Churchgirlgonegay’s Blog

{January 11, 2015}   A gaychurchgirl goes to a Gay Christian Network Conference

This past weekend I attended the Gay Christian Network Conference for the first time.  This was their 11th yr doing this.  I wish I knew about it sooner but I’m grateful to have learned about it in time to attend this year.  There were about 1500 attendees, their biggest conference yet (but I’m positive that record won’t hold very long – Jesus is here and more and more ppl will hear about it).  As I’m sitting on a plane leaving PDX, I’m full of different emotions as I process this weekend (like a good lesbian).  There are two main things I’m taking with me from GCN Conference 2015.  The first thing I’m taking with me is healing.

The moment I stepped onto the Oregon Convention Center grounds where GCN Conference took place, I immediately felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I was so quickly overwhelmed by the spirit of healing in the place that my eyes already started brimming with tears (and would basically stay that way the entire weekend – crying came VERY easily).  What struck me was not just that I would be receiving healing, but that 1500 other people would also be receiving healing as well.  I always knew I wasn’t alone as a gay person hurt by the church.  But this was the first time I was in a place where we were all gathered together to receive healing together.  And it was powerful.  When Pastor Danny Cortez, representing other pastors and the Church as well as other parents, apologized for the hurt he and the Church has caused, you could hear tears flowing and feel burdens lifting and hearts restoring.  A few hours later at the “Ex-Gay Ministry: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” workshop (side note: I went to the workshop to find out what the “good” was, considering I already knew what the bad and the ugly were.  The “good” is that Ex-Gay Ministry opened the door to dialogue and conversation about homosexuality in the Church whereas before it was a taboo topic that was hidden and secreted away), one of the attendees remarked that hearing Pastor Danny apologize was what he had been waiting to hear for a long time.

As most of us at the conference are LGBTQ folks who were raised Christian and identify as Christians with a relationship with Jesus, many of us have a shared experience of having our faith, relationship with Jesus, or connection with our faith community stripped from us when we came out.  Never once when I came out did I think that I had to sever my relationship with Jesus b/c I’m gay.  My parents, other people, and Church institutions told me that I had to.  Many of us were told that we didn’t deserve to have a relationship with Christ.  They ripped from us a piece of our hearts that we had for Christ and the Church.  When Pastor Danny spoke the words of apology, God used his words to begin to fill our hearts again.  I didn’t realize that I had this large of a hole in my heart until God began filling it again this weekend.  I realize now that I had been trying to fill that space that was ripped out with other things – distraction, anger, bitterness.  Most likely, many of my fellow gay brothers and sisters were experiencing the same thing this weekend.  After Pastor Danny spoke, a group of parents went to the front to be available for hugs for those whose parents weren’t ready to embrace them and their whole selves.  This, also, was extremely powerful and healing for those of us (many of us) who have been rejected by our parents and find ourselves orphaned and in need of love and support.

In addition to his apology, Pastor Danny spoke about grace.  This is the second thing that I took from this conference.  Prior to this weekend, I always thought of grace as something being extended to me – especially as an LGBT person.  I would pray that my parents would extend grace to me and hopefully one day accept me.  However, Pastor Danny didn’t speak about grace in that context.  He spoke about extending grace to those in the body of Christ that have not accepted us yet.  Even though the Church has rejected us, they are still part of the Body of Christ – the same Body that we are a part of.  We shouldn’t reject those who reject us but we should extend grace to them, even if they have not extended grace to us.  It’s a powerful thought.  It’s a powerful statement.

As I leave the conference and head back home, I’m reminded of how I felt after leaving my youth church retreats.  There’s a sense of dread in returning to reality and leaving the mountain.  But there’s also a sense of renewal and of purpose.  After this weekend, I’m emotionally exhausted but I am spiritually reenergized.  I leave the GCN Conference and continue on my path of healing and calling.  I will definitely return to GCN Conference next year.  And I encourage others (gay or straight allies) to attend as well.


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