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Gay Christian Network gathering models what the church could be

A reflection on the 11th annual Gay Christian Network conference.

Photo (copyright) Daniel Rarela / Dr. J Photography
Photo (copyright) Daniel Rarela / Dr. J Photography

Photo (copyright) Daniel Rarela / Dr. J Photography

 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

I look forward to the Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference, the largest gathering of LGBT Christians in the world, all year long. Last year was my first time experiencing the incredible space that is created for LGBT Christians of differing denominations and theologies on same-sex sex. This space allowed for Side A and Side B Christians of all backgrounds to meet together and, despite our differences, worship. It was the first time I felt truly at home in the house of God. This year, I was blessed again to join my family in Christ — together at the table. And this year, we feasted.

2014 was an incredible year of many historical moments in the LGBT Christian conversation. Many progressive steps were taken to be more inclusive of LGBT people. Voices like mine have been given platforms to share our own stories – which is something I never thought possible. I never once imagined being able to write and speak on my story and the stories of thousands of other LGBT Christians. It’s been some of the most enriching, yet admittedly, exhausting work I’ve ever have had the honor of doing. But if I’m honest, it has also been isolating in many ways.

I didn’t realize it right away, and that’s perhaps because I don’t like to dwell on it, but I was hungry for community. I missed being part of a religious space that was fully inclusive of me and others like me. I haven’t had a safe, all inclusive space since before I came out ten years ago. It only became less of an opportunity as I became vocal about the religious homophobia my community faces. And I miss it. Every weekend I miss it. But at GCN my hunger was fed.

I was thirsty for the word of God presented in a way that reflected Her all-encompassing love for us. I was tired from kicking the dust up in my rainbow colored sandals as I walked the lonely walk of being an LGBT Christian. I wanted to hear the voice of both the New and Old Testament God through the lens of Jesus. I wanted to understand how the gospel is good news for all of God’s children and not just for those who professed to be God’s mouthpiece. I was thirsty and at GCN my cup overflowed.

At GCN I found shade from the scrutiny of being someone who identifies as both LGBT and Christian. At GCN I found a tent in this desert of lonely travelers. Inside, we lay down our baggage and washed one another’s feet. We came from all over, spoke different languages, and believed different things. Yet we continued to make space at the table for each one of us. And together, we ate.

Jeff Chu spoke on vulnerability being key to making space at this table – a key to an inclusive church. “The table I long for—the church I hope for—is a place where we love especially when it isn’t easy, allowing us to be vulnerable, inviting every voice to join the conversation, pushing us meal by meal toward community, toward communion,” Chu said. Together, we listened to his call.

Photo (copyright) Daniel Rarela / Dr. J Photography

Vicky Beeching. Photo (copyright) Daniel Rarela / Dr. J Photography

Danilo Cortez shared his story on his son coming out and on his journey on becoming LGBT-affirming. He apologized for the bad theology he perpetuated and he thanked us for welcoming him into the community. Together, we shared our drink with him. Vicky Beeching spoke on her own journey as a gay Christian and her never ending love for Christ. She bravely shared her story and called us to live in the tension. To share our doubts and grow spiritually from them. Together, we broke bread.

They are my family. And they are calling for a better Church. One that invites LGBT people in instead of pushing them out of the pews. Something sacred happened at this conference. Something truly magnificent and holy happened. There was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Walking into a space where all voices were welcome at the table was walking on sacred ground.

But it shouldn’t be isolated to a three day weekend, once a year. It should be all year long and in every nation. The church must begin to invite all to the table. But it’s not just the work of straight Christians to create these spaces. It’s all of our work for we are, together, the body of Christ. Director Justin Lee called for us to extend the grace we want for ourselves to those who hate us. The grace we felt poured out by the Holy Spirit at GCN we should pour out upon on those who condemn us. It is that grace partnered with our vulnerability that we will find ourselves building tables to share with others – even those of whom we fundamentally disagree with.

There was an abundance of good fruits from which we all brought and shared with one another. Our bellies full as if we were stuffed with manna from heaven – we feasted. Together we modeled what the church could be. What it should be. A space for us to be together feasting at the table.

Follow my twitter and facebook for all things #FaithfullyLGBT. Watch all of the keynotes here. Read my favorite reflection pieces on this year’s Gay Christian Network conference:
Dianna Anderson on the power of being seen.
Matthias Roberts on sitting at the table.
Marg Heder on the “wall of love.”
John Pavlovitz on singing songs with unicorns.
Justin Massey compares his experience at an Exodus conference to GCN.
Lindsey and Sarah on the love mandate.
Eve Tushnet on coming home.