Walls & Belonging

As I type this blog I have a some what somber heart.  I am currently on a flight back to Atlanta from Houston.

I attended the Gay Christian Network Conference and joined LGBTQIA+ Christians, ally’s and their family members from 48 states and 16 countries totaling close to 1500 persons.

If there is interest I will provide a link to the key notes that were filmed during the conference at the bottom of this blog post.

We stayed in this beautiful hotel attached to this massive convention center. That part was truly a treat for the senses.

There is still so much for me to process.

The entire time I had feelings of kindredness, excitement, calm and awe.

I met so many wonderful people.

Heard so many stories, both hopeful and sorrowful.

These are my people. This is my community.

We all share either the reality of and or a love for someone who – in their humanity and personhood experience an orientation and or gender identity that is in sharp contrast to a vast majority of other individuals in the world.

We truly are  a minority.  And yet we are brave enough to live as we are and declare with our very lives what is already evident in our hearts and minds.

That we are whole and loved by God.

That we too have a place in the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

In my opinion, we are part of the body that if accepted by our cis and hetero brothers and sisters we would be  considered  seemingly less honorable (1 Corinthians 12:23)

There was a consistent  theme throughout the conference.

A theme of social justice.

Of standing up for and speaking out alongside the other. Recognizing our own privileges and seeking a posture of humility to live in and operate out of love for the other.

There were key notes and workshops on

intersectionality ( imagine an intersection of major streets – and each street symbolizes a major aspect of the human condition; race, socio -economic status, ability, etc. )

racial justice, and awareness of various privileges:

White,

Male,

Able,

Cis,

Class, the whole gambit.

All of our shoes were stepped on for sure.

We were also challenged to seek a posture of humility and love towards those in the church (big C) who have been the source of turmoil, anguish and loss for so many in our midst.

We were reminded to love those who unfortunately (unintentionally in most cases ) bare the label “enemy” in the greater church.

Those who would dismiss us

condemn us,

not make space for us,

ignore us

make light of us

not listen to us

intentionally hurt us,

erase safe places for us,

not care for us,

not love us,

and enlarge the edges of the margins in which we already exist.

It was a challenging word to hear that we must continue to engage in love, to push past the hurt and ensue peace as much as we are able – by the grace of God and by the power of His Spirit.

as much as we (collectively as a individuals in the church throughout time ) have sought to create boundaries. The reality is there are no boundaries within the Body of Christ. 

Jesus is all and in all.

There is no distinction in His Salvation, no distinction in His Grace, no distinction in His Sacrifice and Intercession on behalf of all of us.

So we (the LGBTQIA+ Christian community) must love. We must treat the other as we would treat ourselves even when they hurt us.

No boundaries, no end of love in sight.

Each day is a promise of renewed grace and strength to live and love yet again.

Another unique challenge that came to us all at the conference was the idea of breaking down the very real wall and divide that exists between affirming and non affirming Christians within our community. I wrote about trying to navigate the contours of this wall in previous blog posts. I shared how I landed on an overall affirming stance (most commonly called Side A) even while staring at this issue after exhaustive study and not coming to a clear one way or the other, black or white, but rather textured grey.

The affirming resolve on my part just organically evolved after the posture of my heart was changed by the people I had met, combined with what I believe to be some key biblical passages and moral logic leaning in the direction of affirmation.

That affirming stance for me has only solidified in time, but I will share more about that another time. On another post.

The challenge we received at the conference was the idea that God is neither affirming or non affirming  (not Side A or Side B) and that in acknowledging His transcendence on this issue we could reach across the divide and better love and understand what has become a contentious issue within the LGBTQIA+ Christian community.

Indeed not just our community but in the wider church as a whole. This issue of rather or not God blesses same sex unions and by extension a clearly defined answer to just  what kind of life a gay, lesbian, and bisexual individual is supposed to live when it comes to their sexuality.

Since however the  conference was specific to our community the focus was on taking care of our inner house and our inner paradigms and divides.

Not only were we challenged but we were  also deeply encouraged by one each others presence and stories and worship. We genuinely had a good, life giving time.

The conference is a special space created by special people and God is doing a work for His LGBTQIA children and it is a beautiful vibrant colored spectrum permeating the hearts and lives of individuals and faith communities the world over. 

One thought that kept reoccurring to me during the days leading up to the conference and during the conference  that I still wrestle with in this very moment is about my own faith community.

My church.

To be clear. I have had no indication of feeling unwelcome or unloved.

Not in the least. I am extremely fortunate to have experienced the exact opposite. Nothing but love.  Please hear me clearly when I say that this is FAR from the norm. 

However the reality is not lost on me that I am not only out publicly but I am also affirming.

My church is not affirming. Rightfully so. They are earnestly pursuing what they believe is God’s intention for human flourishing. As am I. We are just on different sides of a seemingly insurmountable wall.

Do I stay? Do I be vocal about where I stand? Do I hold my tongue and continue as the way things were before I came out? Before I became affirming? Do I continue to serve, and give, and invest and do life with this place that has been my home and source of spiritual authority, accountability and nourishment for the last few years?

This place, my church home –  is absolutely amazing.

Transcultural,

socio-economic, age, education and vocational diversity.

Transparent (and diverse leadership),

authentic members who do life with one another and seek to truly love well and sharpen each other in our pursuit of Christ as He holds us close.

Did  I mention the worship was on point? Jesus be a fence the worship is on friggin point.

So yeah. What to do?

I can’t begin to articulate how awkward it is to have total peace and clarity of conscious on something that literally millions of Christians view as both heretical and damnable.  Like, what do you do with that?

More questions.

Do I just go to an affirming church and start over? There are so, so many opinions and out looks on this very question for other LGBTQIA Christians like me. Trial and error and experience has resulted in multiple scenarios and outcomes for many individuals.

If I’m honest, part of me wants to stay put. To continue to serve and invest and just simply “be”. To not shrink back or hide anything but just be an open book and love as best as I can. Answer questions as they arise and just be real.  That’s my gut inclination. Truth be told I simply don’t know.  This too, I imagine will be one of those issues that works itself out in time. One day at a time.

So yeah, those are some thoughts. As always thanks for reading. I’m going to sorely miss my family from the conference. Truly a milestone moment in my life to have been able to attend. Now back to daily life.

Thanks for stopping by. Grace and Peace.

Heres the link to watch the key notes from the GCN Conference https://livestream.com/GCNconf

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