A Response To Our Supporters

Last night a friend sent me a guest-blog to publish on our site which began with a statement declaring “I am gay, Side A affirming, and fully support equal protection under the law,” and followed with his explanation of why he wholeheartedly supports the work of LOVEboldly.  I refused to publish it.  I won’t allow him to out himself in a way which will ostracize him from one of his current faith communities and damage his future permanently.  Not for me.  Certainly not for LOVEboldly.

Yesterday, after we released a “A Response To Our Critics”, we received some negative feedback.  We had expected this.  What I hadn’t expected was the overwhelming barrage of texts, Facebook messages, emails, phone calls, and face to face conversations with people, like this friend, who were outraged by those who have made false accusations or assumptions about our work, intentions, and beliefs.  I hadn’t expected to hear so much from those who were hurting by responses they read which made them feel, yet again, that even Christians won’t afford them the grace they need to exist outside of either the Gay Rights or Religious Right boxes.  And I certainly didn’t expect to hear so many thanking us for holding the middle ground we stand in, encouraging us, and pleading with us to continue being that voice.

Many agree that framing the conversation differently than the traditional rights-based approach is precisely what is needed to make progress towards healing the divide between the church and the LGBT community.  A few of these folks wrote these things publicly yesterday.  But most of them stayed the silent majority because they were too angry in the moment to form responses they could feel proud of, or because they are still closeted, or because they just didn’t want to get brutalized by those who would misdirect anger towards LOVEboldly onto them.  I don’t blame them.

We will continue to honor those who are very angry at us, and those who strongly oppose us, no matter how ugly things get, and we will constantly work to come to the table with them, resolve our differences, and find a way forward.  But I refuse to divert our focus onto those conversations with the negative minority who don’t understand our mission and don’t want to.

This post is for our supporters.  You matter.  I write tonight to say “thank you” to all who have stood by us through trying times, who have sent encouraging messages, who have been enraged on our behalf just because you love us as much as we love you.  For all the bold and brave folks who have supported us, and for those who have hung with us when they were skeptical of our work, thanks!  You are the reason we won’t be discouraged.  You have changed our lives.  You inspire us every day.  I am more excited and determined to move forward than ever, and it’s because of you!

Many have asked, “What Can I Do To Help?”  The answer is simple.  Get out a pen and a paper and write a sentence or two telling us why LOVEboldly matters to you, or why you believe in the work we are doing.  Email that statement to us (loveboldlynow@gmail.com) along with your first name (if you want it mentioned) and the city and state you live in.  Or, leave it in the comments below.  We will be publishing these on our site.

I want all of the positivity I received to be heard by the rest of the LOVEboldly family, and by all of our followers – critics and supporters alike.   Some folks, discouraged by the conversations of the past few days, desperately need to hear that they are not alone in their middle ground, and that this is a safe place for them.  So please share!  Two minutes of your time – it’s all I ask for.  I can’t wait to hear your responses.

Keep on LOVING BOLDLY!

A Response To Our Critics

We have been receiving a lot of questions lately about our position on LGBT legal rights. After some difficult conversations over Facebook this summer, we felt it was necessary to clarify our purpose and goals as an organization.  We have had vigorous debates among our leadership, and have sought advice from other trusted LGBT and Christian friends about how to best respond. These conversations have helped us, hopefully, better articulate a position that is both faithful to our mission and sensitive to current political, social, and legal debates regarding LGBT rights and the role of the government and the church.

First, we want to sincerely apologize to anyone who feels like we have been deceitful. That was not our intention. We, as you can imagine, are trying to walk a very thin line by attempting to take some sort of middle ground.  While we do not take a formal position as an organization regarding LGBT rights specifically, we do affirm that all people are worthy of dignity, fair treatment, kindness, and respect. We find it to be truly unfortunate that LGBT rights are still seen as directly in opposition to religious rights.  We don’t see it that way, and we encourage Christians to remember Christ’s example who laid down his own rights, and even his own life, for the sake of others, and who called us to do the same. We are convinced that a robust understanding of the Christian faith calls us to care for and protect those who have been mistreated and marginalized, and we see the LGBT community as one of those groups.

The leadership team at LOVEboldly is comprised of individuals with a variety of positions on the theology and politics regarding faith and sexuality, but all of us are fundamentally dedicated to honoring the dignity and humanity of all people.  This has fostered an environment for us which has served well to facilitate conversation around sexuality and faith, inviting to a variety of perspectives, even ones with which participants fundamentally disagree.  We leave room for these differences to be present in our midst insomuch as they provide opportunities for interactions which can encourage personal growth for parties involved in the conversation.  Our concern as an organization has always been primarily about relationships. Connections are fostered and friendships are formed in our work largely by creating space where people can discuss issues of faith and sexuality. We are not a politicizing organization. This is not to say that we are not concerned about rights. We are.

While many have called us “allies”, others have flatly refused to call us such, because of our unwillingness to take a public stance one way or another on LGBT rights.  This is not because we are in favor of LGBT people suffering or being treated unfairly.  Instead, we believe that building relationships is the best way to create lasting change in which hostilities can be assuaged and so that LGBT folks and conservative Christians alike can be treated fairly not only under the eyes of the law, but in the eyes of individuals and communities as well. We are persuaded that most often the best way to help people recognize their own biases is to have them encounter people in such a way that it breaks stereotypes. We have seen how the political world works with a “get on our side or I will fight you” mentality and we don’t see this as the way forward for the LOVEboldly community.  We are not interested in an “us vs. them” mentality. This problem of division between the LGBT community and the church is systemic and we are convinced it won’t be solved by old methods.  Using polarizing “yes/no” “us/them” language prevents us from moving into caring relationships with one another, where we can together identify the way forward.  This is not to say that we allow oppression to continue, but rather, that we are strategic in the way we address the fundamental issues of disagreement. Doing anything less than approaching the root causes of the grievances between the church and the LGBT community falls short because it allows oppressors to continue oppressing, even if they are not doing so through the legal system, and therefore causes oppression to continue.  We believe that progress is best made through learning to love and serve one another, living in nonviolent tension of disagreement at times, and avoiding engaging in polarizing practices which add to the victimizing mentality we seek to subvert. We respect that many disagree with this approach and will not be able to support our work, but we favor focusing on a faith-based approach to uniting with our brother and sisters in the faith, rather than focusing on the things that divide us.

Most of our work takes place in living rooms, meeting spaces at public libraries, and out to dinner at local restaurants where we talk honestly and openly about these issues face-to-face with one another. Sometimes people get angry with each other, sometimes we all seem to agree, and sometimes we can’t seem to agree on hardly anything, but through all of that we continue our friendships which are growing deeper all the time. We may fight vigorously for a given position (sometimes over questions of legal rights or moral perspectives), but we find that at the end of these discussions folks still want to go out for ice cream together because we know that we cannot change someone’s mind in a lasting way unless we are willing to be their friend through even the most severe disagreements. After all, Jesus shared a table with both Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector, and neither of them were the same after their time with him and each other.

It is important to point out that LOVEboldly is not simply a bunch of straight people trying to make decisions for LGBT folks. Our board and our closest advisers/supporters include LGBT folks, who themselves have a variety of opinions on the matters at hand. We have LGBT folks in relationships, folks who have chosen celibacy, folks who believe that legal rights are terribly important, and folks who think they take a back seat to relationally-based social change.  Conversely, we are not a bunch of LGBT folks making decisions about the church.  We are seminary students or graduates, active in our home churches, and taking great personal risks in our spiritual communities and our closest relationships to try to bring a message that is balanced, rooted in a robust Christology, and challenging stereotypes.  A few of us are ‘straight’, a few of us are not.  But we all have very close friends or family members, both in the LGBT community and in the church, who are deeply affected by the way we chart forward.  This plurality doesn’t constrain us.  It makes us better at carefully nuancing what we say and do.  It makes us more respectful of the many perspectives held by Christians.  This respectfulness of our differences does not make us less decisive, but it does make us less divisiveWe hold personal beliefs on LGBT rights and sexual morality personally, not as an organization.  As such, some of us have opted to speak openly and publicly about our personal convictions on divisive issues.  Others of us have opted not to, either out of deference for people we love, or out of our own desire to have the same time and space to work through our own internal conflicts which we offer to all who enter our community.

Some Christians find that to vote (or voting at all) for LGBT rights (for instance, the right to marriage) would violate their spiritual and moral convictions.  In these cases, we promote and teach kindness, civility, and intellectual honesty, and we work to correct false stereotypes and both unintentional and intentional marginalizing treatment.  But, we do not seek to change people’s perspectives on the moral validity of same-sex relationships or sexual expression, or their voting choices on equality issues even though, we would argue, the two are perhaps best handled as mutually exclusive decisions.   C.S. Lewis himself, who clearly had a traditional perspective on sexuality and marriage, asserted:

The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question — how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community….My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members.”  (Mere Christianity, p. 112)

All of that being said, we leave room for this variety in our midst.  This is meant to be a safe space for us all.  We, as an organization, have found no convincing reason why Christians should not support the legal rights of LGBT people.  Christians supporting legal rights for LGBT folks (even, and perhaps especially, when they disagree on issues related to the morality of LGBT relationships) is one way to begin healing the relationship between the Church and the LGBT community.  In a similar manner, LGBT Christians supporting religious liberties (even, and perhaps especially, when they believe LGBT unions to be blessed of God) is one way to further this healing.   These are matters of the conscience however, so we encourage Christians to consider them carefully in prayer, as they work through the ramifications for themselves, their communities, and their fellow person.

We do not expect that all LGBT folks, nor all Christians for that matter, will support us or like this perspective or the work we are doing, but we hope that folks on all sides can work together with us on specific issues when there is agreement. We know we aren’t the organization for everyone, but we hope to make a safe space for people who think our message and work will provide an avenue for healing, reconciliation, and productive conversations and social action.  Our focus will continue to be on relationships (which of course means we welcome folks who disagree with us), and to that end we will dedicate our resources to finding faithful and effective ways to create opportunities for reconciliation between people who disagree on any of the numerous issues that surround the complicated issues of faith and sexuality. We believe that the only way we all experience freedom is when we learn to see God’s image stamped on each other’s lives, and when none of us feel a need to dominate the other.

Lastly, we know that our philosophy and mission is not the only one, or even perhaps the best one.  There are times when a loud and clear voice must be heard on these very important subjects.  We are thankful for organizations that do not chart the middle road, but who speak truth boldly from both LGBT advocacy organizations and from the church.  We applaud their efforts.  We need a variety of approaches to move reconciliation efforts forward.  But, we are also aware that our voice, the one in the middle, is the one that is most sorely missing and most desperately needed by a particular niche group of people.  There are few places for LGBT individuals and church communities snagged on tough issues to feel they can navigate safely and non-judgmentally with a mediator familiar with the many perspectives which can provide solid support, education, intervention, and communication assistance between the LGBT and conservative evangelical worlds.  We exist for those folks, those individuals, those families, those faith communities – the ones which advocacy organizations and conservative evangelical organizations alike are not able to help.  We want them to have what no other polarizing organization can offer – time, space, and the best information available to help them sort through all the complexities.

These conversations are tough, and we know many of us are upset after the controversy in the weeks past.  Please accept our apologies for anything that may have seemed flippant or uncaring in the midst of the discussions that occurred on Facebook and in other forums.  All of our board members work on LOVEboldly on a volunteer basis, and many of us do it as our second or third job, so we don’t always have the time to craft responses as quickly or fully as we’d like to on the fly.  We also apologize for the messages and comments we have not had the time to respond to.   We have been flooded with questions and haven’t been able to address them all as quickly as we’d like.  We ask for your patience and prayers.  We want to thank each of you who were willing to offer feedback and perspective that was fair and opened the discussion rather than closed it, and we invite you to continue that pattern as you comment below.

There were a few direct concerns and questions that were voiced recently that we want to address for everyone’s clarity.  For the sake of keeping this post as short as possible, we have addressed them on our FAQ page.  You can read the responses to the questions below by checking them out there.

  1. What does LOVEboldly think about reparative therapy or other sexual orientation change efforts?
  2. Does LOVEboldly solicit money from LGBT folks under false pretenses, or try to trick people into believing you champion LGBT rights?  Do you ask for money at Pride?
  3. Is LOVEboldly’s purpose to evangelize?
  4. Is LOVEboldly operating a bait-and-switch program, wherein you befriend LGBT people with the intent to change their orientations?
  5. Does LOVEboldly believe LGBT sexual orientations are sinful?  What about same-sex relationships?
  6. What is LOVEboldly’s policy regarding comments?  How does LOVEboldly monitor comments on the Facebook page or on the blog?

Finally, we want you all to know that today, several weeks after all of this heated debate, what we wish we could do is take communion with you all (at least, with those of you who would want to, and be willing to do such). You are all the beloved of Christ. It is much to our dismay if any desire to take a non-polarizing approach to these very important issues has communicated anything less than that to you.  In the absence of actual bread and wine, please accept this post as our offer of the body and blood of Christ to you, which we joyfully share with each of you, as we continue this very important conversation.  Much love to you all.

COMMENT POLICY:
At LOVEboldly we embrace controversy, dissenting opinions and even a good debate now and then. However, we also value civility, kindness, and respect. Therefore, please feel free to share your opinion, but keep it constructive, considerate, and civilized. If you choose to be rude we will delete your comment. Do so consistently and we will ban you. And yes, we do get to define the terms.