When I was 12 years old, I stood in the second row of my church. I was a pastor’s son and fully devoting my life to God. In fact, in a deep and sincere prayer, I told God that I would do anything for God’s will.
The years that followed seem to suggest that my prayer was nothing but an empty echo, resounding in my heart not in God’s. I thought that, because I had pledged my life to God, it would be an easy road. Instead, rejection, substance abuse, shame-filled promiscuity, and incredible invisibility seemed to be the theme of my young adult life. It felt as though God was mocking my very sincere prayer.
Intolerable pain filled my emotional body. The result was that I used anything I could get my hands on to medicate my pain and present to the world what I believed was a worthy personality. I could not see ten feet in front of my developmental path, yet I somehow clung to the hope that God was going to use my life.
Even as a second year seminarian, I still found myself medicating the self-hatred that remained untouched in the pit of my stomach. One night, I guzzled a bottle of wine and, in complete hopelessness, googled “gay christian” expecting condemnation and further hurt.
To my surprise, The Gay Christian Network was the first result. I feverishly clicked on every possible link, button, and icon. I was not only desperate to learn that there were others like me, but I was thirsty to connect to theological resources that taught me that God loves me.
Several years later, I built up enough courage to attend a GCN conference and even opted for a blue lanyard—more as a practice of self-acceptance than certitude.
I sat very near the back of the ballroom as Pastor Danny Cortez took the stage in Portland. The timbre of his voice and the paternal love with which he told his story replenished my parched heart. I craved to hear his words from my own father. I felt something moving in my core.
The environment at GCN permitted me to move beyond a self-understanding that was cluttered with shame. I learned there that I did not need to convince God of my innocence but, in reality, my innocence was there to convince me about God. Danny and GCN helped give me that life-changing gift.
In the recent survey that we sent out, many of you responded with similar notes of gratitude. Here is what some of you stated in your responses:
“GCN has taught me that 'gay' and 'Christian' are not oxymorons. My life has been transformed by meeting gay people who love Christ. My heart has been opened to the marginalized. I've been able to love my gay daughter and support her and speak openly with her. It has challenged my theology and built my faith.”
“Most simply, the organization's presence has fostered a deeper love of myself fully as a daughter of God. Even without mentioning all of the vital things that GCN does, I would say PRESENCE has been the greatest impact for me.”
“GCN helped me realize that I was never alone and that my existence as a queer Christian was never wrong.”
“Finding a space where I could be me – completely… It was incredible.”
“GCN gave me a community of queer believers when I thought I was alone. The support gave me confidence in my faith and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made—not a mistake or a way for Satan to attack my parents.”
We exist! We exist, not only as an community that congregates for an annual event, but as a collective that transforms lives. I have come to know, personally and professionally, that GCN is not just my safe place, but is my spiritual family.
Together, we have the power to change the way the Church and the world understand the short but very powerful truth that “God is Love.” We have the power to change lives, not by coming up with smart theological positions (although doing so is very important), but by simply practicing unconditional positive regard for all of God’s beloved children.
Without GCN, I might be half-heartedly in love with myself, or maybe even still medicating my pain with not-so expensive bottles of Chardonnay. But I am so glad that I found GCN. It was my lifeline to self-acceptance and it was the community that changed my life. And for that, I am and will be forever thankful.
Next week we’ll build upon the ideas started here and shift focus to look internally. So to get you ready for next week, I urge you to consider the following important questions:
- Why has God chosen for you to be born at this moment in history?
- What is your part in the body of Christ that is “building up itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16)?
Until next week,