Two months ago Sheila Hobson was so mad about the action of our state legislators regarding a proposed legislation on adoption, she wrote a letter to the editor that was published in O&AN, The Tennessean and The City Paper

Sheila's letter was prompted by Tennessee House bill HB 3713 (by John Deberry, D-Memphis) and Tennessee Senate bill SB3910 (by Paul Stanley, R-Memphis). If passed, these bills would amend the Tennessee Code (TCA Title 36 and 49) to “prohibit any individual who is cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage that is valid under the constitution and laws of this state from adopting a minor.”

Sheila (and many others) feels the proposed bill is only a cover-up to prevent gay couples from adopting children. In her letter she states, “I don’t know where it’s written and proved that just because a marriage certificate is part of a relationship that unconditional love, stability and financial security comes along with it!”

Denver Schimming has been active in every state session since 2005, tirelessly fighting for the rights of GLBT individuals. He has worked with the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) and he volunteers his time with Marisa Richmond and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. According to Denver, “Any form of discrimination is blatantly wrong…whether it comes from the pulpit or the state house.”

Sheila and Denver are married. They are two of our straight allies.

Denver works for Lambert’s Coffee Company and Sheila is currently looking for employment, having worked as an HR professional for many years. Their eleven-year marriage has seen its share of ups and downs. But one factor has remained constant:  their love for God and the church.

Sheila grew up Church of Christ and Denver grew up in the Baptist tradition. According to Sheila, “When we married, we both knew that neither of us were going back to that. The Church of Christ is very fundamental. Women can have no opinion; they must be very submissive to their husband and the lack of instrumental music left me wanting for something more.”

“The environment I grew up in was very legalistic and guilt-driven. If it looked good, felt good, smelt good, or tasted good, then it was a sin! Men had to have short hair, women were to never wear pants…those legalistic principles were preached just as hard as they preach John 3:16,” notes Denver.

Sheila goes on to say, “While I was growing up, every time the doors were open, I was at church. When you go without that, you realize that life is out of sync. Life is hard enough without adding difficulties to it. Going to church and being with people who believe as you believe, who love you for who you are, makes life so much better.” For years, Denver and Sheila attended Rehoboth United Methodist Church in Gallatin. When the pastor they were fond of was moved to another location, they opted to begin visiting other churches in the area. 

They searched for quite some time. If Denver found a church he liked, oftentimes Sheila did not like it or vice versa. One morning, while Sheila was watching Good Morning America, she saw a report on the United Church of Christ. The report showed a commercial sponsored by the denomination, where two gay couples and one straight couple enter the same church. The commercial ended with these words: “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

Sheila thought, “How novel! Finally, a denomination that gets it!” The inspiring words from that commercial led Denver and Sheila to Holy Trinity Community Church in Nashville.

“We started by coming to the Christmas program. When we walked in, we could feel the love of God. Everyone was so welcoming,” according to Denver.

So we have a straight couple attending a mostly GLBT church. Unfortunately, some may question their motives. Is one of them gay? Or even bi-curious? Denver responds to this by saying, “We are happily straight. God made us that way. We joined this church because we feel this is where God wants us. We come to be blessed and spiritually fed.”

Many reading this may find themselves in situations where they haven’t been to church in years. The church may have rejected you, or you may have rejected the church. Denver addresses this by saying, “For a variety of reasons, many people find themselves in this situation. You may feel like you don’t fit in, or you don’t feel loved. It is particularly sad when you feel this resistance from the church. If you feel God is against you, that is a very lonely place to be. But God’s love is unconditional. He never gives up on us. I turned 50 last November. It took me 35 years to find the church where I felt God wanted me to be. But we couldn’t be happier.”

Throughout the New Testament, we see example after example of Jesus ministering to the outcast, the marginalized, those rejected by society. I think Denver and Sheila are living out one of the primary matters of faith that Jesus embodied. They see a need. They are doing all they can to meet it. Why don’t we live by that same principle? 

Denver closes the interview by saying, “We are all broken people. We all have issues and baggage, but I firmly believe we are to be our brother’s keeper…we are to carry one another’s burdens, and we are to catch one another’s tears.”

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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