It’s been a privilege these last few weeks sharing this series on LGBT and faith. I’ve shared my story, we’ve heard stories from a gay Christian and bisexual Christian, and I’ve shared some resources to help you on your journey. And after this series is over I’m going to continue advocating for this issue, on social media and occasionally here.
But I want to finish this series today on a positive note, with a story of hope.
You see it’s been a long time since I’ve been truly hopeful about the church, and the Christian faith. I often stand back from both of these and see such brokenness, such fear.
I’ve seen fear controlling much of the Christian faith and Christian church. This fear we all have of the unknown, the unseen, the mysterious. Circumstances and forces outside our control. And it’s perfectly human to feel this way – most of us do. I do, much of the time.
This I see most of all in relation to the issue of sexuality and faith. So much fear. But I also see a lot of hope too.
The fear is easy to see. When you hear stories of Christians condemning LGBT people, saying they are ‘speaking the truth in love’, trying to help them, even in well-meaning, gentle tones. But as we’ve seen in this series, what people don’t seem to realise is their actions are not helping. In fact, they are causing unbelievable damage – psychologically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.
In this series I’ve mentioned how this kind of theology can bear the fruit of mental illness or even suicide. Or at the very least, driving people away from God and church, potentially forever.
And this fear, this need to control, this lack of love and grace from Christians, it can make you cynical about the church.
However, one Friday morning in January I woke up and caught a trending topic on Twitter – #GCNConf (the Gay Christian Network Conference) – and saw lots of tweets from a talk by Jeff Chu (whose book I recommended in my previous post). And he said this:
“The table I long for—the church I hope for—is a place where we let others see where the spirit meets the bone and help heal the wounds. The table I long for—the church I hope for—has the grace of the Gospel as its magnificent centrepiece.
The table I long for—the church I hope for—is where we care more about our companions than about winning our arguments with them, where we set aside the condescension that accompanies our notion that we need to bring them our truth. The table I long for—the church I hope for—has each of you sitting around it, struggling to hold the knowledge that you, vulnerable you and courageous you, are beloved by God, not just welcome but desperately, fiercely wanted.”
(You can catch his whole talk here).
The next day at the same conference, I saw Vicky Beeching sharing her story, and talking about how we need to embrace mystery, doubt, the unknown and unseen with God. How we must to be willing to not know all the answers, and open our mind to new thinking.
I saw fathers reconciled with sons.
I saw a church inclusive of all, as they are, how they are, where they are.
I saw a church where there was no talk of what we must believe, no condemnation, even where people disagreed.
I saw a space welcoming to literally every single person, and who responded to protests with a ‘wall of love’.
Author Rachel Held Evans said of the same conference:
“I’ve never attended a Christian conference so energized by the Spirit, so devoid of empty showmanship or preoccupation with image, so grounded in love and abounding in grace”.
I couldn’t have put it better.
Finding Authentic Hope
I was only watching on live-stream video, following quotes and trends on Twitter, and reading transcripts. But I can tell you without doubt, I felt the tangible presence of God in my bones as I followed this conference. I experienced a peace, a joy, and a hope I had not felt for a long time. And as I began dialoging with others who were either attending, speaking at or following the conference online, I felt a sense of solidarity.
Everyone I interacted with, all I saw at the GCN Conference – whose topic this year was ‘Together At The Table’ – looked, felt and seemed like the best of the Christian faith. It was authentic church. It was a space where all could be who they were with no condemnation or judgement, and a space where the love, grace and peace of Christ was present in a tangible way.
I saw hope.
I saw a glimmer of what church could be.
A space without fear, judgement, or condemnation. A space where no one needs to know all the answers or be right all the time. A place where doubt, questioning, mystery, Christian mysticism and the unknown are welcomed. A community which doesn’t need all the answers.
A space where all are welcome as they are, without condition.
A space where all come together at the one table.
A space where all are truly one in Jesus.
This is the church I hope for. It gave me hope for what might be possible. And it showed me a glimmer of heaven on earth.
So let’s lay down fear. Lose our need to be right, and need for control or certainty. And let’s be people of doubt, questioning, exploration, reflection and faith.
Above all, let us be people of the grace, peace and unconditional love of Christ, laying down labels and being one together.
This is the church God is calling us to be. A community where all are welcome, loved and accepted as they are – whatever their gender, sexuality or theology. (you can tweet that)
And let me close with this, if it wasn’t clear already. Whatever your sexuality or gender, you are all welcome at God’s table. As you are. Today. Right now. God loves you as you are. And He wants to meet with you, to know you, and have relationship with you. As you are.
So let’s go to God’s table together and break bread, drink wine. And be church.
Are you with me?
Questions for Reflection:
How do you see a healthy way forward for the church in this area?
Let me know in the comments below!
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(Picture Sources: Patheos.com/Twitter)