Jeremy Marks reports on his trip to Portland Oregon for the Gay Christian Network conference earlier this month. It was quite an occasion!
“I was so pleased to have been able to go to away at the Gay Christian Network conference in Portland Oregon a fortnight ago. The conference was excellent, with an absolutely record turnout – of 1400+ delegates, which was way up on recent years. The organisers had originally expected half that number, and had to change venues to accommodate the much larger conference, at very short notice, which was not only a miracle in that they found they were able to use the Portland Convention Center at such short notice, but also the fact that it all ran so smoothly – a great tribute to the excellent administrative abilities of the organisers – a very young team too! Moreover, the whole conference was “streamed” live for the benefit of anyone who could not be there in person. I believe this was the first time this facility had been made available.
A group from Westboro Baptist Church came all the way over from Kansas to demonstrate against the conference on the day of Vicky Beeching’s keynote speech; I guess that might have been because it was a Saturday, but it also just goes to show how far Vicky’s infamy has spread – which to my mind is a great tribute to Vicky. It is a kind of back-handed tribute I suppose when a group that is so opposed to what you stand for turn out in force to demonstrate against you, and against GCN.
But what was truly amazing was the way that many members of local Portland churches who’d heard about the planned demonstration also turned out – to protect conference delegates from intimidation or downright nastiness from the Westboro folk. They formed a “corridor of love” for conference delegates to pass through en route to the conference that day. These Portland Christian people, standing there stoically in the pouring rain, sang songs and welcomed us personally with greetings such as “Welcome to Portland”; “God bless you” and many other welcoming gestures; I found it so moving that I failed to hold back my tears, because I (and other delegates) have never been given such a warm welcome from other Christian groups, who have clearly got the Gospel message in their hearts and turned out in the pouring rain to express it.
Then to crown it all that day, in a moment of sunshine a brilliant rainbow appeared over the conference centre. The significance of the occasion was not missed on the conference delegates because, brilliant though the talks were at the conference with all their obvious technological expertise, a rainbow of that order was such that we had to attribute it to God not man-made special effects! The Lord was with us; that was clear in all kinds of ways, but especially with the timing and location of the rainbow.
For me personally, the conference was also extra-special because it turned out that a number of close friends that I had made in my “Love in Action” days (that was an ex-gay ministry back in 1987) were also at the conference. So on the Saturday night we got together for a small party at the home of John Paulk, who was formerly one of Exodus poster-boys (appearing on Time magazine as an ex-gay with his wife Anne). All of us have, since then, fully come to terms with our God-given (homo) sexuality, publicly apologised for our involvement in that toxic ministry, and now most of us are happily settled in long-term same-sex partnerships. It was a very special occasion indeed – thanks be to God!
If you want to hear more, it would be well worth listening to the conference keynote speakers…
Jeff Chu – author of “Does Jesus really love me?”
Danny Cortez – pastor of New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California. His church was formerly a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, and withdrew the church’s membership as a result of Danny bringing most of his congregation through to a gay-affirming perspective
Vicky Beeching, patron of AE.
Finally, Justin Lee, founder and executive director of GCN, gave the closing keynote address on the Sunday morning.
Here is the link to the keynote talks: http://new.livestream.com/GCNconf
Patron of Accepting Evangelicals.