Gay and Christian – some feel as though these two words can never mix in a positive way but on January 5 – 8, 2012, folks from all over the world traveled to Orlando, Florida to attend the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference. This was my third year to attend and it truly is a great way to start off the new year. This year though would prove to be quite different from the past years in a few ways. I was asked to step into the role as one of the Worship Leaders of the conference. This was not only an honor but also a privilege. You should hear the 12 part harmonies of Gay Folks singing to the Lord! Another way it differed was that LBP would have our first ever “In-Person Get Together.” We had just about 20 Christian ladies meet up for dinner one evening after conference was over. What a thrill it was to meet new members and to meet some members who I’ve had the joy of getting to know via the internet finally in person!
The other major difference for me this year was something that wasn’t even on the schedule or meant to be “an official” portion of the conference. Justin Lee, the president of GCN, invited Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, to attend a public panel discussion. The panelists were Wendy Gritter of New Direction Ministries, John Smid formerly the leader of Love in Action (an Exodus Affiliate Ministry) and Jeremy Marks former leader of Exodus UK.
To understand the significance of this event you’d probably need to know a little history on these three folks. The best place to get that is from the video seen here. I know it’s a long one, but it’s totally worth it! The short version is that all three of these folks used to work directly with Exodus International when their focus was “Change is Possible.” This slogan was directed at LGBT people “encouraging” them to change their sexual orientation to straight, as to please God more and become whole in Christ. One by one these three people took their turn leaving Exodus and finding their own moments of change – however this change was more of a change of heart than a change of orientation.
For me, the magnitude of this 2.5 hour discussion held significance because this had never been done in a public setting before, these three were able to speak from a Heterosexual Christian standpoint (Or mixed orientation marriage), and I was surrounded by 400 brothers and sisters in Christ who either identified as gay, were straight allies, or were in some way there to support the conversation in a positive light. This was the moment my past caught up with my present and I certainly never saw it happening this way.
You see, I used to work with Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out project. I traveled around to Exodus Conferences as an Ex-Lesbian buying into the falsehood of “Change is Possible.” Thankfully after five years of traveling, speaking and working side-by-side with them, I too had my change and left the Exodus network. My reason for leaving was simple. After five years of praying, seeking, doing and doing for God, I assumed that He’d grant me my wish to shake this so-called “shame of being same-sex-attracted” and allow me to be hetero and “normal.” I wanted desperately to keep singing for the Lord and working in music ministry in my church, but I knew that through it all, at my core, that hadn’t changed. All the other areas changed. I stopped smoking. I stopped partying. I studied the Word of God daily. I had accountability. I woke each day and asked God, “What do you have for me today?” And while He took me on an amazing adventure and kept me quite busy doing things, it was in the still of the night, or the quite of my prayer time that I would still be reminded that “THIS FEELING” was very real and apparent.
This panel discussion gave me opportunity to hear that 99.9% of the Exodus attendees still experience Same-Sex-Attraction. This panel discussion also reviled that I wasn’t the only one who left the ministry and still was passionate for Christ. This incredible moment allowed me to hear fellow LGBT folks extend grace to Alan and Exodus in a way that challenges my heart! While the outcome of this 2.5 hour chat is still to be seen, I’m thankful that I was there to witness it in person. All the guilt that I’ve carried through the years of the time spent with that ministry has been erased just by sitting there quietly and listening with an open heart.
Even though Exodus International no longer uses the slogan “Change is Possible,” they are still pursing the education of churches and individuals with the intent to “Change Gays” or “Heal Gays” from their homosexuality. Their organization is still way off from really being able to speak healing, grace or love into any LGBT’s heart, because their approach is “Something’s wrong with you…”
Prayerfully a new direction for Exodus International with come from this chat… perhaps a Change in Their Hearts. Christ himself loved first then allowed his example to cause change, if change was needed. 2012 can be a year of many things. I hope and pray that ministries like GCN and Exodus can some day work together to help the world know that Gay AND Christian is possible; because on January 7, 2012, there was a group of Christians who took the time to extend grace, love and understanding across the aisle to each other surpassing labels of any kind and truly showing each other what it is to be Christ-like.
What an incredible conference and start to 2012!! I wanted to share this song with you as well. This is a “Call to Worship” opening song at the conference – sung by Rob Garrido, Sunshine Matthews and me…