New Direction and Wendy were recently featured in Xtra, check out the article in it’s entirety here.
Imagine a place of unconditional acceptance….. A place where everyone around you is willing to be a friend even if you don’t know them. Imagine a place where you know that you have something deeply personal in common with everyone around you, even if you have no clue who they are. Imagine a place where you will walk away with a new friend simply by asking the question, “What’s your story?”
The 2013 Gay Christian Network Conference was held in Phoenix January 10 – 13 and I had the privilege of attending on behalf of New Direction. I went last year and had an incredibly positive and moving experience so I was definitely looking forward to being there again. But I was unsure if it would have the same impact it did last year. Well the highlight, in both experiences, was the incredible sense of community.Details
Happy New Year! As I write that, I am mindful of how easily that can roll off someone’s tongue and how much it can miss the mark of the reality that many are living. Last year, many people wished me a happy new year. But neither they nor I had any idea of the unexpected challenges, grief and loss that would come in 2012. Likewise, when I wish people happy new year now – we have no idea what lies ahead of us. Some of us are struggling – spiritually, emotionally, financially, relationally ….. and some of us are doing that in great isolation. Happy new year? Well maybe not a superficial hallmark greeting …. but as people of faith we do extend confident prayers for one another that the new year will be blessed.
We have a tradition at my church of praying over the calendar at our New Year’s day service. We talk together about some of the things that are likely to happen in the months ahead, but mainly we simply consecrate each day of the year to God in the knowledge that so many unexpected things may happen. As a community, when difficult things happen, it is not uncommon to remind each other, “Remember, we consecrated this day to God.” We live, as a community, in the remembrance that we serve Emmanuel – God with us. We live in the knowledge that God enters and exits each day with us.
My daughter who just turned 14 came home all excited today. She’d received a very good grade on a poem she wrote and when I read it, I said that it would be a great addition to our blog. She seemed to like the idea of it being posted – so here it is:
Today’s post, after a long period of silence on this blog due to an inordinate amount of doctoral work, is in solidarity with Justin Lee over at Crumbs at the Communion Table, his synchroblog, and in celebration of the launch of his new book, “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs.Christians Debate”.
Justin has asked us to share some thoughts about how to positively address the ongoing polarization caused by this issue. Let me begin by saying that I think it will be the lives of gay Christians that make the most significant difference when we look at this matter with history on our side. Gay Christians ARE the bridge.Details
There have been a number of happenings in the last few days that I’ve been percolating on …..
A pastor called, having received our invitation to Relevant Engagement. He wanted to know more about New Direction and how a congregation might begin to engage a more open conversation about these matters. It seems that about 15% of the congregation are aware that a daughter in one of the church families will be marrying her partner later in the year. The reality is that people have different perspectives, different questions, different priorities and different concerns. A conversation, like the ones New Direction nurtures, helps people understand how to extend generous spaciousness to each other, giving each other the freedom to seek, to listen, to wrestle, and to ultimately discern how Christ is leading.
Another pastor came to visit me. Some time back he’d received an email from a leader he knew who is engaged in ex-gay ministry. The leader warned the pastor that New Direction had been deceived by the enemy and asking him to pray against us. This email didn’t sit well with this particular pastor, so he called the leader saying that he’d looked at our website and didn’t find anything that concerned him or raised red flags for him.Details
The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself. ~ Mark Twain
Acceptance of one’s life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes and injustices. ~ Paul Tournier
These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed. ~ Ricky Martin
We had an email inquiry yesterday that got me writing about acceptance. Wes, my colleague, asked if I’d written anything for the blog on that theme – and while it has come up here and there – I couldn’t think of a post with that emphasis. Now for many of our readers who are out and comfortable with their identity some of the following may seem like it is from an age-gone-by.
Wes and I have been working through Jean Vanier’s book, “Finding Peace” in our staff devotions. I love this little book and have prayed through it many times. Vanier’s context is working with adults who are intellectually and physically differently abled. This is quite distinct from the arena of faith and sexuality and those who find themselves outside the majority status of gender and sexual orientation. However, his insights about humanity, about finding peace in the midst of difference, are universal and often deeply inspiring as we seek to go about our work through New Direction.
Vanier says, “The world is divided into many thousands of more or less hermetically closed groups. If each group is sure that it is better than others, how will peace ever come? It is difficult to dialogue with others if we cling arrogantly to the idea that we are right or that our power and technology are a sign of our humanity and goodness. Walls and barriers exist between people because of language, but also because of fear – each group fearful of those who are different, fearful of losing its identity. People resist opening up to others. Aren’t we all in one way or another enclosed in a secure group, in our culture, our religion, our family, our network of friends? Family and different types of groups are needed for human growth, but when they become sealed they engender rivalry, conflict, elitism.”
Yesterday, I quietly prayed and lamented a world that became more entrenched in its polarization. How do prophets of peace speak into the madness of boycott and counter-appreciation events? How does a peace-maker respond to the reality of pain and anger and reductionism on both ends of the spectrum?Details
The other side of the coin…. when gay people long for reconciliation with their conservative Christian family
Last week I read about a young girl, just 16 years of age, in Kentucky who was attacked by two men shouting anti-gay slurs. Her jaw was broken, she lost several teeth and one of the younger boys with her suffered a concussion trying to protect his friend.
Then today I read about a woman in Nebraska who was bound, had anti-gay slurs carved into her skin, doused with gas, and had her house set on fire. The woman managed to escape the house. But one can only imagine the long difficult road ahead of her to recover from this level of trauma.
A friend left a video link on my facebook wall that tells the story of a profoundly hurtful family response to the partner of a gay son who had died in an accident.Details
I heard from a Christian who described a pretty common experience. The Christian has a loved one who is gay and the relationship has deteriorated to the point that the gay person, as the Christian perceives it, is angry and demanding that if the Christian wants to have a relationship with them, they’ll need to affirm gay marriage and become an advocate for LGBT people. The Christian person does want to work on restoring the relationship, but also feels that what is being asked puts them in a position of compromising their Scriptural beliefs. The Christian is wondering where they can begin to try to open communication.
This is my response:
You describe a common but difficult relational impasse with a gay loved one. There may be a number of inadvertent things you have communicated (through body language, tone of voice as well as words) over time that have built up the anger in your loved one. Anger is almost always a secondary emotion – it is often a protection for the pain that one feels. When you feel different in a way that you feel others perceive as wrong, immoral, broken, a problem etc. you develop a very strong sense of self-protection – and this can commonly manifest as anger. They may be angry about things that you are unaware of. Or their anger may be amplified by other matters that have nothing to do with you. So, if you can remember that their anger is probably covering a lot of pain – that may be helpful.
One way to begin to break down the patterns of hostility and distance, would begin with this kind of introduction:Details
I haven’t written much about HIV/AIDS on this blog for a few reasons. First, I don’t feel like I have the knowledge to write helpful posts on the topic. Second, while this is an important topic, it hasn’t been a particular focus at New Direction. And third, I do not want to perpetuate the stereotype that HIV/AIDS is a gay disease. Hopefully most people recognize by now that HIV/AIDS is transmitted in a number of different ways and is a risk that crosses all social, economic, racial and orientation lines.
But we received an email today that offered the opportunity for me to respond:
“I have used your resources in the past when my brother came ‘out’ to my parents. I am SO thankful for your organization! My brother was recently diagnosed as HIV+ and I wondered if you can direct me to any resources that deal with this? Not so much the medical side of things, but questions like, ‘Why is God punishing me?’, ‘Why did God allow this to happen to me’, ‘Can I be forgiven?'”
When I read an email like this, a number of things flash through my mind. I remember the first time I heard about AIDS. I was in a phys. ed. class at my Christian high school. It was the mid-eighties. A video clip was shown in which a gay man was talking about his illness. One of my classmates burst into tears and rushed out of the room. The man in the video was her uncle. She did not know that he was gay or that he had, since the video’s release, died of AIDS. She’d been told he died of cancer. I can remember the shock going through the room. And I remembered at the time how angry I felt that this girl’s family had been too embarrassed to be honest with her and tell her the truth. I didn’t know that much about homosexuality back then, but I knew enough to be outraged that someone’s family would be so ashamed of them as to lie.Details
Generous spaciousness is a posture that is needed more than ever. In a world of instant communication where people can react and respond within seconds, perhaps without taking time for reflection or prayer and with the convenient protection of anonymity, harsh polemic is more often the norm than is generosity. It is easy to be black and white, self-righteous, arrogantly certain, and loud with your judgments when you don’t have to put your name to your opinions. When there is little to no chance of accountability, you can throw out statements without really thinking through how they might affect others.
Generous spaciousness invites a different kind of discipline. It seeks to intentionally make room for the reality of multiple perspectives. It seeks to extend the benefit of the doubt that different conclusions are held on the basis of convictions that have been thought through and prayerfully reflected upon. This of course is not always the case. Sometimes people hold opinions that they’ve never risked questioning or challenging. But generous spaciousnessDetails