5 Keys to Faith & Sexuality Dialogues

FullSizeRender_1Several years ago, I began to wonder if the strategies LOVEboldly was employing for hosting dialogue between LGBTQ folks and conservative Christians might work in other contexts too?  I joined a listserv and, before I knew it, had met five strangers who agreed that the LOVEboldly approach, and others hosting sexuality and faith dialogues around the country, could be used as a model for connecting people on all topics across our most sacred divides.  After all, if we could succeed in hosting productive dialogues on sex and faith, what barriers couldn’t we scale together? Together, the six of us presented at the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation in October 2015.

One year later, our team has reunited to join the estimated 10,000 folks who have gathered from across the globe to attend the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City.  I’m tickled pink to be in their company again, and to have the opportunity to take LOVEboldly’s work to new audiences.

The six of us represent our own sort of diversity. Our group includes a Mormon, a humanist, an ersatz monk, a progressive evangelical Christian, a Unitarian Universalist, and a Marxist Christian. We are straight, gay and lesbian, female, male and genderfluid.  Over the past year and a half since we all first met over email, we have exchanged hundreds of emails discussing faith and sexuality.  Together, we agreed to each present the “one key thing” we want people to know about dialogues on sacred topics (such as faith and sexuality) in under three minutes.

Now, if you didn’t know, I am verbose.  Distilling eight years worth of work into three minutes provides no room for nuance, examples, story-telling, explanation, or practical ‘boots on the ground’ advice and it really has felt like torture to whittle it down.  Just three minutes.  Just one thing.

Well, I threw a little fit.  And then I rebelled.  So, what I offer you here is, yes, three minutes of material, but five keys I’ve discovered to faith and sexuality dialogues.  Now, after an introduction that nearly surpasses the length of the actual content of what I will offer, here it is in all of its succinct glory.

  1. We often approach sacred conversations for the wrong reason. Listening to, learning from, and serving those with whom we disagree must be our primary goal – even if it sometimes results in our own marginalization. Some might disagree with me, but I think we must enter dialogue not to transform others, but to be open to our own transformation. 
  2. We often approach sacred conversations in the wrong order.  The culturally dominant position, if there is one, must start with being a student rather than a teacher, a servant rather than a leader. We must earn the right to be heard before we speak.  To be a force for healing, we must be willing to apologize, both in word and in action for ways we have individually and communally wronged one another.  
  3. Dialogue can’t work when you’re too triggered.  Dialogue can be destructive for those who are dealing with open wounds from recent or very personal marginalization. It is not helpful for the abused to dialogue with the abuser. A certain level of healing must be attended to before re-engaging ideologies that hurt.
  4. Sacred convictions should not be checked at the door. Once rapport is built and we’ve earned the right to speak, we must share openly and completely honestly with one another.  We cannot lie to each other.  We must honor one another with the truth and accept the truth from one another – even when it hurts.
  5. There is hope. Even across sacred divides, dialogue can and does work. Sacred beliefs need not be sacrificed for the sake of harmony. To the contrary, sacred belief can be the very facilitator of true peace. Dialoguing with honesty and kindness makes us more like the kind of people God means for us to be.  It makes the world more like God means for it to be.  So don’t ever give up on it.

We are so grateful to all who attended and shared their wonderful insights with us at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. For resources pertaining to our presentation, click the links below:

Meet LOVEboldly’s Pastoral Care Director

Hello! My name is Christy Wade, and I am the Pastoral Care Director at LOVEboldly. I just want to take some time to introduce myself and tell you what I do.christy

My official job description is:

The Pastoral Care Director is responsible for providing emotional support and spiritual care to those seeking help and/or services from LOVEboldly, as well as for the LOVEboldly leaders, through healing, reconciling, guiding, and sustaining.  This includes, but is not limited to, prayer support, spiritual formation, discipleship, mediation services, outreach, preaching, teaching, and creating resources.

Essentially, I am here for you!

I’m here to help you:

  • as you journey through the process of reconciling faith and sexual orientation
  • process thoughts and feelings when a friend/family member comes out as LGBTQ
  • find resources (counseling, support groups, etc.) in your specific geographic location
  • grow in your faith journey by providing discipleship and spiritual formation opportunities
  • by praying for you and your needs

If you ever need to connect with me or would like me to pray for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me at: christy.loveboldly@gmail.com

 

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.

Rocky Reconciliation

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Sally Evans.  Sally is currently on a journey of reconciliation in Louisville, Kentucky where she works in prevention education at the University of Louisville. She also dabbles in voice over work, writing, music, and calligraphy. She can be reached at sevansix@gmail.com.  Sally finds the natural world a continual source of inspiration and grace, and here she shares reflections on how Lent and Easter can be helpful reflections on reconciliation, as we turn towards Holy Week.

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While at Natural Bridge State Park recently, I paused at the base of the stone bridge where tall slabs of rock closed in on both sides of the trail, leaving only a slender path. I stood there, with immovable rock rising on either side, and thought about what it was like to move through the world flanked with the identities of gay and Christian.

Many of us can relate to the ongoing shimmy between conflicting dualities, bracing ourselves between God and church, partner and family, Republican and Democrat, true self and Facebook self. This agonizing schism began for me several years ago when, as a spunky youth pastor in a small congregation, I wrestled with this confusing ‘connection’ with the same sex, resulting in a life altering realization that gay and Christian could not coexist. This led to years of jumping from one “side” to the other, the tension between these worlds intimidating. For a long time I ran from exploring this tension out of fear, settling in on one wall or the other. Either I was tucked away at a Bible College in my knee length skirt surrounded by ‘answers’ or I was immersed in the local LGBT Center coming out group of acceptance and unflinching tolerance. Either I was in an ex-gay community or I was the ‘out’ hall director at the state college. Either I was white-knuckling no contact with my girlfriend or we were living together. Author Sue Monk Kidd describes the result of this pattern in When The Heart Waits, saying,

“Before long we have an entire hidden orphanage inside of us—a group of lost and alienated parts that we’ve banished.”

How long can we ignore these voices? These parts of ourselves that ache to be reconciled? Eventually a perilous and often cynical gap can grow between our faith and sexuality.  In addition to our personal discord, the divisive nature of this issue in the world around us is inescapable.  Almost daily the media informs us of protests between Christian groups and the gay community, policies passed then appealed, victories for one side that are losses for the other. Depending on the news source we may hear of the same bill described as anti-gay or as a religious freedom bill, and friends post passionate links to reinforce their position.

And there we stand, voices rising on either side of the path.

The season of Lent is traditionally a time for repentance and reflection on matters such as these, for embracing the dissonance between who we are and who we are called to be, what to let go of and what to grow into, even the natural world is in a seasonal limbo between winter and spring. It is another divine invitation to go beyond where we are. What if this holy dark was an essential part of growth? What if this cocoon could transform these broken places into freedom and beauty? If we let it, I believe this suffering can work to ‘easter’ in us a new experience of expanded life and love.

And isn’t Easter all about reconciling opposite worlds? The act of Christ’s death was designed to bring together God and humankind, heaven and earth, Jew and Gentile, sinful self with our true image of God. God’s desire is for us is to move toward wholeness and healing, ultimately uniting those parts of us that live in this tension. Ephesians 2: 14-17 (NRSV) reminds us,

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,  and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”

I believe all this, yet it is so hard to sit with the questions. Sometimes I cannot see much change. I am not sure what exactly to hope for. It still feels like the middle of winter.

As you continue on this journey of Lent, I challenge you to wait in the darkness where these tensions live, try to reconnect with those lost parts or yourself, and be open to the life and reconciliation that only a resurrected God can give. As spring unfolds around you this season, take heart in the transformation of earth and trees, even if all you can manage is a broken hallelujah at the moment. Jesus too was closed in by immovable rock, a waiting room of darkness. I take heart that he did not stay in that place. I take heart that his transformation was not due to his own tireless efforts. I take heart that he emerged.

And so will we.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~WHAT ABOUT YOU?~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 What increases your hope in the ‘between a rock and a hard place’ moments?

*This post is co-published at the Heidi’s Patheos blog, Questianity.