“As a dual US and UK citizen, and a straight ally anywhere I go in the world, I was thrilled to be in Washington DC for The Reformation Project conference in early November. The Reformation Project exists to train Christians to support LGTB people by making a biblical case for inclusion. It also provides practical support to LGBT Christians and their families, and their conferences offer many opportunities to create friendships and strategic partnerships.
The focus of this regional conference was to better equip LGBT Christians and their allies to make a biblically-based case for affirming and integrating LGBT people into all aspects of church life, including making the case that God affirms same-sex marriage. There were also inspirational talks and helpful breakout sessions for parents of LGBT children, pastors, a variety of denominations, various ethnic groups and those with global connections. Following the main sessions, all participants worked in small groups with experienced facilitators to defend their views using role playing. It was incredibly helpful.
The Reformation Project was founded by Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian: What the Bible Says—and Doesn’t Say –About Homosexuality, where he tells the moving story of coming out while at Harvard University. I had read his book, and another highlight of the conference was seeing his parents, who are my age, attending and fully supporting his work, and working to do their part in changing peoples’ hearts.
My role as an ally in an evangelical church led me to the sessions where evangelical pastors and academics spoke about their journey, and their church’s journeys towards becoming affirming. It was tough stuff; many had been fired or had their church removed from their denomination. Other stories were so inspiring. I particularly enjoyed hearing Danny Cortez from Los Angeles talk about his journey towards affirmation. Knowing that he might get fired, he talked to his family about coming out as an ally and making his church affirming. At the same time, his own teenage son came out to them. Although his denomination removed him, 60% of his church chose to stay with him in an independent, evangelical church.
I was also so honoured to meet Ken Wilson, who wrote A Letter to My Congregation, a charismatic Vineyard Pastor, who is standing by his faith on this matter, while the Vineyard USA is not ready to move forward. I noticed that it was far easier for pastoral allies closer to the end of their careers to be vocal; they did not have to be so worried about being fired. Brian McLaren was not at the conference, but he is a good example of someone with a platform in the evangelical world because he’s not employed by a local church.
The highlight of the conference, for everyone I think, was the closing address by David Gushee. Dr. Gushee is a well-respected evangelical scholar, and one of the foremost Christian ethicists in America. He released a book called Changing Our Minds at the conference and gave a resounding call to end 2000 years of discrimination against sexual minorities in the church. It’s been widely reported in the US media. He reports that he’s getting hundreds of emails a week, primarily from young Christians who are so grateful for his work and who are in pain in their churches.
I am a new member of Accepting Evangelicals, and I look forward to being a part of the work. My husband and I live in South London, and we try to reach out to young or newly out LGBT Christians in our church and area. You can get in touch with me through Benny if you know a young person who could use Sunday lunch with welcoming parental figures. I met a British woman who I was able to network with some people I’ve met through this group and Diverse Church. What a privilege it is to partner with you.
Kim Post Watson