It’s been an incredible year with highs and lows for LGBT people in Christianity. We’ve seen tensions rise as marriage equality becomes the law of the land. We’ve also seen straight evangelicals announce their support for civil marriage equality.
We’ve made a lot of headlines but there are eleven moments this year that stand out. These moments have shown significant shifts in the conversation and have defined how it has moved forward. In no particular order, here are eleven defining moments in 2014 for the Christian LGBT conversation:
More “ex-gay” people come out, renounce reparative therapy
In July, GLAAD published an exclusive interview with Yvette Cantu Schneider, a prominent “ex-gay” advocate. Schneider reached out to GLAAD to announce she “no longer wishes to identify with the “ex-gay” or anti-LGBT movement; is sorry for the pain she caused as part of that world.”
Then in August, nine former “ex-gay” leaders, including Schneider, wrote an open letter apologizing for their part in advocating for reparative therapy and condemned the practice. Their letter outlined their opposition to reparative therapy, announcing their intent to work to have the pseudo scientific practice made illegal.
In November, RNS published an interview with prominent ex-gay advocate Christian Schizzel who publicly denounced reparative therapy. Schizzel spent seven years being trotted around the country on media outlets as a poster boy for the ex-gay movement told RNS, “I won’t be a weapon anymore.”
Pope Francis shift in tone
Everyone’s favorite pope created quite the stir with his kind words to the LGBT community. In response to gay Catholics, Pope Francis said, in 2013, “Who am I to judge?” the impact of that comment radiated into 2014. The Gays in Christ conference at Notre Dame reflected this change of tone for the church by inviting celibate gay speakers.
World Vision Brouhaha
Early this year, the U.S. branch of evangelical institution World Vision decided to recognize same-sex marriages and extend employee benefits. “We have always affirmed traditional marriage as a God-ordained institution, World Vision President Richard Stearns said. “Nothing in our work around the world with children and families will change.”
The evangelical right’s response was swift with thousands pulling their memberships. Evangelical leaders condemned the organization for its policy shift and in less than 48 hours, World Vision reversed their decision.
A Southern Baptist Church adopts “third way” approach
The New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, CA., announced they would be taking a third way approach to the LGBT community. Pastor Danny Cortez, of the New Heart Community Church, also announced he had a change of theological opinion and was now affirming of same-sex relationships. After deliberation, The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee voted unanimously to break ties with the church.
ERLC conference on homosexuality
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission held a national conference on homosexuality. The conference reiterated the SBC’s standing opposition to same-sex relationships, however, a large number of LGBT activists attended the conference and had conversations with many of the SBC leaders. Russell Moore denounced ex-gay therapy, which was seen as progress. Yet, Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that actively works to criminalize homosexuality, was invited to speak, leaving mixed messages.
Frank Schaefer reinstated as clergy
In 2013, Pastor Frank Schaefer of the United Methodist Church was defrocked for performing a same-sex marriage ceremony for his son. “I will not refuse ministry to anyone,” Schaefer said. “I will never be silent again. I will always speak for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters.” In a surprising turn of events, Schaefer was reinstated this year after appeals went to the denominations highest court.
Matthew Vine’s “God and the Gay Christian”
A few years after his introduction to the conversation via a Youtube Video, Matthew Vines published God and the Gay Christian. The book, an affirming theological argument for same-sex relationships, catered to the masses. What’s truly remarkable is the amount of press Vine has received for the publication, a feat for a Gay Christian in the Christian publishing world.
David Gushee historic LGBT affirming speech
Leading evangelical ethicist, Dr. David Gushee vocalized his support for the LGBT community at the Reformation Project in Washington D.C. “It took me two decades of service as a married, straight evangelical Christian minister and ethicist to finally get here,” he said in his speech. “I am truly sorry that it took me so long to come into full solidarity with the Church’s own most oppressed group.” Gushee also released a book, “Changing Our Mind: A Call from America’s Leading Evangelical Ethics Scholar for Full Acceptance of LGBT Christians in the Church.”
Gay Christian Network hosts largest LGBT Christian gathering
The Gay Christian Network (GCN), an organization started by author Justin Lee, hosted the largest gathering of LGBT Christians earlier this year. Approximately 700 people attended the conference in Chicago which included Christian author Rachel Held Evans as a keynote speaker. The 2015 conference has already doubled in size with over 1400 people pre-registered by November.
Vicky Beeching comes out
Famed Christian rockstar Vicky Beeching came out as a lesbian. In an interview published in The Independent, she said, “I’m Gay. God loves me just the way I am.” Shortly after, Beeching took on notorious homophobe Scott Lively in an on air debate. Beeching is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the 2015 Gay Christian Network Conference in Portland, Or.
“Religious Liberty” discrimination bills
Arizona SB 1062 created controversy with a proposed bill, widely labeled as an anti-gay bill, meant to discriminate against LGBT couples. The right to discriminate veiled as religious liberty continued in 2014 as some vendors opted to not serve LGBT people due to their sincerely held religious beliefs. More of these laws are predicted to appear in 2015 despite the fact Jesus would bake the cake.