As a deeply closeted gay man arriving for my freshman year, I was lulled into a feeling of safety where I came out to a small group leader about my “same-sex attraction.” I was immediately referred to Living Waters because it would help me “reach my heterosexual potential” if I completed the entire program. Much to my dismay, I was still attracted to the same sex after completing the 6 month process and was encouraged to just take it again if I didn’t experience the “healing” I was promised. I was afraid to open up again so I shared with almost no one for the following 4-5 years. Around 2019, a GPR worship leader reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join the team. After trialing (free labor) for a month, the leader decided I would be a great fit. In the conversation immediately following, I mentioned something about my sexuality in passing. The leader became very concerned and retracted their “yes” so they could think about me more. After another month of free labor, I was allowed on the team. When I asked the leader what their decision process looked like, they said they didn’t really know. I was bewildered but was happy to have a family to worship with. In early 2020, I was still on the team during the COVID lockdown/isolation stage. I was struggling deeply with my mental health while also asking new questions about my sexuality. My leader told me that I should confide in them and I could use them for accountability. After a morning confession regarding a rough night, I was brought into a side room meeting immediately after our set. I was told that my spiritual condition was not up to the standards to “serve on the platform” and that I was to be removed if I did not remove myself. I was deeply confused - wasn’t I doing exactly what I was told to do regarding my questions and struggles? My vulnerability was used against me and I was fired from my position as a GPR musician. My hopes of having some semblance of community and routine during COVID immediately fell apart and I entered one of the darkest seasons of my life grieving the loss of my job and “family.”

- IHOPU Graduate/Full-Time Staff2013-2020