Queer Communion, Queer Epiphany

7 01 2008

Prior to the conference, I posted about how unity was still elusive among GLBT Christians because they were not going to have a Communion Service at the end of the conference because it was potentially very divisive. After an initial rant, i made the following observation in the comments …

If nothing, I am ever optimistic for the future. The fact that GCN actually exists and that a conference of this nature takes place is a HUGE HUGE thing in its own right, and we all should be grateful for it.

I’m also a big proponent of the idea that we should throw a party, invite everyone and if the guests can’t deal with the guest list or the way the party is put on, that’s their problem. In other words, the important thing is to have one (it IS a feast day on a SUNDAY, HELLO!) and the guest list can sort itself out.

Well, guess what?

During the session on Sunday, there was lots of music (hymns and contemporary pieces), lots of thanks to everyone, and finally …. Communion.

The speaker who introduced the concept to the group was very sensitive to the various theologies behind the Eucharist, but also emphasized that Communion was a gift from God. We are one in Christ.

And nearly everyone in the group of 250+ GLBT Christians and their straight supporters came forward to partake.

No words of insitution

No epiclesis

But I can tell you from the Spirit in that conference room that Christ was present in a very special way.

But for one moment in time, we knew and experienced what it was like to be the Body of Christ in its fullness: Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and Evangelical…. Staight, gay, bisexual and transgendered … all united in Christ’s body and blood.

We are the Body of the Christ … given the gift of Communion with each other and those who have gone before.

How about them apples?

Like i said earlier, the conference was a taste of heaven … sharing and fellowshipping and embracing each other in God’s all inclusive love and mercy and grace.

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Gay Christian Conference Day 3

7 01 2008

Saturday our guest speaker was Jay Bakker. He took his text from Matthew 23, where Jesus was criticizing the religious leadership of the day with their hypocrisy and advised the people to “do as they say and not as they do.” Afterwards, about 8 of us went to lunch together …. 2 Lutheran Pastors, an Anglican priest from Australia, myself and 4 20-something conservative evangelicals, some of whom were in the ex-gay movement. Talk about when worlds collide! We shared our various views on sin as behaviour vs sin as a part of the human condition, the relation between works and grace, the wrath of God and repentance.

Repentance, we discussed, was a turning away from something and towards God. A great deal of what they spoke about was that salvation was about escaping hell and going to heaven, which I felt promoted a fear-based version of the Gospel and kept you focused on sin. I also suggested that if your message is based on fear in order to escape damnation, and that’s a constant thing in your mind, then maybe someone in that mindset hasn’t fully experienced the liberating and transforming power of Christ and maybe there really isn’t repentance after all. As Christians we believe in the transforming power of Christ, so as we follow him, we become more and more the person God has called us to be…We instinctively start doing things that produce the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians and start shrugging off the “old man.” If you can’t let go of this fear, then, are you truly free?

I don’t know how spot on these points were, but it was great that we were able to make these kids THINK!!!! All the way back from lunch they were chit-chatting among themselves and debating the new things we had brought to their minds.

We did our jobs.

More workshops during the afternoon … sessions on meditation, women’s issues, healthy relationships, and one on queer theology. Quite a nice assortment of things to choose from, actually! It has been commented more than once that this conference was much more ecumenical and broad-based than catering to evangelicals (which is the bulk of the membership of the boards) , so we were able to share things from our different traditions.

After dinner, there was a sharing time where people were allowed and encouraged to come forward and express how much the conference and GCN has affected their lives, and can be very powerful, and lasted until well after midnight.





OVERHEARD AT THE CONFERENCE

5 01 2008

Guy making introductions: “This is the drag queen who brought me back to Jesus.”





Gay Christian Conference Day 2

5 01 2008

Surprisingly enough, I woke up in time to attend most of the first session, which started off with more worship and prayer. The keynote speaker Friday morning was a Pentecostal preacher from Birmingham who had a wonderful sermon and testimony about his life and how he has integrated his faith and sexuality. He brings the phrase “audacity of hope” to new levels.

I skipped the second session, deciding to visit a colleague in Washington, DC for lunch, who just so happens to be a big advocate for PFLAG in the area and is a member of the United Church of Christ.

I returned in time for the 3rd session where we broke into small groups.

Offerings were “The Bible and Homosexuality: a Side A view” led by Justin, our founder. Others included “Women’s fellowship”, a workshop for bloggers which i attended, a session for the Side B contingent and one called “The Prodigal in us all”

GCN contains two camps: Side A and Side B. Side A is for those who believe same-sex relationships are blessed by God, which is by far the majority. Side B, a distinct minority, is for those who have embraced who they are as GLBT people, but believe that monogamous heterosexual relationships are God’s intention for humanity, thus they prefer to live a life of celibacy and draw support from each other in non-sexual but loving and affectionate friendships. The two sides do not try to “convert” the other, but maintain a healthy respect and agree to disagree. Many people start off as Side B and then move over to Side A. Side B folks deal with a lot of internalized homophobia or are ex-gay survivors or have a very strict interpretation of Scripture. However, we all recognize that in spite of these differences of opinions, we are one in Christ, so while there can be a tension between the two groups at times, there is no real animosity. The small group session I went to was for the bloggers. We shared and exchanged ideas what we used our blogs for, how anonymous or open we were about our identities and ways to increase readership if desired.

Afterwards a group of us went to dinner and i wound up having a great conversation with an Anglican priest from Australia and another fellow Episcopalian who is in the Discernment process in the Diocese of Washington (Episco-dar again). We wound up missing the final session for the day which was a concert by someone named RJHelton which i heard was very well received. Afterwards of course there was the fellowship at the bar where our lovely waitress, Sam, serenaded us with her mandolin for a bit, and then once the bar closed we retired for the speakeasy convention.

Anyone noticing a pattern at this conference?





Gay Christian Conference Day 1

4 01 2008

Thursday the conference got underway in earnest …

As I had arrived a day early on Wednesday and registration wasn’t until 5-ish, I took some time to loaf around, do some shopping and scope out the local flavour in Dupont Circle. When I got back to the hotel, I got to meet more folks and catch up with people i’ve chatted with online or haven’t seen in forever. Think the Mad Priest dinner to the nth degree. There are literally hundreds of people in a big ole’ love fest. Will write more soon, but i’ve got folks here waiting to use the computer …

And I have to tell you all about Episco-dar. It’s like gaydar, but for Episcopalians….

Update:

There is a good sized contingent of Episcopalians and Anglicans here, and we have a habit of seeking each other out. The tendency is to congregate over glasses of wine or other fine libations. I cannot tell you the number of times i’ve been in a circle of random folks only to find out that we’re all part of that wonderful, messy, comprehensive, dysfunctional, we’re-a-mess-but-there’s-nowhere-else-we’d-rather-be family connected through Canterbury and Common Prayer…It’s like an instinct where we just come together. Scary, but true. So that’s Episco-dar.

After the registration time was over we had some worship time and some prayer, then the founder of the group, Justin Lee, gave a keynote address and welcome. The folks that are here are a wonderful representation of the body of Christ from all over the US, some folks from Canada, the UK, and even Australia!

There are survivors of ex-gay programs (they call themselves ex-ex gay or ex-gay survivors). There are folks who are still in the closet. There are those who are still struggling to reconcile what they have been taught in their churches about being gay with what they feel in their heart about God’s inclusive love for us all. There are those who feel called to be celibate. And finally, there are those like me who have fully integrated their faith and their sexuality and are liberated by the Gospel.

So many people are here who feel like outcasts in their respective churches and communities and families, but for 3 or 4 days, they know and experience the liberating and all-encompassing power of Christ.

Justin’s unique gift is to somehow relate to all of these strands of thought and reach people on various stages of their journey of faith, to break down boundaries and make the radical welcome of God and the message of Gospel relevant. If we want to know how to reach our young people, our teenagers and 20-somethings, this guy is a good place to start.

After that we all retired to the bar for “coffee hour” where the instigators were in full force. People keep trying to include me with the troublmaking contingent, but i just don’t know why. After “coffee hour” the speakeasy society reconvened and we adjourned at approximately 4am.

I can assure you I am being VERY well behaved.

Mostly.

OK, maybe not so much.

But I can tell you this conference is a taste of what heaven must be like. People of all sorts and conditions coming together, sharing their gifts, their stories, fellowshipping together. The love and affection that is present is so very tangible.





Gay Christian Conference Day 0

3 01 2008

Yesterday I arrived in DC a day early for the Gaychristian.net annual conference.  I had a very nice reunion with my good friend Charlie Brown from London, a kindred spirit if there ever was one.

I also caught up with none other than Pisco for dinner.  He was good enough to meet me at the hotel, helped me navigate the DC Metro and we went to dinner at this wonderful tapas place in downtown DC.  Pisco is an amazing individual and a PERFECT gentleman.  I am very proud to know this man.  After a bottle of wine and some yummy yummy dinner, we went to Remington’s in the hopes of meeting up with Charlie Brown, who wanted to see real gay men two-stepping.  At Remington’s we found grown gay men and their admirer’s two stepping and line dancing to Cher and Julie Andrews. 

I didn’t know whether to be appalled or amused.

Pisco went home as he had to work today and I stayed to wait for Charlie to show up.  He did not.  Needless to say, he found his flock of early conference arrivals and had set up his usual speakeasy in his room, which was conveniently located next to mine.  I returned to the hotel and promptly rang Charlie to borrow a cup of sugar.  He didn’t have any sugar, but he DID have some Ketel One vodka and tonic he was happy to share, as well as sharing all the cute and friendly guys in his room (I mean share in a platonic sense of course).

Also in his room were quite a few conference goers and a gay ole’ time was had by all.

We went to our respective rooms at around 130am or so.

Don’t you wish General Convention updates were this much fun?