Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Synchro Blog - Bridging the Gap, and loving our neighbours

And yes, I spelled "neighbours" correctly - specifically for some friends I've never met in Canada....

New Direction Ministries is a former Exodus ex-gay ministry based in Canada. Earlier this year they left Exodus because they disagreed with the direction and rhetoric of Exodus, which cost them a lot of support and funding. Since leaving Exodus their goal has been to be an important voice in trying to "bridge the gap" between gay people and religious people.

I heard Wendy Gritter, the director of New Directions, interviewed on Gay Christian Network's GCN Radio (you can hear the whole interview by going here, going to the May 29, 2009 show and click on "Listen to this show"), or you can also download an MP3 recording of it there.

I was so touched with her commitment to building bridges between all the parties in the gay/Christian/gay Christian issue that when she mentioned the idea of a concerted effort to blog together about how to "bridge the gap" I couldn't help but participate. You can see more on their Bridging the Gap SynchroBlog project here as well as the "day of the Synchro" post here.

If there was one thing I'd like to share with my fellow Christians on this Bridging The Gap day, is would be this: please, please - listen to your gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered neighbors. Listen to what we have to say - about our lives, our faith, our doubts, and our fears. Please don't assume that because you know we're gay, that you know everything you need to know about us - because you don't.

There is only one way we will ever bridge this gap between the gay community and the Christian community - and that's when men and women on both sides stop shouting at each other, and start listening. When Christians start to hear the woundedness and loneliness in the gay community, when they can see gay persons as human beings, and not as stereotypes - and when people in the gay community stop to listen beyond the "going to hell" chanting to see that there are people of great heart and great love in the Christian community, that is when we will start to grow closer.

As part of this listening effort, I make this gentle request to my straight Christian sisters and brothers. When someone speaks to a gay person like me, the one thing they don't need to do is tell me about those seven bible texts - so infamous in the gay community that they are known as "the clobber passages," because we keep getting clobbered with them by church folks. So many of us GLBT people have been told by well-meaning Christians that their homosexuality is the one sin that will keep them out of heaven - as if there were such a thing!

Let me start this "getting to know you" conversation. Let's face it - it's impossible to "know" a person from a few paragraphs of writing on one day. So I invite you, gently, to get to know me a little more....or maybe a lot...
After I'd left seminary, I started a post-seminary blog called Ragamuffin Ramblings. Even after I left seminary, it was more than a year before I could face coming out to my Christian friends, especially those who had supported me in my ministry quest. This blog post was that coming-out.

In response to Peterson Toscano's question on a GCN forum, I wrote "What I wish straight Christians knew." You may be surprised at what you find there...

For a year before I came-out in that first post above, I had been blogging about my coming-out process on "A Rainbow Flag in Narnia," to keep my "outing" process separate from my "after-seminary" process. During that time, I had a "close encounter" with a former pastor, who tried to liken homosexuality to alcoholism (just say no, in so many words), and out of that came this posting about how homosexuality was much closer to "being a Gentile in Bible times" than "being an alcoholic."

In response to a request from Christian Cryder (a fellow bloggger, church planter and minister in Montana) I wrote this - which is definitely "get a fresh pot of coffee and a donut or two" posting. It is a response to a bunch of questions that brother Cryder had about my faith and my understanding of homosexuality.

Five years ago, I wrote this post asking the church what was really incompatible with Christian teaching. Only two people had the guts to respond to this post in five years of blogging...
My prayer in spilling all of this digital ink is simply this - to give you, the reader, an insight into my life and faith. My hope, throughout this exercise, is that stories will be shared and heard, and people who are concerned about issues of faith and homosexuality will hear common voices.

For now, I leave this effort in God's hands, and leave you with my favorite prayer from the Lutheran Book of Worship, which I have used throughout my journey of faith:
Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. (LBW page 137)
Amen, indeed.

(Credit where credit is due: The image of cross at the beginning of this post is a drawing by my friend and talented Ohio artist Jason Ingram. The image of the cross surrounded by the rainbow is the logo from Affirm United, a GLBT-welcoming ministry within the United Church of Canada. Thanks to Peter Fergus-Moore for the hat-tip!)


Heidi Renee said...

Wendy spoke at our university and is as lovely in person as you heard in the online conversation.

wendy said...

Thank you Steve for giving people so many additional avenues to think and understand and ponder. I'm grateful for the many posts that were so thoughtful, gracious and hopeful.

Hi Heidi :)

Anonymous said...

Steve - Your story is amazing (I followed your links and read and read and read). I wish you could write a book - I think it would be so encouraging and helpful to people in all sorts of situations. Thanks for the being such a great ambassador of Christ. I'll be checking back often to keep up with what you have to say.

EileenWanita said...

Thanks for this.

"Please don't assume that because you know we're gay, that you know everything you need to know about us - because you don't."

Amen. I appreciated reading your post (hoo hoo, the synchro-blog is over, and I'm still commenting...I'm a rebel).

Al said...

I started a day late on the synchroblog...and have a lot of catching up to do. I followed your link to your incompatibility with Christian teaching post. Incredibly well said. I agree at least 100%, perhaps even more.
Blessings, brother (and I don't say that glibly).

Sarah said...

You said a lot of good things and I agree. But then I have another question here ....

What about hearing more from ex-gay ministries? Just an idea? What if, just a thought, people are stereotyping ex-gay ministries and confused with their message because they do testify to healing and freedom from homosexuality. If we're going to bridge the gap would we not want to give the same respect to people within ex-gay ministries? Why or why not?

And if I am involved with an ex-gay ministry how would I be able to bridge the gap and still be an ex-gay ministry?

Am I stereotyped as an former Transgendered person? How would I bridge the gap with my testimony of change?

I'm putting this out there to see what kind of responses I might get. I've read a lot of insightful blogs and I have found myself agreeing a lot with people. I'm challenged in bridging the gap but it might have to be in the mix of hashing out disagreements.

Steve F. said...

Everyone - thank you for stopping by, thank you for reading and commenting. Anything to open the dialogue is an important step.

Specifically to Sarah - while I haven't read every post (or even a fifth of them!) so far I can agree that ex-gay ministries seem to be under-represented. And I agree - because so many of them have publicly presented an "our way or the highway" attitude, I think that theirs is also a stereotype that needs to be broken. In the movie "Save Me," I think there was a step to try to break down that stereotype.

In my "Epistle to Christian" link, I talk about ex-gay ministries. I view them the same way I see faith healings - yes, they are both successful, but the failure of both healings and conversions does not, by definition, indicate a lack of faith or commitment.

I think there definitely can be bridges built - but yes, there will be some of the "agreeing to disagree" built into the discussion.

You might consider the subject of this post and how the author listed addresses both sides of the issue.

I hope these conversations keep on keepin' on, as my mentor would say.

Sarah said...

Thank you Steve for you're response and for the links provided.

Jason said...

thanks for giving me credit for the picture

It took 2 seconds to draw with a handful of crayons