If you've been told going to church and being gay don't mix, the Rev. Ray Bagnuolo will tell you otherwise. He's openly gay and he's a minister. He's also the chaplain and minister director for That All May Freely Serve, a Rochester, New York-based group that serves LGBT churchgoers and their families and advocates for them within the Presbyterian Church (USA). This Sunday, he'll lead the 10 a.m. mass at Old Stone Church. Bagnuolo hopes to inform members about the recent changes in the church and advocate acceptance. “I’m looking forward to having the ability to join folks in worship at the Old Stone Church,” he says.
Religious Roots: Bagnuolo grew up Roman Catholic. Once he realized he was gay, he struggled with Catholic doctrine and personally experienced some Catholics' lack of acceptance of the LGBT community. “This church that I grew up loving had these things they were saying to me that I didn’t quite understand,” Bagnuolo remembers. “I realized that I didn’t need to be in an abusive relationship with the church to be in a relationship with God.”
Positive Changes: In June, the Presbyterian Church voted to allow its pastors to perform same-gender marriages. “I’ve done a couple of marriages since,” Bagnuolo says, “and I’ve been able to say, ‘By the authority of the Presbyterian Church (USA).’” The church amended its constitution, defining marriage as between two people instead of between a man and a woman.
Hurdles that Remain: Although society has come a long way, Bagnuolo says, changing hearts and minds is often difficult. “A young man in college was outed,” he says. “His parents asked him if it was true, and he decided to say yes. Two days later they met him at his door with a shoebox. In the shoebox was his license, his insurance policy for the car and some other papers. They told him, ‘You’re no longer our son, you no longer live here, and you need to go now.’ That still happens and worse.”
Good Company: “Loneliness is the worst of all conditions, especially when you’re struggling,” Bagnuolo says. That All May Freely Serve has developed a grassroots network of supporters nationwide who are ready to help anyone who might be in need of a lending hand or a shoulder to cry on. “We say, ‘Find out what they need, make sure they know they’re not alone, and let them know that they are loved by God, whatever name God might be know to them.”