I received an email from Jose in regard to the response to his postings on Mosaic of Pain. After a couple of conversations we both agreed that telling his story may answer a lot of questions and give his perspective on Mosaic and why Mosaic is upset that he is writing about his experience. This is a rather long interview but I believe to be an important read. Here is his story:
Interviewer: Cris Aguilar
Interviewee: Jose Arroyo
How were you introduced to Mosaic?
I like to tell people that Macintosh is responsible for bringing me to God. During Spring Break of 2006, I was in the process of attempting to find a church closer to my home in Pasadena. I had been attending the church Vineyard-Pomona in Pomona for the past 8 months, having been introduced to it by my former boss with Chino Unified School. Every day as part of my daily routine, I go online and visit several sites that deal with Apple news and tutorials. On Wednesday, April 8, I came across a site called allforces.com, written by a guy named Melvin R. I was impressed by his knowledge of Apple technology. Upon checking his bio, I realized that he lived in Los Angeles at the time, and that he was also Puerto Rican like me. I decided that I needed to meet him since after all I didn't know of any Puerto Ricans in the area. While attempting to find more information about him, I noticed that he mentioned he attended Mosaic and it had a direct link to its main site.
Intrigued, I clicked on it and that is how I came across Mosaic's site. It piqued my curiosity and upon finding out that they had a Pasadena service merely a two minute drive away, I emailed Melvin and told him that I would attend the following Sunday, which turned out to be Easter Sunday, April 11, 2006. Upon arriving, I was immediately approached by friendly people, the first one being Dana E. who worked in the Connections Department. When I mentioned that it was my first time, and that I was planning to meet Melvin R., she told me that she worked right next to Melvin at Mosaic. You see, Melvin R. was at the time in charge of all of the computer technology at Mosaic, overseeing the creation of all websites and their maintenance. I was extremely impressed by how at home and at ease Dana and others made me feel right away in the middle of a huge crowd of people.
To this day, no other church I have visited had made such an immediate impression such as Mosaic. I was introduced to Erwin right away prior to the service. When I mentioned that I was a photographer and was very impressed with such a variety of an artistic community, he responded: "Great, perhaps you may end up taking the photos in my next book." At the time I thought of his comment as simple flattery and didn't think much of it afterwards. Months later, in my attempt to bring up the topic of homosexuality, he would tell me that he knew right away when we were introduced the year before that I was gay and that I didn't need to tell him. Once again, I was taken aback by such statement, but failed to see the underlined arrogance. After all, Erwin was a master at saying anything that would make you like him, even to the point of being able to mask statements that in reality were more of an insult to you. The following Sunday, by some sort of coincidence, I met this guy named Steve C. as I was walking inside for service. He introduced me to his wife, Paty and shared that it was his first time in Mosaic in Pasadena. He and his wife had just arrived from outside the country where they had been performing missionary work.
Paty turned out to be Erwin's foster daughter. I clicked with both of them and their beautiful kids, and proceeded to sit together in service the next couple of weeks. A month later, Forge, Mosaic's men's ministry was sponsoring its annual retreat called Highlander. I had never identified myself as being into sports, choosing instead to deal in the arts with my photography and my Apple geekery. Yet, while getting ready to enter the auditorium one Sunday, Steve who was originally from Brazil and an avid soccer player, said to me: "Jose, you need to go to Highlander." I laughed at the prospect, but Paty turned to me with a sincere serious look in her face and said: Jose, I think you are destined to attend. I laughed nervously back at her and told her she was crazy. Little did I know her words would turn prophetic. Eventually, Steve convinced me to sign up for Highlander on a Sunday I was supposed to meet with Melvin at service. He slept in and stood me up. I called him and told him that as punishment, I had signed him up for Highlander and was going with me since Steve had gotten his way. In the years that Melvin had worked at Mosaic, he had always managed to avoid attending Highlander because like me, he saw himself more as the artist type than an athlete.
Highlander arrived in May of 2006 and both Melvin and I drove to the mountains dreading the idea of spending a weekend among a bunch of testosterone filled men playing in the woods. God had a different plan for me. The very next morning, after listening to a workshop on meditation and listening for God's voice, I spent some time reflecting on the last time I had heard God's voice speaking to me. It had been a very long time. That night, Erwin was scheduled to speak and in the end asked of the audience for men to stand up if they wanted to make a commitment and invite Jesus into their lives. People including Melvin will later tell me that I was the first one to stand up and walk to the back of the room. God, with His amazing sense of humor, had managed to get me to accept Him into my life among a group of crazed testosterone filled men in the woods.
How was Mosaic different from your past experience with church?
Having been raised Roman Catholic and attending private Catholic school all my life, I had never seen a church with no altar, where a pastor would dress fashionably and where instead of a choir, you had a live rock band. In addition, it used dance, imagery and drama to deliver its message onstage. As an artist myself, I was drawn to the concept I would hear emphasized over and over, that Mosaic was a safe place to develop and maximize your God given talents. I felt I had arrived home because everyone was so interested in my talents and were so friendly. No other church has managed to perfect the way newcomers are treated at Mosaic. Over and over I would hear that at Mosaic they would love you for you, no matter what your past and journey had been. It was after completing the process and ceremony to become part of Volunteer Staff that I was told, they were no longer placing their emphasis on loving me unconditionally. Instead, now it was my purpose to serve others and bring them to Christ as they had done to me, plus now they had the right to point out the areas of my life that needed to be changed.
Reading through your blog, I saw a picture of your baptism, tell me about that.
After giving my life to Christ at Highlander in May 2006, I chose to be baptized in July of the same year, on what it turned out to be the same day as my natural birthday. The man and woman that you see on each side of me, are Melvin and his wife Lilia, whom I asked to baptized me. In addition, I had grown close to the group of summer interns at Mosaic, opening my house to them to hang out, teach them about Macintosh technology and have them do their laundry, so they were extremely excited. There is a video one of the interns taped of the baptism and it includes appearances by Erwin and Rickey W. among others expressing their congratulations. I can provide you with excerpts of it if you wish. Unfortunately, Melvin and Lilia would choose to move to New York by the end of the summer, leaving Mosaic and myself behind, trusting that I would be in good hands.
It appears that you have grown close to some at Mosaic in a short period of time. Tell me about a week in the life of Jose at Mosaic. I am guessing it involved more than a Sunday morning service and lunch afterwards.
Absolutely. I remember reflecting back on the fact that one day I was a stranger among the huge community of Mosaic and all of a sudden, everyone, especially at the leader ship level knew my name and often had a comment to share with me about how I had been so instrumental and helpful in assisting with a particular task. In January of 2007, I decided to take a leave of absence from my position as a teacher since I felt that I was growing discontent with teaching as a profession. As a result, my daily routine became going to Mosaic every day of the week and assist with any task that usually involved technology and computer skills. Eric B. one day stopped me in the hall and asked me if I was part of paid staff since he noticed how I would be at the offices every day from morning to afternoon and seemed so involved with so many projects. The truth was that I needed to fill my life with meaning and I wanted so desperately to be liked and accepted by others and my previous experiences in life had taught me that I could achieve that by volunteering to help others with my skills. In addition, since I had arrived at Mosaic pretty broken spiritually and emotionally, I decided to throw myself in the middle of, and surround myself by anything that had to do with Mosaic, since I viewed its community as my foster family.
A typical week would include designing or maintaining several of their web sites, assisting with editing and uploading of the video and audio podcasts, attending the filming of a short video and do the still photography, attend film team meetings, administer the film team site's online forum of its members, hang out with the team of in terns as well as the Protégé's at Mosaic, assist the stage building team with building the latest theme on stage, setting up and tearing down chairs and tables at the Pasadena services. In addition, I got to attend both Origins '07 and Awaken '08 conferences by manning one of their video cameras during the entire conference. In August of 2007, I volunteered my place for the first Men's Celebrate Recovery Group held weekly for almost a year until my decision to leave Mosaic. As a result, the only friends in my life were members of Mosaic. I didn't know nor have time to associate with anyone outside Mosaic. Because of that, when the time came to realize that I could no longer feel at home and part of its community of faith, love and hope, I literally was left with no one in my life.
Tell me about your decision to become a part of the Volunteer Staff. What type of requirements and process did you go through? Did you realize what you were signing up for?
I'm the type of person that when I come across something new or decide to commit to a new goal, I go all the way, so it felt like the natural thing to check into how and what were the requirements of becoming an official member of Mosaic. I believe it was during the ceremony of my baptism which also included a separate event called "commissioning" which got my curiosity going. In addition, having been introduced by my friend Melvin and having seen what he oversaw at Mosaic, inspired me to want to offer my services as well. Looking back, I guess that was the beginning of many situations I would encounter at Mosaic where an explanation of a process didn't quite made sense or came across a little confusing. They explained to me that I didn't need to become an "official member" in order to attend Mosaic, and in fact, they discouraged the use of the term "member", substituting it with "volunteer staff", I guess as a way to differentiate the term from paid staff. On the other hand, in order to take part in projects that may give you access to responsibilities as a leader (such as small group leader) or access to areas that I had an interest due to my technical skills, you needed to go through the process of becoming part of the Volunteer staff. However, since Melvin had now moved to New York and many of his responsibilities regarding the podcast, creation and maintenance of web sites were not filled right away, and I on the other hand had expressed that I was a professional photographer and web designer, I got to assume a large number of responsibilities that in my opinion would had taken someone else a longer time to acquire at Mosaic.
Having come to Mosaic in April 2006, by September, I was fully involved with the Film Team ministry as a photographer, and very soon after as the web designer and administrator of its site. Once the word got out and other people in leadership saw my talents with the Film Team ministry, other ministries such as Forge, the leadership team in charge of adding the 11 o'clock service in Pasadena, and the Pasadena campus leadership team approached me with the idea of building and maintaining their websites. I did not begin the official process of becoming part of Volunteer Staff, which required you to complete a four to six week "class" called Life in Christ until late February in 2007, followed by a one day class called "Life in Church" prior to the official ceremony of joining Volunteer Staff or "Commissioning" as they called it. Because of the level of my participation at Mosaic had grown so much so quickly, ironically I found myself with the task of redesigning the graphics and layout of the booklets used for both Life in Christ and Life in Church at the same time that I w as going through the process of taking both courses. Since the way you participated in such classes was by a process of individual mentoring, where an already official member of Volunteer and sometimes paid staff would meet with you and go through the material, there was no way to ensure that everyone who would complete such requirements had been thoroughly prepared in the same manner by such mentors. My mentor, while being a very nice guy, in my opinion was not very thorough and the process felt very hurried. He was part of paid staff and therefore overwhelmed with too many official responsibilities at Mosaic (which later I would find out to be the norm not the exception at Mosaic).
Because of all of these factors combined, it was easy for me to not see what I was actually getting myself into. In a way, I saw the whole process as the necessary ground work to validate my having the type of responsibilities I was already being given at Mosaic, so I didn't see a change on the type of things I was doing at Mosaic before becoming part of Volunteer staff as supposed to after completing the process. I was taken by surprise when as part of the official commissioning process, I was told that I was being commissioned as a missionary and the thought of being given such responsibility while never officially addressing my status as a homosexual, seemed odd. Then again, I don't recall finding out that I was actually a member of the Baptist Church until after becoming part of Volunteer staff, but as explained to me at the time: "Baptist" by technicality and in name only. By the way, my official commissioning into part of volunteer staff took place exactly a year later to the day of my first visit to Mosaic: April 11, 2007.
So you not only found Mosaic but you also made a decision to invite Jesus into your life. For clarity sake, did the prayer include the basic "ABC's to Christianity"?
A - Admit that you have sinned. That you have broken God’s rules. (Romans 3:23, Isaiah 53:6)
B - Believe that God paid for your sin. (Romans 5:8, Romans 6:23) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.8 0 (John 3:16)
C - Commit your life to Jesus Christ. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe his His name.” (John 1:12)
How would you sum up your decision?
To be honest, I don't remember the actual words used or bible references that they may have mentioned, but I can attest that they did pray for the group of guys that had stood up including myself. Because I was not a complete stranger to Christ, it felt more like a renewed commitment to invite Him back into my life and choosing to follow the path He had chosen for me and to never ever walk away from Him again. In fact, what you attribute to the basic "ABC's to Christianity, is new to me. I have never heard of it before and no one at Mosaic alluded to it afterwards.
I didn't mean to infer that everyone taught the "ABC's to Christianity" but rather that this is a simple way to present it. The verses given are often "used" to present a basic process in which we come to accept Jesus. I happen to use the ABC's because I was teaching a bible class at church last week and this is the format I used.
So from the very beginning Erwin knew about you being a homosexual not because you or anyone told him but because he simply knew. Did he or any other staff person discuss this issue with you?
That is what he claimed to know. He wouldn't tell me so, until after I had come to Christ in Highlander (May 2006) Around July 2006, his foster daughter Patty and her husband Steve had a get together in their apartment in order to share their experience as missionaries and I attended. Erwin showed up unannounced and I approached him afterwards and shared that at the time I wasn't sure how now that I had accepted Christ in my life, the fact that I was a homosexual would be a problem. That is when he told me that he had known all along I was a homosexual from the moment I was introduced to him back in April. You have to understand that at the time I approached him at his daughter's apartment, I was still in my "infatuation phase" with him as the leader of Mosaic and that was why I felt it was so important to find out his opinion on the matter.
What transpired instead was the beginning of many subsequent episodes when I was faced with the reality that the Erwin on stage was a total different person than the Erwin one on one. He kept dancing around the issue and preferring that I contact Dave A., Mosaic's ex-gay "expert." I had been introduced to Dave A. at Highlander, and was put off by his "one dimensional" persona who believed that all homosexuals were perverted in nature. He supposedly was a temporary homosexual during his youth when he was involved in theatre, but later on, he claimed to have "left" the lifestyle and was now married with 4 daughters. I tried to explain to Erwin that I found Dave's opinion about homosexuality very narrow minded and that I wanted to know his opinion instead, but he kept skirting the issue saying he was no expert and that he thought Dave A. was better equipped to answer my questions.( I later found out that this was the official plan used by everyone in leadership at Mosaic: refer them to Dave A.). Erwin offered to say a prayer for me instead and made some reference to himself having been in some sort of a mental institution when young, but I didn't understood why he was making such reference then. I ended up leaving the event early, very angry and hurt, realizing that my "idol" had fallen from its pedestal. I ended up writing him an email where I expressed my frustration and disappointment at how he had "handled" my situation, but I never received a response from him.
When I shared the situation with other people at Mosaic, I was told that it was very selfish of me to have placed such expectations on Erwin, that people would approach him and email him all the time asking him for advice on their problems and that Erwin should not be expected to solve everyone's problems at Mosaic. That I needed to understand that not everything was about me and that instead I should concentrate on serving others because in doing so, I would not be tempted to act on my selfish behaviors. Later on, in August of 2007, when another person approached me with the idea of forming the first men's celebrate recovery group, I said yes to hosting it at my home, not knowing that Dave A. would be made the group leader. He and I ended up having a lot of disagreements, mostly because Dave had not been trained officially in how to run a celebrate recovery group, and kept insisting on running the group very differently.
Because of my background in my own recovery and recovery groups, I kept bringing up the discrepancies and eventually, Dave phased out of the group having another member of the group become the leader.Around November of 2007 or so, when I wrote my interpretation on the famous verses from the Bible used to condemn homosexuality and talked about them at great length in my blog, I made copies of it and gave it to some people I knew in Mosaic and asked to read it and get back to me with the idea to engage in dialogue. Two of the people that I gave copies of the material were pastor Rickey W. and the leader of Forge (Men's Ministry) Gary N. Neither of them followed up on reading the material.
One night, when I was at Gary's house over for dinner and Rickey W. was in attendance as well, I decided to bring up the subject. Both of them were very uncomfortable with the subject and finally Rickey W. suggested to call Dave A. and have him stop by Gary's house. I got angry at what I perceived as another passing of the buck situation and argued with them that Dave A. was the last person I wanted to have a conversation on the subject. I got up and proceeded to leave, but somehow Gary kept pleading with me to stay while unbeknownst to me, Rickey W. had stepped outside and called Dave A. Within twenty minutes, Dave A. showed up at the house and I was cornered. Figuring that I might as well attempt to make the best of the situation, I tried to offer my perspective, citing from the research I had completed and the information I had put together. Dave A. proceeded to cut me off and took reign of the conversation and proceeded to tell Gary, his wife and Rickey that I was under the influence of books that had brainwashed me and that he was very concerned that my countenance was down. He then proceeded to read from the Bible quoting the passage in Genesis when God confronts Cain asking him about the whereabouts of his brother Abel, and using the words: Why is your countenance down? in order to illustrate his point.
He told everyone present that he was very concerned for my emotional state and that I needed to be watched closely because I was in a fragile state where I was extremely vulnerable to the attacks of the devil. I was furious, but I kept quiet because I realized by then, that this was the tactic Mosaic would implement in the event that anyone would attempt to bring up the subject of homosexuality. That is when I decided that I wanted to write to the elders with the intention of them granting a meeting with me, but instead the farthest I could reach was for Eric B. to agree to deliver the letter to the elders himself. This was after I threaten to leave Mosaic and relinquish all of my responsibilities if they attempted to push Dave A. ever again on me.
What is your perspective on why they wouldn’t discuss the issue with you? How do you know Rickey and Gary didn’t read the research you had given them?
Both Rickey W. and Gary N. are very close friends and talk and see each other almost on a daily basis. In watching their interactions closely, I saw how Gary would take clues from Rickey on how to proceed or discuss a controversial subject. Initially, I had pursued an interest in getting to know Rickey thinking he could be a better alternative to listen to in service than Erwin, but I soon realized that as a pastor and leader, Rickey appeared to be plagued by insecurities feeling that he was not as great of a public speaker as Erwin as he often alluded in his talks.
I continued to associate with him primarily as an extension of my connection with Gary N. However, after seeing how Rickey chose to handle the situation at Gary's house with Dave A., I stopped trusting him completely. Rickey W. claimed to have read the information I gave him, but never volunteered to talk to me about it until I finally brought up the subject to his attention at Gary's house. Gary initially told me at the time of our fallout ( May 2008) that I had never given him any articles to read, but after responding to his allegation by reminding him of what had transpired at his home with Dave A. and Rickey, as well as pointing out that I had even given him a copy of the movie "For the Bible Tells Me So", he acknowledged not seeing it. I could only speculate at the reason why they would not discuss the issue with me, which I believed was the same for most people at Mosaic and others I had met throughout my life: that it was such an uncomfortable subject to bring out in conversation, and that most people would prefer to hide behind the famous verses used from the Bible even though most people when pressed on the subject would admit not having given it much thought other than believe what they have been told by others without studying it further. I on the other hand was saying all along that this was the main reason why I believed that an open dialogue had to be established among the community in order to strip away any misconceptions passed on from generations. As an educator, I firmly believe that knowledge will break out through any subject deemed too controversial to speak about.
You mentioned a celebrate group, did you mean celibate?
No, it is called "Celebrate Recovery" and it is a bible study based recovery program. It was originally created at Saddleback Church and later incorporated by Mosaic Inland prior to them becoming apart of Mosaic. When Mosaic absorbed Inland, Dave A. was assigned to lead the "transition" to Mosaic and since he was also in charge of small groups, he discussed the idea of bringing the program to the rest of Mosaic. At the same time, someone by the name of Joe S. had begun attending Mosaic and he was already attending a Celebrate Recovery group for two years prior to coming to Mosaic, so he approached me about forming a men's group and having it at my place downtown.
However, as I alluded earlier, Dave A. made the mistake of assuming that such program could be treated as just another small group, and as a result, there was a lot of turmoil between Dave A., Joe S. and myself in getting the group run efficiently until finally Dave agreed to phase out of it and have Joe S. in charge.
Ok, so are you saying that although you have strong convictions about the bible and homosexuality, you have chosen to remain celibate because you want to pray and ask for guidance. Is that right? Do you feel like maybe part of that guidance could have come from Mosaic, your church? Were you really interested in input or was this simply a time for you to ensure that they heard your justifications? Help me understand where you were(are) coming from.
I decided to become celibate for a number of reasons. Primarily , it was a conscious decision on my part after accepting Christ in my life during Highlander. At that time, I told God that I was going to make such vow while I listened and prayed for guidance from both Him and Mosaic with regard to whether I was indeed following the path that He had chosen for my life. Mosaic didn't ask me to make such vow, but people close to me in Mosaic as well as Eric B. knew about it. As I progressed in my relationship with God, I began to feel His reassurance of His unconditional love and the statement that He had created me the way I was and that everything He created was perfect in His eyes as is. The other main reason for it was in order to better address personal issues in my road to recovery. During the five years or so that I was involved in addictive damaging behavior, I felt that I broke all kinds of boundaries regarding intimacy. Once determined to become clean and sober, I asked God to "numb" that part of my life while I focused on His word and purpose He had in store for me. Prior to that phase of my life, I had always been interested in establishing a monogamous committed relationship. Even now, as I approach the two year mark in my sobriety and celibacy, and begin to entertain the idea of perhaps dating again, I realize that I'm not ready yet. There is still a lot of healing to take place in that area of my life that is quite broken, so I trust that God will let me know when its right to do so again.
So about a year and a half into your Mosaic experience was your first real discussion about this issue and that was only with the "help" of Dave A. It seems as if Eric was blocking access to the Elders, am I reading too much into that? Writing a letter isn't bad, so tell me about the response to your letter.
Well, my original intention was to request a meeting with the elders where I would have the opportunity to elaborate on the points I had included in my letter, but I was told by Eric B. that due to their schedule, it was not possible for me to meet with them in person. Instead, he told me that he would be happy to present the letter to them himself in their next meeting. It took about two months to get a response back after several emails to Eric B. asking whether the elders had been presented with my letter. Eric finally invited me to his house over for lunch and explained that the elders had reviewed the letter and that unfortunately, they did not agree with the idea of opening the topic of homosexuality as an open dialogue among the church community and that they considered homosexuality a "non-issue" at Mosaic. I remember feeling very disappointed by the news, but also confused with the direction that Eric seemed to take in commenting about my future with Mosaic. To explain it in a nutshell, he referred to the time when I would choose to leave Mosaic as a definite event, rather than a possibility. I was puzzled by the choice of words because at that point I was still hopeful that I could continue the dialogue on the topic and remain at Mosaic.
Since I had made a vow of celibacy when I gave my life to Christ (in order to allow for time of prayer and asking for guidance about my sexual orientation) and Eric knew about it, he kept referring to the time that I would choose to date someone and break my vow (which to this day remains intact) and consequently leaving Mosaic as a result.
So even though you were remaining celibate, Eric was foretelling the future as to your dating life, and therefore predicted that you would eventually have to leave the church. It appears as though Eric in this strange non-direct way was saying that dating the same sex is sin so therefore if you decided to date the same sex you would then be in sin. Considering your stance on this issue, it was inevitable that you would leave Mosaic. Do I have it right?
Yes, it appears to be so. At the time, I had first considered leaving Mosaic back in November of 2007, when Eric asked to meet with me to discuss my concerns, he pointed out that he didn't see a conflict with my beliefs and Mosaic's stance simply because I had chosen to take a vow of celibacy which prevented me from engaging in homosexual sinful behavior. As long as I would continue to abide by such vow, I would have no problems remaining in the positions I had chosen to be involved at Mosaic.
Ok, so although the elders stated that it was a "non-issue", Eric's response made it clear there was an issue by discussing your departure. It appears as though you exhausted all avenues in trying to get someone to discuss the issues with you. How did you feel at the time about what had happened? How do you feel now? What transpired after this conversation with Eric?
After my lunch meeting with Eric, I was extremely disappointed and began to feel depressed and for a couple of weeks, I wasn't sure about what to do next. It was obvious that this was a test of faith for me. I was torn because even though I had given up on the idea that I may get to persuade Erwin to see things differently, I thought Eric would be more supportive. Ironically, during this whole time, I didn't know that Eric was indeed one of the elders. Otherwise, I would have arrived at the conclusion that he too like Erwin, was deceitful in his actions.
I could sense in the tone of his voice (sounding very apologetic and nervous) that he was very uncomfortable in having been put in the position to deliver the news from the rest of the elders. After all, I had developed a friendship with his family (his wife and two kids), so I wasn't just another member of the church that he pastored. Afterwards, I didn't do anything for a month or so, but I began to feel disconnected from Mosaic. I felt trapped in a no win situation, afraid of what might happened to me if I dared to leave and find myself alone and with no support, but at the same time, I no longer felt that I could be myself around people in Mosaic. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was eating me inside. This type of subliminal discrimination can do more damage than the more vocal and direct type, in my opinion. The idea of Mosaic as the ideal community began to crack as I began to see the hypocrisy in its leadership. After my disappointing lunch with Eric B., I felt there was no one else in leadership, I could trust and be honest with. The other men I have trusted before: Erwin, Rickey W., Gary N., and finally Eric, have managed to "pass the buck" and avoid the issue.
In addition, I was growing more and more frustrated with the lack of discipleship. I checked several bible studies offered through the men's ministry and even checked one that was supposedly aimed at newcomers, but the result was always the same: they never would take into account what it was like for someone who was new to faith and God, who had not grown in church, and who needed to learn the mere basics, before jumping in to interpreting bible passages. I would raise those questions, but felt that I was the only one who had that problem. I remember one night arguing with the leader of the Men's Ministry, Gary N. that the leadership was failing to connect with new believers and understand their need. Then I gave him the example: They shouldn't even assume that a newcomer knows how to pray, for at times I had felt intimidated when asked to pray at the end of a bible study group, not knowing what to say. He reacted by just stating: you just say what comes to your mind, and I simply chose to say no more, realizing once again that he was missing my point. I was tired of feeling like I was walking into the middle of a movie whenever scripture would be used, and be expected to know what had happened prior to it and know the background of the story.
Eventually, I ordered "Bible for Dummies", a book of over 500 pages and read the whole book beginning to end in three days, unable to put it down. I learned in those three days more about the bible than in two years at Mosaic. I went back to reading through the site at Mosaic of Pain from the beginning and this time I began to understand what so many people were saying, about how they had put their trust in a leadership that had tricked them and failed them, and made them feel guilty for it. Then, one night after saying my prayers, I went to bed and the thought came to my head that while I had come to Christ at Mosaic, His chosen path and destiny for me, may involve leaving Mosaic. I remember the passage in scripture about Jesus telling his disciples that it was better for them to dust off the dirt of their clothes and chose to leave whenever they would encounter a town that was not willing to listen to their message. I continued to pray for guidance, but my frustration became more and more apparent to those around me, eventually leading to be accused of just being an angry man. People didn't like the idea and my words questioning leadership and its intentions. The disconnection became clearer and I realized that I needed to go.
Considering Mosaic is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a position statement by the SBC on Sexuality is "affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy—one man and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a valid alternative lifestyle,” why did you feel deceived?
Because Mosaic never made it clear to me or others their relation and ties to the Southern Baptist Church. They only emphasized their own core values in their commissioning process. It was after already becoming an official member of volunteer staff that I found out that we were associated with the Southern Baptist Faith and even then, it was explained to me that the association had to do more "in name only" for the purpose of whatever perks came from being called southern Baptist. I found this kind of reasoning very similar to "selective scripture passages" style when it came to using scripture passages for condemning homosexuality. If Mosaic would had included clearly in their literature concerning their core values the official Southern Baptist position on homosexuality, I would have never bother to join nor attend in the first place for that matter. This example puts Mosaic at the top of my list of malicious church practices to lie and take advantage of its members for the sole purpose of gaining numbers in attendance and in the money that they receive from its members.
Since you left, has anyone from the church tried to connect with you? Where do you see yourself going from here?
Only one person, Gary N., the leader of Forge (Mosaic's Men's Ministry) has been aggressively pursuing me via email and voicemail messages with the idea of getting together and try to patch things up. However, I must point out that we had a personal falling out at the same time I left Mosaic, so he is more interested in healing our friendship rather than necessarily intervening on behalf of Mosaic. For personal reasons dealing with the nature of our fall out, I had expressed my gratitude to him for hi s intentions, but have asserted that I need more time to heal alone before entertaining the idea of mending our friendship.
However, I won't deny that the invitation of getting together for coffee and discuss things from him, makes me suspicious of a hidden intervention by Mosaic leaders, because of past practices, so it makes me weary of meeting with anyone at Mosaic who is part of leadership staff at this point in n my life, even if the invitation is purely for social reasons. I simply do not trust their intentions. For those reasons, currently I find myself torn with how to handle my relationships with the friends I had made from Mosaic. Even if I want to trust their individual intentions, I can't ignore the possibility of a separate agenda planted by leadership at Mosaic with their intentions of associating with me.
At this point in my spiritual journey, I believe that I have found a community and church that accepts me for who I am. It is composed of a very diverse group of people: young and old, heterosexual and homosexual, single and married. In a way you can say this community that is All Saints Church in Pasadena represents a true mosaic of people, not the selective broken pieces that Mosaic the church of Erwin selects as worthy of their congregation. After all, All Saints Church and the Episcopalian faith in general provided the foundation and theory for the plans I had presented to the elders at Mosaic and the type of open dialogue that I wanted its community to partake in, but found it to be impossible. It is refreshing to be a part of a community where the term "inclusive" means exactly that, rather than instead listen to endless sermons on "maximizing your potential", and other "church lite" topics that even refer to the idea of inclusivity within the church, and then contradict themselves in practice.
While I have no problems giving Mosaic the credit for bringing me to Christ, I must also give them credit for contributing to my distrust of organized religion and its leaders when it comes to maintaining a separate agenda for their own advancement. As a result, I find myself being extremely cautious about every small step I proceed to take for fear of running into another wolf dressed in Erwin's clothes. One unexpected surprise that has come as the result of leaving Mosaic has been a sense of awakening, having my eyes opened to the Truth rather than a sense of despair and loneliness. The best way I could describe it, is like going through deprogramming and unplugging the cord that connected me to a cult of sorts. Being able to see Mosaic for what it really is, rather than through their prescribed glasses filled with Erwin's psychobabble rhetoric. I'm very grateful to have chosen to trust God through this difficult process, thinking that I was going to lose so much, yet by trusting Him, finding out that He has the best of intentions planned for my life and those plans go way beyond what Mosaic had offered me.
About 2 weeks ago you first posted your experiences on Mosaic of Pain. Do you feel comfortable discussing what has happened in regards to your writing?
Originally, I was taken a back by the reaction my comments generated, considering that I had never shied away from expressing my feelings towards Mosaic in my own blog. What were different this time were the lengths to which members of paid staff at Mosaic were willing to go in order to discredit me, by resorting to de-rail the focus of how my feelings had been handled by Mosaic by choosing to focus on my status as a homosexual. In addition, I began receiving anonymous posts to my blog warning me to watch my back and not to leave my dog out of my sight, to cite an example, and I began receiving anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night where the caller would hang up as soon as I would answer. While I will admit that all of it saddened me, in a way reinforced the belief that I was speaking damaging truth that they were willing to silence.
Truth doesn't appear to be important to Mosaic. Clarity even less important although service and silence ranks high on the list. Jose, you and I have had a couple of phone conversations and now several emails over the last week or so. I have told you from the very beginning that we would probably differ on many issues including your view of what the bible teaches in regards to homosexuality.
From the very beginning I was impressed with your desire to speak about the truth in regards to your experience but with a purpose to expose what you have encountered. Although I am concerned about your physical safety regarding the threats you received, I do appreciate you stepping forward to tell your story. In the end I think we can both agree that due to the fact that Mosaic (and its leadership) hides the truth about what it really is, the love it talks about is, in the end, only talk. I think most of this would have been avoided if they had been honest about who they are and where they stand on this and other issues.
Any last thoughts?
I will most definitely agree that most of my negative experience with Mosaic would have been avoided if they had been transparent and authentic about whom they really were and what they stood for. Last week, I had dinner with the only friend met through Mosaic that so far I can trust and he asked me, what was my motivation behind continuing to write about Mosaic in my blog now that I had left them. The question is one that has been asked of many MOP members. I responded by stating that I felt it was my duty as a follower of Christ to bring attention to deceitful practices by Mosaic or any other church for that matter, because my silence otherwise would make me guilty by association to those left behind at Mosaic, especially those who are new to faith and the community and who stand to be hurt and taken advantage of by leadership. While I have managed to break free from their damaging testimony, I cannot forget that I leave behind many others who are still members of Mosaic and who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and who haven't been able to separate the homophobic messages imparted on them from what God truly has to say to them.
They see no conflict in using their talents in their worship services via dances, plays, etc or use their God given talents in other areas of ministry such as web design and photography, and at the same time deny their place at God's table.