Tag Archives: church

My interview for the Imago Dei Summit

I had the opportunity to share a quick bit of my testimony and some thoughts about how church leaders can engage with LGBT Christians. The Imago Dei conference is a response to the Association of Certified Biblical Councilors conference which happened this week and included LOTS of damaging ideas about LGBT people and how to help them. The video is about 21 minutes long.  Check it out here: http://imagodeisummit.weebly.com/summit-sessions/darren-calhoun 

About Darren Calhoun

IMG_2275.JPGI am Darren Calhoun – beloved by God and a follower of Jesus.  For the past 15 years, I’ve earned a living as an entrepreneur and professional photographer.  My church community is Willow Chicago, the downtown campus of Willow Creek Community Church.  There, I’ve served as a volunteer for eight years in various parts of our arts ministries including leading worship.  At Willow Chicago, our worship team has two paid staff positions and I am part of a team of six volunteer leaders who complement the staff roles.  I love being able to serve our church community in this way.  I also volunteer with other organizations that are working on causes that are close to my heart like anti-violence initiatives in Chicago and racial reconciliation efforts.

I am gay.  As a Christian, I’ve been on a long journey to reconcile the reality of my orientation with the various views that the church world has on the topic of people who are attracted to the same sex. Before coming to Willow, I was part of a church whose leadership promised that I could be ‘healed’ of my same-sex attractions. I spent years seeking God and obeying the leadership of that church – eventually sacrificing relationships with family and friends, quitting college, moving to another state, and living under 24-hour supervision inside the church.  All of this was done in the name of being ‘healed’ and in hopes that I could be accepted by God.  During that time I became more broken and unhealthy than I’d ever been and at times despaired living. I eventually was reminded in scripture that God’s love didn’t look like what I was being subjected to by that church.

I am loved. At Willow I found a community of people who were willing to love me authentically.  I was warmly welcomed by a gathering of believers who reflected a biblical demonstration of God’s unconditional love.  I am surrounded by a community of Christians who are fully committed to loving God and loving one another. In this context I was able to begin a journey of celibacy and prayerfully discerning what that means for my life. This has been a profoundly personal spiritual pursuit to reconcile my deep love for God, his word, and the cards I’ve been dealt.  The decision to be celibate isn’t a quick or easy one and I’m engaged conversations with my church community to see what it looks like to truly support someone who has made this counter-cultural choice.  I think it’s important that we figure out how the church best facilitates lifelong relationship, intimacy, and support for people like me. That’s my journey thus far, but it doesn’t represent the journey of every other believer with the same orientation as mine.

Because of my many experiences and inspired by the stories of other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Same Sex Attracted people, I participate in intentional conversations about how the church can be better for everyone – especially those at the margins or who have been pushed out.  I think this is an important, nuanced, and delicate issue that needs a variety of voices speaking into it.  My perspectives are my own and are not on behalf of my church community. That said, I understand and respect the theology of my church, and the intentional journey our leaders are on to live that theology while being a place of profound love, grace and engagement for the LGBTQ+ community.

I hope to be part of equipping churches so that they are safer and more inclusive places for everyone who matters to God. This is why I’ve chosen to be part of efforts made by organizations like The Marin Foundation, which seeks to facilitate dialog between various people and groups on topics relating to the church and LGBTQ+ communities – groups who might not otherwise listen to one another.  This same value informed my choice to be part of The Reformation Project’s Atlanta Regional Training Conference.  I was invited to the conference to co-facilitate a full-day Academy for Racial Justice workshop. I also had the pleasure of sharing in a panel discussion titled “LGBT 101: starting the conversation” about how to thoughtfully engage in dialog with LGBT people. Lastly, I was part of a panel discussion that took a candid look at how race and LGBT identities intersect. Because I think it’s important to be inclusive of various perspectives and was happy to share my thoughts as a Christian who is black, gay, and celibate. I was happy that I met other Christians at the conference who are on similar journeys as me as well as Church leaders and parents who thought they might be singled out for having a traditional view of scripture on these topics.  We were all welcomed to the table.

So in getting to know me and what I’m about, keep this in mind: everyone has a story.  Through my photography, my social justice and activism, and through my engagement with various faith communities, I try to make stories known and foster compassion. If the church is to be all that Christ calls it to be, then we must love God and love people. It’s difficult to truly love someone you don’t know, but when we get to know their story we set the stage to know and love them like Jesus.

Upcoming Events with Darren Calhoun: June 2015

Tonight (6/9/2015) I’ll be hosting a Living In The Tension gathering for The Marin Foundation. 7pm at First Free Church (5255 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60640). 

We’ll be looking at and discussing the history and influence of LGBT rights movements. Everyone is welcome. This is a safe space to learn and ask questions. These gatherings are inspired by Dr. King’s ideas of constructive tension where we intentionally spend time with those who may not agree with us for the purpose of building understanding across various divides. 
Details and upcoming dates can be found here: LINK: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2015/06/upcoming-dates-for-living-in-the-tension-gatherings/

 photo by @NVphotography  
Additionally, we’ll be continuing the “I’m Sorry” campaign at Chicago’s Pride Parade on June 28th. The idea is that as Christians we go out to apologize for the ways the church has harmed LGBT communities as well as commit to making things better within church communities. This isn’t about condoning or condemning, rather we are there to listen and show love in tangible ways (free hugs are welcome too!).

Details about the history and purpose of the campaign are here: Link: http://TheMarinFoundation.org/ImSorry 
Lastly, this week on Thursday I’ll be part of The Reformation Project’s Atlanta regional training conference. I’m part of a team that will conduct the Accademy For Racial Justice – a one day workshop on racial reconciliation and justice. 

On Thursday night I’ll be part of the LGBT 101 panel discussion. This panel is aimed at teaching people the basics of how to engage with LGBT folks (do’s and don’ts) from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Christians. 
It will be live-streamed as well as archived on YouTube. I don’t have the live stream link yet but details are posted here: http://theReformationProject.org/atl15 and follow the hashtag #TRPinATL on social media.  

If nothing else, your prayers and good thoughts are requested and appreciated. If you can, tune in, show up, and or tell a friend. 


Time To Get Personal: “Leave” by Michael W. Smith

LEAVE by MichaelWSmith

I first heard this song a few weeks ago when Michael W. Smith came to Willow Creek to do a Concert / Service for Labor Day weekend.  Before sharing the song, Smith shared with us some insight as to what prompted him to write the piece.  I remember being quite moved and encouraged because I feel that too often church has become a place where perfect problem-less people come together and praise God.  It felt good to know that Smith realized he may receive some flack about the song, but that he felt that Willow Creek was a place where the song would be well received.

In recent weeks the news has seemed to overflow with stories of young people committing suicide, church leaders standing accused of moral and ethical misconduct, and other stories of gross injustice.  I’ve been disheartened to hear people in the media being referenced as Christians but unable to offer more than short-sighted, shallow, and super-spiritualized responses to these situations.  I’m not advocating that Christians should have all the answers… I am saying that we as a body need to come a LONG way when it comes to authenticity about the human experience.  There are staggering numbers of people hurting inside and outside of the church and it is my hope that we grow a sincere compassion -to suffer with– those who are hurting and to offer the hope that is our Gospel.

The topic of this song is a heavy one – abuse.  Check it out and share any thoughts in the comment section. (Lyrics below) Continue reading Time To Get Personal: “Leave” by Michael W. Smith

Mark Weber says church music is racially segregated and I agree.

Check out this article here to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Brandon Heath wrote a song called “Give Me Your Eyes,” and white people loved it. Since the Christian church in America is very, very segregated– there’s the white church and the black church, and rarely do they blend together– there is now a black version of “Give Me Your Eyes” by the group Joshua’s Troop; I saw the video on BET. — Mark Weber

Full Blog Article: Brandon Heath for whites; Joshua’s Troop for blacks « Mark Weber Music Blog.

There is a trend happening and I think it is happening quietly because many people don’t spend time listening to anything from artists who don’t look like them.

I’ve observed songs that have been popular for years in (white) Christian Music  suddenly becoming “new hits” in (black) Gospel Music arenas.  “Breathe”, “Let It Rain”, and “God Is Here” just to name a few.  While it’s nothing new for a Christian song to be covered (almost endlessly – “How Great Is Our God”) there is such a cultural disconnect that people don’t know a song exists until it’s been re-recorded by their favorite artist.

In the same way, at my church — which is diverse but mostly white) we’ve done Contemporary Gospel songs that have been hits for YEARS (by artists like Fred Hammond, Mary Mary, and Kirk Franklin) and it never fails that people come asking about that “new song” and give a blank stare when you mention the artist.

I’m African-American and was previously in an all black church.  More than 10 years ago I branched out into what my friends then called “white people music”– referring to Contemporary Christian Music and Worship songs– after growing discontent with the Gospel Music I’d been listening to at the time.

What has been interesting to see is the gradual change in the black Gospel Music scene as “Praise and Worship” has become more popular.  It seems to have been pushed into the mainstream by groups like Shekinah Glory (“Praise Is What I Do”) and others.  What I note most often is that only the choruses of some of these songs make it in to the re-recordings like “We Fall Down (But We Get Up)” and yes the favorite… “How Great Is Our God” with 3 lead vocalists and no verses!

So what are your thoughts and what trends have you seen?

Update: 9/24/2010 – title edited to add “racially”  distinguish what kind of segregation the article talks about.

Breakin’ Rules: Living out the Kingdom of God

Jon Klinepeter - photo by S. Bailey © 2010
Photo: Jon Klinepeter - by S. Bailey © 2010

On Sunday, August 15, 2010 – my church,  Willow Chicago welcomed our new Campus Pastor, Jon Klinepeter and his family.  Below are bits of the message he shared with our congregation on Sunday.

The Kingdom of God is not just a future certainty but a present reality.

When we align ourselves with the love of Jesus – we are aligning ourselves with the Kingdom of God.

Every time there was a societal or religious margin that told someone they didn’t belong, Jesus went beyond it. Jesus’ love knew no margin based on background, ethnicity, sin choices… Jesus never met anyone who was beyond his love. There wasn’t a margin that Jesus wouldn’t crash through to show his love for someone.

Love breaks the rules and is somewhat unapologetic about it. It says to religious and social rules “I don’t care!” Choosing the Kingdom of God makes us appear foolish, child-like, dangerous, and unwise. How naïve and crazy Jesus must have looked and felt on the cross.

I want other churches to think we are crazy… because I don’t care what other churches think of us.

If the lost in this city think that we are amazing at loving -then we are living out what God has for us.  If the poor and broken in this city know that our love is not just theoretical in prayer, but is tangible in action, then we are arriving at what God has for us. If the gay community in this city feels first our Love, then we are arriving at the kind of community that God has for us.

To the outcasts, the single moms, the people who are told they don’t matter, the people who live in neighborhoods where they are told that the color of their skin defines what they will ever be, we’re not going to just reach a hand. We will step beyond the margins and embrace them in our Kingdom of Love.

We break all the rules… especially the religious ones. We will infuse the sacrificial love of Jesus into our city.
–Jon Klinepeter

I’m excited about the possibilities of how God will continue to use Willow Chicago.  I’ve only had a few brief conversations with him, but already I see he has a great heart for compassion and reconciliation that is bold and authentic.   If you would like to check out the audio of the full message it can be downloaded or streamed here: The Kingdom of God

Stirred Up Leadership: 10 Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

Stirred Up Leadership: 10 Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality.

Check out the above article for some great points about unhealthy ways we approach spirituality.  I’m currently reading The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero and it’s digging up some very key points in how we do church and relate to each other.

Somebody had to talk about it!

Lexi interviews Tonex about his Gospel music career and sexuality.

A few days ago I got a phone call from a friend insisting that I dropped whatever I was doing to jump on YouTube to see this interview.  As a little background to this story, I’ve been a fan of Tonex (pronounced Toe-nay) for about 10 years now.  Tonex’s music – both vocally and instrumentally is unique and raw in many ways.  He is a Christian, but his creations often ruffled the feathers of ‘traditional’ believers.  His music has a strong ‘cross-over’ appeal and often would be found in stores outside of the Christian music section.  Tonex often writes songs in first-hand perspective of a person struggling with addiction, sexuality, mourning, or other topics that are part of life, but not often part of ‘church talk’.  I was draw to this music because I felt “finally, another believer who is using this struggles of his past to bring glory to God and expose the darkness of these situations”.

Tonex has been a magnet for controversy not just because of his writing, but also his physical appearance.  He’s been known to wear hair and clothes in range from a suit and tie, to hip-hop street culture, to goth (including long purple bangs and black painted nails).  The latter often has called his sexuality into question.  In addition to all this, in recent years he ‘retired’ from the music industry citing the unfairness of how he was financially struggling yet his music was selling well.  He also was hit with the difficult transitions of being divorced, his Father and Pastor suddenly dieing, and having to assume his father’s position as Pastor of their church.

Tonex has been out of the spotlight for some months, other than releasing the occasional ‘underground’ music release online.  This interview was the first major news about Tonex in a while.  If there’s one thing Tonex has always done well it’s address topics that too often go unmentioned in the church.  While the theological views expressed in this interview may not be agreeable to everyone – I think it’s important that we all really hear what his thoughts and perspectives are.  Check out the interview (3 parts) below. Continue reading Somebody had to talk about it!