STRONG BOND: Laura Paine and Susan Cottrell chose love after their children came out to them.
STRONG BOND: Laura Paine and Susan Cottrell chose love after their children came out to them. Warren Lynam

Church or my child: Christian women take stand against hate

AN UNEXPECTED phone call prompted the most devastating decision Susan Cottrell had made in her life.

When the Evangelical pastor's daughter first came out to her as bisexual, she had a choice to make: her child, or her church.

She chose love.

"We did not for one second think we would reject our daughter," Mrs Cottrell said. "Not for one second."

READ: 'It's about time': Church welcomes LGBTQI+ community

Yet many in their religious community, including members of their own family, told the Texan woman she chose wrong.

"These people hide behind what they say is loving and say they're speaking for God. How dare they," she said.

"They're using a couple of flimsy verses pulled out of context to condemn a whole group of people. I was extremely hurt and betrayed."

Mrs Cottrell felt abandoned by the church she had called home for 20 years, but never questioned her faith in God.

"Love is the biggest command from Jesus," she said.

"When the church isn't hearing LGBTQI+ people, when they want them to push their stories under the rug because it's not convenient, then they're the ones who aren't being loving.

"I knew I was making the right decision by choosing my daughter, and I knew Jesus would make that decision too."

However, hearing agonising stories of parents throwing their children down the stairs because of their sexuality was too much for Mrs Cottrell to bear.

She felt God was telling her to serve the LGBQTI+ community.

And so she did just that.

Mrs Cottrell, along with her husband Rob, founded a non-profit organisation, FreedHearts, aimed at helping other Christian parents to accept their children no matter their sexual preference.

The American woman's online community reached all over the globe, including right into the home of Alexandra Headland woman Laura Paine.

Mrs Paine saw herself reflected in Mrs Cottrell. The devout Christian, whose son came out as gay, knew it wasn't him who needed to change.

"When our son came out to us 10 years ago, there was no support. We couldn't find anyone," she said.

"But the spotlight was on us to examine our thoughts and beliefs, not our son's.

"We realised we had to be educated on something we knew nothing about. When we found Susan, it confirmed to me that I was on the right track to continue to love my child."

For years it was drilled into Mrs Paine that as a Christian, she must reject the LGBTQI+ community, but her son's decision to love freely changed her entire life.

"How can we sit in a church when we know our son and his husband aren't going to be welcomed?," she asked.

"It seemed black and white. You could rather be gay or Christian, but I knew that wasn't correct.

"Above all, I've chosen love, and I've chosen Jesus, because they are one and the same."

Now a strong ally and a coordinator for Sunshine Coast LGBTQI+ group PFLAG, Mrs Paine "wouldn't trade anything".

"Our son is the greatest gift we could possibly imagine."

Mrs Cottrell will be speaking at the Buderim Tavern on June 19 from 6.30pm for all of those who need support.