There is a network in our country and around the world that is almost doubling in size each year. This is not a social media network, there are no pictures of kittens riding bicycles or what food anyone had for dinner. This is not a network of business professionals being linked together for purposes of greater sales. This isn’t even a network of people saying meaningful things in short cryptic sentences. Instead, this network is something far more lasting, its goal is to change lives, to be a place of safety, and most importantly to remind them that God is love. This powerful spiritual force is the Gay Christian Network.
I had the privilege of attending my second GCN Conference last month. After what I had experienced the year before, I couldn’t wait to get there. My first conference was an eye opening, confirming taste of nirvana. To be in a room with over seven hundred Gay Christians, to share our pain, to hear our stories, to melt into the joy at the time we had together made my heart sing and my spirit rejoice. None of us were alone anymore. We stood together shoulder to shoulder singing psalms of praise at the top of our lungs believing that we too were beloved ones of the King of King’s. We proclaimed, we are Gay and we are Christian.
This year almost 1400 strong we met in Portland. The speakers were thought provoking, funny and spiritually uplifting. They spoke of the continued shunning and ostracism, throughout the Christian church but they also spoke of hope and the signs of change that are coming. They encouraged us to be light and salt in our home churches. It was reality tempered with hope.
But with all the planning, the workshops the worship no one could have prepared us for the extra bonus we experienced when the Westboro Baptist picketers arrived. You might know them from your local news. “God Hates Fags” is their motto and hatred is their weapon
of choice. We had a forewarning of their visit. Some of the convention attenders were terrified having come from abusive backgrounds regarding their sexuality, all, were apprehensive. But we were also told that some of the local churches would be there to love support and protect.
When the morning arrived Westboro was there with their signs telling us of the fires of hell that were to come. They were there with their boom boxes that spewed hateful words through angry songs. But the churches did not let us down. They buffered us with their bodies, they smiled, they said kind words and they loved.
The newspaper article that appeared the next day about the protest was titled, “Christians Protecting Christians from Christians” How sad, how wonderful. We had seen hate, we had been shown love, we had been called what we have always longed to be called, “Christians.” May the church someday know we exist, may we gain full acceptance, but until that day I will still call myself what God calls me, “Beloved.”