But this year, his sister joined the Lowder family for Thanksgiving and will be back for Christmas -- the first time in 15 years. "She had such a great time, we begged her to come back," he said. "These are special times."
In hindsight, Lowder said he regretted his reaction, for which he apologized later.
Today, he takes the church to task for the judgment it casts against LGBT people -- even if doctrine still considers homosexuality a sin.
"You should love and accept people regardless," he said. "Believers in Christ say they hate the sin and love the sinner. But that's hypocritical. You have no reason to hate someone else's sin. You need to worry about your own sin… We are all sinners."
"We say we love the drug addicts and the unwed mothers and the Muslins and people who practice homosexuality, and yes, you should do that, but when the rubber meets the road, what are you doing about it?" Lowder asked. "That is absolutely meaningless until you do something to reach out to them."
He said the Christian church can do more than pay "lip-service" and still maintain its conviction on the issue.
"The problem with the church, is it's trying to figure out how not to compromise my beliefs and at the same time not come across as judgmental, castigating or negative," said Lowder.
Bowens, too said she doesn't judge her mother for her religious convictions, but wants parents to think before turning away their gay children -- and their partners.
"Take a minute and remember every interaction we see in the Bible involving Jesus and some person who in that time or place was deemed to be a sinner or undesirable," she said. "He went to their homes and had dinner with them. He hung out with the sinners of his day."
"Be kind to your children and their partners," said Bowens. "Christianity mandates kindness and it mandates hospitality. Just love your children and be open to those who love your children -- like Jesus."
As for her own two boys -- "the eternal loves of my life" -- she said they had no problem with her homosexuality.
"When I finally came out to them in their teens, they cracked up laughing at me," she said. "My older son said, 'Mom, we've known since fifth grade.'"