Over the next few weeks, I want to share a bit more of what I’ve learned from these amazing parents. I’ll be sharing, “6 Things I Wish Every Christian Parent of an LGBTQ Child Knew.” I realize this is an impossibly broad topic as the parents of these children come from an infinite number of backgrounds, and family dynamics vary greatly. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best.
I write this letter with an aching heart. I have heard the pain in the voices of so many of you, wondering if it is time to “shake the dust off” and leave your local church. As your bishop, I cannot ask you to stay in a place where your soul cannot be at rest. However, I will share with you why I, as a lifelong member of the UMC and as a lesbian, choose to stay.
I stay because I know that the actions of General Conference are not a reflection of the church that has raised me, enveloped me in God’s grace, nurtured my walk of faith as a disciple of Jesus, and encouraged my call. Most United Methodists in the United States are appalled at the turn our denomination has taken. For them and for me, it is an affront to the very ethos of Methodism itself. We are not biblical literalists, as this vote implies. Nor are we a tradition grounded in rules and punishment. We United Methodists have always been about grace, grace and more grace. I am staying because I want to reclaim the best of our tradition for the generations that come after me.
When The United Methodist Church was formed and its Social Principle written, the 1972 General Conference turned a pastoral paragraph regarding the reality that lgbtq persons were in our pulpits and pews into one of condemnation when it added, “However we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider it incompatible with Christian teaching.” This one sentence has enabled more and more condemning stances to be included in our Book of Discipline (like the fact that no same-gender weddings may be held in our churches or performed by our pastors). So there are some of us who have been living with the church’s rejection for a long time! Yet, we continue to be called to this church. Within our local churches there is commitment to welcome and care for every child of God. I stay so our churches can provide deeper care and greater witness to those feeling the sting of judgement and rejection.
I stay because of our young people. Last Sunday, I worshipped at St. Andrew and was asked by Pastor Mark Feldmeir to come lead communion. Robin, my spouse, and I stood with bread and cup and offered the elements to those who came to receive. All the youth stood in line to receive from us. Many were sobbing. How could the church that had taught them about God’s love for them suddenly make this love conditional? Many collapsed in my arms in tears, their hearts breaking. I stay so that our young people will inherit a church where every child is beloved, where no one is turned away, where Christ’s table is wide enough for everyone.
I stay because there is no place else for me to go. Our United Methodist way of living our faith in practical ways is found in no other denomination. We are the people who embrace Wesley’s understanding of personal piety and social holiness. I want our churches to give witness to this even more boldly.
I stay because since the decision, I am seeing United Methodist Churches across our connection saying “NO”! They will not allow a vote at General Conference to derail their ministries or commitments to love all people. The Holy Spirit is up to something. I want to be a part of it, and I hope you do to.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss this with me further. I am happy to pray with you as you discern where God is calling you.
The Q Book Club is getting its start this month! Join Q Christian for our first monthly Book Club! In March, the Book Club will be moderated by Co-Executive Director Sam Locke and center around Southernmost, an award-winning novel from Silas House.
We are aware that, at the 2019 Love Undivided Conference, a poetic prayer including one line calling for “the fall of capitalism and a free Palestine” was offered by a community member from the main stage.
The positions shared were not and are not endorsed by Q Christian. Our community includes people who would strongly agree with such a prayer, those who would strongly disagree, and everything in between.
Q Christian has always valued equal dignity and diversity of thought amongst differing opinions, and all conference presenters were asked to share their viewpoints in a way that held space for other beliefs. In our commitment to cultivating radically welcome space, Q Christian will re-evaluate our multi-layered review process to account for artists offering their original work including poems, prayers or songs from our main stage and we sincerely regret that this line of the poem was overlooked.
While Q Christian will never be silent on matters of policy impacting LGBTQ+ people of faith, we will continue every effort to prevent strong assertions not directly tied to our mission without deep reflection of and holding space for all viewpoints.
In the coming weeks, we will be engaging the community to obtain feedback on how to best continue this difficult work of making space for a variety of viewpoints on all of the topics engaged by Q Christian together, most profoundly within the complex framework of sexual ethics. We will soon be hosting a town hall Q&A with the executive leadership team around how to have difficult conversations in divisive times, as related to our mission, vision and values. An invitation to this town hall forum will be posted next month. We look forward to your continued feedback on the selection of content we promote as a community. Please send feedback directly to us at email@example.com.
Equity: An Irresistible Feast
Written by Isaac Archuleta
Executive Director, Spiritual & Relational Formation
Our time in Chicago was an amazingly refreshing time, particularly examining how to honor one another’s experiences. Our theme, Love Undivided, guided our conversation from keynote speakers to breakout sessions, eventually spilling into one-on-one conversations.
As members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies, we often defend non-binary identities of many, like gender non-binary and living within the spectrum of sexual orientations. In years past, however, we ironically found ourselves reinforcing one major religious binary: Side B or Side A. We had been caught in our own dualistic traps of in or out, correct or wrong, and righteous or sinful. But this year, being led by the premise of Love Undivided to honor everyone’s spiritual formation, we came together to initiate the beginnings of equity for all.
Some of you may remember my distinction between equality and equity. Equality is having a guaranteed spot at the table, but it comes with the obligation to eat the food provided by the host. Equity, however, is being invited not only to the table, but also to the kitchen. Equity allows one to contribute their unique, individualized spices to the recipe, precisely because sharing a co-created meal is what is important. The co-creation required by equity does not value one opinion or perspective over another. Equity necessitates, and even craves, the influence of another’s contributions.
At Q Christian, we want all the spices of the LGBTQ+ Christian community to be added to our recipe so that the organization can be influenced by individual thinkers—your stories, your lives, and the inherent diversity with which you have been created. As one of three co-Executive Directors, I have made it my personal vow to not only create a safe place for LGBTQ+ Christians and their allies, but to let the community shape, inspire, and flavor the organization. Anything less could not and would not be equity.
Ray Low shared some of his amazing insights as one who is called to celibacy. He called us into loving relationships, not to judge one another, but to know one another. As a major juxtaposition to Ray, one could find thought leaders speaking on sex and sexual ethics, shame inside of marriage, and a panel discussion that included polyamory. The Q Christian conference was not only a place created to demonstrate equality, but one that made room for all to share their unique perspectives and opinions, thus reaching for equity. As we planned conference, we wanted all to contribute to the recipes that eventually filled our banquet table.
But I must say, Love Undivided was not always comfortable. In fact, love and relational intimacy never are.
I used to think intimacy was made up by exciting experiences of realizing someone desired me - love notes tucked into my partner’s pocket, or memorable moments with family that left me feeling warm and connected. What I slowly began to realize was that intimacy is not only the idealized or the comfortable. Intimacy, I learned, is the stamina, much like roots of a tree, that holds the attachment of two people through a myriad of moods, phases, enjoyable moments, and challenging seasons, especially when winds are blustery and howling. Intimacy, although spectacular in many moments, is often the context within which mess, pain, and anger occur.
Plain and simple, intimacy includes all of the beauty and muck that comes with being close to someone else. As we strive for relational intimacy, beauty and disagreements are waiting for us.
Equity is the willingness, and even the invitation, to be influenced and shaped by intimacy.
During our time in Chicago, there were many stories that influenced us—some inviting us into meaningful conversations of safety, and others that left us squirming in our chairs. This, oddly enough, was the practice of equity.
Equity isn’t achieved when relationships are perfect and comfortable. In fact, equity is most convincing precisely when difference and discomforts flare.
And for this very reason, we have chosen to abide by the centered set of values that comprise the sexual ethics at Q Christian Fellowship.
A centered-set value system has been embraced by Q Christian Fellowship because values guide moral development, rather than assert claims that one can know the full truth or that one can have a corner on righteousness. We have seen that it is important to cherish one another’s experiences of God, particularly because God is forever leading us on a unique journey. Cherishing this fact is what allows Q Christian to be a safe haven for all members of the LGBTQ+ Christian community.
As we continue to practice reciprocity—the give and take of relationships—we will experience the joy of equity by allowing someone else to contribute to our favorite recipe, an experience that introduces us to an expanded view of God’s richness. Sometimes, our co-created recipes won’t be immediate masterpieces, but if we work together persistently, we will create an irresistible feast.
As many of you have walked away from conference and back into your individual lives, may you be able to contemplate and see that the practice of Love Undivided shapes your spiritual journey and cultivates relational intimacy.
How have your efforts to embrace equity left you uncomfortable?
In what ways have you been denied equity?
In what areas are you needing to practice equity, specifically to open up to God’s diversity within humanity?
Started as an online community more than fifteen years ago, Q Christian Fellowship is an intrepid organization serving as a refuge for LGBTQ+ Christians and their allies. Our history holds a beautiful legacy. A legacy that drove pivotal conversations illuminating pertinent language as we became a community valuing diverse theologies and moral ethics. To strengthen our roots in such a rich heritage, this year’s conference will focus on how we all share in the essence of God, so that we may abide with one another in love without divisions.
Our conference scripture is Ephesians 4:2-5, which reads:
“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism…”
In Christ, we are one Q Christian family. We are called to demonstrate bold hospitality that nurtures a vibrantly diverse community, initiates personal growth, and inspires justice by creating relationships that value reconciliation and liberate the marginalized. Our action—as one body— requires Love Undivided.
During our time together in Chicago, you will hear voices representing different theological perspectives, different interpretations of the Bible, and different beliefs surrounding righteous behaviors. Some perspectives may be challenging to hear. We won’t always agree with one another; and, amidst the discomfort, we ask you to present your perspective with respect for those who hold different convictions. Please listen with compassion and love: love for God, love for yourself, and love for your neighbor. We ask you to speak with respect because Jesus calls us to radical love, even for those who might call themselves our enemies.
Love Undivided not only deconstructs barriers that keep us from relational intimacy, it also fortifies connections to our neighbors- not by agreeing with their beliefs, but by cherishing who they are, from the inside out. Ultimately, Love Undivided prioritizes our position as God’s children above the tensions we bear and the paradoxes we struggle to embrace. We are truly of one Lord and one faith.
Whether your theology aligns with one side or another, it’s time to abide side-by-side and center ourselves on what centered Jesus: love for God and love for our neighbors. We are eager to journey with you as we grow in Love Undivided. You are welcome here.
Our aim as the Executive Leadership is to create an atmosphere where we practice mutual respect of our differences, giving us the opportunity to experience deeper relational intimacy. Our goal is that we walk away from conference cherishing one another’s God-created uniqueness in deeper, unifying ways. As a result, we will be better equipped to boldly enter into transformative vulnerability, eager to reach deeper layers of relational intimacy, and empowered to inwardly grow into greater self-acceptance.
Centered by Christ’s Commandment to love God and love our neighbors:
We model radical belonging and practice hospitality - to welcome one another
We connect beyond disagreement and protect differences - to cherish one another
We share our true selves and strive for reconciliation - to know one another
We pursue anti-racist outcomes and work towards equity - to value one another
Just as God loves us unceasingly
May we reflect the Divine increasingly