Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Scenes from Stalled Marriages: Free Writing Workshop Justice Event   Leave a comment

 

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WHEN:  Sunday, April 6 at 12:30pm (pizza will be provided)

WHERE:  Fountain Street Church (Chapel)

Are you an LGBT couple affected by the marriage ban? Are you an ally who knows friends who have been affected by the marriage ban?

Join us in this Equality/Justice event. A letter writing campaign with a twist.

We’ll be meeting together to write scenes from “stalled” marriages.  Help show them how the marriage ban is affecting you, your families, and your friends right now.  We believe your scenes will show lawmakers, justices, lawyers and everyone how a ban on marriage hurts a relationship, a family, friendships. These are your stories. We hope that you tell them to make them known, and to make a difference.

We intend to get as many people together as we can on SUNDAY, APRIL 6th, 12:30-2:30pm to craft small written scenes. Pizza will be provided. You don’t have to have a writing background at all. Just a willingness to tell a story, your story.

Author, and Lambda Literary Fellow (2013), Dr. Jerome Stueart, will be facilitating a writing workshop focused on writing scenes from your family, if you are an LGBT person/couple affected by the marriage ban, or, if you are an ally, from the family of someone you know.

Why scenes? Scenes are a powerful writing tool in creating change. We know the best tools, and those that have gone viral, have been “stories” –real stories of LGBT families and individuals who desire marriage.  We want to use those same powerful tools to talk about this period of stalling, the reinstated ban on LGBT marriage.  Show HOW the actions of lawmakers and the Court of Appeals are affecting your family today by showing them actual scenes, like small memoirs, of your family.

At this guided writing workshop, you will write down scenes from these stalled marriages–of yours or your friends. We’ll be using some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as a guide, as well as other writings.  Our hope is to send those scenes to those who can make a difference, but also, maybe, a broader audience. At this time, we have no idea what that would be—but we’re open to suggestions. Getting the word out, getting your scenes out, will move people and show them how waiting and stalling marriages are harming families.

If you’re an ally, or one of the 300 couples married before the ban took effect again, or if you were planning on being married, come join us for a couple of hours, write some scenes with us, help us send your stories to those who can end this ban, and to the world.

Everything is FREE. Lend us some time, and send your “scenes from stalled marriages” to those who are making decisions about your marriages.

FOUNTAIN STREET CHURCH, 24 Fountain Street GRAND RAPIDS MI
SUNDAY, APRIL 6th 12:30-2:30pm Food provided. Paper, pens provided. Facilitation and workshopping provided.

 

 

Writing the LGBT Spiritual Journey, Saturday April 5, Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids MI   Leave a comment

WritingLGBTthe_StueartUnfortunately, this class did not gather any students.  But I wanted to teach a workshop anyway, and the Michigan LGBT community is facing a huge battle right now. So we’ve designed a FREE class instead, on April 6 Scenes from Stalled Marriages.  Please join us to write about YOUR family under the marriage ban, or your FRIENDS’ families or individuals.  We’ll see you APRIL 6 at Fountain Street Church.

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Please join us in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the weekend before the Festival of Faith and Writing (at Calvin College), for Writing the LGBT Spiritual Journey Workshop, APRIL 5, SATURDAY, 9am–5pm.

For the LGBT person of faith, the journey has not been easy.  Many of us are refugees from mainline denominations that offer faith but only to some, or only with clauses attached.  Some of us have escaped into better, more accepting faiths or denominations–but that journey may not have been easy.  Charting our spiritual journey, though, can help bring focus and fulfillment to our lives as part of the LGBT community.  Writing our spiritual journeys also completes the missing parts of society’s spiritual journey.  In this Workshop we will read LGBT writers of faith, as well as writers of faith in general, to pick up tips and techniques that will help you write about your journey.  If you like discussing spirituality in the context of the LGBT community, with others like yourself, and exploring through writing what your journey has discovered, come join us.  Using writing exercises, games, techniques of professional writers, and your own lives, you will create writing that struggles, overcomes, even heals, as it maps the spiritual journey of your life.  All faiths are welcome.  All struggles are welcome.  Even if your spirituality doesn’t fall neatly in a box, join us.  Boxes aren’t the best places for spirituality anyway.

This class needs a minimum of five people to run.  Some reading will be sent to you via email before the workshop begins. Cost is $80 per person.  Sign up early so we can be sure that the workshop runs, and that you receive readings for the workshop.  Bring a journal, a pen, and the heart of an explorer.

To sign up, follow this link.  For more information,  please contact Fountain Street Church.

Saturday, April 5, 9am-5pm
Fountain Street Church
(616) 459-8386

How Anne Lamott Saved My Life: the Mercy of ‘Traveling Mercies’   Leave a comment

As I’m headed to the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan again this year, and Anne Lamott is speaking there, I am reposting how Anne Lamott saved my life.

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Having been raised in churches all my life, having done the double, triple, renewing salvation genuflect that Baptist kids do over their lives, knowing the plan of salvation in scripture form, calling card form, bracelet form, code form— you’d think that I was duly saved.  You don’t really have to do it so many times.

Until your life is at stake.

Coming out to myself really hit me hard.  It threw my sense of what I could believe in the Bible.  Waking up to the idea that I had been misinformed at such a deep level about who I was, and what I was, made me wonder if the Bible (or Christians) could get how God felt about being gay wrong, what else could they get wrong?  It threw me, too, into a world where I felt pretty lost.

But then one day, I found Anne Lamott.  Actually, she was…

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Posted February 25, 2014 by jstueart in Uncategorized

Gays Will Save the Church: my story in the Queer Story Archives   1 comment

This website has a lot of my story on it–but this is the less than ten minute version of my story with the church.  The Queer Story Archives came up to Whitehorse–Lulu from OnMyPlanet.ca–in July 2013, recording stories of Yukon Queers, and we recorded this right before I was to leave for Dayton, Ohio. I think it’s turning into a positive story so I’m sharing it. Ultimately I’m suggesting that including gay people can save a rapidly diminishing Church population. To do that, I tell my story. Some of you have heard it–either through the Yukon News, or through DNTO. Both sources were good but heavily edited.  It feels better in my own words, complete.

We grow from hard times in our lives and this was a good growth for me. Eventually, I’ve come to retain and re-establish many friendships from the first church. I hope my story still helps others. Thanks to LULU and onmyplanet.ca

Posted December 26, 2013 by jstueart in Uncategorized

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Christian Parents Who Tried to Love Their Gay Son the way the Church Taught them to   2 comments

2013-06-21-ryanprofile1.jpgOver on Huffington Post, Gay Voices, is a tragic story of Christian parents who tried very hard to love their gay son.  They prayed, though, that they would not have a gay son….and that prayer came true, in the worst possible way.

I’ve reprinted here only the beginning of this piece—but it is powerful–and the link will take you over to Huff Post for the full column.

For me, this is the tragedy of good Christian parents who aren’t ready to allow their kids to make up their minds about their sexuality. They learn that accepting your sexuality is accepting yourself–and when you aren’t allowed to accept your sexuality, you aren’t allowed to accept who you are—and that can have awful ramifications.  They do understand though—but too late to help their own son.

Read one family’s story:

FOR THE WHOLE ESSAY, Just Because He Breathes, CLICK HERE.

From Linda Robertson:

On the night of Nov. 20, 2001, a conversation held over Instant Messenger changed our lives forever. Our 12-year-old son messaged me in my office from the computer in his bedroom.

Ryan says: can i tell u something

Mom says: Yes I am listening

Ryan says: well i don’t know how to say this really but, well……, i can’t keep lying to you about myself. I have been hiding this for too long and i sorta have to tell u now. By now u probably have an idea of what i am about to say.
Ryan says: I am gay
Ryan says: i can’t believe i just told you

Mom says: Are you joking?

Ryan says: no
Ryan says: i thought you would understand because of uncle don

Mom says: of course I would
Mom says: but what makes you think you are?

Ryan says: i know i am
Ryan says: i don’t like hannah
Ryan says: it’s just a cover-up

Mom says: but that doesn’t make you gay…

Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: but u don’t understand
Ryan says: i am gay

Mom says: tell me more

Ryan says: it’s just the way i am and it’s something i know
Ryan says: u r not a lesbian and u know that. it is the same thing

Mom says: what do you mean?

Ryan says: i am just gay
Ryan says: i am that

Mom says: I love you no matter what

Ryan says: i am white not black
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: i am a boy not a girl
Ryan says: i am attracted to boys not girls
Ryan says: u know that about yourself and i know this

Mom says: what about what God thinks about acting on these desires?

Ryan says: i know

Mom says: thank you for telling me

Ryan says: and i am very confused about that right now

Mom says: I love you more for being honest

Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: thanx

We were completely shocked. Not that we didn’t know and love gay people; my only brother had come out to us several years before, and we adored him. But Ryan? He was unafraid of anything, tough as nails and all boy. We had not seen this coming, and the emotion that overwhelmed us, kept us awake at night and, sadly, influenced all our reactions over the next six years was fear.

We said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible, the Word of God, should say:

We love you. We will always love you. And this is hard. Really hard. But we know what God says about this, so you are going to have to make some really difficult choices.

We love you. We couldn’t love you more. But there are other men who have faced this same struggle, and God has worked in them to change their desires. We’ll get you their books; you can listen to their testimonies. And we will trust God with this.

We love you. We are so glad you are our son. But you are young, and your sexual orientation is still developing. The feelings you’ve had for other guys don’t make you gay. So please don’t tell anyone that you are gay. You don’t know who you are yet. Your identity is not that you are gay; it is that you are a child of God.

We love you. Nothing will change that. But if you are going to follow Jesus, holiness is your only option. You are going to have to choose to follow Jesus, no matter what. And since you know what the Bible says, and since you want to follow God, embracing your sexuality is not an option.

We thought we understood the magnitude of the sacrifice that we — and God — were asking for. And this sacrifice, we knew, would lead to an abundant life, perfect peace and eternal rewards. Ryan had always felt intensely drawn to spiritual things; He desired to please God above all else. So, for the first six years, he tried to choose Jesus. Like so many others before him, he pleaded with God to help him be attracted to girls. He memorized Scripture, met with his youth pastor weekly, enthusiastically participated in all the church youth group events and Bible Studies and got baptized. He read all the books that claimed to know where his gay feelings came from, dove into counseling to further discover the whys of his unwanted attraction to other guys, worked through painful conflict resolution with my husband and me and built strong friendships with other guys — straight guys — just like the reparative therapy experts advised. He even came out to his entire youth group, giving his testimony of how God had rescued him from the traps of the enemy, and sharing, by memory, verse after verse that God had used to draw Ryan to Him.

For the rest of the essay, please follow this link.

Sunday in the Court of Religion: After the death of DOMA and Prop 8   1 comment

4f1dc0ac2c986.preview-620The Supreme Court of the United States issued two huge rulings on gay rights Wednesday morning, June 26.  They overturned a key component of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), Section #3 which tried to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. This spells the end of DOMA; which will probably be repealed quickly since it’s been declared, in essence, unconstitutional, as it stands now.  Also, in a separate case, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, the fight over Proposition 8, the law passed in California banning gay marriage (which Judge Walker of the Ninth Circuit Court declared unconstitutional, but which Prop 8 proponents brought to the Supreme Court on appeal), those wishing to appeal Walker’s decision did not have standing.  So Walker’s decision stands and marriages can happen again in California.  Yay!  All seems right in the world.

And then Sunday comes.

Sunday, the Court of Religion meets.  And those Judges (for they aren’t Justices) have the power to perpetuate the source of hate and discrimination against the LGBT community–or they have the power to cut off that source of hate and discrimination.  It’s a make or break Sunday.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, the public has to enact those changes.  The Court cannot legislate morality—and in some cases, those who are opposed to gay rights have found new fervor to rail against gay people.  Now we can marry!  In 13 states.  Now the Court said that gay couples can receive benefits! On our tax forms.  But if we’ve made some progress through the Supreme Court–a hard fought case–we could regress in the Court of Religion—a court that has more power over Americans than any Judicial body created by the Constitution.

Without question, most congregants will listen to their pastors.  Without question they will believe what those pastors tell them. If those pastors tell them that America is sliding downhill into the Apocalypse because loving gay couples can marry–then they will believe that.  And they will go out and hate gay people for moving them one step closer to oblivion.  (Actually, they should be thrilled–one step closer to the Apocalypse is one step closer to Heaven for them! I know my Revelation!)  Still, this Sunday has the potential to stir the hearts of good Christians even deeper against the LGBT community–or stir them deeper to love LGBT people.

Christians do not realize how potent a sermon can be—but Pastors do.  One sermon can re-enforce ages of bad dogma–or change it; it can change a weak mind, for or against; it can reassure a doubting congregant.  If you don’t know what you think about the Supreme Court helping to end discrimination against gay people (we’re a long ways from that end), you might by the end of Sunday’s sermon.

Churches have a moment to RETHINK

Imagine if Pastors took this moment to re-enforce the humanity of LGBT people, their interest in pairing up in Marriage, their love for each other–and to see the movement across the US to help LGBT people find equality under the law, and in churches everywhere.  That sermon could propel folks to think about Jesus’ work with the oppressed—and that they too, as Christians, can help the oppressed.  It could do more to help the healing: THIS Sunday.

THIS Sunday, Churches have a chance to do the most good for their congregations.  Because inside every congregation are a few gay people trying to hide, fearful of coming out.  Inside every congregation is a parent of a gay son or lesbian daughter or folks whose lives are touched by LGBT people every day.  They are not isolated from gay people.  And promoting healing through the news that LGBT people deserve better treatment under the law might promote the same kind of healing in the church between members who have been hurt.  Certainly it will make things more welcoming to those people who have LGBT family members, or friends.  Our churches must be welcoming above everything.  This is the second commandment–to love your neighbor as yourself.  And if churches aren’t welcoming–people won’t stay and hear the Good News.

Read Jim Wallis from the Huffington Post on how churches can help find “Equal Justice Under the Law

This Sunday more healing, or more damage, can be made in Churches across North America.

It is not the Justices who change the Churches, but the Churches who can change the Justice. 

Marketing Masculine Stereotypes for Father’s Day   1 comment

photo(3)I opened my Indigo/Chapters bookstore Father’s Day mailer today.  It’s nice to have something from a bookstore in the mail.  One look at their selections for Fathers, though, and I sighed.

The male stereotype for Father’s day in advertising is probably the most narrowly defined, rigid, straight-jacket men have.

This bookstore chain, with a plethora of things they could have offered in this flyer to buy Dad, offered me, instead, books and accessories on beer, grilling, headphones, and a choice of novels about Olympic rowing, a western, a 100 year old man, spies, and the Beatles.  Wow, I could have played a game of Macho Matcho.  (while an asterisked note says you can find more on their website, I’m interested in what made it to the Main Flyer.)

Surely a marketing team somewhere was saying, “Come on! How can you go wrong with the Beatles? Beer? Grills? Westerns?”  And yet, somehow, a bookstore managed to reinforce male stereotypes through the “enshrined” male hobbies and interests merely to try and hit what they perceived as a norm.

As Guys, we learn early that we need to like beer, grill meat, be into rock & roll, sports, cowboys and spies.  We learn that it doesn’t matter if you really like these things or not–they are the “vocabulary of men.”  To be a real man in Western society you must be able to speak Grill, Beer, Cars, Sports, and Babes (as opposed to speaking Women which would be an improvement).  If a guy likes something else, you don’t say it.  Otherwise, you take a chance that other guys will make fun of you.  The pack is important.  It is your society.  So you learn to master the Basics; keep quiet about the nuances. You start with the basics, and advance to Hunting, Fishing, Sailing, and Power Tools.

We learn that these are the Things We’re Supposed to Know because marketing and advertising tell us this.  As young boys we read those ads to find out what our Fathers will love, and possibly, what we can do to earn our Father’s praise—something most young boys desperately want.  So we buy the things that marketers tell us will win their love and admiration, and make them feel like a man.  And in doing so, we deepen the cultural grooves in our own brains to become the kinds of man exemplified in these things–the griller, the sportsman, the beer drinker.

I expect this marketing of places like Home Hardware and Canadian Tire—whose products already appeal to mechanics, sportsmen, and outdoorsmen.  I don’t expect it of a bookstore.

Imagine another flyer:  this one has books on hiking, gardening, travel in Spain; books on spirituality, trains and watches; Star Trek memoirs; books on arctic wildlife, politics, climate change; or OTHER men’s hobbies like chess, remodeling, theatre, computers, comics, a history of Opera.  Novels by Graham Greene, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Garrison Keillor–a wide spectrum of men.  Even, dare I say it, books on parenting, relationships, understanding teens.  Please offer them a Deborah Tannen book.

I expect more from a bookstore; I expect them to lead.  Do they think that women and children do not understand their fathers and husbands so much that they must choose one of the Sacred Seven Subjects on Father’s Day in order to be accepted?  Or couldn’t they show them a greater opportunity to enlarge the idea of masculinity and being a man in the 21st Century?  Could they offer wives and children (or husbands and children) in their main flyer a more representative selection of male interests?  A chance to understand their husbands and fathers deeper, more intimately, thinking not “what do men want?” but “what could men want?”

Reinforcement is a fantastic way to learn.  Guys learn what you keep telling them. If you tell them that real men like drinking, grilling, sailing, brewing, as this flyer does, then they will stay confined to those choices, some of them will break under those choices.  If you show them more choices on how to be men—they will be unafraid to admit that they enjoy these things; they will learn something new; and they will teach their sons that they can be more than a handful of hobbies and interests.  And some of us sons will not strain under the exasperation of our fathers who don’t understand why the Baseball, the Cars, the Women, these few “rites” of manhood, aren’t working.  They will not be frustrated with us.  They will not feel themselves failures. They will know—oh, he likes insects! Oh, he likes baking!  Oh, he likes other men!  And they will look around and see NOT a society that only advocates the Sacred Seven, but instead reinforces every man’s choice to be who he wants to be.

This can enlarge the conversations in the world between men.  It was easy for a man to talk sports, cars, women and grilling–we agreed those were on the Test.  It will be harder to expand the topics, but the men that come from wider exploration of hobbies, interests, passions, won’t just enrich the conversations–these men will enrich the world.

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Can you be gay and Christian? Oh, yeah.   Leave a comment

1037743589_22014b9577Yes, thankfully.  Amen.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” says Paul in Romans 8.

We always get stuck on Romans 1, as if that’s the point of Romans–to condemn people.  The point of Romans is to remind those Christians in Romans the great sacrifice Christ made for all of us sinners, and show us the security we have as a believer.  If you are a Christian, there is no condemnation in Christ.  You are not condemned because you are gay, or because you have gay feelings, same-sex feelings or desires.  Just like God won’t condemn you if you have straight feelings or desires.  It would be silly for God to block certain people from his kingdom, as he issued a blanket invitation to the whole world.

I know I am not condemned because I am gay and still Christian, and I know that because thousands of other gays are Christian too.  They are all over the world.  We are just as led by the spirit as straight Christians, just as “saved” and “sanctified” and “forgiven” and “covered in the blood of Jesus.”  Amen.  The same transformation happened with me as it did with you: that our minds and desires were transformed from the things of this world, to the things above, and how we can become more like the people God wants us to become.  Straight people don’t lose their sexual desire when they become Christian; neither do gay people.  I was a Christian before I knew I was gay.  And I’m certainly a Christian after I figured out I was gay.

Gay people are just like Straight people in that they can have Faith.  Read this Barna research study about gay spiritual life.  Apparently a lot of gays have strong beliefs, some of these gays are strong Christians.  You can discuss more with them at several of their portal sites on the web like Gay Christian Network and Rainbow Christians.

You have to ask yourself how you measure Christianity in yourself.  Is it [ the amount of times you read the Bible  X  how often you pray  X  how often you go to church  X  how much of the Bible you got memorized ] ?  No, it’s not a math formula or a checklist.  It’s about a personal relationship with God, a supernatural being who created humankind.  It’s also about trying to live a moral life which involves more than sexual mores–it involves kindness, compassion, longsuffering, generosity, hospitality, and a whole lot more.  Christians spend a lot of time on the sexual parts–but really, how we treat other people is more important.  So, if you’re concerned about your Christianity only because you’re thinking you might be gay, stop worrying.  You’re fine.

Christians measure our Christianity personally, on the inside.  It’s not a series of things you do or don’t do.   And if you’re worried about your relationship with God, that’s a good sign that you have one.  People who aren’t Christian probably don’t care if God likes what they are doing or not.

So, what you need to do now is check out the Helpful Resources page.  You probably want to read some scriptures and find out how gay christians interpret the Bible.  We don’t do any hocus pocus on scripture to make it say “gay people are great.”  It just never said what we’ve been taught that it said.  And that page has resources that can show you what the Bible doesn’t say.

There are posts on my website here on famous gay Christians–people of faith who were gay, like Henri Nouwen, Ray Boltz, Jennifer Knapp, Sarah Em, Cardinal John Henry Newman, and even King James (for whom we credit the impetus for putting the most famous version of the Bible together).  This is a small list because gay christians couldn’t be very famous before now—they kind of get excommunicated, or thrown out of their churches.  You’ll find, however, that gay Christians are becoming more and more known, and we’re finding that historically those who have been hidden are being brought out.

If you are christian, and feeling same sex feelings, or know you are gay, it’s okay.  You can be both, gay and Christian.  God expects you to be both, and has a plan for your life just as he always has.  You can’t derail God’s plans for you, no matter who you are attracted to. Chances are, that plan included the fact that you were gay.

PS.  A special message to Jason Collins, NBA basketball player who came out today– “Don’t let anyone take God away from you.  Anyone who says you can’t be Christian and gay has a) never been Christian and gay, and b) hasn’t heard of Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, or all the other denominations that have realized that you can be gay and Christian–all their theologians are a lot smarter than an ESPN correspondent or a few conservatives who listen to too much evangelical TV.  These voices who think they know God’s mind without study are like people who argue with their doctor because they read something on WebMD.  Keep being the wonderful man God created you to be.  Ignore them.  They aren’t the voice of God.”

The Gospel of Intolerance–from the New York Times   Leave a comment

If churches who have embraced Uganda as a long lost mission, a possible utopia for God’s will to be done, a better version of the Christian American Dream, could watch this short documentary on the damage that American Evangelicals are doing to Uganda, specifically the torture they are bringing to the gays and lesbians in Uganda…..they would probably keep doing what they’re doing.  Check this article out called “the Gospel of Intolerance”.

http://nyti.ms/WIfBkd

Or here if the link above doesn’t work:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/opinion/gospel-of-intolerance.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

Raised in Pennsylvania, I grew up in the black church. My father was a religious leader in the community, and my sister is a pastor. I went to church every Sunday and sang in the choir. But for all that the church gave me — for all that it represented belonging, love and community — it also shut its doors to me as a gay person. That experience left me with the lifelong desire to explore the power of religion to transform lives or destroy them. I became interested in Uganda, an intensely religious country that attracts many American missionaries and much funding from United States faith-based organizations. The American evangelical movement in Africa does valuable work in helping the poor. But as you’ll see in this Op-Doc video, some of their efforts and money feed a dangerous ideology that seeks to demonize L.G.B.T. people and intensifies religious rhetoric until it results in violence. It is important for American congregations to hold their churches accountable for what their money does in Africa.

A forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude by independent filmmakers and artists.

Opinion Twitter Logo.

This video is part of a series produced by independent filmmakers who have received major support from the Ford Foundation and additional support from the nonprofit Sundance Institute.

Walk Out of Non-Affirming Churches   3 comments

2248069430_91b7e75b3eI used to think that if you found yourself attending a non-affirming church, and you were gay and by yourself, that dialogue with a non-affirming church was the answer–but I know differently now.  Safety for gay people is more important than trying to “change” a non-affirming church.  The only way they will change is if they lose people.  If people walk out of non-affirming churches–straights and gays alike–non-affirming churches will lose power.  That’s the only answer. Lack of people means lack of offerings means closing their doors–or changing their ways.  This does not mean that if a church is open to hearing your thoughts, and they put you in a pulpit to talk about it, or they invite over some well know gay christians to talk that you should leave.  There Dialogue is working! God bless those churches who have listened to his current message to them–that gays and lesbians are to be accepted and affirmed.  The rest of the churches, those who refuse to listen to GLBT folks, refuse to be open to this new affirmation and acceptance (which isn’t really new) are rapidly moving towards a minority, and will fall under the non-affirming mantle.  You can’t have a dialogue with a non-listening church by yourself (unless they give you a pulpit to talk to the congregation or a panel discussion).  It’s just rare.  I think you can only have a dialogue with an individual, someone who comes to you (like Nicodemus).  Churches are ruled by denominations or by money or by administration with red tape.  Non-affirming churches are a Mighty Fortress of Entrenched Bigotry.  They have archers on the battlements.  And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can help out, even fund, a church that discriminates and seeks to destroy GLBT individuals and their relationships.

How to know if you’re attending a non-affirming church:

If you are going into a church for the first time, look for any literature that says “we are an affirming church” or says “gays and lesbians are welcome here.”  Check the pews, or the front lobby, for that kind of literature.  An easy way to find out about a church is to scan their books in their library, if it’s open to the public.  If you find no literature (or no pro-gay books in their library) get a moment with the pastor, or another church member, and ask one question to determine whether you stay or not: Are you an affirming church?

If the pastor says anything BUT, “Yes, we affirm gays and lesbians,” be polite, and walk out. Do not look back.

They will attempt to hold you there in conversation, convince you to chat with them more, say it’s complicated–all sorts of excuses. They will want to talk to you more about it, but ask them for their bottom line right up front. There is no Godly, no Biblical reason NOT to affirm Gays and Lesbians in their relationships and in their sexuality.

These churches need to know that they can no longer smokescreen discrimination with nice conversation.

Non-affirming churches say they want to start a dialogue, a conversation, so that they can, ultimately, confuse people with a lot of bad interpretation. These churches want to remain relevant in the world today, as it changes, and they know that gays are on your mind. They believe hobbling gays, in the name of God, is the answer. They want to convince you, if you are gay, that God accepts all kinds of sinners, you among them, and they want to equate your gay sexual relationships with sin. The bottom line is that they want you to be celibate.  If you are straight, they want to convince you that they have the best answer for gays, really.  And that they know better.  They want to assure you that they have “dealt” with the issue.  They will be “concerned” for gays, and want them to know the truth.

For gays, it won’t matter what else they say: if they don’t accept you for who you are and who you are made in God’s image to be, walk out. Knock the dust off your feet (Matthew 10:14) and find an affirming church.

Some tactics: Non-affirming churches talk about “dialogue”

I’ve just listened to a sermon from Connexus Community Church in Barrie, Ontario by Lead Pastor Carey Nieuwhof on homosexuality. Actually it was entitled “Why is it so difficult for Gays and Lesbians in the Church?” The irony of the title puts a lot of the blame for the uncomfortability gays feel back on the gays and lesbians themselves (“Why you squirm so much in our fun churches!”).

Not to put Carey on the hot seat— but so much of Carey’s sermon was smoke and mirrors and misdirection that it took everything I had to sit and allow that poison to come out. The answer for why it is so difficult for gays in churches apparently rests on God’s shoulders: He did it to gays–He is asking them to be celibate. (admittedly, Carey makes a strong statement to his congregation to stop arguing and hating gay people. Carey’s remedy, the homework for straight people who “hate” gays, awkward at best, is to “love their enemies” meaning gay people–who are equated with enemies and non-Christians…how’s that?)

Carey wants to start a dialogue, a conversation. Instead of having a conversation, though, he gives a sermon, where he outlines all his points, the way he believes. I’m not certain, but if anyone ever wanted a conversation with me it would not start off with a 44 minute sermon. Too bad he didn’t have a gay christian on stage, one that disagreed with his Major Points:

1. He says–Natural inclinations often lead to sin; Jesus wants us to deny natural inclinations. Jesus wants us to surrender our inclinations to Him.

2. He claims–Asking straights to be committed to their spouse is the exact same (in both difficulty and importance) as asking gays to be celibate.

3. And he’d like to say– gays can have their own relationships, but the Bible says different.

Afterwards, it was the same dreck we’ve heard before in other churches who proclaim to love and who instead offer a message of “if you’re with us, you’ll change.” Since God can’t affirm all our actions, gays can’t have sex either. (Lovely example of Non Sequitur reasoning)

My point, though, in this post is that you, as a gay person, get to safety. There is no safety in a church that believes God is telling you something which He is not telling you. There is no safety in a message that asks you to deny your sexuality. And when straight people say, as Carey does, “Oh if you think we’re being tough on gay people, just listen to my last sermon on marriage. Married guys, you have to be devoted to your wives!”– he should listen to his lack of compassion.  Catch that comparison, Carey. Gay people don’t have it so bad, because straight people are FORCED to love their spouses for life. Oh, the burden. Oh, the pain. God is FORCING people to stay devoted in marriage to each other. But for gays, Carey wouldn’t even allow them someone to be devoted to. What a mockery of the burden he wants to place on gays! Remember: This is CAREY talking. NOT GOD.

Creating the “dialogue”–how it’s done

According to Carey, what the Bible tells him is equal to saying “What God Says”, but this is not true. He will say it again and again though until you think it is.  Repetition of “what God says, not me” is using God’s name in vain.  God said nothing of the sort.

His 44 min sermon is designed to pretend to answer questions gays might have (as well as questions from straights).  It fashions our questions for us, therefore pretending to have a dialogue. He sets up straw men, so that he can knock them down. He doesn’t ask the questions that need to be asked. He pretends he’s answering really tough questions. He makes those listening, Straight people, believe that they are just as much in a pickle with their “sins” as gay people are: but the bottom line for him is that straights are only in sin if they have too much of something. Gays are in sin, apparently, if they have any.

Most of the drive in this sermon is for straight people, really. His goal is to make them believe that the church is really answering gays’ needs, really addressing the gay’s issues. The problem is that Carey thinks our issues are in regards to sexuality. Wrong. Our issues are in regards to affirmation, acceptance, finding a community, hunger, poverty, struggles in life–the same as straight people. He makes our issue sexuality. He wants straight people to believe that they have an answer for gay people, and it’s really not so bad. Gays will LIKE the Answer. And if they don’t, well then they’re not listening to Jesus, so it’s okay to let them go out of church.

While he should have had a gay person up on stage with him to have a conversation, or even, yes a minister of a church that affirms gay people, I’m telling you not to even wade through the sermon. You can. If you want. But it is poison.

The primary goal of this sermon is to make gay people believe that they are being treated no worse or better than other Christians and that they are ALL under the same difficult rules. Their goal is to convince you to stay with them, under their mentorship, to remain celibate–and that God’s love and relationship is dependent on your continued celibacy, your “surrender of your sexuality”.

Dear God, that sets up an impossible task. While Carey is allowed to slip in his gluttony or greed, he gets a wife. You are allowed to slip in your gluttony or greed too, but you don’t get a spouse. Carey tries to make “surrender your sexuality” an across the board requirement, but he’s not asked to give up his sexuality, his sexual practice. If he wants to be even with what he’s requiring gay people to do, he would move out of his house and never have more than a friendship with the woman that was his wife. That’s what he’s asking gay people to do.

Get out of his church. Get out of any church that does not affirm you. Do not argue with them. Do not discuss. What’s important is that you retain what God has given you as his child–which includes your sexuality and your sexual feelings and your relationships.

Just some Polite Conversation

He comes across very politely, just asking for conversation. But his side of the conversation has just been spoken to thousands, both in his church and online. His sermon is permanently online. He asks for individual talks with him. Your side of the conversation will always be private so that your opinion won’t get out. He’s just indoctrinated the rest of his congregation to believe his way–which is what the power of a sermon, or any speech is. A private conversation cannot hope to compete. (This is one reason why I will be posting my response and not entering into a private dialogue with Carey).

Carey will not change his opinion on gay people for two reasons: he rests his opinion in the “authority of the Bible”; however, his interpretation clouds what that Bible actually says.  He is no friend of the Father.  And his interpretation does God no favours.

If he wanted dialogue, he would have many dialogues with gay christians who are happy in their sexuality, embedded in other churches. He would have sought out great speakers and men and women like Mel White, Gene Robinson, Shelby Spong–people who disagree with him. Instead, as most pastors do, they don’t want to give up their authority, and so they do some private reading, and some consultation with gays who are uncertain, maybe non-christian, and that suffices as an equal argument.

Get out of any church that does not affirm you. Your lives are too important, too special to God, to be hobbled by Connexus Community Church or any other church that says God doesn’t affirm gays and lesbians. Your time is too important to argue about it. They are just going to try to convince you of their side.

It boils down to this:

Either you believe God designed you to be gay, and to have sexual expression, or you believe he didn’t design you to be that way. Either you agree with non-affirming churches and become celibate and find a happiness in that celibacy because the church you are in is forcing you to do it; or you come to a church that realizes that God never asked you to be celibate, and they bless your unions and marriages with your same-sex partners and build a loving community around you.

A crippling church, or an uplifting church? Is there really a decision here?

Leave and find the freedom in Christ in an affirming church.

For straight allies, I leave this with you— I know it’s hard to find a good church.  No matter how much good a church is doing in Uganda, or with an inner city mission, if it still harbors judgment towards ANY person–and supports telling gays they can never marry or find love, it is doing damage in the world.  Rather they did nothing good rather than do something hurtful.  It’s as if they help those they find helpless–and that act of charity is supposed to compensate for the pain they divvy out to others in the name of God.  Helping those less fortunate is nice, but it also makes us look good–and churches need to look good.  But can you live with the fact that you are a part of a church that hurts gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people?  Can you be associated with “non-affirming” churches?  Would you ever want your child to know that you purposefully assisted a church in hurting another human being?

In a growing world of Affirming churches (6,826 at last count), I would hope that you would look for an open, accepting, affirming church.  You never know when you might be the person who needs to be affirmed and accepted. 

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