Brian Pengelly, M.Div 2007, attests to an emotional and tumultuous childhood, where he was forced to overcome it seeking help on his own. Pengelly struggled with his sexual identity and lived most of his childhood in complete terror of being rejected by God and his family. This kept him secluded and broken inside. Not wanting these feelings, he sought God desperately, praying "if I would just be good enough, will you please take it away."
All throughout his adolescent years, Pengelly felt as if he had failed God because his feelings of shame and guilt continually overcame him. He forced himself to reject his feelings, but it became more difficult and overbearing. It wasn't until he met a counsellor at Moody Bible University that he began to attain resources to help him deal with his sexuality.
After a few years, Pengelly found himself at Tyndale College & Seminary where he enrolled in the M.Div program in counselling. His passion and natural gifting was in working with the youth. He enjoyed his life at Tyndale where he appreciated the ethnic diversity because it helped him with his cross cultural skills. Pengelly lived on residence for five years where he spent a lot of time with first year frosh students who were youth ministry majors. He would mentor them and even run small groups, trying to equip them for the skills they needed to help others. Pengelly became the loving and welcoming person that the young people looked up to and turned to for direction. It was the very thing he needed and desired when growing up.
Pengelly's heart and calling at "New Direction", which is a para church, disciples youth that are struggling sexually. The youth that he works with are terrified and fear rejection from people around them and God. The heart of his ministry is to equip the church to not judge or throw these people out. He says, "the reality of discipleship is that it's long and it's messy. The first thing that changes in their life is not sexual ethics and if the church can't be safe place for them before they get to that point, then something is wrong with the church." God works in unique ways in shaping and forming people to become the person that he wants them to become. Thus, Brian believes and encourages that "the best way to win someone in faith is to embrace rather than reject."
Pengelly encourages those to look at the acts of Jesus and how he responded to those who struggled with their sexuality. Pengelly challenges Christians today: "The church's response to homosexuality is culture's litmus test to the reality of our faith. Where we fail to love homosexuals, we fail the gospel." In understanding this, Christians should understand what it means to embrace everyone, no matter what struggles they may be facing. If we are indeed a religion about love and acting in love as Jesus did, we need to stand up for these social issues. How powerful would it be to help and reach out to those who are so battered and broken emotionally, to help them to know that they haven't failed themselves or God in any way, but that God can uplift even those who struggle sexually?
There in lays the grace that God has bestowed onto those who live in such a fallen world. He looks deep within the pangs of pain and from it, arises something so beautiful and so precious. Pengelly's testimony is one that touches those who have faced any kind of struggle in which it seems almost impossible to overcome. God's love and mercy can overcome all and Pengelly can attest to this, "I used to feel like I wasn't worth anything, that I was weird and didn't belong, but God has given me a new identity: I belong to Him now, and that is the best thing in the world."