By Gabrielle Garay | email@example.com
Regina Jackson felt a call in her life 15 years ago.
At first, it was a low whisper that grew louder and louder. The unshakeable feeling kept nudging at Jackson.
“No,” she thought to herself. “This isn’t right. This isn’t for me.”
Then suddenly one January day, after ten years of brushing the feeling off, the message came through loud and clear.
“I know who you are and I know who you love and I need you to do my work to reach those who feel disenfranchised.”
Jackson says that message came to her from God in 2012 and at that point, she decided she would listen. The call, she says, was to start ministering. The apprehension to accept it stemmed from one unavoidable fact: she was a lesbian.
“I hid my Christianity for quite some time, but there came an uncomfortable point in my life when I saw so many injustices and I lived through so many injustices that I decided … I just stepped out and become the person He made me to be. I got tired of living a lie.”
In a soft-spoken voice, Jackson recalls the pieces of the puzzle coming together to reveal the bigger picture of what her purpose was. The small pieces of her discovering what her sexuality was, the calls, the confirmations, the ministering, it all came together for a purpose that she said she believes was predestined for her.
“I feel liked He called me to talk to other people and be an example to others in the LGBTQ family and let them know it’s okay to be anointed and appointed through God’s work,” she said.
Pastor Regina Jackson is the founder of Restoration of Truth Ministries, a small church tucked away in a corner of Jacksonville, Florida. She opened the church on April 8, 2012 and has been preaching there ever since with her wife by side.
“After a while, I kept saying ‘No God no, this is not for me’ and I really didn’t think it’ll be received well,” Jackson recalls.
After she says she received multiple confirmations from God, she got her feet wet in ministering the best ways she could. Her journey began in front of supermarkets. Nervously, she would preach the bible verses she stayed up all night memorizing. She professed the scriptures to whoever would stop long enough to listen and made her way around preaching at nursing homes. As she went from venue to venue she found her voice getting louder and stronger, and in 1996 she began singing gospel.
Despite the new found confidence, a dark, unmoving cloud loomed over her head. Where does a lesbian fit in with a religion that shuns her? How could she advocate a religion that has persecuted others like her on the very basis of the book she was preaching? Why her?
“I felt conflicted being a pastor and a LGBTQ member absolutely because those two seemed to conflict at one point in my life,” Jackson said. “Especially growing up in traditional environments in churches and in family and in our culture it was really frowned upon.”
The inner conflict of being Christian and homosexual was deeply rooted. The conflict seemed to pull her in two separate directions of choosing which side of her to show to the world.
“I had already known the scripture that has been preached at me and the book had been thrown at me,” Jackson said. Growing up in what she calls a traditional environment, she and her family regularly attended church.
The courage she found to come out to her family, her community and to herself, she says, all came from God. The late nights praying and reading the scriptures, she says, eased her confusion. With sweaty palms pressed together, she prayed.
“I felt extreme conflict at times until I came to really learn that I have been appointed to do this work,” she said. “There are so many LGBTQ persons out here that struggle daily with just trying to reconcile their homosexuality with their Christianity.”
Accepting her calling was not easy for Jackson, and as time proved it wasn’t easy for the community to accept either. Despite preaching traditional messages and scriptures, the church has had a hard time finding its place in a community that has shunned and given threats to the church.
“As a same-gender loving pastor I’ve encountered a lot of adversity,” Jackson says.
Other members of the Christian community have also found it hard to accept who Jackson is and where her heart is. Threats have been made against her and her congregation by those who question her and the coexistence of her two conflicting traits.
“I’ve had threats made on my life. I’ve had threats made on the congregation because they believe we’re a false church and some say we have to be annihilated,” she said. “Also, I’ve been personally attacked with individuals questioning what God has made me to be.”
The threats have become so frequent and violent she has had turned to hiring security to monitor the facility while the congregation is present.
Despite the negative feedback from some, Jackson has remained optimistic in her work.
“I don’t put very much credence because Jesus was also threatened and spat on and different things,” she said.
Receiving threats and pressing questions from those that oppose wasn’t a part of Jackson’s vision for her path in ministry and fulfilling her calling in life, but she sees it only as a minor setback.
The church also has a multitude of supporters, within and without the Christian community. Recently they all came together in support of inclusiveness and of the passing of the Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville. The new law now extended legal protection against discrimination to members of the LGBT community.
Jackson plans to continue her ministry work and have her church be open to all.
“We’re here to bridge the gap between gay and straight people,” she said. “We’re here to create an environment that welcomes all persons into the fellowship and the worship of the Lord.”