I asked and you answered… Now let’s keep this thing going.

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So tonight, we had our first LITT (Living in the Tension) gathering and, I think, we are off to a wonderful start. There were perhaps 12 of us there, and within this number, there were vastly different views represented. It was beautifully tense you might say. Passions flared for but a moment, which is good because that means people care A LOT about this group, and then we huddled ourselves back around the fire of love and community and Christ.

We got this, I know we do.

Earlier in the day I solicited advice from my friends on twitter about different questions/topics/approaches/etc to make this group be something spiritually redemptive. A success for both the church and LGBT community. A place where we can feel brave enough to wonder out loud and safe enough to share the most vulnerable parts of our story.

I have absolutely incredible people in my corner on twitter. Seriously. The responses I received meant the world to me.

But. I don’t want it to stop there. We have to keep talking about this.

46thpsalm, the blogger behind Radical Grace:

“I think the best approach is to make church members recognize commonalities. People like to suppose #LGBT are different.”

“Emphasize that God’s love is for all, and that respectful disagreement is even OK, so long as it’s done with dignity.”

“I would stress that our job as the body of Christ is to show God’s love, not presuppose his judgment.”

“can’t make everyone agree with us or condone something they don’t approve of. But you can demonstrate our inherent worth.”

“I might also use examples of Jesus associating with people the “average person” doesn’t accept, such as tax collectors, etc”

Charlotte Norton, the blogger behind Middle Ground:

 

“how to make ministry/worship welcoming to LGBT people. How to translate theory/belief into practice that honours personhood”

“lots of thoughts…1. language used . People need to know appropriate terms for describing/speaking to LGBT people “

“2. dialogue. people need to know it is possible to co-exist with someone who has a different opinion “

“3. outreach. the LGBT community needs to know you are there for them”

“4. needs. the LGBT community has specific needs and “issues” – how to deal with someone who has previously been hurt? “

“5. relationships. LGBT people need to be supported and befriended as they are.”

“6. Related to 5. LGBT people come in couples and many need support like straight couples. How will church deal with this? “

“the main thing is that the church needs to decide what the vision is before figuring out how to implement it (to avoid giving the “wrong message” about itself to LGBT people and its own members)”

Julie ( 🙂 ), the blogger behind Incite Faith:

 

“Let everyone speak from experience. Everyone will have different denominations and beliefs. Creates productive dialogue.”

“Let them speak in the 1st person– and from personal experience. “I feel,” “I believe” are good prompts.”

“Have others share their stories and empathize the space is safe to share their thoughts and opinions on their sexuality.”

“Facilitator should focus on healing given the emotional pain inflicted by the Church w/o making them feel like a victim”

Rohan Salmond, blogger behind Hey! Crunch King!:

 

“My major thing is making sure Side B folk don’t let properly homophobic rhetoric slide when it’s in the news etc…”

“I’d like to challenge the notion that LGBT folk aren’t able to lead small groups etc too.”

“Is barring us from broader theological conversations in that way actually healthy for the life of the Church?”

“Questioning the narrow definition of masculinity churches hold would be good. “Men’s retreats” are always about sport etc.”

“Asking how to encourage a safe environment to be questioning would be a good broad question to ask too!“

The dynamic duo, Tony and Jordan, bloggers behind gaysubtlety:

 

“Sorry, late to the party (was playing soccer). Story based to start (allows people to feel heard and known, prevents eventual disagreement from being mired in ignorance. Practical, local initiatives you could partner with.”

“And I agree with Charlotte Norton that the church should come up with a vision statement that the whole church has access to.”

“Important that this not just be a side-group to discuss LGBTQ things, but a think tank for the church body and its future.”

Amy Mitchell, the blogger behind Unchained Faith, offered some much needed encouragement:

“I will continue to pray for grace and love in the conversation.”

In the air tonight, as we reached the end of our time, was a palpable understanding that we were headed for minefield. We agreed that we can only cross it if we do this together. But only if we choose to love and learn from one another. Something noticeably absent in the broader church and cultural dialogue.

I am both hopeful and nervous.

And your responses have made a HUGE difference. I am showing these to my Pastor leading this thing.

There is a clear consensus for ensuring a safe space where love is emphasized and stories are valued. That is what will lead us forward. That will be what fuels us.

But, now, I must call on your services again… We are looking for topics to cover in our gatherings. Things like bullying, gender identity, progressive revelation are a few on my mind.

But do you have any others? What are some topics that we can start with that will set us on a firm footing? Ones that aren’t emotionally explosive? We’re new at this and the last thing we need is a nasty fight.

Any good Bible Stories that can relate to gay folks or reconciliation?

Any excellent books that we could read?

Any movies or documentaries?

Any tough but critical questions?

 

What about those who are curious about the LGBT community?

What questions do you have?

What is the best way for you to learn more about us?

What do you want to know?

How can we help you?

Again, I don’t care if you are LGBT, a woman or a man, old or young, black or white, conservative or liberal, Christian or not, I want your input because you matter to this conversation. And you most certainly matter to me.

Fill me in!

RR

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11 thoughts on “I asked and you answered… Now let’s keep this thing going.

  1. One Bible story I find particularly meaningful is the conversion if the Ethiopian eunuch. I first read this story in the context of reconciliation in Brian McLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christianity.” I don’t have the book handy, but it’s in the chapter on sexuality. (Incidentally, McLaren himself is a great resource on this subject; his son is gay, and I gather his coming out was somewhat recent.)

    I don’t know how much sense this makes, but an important consideration is the whole idea of doctrinal difference. Why is THIS issue different from other theological disagreements? What makes it more significant than, say, infant vs. believer’s baptism, or women pastors, or whether or not people today can speak in tongues? I know we need to get away from platforms, but so often, I meet people who tell me they “love their gay friends, but just don’t agree with them.” They KNOW their friends’ stories; they’ve been close with them. Some even say, “If it were up to me I wouldn’t care, but the Bible says…” And even in the face of being shown how Scripture isn’t all that clear, they still continue to work against/vote against inclusion. It is very deep work, but it’s important to know why we hold fast to our beliefs.

    • I love the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch! I wrote about it on this blog AND I read mclaren’s commentary on it, which was so incredibly encouraging. Read my post Best Bible Story Ever.

      Those questions are so important because when you’re asked to defend your beliefs, you usually find many flaws in your argument that you wouldn’t have noticed before. While I want this group to never turn into a debate format, I want people to grow intellectually and spiritually in their walk with this. And I want to know why people’s emotions become so flared around this topic. Is it just tied into a general conservative worldview? Is it because it is a sin of the ‘other’? I have always found it interesting that the two issues focused on the most are ones that straight men never have to deal with.

      RR

      *sorry in an advance for any typos or incomplete sentences or whatnot… I’m at work and I’m typing on my phone!

      • For me personally, I think about LGBT issues a lot because I am bisexual, and so this is something that I do have to deal with. Some of my beliefs and convictions have changed as a result of processing this, but some have not. For example, I no longer believe that people can get rid of their same-sex feelings, but I’m still solidly on side B when it comes to sexual ethics. I will readily admit that I could be wrong on the latter issue, and that’s something that I think about a lot, but I’ve also studied the issue enough to believe that some of my core beliefs about the Bible would have to change in order for me to accept side A doctrine in an intellectually honest manner.

        Where I’m at, there’s a lot of tension within myself. I see side A gay friends who honestly believe that gay relationships can be God-honoring, and I know them to be great people. It seems to me that many of them are genuine believers. But I also don’t want to promote something that I believe God calls sinful, and it’s hard to know what do with that. (When my disagreements have to do with a matter of less drastic significance than a person’s most important relationship, it’s easier for me to just overlook differences in belief.) I actually spend most of my efforts in this area talking to straight conservative Christians about the ways they mistreat LGBT people of all stripes.

        I find the tension more difficult in that it does affect my own life, and I understand my LGBT friends in a way that my straight friends don’t. I suspect that a lot of straight people have a great deal of insensitivity due to that not being the case.

        Sorry if that was rambly.

  2. I just started paying attention to your blog – found it through the gaysubtlety Twitter feed. (I think you wrote a post that Rachel Held Evans shared regarding father/son stuff a while back, though, didn’t you?)

    This should be a much easier question than you were expecting: who is “we”? You mentioned Andrew Marin visiting, and I know he does Living in the Tension gatherings in Chicago. Are you doing something like that locally? Or is this some kind of Internet thing?

    • First- gaysubtlety is awesome. Tony and Jordan have been great sources of encouragement for me and what I write about. So, kudos on liking awesome blogs!

      Yes- I had a guest post on Rachel Held Evans blog titled “Forgive them, Father”. It was written out of a continuing story of guilt placed on dads of LGBT kids, or, a better way to put it, guilt INFLICTED upon these fathers. There was a short video that did a number on my dad, the consequences of which are still with us today, even after a year has past. I recently read Justin Lee’s book, TORN, and I found that story of my dad is one of a million others. It’s a big problem.

      The group I am referring to is one that has been initiated at my church. I had attended a couple different LITT gatherings in Chicago and I knew that I needed something like that back home in the Twin Cities. SO, my brother works at a church, I spoke with the pastor who had wanted something to start like this for some time. Problem is, we all feel a bit out of our league. Its such an emotionally charged issue. We are trying to live in that tension without demonizing one another. Its an attempt at seeing person behind the position, humanize the “other”.

      So it is a local group thing! But I just wanted to fish the internet for certain topics we could discuss in our group in a healthy way. A warm up of sorts. Topics that relate to LGBT issues but are not explosive.

      • To your second comment. Again, I first want to commend you on your humility. Far too often what I hear from both side A and B is a rightness of belief and absolutely no admission at the potential for error. You just put into a words a good presentation of how we speak with conviction without arrogance. Bravo!

        Let me tell you where I am at. I honestly am not convinced of either position. Its really weird, but in my mind, I can’t even figure out which one I am 51 % sure of. So I just have lots of questions that I wrestle with that I usually find answers in through others’ stories- the main reason I so wanted this group to happen.

        My mom actually spoke at the meeting last night and she reiterated something that Andrew said last Sunday. “Christians need to stop talking to other Christians.” There is a sort of shield that Conservative straight christian folk have put up around them when it comes to the LGBT community. So much of a divide that I am regularly surprised at the assumptions some of my friends make about LGBT people. It’s astonishing, but it makes sense. They have been taught, like I was taught (not by my parents, but by the Christian culture) that gay people are deviants intending destruction of the Church. So we need to talk to people who are different from us more, and that is why I wanted this group to happen.

        Might I ask- are you fan of Wesley Hill? Amongst other things, I think his inclusion to the group would make for meaningful dialogue.

        Thanks for giving me your thoughts. Hope to hear from you soon!

        RR

      • Yeah, I can in some ways relate to the whole “father guilt” thing as a non-straight Christian guy who had a good relationship with his dad growing up. Fortunately, by some miracle I always knew that wasn’t the issue even when I totally bought into the ex-gay ideas about orientation change. I was in that stage when I first came out to my dad, and I found it uncomfortable showing him some ex-gay literature online given the way it often blamed him for my “issue.” What bothered me the most was the ways he started acting, as we had that conversation, like he’d failed me somehow. (I thought that my issues with peers growing up must have been the cause of my feelings. You know, the same gender identity and relational issues, which to my defense I did indeed have at the time.) I never really let him blame himself, and I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t know what kind of pain it may have caused him that I didn’t see, though. (I’ve also read _Torn_, and Justin does bring up a lot of important points like you’ve mentioned.) I actually shared your guest post on Facebook and Google+ back when it was new, now that I remember.

        I haven’t been hurt to nearly the degree of a lot of other people I’ve talked to, and I’m not sure why. I certainly went through the same shame that we pretty much all go through and heard all sorts of disparaging comments about LGBT people, but it’s a lot better these days, and the disparaging comments don’t get to me like they used to. I think part of that is that people have generally responded well when I’ve come out to them.

        What I have felt called to do is to be a whole lot more out than I ever thought I would be, particularly with the conservative Christians in my life. Like I mentioned above, I’ve been sharing stuff related to sexuality with selected people on Facebook and Google+, where by “selected” I’m still including everyone I know from Taylor University (where I did undergrad), my church, and the grad chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship that I’m part of. Although I’m a conservative Christian like most of them, I break enough of their stereotypes that I hope I’m getting them thinking and opening their hearts. I’m encouraged to hear about what you’re doing as well!

        Regarding Wesley Hill, everyone who talks to me about LGBT issues knows that they can get a free copy of _Washed and Waiting_ from me just by giving me their address. I’m a huge fan, and I think it would be good material for a group like yours. Speaking of which, have you heard about Spiritual Friendship? http://spiritualfriendship.org – it’s another excellent blog, with Wesley Hill and Ron Belgau (both great guys) at the helm.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this all day and there is something I keep wrestling with back and forth. I’m straight but the LGBT community doesn’t bother me or offend me in their behavior. I feel in order for there to be a bridge drawn between the Church and LGBT community, it needs to be made clear in the beginning that grace is the focus — not trying to deepen relationships so you will eventually convert (repent from your ‘sins’ and ask for forgiveness). This is why I believe the issue between debate and dialogue is crucial. It needs to be made clear that no one within the group will try and *change* each other, but love each other.

    Honestly, there has been too much focus lately on the LGBT community and homosexuals and the Church and it makes me cringe. Everyone is talking about it. When the focus is so prevalent, it only segregates everyone further. If everyone focused on *love*, this wouldn’t be an issue. The Church needs to be more accepting — period.

    The only thing I can offer as a straight female who supports homosexuality and the LGBT community is when you open the discussion, is to work as a team. Everyone needs to understand that we are all in this together. No one is different whether gay, straight, bi, whatever. Regardless of orientation, people need to be accepted as they are without a label. I know this is hard, but when people identify others with a label, they are treated as a label and less like a human.

    My only concern is the Church will try to ‘convert’ and change people from their behavior and this needs to be communicated in the beginning that this is not the case. The Church should leave their agenda at the door. This is also true for any one within the circle.

    Also, another thing I thought about is — what if someone from the group decides they want to change their orientation from gay to straight? How will the rest of the group respond?

    I’ll have to think about this some more but this is the only thing I can offer right now.

    By the way, the whole time I’ve been following this conversation, all I can think is, “I’m so proud of him!”

    I’m proud of you. You’ve grown so much in the last few months. Keep writing and inspiring, RR.

    Love you!

    • As always, thank you so much.

      The first part of your point is what I am struggling to unearth. The difference between debate and dialogue. I am hopeful that our stories will pave the ground for loving grace filled dialogue to take place, but I know some people may go rogue and start criticizing others… I dont know what to do if that happens.

      I totally totally totally understand where you are coming from on the conversation dominating the airwaves over little things like “GODS LOVE FOR ALL” and “SAVED BY GRACE”. Maybe homosexuality just holds more sex appeal (PUN?) On a serious note, I agree with you fully.

      I will say that I think silence can be harmful, especially for gay folks inside the church. We need people to get as close as they can to understanding what its like to be a sexual minority. Only then, can those who have homophobic tendencies, start to experience change.

      While I myself am very very very much opposed to ex gay conversion, as you know through my frustrated emails! I think I have to figure out a way to express my concern in a loving manner. One that understands why the person feels the need to change. Listen to their scriptural interpretations and their stories and how they have reached where they are. It has to be a universal offering of a grace, and an attempt to kindly wrestle truth from our conversations.

      Thank you Julie! I love love love you! I want your input to stay active on this. You are a woman with wisdom beyond your years!

    • Hmmm… Unsure. There are some things I hated and other parts I loved. Altogether it is a well written and inspiring piece (ill have to email you some more specifics later)… Thank you for posting this!

      The comments on the other hand are kinda gross!

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