Have you noticed the inordinate amount of attention that is given to concerns about sin at the intersection of faith and sexuality? It seems to be a sticking point for so many. “But it’s sin.” With this short phrase dialogue can be cut off, attempts to understand can be closed, relationships strained, alienation experienced, judgement…Details
Recently Wendy had the chance to visit and lecture at Calvin College as part of the Sexuality Series.
Here’s a write up about the evening. (Full link: http://www.calvin.edu/chimes/2015/04/17/lecture-addresses-churches-response-to-lgbtq-community/)
And below is a video of the evening.Details
One of the reasons I have so loved being engaged in the conversations at the intersection of faith and sexuality over the last decade plus is the very reason some people seem to avoid entering the discussion. I have found, over time, that this conversation invites you, eventually compels you, and if you resist –…Details
Middle section, second pew from the front, left side.
That’s where my family sat every Sunday morning. It provided easy access to the stage for my pastor dad, who was always positioned closest to the aisle. It gave me a sense of being under the watchful gaze of the whole congregation: significant, but scrutinized.
Sunday church attendance was non-negotiable, though I don’t remember the four of us kids ever really putting up a fight. Some of us would actually make the church trek twice on Sundays once our evening service started up. When I moved to Vancouver I immediately found two new churches to attend, later paring it down to one. This eventually led to being hired as a pastor (which I was pretending to be, as a child, in the photo above). This obviously only intensified my church involvement.Details
Earlier this month, 75 people attended our annual Generous Spaciousness Retreat. Most were from southern Ontario, but some came from as far as Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, and New Brunswick! We spent three days together at a conference center on a frozen lake, laughing, crying, eating, singing, praying, listening to each other’s stories, and watching God work in us and through us.
One of the retreat participants, Chad, had this to say about the experience…
“Last year’s retreat was life changing, so coming to this year’s retreat I knew the experience wouldn’t be quite the same. This past year has been a whirlwind. My partner and I are involved with two community groups in which we are using Generous Spaciousness as our model. Wehave also been starting conversations with our church leadership about the LGBTQ community. I’ve also had to deal with some difficult conversations with family. This is hard stuff, and even in the week before this retreat, I was really starting to feel down and wanting to give up.Details
It’s something the church has been talking a whole heck of a lot about in the past few years, whether it’s behind the scenes in policy meetings or out front in the media. Same-sex marriage. Partnered gay men and women who are committed Jesus-followers. Married, faithful gay couples loving and serving in the church. And every one…Details
WikiGod Podcaster Mark sits down with Wendy for a two-part conversation. This week in Part 1, Wendy talks about some of the major influences that affected her awareness about the legacy of New Direction as she took the role of Executive Director in 2002. It’s a fascinating and highly relevant account of her listening, feeling uncomfortable, being unexpectedly welcomed, meeting undeniable grace, and becoming a beacon of hope for Christians accustomed to being marginalized and hiding in the shdows.Details
On the final morning of last month’s Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference in Portland, which our staff from New Direction attended, it was clear that the conference organizers had gone to great lengths to figure out how to serve communion to 1300 participants from multiple denominations.
It may have taken more time to explain how to receive communion than it did to receive it.
Besides the twenty-some stations offering wafers, white bread, and wine, there were also special stations with gluten-free bread, and bowls of juice for those who abstain from wine. In one corner of the huge room, Catholics could go and receive the host, consecrated and served by a priest. And in the middle, there was something I’d never even heard of: the antidoron, the non-consecrated Bread of Fellowship, baked by attendees from the Orthodox tradition and offered especially to others from closed-table churches. Gosh, I thought, they’ve even got a way to participate for people whose traditions prevent them from participating.Details
A good number of years ago, when I was a young and inexperienced woman in ministry, a mentor showed me Janet Hagberg’s stages of power. It was an ‘aha’ moment for me. It gave me an understanding of some of the feelings, experiences, and efforts I was making in my life to become a freer and more giving individual.
We had already covered quite a bit of ground at the women’s retreat, but I checked in with them to see if we could add this additional layer – as a tool to bring us to a deeper awareness of where we’re at and where we want to be. Given the ages and stages of life and the many experiences represented in the room, I knew that the women would have a lot to offer to one another as we talked about these stages of power.
Though we’d been working with the four quadrants of a circle, representing the seasons of our lives, Hagberg describes six stages of power. The first stage which would be up in the awakening quadrant, is described as powerless. In this stage, we feel as though we are starting at ground zero. Perhaps we have suffered a significant loss – a death of a family member, a break-up or divorce, being laid-off or fired, failing a course at school, not making the team, discovering the betrayal of a friend, financial disaster, totaling the car, illness or sudden disability. These experiences can leave us feeling unmoored, unsure of where to turn, disconnected from needed resources. Some may call it ‘hitting bottom’. Hagberg suggests that in this place we may realize our need for God. We cry out for help – we have no where else to turn. We awaken from the stupor and recognize that we cannot carry on simply relying on our own devices.Details
This is part three of a short blog series reflecting on the keynote that I facilitated for the WeConnect women’s retreat at the Gay Christian Network conference in January 2015. Together we shared practices and reminders that invite us to go deeper and farther in our spiritual lives. The next layer we applied to the wheel introduced key ideas connecting us to our true selves.
In the top quadrant, that of awakening, there is a call to resist. We resist “Who I am NOT.” In this early season, a season of coming awake, perhaps after a period of chaos or stress where we found ourselves unable to remain present, attuned, or aware of the happenings within our soul, we so often forget (or haven’t figured out) who we truly are. We may have taken on the labels or expectations of others. Perhaps the whispers, the mockery, the accusations that pull us into dark, slimy pits of insecurity and self-loathing have overwhelmed us. Perhaps the voices of others in our heads are so loud – that we can no longer hear our own voice. This call of awakening is the call to stop, silence the voices, strain our ears for our heart song, and resist the false self (the one so badly wanting to earn God’s love and everyone else’s) (the one so frightened that the built-up personas are a constant presentation) (the one that has numbed down true emotions in order to fit in, not cause a stir, or be a burden). We become still long enough to recognize that which is NOT ourselves. The Spirit offers the accompaniment to a new song. Perhaps life has thrown so much at you that you find yourself bitter, angry, complaining, negative …… and the still small voice inside reminds you that this is NOT who you are. Resistance brings energy, it brings remembrance and recognition. And it ushers us to the next season.Details
Recently Wendy had the chance to be featured on the Nomad Podcast.
Nomad Podcast is an chance to explore Christian community, mission and the future of the church. Join two ordinary pilgrims as they stumble through the post-Christendom wilderness, looking for signs of hope.
Listen to the episode (podcast) and find out more about Nomad here.
(Full link: http://www.podcastchart.com/podcasts/nomad-podcast/episodes/nomad-77-wendy-vanderwal-gritter-same-sex-relationships-and-how-to-lovingly-disagree)
After talking together about the practices of awakening, empowerment, relinquishment, and paradox, the women who gathered for WeConnect at the GCN Conference moved to another layer of the wheel representing seasons in our lives. This layer made use of ideas and symbols from the Medicine Wheel of our North American First Nations people. Now I am hardly an expert on the medicine wheel. But in my crazy little home congregation we are passionate about reconciliation with our First Nations sisters and brothers and we have used the Medicine Wheel as part of our worship.
The medicine wheel differentiates the four quadrants of the circle with the colours white, yellow, red, and black. These colours make connections to seasons, directions, times of day, and elements of the created world. One of the things that has struck me about the opportunities that I’ve had to worship God our Creator with the medicine wheel is how intimately it connects us with the earth. God has given us two sources of revelation. The first is that vast beauty and wonder of his creation. “The heavens declare the Glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) The second is the written word, God’s story through the scriptures. In much of the western church we have so over-emphasized the scriptures that we have become impoverished in our connection to God through all that he has made. I get Richard Rohr’s daily meditation sent to me – and interestingly enough – this week he is focusing on calling us back to a robust connection with creation as a spiritual practice of remaining in God’s presence.Details
I had the privilege of being asked to speak at the WeConnect women’s event that preceded the Gay Christian Network Conference in Portland. I was both honored and humbled to be asked – I guess it helps when you’re friends with a bunch of the folks organizing the event. I also felt myself faced with a dilemma. As a mainly straight, married to a man for 20 years, gal who serves as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ Christian population, I am acutely aware that my role ought to primarily be about seeing LGBTQ+ Christians being given a platform and opportunity to lift their voices and share their stories.
In my work with New Direction, this is often a point of tension. In many of the church contexts we are serving, there is still the reality that they will give a platform to someone like me much more quickly than to my LGBTQ+ colleagues or members of our Generous Spaciousness community. I suppose the thought is that I’m “safe enough” in that I live the heteronormative life of privilege that the majority of our church folk do. And while I might lament this, in our current context among Evangelical churches this is simply the way it is right now. I try to live in the both/and of going and speaking and extending platform whenever I can.Details