Caleb Kaltenbach grew up with parents who both came out as gay and got a divorce when he was only two years old. They were very active in the gay community. ‘They took me to gay clubs, parties, and camp outs’, Kaltenbach remembers. ‘I marched in gay pride parades and went to political events. That was just my life.’
Kaltenbach says he hated Christians because the ones he came into contact with were so hostile toward gay people. He recalls that he even saw a supposed Christian holding up a sign that said ‘God hates you’ during a gay protest parade.
Although Kaltenbach sometimes would attend an Episcopal church with his father, he says he didn’t learn much about God. ‘I learned that evangelicals were people who wouldn’t like you if you weren’t a white Republican’, he said.
Miraculously, Kaltenbach found Christ. Breaking the news to his parents did not go over well. His father grounded him and his mother refused to speak to him for months. ‘But I always told them that God loved them not based on their sexuality but because of what his Son accomplished on the cross’, Kaltenbach states. ‘I had to continually show them examples of people, including my friends, who were not like the Christians they had known before.’
Through time and Kaltenbach’s persistence and the love he extended, both his parents also came to Christ.
When asked how reconciling with his parents influenced his ministry, Kaltenbach shared a story of the time he brought his mother to one of his old churches and was told by church elders never to bring someone like that to church again. That was a turning point in Kaltenbach’s life and he prayed: ‘Lord, if you give me the chance to lead a church, I want it to be a place for people struggling with sexual identity, for addicts or gangbangers, for people who are bankrupt, for people having affairs.’
Kaltenbach believes that, while churches should adhere to traditional views on sexuality and should make their views clear, they should also look to develop relationships with everybody and wrestle with difficult questions, instead of ignoring the issues or alienating people.