Tag Archives: Gay Christian

The Gay Christian Network Conference 2017 Recap: Reflections, Setlist, and Videos! #GCNconf

Hey Friends! 

I had an amazing time leading worship at the 2017 GCN Conference.  A few folks have asked about my experience as well as a copy of the set lists so here we go!  

I’m still in awe. I’m writing this weeks after the conference and the awe of being asked to serve as worship leader for this conference still amazes me.  For those who don’t know my story, I’m someone who was told by church leaders that God would never fully use me because I’m gay or that people would never see me as a man of God because of my sexuality.  Years later I’m seeing every one of those words fall to the ground as amazing opportunities to lead and be an advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in churches continue spring up on my path. 

I also had the honor of assembling a world-class team of LGBTQ people and allies. Many of us share the similar stories of being wounded by churches and church leaders and being part of an event like this – while sometimes difficult – is cathartic and redemptive in ways that we can’t fully describe.  When possible I’ll do follow-up posts with stories that I have permission to share.

For those who couldn’t be at the conference or who missed the live stream, videos are here! Our team led worship for the first three general sessions of the conference, which all can be viewed on GCN’s YouTube page (Session 1, Session 2Session 3, Session 4 – Liturgical Worship).  Additionally, please enjoy the keynote speakers who’s talks are also on these videos.

I’ve created a Spotify playlist with most of the songs we shared. You can follow that playlist here

I wanted to be very intentional about the song selections for the conference. With 1400 people in attendance all coming from different churches, denominations, theological leanings, and musical preferences, creating a worship experience for us to have TOGETHER required some intentionality.  Fortunately, this is something that I strive to do year-round, GCN being no different. Our selections tried to incorporate songs that would be familiar when possible or easy to pick-up and follow-along if it was your first time singing it.  The songs range from hymns to gospel to contemporary Christian music and included a bilingual worship song.  We also tried to be mindful of the messages and language of each song to be sure that the sets were as accessible to a wide an audience as possible.  I’m still learning and there are lots of places where I can do better at this, but I think it’s worth the extra effort. 

One of the songs that are not on Spotify is “Room For Us All” by The Many.  In 2016 I started singing with this group and I LOVE the music that we’re making together. You may download the song for free here along with other music from The Plural Guild.  Something I secretly hoped for while we were singing this song is that while we repeat the chorus of “We are on this earth to love” that people would hold hands or lock arms and sing this… and it happened! It’s the little things that make my heart glad. 🙂

Below is the written setlist and after that some cameraphone photos and screen shots of what people shared about the conference on Twitter. 

Thanks for following my grand adventure and stay tuned for more! 

Session 1 – Thursday:

  • Lord, You’re Worthy
  • Medley: Set A Fire, Always, Ever Be, Simple Gospel
  • My World Needs You
  • You Are Good (in Spanish and English)

Session 2 – Friday:

  • Reprise of “You Are Good”
  • For Those Tears I Died
  • Simple Gospel
  • In Christ Alone with On Christ The Solid Rock
  • Glorious

Session 3 – Saturday:

  • Here’s My Heart
  • Deep Cries Out
  • Old School Medley: We Bring The Sacrifice of Praise, In The Name of Jesus, Victory is Mine, 
  • “Here’s My Heart” (Reprise)
  • My World Needs You (Reprise) with Isaiah 58 Spoken Word
  •  Room For Us All
  • Hold Us Together 

Session 3 – Continued at Offering: 

  • Chase Away my Dark
  • It Is Well

I am #FaithfullyLGBT!

While in Long Beach California for The Reformation Project’s National Conference I had the opportunity to be photographed for the #FaithfullyLGBT project – an effort to share photos and stories from LGBT+ Christians across the country.  It was really an honor to contribute my voice and likeness to this campaign.  I wrote responses to three questions that were asked by the campaign and I thought I would share my responses here to give a little more insight into me and my journey. 

Name: Darren Calhoun
Faith Tradition: Non-denominational
Sexual Orientation: Gay
Gender Identity: Cis gender (He / Him pronouns)

Questions:
1. Discuss how you reconciled your faith with your sexual orientation.

I’ve been on a long and often painful road when it comes to the tensions I’ve experienced around my faith and sexuality. I was told by some of the closest and most important people in my life that being gay would be not only a hinderance to my ability to serve as a minister, but also to my relationship with God. In my teen years, I woke up daily trying to figure out how to choose not to be gay. In my college years, I committed myself to spiritual leaders who asserted that I could be “delivered” from my same-sex attractions. I was so committed to my faith that I willingly gave up school, my business, family and friends — nothing was spared in my pursuit of being pleasing to God.

What I didn’t expect was that God wasn’t looking for all those sacrifices from me. As I gave up more and more, I eventually found that those were the expectations of people who primarily sought to control or eliminate what they didn’t understand. As I entered my late 20’s, I could look back and see how God was showing me that I’m loved fully as I am. This love of God set me free to question what people were saying about how God wouldn’t love me or accept me as a gay man. Eventually with the support of other Christians who had a deep understanding of unconditional love, I found my way out of toxic and controlling churches, and into Christian communities that could affirm their love and God’s love for me no matter what.

2. Describe where you are currently in your journey with God.

Now I’m getting to know myself as I am, not as I felt I ‘should’ be. I’m slowly peeling back the layers of condemnation, years of filtering myself, and challenging myself to be seen and loved as I am. I still have to fight the feeling that one of my pastors is going to tell me something horrible like the pastor who told me that I didn’t know how ‘damned’ I am. I’m discovering just how deep, wide, and unchanging the love of God really is — for me and for everyone else. When I realized that God could love me unconditionally, it freed me to see how others could be loved the same way. Because of that kind of love, I’m working to make the church a safer place for everyone, especially LGBTQ+ people. This is what I feel called by God to do.

3. What is the one thing I want to tell non-affirming members of my faith?

Being welcoming of LGBTQ+ people but not affirming them still comes at great cost for the LGBTQ+, questioning, or struggling person in your midst. What for you may be an abstract or theological construct, has deep ramifications for the person to whom it applies. Having church policy that limits access to serving in the community or pursuing family in the form of marriage has a quiet but erosive effect on us in ways that are often invisible to you. Our validity and life experiences are often erased from spaces that haven’t made room for us to be our whole selves. Our futures are uncertain in churches that have a multitude of supports for marriage and raising children, but nothing for life-long singles as many non-affirming churches expect us to be. When we can’t enter into many of the celebrated milestones of church communities (like finding love, building a family, building a life with and publicly affirming your spouse) we are reminded over and over that we simply cannot fully belong. Good intentions and faithfulness to your interpretation of scripture will not overcome the ever-present reminders that because of my orientation (or gender identity) that I can never been FULLY accepted. This is a reality that non-affirming churches need to wrestle with in ways much deeper than answering the question “is homosexuality a sin?”.

#FaithfullyLGBT photo by Daniel Rarela
#FaithfullyLGBT photo by Daniel Rarela

What does it mean to #MakeLoveLouder at Chicago’s Pride Parade?

June 26, 2016 will mark my sixth year of being part of counter-protest efforts at the Chicago LGBTQ Pride parade. This effort started with the “I’m Sorry” campaign in 2010.  At that time, a group of people gathered together to apologize for the way the church has harmed LGBTQ communities.  We were a mostly Christian group of allies and LGBTQ+ people showing up at Pride to inspire a little more love and acknowledge the wrong that had been done by Christians. This tiny effort touched the hearts of many and went viral on the internet.  Eventually this idea caught on and was replicated at Pride parades across the country and even beyond the United States.

High-fives from parade goers at the Chicago Pride Parade
High-fives from parade goers at the Chicago Pride Parade

I’m excited to say that we’ll be back this year with the Make Love Louder at Pride campaign (#MakeLoveLouder).  The Center for Inclusivity is sponsoring the effort as we rally Christians, Muslims, Atheists, LGBTQ people and their allies, religiously affirming and those from a conservative tradition, under the banner of humanity and love.  We’ll be wearing red t-shirts and positioning ourselves between the parade marchers and the protesters near the end of the parade route.

#MakeLoveLouder red teeshirtIf this idea excites you and you want to join us, I’m writing to help prepare you mentally and emotionally.

If you’ve never been around the anti-LGBTQ protesters, it can be pretty intense. If you’re sensitive to the following descriptions, please take that into account and don’t ignore your gut.

(triggering and harsh language warning)

The protesters are a mix of people who are local as well as from infamous places like Westboro Baptist Church. They carry four-foot-tall banners and smaller posters and are on bullhorns the entire time. They call out individuals to question, blame, insult, and condemn. They say things like “I hope you get gonorrhea and die” or “You with the long hair, you’re going to rot in hell forever.”

They have signs that read “God hates fags.”

The protesters work to incite anger, and there’s no shortage of parade goers who will yell “f-you” and put up middle fingers at them in response.

Every year at least one person ends up getting arrested (and the protesters do press charges) for spitting or throwing something like a water bottle. This is a strategy that the protesters use as a revenue source by settling out of court with defendants.

It can be pretty crowded and hot (it’s a parade), and sometimes that can be a bit much for some people. Oh, and there are intoxicated people everywhere, so you know how that can go.

I purposely try to describe the worst here, because I don’t want to lead anyone into something potentially harmful without warning them.

Chicago Police in front of the anti-gay protesters at Chicago's Pride Parade 2015
Chicago Police in front of the anti-gay protesters at Chicago’s Pride Parade 2015

In contrast, I’ve never felt physically threatened. Uniformed Chicago police have the protesters barricaded in, and they escort them into the parade and back out at the end. Chicago Police surround the protesters by standing shoulder to shoulder outside of the barricade. The officers have always been pleasant toward us (parade goers and counter-protesters).

The best part for me is getting the crowd to cheer and drown out the hate speech.

I get lots of hugssometimes as people cryin appreciation for my being there.

My arms get tired from high fives. 🙂

My face hurts from smiling and yelling “I love you!” or “God loves you!”

I’ve even gotten a little dehydrated from cheering and sweating (bring water!).  🙂 

All that is to say that although the bad is BAD, the good is GREAT! People should talk and figure out what they are okay with and by no means should feel any pressure to come or to stay if they don’t feel good after experiencing what’s going on. By moving just a block away you can forget the protesters are even there and resume enjoying the parade.  If you decide that this isn’t for you, that’s totally finesurvival is a form of resistance, so you thriving elsewhere that day is important, too!

I will say that SO many people who have been part of this effort in the past didn’t realize how impactful the simple act of showing up could be.  So many of us have shed tears of joy or been personally rocked by what this embodiment of love is about.  

If you want more details, we’ll keep our Facebook event page up-to-date with information including location and details about t-shirts. Visit www.CenterForInclusivity.org to learn more about this great organization.

Detail Map showing the location of the protesters during Chicago's Pride Parade