Why I Chose Grace as a Gay Christian

The following post is by Suzanne Grossman, a journalism and religious studies student at Indiana University, interning with The Marin Foundation this summer. Suzanne also writes on all things culture at idsnews.com and you can follow her on Twitter @suzannepaige6

To all those Christians who identify as  LGBTQ, thank you for not giving up. Thank you for living out all facets of your identity despite the backlash you may get from polarized communities. Thank you for giving grace to those who don’t know what they do.

          From personal experiences as an out lesbian Christian who grew up Evangelical, I know how taxing this can be. Even today, its difficult for me to find  a community where I feel 100 percent safe. At my school there are great spaces for LGBTQ students, but I often feel isolated as a Christian because of peoples’ (completely justified) fear and distrust of my faith. There are also wonderful Christian ministries and groups, but sometimes being the “token queer person” gets lonely. That’s if they even let me in to begin with.

          I know I’m not alone in feeling these things. I have no idea why I haven’t given up and moved to a more affirming denomination or some easier path. But I feel God has a purpose for me being here. For some crazy reason, God has given me the strength to deal with all the Twitter debates, demoralizing blogs and attempts to discredit my faith day in and day out. I believe God wants me to be not only a bridge builder, but also the actual bridge.

          In my experience, the best way to do this is with grace. When I began college I instantly became involved in a youth ministry.  Knowing I wasn’t going to remain closeted, I met with the area director of the ministry to be honest about my sexuality. I also wanted to know my chances of being a youth leader and what the organization’s stance on the topic was. We had a long conversation and I found out if I was in a relationship or believed same-sex relationships could be blessed by God I wouldn’t be allowed to lead.

          Of course this crushed me even though I already saw it coming. I grew up in this ministry. I helped grow this ministry. I knew I was capable, yet I was kept out. The ministry that blossomed my faith was now giving it a few hard punches. I could’ve left and never looked back, but I didn’t.

          My love for what this ministry did for me and my growing love for the people involved in it drove me to stay in these relationships so we could all learn from each other. The director and I were able to have open conversations. Instead of getting angry and writing him off as ignorant and rude when he used terms such as the “gay lifestyle” I was able to explain why certain terms were hurtful and how to better love LGBTQ people.

          By the end of the year the director allowed me to speak at the weekly leader training gathering to 40+ leaders about how they can love LGBTQ kids better.

          We still don’t have the same theological perspectives, but the director read through and listened to my side, he opened it up to his leaders and we agreed it was important for LGBTQ kids to be loved and known.

          Coming away from this experience I also gained several close friendships with people who don’t agree with me. I’ve learned how this entire conversation is less about winning a debate and more about learning how to love people better.

          I continue to do this because I’ve seen benefits from conversations and relationships where both sides give grace and listen. Several friends have told me it totally changed how they think about gay people. One of the youth leaders got his kids to stop saying “that’s gay” as an insult. And finally, I know the gay Christians who had these conversations before me made it easier for me to enter into them today. Without them, who knows if I would’ve been as hopeful as I am. I might have given up on my faith entirely. I can only hope by continuing to live this way I can make life easier for LGBTQ people in the future.

 

That said, it’s also important to know your breaking point. At times in my life I’ve had to step away from relationships for my own emotional and spiritual health. My example is Jesus who died for those he disagreed with so it’s difficult to know when to take a break. Rest is needed. Living in spaces that consistently cause you to be depressed and doubt your self worth is unhealthy and not beneficial to anyone. For more info on this subject check out Jason’s blog here:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2014/01/cutting-ties/

About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • http://www.exclusivechurch.com/ Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente

    Hey, don’t thank us for not giving up, loads of us are baptising your kids, teaching them, blessing your marriages, celebrating communion you lot (with great, great pleasure)… and all that, just don’t bag us all up in the same hurt bag, and just accept us, no need to demonstrate, no need to have a ministry to us (sorry if this sounds mean), just worship along us, just cone along, even if the priest/mnister is gay.

  • http://coagec.wordpress.com/ coagec

    It’s a wonderful testimony of grace to be able to love and work with those you disagree with. As a gay evangelical Christian who adheres to the orthodox teachings regarding sexuality, there are still many times when seemingly well meaning Christians just don’t understand and say hurtful things about homosexuals. I just started a blog called Confessions of a Gay Evangelical Christian coagec.wordpress.com to shed light on what it’s really like.

  • Rachel Sargent

    LOVE your post, your perspective, and your persistence to be that bridge God has called you to be! You will make an amazing impact on the kids in your life who need to know the REAL love of Christ at an early age, so that that foundation is strong for them before they get the unfortunate opportunity of growing up and dealing with “adults” who know it all, haha. Blessings to you!

  • BB

    Suzanne, this is so beautiful and grace-filled, What an amazing young woman you are! After my own son came out, I began the work that brought me full circle with my own feelings concerning this issue. Dialogue like this, will begin to open doors slowly, but surely. Please keep up the writing–you do it so well!

  • SurvivorGirl

    I would be so very proud to be your mom right about now. :) Thank you for the crucial reminder that we are always to strive for authentic relationships with others, even with those with whom we disagree. Jesus is our point of agreement, no matter what!

  • Dana Smith

    I’m so proud of you! The maturity and grace you extend is beyond my comprehension. It is because of people like you that we can bring people around to having conversations about homosexuality. Since I believe most people who condemn homosexuality don’t actually know any gay people who they can learn from, you are setting a shining example of what a Christian should look like and you’re gay! What a perfect, perfect combination. By being so filled with grace, you are leading people to listen, and by listening, hopefully they will finally understand that being gay is not a choice. Thank you, Suzanne, for shining a bright light down a very dark path.

  • onemansview

    Thank you for sharing this story, I feel I can relate very well to your struggle as well.


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