"In divisive times, what does it look like to love our neighbor?" | Robert and Susan Cottrell | Q Parent Summit

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Listen to Robert and Susan Cottrell’s keynote presentation from April’s Q Parent Summit on the nature of loving our neighbors, and how we can transcend division to bring God’s love to bear in our world.

Susan Cottrell, the prominent voice for faith parents of LGBTQI children, was featured on ABC's 20/20, Nightline and Good Morning America, on NBC News Out, on The Advocate Magazine’s National Coming Out Day, Mother's Day, and other viral videos - as "our favorite affirming matriarch." She has also been featured on The Advocate’s Out in Left Field with Dana Goldberg, and is a devotional contributor on the Our Bible app. She is an international speaker, public theologian, acclaimed author, and consultant. Through her nonprofit organization—FreedHearts—Susan champions the LGBTQI community and families with her authenticity and tender-hearted zeal.

She challenges Christians to love as the foundation of faith. She spent 20+ years in the non-affirming Evangelical church, is the Founder and President of FreedHearts, has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and served as the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin (Texas). Her critically acclaimed books “Mom, I’m Gay”—Loving Your LGBTQ Child and Strengthening Your Faith; True Colors - Celebrating the Truth and Beauty of the Real You; and Radically Included - The Biblical Case for Radical Love and Inclusion are endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG and many others. She and her husband Rob have been married for 30+ years, live in Austin, and have five children, two of whom are in the LGBTQI community.

Be sure to register for the Q Summer Retreat happening in June! Read about the Q+ Families Retreat with a blog post by Samuel Locke and Bukola Landis-Aina, and register now to get your 2020 Conference registration for free!

6. Don't go it alone!

Learn more about B.T and his mini-series “6 Things I Wish Every Christian Parent of an LGBTQ Child Knew.”

Many Christian parents report feeling utterly alone in their journey of parenting an LGBTQ child.

It’s not unusual for parents to feel like they’re the only ones in their church or social group with an LGBTQ child. Futhermore, most churches don’t offer any support, and many parents don’t feel comfortable talking to their pastor about it.

These forces conspire to make parents feel like they have to withdraw. And many quietly decide to keep their child’s sexuality as a family secret.


This is a terribly unhealthy way to respond to this situation. The healthiest parents I know are the ones who have reached out for connection, resources, and support. For all the Internet’s attending evils, its ability to connect small tribes of people with common life-circumstances is absolutely stunning.

There are millions—literally, millions—of parents out there on a similar journey as you. They also are learning how to love and support their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer child. Many of them have transitioned from the early days of fear to a new place of peace.

I really can’t encourage you enough to join a loving, listening community of Christian parents of LGBTQ children. Q Christian Fellowship offers incredible support and resources. Harbor, the support program I lead is another great option as well. And there are others! Just find one where you feel like you belong, and get involved. Share your story, be vulnerable, and pray for each other.

Being the parent of an LGBTQ child isn’t a curse. As time goes on, you’ll discover that it is one of life’s greatest blessings. And, if you let it, the journey can be one that God uses to transform you in unimaginably beautiful ways.

5. It's more than possible for your child to live a happy and fulfilled life.

Learn more about B.T and his mini-series “6 Things I Wish Every Christian Parent of an LGBTQ Child Knew.”

For millennia, LGBTQ people around the world were in hiding, never fully understanding their own bodies, fearing for their lives, and likely never finding kinship with other LGBTQ people.

To some this is an unpopular or unbelievable statement, but it’s true: In all of human history, the best time and place to be a gay person is 2019 in America.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to be gay and or that there aren’t any challenges. There certainly are (and I think it’s even more challenging for our trans friends, queer people of color, etc.).

However, as an out, married, gay man, I experience unprecedented freedoms.

My husband and I have carved out a really beautiful life together. We have close friends who love us deeply. We go on vacations. We attend church. Our lives our wonderfully fulfilling, meaningful, and—like our heterosexual counterparts—mundane! We wouldn’t have it any other way.

I bring this up because some Christian parents experience intense worry about their child’s future. They worry about their child being judged, contracting a disease, self-harming, being bullied, or experiencing unique hardships. I wish I could say that these threats don’t exist. They do. However, LGBTQ people are better equipped to overcome them now and experience happy, fulfilling lives. Plus, there’s an entire ecosystem of resources, support groups, educational initiatives, and non-profits set up to support LGBTQ people. This didn’t always exist!

Just because your child is LGBTQ, it doesn’t mean they’re doomed to a sub-par life. A life of meaning, family, success, and thriving is now within reach.

Join us at the Q+ Families Retreat!

“See, I told you I have two daddies!!” The panic set in a few years ago after hearing my then 4-year old daughter exclaim this to her preschool classmate. It was a rare day where my partner and I both went to pick her up at the end of the day. I didn’t know what would happen next. Was she already fielding questions from her friends, as a preschooler, about my sexuality? I wasn’t quite ready for this. And even less sure about how to handle it.

My anxiety subsided as her classmate responded a few seconds later, “So what, I have one hundred mommies!” This wasn’t a deep conversation about sexuality, this was two young kids competing with each other - they wanted to be more unique, not less, what a refreshing thought.  

It was strikingly clear - my daughter lived in a different world than I did, forcing me to reassess what I was projecting onto her classmates (and what they were hearing from their parents) in this lily-white suburban setting easy to associate with intolerant evangelicalism. However true that assessment may have been for me, it wasn’t true for her. This gives us cause to celebrate how far the LGBTQ+ movement has come in both our communities and churches but also leaves LGBTQ+ parents of children with unique questions and opportunities for learning. We all build our families in different ways - previous mixed orientation relationships, adoption, IVF, surrogacy and more but, however your family came together, we share the bond of being LGBTQ+ people trying to model a life of faith to kids within a broader context that may not always be at the same place we are in recognizing the full scope of God’s beloved community.

During this session at the Q Christian Summer Retreat, my fellow co-Executive Director Bukola Landis-Aina and I will lead discussion on some of the topics facing our unique part of the Q Christian community in a relaxed and informal setting where we can all learn from each other. Some questions to think about include:

  • How do same-gender parents split-up parenting responsibilities with duties historically tied to gender roles?

  • Based on the situation, when is the right time to address sensitive topics like divorce, adoption, coming out, bio donors, etc.

  • What do we teach our children about gender roles and sexual ethics appropriate to different age levels?

  • Are there good questions to ask in finding a church community that will fully celebrate my family?

  • How do you navigate situations where parents share significantly different theological beliefs?

As part of the Q Christian executive leadership team, Bukola and I also hope to illicit your feedback and advice about how Q Christian can best resource and support this growing demographic within our community - one we both are proudly part of!

Most importantly, we hope you’ll leave the inaugural Q Christian Summer Retreat with the knowledge that you aren’t alone in this unique journey - one full of laughter, tears, joys and frustrations - emotions we can face together, in love, as a community of God.

4. Work to preserve a long-term relationship with your child.

Learn more about B.T and his mini-series “6 Things I Wish Every Christian Parent of an LGBTQ Child Knew.”

Many years from now, do you want your child to respect you? Do you want them to cherish your words and wisdom? I hope you do.

I challenge parents to imagine their relationship with their child on a timeline.

Let’s imagine you are 50 years old and your newly-out child is 25. With advances in medicine, it’s not unrealistic to imagine that you could live ‘til 100. That means you have 50 more years of relationship with your child. 50 years!

Sadly, many parents will sacrifice the next 50 years of relationship for the short-term, compulsive need to fix their child, shame their child, or reject their child so as to “let them know where we stand.” This is a disastrous mistake.

I have gay friends in their 30s who are completely estranged from their Christian parents because of how their parents reacted to their teenage coming-out conversation. What a tragedy! This is why this principle matters so much.

I plead with parents to take a long-term relational perspective. They do that by de-escalating emotional conversations, working to find common ground, and being insanely committed to loving their children, no matter what. I want parents to have a healthy, thriving 50-year relationship with their child, so that they can maintain respect with their child. This should be the goal of every Christian parent, regardless of their theology.

Work to preserve a long-term relationship with your child.