A Rooty Hill Christian mission has dismissed one of its live-in youth workers and sought his deportation to the US last week after discovering he was gay.
Shane Stoner, 22, was just three months into his year-long mission, spreading the word of God to local school children through hip-hop music, when mission management discovered unauthorised text messages on his mobile phone.
I was called into the office and asked if I was homosexual. I said yes, Stoner told the Sydney Star Observer.
I wasn’t bringing men back to the school. Maybe I sent a text message to a friend saying I thought a guy was hot. They gave me a few days to leave, so when no one was around I walked all my bags to the train station.
He contacted Twenty10 for emergency accommodation and stayed at a men’s shelter in Newtown until Metropolitan Community Church members found someone who could host him.
The Island Breeze Sydney mission at Rooty Hill, part of Youth With A Mission International, is run by husband and wife team Etienne and Tania Pieterse. The Pieterses did not return SSO‘s phone calls or emails yesterday.
Stoner’s visa was cancelled last week and his parents, who have accepted his sexual orientation, have secured him a plane ticket home for next week. But Stoner hopes to serve out his mission here and has contacted immigration officials to reinstate his original visa-term.
An African-American adopted by a white family in an all-white church-going community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Stoner said his faith was important to him and overseas missions to explore one’s faith were common in his community.
He previously completed a mission in 2004-05 at the same Rooty Hill centre and enjoyed the experience.
When I got back it felt like I was home. But the place had changed owners and they were very strict and regulated everything. Prayer began at 8.30am, Stoner said.
Youth workers live at the centre and their parents pay for all living expenses.
Stoner sought to make friends with other gay people while in Sydney through MySpace, but found it difficult. He lost many of his friends when he came out in Lancaster County after returning from his first mission.
Reconciling his sexual orientation and faith, Stoner said he now sees the Bible as written by fallible men, but his church friends and family still pray for him.
NSW anti-discrimination laws prohibit dismissal of employees on the basis of sexual orientation, but religious educational institutions are exempt.
However, a three-judge panel of the Administrative Decision Tribunal ruled earlier this month the Wesley Mission could not refuse services to same-sex couples because not all Christian churches believe homosexuality is a sin.
Stoner said he would consider legal action if it enabled him to continue his work in Australia.