The Eagle Has Landed
This past week it was my privilege to attend and present two workshops at the Gay Christian Network Conference in Houston. Justin Lee and his capable team created a marvelous space for 1500 attendees who came together to worship, pray, and gain strength for the journey. The atmosphere was warm, inviting, gracious and supportive. While at the conference I attended my first meeting as a member of the Board of Directors. With great respect, I listened as Justin talked about GCN’s challenges and opportunities. I hope I can be a meaningful part of their growth.
On the opening evening I was introducing the speaker, so I was sitting in the front of the auditorium, which is rare for me. As the worship band backed off their microphones and the audience rose together in harmony to sing, “It Is Well With My Soul,” I turned toward the audience and cried the tears of someone painfully but surely finding peace attending my way. The speaker, Broderick Greer, spoke with the confidence and insight of an old soul, though he is only 24. He talked about his experience as a Black, gay Episcopal pastor from a Church of Christ background. He has survived a battle or two in his young life. Nothing I have faced even comes close to what he has survived.
In my first workshop I spoke about the lessons I am learning as a woman in American culture. There were tears from women in the audience who understand what it is like to be unseen and unheard just because you are a woman. There were mothers with gay children, ostracized from their families for the sin of embracing the gay or transgender child born to them. There were trans women and trans men who had lost family, church and job, but still remain committed to Christ and his church. I was honored these precious saints chose to share their stories, the fellowship of surviving saints.
I shared dinner with a former co-worker who, like me, chose to come out on his own, with no pressure to do so other than his desire to live honestly, authentically, and publicly. Later I spent time with the lead pastor of City Church in San Francisco, a church willing to pay the price to welcome all into the body of Christ. We talked about Lesslie Newbigin, Richard Rohr, John Polkinghorne, and other teachers we have known on the journey.
One of the more interesting observations about this audience was how ordinary we all seemed, hardly the people you would have expected to have been ostracized and vilified in their home country. Our vulnerability was never far from my mind, however. We were meeting in Houston, where I could have been arrested just for using a public women’s restroom. I bring my white male entitlement with me, and forget how vulnerable I am in today’s world.
In my second workshop we talked about my conviction it will not be long before we see large numbers of Evangelical churches become open to full membership. The church has never allowed itself to get too far behind the culture at large. Just look at the church’s capitulation on an earth-centered solar system, slavery, divorce and remarriage, and interracial marriage. Things once seen as scripturally prohibited are finally, and correctly, understood to be human-imposed cultural limitations to the Gospel. The church’s objection to LGBTQ inclusion will fall just as surely.
I left Houston hopeful. I am confident it will not be long before we see Evangelical churches of influence become progressive and inclusive on LGBTQ issues, on racial justice, poverty, and saving our planet. I am a realist, not a dreamer, and I believe in the power of Christ to transform culture. I saw it in evidence in Houston this past weekend.
And so it goes.