautiful creation God made Ben to be.

Did this experience strip him of his faith in God and humanity? Yes. This experience may not have taken his life, but it most certainly did not help save it.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) has a Book of Discipline that states "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." Now, I have a question. Did this youth pastor behave in or out of the culture created by the words in the United Methodist Book of Discipline? I think he behaved in line with our Book of Discipline. ("Sin," "unworthy," "undeserving," "not comfortable around you," "going to hell"—words that delivered the message that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching!)

I however, do not believe that the UMC would knowingly sanction such ignorance and abuse. Of course, no one intended for this to happen, and many people have grieved for my Ben. Still, our Methodist messages are contradictory and confusing.

"Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds"—but our message is that a gay person does not measure up to Christian teachings? This confusion opens the door to hurtful situations. 

We must help others understand that words are incredibly powerful instruments for love or hate.

Even those voted on and written in the Book of Discipline create cultural norms and expectations with said and unsaid parameters for behavior. 

We have to make good come out of this suffering. There is progress being made, yet even here in North Carolina, the laws show regression. It’s time to make a change. This is our commission.

We must power the wave that creates a paradigm shift that brings understanding in the church, our state, and our world. We are all beautifully and carefully woven together in our mother’s womb. Celebrate who you are in God. We are the masterpiece of the Divine Creator. Clothe yourself in the love of God and never let ignorance cut through to you.

Each of us has experienced rejection. When the people of Japan mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. 

They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.

You ARE a divine and beautiful masterpiece.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also visit The Trevor Project or call them at 1-866-488-7386.

Originally posted by Reconciling Ministries Network

Comments (67)

I am so sorry for your and our loss. I have no doubt that by sharing his story, you have saved a life. Thank you for your courage and your lovely spirit. Hugs to you and your family.

What a debt I feel that I owe to Ms. Wood for her courage and words of grace. I'm guessing (and I hope) in writing them and sharing them publicly she felt that was was being the person God created her to be. It seems clear to me that God has visited the darkness of her life, her sorrow, and now light shines from that corner upon the rest of us. Blessings to Ms. Wood. May she and all who knew and loved be comforted with the resurrection promise.

Thank you for sharing such a painful story. I pray that all who call themselves believers in Jesus will return to compassion and love.

I just keep looking at his picture...what a sweet face. This just made me so sad. I'm so sorry.

I'm so very sorry for your loss. No one should have to go through this. My family rejected me, but I did find love to fill that void in my chosen family in another city. I think the world can change, voice by voice, and you are contributing to that. You're making Ben's death mean something, bringing joy and healing from the pain, and I can't express how amazing that is. Thank you for sharing this. I'm not a Methodist, I'm not even a Christian, but your message of love and acceptance is beautiful. Peace.

I am so sorry for your loss, and so sorry for what Ben suffered at the hands of supposed Christians. What pain and anguish has been wrought in the name of Jesus! The same Jesus who loved Ben even more than you did, if you can imagine. The only positive is that Ben is safe from all that prejudice now and wrapped securely in God's love, as are you. I'm sure writing Ben's story was incredibly painful, but hope that it reaches and changes at least one person's heart. Peace and blessings to you and your family.

What people do in the name of religion really scares me. It scares me that it is ending youths who do not fit in with them. It is a shame. Religion, I am glad I didn't grow up with it. I found a Spiritual Me. It shows no hate. It is love. I am sorry, again, for what people do in the name of religion and hope that they can see in their heart what they have caused. My tears go out to Ben for what he went through, hopefully people will open their eyes. My heart goes out to his Family. Religion cannot bring Ben back but the love they have for him cannot end and that they cannot take away.

I think we humans have evolved to where we try to understand and make sense of the world. Religion and this whole "God" concept is a part of this evolutionary process. But in doing so, we can be so very short-sighted, narrow-minded, intolerant, bigoted, and unloving. This is a very painful part of the evolutionary processz and I sure wish we would speed it up! I have seen so many of my friends, former students, etc., abused, unloved, and even committing suicide because of their maltreatment. God...who is this "God"? Maybe we too often look upward toward the sky when "God" and love are really all around us. That Christ-like consciousness is what matters....love matters most.

I think we humans have evolved to where we try to understand and make sense of the world. Religion and this whole "God" concept is a part of this evolutionary process. But in doing so, we can be so very short-sighted, narrow-minded, intolerant, bigoted, and unloving. This is a very painful part of the evolutionary processz and I sure wish we would speed it up! I have seen so many of my friends, former students, etc., abused, unloved, and even committing suicide because of their maltreatment. God...who is this "God"? Maybe we too often look upward toward the sky when "God" and love are really all around us. That Christ-like consciousness is what matters....love matters most.

This story is painfully familiar to me. I was 17 when my youth pastor found out I was lesbian. He forced me out of leadership, worship, I couldn't sit next to, talk to or pray with the same sex. I was prayed over, forced to the altar and into counseling within the church. Every day I cried and prayed for God to please change my heart if it was such a sin. A short time after, my youth pastor pulled me aside and told me I had to tell my parents. I was scared and not ready to tell them but if I didn't then they would have. Even though my parents were supportive I felt like the God I knew, that was loving kind caring and so much more HATED me and was sure I was going to hell. I stole my father's gun, took it to church with me with the decision to end my life where I had been devastated, humiliated and embarrassed. I paced back and forth that night outside of my church, pulled the gun from my waistband when a man I did not know came outside and told me he felt he needed to be out there. He could see the tears streaming down my face but I could not bring myself to tell him why I was in so much pain and what I was planning to do. Before I knew it he had me in his arms grabbed the gun and held me as I collapsed. I knew that night God had saved me but wondered why when I was such a mistake. It has been 15 years since I've step foot into a church and have struggled with depression, cutting, suicide attempts and my relationship with God. I have searched for answers as to WHY I am lesbian but have come up with nothing other than I just am. I did not wake up one day and choose this lifestyle just as heterosexuals did not choose there lifestyle. They just are!!! It is hard for me to believe that people who call themselves "Christian" can judge so quickly hate so deeply. Today I am working on my spirituality and relationship with God. It is not easy but I want to trust that God loves me regardless of who or what I am. I am so very pained by your son's death and anyone else who has lost a child or sibling because of people's ignorance. God is love NOT hate so how can you live your life with your head held high knowing you are full of hate and judgment??? My prayers are with you and your family thank you for sharing your sons story it truly gives me a bit more hope that God still loves me!!!

Sara, This breaks my heart for you. I am so very sorry and what a powerful message you have. Your words show me how very wise you are to be able to sift through all of the garbage and get to the truth. :)

My heart breaks for you. I also came to know that I was a lesbian while I was in school but in my case I experianced a lot more acceptance. Although there were times when I just didn't get invited to parties or really had many close friends but I was happy at school and at church in fact everything went very well until I married my love. Scine then the chruch doen't want me. But at least I know Jesus loves me. If you would like to make contact I'm on facebook

Sarah, you ARE loved by God. He loves the person he created in you. I too am lesbian and have been welcomed totally by my Disciples of Christ congregation. They support and encourage me in my seminary journey and have chosen me to serve as their associate pastor. This is a congregation of mostly seniors and a few young families. No one bothers to ask or identify others according to their sexual orientation. We are a small group, but mighty in love for Christ and ALL persons he has created in his image. May God bless you with peace of mind and the security of knowing he loves you beyond measure!

I'm glad you're still with us Sarah. I am an atheist because I was raised by devout christians and knew nothing but abuse, not by them but by people in churches, even the church pre-school and the private christian school. If you must cling to religion then you should know that you aren't a mistake or sinful. You were made this way. Don't hate yourself, others who hate you are ignorant and they are the ones who have been taught bad things. Jesus, the "Christ" they are supposed to be pattern themselves after would NEVER hate you. I also believe that the bible was translated so many times that some of the translators put their own little biased spin on it. I hope you find peace and happiness Sarah!

I am so sorry you have had to go through so much. I know you are an amazing and strong person for having survived. I have never understood how people who are supposed to worship God question what he has made. God does not make mistakes, mankind does that. The shame is not in what God made you it is in the behavior of these hatemongers. One day they will be held responsible for what they did to you and so many others. God loves you just the way he made you. I hope you have a joyous life and help others with your story and strength.

Just a small comment - gay is not a lifestyle, a style is made and is a choice, being human is being alive weather straight/gay/bi. Being a mean or a good person is a choice, being a fashionista/hipsters is a lifestyle.
Bless your life, you are loved, only one sperm won the battle over thousands others :). Only if you can accept and love yourself then the love of God will flow.

Hey Sarah - I was just as saddened reading your story as Ben's. I too have sat through all the "hate" speech of sermons and the like as LGBTQ people are put down as evil, sinful, sick or perverse and of course on our way to hell as well. However, that is all a TOTAL misapplication of the scriptures. God does love you and He created you the way you are. The only requirement of our awesome salvation in Christ is to believe on Him. Nothing else! He's done it all. He is the Way to the Father. As someone who believes you are God's beautiful daughter. Why did He create you as a lesbian? Because He chose to - there is no other reason. Is there any condemnation by Him of you? Of course not. I spent the last five years studying the "clobber" passages with people who are experts in the languages and cultures of ancient times - these passages are dealing with very specific types of sexual activity that even we as gay Christians would be appalled by too. So know that God loves all His LGBTQ children as equally as any others, that He does not condemn us in any way and that He wants us too to live full lives loving Him and loving the others in our lives (even when they may hate us for who we are!). My prayer is that you will know God's love powerfully in your life today.

This makes me angry. I know more godly homosexuals than some heterosexual Christians. What a shame his church made him feel so unworthy. I despise organized religions because of situations like this. Their all loving god makes them so hateful in some cases. What a senseless loss. Shameful...

I have a young son who, we suspect, is gay. Like you, it really doesn't matter to us. I was raised UM, in fact I have been the choir director at several UMC's. However, we have not been attending a church in years, for this very reason. I can not put my son in a place where he would be made to feel shame over who he is. I have seen too many "Evangelical" UMC leadership, in the South, who have the attitude that your sons youth leader has. I even had to sit on the platform, whole a pastor preached against homosexuality, and then lead the congregation in a hymn. My heart hearts for you, my heart hurts for our churches. I pray that God works on the hearts of our church leaders, and that no one has to endure what your family has. God bless you, for telling your story.

It's that youth leader who's on his way to hell, in my opinion.

I am so sorry Ms. Wood. I have a sincere and hard question. Knowing the Bible, your Churches book of discipline and the likely hood that your son was in an environment that made it just a matter of time before he would have to wade through your Church's gay immolating sponsoring of ignorance in the guise of love and truth, how and why did you find your self lingering and supporting such a system? Klosterboer, Death by depression brought on by social ostracism is real. Your resurrection promise is a fairytale. The one thing that is real about the resurrection promise is that life keeps happening, not us and our beloved ego just life. This is an amazing thing, but someone told us to see it as nothing. A fairytale told us it wasn't enough. If we can add trove to life, we've done something. Truth and love are one thing and unable to live without each other. Why do we persist in beliefs that kill and are based on neither empathy or reality? We do it for a feeling and because someone we trusted told us it was true. And we do it because we are afraid of social ostracism.

Hi Howard,
You bring up a good question. This particular church was always accepting and affirming until the addition of this new youth leader. He actually came from another conservative back ground and just should have never been there. When this happened, there was a huge confrontation and we and many others left. That youth leader eventually left. We decided to go back within this past year after being away for 4-5 years. What happened was not characteristic of this congregation. It just highlights the need to safeguard and continue to challenge these very sick beliefs. I feel such a conflict. I have some feelings of protecting this church because of all of the good and how good the church was to Ben up until it wasn't. But I am mad as hell that my son was treated this way. You've heard the saying that one rotten apple can ruin the basket? Even when I think of that man, and how closed he was, I fight hard not to hate. I have to understand that he is a victim of something to have formed the belief system he has. I want lie, it is hard, but if I can't have some empathy, then I am being just as judgmental. We just have to bring change. I'm sorry that you have had to deal with the ignorance of others. So often, these beliefs seem to just feel some sad ego need. We need to keep working together.

If you do not believe in life after death, Howard, that is your choice. But to dismiss Mrs. Woods'--and others'--hope of reuniting with her son in the realm of spirit is cruel. You also seem to blame her for remaining in a religion whose Book of Discipline is misguided. How do you think this organization will change if it is abandoned by those whose personal experience can be the catalyst? She is not to blame for her son's despair. She is as much a victim of that ignorant, misguided youth "minister" as her son was, and those other poor youth who must now feel so guilty about having been led to bully one of their peers.

I am very sorry for your lose.
I grew up in the UMC. I remember them teaching that being gay was a sin. I myself is gay, and went though a tough time as a teenager and an adult. Bulled at school, being called faggot, fat, the list goes on and on.
I knew as a child I was attracted to boys. But that was unacceptable in the church. So I figured it was a teen thing and would go way. I got married at 20yo. Had my first child at 21, the next at 23. By the time I was in my mid 30's I was depressed, confused, and ready to end it all. I sat for a long time thinking about it, and finely decided to deal with myself being gay. But I didn't come out until I was 40yo.Where I got thrown from the closet .
I wish the church would except people for people and let GOD judge your sins (because we all sin) I do not believe that GOD made you this way just to send you to hell. He made everybody different to love and be loved.
I love my life now. And wish I had had someone to talk to as a kid.
I do believe your son will be waiting for you in heaven because he has already been though hell.

Please publish the name of this youth "leader". Not to shame him or retaliate, but because people need to know NEVER to hire him. His privacy does not outweigh youth safety.

As a UMC pastor of nearly 18 years, I am of the opinion that the youth minister did NOT act in line with (or in the culture of) the Book of Discipline. All of our theological disagreements are calls to prayer and dialogue--never to abuse and hate. Mrs. Wood quotes our Book of Discipline. Please read the entire paragraph before deciding if the youth director truly acted in line with the UMC. http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=5066287&...

No, he acted in line with the culture of homohatred, of vilification, or bigotry, of fear, ignorance, shame, and disgust that has been the legacy of homo-hating Christianity for the past 1950 years. Were you at the recent Methodist conclave, where once again the rhetoric of conservative christianity drowned out the voice of reason and progress? do you EVER listen to what so many Christians have to say about their gay brothers and sisters? You're just engaging in the "no true Christian" fallacy, justifying as god's holy word what cannot be justified by any other means.

By their fruits shall you know them. someone said that. Matthew 7:16.

rotten theology produces rotten fruit. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' How many hundreds of thousands of women were tortured and killed because of that little bit of rotten theology? And for a crime we now know cannot be committed because it doesn't exist?

The same is true for antigay theology. How many kids have committed suicide because of antigay theology? Google bobby Griffiths. How many gay lives have been wrecked or destroyed because of antigay theology? Two boys were judicially murdered in iran a few years ago for their horrible crime. TWO BOYS! How many African children could have been fed for the40 million squandered by catholics and Mormons in the prop. 8 fight?

Rotten theology produces rotten fruit.

Chris, I read the section you provided the link for, and I believe that youth pastor violated the section regarding keeping the members "human and civil rights ensured," and should be disciplined immediately, if not sooner.

Thank you for your beautifully written message. I, like so many others, are so sorry for your loss and for the misguided and horrible cruelty inflicted on your son and others in the name of God. ( A God whose unconditional love they very obviously do not grasp at all.) I am a United Methodist pastor and encourage you to keep telling your story; a story people so badly need to hear. May God open the eyes and heal the hearts of those who make up his church, that we might become the Church we were intended to be; a church that loves and heals and accepts and encourages in the name of the Christ who showed us that way.

Thank you for sharing this painful story. This is how change happens, a little at a time, often through hearing personal experiences like this one. I've been in and around the LGBT community for many years, in a large city where there is little or no stigma to having a same-sex partner. If I had to guess, I suspect that youth pastor was just a little too focused on the issue and that he himself was working through something. But ultimately, as you say, the words spoken to your beautiful son were, technically permissible. The church can put restrictions on abuses of this kind without endorsing a same sex relationship. It's obvious that a place supposing to espouse love an support (the church) cannot permit anyone to intentionally exclude, demean, berate or humiliate any person, for any reason. A church that can't buy off on those simple guidelines has nothing to do with God.

Not all Methodist Churches are like that. At my church we have had gay young people and never has there been a word against them in the name of God or otherwise. I myself believe that God made this beautiful young man and he loved him as he made him - gay or otherwise. It is part of his being and he was born that way. Most of the gays I know are far nicer than the straights I know and make very good parents and families. My prayers to him and your family. Don't put all churches and Christians in one category, we are all very different.

Why not name the so-called leader? if4iQ

I also grieve for your loss. But I do take issue with some of what you said: "Being gay is no different than my eyes are blue—they just are blue. Blue is not better or something that I chose, they are just blue. How could what was given by God be evaluated and judged? Sexual orientation is just no different than any other God given characteristic." Would you say the same for alcoholism? Or how about being born deaf or with Down's syndrome? Should such things be celebrated simply because someone is born that way? Or can we recognize that sin has so marred the human race that we are affected even at birth and to our very genes. And there clearly is a behavioral element to homosexuality- one can choose to act on those urges or not, so that no one is without excuse. I cannot celebrate or call God-given anything that Scripture calls sinful. I am sorry.

Andy, not all Christians and Jews believe homosexuality is a sin. Many millions believe it is nothing more than a normal variant of sexuality, found in humans and in most animal species. Does that mean those people ignore scripture? Not at all. For myself, I have more than 30 years experience working with the Hebrew and Greek texts of Scripture. I have found that vernacular translations of the Bible from the early 17th century to the present say a whole lot more about homosexuality than the Hebrew and Greek texts do. Naturally, it shouldn't be that way. But sadly, translators of the same period have a history of "adjusting" scripture to bring it into harmony with church doctrine and/or popular religious opinion.
What little the Hebrew and Greek do say about homosexuality cannot be considered negative. Many Christians would be surprised to know that two same-sex marriages are recorded in the Hebrew Old Testament.

Andy, then you are no better than the youth pastor who degraded this child and caused his later suivide. God forgive you for being a small minded, hateful bigot. I have worked with organizations, like PFLAG, who take in the gay children who are disguarded by their "christian" parents. We have to find them food, clothing, and a place to stay so thay they can continue attending school. Shame on you for make it necessary for these organizations to exist, to take care of the young people you no longer deem worhty of your or God's love. Can you deny your heterosexual urges? Do you think that Gay people should be alone all of their lives, to be righteously lonely and isolated. Remember, the bible not only doesn't condemn slavery, but it instructs one how to get, maintain, and treat one's slaves. Just because it's in the Bible, not not mean it is good theology. I hope you do not have a child who is gay, and if you do, I hope that they may find love and solace elsewhere.

Andy, YES we should celebrate how a person is born. No one is born alcoholic, but Deaf people or other disabled people can find joy in life. Being gay is as simple a difference as eye color, not a disability. Keep in mind that the Scriptural references are influenced by (1) homophobia during the King James era, and more (2) the sacred role of gays in some of the pagan religions in Biblical times - causing them to be specifically targeted.
I am personally grateful that I had left the Lutheran church before recognizing myself as lesbian, and I came out into a supportive environment (with tolerance from my parents).
I would like to see this "youth minister" not merely fired but charged with a crime, or perhaps civilly sued for the injury he did both to Ben and to other young people. I wouldn't ask it of his mother, but maybe there's someone willing to take it on - the church?

This story just broke my heart. That youth group leader should have been immediately removed from his position. There is no excuse for what he did. If he is still in any kind of position around kids, he will probably do more harm.
I also endured spiritual abuse in my late teens. I had a pastor who, under the guise of counseling, systematically destroyed any sense of self-worth I had, and tried to convince me I was going to take my own life. I almost did. And when I didn't, he tried to blackmail me. People like that have no business in ministry. They are tools of Satan.

the youth minister of the group should be dealt with severly .He has no right to judge others as were all created equal in God's eyes and he loves us all. this is also a case of Bullying.being gay myself what should be done to him I cannot be published so am leaving this up to God for his punishment.

I grieve for your loss also. My parents had 8 children, 7 boys and 1 girl and they have all been very excepting, and they have been my support through good and bad. My parents also. I just can not understand the behavior of the person responsible for treating your son that way in his hometown, and i guess if it was me i would not want to go back there either, but anyways my prayers are with you and your family. And i will make sure my church going and non church going friends and family have u in there prayers also. God bless you and your family, and just know your son is still with us and helping other young gay youths in one way or another. I wish there was more i could do or say, but i do think that leader needs to be repremanded

Andy, you SHOULD be sorry. There is nothing remotely loving about coming here and torturing a grieving mother with the same kind of fundamentalist bigotry and bad theology that contributed to the suicide of her son. That's simply evil. Repent.

For the record, there is NO legitimate interpretation of the Bible that would suggest that the *orientation* of being gay is a sin. One can certainly make an Bible-based argument that the actual practice of homosexuality is a sin, but the orientation itself? No. At worst, it's temptation.

But it's the orientation that the youth leader humiliated Ben over, and it's the orientation that you've just thrown into his mother's face. See, this is how we know that your issue with gay people is not based on anything to do with Christianity, but rather on simple, garden-variety animus.

I am heartbroken for your loss. Thank you for having the courage to share your story.

did the chuch ever reach out to you after your sons death.

Judith the word BUT negates any idea that you grieve for this Mother's loss. The words you wrote after the word but add to her grief. Jesus was compassionate and taught compassion . Your words spread hate. You collude with those who abuse and bully gay and lesbian youth. Your words support child abuse in the name of God.

I'm so sorry for your loss and the judgement passed by those so unfamiliar with Christianity but profess to be experts. I didn't judge your son. I AM the Church. I try very hard (sometimes I fail) not to be the Judge who I am NOT. Everyone one of us has had judgement passed upon us and from my experience, it's a painful seat to sit in. I am not a bible thumper. I believe there's one judge. I use instead discernment, which tells me to love Ben. Please do not confuse those who condemned Ben with Christianity or the Church. They are neither and very mistaken. I'm discerning that they, themselves, will be Judged by the One who holds that hat. Many sorrow, I understand. May you come to know a loving God who received Ben into His hands so lovingly.

My heart goes out to you for your loss. My preacher says religion is the worst thing man ever did to God. Jesus words and teachings are being lost in politics and opinions. This saddens me so much when such awful results come from such distortion. As Christians the words of Jesus is our priority we are ALL Gods children we are all loved. Jesus cleaned us of our sins so if God sees homosexuality as a sin (only for Him to say) fact is a sin is a sin is a sin in Gods eyes and Jesus has taken the punishment for that sin so do you lie? Are you rude? Do you ignore a homeless man? Are you married but take a second glance at that girl passing you? Our sins are plenty who are any of us to judge. God judges us all and gave us Jesus to save our wretched bottoms! Church needs to focus on God love for us all and what Jesus truly said not mutate in personal opinion. God bless you!

It doesn't surprise me that the same group of people who preach love display hate. We are to be Christ-like no matter our circumstances and that group "leader" (I use that word loosely) did not display any Christ-like characteristics. Christ himself never treated anyone with such malice, cruel, hatred and abusive words or actions. Being a gay man and being in a similar circumstance I understand fully what your son must have felt and what was going through his head. I'm so sorry for your loss. The world lost a beautiful, loving and caring young man. I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!

How can this youth leader, who was so bad to Ben, can live with this deed in the future? He did not kill him with a weapon, but he killed him with the words full of discrimination. He acted as a Inquisitor and he did not respect Ben´s feelings.

In my opinion, the spiritual leader is a wrong person to guide children. He is himself full of weeknes and he should no longer be in care of thes boys he is responsable for. Leadership means to me to encourage and to coach those who need help and respectfull friendship.

The spiritual leader, who made Ben so much sorrow, had no moral behaviour.

Please know that I sympathize deeply with you. I have been a former member of the UMC and not all UMC churches are intolerant. Most denominations have strong hierarchies and until these false "gods" are torn from their thrones, things will not change. FORTUNATELY, times are changing and the hierarchies are being challenged and they are losing! That's the good news! The youth minister mentioned in this article certainly wasn't a Christian minister in the last. But some hateful, bigoted people do slip between the tracks!

I saw this morning a post that said "Buddha was not a Buddhist. Jesus was not a Christian. Muhammad was not a Muslim. There were TEACHERS who taught LOVE. LOVE was their RELIGION."

It's a shame that doctrine of MAN distorts and twists the true word of God.

I have a friend who is in the first stages of creating a project to create a documentary on gay men and youth and faith. How are they treated? What is their experience? What is their advice. I'm so proud of him.

I'd like to know the name and address (etc) of that youth leader. At a minimum, that scum should be publicly shunned, ostracized, never allowed near children again...any children, ever. And that's at a minimum.

I applaud your courage in writing this, and I'm so sorry for your son's sorrow and his passing. I hope the offending youth leader is educated by this tragedy and that others will be less afraid to disagree with "authority" figures in the future.

As tragic as the death of this young man is, the emotion of it can not disguise wistful thinking or attempts to dismiss the clear and overwhelming Christian consensus historically, theologically and, yes, biblically. I recognize that this claim will not get a fair hearing here, and the amount of red herrings and ad hominem attacks only underscores my point. Rev William traffics in the absurd when he claims that "What little the Hebrew and Greek do say about homosexuality cannot be considered negative. Many Christians would be surprised to know that two same-sex marriages are recorded in the Hebrew Old Testament." Even GLBT advocate seminary professor Walter Wink had the honesty to admit that "where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. The issue is precisely whether that biblical judgment is correct." In other words, the underlying issue is the authority of Scripture and our obedience to it.

Thank you for sharing your incredibly painful story. The death of your child is an unbearable pain, and I hurt for you and yours more than I can say. I teach at a Methodist school and will try to find a way to incorporate your son's life and spirit into my lessons; perhaps help his legacy to live on. God be with you.

I'm so sorry for your loss. He looks like such a sweet young man. So so sad. God bless you.

Andy, sadly your bigotry is clear - setting aside your attitudes to homosexuality, you say 'would you say the same about someone who is born deaf or with downs syndrome?' Are you suggesting that people born deaf or with downs syndrome have not been made as God wanted - that they are somehow less acceptable to God? People with disabilities of any kind can enjoy their lives and give so much back - they are not to be pitied or seen as an example of punishment for sin. Shame on you.

i am sorry for your loss.

do not be surprised that the UMC does this. my sanctuary, my peace, was a church under auspices of the UMC.

when my best friend's husband, a man of the congregation, assaulted me the short version of what happened is that i have a letter from the UMC district superintendent telling me it's none of their business that i got thrown out of the church after what happened to me.

So sorry for your loss. My heart aches for you, and for Ben.
Thank you for putting your energies towards changing these attitudes that are so harmful to and disconnected from the reality of the inherently valuable, and beautiful souls that simply stand out as "other" in any community today.
Love and peace to you.

Julie, your son is such a beautiful, beautiful soul. It radiates in that picture. I can't even imagine the pain you must feel with this loss. It is incomprehensible. Please know that the world is changing. It is changing because of the courage of people like you and Ben. I have started having talks with my 10-year-old son about homosexuality and, how like you said, the difference is only like the difference between blue and brown eyes. I will read your blog post with him so that he can carry your message out into the world.

My heart breaks for you and I can't imagine what you go through every day. Perceptions need to be changed. I recently joined a movement called the Charter for Compassion. (www.charterforcompassion.org)It's a worldwide grassroots movement and it basically states that any scripture in any religion is deemed null and void if it does not contain love and compassion. Hopefully if we raise awareness about some of the lack of love and compassion that exists in some of the major religions, we can help people to see differently.
We are attempting to get this across the entire nation to mainly just help people see the error in some thoughts.
Again I truly thank you for having the courage to write this

I am so sorry for your loss, what this pastor did was NOT Jesus , ...Jesus taught love and compassion..when will we go back to love and compassion. Someone should of stood up for him, but most kids are taught not to argue or talk back with adults, but parents need to teach their kids their IS a exception to the rule. Again I am so sorry,May his soul rest !

I am sorry for what you are going through. Loosing a child is something one never cease to overcome.

My opinion is that religion only intends to separate us creating this rules that has nothing to do with true spirituality. True spirituality only knows that we are all ONE and that gender or preferences are of NO importance whatsoever since spirit has none. I believe that religions should not be seen as spiritual guides since they have no clue what spirituality is.

The world needs more experienced loving speakers like yourself to pass on these teachings to others' my heart goes out to you and your family and always know that Ben is of pure love right at this moment and I believe without a doubt guiding you to go out and speak about this..hugs to you

Truly why the body of christ disgusts me. They eat their own and call it love. Sickens and saddens me

Andy, I disagree with you wholeheartedly. My son, also named Ben, is also gay, and it breaks my heart that he has to go through life wondering every time he meets someone new, whether they will accept him just because of his sexual orientation. Yes, he was born that way, just like he was born with brown eyes and brown hair. THAT is the way God made him, and I cant imagine a God who would make someone gay and then condemn them for it! And why should he have to be alone? Because some book that some men wrote a few thousand years ago said so?? The ten commandments dont even mention being gay, but I do recall that the bible clearly states that thou shalt not judge.

I am so sorry for your loss. This is sick and should never happen to any family. My mom had to walk out of a church for being condemned as a sinner for being an adulterer because she was divorced and dating. Please don't allow this to happen to anyone you know no matter who you believe in. I can't beieve the God that I believe in would want anyone to go to hell for being gay. Gays people cannot help who they are. Shame on society for thinking that. My Aunt is gay and I am very PROUD to say she is my aunt. I love her the same as I do my aunt that is married to my uncle. It is and should be what is in the person's heart! This world really needs to start rethinking their morals and values.

Thank you for every other great article. Where else may just anyone get that kind of
info in such a perfect approach of writing? I have a presentation next week,
and I'm at the search for such info.

Clearly,the UMC is not a truly Christian church. They present themselves as being all about love, when in reality, they promote hatred. Would Satan have his followers wearing pentagrams? Of course not; he has his followers wearing crosses, claiming love, and promoting hatred.

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