A Guest Post by Erica Lea
CFT website contributor Erica Lea attended the 2015 Gay Christian Network Conference, and was kind enough to share a reflection here on Where She Is.
I was one of nearly 1500 LGBTQ Christians, allies, and curious people who attended the 11th annual Gay Christian Network conference, January 8–11, 2015, in Portland, Oregon.
My life will never be the same.
I first attended a GCN conference last year, in Chicago, joining approximately 700 other attendees. Why the sudden hike in attendance? Perhaps it’s because of growing public awareness, or the fact that, in 2014, a majority of states (36) now allow same gender partners to marry. Perhaps it’s because high profile pastors and Christian leaders have taken affirming positons or come out, people like David Gushee, Danny Cortez, Frank Schaefer, and Vicky Beeching.
Maybe the biggest catalyst for increasing participation in the “Gay Christian” conversation is a hunger for ecumenical unity. What do we do with differing perspectives that can divide families, congregations, and denominations? The Sh’ma, the great monotheistic statement of God’s identity being One, in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (NSRV), is a model for a Church that desires to love God and be united as Jesus was in the world. Just as God is one, so must the Church be.
At the final, apex session of the GCN conference this year, I had the honor and pleasure of serving communion. Planners went to great lengths to thoughtfully ensure the widest possible inclusion and warmest welcome for believers of significantly different Christian traditions and backgrounds. A Catholic priest served as the officiant, Orthodox Bread of Fellowship was offered, there was a gluten-free station, and I served from a silver plate of wafers with wine and grape juice. Communion servers came from Methodist, Anglican, Mennonite, Catholic, United Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Baptist, Orthodox, and other traditions.
We served together.
I wonder what the Church and world would look like if we all made the effort to embody this level of thoughtfulness by learning about and appreciating each other’s various sexualities, sexual ethics, and gender identities.
The truths for and about sexual ethics continue to be debated by those who seek to discern particular applications at the heart of the Bible. It’s the 2000-year-old question, “What does it mean to be a faithful disciple of Jesus today?” There are faithful and Spirit-filled scholars and believers of every tradition and perspective. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 3:4–5, some belong to Side A, some belong to Side B, some are apathetic, and some are non-affirming. All desire to follow Jesus.
My job as a pastor is not to be the bouncer at God’s table. My job as a pastor is to listen and share, in that order. It’s an old but important cliché—people have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
How different would my life, my church, my circle of friends, and my colleagues look if I took time to understand and deeply respect everyone else’s experience?
The challenge each of us faces is in learning how to maintain our convictions while also respecting and appreciating a sister or brother’s differing approach. Maybe the key is to start from a trusting place, believing that we all deeply desire to do what is good and right. Maybe this is what opens the door to a reality that looks like coming to the literal and metaphorical table together. Bringing our own traditions while listening and sharing with others opens us to the intimate table of relationship with God and neighbor.
If nearly 1500 people from 46 states and 15 countries can come Together at the Table in Portland, the possibility exists for the 2 billion Christians around the world to come together in their own neighborhoods.
Put peace into each other’s hands
like bread we break for sharing;
look people warmly in the eye:
our life is meant for caring.
As at communion, shape your hands
into a waiting cradle;
the gift of Christ receive, revere,
united round the table.
(From the hymn, “Put Peace Into Each Other’s Hands” by Fred Kaan)
Erica Lea is a pastor with interests in spiritual formation, preaching, pastoral care, gender and sexuality, ecumenism, and Judeo-Christian relations. She studied Behavioral Science at San Jacinto College, Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies at Texas A&M, and earned a Master of Divinity degree from Truett Seminary at Baylor University. She has worked with churches in Wyoming, North Carolina, Texas, now Washington, D.C. Erica currently serves as a Pastoral Resident at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. She also blogs at olgaproverbs31.wordpress.com.
© 2015 by Christian Feminism Today
Index of GCN 2015 Conference Content on Christian Feminism Today
Introduction to the #GCNConf Series
Introduction to weconnect Featured Speaker Wendy Gritter
Interview with weconnect Featured Speaker Wendy Gritter
The Wall of Love at the Gay Christian Network Conference (on the Patheos Emerging Voices blog)
An Opportunity to Practice Grace and Love (guest post by Criselda Marquez)
Trauma and the LGBTQ Christian
Our Job Starts and Stops with Loving Each Other
Together At the Table: Inclusive Communion and Intimate Conversations (guest post by Erica Lea)
The Words of the LGBTQ Christian Experience
Precious God, Forgive Them, Because They KNOW What They’re Doing
The Gay Christian Network Conference: The Kingdom of God Unfolding (guest post by Marcy Bain)