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Reflections from the country’s largest conference of queer Christians

Reflections from the country’s largest conference of queer Christians

Each January, the Gay Christian Network (GCN) hosts a conference for LGBT Christians and their supporters. Writing on the Medium, one of those Christians reflects on the experience, and the various tensions contained within the community.

The author notes that the conference contained “Side A” Christians who believe that LGBT unions are blessed by God, and “Side B” Christians who believe that LGBT folk are called to celibacy. As distinct as those two views are, the conference also included vitriolic opponents of LGBT relationships and people; the Westboro Baptists were in attendance to protest the entire event.

From the Medium:

But GCN was ultimately about attempting to reconcile these rifts within the community, and even the rift between queer Christians and people like Westboro. On Sunday morning, the director, Justin Lee, argued that “loving your enemies” means not just abstractly forgiving hateful protesters, but listening to the perspectives of political and personal enemies in our families and congregations. Thus it is GCN’s responsibility to reach WBC protesters, Southern Baptist leaders, Focus on the Family, Leelah Alcorn’s parents. I think this is a dangerous message to deliver to people who have been abused. But I do admire the spirit of the big tent, of committing to coming together, however uncomfortably.

GCN is focused on transforming attitudes towards LGBT people in churches. Are you already aware of their work? Do you use any of their resources for yourself, your congregation, or your church family? Have you attended their annual conference? Let us know!


Posted by David Streever


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christopher seitz

From what one reads here–and this is extremely useful–it appears the next soft coal face for TEC will be the treatment of ‘conservatives’. ‘Drive them out’ will be one grouping. ‘Try to assure individual choice (at least for a season)’ will be another.

I wonder how this will play out?

Cameron Partridge

Re: Anne B’s comment, I appreciate how various people on this thread have made the point that trans people are far from monolithic in how we narrate our identities, histories and perspectives on our bodies. Medical transition is not something that all trans folks seek, nor are all of us binary gender identified–that is, while some identify as simply male or female in nonambiguous ways, others experience gender as more complex, more nuanced, more ambiguous. What I have noticed over time from many conversations with trans people as well as my own experience, is that wrestling and coming to terms with this aspect of who we are can have a way of taking us into the very heart of the good news. The paschal mystery itself can come alive for us in new ways, as Carla Robinson speaks to so eloquently in Voices of Witness Out of the Box ( I wrote of trans people as participants in and agents of transformation in this piece for the Chicago Consultation just before the 2012 General Convention, as well ( As a church we have begun to live into the implications of the votes of the last two General Conventions (here is a summary from the conclusion of the 2012 GC:

And FWIW, I also believe that there also needs to continue to be space in this church for people to disagree on these matters. I agree with and appreciate the comments made above about the “sides” not actually being equivalent in everyday life—one person’s identity, relationship, or embodiment is not equivalent to another person’s position, however strongly felt and substantively argued. But this non equivalence should not mean that differences of opinion are somehow not allowed. To me the key has been and remains respectful relationship. I wouldn’t pretend that this is easy or always straight-forward. The question I wonder about and pray with is how practicing these relationships can actually happen without creating zones of non-interaction or bubbles of space in which we can pretend we aren’t somehow connected. That’s where God works some of the most profound transformations, it seems to me: through our connection to one another in this unruly community we call the body of Christ.

JC Fisher

Thank you, Fr Cameron, very helpful.

I confess, I would have difficulty particpating in a conference where some said *all* LGBT people are called to celibacy, whether they perceive that call or not. To me, that seems like (at least) arrogance about imposing one’s sense of “call” on another, when I believe that always has to *begin* w/ the individual believer (whatever the faith community may then say in further discernment).

George A. Bennett

Gay Christian Network Conference looks like a wonderful witness to Christian love, openness, and non-judgmental action. I hope they had a good turn out. (excepting Westboro Baptists).

I admire that GCN does not try to silent disparate voices, and that their aim doesn’t seem to be to coerce all viewpoints into one. It’s good to see there is a place for Gay Christians that have a conviction to remain celibate and (hopefully) they aren’t made to feel like they need to change to be in service to God.

I think that this issue is here to stay, and won’t necessarily go away after a couple of generations.

(I fixed it for you, George! Thanks –Moderator)

christopher seitz

Just out of curiosity, is there some correlation between the LBGT movement and a reflex to call God a mother/she?

Ann Fontaine

No — it comes from the Bible — God as Mother Eagle, Mother Hen, Sophia/Wisdom/Holy Spirit/Ruach – all female or feminine gendered words.

christopher seitz

It is not clear if I am any longer cleared for comment, but here’s a try.

Ms. Fontaine, the reason for son-father language for Christians is that the Son Himself used it to designate the special character of His relationship to the God who sent him. So he taught us to pray. The OT was sparing in its use of ‘father’ precisely so as not to mislead in the direction of polytheistic religions.

You are referring to metaphors qua metaphors. You might consult the fine work of Janet Soskice (Cambridge) to understand why ‘like a mother hen’ is not at the same level as ‘Our Father who art in heaven…’.

It’s a crap shoot, but I thought I’d still try to comment here.

Ann Fontaine

I studied with Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and other at Harvard Divinity School — thanks any way Christopher.

Susan Russell

Yep. Familiar with Paglia. Question was: What do you think?

Bro David

Isn’t that what the three guys (are there still three?) and a website do best, cast out red herrings by the netful that have nothing to do with the actual topic of the conversation, as a means of distracting folks to the dark side of crazy?

Harry M. Merryman

Ann: I suspect that our feelings about Paglia are similar and shared by many here. However, if we can ignore the Feuerbach bait, I think it could be useful to ask C. Seitz to summarize Paglia’s thinking about the development of sexual orientation and gender identity, including why he thinks it offers credible insight into these questions. (Maybe he could write a separate piece for the Lead?) C. Seitz continually pointing to Paglia as a useful and important perspective when speaking about LGBT issues is not very helpful. Explicating her views on the development of sexual orientation and gender identity and showing us why we should pay any attention to them would be revealing. From what I know of her thought on these matters, and as a psychologist, it strikes me that any such project would be a very “heavy lift.” But why not give C. Seitz the opportunity to enlighten us if he can? Just a thought . . .

christopher seitz

I suspect Feuerbach is a reflex for most progressives.

What’s your take on Paglia’s view of LBTG?

I’d also welcome an entire thread on a question I posed but which is not appearing (nicely making the point):

Will progressives seek to ‘drive out’ conservatives (so one Lead administrator) or allow (for a season) ‘individual choice’?

After Paglia, I’d be curious of your take on that.

Ann Fontaine

I suggest you start you own blog to discuss these questions you are curious about. Obviously no one has taken you up on Paglia. She is a non-starter.

Susan Russell

Just out of curiosity, what do you think?

Harry M Merryman

C. Seitz: You appear to have misunderstood my comment. I have no particular investment in Paglia’s thought. Your comments suggest that you believe her ideas to be “interesting,” and presumably, credible with regard to explaining the development of sexual orientation and gender identity. I reckon it’s up to you to explain why you think her ideas are worthy of consideration. I hardly think it’s up to me to provide you with an outline for defending your assertions. As an academic, you should certainly be familiar with this process. You are implying a thesis. I am asking you to explain and defend that thesis. If you choose not to, I’ll understand, since it might require more time than you think such a project would be worth. But until you can demonstrate your bona fides with regard to Paglia’s thinking, I see no point in engaging in a debate with you, nor in paying any further attention to your oft-repeated exhortation to consider her thought.

BTW, I would not presume to “tell . . . what . . .others (sic) views are on Paglia.” I will only speak for myself. Also, as I implied in my post, this is not the thread to have this conversation. If you’re interested, perhaps you can work out something with the editors to have your thesis posted under a different lead.

christopher seitz

Fine, Harry. Kindly begin and tell us what yours and others views are on Paglia. That would be enlightening.

Lenten blessings.

Bro David: if you consider judicial victories in Illinois, Texas, and South Carolina, in which ACI invested hours of labor, depositions, trial appearances, etc as ‘red herrings’ you be my guest.

christopher seitz

Is your question directed to me?

I think Camille Paglia is an interesting voice and I would have welcomed LGBT response to her, just as I was asking if there was a predilection to see God as a human projection.

But my comments are not appearing any longer so someone of the editorial group will need to send it to you.

Lenten blessings.

Bro David

Because it’s fun to see folks get worked up about it?

Also, many of the folks in the GLBT community haven’t had a great experience with the father figures in their life and are more comfortable and relate better with the feminine aspect of God.

christopher seitz

Thanks, David. Feuerbach was as candid when he said all language about God was human projection.

christopher seitz

No comments appearing. Not sure why.

Anne Benedict


If you think that Christians are called to marry their dead brother’s wife or not to mix types of fabrics, with all due respect, you have pretty much missed the last 2,000 years. The ritual law was expressly set aside by Paul. This was a huge argument in the Church and Paul’s side won. In fact, if you will remember the grounds for Henry VIII’s request for divorce from his first wife, it was that she was the widow of his dead brother when he married her which was expressly forbidden by the Church. (They had gotten approval from the Pope but it was now in Henry’s interests to claim that the Pope had no power to give such approval!).

The “you are only fixated on sex when you don’t keep all the ritual laws of the Old Testament” argument can be knocked down by any knowledgeable 6th grader. Christians are bound by the explicit teachings of the New Testament and the *moral* (not ritual) commandments of the Old Testament, except (as in the case of divorce) these are amended by explicit statements in the New Testament. That’s what it means to be a Christian, rather than a Jew.

christopher seitz

Thank you for explaining your editing out material.

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