It's hard to follow David’s post on generational privilege. His reflections challenge me. I, too, have benefited from being born in this era and from being a citizen of this country. When I'm honest with myself I have to admit I've had it relatively easy, even when it comes to my sexuality.
In the secular world I come from, the culture war over homosexuality is over. As Allyson Robinson said during her keynote speech at the Gay Christian Network Conference, it is time now to bring peace to the church. This is the work I feel called to do. It's the work I think those of us who've had it easy must do.
I keep coming back to the GCN Conference for many reasons. Chief among them, a desire to ground myself and share in the stories of my siblings in Christ who have fought an uphill battle all their lives.
I've never felt torment or shame over being gay. My first crush was in kindergarten. I don't remember the boy’s name, but I can point him out in our class picture. It was very innocent, of course, but I really liked him, and would always get nervous when we sat at the same table or played together.
When I was 12 or 13 someone gave me a book about puberty. In it, I read that it was normal during that phase for some boys to be attracted to other boys. “Cool,” I thought. “It makes total sense that I think Marky Mark looks hot in this Calvin Klein campaign. Just wait till I'm 20, Kate Moss! You're totally gonna turn me on then.”
Well, I turned 20. The acne went away, I stopped growing, and I still thought David Beckham was way more attractive than that Spice Girl he married.
I came out.
I've spent all but the last year and a half of my adult life on the East Coast. I'm planning a post on how this created a bubble of acceptance for me, but suffice it to say for now that I've never been the target of much homophobia. By the time I came to know Christ I had been out for over a decade. He found me and drew me to Him as I was. As I am. The church never had a chance to hurt me.
The Gay Christian Network has changed my life for the better. It has made me more empathetic. It has allowed me to feel the pain of the wounds inflicted on my friends. I’ve cried more than once at the various GCN conferences I've attended, and this is good. With those tears shed for others, the Spirit has washed clean my own wounds. I've felt the Father releasing me of guilt I've carried for things I've done in the past. I've heard Jesus calling me to stand with and for this community, to love them, to take hits for them when necessary.
Not only have I had it easy when it comes to being gay, I also have a thick skin. I see God in this, and I take it as both a blessing and a commission. For the church to recognize that LGBT people are beloved children of God, and not the reprobates it has historically labeled us, we must have open and honest dialogue. We—gay, lesbian, bi, and trans people—must answer tough questions, live openly and honorably as Christians, and allow ourselves to be challenged.
I cheered Allyson’s call for us to lay down our weapons of war and begin the work of reconciliation. But we can't ask people who have been wounded by the church to stop hurting overnight. We can't send someone suffering PTSD to the peace talks. It is those of us whom God has shielded who must step up now to shield others. It is we who must engage the people in the church who still think it's impossible to be LGBT and Christian.
I was honored with the Brian Eckstein Faithful Servant Award at this year’s conference. “In appreciation of his outstanding dedication and service above and beyond the call of duty for the members of the Gay Christian Network,” the plaque reads. I was surprised and moved by this, as anyone who saw me awkwardly standing on the stage can attest. (“God, why did I wear these shorts today?”) Most of all, though, I was convicted to do more. I believe my service actually falls short from the call of duty.
I leave this conference with Allyson’s exhortation in my heart, aware that heeding it is much easier for me than for most. I've renewed my commitment to the church universal and within it, to the LGBT community. There's more I need to understand, more I need to learn, and better ways for me to love. For this conviction, I am grateful. God, guide me.