What an amazing expereience I’ve had in the last few weeks. Earlier this year, I was invited to be a facilitator at The Reformation Prject’s Atlanta Regional Training Conference which took place June 11-13th. Specifically, my role was to be part of a full day pre-conference Accademy for Racial Justice (ARJ). In addition to the Accademy, I was invited to participate in two pannel discussions: “LGBT 101” on Thursday, and “The Intersections of Race and LGBT Identities” on Saturday. Both pannels were an opportunity for me to share my stories as a Christian who is black, gay, and celibate. I was so thankful to be asked to share my perspectives as well as facilitate others in their own discovery and conversation around these important topics. What I didn’t expect was how powerfully I would be impacted by the community I found at the conference.
About 16 years ago, I began a relationship with my previous church community that although it was exciting and promising at first, soon became toxic and spiritually abusive. I was part of that ministry for about 8 years before I got free of it. In leaving that church, I also left a lot of the culture and ministry stylings that were common to a black charasmatic ministry. I didn’t fully agree with everything within that culture, but it still represented a significant part of my Christian experience. In leaving that church, I found a significant amount of healing at my current church, but parts of me always wonderd if my worship was too expresessive or distracting to those who may worship more revereantly or quietly. Often times I had to choose to be authentic in my worship even if I might be the only one to express themselves this way.
Last weekend at the The Reformation Project Conference, I met other LGBT Christians who come from or are part of charasmatic churches. They weren’t the majority, but I would run into them in breakout sessions and a few of the speakers are charasmatic. For the first time, I had the opportunity to worship with others who could identify with the unique challenges I’ve faced of being Gay and a fully-devoted follower of Christ. As I sang, danced, swayed, waved my hands, shouted out, and wept I felt like there was NOTHING to hold back, nothing to appologize for. I was simply free to worship God in every way I knew how.
This was a healing for my soul. So many times I had to cry out to God in isolation. So often I was burdened with how people saw me, or their expectations for “deliverance from homosexuality”, or their ignorance about me and my story. There’s something POWERFUL about being able to worship in an inclusive community.
I think we ALL are seeking a place to belong. We are wired to want to be known and loved just as we know and love others. I don’t think our creator designed us with an individualistic pursuit in mind. I hope to help more churches be intentional about welcoming LGBT people into their worship spaces. So often the dominant narrative for sexual and gender minorities is that church is where they have been hurt by trusted leaders, abandoned by people who they considered family, and where people are commonly spiritually and/or physically abused.
I’m longing for the church to be a place that seeks out LGBT folks and starts the reconcilliation process. On Sunday, June 28th, I’ll again be part of the “I’m Sorry” campaign – an effort by Christians to appologize to the LGBT community for how the church has been harmful and to commit to efforts to make things better.
If you’d like to be part of “I’m sorry” click here for information about the campaign or click here sign up to join us at Chicago’s Pride Parade.