this week, i made an announcement and declared i’ll be devoting the next few posts throughout this week to helping others understand my journey toward my exciting new position at The Marin Foundation.
yesterday’s post highlighted why i’m so deeply grateful for my time at richwoods.
today’s post is about how the past three years at richwoods have prepared me for this new opportunity.
when i arrived in peoria, my goal was to re-enter and immerse myself into a faith community, which i hoped would result as a form of reference for a full time ministry position somewhere else. i had no intention of staying.
within a handful of weeks, it became increasingly apparent to me that i had found a home. not just in peoria (as great as it is, i’ve always missed chicago), but in the context of relationships with people who were deeply invested in my well being and spiritual growth. i found a place at the table – where in the midst of my mess, i was accepted, welcomed and affirmed.
deep friendships were forged, and trust was built. in transparency and honesty i began to sort through the pain of my past, and the anger i felt toward individuals and institutions in my history with patient and wise individuals.
‘anger is a secondary emotion. when you’re angry what’s really happening is you’re either hurt or afraid.’
we together processed through my fears and hurts, and began the long road to healing. simultaneously, i was given responsibility to shepherd a group of young adults (among other things) who were in the midst of their own questioning of the faith – working through doctrines like the inspiration of scripture, or wondering aloud if there was any room in the church of their youth for their gay friends.
this conversation grew – not just in our college group, but in the church at large. as the world of politics began to increasingly turn their attention toward the gay community, the evangelical church followed suit – often with damning results.
having pontificated about my own grapplings with the church’s position and having more than just a few gay friends caused me to be seen as some sort of ‘resident expert‘ on the gay community. while i never have sought out such a title, with increasing frequency i was having conversations about how the church needed to do a better job of welcoming and accepting people who were members of the gay community – and engaging in just as many conversations with other evangelical leaders who were doing the same.
the dialogue among our church leadership at richwoods, as well with other churches and organizations around the country, continued to stretch, inform, challenge, encourage and instill in me an ever-growing awareness of the importance of elevating the conversations between the gay and evangelical communities. as i had the opportunity to meet and talk with folks who were wrestling through similar thoughts, i realized that it was in my element in these conversations.
i have sat with friends from the LGBT community and listened to their own stories of being shunned by those who claim to follow jesus. as i sit with them in their pain, i hear from them the ways in which some well-intentioned christians have further deepened these wounds by using words, phrases and ideologies that are simply ill-informed. these well meaning christians at times unwittingly did more to undermine their experiences than to help, and further perpetuated decades of misinformation they’d been victim to. an unwillingness on both sides to engage in helpful dialogue only further complicated things.
‘the unity of diversity first starts with an identity found in commitment to solidarity with the Other.’
it all made sense. the story of my own heartache and the beauty of my present reconciliation and restoration had instilled in me an insistence that there is a place at the table for everyone. the past injustices i myself had faced caused something to stir in my own soul when others were pushed to the margins and treated as Other.
the church’s reputation as ‘uncompassionate culture warriors‘ as justin lee writes, has caused a distrust in the gay community of even well meaning christians who desire to love well.
the culture war is in full swing. the reality of the situation is that not every conservative person is going to change their mind and evolve into a more liberated position. not every liberal person is going to realign themselves with conservative traditions.
in order to move forward, we have to meet in the middle.
if we are ever to move past the the polarizing back-and-forth, win-lose || us-them || right-wrong || in-out rhetoric – and into elevating the conversation to a way that better reflects the jesus we claim to follow – we need to better learn to build bridges between opposing worldviews. partnering with andrew and The Marin Foundation provides me an opportunity to do just that – and to help influence others to do the same.
did you like this post? if so, click here and see how you can be a part of the journey!