Updated: May 28, 2021
In our Generous Space Groups across Canada, we open our meetings with a vision statement about “seeking the unity for which Jesus prayed.” We know our deep need of one another, even when we disagree – we see tensions as opportunities to learn to love across difference. Lately, we’ve seen tensions surface not so much about the expected topics of same-sex marriage or gender identity, but about the seemingly innocuous subject of church attendance.
As the Director of Community, I believe our community is ready to dig deeper and practice generous space on this topic – to “own” our differences, pushing ourselves to share vulnerable, risky things, and to listen carefully, in hopes of better understanding and loving each other.
This blog is a first (and limited) step in that process – it’s a randomized compilation of anonymous email interviews with several LGBTQ+ people who are connected with GS across Canada – some from affirming churches and some from non-affirming churches – who agreed to answer a few risky questions anonymously and honestly. The intent behind this exercise is to unveil our own hidden assumptions and judgments, as well as expressing our sense of call/resonance in our choices around church involvement.
It may be that some of these interview responses offend or even anger you. Responding well to offense or anger is a difficult but necessary part of practicing generous space. Here’s what I invite you to do as you read:
Pay attention to any negative or uncomfortable mental or physical reactions you have. When you feel something, try to dig down to the thought or personal experience behind your reaction. Pray for God to replace shame or fear with love for yourself and for your siblings in Christ. Try to pray for these people you disagree with (even though they’re anonymous), remembering they’re also the beloved of God.
Practice the art of giving the benefit of the doubt to the person you disagree with. Make the absolute best assumptions about their words and intentions. When one interview quote confirms your stereotypes, try to find another quote that challenges your stereotypes.
Remind yourself that we all have a common goal of bringing more empathy, understanding, and flourishing for LGBTQ+ people within the church, even though our methods may be different, and sometimes seem at odds with each other.
1. What are one or two reasons why you love your church and choose to attend there (whether affirming or non-affirming)? Do you feel a sense of call or purpose there?
NON-AFFIRMING CHURCH PARTICIPANTS
“The church I am part of now has enabled my faith to grow and deepen in ways I’ve not experienced elsewhere… I do feel that being in our church for years as an LGBTQ+ couple in a long-term relationship has in fact changed people’s perception of what it means to be gay and a Christian…I decided years ago to set aside whatever privilege I might find in being affirmed by people, and instead focus on following where I felt Christ was leading me and where he would have me go. The radical changes I have seen in people’s attitudes, hearts, and lives where I am now (including my own) have been well worth the small sacrifice for me personally.”
“I love that our church, led by its leadership, is so open to learn and led by humility, awe, and willingness to be challenged rather than ego, insecurity and defensiveness…I value being at a church I can get behind, take ownership of, connect with, serve and serve with.”
“At my church, I get to help others enter into a place of worship and praise of the Lord, thereby strengthening their relationship with Him… My sexuality is only one aspect of who I am, and I don’t believe it should dictate or limit my life choices like which church I attend…I feel a specific call to use my ‘insider’ position within the Church to assist in its education related to the LGBTQ+ community.”
“I feel like I can contribute my voice to the church’s ongoing discernment and try to push people to being more comfortable with affirming LGBTQ+ people, particularly in my unique identity as a lesbian transgender woman.”
AFFIRMING CHURCH PARTICIPANTS
“The initial reason that I started attending an affirming church was because I was asked to leave my leadership positions at my non-affirming church…My new church is the only place that I feel like I can really bring my whole self…The folks in my church don’t love me in spite of my gender identity or sexual orientation – they love those parts of me too, and they love the way they see God meet me there.”
“What I love most about my church is the warmth and hospitality people show one another, especially visitors, across intersecting identities. Safe space is a process, but our church is committed to ongoing listening and learning, both within the church and in the community.”
“I love my church for its complete lack of focus on theological uniformity, rather there’s a focus on building community and allowing people to “belong before they believe”… At this stage of my life and journey I am committed to attending a church where LGBTQ+ people are affirmed in every way, accepted in any leadership role, without reservation or caveat, where our relationships are valued and seen as whole. This, t