Working at New Direction Ministries, Wendy and I have an understanding. As Youth Specialist I will handle the speaking engagements to teens and youth, and as Executive Director she will handle most of the Sunday Morning preaching opportunities. This means that I will often find myself shifting around in a rock hard camp bed on the second sleepless night of a youth retreat in the middle of nowhere….but I wouldn’t trade jobs with her for all the money in the world.
I often joke that working with youth professionally takes a special kind of person…preferably one who was dropped on their head a few times as a kid. But the truth is I love working with youth because they give me hope.
I have had the repeated experience of sharing my story with youth, and having teens come up to me in twos and threes afterwards in tears. Some of them have gay friends or family members, and some of them don’t, but all of them say something similar to me:
“I’ve felt inside that how Christians treat gay people is wrong. I’ve listened to how my pastor talks about this, and something inside just didn’t feel right. I want to follow Jesus, and I am serious about what the Bible teaches…but I knew how we have been acting isn’t what the Bible teaches either. I thought I must be a bad Christian because I felt this way, but your story helped me realize that I was right!”
I must have had this conversation a hundred times in the last year, in churches all across Canada, with youth from dozens of denominations. It always makes me smile because while they are thanking me, the remarkable thing is not my story, it is that they already knew it in their heart.
I have heard a great anxiety among adults in the church that we need to do something to protect our youth. Recently I read an article that claimed that to protect our children we must find anyone, gay or straight, in our churches who didn’t agree with the author’s view of homosexuality and put them out of the church! It brought to mind one of my favourite Simpsons episodes where the town riots because of the perceived danger of bears and Helen Lovejoy exclaims in a panic “Won’t someone PLEASE think of the children!” But this view tends to keep God small and our own roles in the fate of the universe overly large.
I have been hanging out with the children, and they are doing okay. The Spirit of God is bringing change. I believe that his heart for reconciliation and his Love for Gay people is being echoed in the hearts of the new generations coming up in the church. I have found a generation who are much more comfortable navigating the differences that divide us with grace. When I think about what will Bridge the Gap between the Church and the Gay community I believe very strongly that it will be our children and grandchildren that are are now and will continue to do it. I think that rather than worry about them we need to listen to them, their voices and opinions and they will lead and teach us.