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some thoughts from gay church

Here’s the approximate transcript from a speech I gave this weekend during the closing session of The Reformation Project conference.  The entire event was captured by a documentary film crew, so I’ll be sure to post the actual video as soon as it’s made available.

gay church

“hello, everyone.  Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you all tonight.  I just kind of have some disjointed notes I’ve written here, and I’m not sure they’ll be incredibly coherent, but I’ll give it a shot.

Betsy came up to me today and told me how weeks ago, she saw a blog post I wrote called “I deny the resurrection.”  She saw it on Facebook, and before she read it, just from the title, you know, she said to herself “OH NO!  What kind of heretic do I have in this group with me?! (people laugh).  Sooo, just to clear that up here, and I’m going to look right into the camera as I say this, I do believe in the resurrection of Christ!

But it’s interesting because I also believe that most of us here have seriously been called heretics at some point in our lives.  I’d be willing to bet that just about everyone here has been told that – because of who we are or what we believe – we are unworthy, that we are outside of God’s saving grace, even that God hates us. (a friend in the front row begins nodding slowly along with this point).  We’ve all felt this.  We’ve all been told this by other Christians.

And it’s caused us a lot of pain we still need healing from.

So let me tell you about the first of two incredibly healing things I’ve experienced recently – worshipping and singing praises to God for hours alongside all of you.

Last night was a miraculous experience.

Especially because after coming out, so many of you were told you weren’t allowed in your church anymore.

Especially because some of you confessed that you haven’t felt safe worshipping in a body of believers in years.

So I thank God for showing up last night.  It was incredibly healing for me to see all of you who were taken and cast so far off from the Lord come close together again last night in that same God’s name.

reformation familia

I forget who it is, but this one queer theologian talks about “coming out” as a sacrament.  It’s a beautiful idea – that the coming out process is a reconciliatory gift God grants to his church, a unique vehicle by which gay Christians can experience healing and more divine grace.  Every one of us here has, in one way or another, had to go through our own “coming out” process, a journey filled with a lot of pain and rejection, but also healing and authenticity.  This is true for my own journey of “coming out” as a straight ally, but much more so for the non-straight folks in the room.

What I want to add is that your coming out, your stories, are what is changing this conversation.  I know this because hearing your stories of pain and restoration is what changed my own mind on this issue.  One year ago, not even ONE year ago, I would never have imagined myself here today.  So please keep sharing your stories, even if it hurts, because hard hearts like mine are being renewed.

My friend Ben Irwin – a Christian blogger and personal role model to me – is the perfect example of this.  He says that he literally “wrote the book” on homosexuality…before he ended up changing his mind.  Really.  Years ago, Ben contributed to a nationally published booklet that discussed the acceptance of homosexuality from a very non-affirming perspective.  But after years of prayer, study, and God slowly changing his heart, Ben became one of the LEADING voices – alongside with stories like yours – that actually helped change my mind on this issue.

His story reminds me that, truly, no one is beyond redemption or a second chance.

Let me close on a lighter note – the second very healing and godly thing that’s been going on in my life lately is that I’ve just started dating someone new, and she’s really so incredibly special.  If you guys ever come to Chicago, you all need to meet her and get to know her, okay?  She’s amazing.

And so are all of you.  Everyone here is honestly so beautiful, both inside and out.  I promise if I were bi and single I’d totally be hitting on every one of you (people laugh)… no, seriously, I would. Because I’d love to find my future partner in a group filled with as much love as I see here.

Now let’s go change the world!”

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love you Ryan. This is such a great story of hope, and the key thing here is that you opened up your heart for God to work through it in whatever way he wanted to. Thanks for letting go of your convictions and listening to His for you.

    September 23, 2013
  2. Ryan! You are a real joy to know!! Love you brother!!

    September 23, 2013
  3. David Farmer #

    Wow Ryan, thanks for capturing your speech and documenting it here. There are no words to adequately describe the worship experiences we encompassed over the last few days, and there are not words to adequately describe the power of God’s love that we are unleashing in this world.

    September 23, 2013
  4. Betsy Johnson #

    heretic.

    September 24, 2013
  5. Betsy Johnson #

    hahaha. Just kidding Ryan. Love you. Really.

    September 24, 2013

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