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  • Patti

Reconcile and Reform

I haven’t been to a conference in ages but last weekend I spent 3 days in Seattle at The Reformation Project. Flying back, I have an iPad filled with notes from the sessions and a mind overflowing with information that is simply too much to download to another person. Sessions were led by gay and straight, cisgender and transgender, pastors and laypeople. Messages ranged from serious hermeneutic and exegesis to personal experiences between a pastor and a member of the LGBTQ community. Underlying the diversity of sessions were these common threads.

Live authentically.

Reach into the community one person at a time.

Stop using your interpretation of the Bible to determine who is worthy and who is not.

“God said it. I interpreted it. That doesn’t exactly settle it.” are statements that are true for virtually everyone, even those who claim, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

With over 500 in attendance, from all genders, sexual orientations, denominations, age ranges and abilities, the conference focused on both Reconciliation and Reformation, with the common values of God, The Bible and The Church.

What can I “download and tell another person? And where do I begin? It all depends on who I am talking to.

To my friend who just found out her child identifies as LGBTQ I would say - love your child. Look at scripture and ask yourself, “Does this mean what I have been told it means?” Dig deeply and read what others have uncovered and apply similar guidelines to other scriptures you read. In the meantime - love your child. How many times did Jesus tell us to love?

To my friend who loves her gay child but struggles with the thought that she may be disobeying God’s teaching, I say that you have made a good start. Love is the foundation for everything. Keep in mind, though, that every child needs and deserves not only love but acceptance from their parents. To accept your child and portray that honestly to your child, read the scriptures with the context in mind. Don’t read Romans 1 without reading Romans 2 in a continuous session. One cannot stand without the other. Verses are not isolated, they are all part of a story.

To my friend who identifies as transgender but is only just embarking on their journey, I challenge you to embrace your experience. Live authentically. God loves you. God was there when you were created. God is not surprised. Find the people who will love the you that is within your current packaging. Your soul needs to be nurtured and sometimes that will come from chosen family before it comes from the family you grew up in.

To my friend who wonders if I am only passionate about this topic because my son is gay, I tell you that everyone who spoke at this conference declared that we are called to listen to others’ stories. God cares about human experiences. God realized that experience was essential, which is why he sent his son and why his son, Jesus, always taught by telling stories. You cannot engage with God without knowing people and the lives they live. The Bible is not a cookbook or a math calculation. If you can’t understand my passion on this topic, then please, get to know someone who loves God while identifying as LGBTQ. Jesus walked with all kinds of people in order to know them. We must do the same.

To my friend who has embraced her LGBTQ child but feels tongue-tied when challenged by friends in their conservative church, I caution you to not be afraid. Stay in the present. Handle one conversation at a time. Keep the door open. Share your story and, if you have permission, share your child’s story, too. The human face of a label is more powerful than the most well written book, post or podcast.

To my friends who pride themselves on their choice of translation and their adherence to word for word accuracy, I challenge you, too. There is a back story to every translation team. What I imagined was a sterile conference room with lexicons, dictionaries, Greek and Hebrew texts open as they debated word choice, is more than that. Learning that notes are available, that word choice was sometimes debated and other times copied from other translations, makes me reconsider the literalist approach to reading. I don’t think I can read and ponder word for word in the same way I did previously. I remind myself that God first came to us in his experience as a human. Cling to the theme of his teaching. There are no magic verses. However, there is a central message.

To my gay son I have to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to transform the way I see everyone in the world around me. Understanding the LGBTQ community has helped me to look at all who are in the margins and who haven’t had the same place at the table as the white, cisgender, heterosexual, privileged male. By learning how to better support my son, I have learned how to dig deeper and read the Bible with context in mind, knowing it was written within the Ancient Near Eastern system of patriarchy, as I consider the true message God sent. Not that I am following the trends of today’s hot topics of male dominance, abuse and the identity politics of the day, but my eyes are now ready to read with attention toward the environment in which scriptures were written and the audience the messages were sent to. I am challenged every day to consider how others experience the world, rather than focusing on my limited view.

To my family member who wonders what to say to acquaintances who throw out ugly comments about LGBTQ friends and family members, I must admit that there is no one retort that will do the trick. There is no bandaid to place on the wounds that are scraped open when mean comments are brought up at the dinner table. The message over and over again at the conference was, “Tell your story.” It is your story and no one can debate your experience. Share what you know, that your nephew was wonderfully created by the same God that created them. That your nephew loves God and lives a life that that you are proud of. That he has no “gay agenda” other than to live as he was created, loving who he was made to love. Challenge these acquaintances to really get to know the LGBTQ people in their lives, just as they know other straight people. Once they are willing to look at people as “people”, then you can offer to continue the conversation.

We live in a world where molds are broken every day. No longer are women limited to being housewives, teachers or nurses. Men have few barriers, too. Fashion and styles are open to everyone to freely express themselves. The chance of someone living their entire lives feeling like a square peg in a round hole seems less and less. In centuries past there were no such freedoms. If we are pleased that there are no limits on what someone can strive to be, shouldn’t we also celebrate the fact that people do not have to live a lie, hiding from others, afraid of being who they were created to be?

Reconcile. First, to reconcile what I know today versus what I thought yesterday. Reform. The way our religious institutions portray Christianity. And then Reconcile some more when I interact with others who think differently.

Reconcile and Reform.

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