Disclaimer: I am aware that differences in opinion can be divisive. Division is not meant to be the spirit of this post. I hope that in all things, we recognize the shared humanity in one another. Let’s dialogue. Let’s learn from other perspectives. My prayer is this: Lord, lead us to your truth.
This weekend I was gifted with the opportunity to attend the Gay Christian Network conference in Denver, Colorado. (Recently changed to Q Christian Fellowship.)
A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have gone.
But in my journeys through faith and doubt and wrestling with theology, I’m glad that has changed. (I’d be more than happy to discuss personally how my theology shifted, but this post is not meant to be that conversation.)
What happened this weekend was jarring.
It rattled me.
It convicted me.
It left me a different person.
I went to the conference affirming the LGBTQ+ lifestyle, but I came out celebrating it.
One of the major things that struck me was that the issue of homosexuality in the Bible is not some abstract theological concept.
It has real consequences.
It really matters.
It can be easy as the straight majority to forget that.
As a straight person, I am free to pronounce a LGBTQ+ lifestyle as sinful and it doesn’t cost me anything.
I don’t have to change who I am.
I don’t have to wrestle with my very identity.
I have nothing to lose.
But many have a lot to lose.
Coming out can be a painful process.
You’re exposing yourself.
You’re asking other people to accept you for who you really are.
You’re risking major rejection.
Part of the beauty I witnessed this weekend was a community born out of shared pain.
It wasn’t a conference where everybody fakes their perfect, pious spirituality.
Real life was called out into the open.
Many of these Christians have been kicked out of their churches, their ministries and even their families.
They have lived painful experiences that I can’t begin to imagine.
They’ve been labeled things that are derogatory, shaming and abusive.
They’ve felt isolated, alone and outcast.
Yet, somehow, they cling to the hope of Jesus.
They do their best to reach out in love to others.
They affirm the image of God in every person.
And I was lucky enough to witness and receive this.
They prayed for me.
They hugged me.
They paid for my food.
They went out of their way to include me in plans.
They looked me in the eye and asked me real questions.
They were patient with me as I sought understanding.
Patience?…you get the picture.
It was amazing to see the tangible love of Jesus fully on display.
And this was all from a community that some see as “sinful, evil and bent on destruction”.
I can tell you that certainly isn’t true.
As I said earlier, a few years ago I probably wouldn’t have attended this conference.
I wish I knew then how much I was missing out on.
I wish I knew then how much the church is missing out on.
This weekend, I had a conversation with a transgender woman who had recently transitioned.
She told me that, contrary to what she expected, her friendships and relationships had deepened through her transition.
She posited that because she now wears her vulnerability on the outside, it breaks down the walls that make us pretend we have everything together.
People recognize their own humanity in her story.
People can have real conversations with her because they know she can handle it.
She’s not afraid to take steps toward authenticity.
She’s not afraid of being fully known.
In fact, she’s made big choices to be fully known.
The LGBTQ+ community has so much to teach us.
And many of us have kicked them out or relegated them to menial tasks on the sidelines.
I hope that changes.
I see it beginning to.
In closing, I have a couple things I’d like to say to a few different groups of people.
To the LGBTQ+ community: You are made in the image of God and deeply loved. For what it’s worth, I welcome and affirm you. Thank you for welcoming me and showing me how to love.
To the open and/or skeptical: Walk with an LGBTQ+ Christian. Have coffee with them. Ask them questions. You’ll probably have more in common than you think. You’ll probably learn things you didn’t know. Keep engaging this community.
To the opposed: Love is always the best way forward. Even if you don’t accept the lifestyle, affirm the person. There is no place for hate or shame.
To the allies: We have brothers and sisters that need us to speak up. We can have conversations others can’t have. We can share, defend, protect and celebrate.
To the church: Let us be a place where everyone can belong. Even those who don’t look, act or experience life like us. We will be better for it.
To all: I’m more convinced than ever that the breath of God lives inside every human being no matter their race, faith, age, IQ, sexuality or gender. Let us not erase our differences or let them divide us. Let us embrace the many ways that God shows up in this world.