Pam Elliott is leaving the Christian organization Young Life, a group she has long loved, rather than turning her back on her friend’s gay son and the march toward equality for everyone.
Pam Elliott is leaving a group she loves rather than turning her back on her friend’s son and the march toward equality for everyone. She and her friend Joan Wilson have both been drawn into speaking out about their support of gay rights by other people’s rejection of those rights.
Wilson sent me a note about what happened last weekend in Snohomish, where she and Elliott live.
Elliott, who grew up in Snohomish, was a volunteer leader in Young Life, an international Christian organization for middle- and high-school students. It has a pretty big presence in the Snohomish area, and has since Elliott, who graduated from Snohomish High School 30 years ago, participated.
Saturday, they and a group of friends, who call themselves The Society of Lucky Mothers, “had a decoration-making party for the Pride Parade in Seattle on June 28th,” Wilson said. Elliott posted a photo of their work on Facebook.
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The photo showed the group with the rainbow-colored, tissue-paper flowers they’d made, which doesn’t seem like a biblical transgression to me.
But on Sunday, the Young Life area leader met with Elliott, who gave her a choice “between leading her high-school Young Life group or retracting the posting,” Wilson said.
The group accepts students regardless of sexual orientation, but it has different standards for adults. There was something about that in the contract Elliott signed a year ago, but she didn’t notice it, she said, or she wouldn’t have signed.
“I’m absolutely crushed because I love my Young Life work and my Young Life girls,” Elliott told me. She said she thinks highly of the organization and the other adults involved, but she can’t support their policy.
The policy bans sexual misconduct, which certainly makes sense, except for a couple of things. First, the policy says sex outside a heterosexual marriage would be misconduct. Second, Elliott isn’t accused of having sex with anyone, touching anyone, posting sexual photos, or anything like that. And she’s married to a guy. She was just supporting gay rights, and that apparently is not OK with Young Life.
I wanted to ask the local leader about that, but he sent my request to Young Life’s vice president for communications, who sent an email summarizing the policy. There’s been great momentum in the past few years toward greater acceptance of same-sex marriage. I asked him if there has been any internal discussion of that policy. He replied, yes, of course, but didn’t elaborate.
The march toward greater equality is a work in progress. And now two more families and their friends are part of it.
The Wilsons are Presbyterians, and that church has wrestled with the issue of same-sex marriage, recently changing its language to define marriage as between two people. During the national conversation that led to that change, the Wilsons’ church, First Presbyterian Church of Snohomish, asked her and her son Drake to speak to the congregation.
Drake, who’ll be a senior at Snohomish High School in the fall, had posted a YouTube video last summer saying he is gay. He’s a popular student, and the posting didn’t change that. He’s tennis-team captain, a deacon at his church and was recently elected student-body vice president.
When they spoke in February, the congregation was gracious, Wilson said, but during a discussion at church the next week a visitor said, “Homosexuality is wicked.”
That, Wilson said, “lighted a fire in me. I felt I needed to speak out.”
So she created The Society of Lucky Mothers, open to anyone who wants to celebrate LGBTQ young people. The parade will be their first event, and after that, they’ll march in the local parade for Kla-Ha-Ya Days.
That’s why they were making the rainbow flowers Saturday.
Snohomish is a small town, and the leaders and participants in Young Life are friends and acquaintances, so none of the three feels animosity toward them. Drake attended YL gatherings sometimes and said, “They’re great people. I don’t think they’re trying to be malicious.”
Both mothers shed tears talking about the situation.
“It’s time this policy is daylighted, and it’s time to change it,” Wilson said.
The Young Life vice president ended his email to me with this: “We are grateful for positive impact Pam Elliott has had with kids through Young Life. However, we fully respect her right to choose the organizations with which she wishes to align herself.”
We do all have a choice. He said the organization does not intend to judge or to be hurtful, but it does judge and it is hurtful. It made that choice, so Elliott made her choice.
“Love is love,” she said, and so she has added her voice to a movement, and she’s being cheered on by most of the girls in her group.
“I’m not a big activist,” Elliott said. “I’m supporting my friend. This is what we do for each other, we love each other’s kids like our own.
“It’s funny how something can tip you,” she said. “A week ago, if you’d told me I’d be talking to you and I’d have this on Facebook, I would have said no. But here I am.”
Progress is made not just by momentous events, but by people deciding to do what they feel is right. That’s what’s happening now in Snohomish.