Invited by a coalition of UIndy Pride and UIndy Interfaith, Pastor Darren Chittick of The Church Within spoke about his experiences as a gay pastor growing up in Indiana. Student leader of UIndy Interfaith and junior human biology and pre–physical therapy major Caryn Kiel introduced Chittick to the crowd.
“I will start by saying, for me, this is the weirdest thing to talk about,” Chittick said. “Of all the things that I’m doing in my life, of all the things that are happening in the world, this seems like a thing that I wish I didn’t need to talk about. However, when I was 20, having someone talk about this would have been life-changing.”
Chittick said that he wanted to be a minister when he was five years old. Originally raised in a Presbyterian church, he said he always felt safe. However, when he became a teenager, he realized that his safe place was not as safe as he had thought.
“This loving God they had taught me about my entire life was still the loving God to everyone but me,” he said.
Chittick said this led him to think of himself as an atheist for several years. One day, while talking about religion with a friend, the friend made a point that Chittick disagreed with.
“I identified as an atheist from about the time I was 18 or so until the time I was in my early 20s,” Chittick said. “I said out loud one day [to an atheist friend], ‘You’re not an atheist, you’re just angry with God.’ Oh s—. That means me, too.”
Chittick said that that started him on a spiritual journey to try to find God outside of Christianity. While still considering himself an atheist, he started attending The Church Within, which is a non-denominational church.
He then led the audience in a prayer and gave the example of The Hugging Saint, Mata Amritanandamayi. Quoting her, he said, “One day it dawned on me that if it’s God’s job [to take care of the needy], it’s my job, too.”
Chittick used her to illustrate the difference between prayers that ask God to intercede and those that allow a person to try to live doing His will.
Freshman secondary science education major Anthony Castel said the talk meant a lot for him.
“Back [home], most churches, to my knowledge, are more like, ‘We love you, but we hate your sin,’” he said. “But my church was kind of awkward for me, because no one really knows.”
Castel said he is currently reading a book that helps him with his faith, called “God and the Gay Christian.”
Senior political science major Cara Eastis also attended the talk. She said her father was once a pastor in their hometown but was forced out of his position when it was discovered that he was gay. Eastis also has been on a spiritual journey since then.
She said she appreciated the alternative approach of the non-denominational pastor.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter religion,” she said. “There are many paths within the community, and you don’t necessarily have to agree with all the paths to find the one that fits you.”