Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah J. Noonan

Second Advisor

Latanya Daniels

Third Advisor

Dana Kelly



This qualitative narrative inquiry investigated the experiences of gay men and lesbians in a Christian church. Thirteen participants shared stories of growing up in a Christian church, how their Christian church background influenced their sexual and spiritual journeys and what happened when the church challenged their sexuality. They described what occurred when their sexuality came in conflict with the church. Participants reflected on their relationships and how they had to continuously come out to people in their friendship circles, their family members, and their churches. The study revealed how participants hide their sexuality to remain comfortable and accepted in the church. Participants told stories about how the church treated its gay men and lesbian members when they addressed policies and practices regarding sexuality. Participants described their missions to take on leadership roles in the church, and obstacles they faced because of their sexuality. The gay men and lesbians of the study encountered threats and suffered emotionally when churches tried to exclude them from leadership roles, wedding ceremonies, and worship activities. Theoretical analysis was conducted using Tajfel and Turner’s (1979) social identity theory, Banaji’s unconscious bias theory (2013) and Steele and Aronson’s stereotype threat theory (2009). This study demonstrated hardships that gay men and lesbians face in the Christian church but also includes a message of hope when churches fully embrace their LGBTQ+ members. This study includes recommendations for further research and a call to action for churches, church leaders, members, and allies.

Keywords: church, LGBTQ+, gay, lesbian, sexuality, spirituality, ally, Human Sexuality Statement (SSHS), social identity, unconscious bias, stereotype threat

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This file may be slow to open due to its size. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Education Commons