GCN Radio - April 12, 2008
Transcribed by polodixon
To listen to this episode, visit http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio
JUSTIN: All right everyone; my bosses are on the show today. So, we want to give them a good impression. We want everyone to be on their best behavior. So, sit up straight, don't slouch. Hey. Hey Jenny - I see you making those faces over there!
JUSTIN: Welcome to another edition of GCN Radio. I'm Justin, and Nate is in Japan still. So, he's not with us this week. But, that's okay, because I've got a really great guy sitting right here in the studio filling in for him. His name is John Steffens. John, how are you?
JOHN: I'm well, how are you Justin?
JUSTIN: I'm good. So John is the treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Gay Christian Network. For those who are not aware, the Gay Christian Network is an organization that produces GCN Radio. The GCN in GCN Radio is for the Gay Christian Network.
JUSTIN: So John is the guy in charge of making sure that I get paid [laughter].
JOHN: I know; so much fun right?
JUSTIN: Yeah, but, thanks for being here John all the way out from California.
JOHN: No problem.
JUSTIN: We also have another member of the Board of Directors joining us by phone. Cliff Cortland, who is the Chairman of the Board. Hey Cliff!
CLIFF: Hey Justin it's good to be here
JUSTIN: Well we're glad to have you. So, I'm a little intimidated because I've [laughter]...
JOHN: You're intimidated? You do this all of the time! [laughter]
JUSTIN: Well the radio part doesn't intimidate me anymore. But if you go back to the very first episodes of GCN Radio, you can see that I was really intimidated in the beginning, and Brian was the old hat. And now, I've taken over the show and I'm really used to it. But, you guys are the ones who are, you know, my bosses - along with the other directors - so I have to be careful with what I say. Make sure that you guys sound really good on the radio. So, this is the first time that we've done this, the first time that we've had two of the directors of GCN on the show. I'm really excited to have you guys on the show. GCN is going through a really cool year of renewal this year. This is the seventh year of operation as an organization. And, so, we've been doing a lot to refresh and reenergize ourselves as an organization, and there's a lot of cool stuff on the horizon. So, John came to me with the idea of doing a show, and giving some of the behind the scenes guys to talk about what's on the horizon.
JOHN: Except my idea was to have Cliff on the show. I don't remember being one who planned to be on the show. So, somehow my idea got turned back on me. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Well, you know... I'm glad you agreed to do it.
CLIFF: Yeah, well, it's good not to have to be alone.
JUSTIN: Right! ... I wish we had enough lines to have the entire board on. We've got the officers, but of course, we've got Sandy, Bill and Ling who are also on the board, but are not here with us tonight. I'm sure they'll be listening and critiquing everything you say.
CLIFF: Absolutely. We'd better represent.
JUSTIN: So, before we get to the big news and all that stuff. I know our listeners are really curious to why you're on the show. So, we'll get to that in a minute. But before we get to that, I'd really love to learn a little bit more about you guys as individuals, as members of the board of GCN. You're volunteers. You're the big cheeses, but you're also volunteers. You don't get paid by the organization. You sacrifice a lot of your time and energy and money to keep this organization running and all that. And, so, I would really like to know some about how you got involved in GCN, about your background and how it is. What are you here? Why do you do this? Why would someone subject themselves to all of the craziness that is nonprofit work? So, John, if you don't mind, tell us a little bit about you and your history.
JOHN: Well, I grew up fundamentalist, as so many people on GCN. And, when I was in college, I started to realize that I was gay, and of course, this absolutely did not fit in with my world view, as a Christian at the time and struggled with it for a while. And, I decided one day to go one day and see if I could find other people who were like me, who were thinking about if this was possible to reconcile being gay and being Christian. I searched online, and I found GCN, which at the time was very new.
JUSTIN: We were just a website back then.
JOHN: Yes, we were. You know, the message board had just been put up a couple months prior. The thing that drew me to GCN though, was the fact that I could see that there was a love for Christ there, and that Christ was the center of it. There are a lot of organizations out there that you can go and look at, and it seems like the Christian part comes secondary to the gay part, and it seems like that's not what I was looking for. I was a Christian first. So, I was excited to find it. I started reading the Great Debate and all of those things, and it really helped me reconcile being gay and being Christian.
JUSTIN: Well that's really awesome. So, then you came to GCN and got involved. And you've been involved... wow, that's been a long time that you've been involved.
JOHN: Yes, first I was just a participant on the message board. That was back in 2002, when that first started. And of course, that was such a wonderful thing, because I was not alone anymore. That was the big thing. I thought that I was the only gay Christian person. But now, looking at how the message board, and looking at how GCN's grown, I know how many are out there seems silly. But, at the time....
JUSTIN: Yeah, I know. You and I both have been through such a real transition in being able to accept ourselves, and being able to grow in that respect. And, for me that has had such an impact on my Faith. It's been so beneficial for me; it's just been so great being able to not be alone, and to know that God loves me as I am.
JOHN: Right. And I wanted that to continue. That's one of the reasons that once I started, once I finally reached the point that I was comfortable and that I knew who I was as a gay person and as a Christian person, it just helped my relationship with God so much, because it healed what I felt was ripped between us. I just had to keep it going, and I just wanted that to be there for the next person sitting in college who realizes that they're gay and thinks they're by themselves and is being told that you can't be gay and can't be Christian.
JUSTIN: And now, you spend hours upon hours upon hours pouring over these spreadsheets of numbers and making sure that every penny is accounted for.
JOHN: Well, it's as you know, things have to be done for an organization to run. That's just the way it is. I'm happy to use my talents wherever I can.
JUSTIN: I'm happy you use them, too. We couldn't do it without you, so thanks for being here.
JOHN: Well, it's no problem.
JUSTIN: So, Cliff. What's your story? How did you get involved with GCN?
CLIFF: Well, it was back in March of 2004, so it was four years ago. I have been born again back in 1974 in high school, and knew I was gay then. I didn't know how to reconcile my Faith and sexuality back then, so it wasn't until 1988 after having gone to an ex-gay ministry that I realized that this was the way that God made me, and that not being gay was not an option. And, so, in 1988, I reconciled my Faith and my sexuality, and then it was years later, in 2003 when a tragedy struck and my partner of 15 years passed away, and I was on a big ranch in Northern California feeling very lonely and very alone. I typed in "Gay Christian" and out popped GCN! I was very excited and I went on the message board and the first thing I read was what you had written, Justin, on the great debate. And as soon as I had finished reading that I just put my head down and thanked God that GCN was there and registered... and have been active ever since. It was truly a community that I found, and a way to connect to other people that were serious about their faith. Whether they were straight people on GCN sharing Jesus, or another gay person, there was so much community there where you can celebrate your Faith and become comfortable with your sexuality. That's why I stay with GCN and continue to work to promote and to work as a moderator and on the Board of Directors [dog barking in background of phone static]
JUSTIN: And you're the chair, so you get to try to keep all six board members in line.
CLIFF: Right! Which is not always easy. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Well, we really appreciate all that you've done, and all of the time and energy that you've put into the board as well, Cliff.
CLIFF: Oh, well, it's my pleasure!
JUSTIN: Sandy, who is another one of the board members, who is not with us on this show, has actually been on GCN radio before, and that was back in 2006. She was on the show back talking about just being a mom, and that was before she was a board member. And then two of our other board members, Ling and Bill... we'll just have to get them on the show at some point in the future as well.
JUSTIN: So, there was recently this big meeting in Chicago. Who wants to talk about that?
CLIFF: Well, I can start that one off. We had an opportunity to sit down with two women, Kelly Fryer and Tana, her partner, and they were willing to facilitate a weekend for us. And, for me it truly was a blessing to see twenty people committed to GCN get together and spend the weekend working to look at where GCN has been and where it's going in the future. And, it was very encouraging for me, and I'm sure that for you, Justin and John as well...
JOHN: Oh, definitely...
JUSTIN: So, let's talk about Kelly and Tana. Kelly Fryer was a speaker at the GCN annual conference this past January. She is a former Lutheran pastor and an author and speaker, and runs an organization. She does a lot of stuff. She's very busy. And, she was a great speaker, and had so much to say about what God's doing in the world and in our lives, so we were very excited to have her. There at the conference, she struck up a conversation with you, John. How did that go? What was that all about?
JOHN: Well, you know, as a board member, I'm always looking for advice from people who work with organizations who know how to build ministries, and as you mentioned before, Kelly and Tana work with ministries. They help build them. So, when I found that out, I really wanted to talk with them. Just sort of pick their brain and get some ideas to help give us an idea about what we can do, where go, and how we can grow, and that sort of thing. And what was funny, was that I really didn't have to seek them out. When they found out that I was on the board, they wanted to talk to me, because they were so excited about what GCN as a ministry was doing. So, we all ended up going to supper together, and just ended up sitting down talking about what GCN was about, and they were very excited. They wanted to get involved, so this is sort of how this meeting in Chicago happened.
JUSTIN: So, then, they said that they wanted to host this meeting, this big retreat, really, for the board and for some other GCN folks that have been really involved in the ministry.
JOHN: Well, we had talked about how as a board member sometimes we have been so caught up in everything that's going that it's hard to take a step back and evaluate, and this is a year o f renewal for GCN, and that means that we're taking a step back and not only at what we've done and what God has had for us to do, but also about where God wants this ministry to go forward. You know, are we on the path and are we doing the things that God wants us to do. Are we there? What are the things that he's trying to tell us? How do we do that? So, that's when they said, "We can help you with this. We can help your vision. We can help you listen to God and figure this all out." And that was great! We needed other voices, we needed other people. You'd mentioned that there were other people besides the board members at the meeting. And that was so key, because we need to hear from the community and representatives of the community. We need to get outside of ourselves, and that's what this meeting was about in Chicago, was bringing these people who have been so committed to GCN to help us. Because, we couldn't have done it on our own. We really couldn't.
JUSTIN: So we have about how many people were there?
CLIFF: About 22 people.
JUSTIN: So, 22 people basically on very short notice dropped everything and spent their own money to fly to Chicago and stay in a hotel to meet for a weekend with Kelly and Tana leading this retreat as a time to listen to God. I love the way that they put that: talking about listening to God together. And I was there, and you guys were there and all of these people there together, some really awesome men and women of God who are really on fire for what God is doing, and what God is doing through GCN... and we were all there listening together to what God had to say: praying and talking and studying the scriptures. I was so impressed that there was a lot of Bible discussion as part of it. We read the book of Acts and we looked at what God was doing in the early church. And it was just really cool for me, as the executive director of the organization; I do this for a living. And, here I was, taking a back seat; listening to all of these other people talk about what God was showing them. So, you know, all of these people make this sacrifice to go there and be there for this meeting. We study the Bible, we pray, and we talk. And ultimately, several things came out of that. The first one of those things was a discussion about GCN's mission, and writing a mission statement for GCN. So what was the final statement?
JOHN: The purpose of the Gay Christian Network is "sharing Christ's light and love for all."
JUSTIN: Sharing Christ's light and love for all. Why is it so short? Why not, "Working with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Community in Christian love, and communicating with churches and doing GCN Radio every week..." [laughter]
JOHN: I think the first thing is that I wouldn't be able to remember all of that! That's part of it; you need something that encompasses what you're all about but also is something that you can remember. Something that says a lot without saying a lot. And the reason that it is the way it is, is because reading the statement, you see that this statement is what any Christian organization is about. We are Christians sharing Christ's light and love for all. And, we then thought, well shouldn't this say something specifically about gays, then? But we said, no it's in our name already: that we are gay people. But, as always, Christ is the center of what's going on. We're really no different than other Christians. We just happen to be gay. Our mission is still the same: it's still Christ's gospel. So, you start off with a simple statement, and so you start to talk about what this statement means. What does this statement mean? Where do we and how do we take this statement? What does this mean for me as a board member inside of the organization? What does this mean for someone outside of the organization? What does this mean to a gay person? What does this mean to a family member of a gay person? What does this mean for churches? And that was where you start really delving into everything that this encompasses.
JUSTIN: I know that there was a discussion about every single word in that statement, and we could actually spend the whole show unpacking that and talking about what is sharing? And light and love?
JOHN: Even should we capitalize Light and Love. I mean, really guys! This is the fact that we had 20 volunteers come to spend all day long going over this type of thing amazes me.
JUSTIN: And everybody really came together on this.
JOHN: they did, they did!
JUSTIN: It was really amazing to see that. So, the idea here, then is that as we are sharing Christ's light, that truth, that gospel message truth, and love, that all encompassing, uncompromising love that is for all, that that then we can break that down into ways that we specifically are doing that as an organization. So, Cliff?
JOHN: ... And how that affects you, sitting there right now listening to this.
JUSTIN: Ah! Yeah! So, Cliff is rather quiet right now. So Cliff, this was broke down and there was some conversation about taking this in multiple directions, five main areas of focus. Sort of a core components of this mission. Cliff, do you want to kind of tell us about that?
CLIFF: Well, let me just give you a brief background as to how we got to them. There were roughly 20 people at the meeting, and they each came up with five, so you would think that we would have a hundred! We did it listening to what God was telling us about the organization, and what direction HE was giving each one of us. Then we broke into groups of six. We took those five and put them together, so that there would be fewer. Then we took what was left and they really fit into five categories. Five, not only focuses for GCN, but who GCN is. It was pretty exciting to see this come together. Because, independently, 20 people came up with virtually 5 things. So that was pretty exciting to watch God speak to each person.
JUSTIN: That is really amazing to see God speak to twenty people, each individually, thinking about the five main components of the ministry, could then come together and so quickly boil those down into five that we could all agree on with the entire group.
CLIFF: It really was amazing!
JUSTIN: So, what was the first one?
CLIFF: Promoting Spiritual Growth
JUSTIN: So, promoting spiritual growth. So what does that mean exactly?
CLIFF: That's the part of GCN where we offer education and confirmation and affirmation so that people can strengthen their relationship with Christ.
JUSTIN: So it seems to me like this idea of promoting spiritual growth starts for many people with helping them reconcile their faith and sexuality. I mean, John when you were talking about your story, that was really a first step for you. But for me, it seems like promoting spiritual growth moves beyond that. We're talking about not only an organization that exists to reconcile their faith and sexuality, but one that wants to encourage them to grow in their faith, and to mature in their faith, and to continue to go where God takes them. So, that involves all kinds of things: bible study, conversation, a lot of stuff beyond that reconciliation.
JOHN: Exactly. You never stop trying to grow as a person in your relationship with God. That is something that we want to be behind, that's something that we want to do. We want to help people continue that journey. Part of that will hopefully be reconciling being gay and Christian. But, it doesn't stop there, you keep going. GCN is a part of that.
JUSTIN: Cool! So, Cliff, what is the second one?
CLIFF: Well, the second one is Cultivating Safe Community. You know, it's one of the core and first elements of GCN was a place where people could come and talk about their faith and sexuality without feeling threatened or ashamed. And that's why GCN is so amazing. And looking at where GCN has come from, obviously there is a community there, and it's a safe community. And we work hard to keep it safe.
JUSTIN: And obviously this is one of the best known aspects of what the ministry does. Our online community is very popular. And of course, safe community not only includes what we do on the website, but also the annual conference we have, and local groups, gatherings and retreats. All kinds of opportunities for community and fellowship, and helping to form those bonds together. Because, Christian life is not meant to be lived out alone, it's meant to be lived out in community and fellowship.
JOHN: And you know, for most people, the community for most Christians is the church, and for many gay Christians that can't turn to their church, I think this is where GCN steps in and helps meet that need.
JUSTIN: And then the idea of that being a safe community is important in that regard.
JOHN: And so many people have been hurt, hurt by people they trust and love, and so sometimes, people really do need a place where they can go to heal. And having a safe place, where they can find people they trust and where they can find people who can help talk to them about guiding them through and help find them encouragement and guide them through.
JUSTIN: And number three?
CLIFF: Supporting Family and Friends
JUSTIN: Supporting Family and Friends!
CLIFF: You know, Sandy is probably the best representation of that now that before she was a board member she was on GCN because her son was gay and she didn't understand it, she didn't understand how her son could be gay and a Christian. GCN became a big support for her as she tried to understand her son and try to understand how he could reconcile this Faith and his sexuality. There are many people who come onto GCN as friends or family members of gays, looking to see what a gay Christian is all about.
JUSTIN: So then our mission is to not only minister to LGBT Christians, but to minister to those who care about them, and help provide support to family and friends, which ultimately means that those friends and family members can be part of that support network.
JOHN: And it's almost a part of a safe community. You want your family and friends to be supportive of you. To be able to be there for you. They're important people for you, too.
JUSTIN: Absolutely, so in a way, what this is saying is that we aren't existing to replace those relationships in your life. We want to help to strengthen those relationships. Awesome! That's a really good thing. So what's number four?
CLIFF: Number four is Educating and Encouraging the Church. And this is an important part, because so often people have been abused by the church. I was excommunicated from the Lutheran church back in 1988, because I was with my partner and, you hear over and over again, on GCN and through people that you talk to that the church wants to have nothing to do with you. And now, there's a chance for reconciliation, a chance to help promote people to get involved in a church, in an affirming church in one where they can feel safe.
JOHN: And yeah, those affirming churches also need help. A lot of them are out there on their own. A lot of them are not supported well by their denomination. A lot of them are fighting with their denominations to change attitudes and to really get people to take a step back and look at it again. I think that's where the encouragement part is big. We want to be able to help other ministries, and help the church be what it should be, and to provide the things that it should be able to provide to gay Christians.
JUSTIN: And then, number five?
CLIFF: Number five! Okay, Engaging the Wider LGBT Community and the World. This final one was a message that I got most loud and clear waiting on the Lord that weekend in Chicago. The way it came across on my mind, well on my heart actually, was that here we are feasting at the banquet of love and acceptance. And there are millions of people that don't have that, and here it's available to them, and it's time to let them know. So, it's a new direction for GCN, one that we've not promoted before, and that's going out and sharing GCN to people. You know, our numbers are growing without help, without going out there and without any direction about going out and promoting GCN goes. But, it seems time that we did that. That we told people about GCN, that we let them know there's a safe place they can reconcile their faith and sexuality.
JOHN: Well and that kind of goes back to the Great Commission, where we are called to make disciples of Christ. We tell them that there is light and love from Christ for everyone. We are the Gay Christian Network, but that doesn't mean that all the effort should only be on Christians. We are called to be the Salt and Light of the earth. Part of that means that we go out and talk to people that aren't Christians. We talk to the wider part of the LGBT community. Many of them who have been hurt and rejected religion all together, and really set on a path to change the world.
JUSTIN: You know what I love so much about this is that you see as you look at these five core components of GCN's mission - there's a great sense of connection with other people. The very first one of Promoting Spiritual Growth is a very personal, my connection to God, your connection, his connection and her connection to God, you know? It's an individual and God thing. And then, each of these successive areas of focus is another group to be connected to. You know? Building community, connecting with other LGBT Christians, Connecting with family and friends and strengthening those relationships, Connecting with the broader body of Christ and educating and encouraging them to help strengthen that bond and strengthen the body of Christ. And then, to connect with the greater world! We're saying that we're not going to try to hide in some little bubble cult, where we go hide ourselves away and distance ourselves from the people of the world We want to be connected and we want to be the salt and the light in the world. Connecting with others and having an impact and being the people we are called to be as a part of the human race and all that God is doing with humanity. And that is so encouraging and exciting for me. And that is sort of a way of looking at our mission in a way that I wouldn't have come up with on my own. I don't think that any of us would have come up with this on our own. But being there in Chicago and hearing God speak through all of those people, and seeing everyone bring their piece and putting this puzzle all together as I look at it now, it makes so much sense, and it's such a positive, really exciting way of viewing what GCN has the potential to do. And it shows that it is so much more than GCN's message board and conference, the things we're more well-known for. There's a whole world of possibility for us as a ministry and it's so exciting.
JOHN: I'm excited.
CLIFF: I'm excited! It's exciting to be part of a ministry with such an impact.
JUSTIN: It really is. It will be so awesome to see where this goes with God leading us in the future. Well, with that said, we're out of time here for the show. But, I'm so grateful to both of you guys for taking your time to be here. I know that neither of you are really used to doing radio interviews, so I thank you for being willing to talk and share your ideas.
CLIFF: Well thank you Justin so much for having us. We've been anxious to share this information with the GCN community and this is a great way to launch this information to everyone.
JUSTIN: To those wishing for more information: there's going to be more information becoming available on the website. Some of it will be available while listening to the show. Some of it will be available over the next few days. But, if you go to our website at www.gaychristian.net, there will be some information on that webpage. And you can also click on that banner image on the webpage that says "year of renewal" and there will be some information on that page as well. This is all part of that year of renewal as well. We're going to have some of that information on the website about some of GCN's projects and how they interact with these five mission directions and the overall mission statement of Sharing Christ's light and love for all, and you'll see a lot more about all of this coming up in the future. There's also a brand new thing that we're starting on youtube... and we'll have information about that starting on the website. Make sure check out our page on youtube. You can get a sneak peak now by heading to www.youtube.com/gaychristiannetwork. As always, you can listen to the show anytime you want by heading to the website at www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio. All of our old episodes are there. There's also a link there so that you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and get an automatically every Friday. We hope you'll check that out. Before we go, I've got a quick question of the week for you all. I would like to hear from our listeners. You've just heard two of our directors talk about a new vision about our future. I'd like to hear your feedback on them. What do you think about this? Does this excite you? What parts of this really hit you? What parts really resonate with you? You can let us know by giving us a call toll free at 1-888-GAY-4-GOD. Give us a call, there's a voice mailbox where you can leave your comments, and we'll play them back on a future show. You can also write in www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio and use the text box, but I really want to hear your feedback on the mission directions and the vision and.. for GCN, what do you think of all that?
So thanks again, guys for being on the show and thanks to you, everybody for listening. We'll have a new show next Friday. Until then - keep this in mind, Jesus died for you, so no matter what anybody else tells you, God loves you!