Archive for the ‘christian’ Tag

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

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.

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.”

Introducing the New Biola University Queer Underground!   Leave a comment

It is with great pleasure that I read of the exciting things happening at Biola University in California.  It breaks my heart to go back onto Christian campuses sometimes–knowing that the LGBT community cannot express themselves as both “good Christians” and LGBT people (unless they pledge celibacy).  My recent trip to Calvin College moved me to respond–and while I see in SAGA a group that is surviving under the pressures of Calvin, I see the students at Biola, riskier perhaps, thriving.   They are pushing the envelope, not happy with the “yard privileges” that the university gives them, still prisoners, in many ways, of the administration and policy decisions on sexuality that are in place at Biola.  They have instead spoken out, strongly, and I hope that their speaking out creates a conversation for change in the administration.

For more amazing stuff, read the article in Inside Higher ED here.  I put a picture of Bryn Terfel as Wotan in the Ring Cycle here to let you know, Biola Queer students, that I think of you as bold warriors.  That what you are doing takes courage.  That it’s going to be a tough fight.  That the denomination which controls Biola may not play fair.  But that you are warriors, every one of you.

May God bless you and bring you peace in your decisions, in your convictions, and strength in holding to them.

For the Biola Queer Underground’s website, click here.

I hope more Christian campuses follow your lead.

How Anne Lamott Saved My Life: the Mercy of ‘Traveling Mercies’   3 comments

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 wrong how God felt about being gay, 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 given to me, and the man who gave her book to me said, “Many people who have lost their faith have found it again after reading this book.”

He was a pastor in Oyster Bay, Peter Casparian, 1988 Quatrofilio Alfa Romeo-driving liberal Episcopal pastor preaching in an historic church, Christ Church, the church of Theodore Roosevelt.  Over croissants and jam outside of a French Bakery, I came out to him.  Because I was shaking, because I cried, and because I didn’t know what I wanted to believe any more, he said I should find a copy of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, that it would restore my faith, or at least calm my nerves.  I was frightened of churches, a little scared of the Bible…as if it were now riddled with land mines.  If I go to Romans, bam! If I head to Genesis, boom!

Traveling Mercies is Anne Lamott’s honest memoir of trying out church.  It’s not written like anything you’d find in a Christian bookstore.  It’s refreshing.  It comes at faith from a non-churched point of view.  God is surprising, he’s real, he’s around the corner; Anne is the kind of believer who questions God, gets upset with him, does things wrong! does things surprisingly well!  She is fearless in her attempts to believe in God, and in a quirky group of believers.  Thank God she didn’t go to a stuffy, we-have-all-the-answers church.

I’ve heard people come away loving this book–and I certainly did.  It renewed my faith despite having had it trounced by well-meaning folk.  She provided a way back to the parts of faith that I loved and remembered.  Faith is not Religion, but Religion can be made of Faith.  For her there are only two prayers, “Help me, help me, help me!” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”   I think that sums up most prayers well.

Anne Lamott allows herself to be so vulnerable, to be, as she puts it, “such a mess.”

It allows the rest of us to be imperfect, to approach God as people who don’t have it all together, who aren’t doing everything right, who don’t sometimes believe in every unbelievable thing, but we’re trying.  Traveling Mercies reminds me of that Tim Allen show, Home Improvement.  Tim’s marital problems are given the best advice by Wilson, who seems to embody Robert Bly and Joseph Campbell and God all rolled into one.  But Tim, as he tries to carry that advice in his cupped hands back to his wife and family, spills most of it, and always blurts out a tainted version of that wisdom, a splattered, messy version of wisdom that somehow works–mostly through the forgiveness of his wife.  Anne Lamott is messy in that Tim Allen way.  She wanders into the same kinds of sermons and wisdom we all do but the application is messier than she thinks.  And wow, it’s messy for all of us, but none of us admitted it.

Anne allowed my faith to be messy, and allowed me to approach church in a different way–not of trying to regain some shallow perfection I thought I had, but in trying it out in whatever way I could muster.  She allowed my approach to God to be a little wobbly, a couple of bounces and skids, and sometimes I circle the runway for days…  It was never a perfect landing.  Faith is trial and error not a performance.

If Anne Lamott can be human again, then so can I.  If she can be a Christian, outside of perfection, then so can I.

Churchiness takes the humanity out of you.  Traveling Mercies somehow puts the humanity back into Faith.

Here’s an excerpt from Traveling Mercies on someone else’s page.

Thank you, Anne Lamott!  I know you’ve probably saved a lot of lives before–and perhaps you don’t even know that you’re doing it, but honest memoir saves lives.  We may write it only to save ours, but it ends up having multiple life-saving effects.  Resonance.  Mercy.

Have a short piece in Geez Magazine’s “Privilege” issue, #24   1 comment

Ironically, my pastor at RBC suggested I write for Geez magazine.  I don’t think he imagined what piece I would eventually write for them.  But here it is, Issue #24, on “privilege”.  I wrote the fast version of my coming out at church.  I centered it on the idea of privilege–of the privileges I had as a single, white male Christian who had leadership potential and of the privileges I no longer had when I added “gay” to that mix.

The church has to change.  It has to.  It may not change from those fighting it on the outside, but it will have to incorporate change if it is to survive further.  It faces irrelevance, it postures with discrimination, it plays favorites, it values money.

Not all churches–no.  (When I say a statement like this I have to stop and say, Thank you, churches that are moving more towards social justice, focusing on issues like poverty, the environment, civil rights.  You do exist, but I wouldn’t, yet, call you the “Church”–as the “Church” tends to be the Catholic Castle or the Evangelical Juggernaut.  One day, you will take on that mantle–you will be the “Church” and it will have a positive ring.)

The full essay is here, Moving Up, Coming Out, Moving On.

Anyway, there it is, in Geez #24.  If this brings you to this website, welcome.  There’s lots here, I hope, that will spark conversation.  If this entry leads you to Geez, welcome to Geez.  There’s lots there that will spark conversation as well.  It’s a valuable, important magazine carrying on “the” conversations we need to have happen.  It is intrepid, bold, and unflinching.

I would marry Geez magazine if it looked like a bear and loved me back.

*apologies to Kevin James, pictured, who is not gay.

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