October 12, 2017
Dear Non-affirming Christian,
Hi, I’m so glad you’re here. One of the very best things about doing this work is getting to have conversations like this. I know we are a little different—in theology, in worship style, in Biblical interpretation. That’s okay. We have one thing in common: we are all one in the Body of Christ. And I’m certain about another thing we have in common: our life purpose, with every breath, is to glorify God and point the world to Jesus. We are in this together; one big beautiful mess.
I know it may sound odd to you: a gay Christian. I get it. I grew up on a family farm in rural Ohio in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone and nearly all 4,000 people show up in a pew on Sunday mornings. I too come from conservative church and Biblical literalism. In fact, I would be willing to bet that a lot of our theology is fairly similar.
I thank God that He was gracious enough to give me that background, which has become the backdrop for my entire ministry and life work: to reconcile the Church with the LGBTQ+ community. It is hard and holy work: reconciliation. It requires forgiveness, compassion and grace beyond belief. It asks us to lay down our pride, our certainty, our need to be right.
To answer your question: no, I have never felt torn between choosing a life of chasing after God in the footsteps of Jesus and a life of being honest about how God created me.
However, I have felt a lot of tension surrounding my involvement in the Church and my sexual orientation. Several years ago, when I came out as a lesbian, my church asked me to step down from my leadership positions. It felt like such a severe rejection of my God-given talents and gifts, and it left me reeling for years. I had always been very involved in my church and I couldn’t understand how I was suddenly disqualified from serving in the areas which had previously been so enthusiastically affirmed by my pastor and other church leaders. I hadn’t changed at all. I had only opened up about a very raw and vulnerable and significant aspect of myself.
After that, I did what any scared and confused 18-year-old would do: I walked away. It was heartbreaking and so difficult for me to leave an institution I love and cherish and value beyond words, but it was suffocating to try to continue to be a part of something which refused me because of a core aspect of who I am.
But, listen closely Friend, because the next part of the story is so beautiful: God pursued me. He chased me with desperate urgency, undying love, and unending grace. He followed me straight into all the places I thought would lose Him and carefully, slowly, gently called me back into His light.
God, unwilling to let me go, breathed Hope and Life back into my battered and bruised heart. And it was here that I learned He wants to do this for all of His children.
And that’s where my ministry began: taking this message to the ends of the earth, to the people the Church has historically marginalized and oppressed and silenced and ignored.
It is important that I tell you this: there was a period of time where God and I parsed through my life. He showed me what needed to be carved out of my heart and life and graciously poured healing down onto those areas. He introduced new ideas and made room for them. He gently pried my little fingers, digit by digit, off old wine skins which could never withstand the new wine He wanted to give me. During this time, if God had wanted me to abandon this part of myself – the part that tells me my sexual orientation is pointed toward women instead of men – I believe with all my heart He would have made that clear to me.
Instead, this is what happened: God gave me a mandate. “This story is not just for you,” I heard Him say. I already knew I was a writer. God had already showed me I was created for ministry. I had just been waiting and praying for a whisper from God to point me in the right direction. As unexpected as it was, this is it.
I think we learn best through story, so I wanted to share a bit of my story and journey toward Jesus with you. In fact, I realized, as I tried to answer your question, that I could not possibly give an authentic answer without doing so.
I want to tell you one last thing: it’s okay if you aren’t sure yet. This conversation is for everyone who is willing to show up.
It’s for the LGBTQ individual whose heart has been shattered by the conservative Christian Church; the vulnerable soul searching for the acceptance, belonging, and community to which Jesus calls us.
It’s for the LGBTQ-affirming Christian who is trying to reconcile the passionate love of Christ for all people, not despite of, not because of, but fully inclusive of, the baked-into-their-identities aspects of who they are.
It’s for the LGBTQ Christians who are struggling with theology – loved ones’ and their own – trying to find a common ground with their brothers and sisters in Christ for the Gospel, rather than against each other.
It’s for the atheist, the agnostic, the one who chooses a beautifully unique interfaith, curious about the conservative Church and why it’s relationship with the LGBTQ community is so complicated.
It’s for the person who stands up, loud and proud, to proclaim the desperate need for LGTBQ-inclusive theology.
It’s for the one who slips in the back pew and opens their Bible, wondering where the Jesus of the Bible, the One who loves liberally, eats with “the least of these”, and gives all of himself for all of humanity is in this Body in front of them.
It’s for the conservative Christian who looks at the Bible and sees only condemnation for homosexuality and doesn’t know how to act toward the LGBTQ community.
It’s for the one who stands firm in their convictions about sexuality and is confused by the inherent, born-with-it sexual, physical, and emotional attraction to members of the same gender or of both genders or of neither gender.
In short, this conversation is with you and for you. We need you – your beliefs, your convictions, your theology, your heart.
Here, I’ll move over a little, there’s room for you to sit. The pew is big enough—there is more room, more room for us all.
This is not just my work; it is ours—you and I, and the whole wide world. Come with me, won’t you?