A lesbian and a fundamentalist walk into a bar

A lesbian and a fundamentalist walk into a bar July 13, 2013

Ok, so it was really a Starbucks in a little strip-mall out in the northern suburbs of Atlanta but you have to admit “A lesbian and a conservative minister walk into a suburban Starbucks” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.


As some of you know, last week I wrote an open letter to Billy Humphrey of IHOP-Atlanta (NOT the pancakes place y’all, and yeah, I think it is a silly name for a ministry too). I was writing in reply to one of his six recent posts about homosexuality and gay marriage. After reading (maybe…) my open letter, Billy responded in public that he had no interest in or time to get into an online debate with me. To which I responded that I found it frustratingly convenient and dismissive since he had taken plenty of time to write multiple posts about homosexuals but now, all of sudden, he was too busy to respond to a critique of his missives. So, Billy reached out to me privately on Facebook to reiterate he was a very busy man but that he would be open to a coffee sometime if I’d like to discus things with him personally. I reiterated that I found his original response frustratingly dismissive but that yes, I would like to have coffee with him. As we narrowed down a time and place I also told him that I did not feel safe meeting with him…

On Friday, July 12, after dropping off our youngest at Shakespeare camp, I jumped into the madness of Atlanta’s morning traffic and headed out to the ‘burbs to meet him at the Starbucks he recommended.

We talked for nearly 3 hours and I am still processing all that we shared. I left that meeting depleted, sad, convicted, resolute and faithful.

Here’s a basic brain-dump of what I took away from our meeting.

This is hard, hard work and we both agree that there are no easy answers.

Billy is charismatic. He makes direct eye contact and he is prone to fist bumps and high fives.

Billy’s ministry is doing some good things in the world such as engaging the devastating human trafficking industry and establishing an adoption agency as a way of living into his faith that in order to “stop abortion” there must be loving, affordable options. (I did not ask, but after our conversation am certain that my family would not be allowed to adopt from his agency).

Billy seems genuinely sorry for the horrific abuse LGBT folks have suffered at the hands of Christians.

Billy wants me to know that he “does not hate me.”  He “does not hate homosexuals.”

Billy is secure in his belief that homosexuality is a sin and that to love people who identify as homosexual he is called as part of his ministry to help gay people “out of the gay life.”

Billy believes fully in the validity of ex-gay ministry. He believes that the testimony of one “ex-gay” should stand as a guidepost for all gay people.

I believe that ex-gay ministry is a dangerous, deadly lie banked on the testimony of people who have been psychology manipulated who could be anywhere on the sexuality spectrum.

Billy and I read the bible VERY differently.

We each believe that the other is reading it wrong. In fact we can hardly believe we are reading the same book.

We understand the role of religion in public policy very differently, but admittedly in a few similar ways…

Billy believes that one understanding of God’s will (which is codified for all time in the Bible, and only the Bible as it is currently configured,  to be understood literally, factually – unless of course we have to talk about all 600 plus laws found through the cannon)  DOES in fact have the right to determine the laws of the United States.

To be honest, I too am praying and working for a Gospel infused government – only my understanding of that has nothing to do with people’s bedrooms and has everything to do with feeding the hungry, uplifting the poor, clothing the naked and seeking justice that rolls down like water for the accused and imprisoned.

Since I am queer AND a Christian Universalist, Billy does not regard me as an actual Christian.

Since he is a conservative, biblical literalist, I do not regard him as living into the example (and according to the exhortations) of Christ.

By the end of the conversation he made a deeply painful truth abundantly clear. According to his understanding of scripture, his family is real, mine is not; his family is valid, mine is not. Appeals to his empathy through imploring him to imagine different scenarios where his family was broken apart by people who did not regard his family as real seemed to fall on a deaf heart. His expectations for someone like me to “leave the gay life” (yeah, I told him) means that I would have to break up a family and rob children of their parents. See above note about the validity of my family.

Our understandings of sin, righteousness and Kingdom building are irreconcilable.

He believes in order to be true to God he must be “a bad guy” to me.  I told him that I believe he is being “the bad guy” to both me and God.

And from this conversation I am called to claim something about myself and my motives. As a bridge builder I have to be honest and say that I am building bridges with the hopes of people like Billy crossing over to my side – just as people like Billy hope that I will cross over to their side.

Saddest of all, we both agreed that there is little to be said between us moving forward.  It was clear to us both that we are confident in our own position, our own understanding of how we are called to respond to God. We are each secure in our faith. Billy says he loves me, but that love calls him to require that renounce the way my creator has created me (which I believe would be a sin to do), to break up my family and live a dark and painful half-life. My love for Billy yearns for his heart and mind to be opened in ways that he truly believes is evil.

This is true and real: there really is no way to stand in the gap with one another if each is pulling in an opposite direction where each is certain damnation awaits us the other side.

As heartbreaking as this is, I want to claim for myself and proclaim for others something in no uncertain terms. We as progressives tend to bend over backward to affirm all paths as equal. But to be raw and honest, I believe there is a capital T truth and I do not believe it is on the path that Billy currently is following. The true north of Scripture is Love, a love that is active with in-breaking Grace, a love that liberates us from the small minds and wills of men to live into the Spirit of freedom and justice for all. If I really, really believe this, then I can not claim that Billy’s truth is True any more than he can acknowledge my truth to be True.



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753 responses to “A lesbian and a fundamentalist walk into a bar”

  1. I’d love to put my voice into this conversation. As a gay minister who grew up Pentecostal and now works for the UCC I am not only a bridge builder out in the world but even within myself. I’d feel honored if you checked out my blog (www.secretseminary.blogspot.com) to read more about what that looks like but also just wanted to commend you for the work you are doing!


  2. “This is hard, hard work and we both agree that there are no easy answers.”

    You do realise that you could just drop the subject and accept people as they are. You don’t have to mention sexuality when preaching “Do unto others…”

    • “You do realise that you could just drop the subject and accept people as they are. ”

      That doesn’t work when someone is standing outside your door, or your friends’ doors, your neighbor’s doors, preaching that he hates you and your family, and that you’re not really human– as hate activists do– “dropping the subject” just encourages them to do it more.

  3. Kim you hit the nail on the head at the end of your post, “the true
    north of scripture is love“. Great post that I will share and keep doing the wonderful work that your doing!

  4. Hi Kimberly,
    Thank you so much for 1) showing up bravely and having this conversation and 2) sharing it with us.

    Re: bridge building. The folks at the Marin Foundation would say it’s not OK to demand conformity with your perspective. I profoundly disagree (and have told them so).

    As your conversation illustrates, there is hurt and harm happening in the name of Christ. That damage flows from a toxic theology that demands the marginalization of people who are gay. We have a moral obligation to end the harm.

    If the Church is serious about loving people who are gay better, must change our theology. We must find a way to believe differently. That is a just, reasonable, and realistic demand.

    All my best to you.

    • Thank you Ford, your words are wise but as we know this approach is tricky, especially for progressives. I am at a place in my life and theology where I believe we must stand firm where we stand, call a lie a lie and reject as blasphemy the version of Christianity that has come to dominate the American landscape.

  5. And anyone navigating the center of Christianity is a bad guy to both of you. Sorry, I refuse to be assimilated by ideologues of any kind. My faith is in Christ alone. While I believe you both get to the New Heavens and New Earth, for now — a pox on both your houses.

    • I am sorry to say that it sounds like you are living your faith for yourself in the safety of privilege (or fear). I am not speaking from an ideologue, I am speaking as a child of God, liberated through Christ who is clear that the version of Christianity that the Billy’s of the world are representing is counter to the example set by The Incarnation.

      If we see oppression and injustice and do nothing then we consent to the evil. Those who are in the middle who do not speak up are complicit with the ones who spew hate in the name of Christ.

      “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  6. Billy and I read the bible VERY differently.We each believe that the other is reading it wrong. In fact we can hardly believe we are reading the same book.”

    That phenomenon has always fascinated me. Words just don’t mean the same things to different people. We don’t emphasize the same things, we understand basic concepts differently, and we don’t even use the same dictionary.

    However, if history is any guide, (and I think it is,) you are on the right side of it, and Mr. Humphrey isn’t. I have read his, and other arguments. I have also read the arguments of southern supporters of segregation. They were sincere. They genuinely believed that “the mixing of the races” was a great evil. They thought they they were protecting something sacred, something divinely inspired. They were wrong. Most of them know it now.

    Mr. Humphrey is wrong. (I guess I’m not truly progressive. I’m willing to say it. He’s wrong.) He may figure it out someday. You may have planted a seed that will take root and grow. Or not. The willingness to put aside literalism, legalism and the desire to dominate to truly seek out the divine power of love has to come from him. Some of us never get there.

    I hope you know that history, compassion, love and honor are on your side. With compatriots like that, I think you can take heart.

  7. “The true north of Scripture is Love, a love that is active with
    in-breaking Grace, a love that liberates us from the small minds and
    wills of men to live into the Spirit of freedom and justice for all.” yes, and YES! thank you for this.

  8. I applaud you. Not only did you engage him in a debate, but it was also face to face! I just went back to the open letter and read every single word. Your points are as clear and as well-reasoned as anything I have ever read, and still they will never change the mind of any Billy. In my experience no one has ever changed their mind about homosexuality in the course of a biblical debate. As far as I know, no one has ever gone to a Pride parade or picketed the Supreme Court and said, “That’s interesting. I guess I was wrong.” From where I sit, the only thing that changes someone’s mind about homosexuality is when someone they know and care about, a person they respect as a person of character, someone who is an important figure in their life happens to come out as gay, and they are faced with rejecting that person (and some do!) or changing their mind. This seems to be what is at work in the encouraging societal shifts we’re seeing. As for Billy and others like him, it will only happen when a child, a sibling, or a dear friend of his comes out. That’s when he’ll have a choice to make. Anything short of that and the “biblically bigoted” rhetoric will always win. It’s afraid not to.

    • Thank you David, and you are right, clever arguments are never going to change anyone’s heart. Hopefully he and I will have a chance to connect again in the future and a real relationship can begin to develop.

  9. I am very sorry you had to meet like that. I’ve been through more than my share of such conversations with conservative church leaders. They are tense and perhaps even psychologically damaging. It took a lot of courage to do what you did.

  10. Kudos to you Kimberely! I didn’t realize it was going to be such a
    rough discussion. I agree with a lot of what jrieves said. The world
    needs more activities like this, sitting down with one’s religious or
    political opposite and trying to spend even a small amount of time
    together to see (if possible) for a second through the other’s
    viewpoint. With such polar opposites, I wouldn’t expect either of you to
    change necessarily. But perhaps, for example, Billy might just be
    slightly more compassionate towards LGBT people (even if beliefs haven’t
    changed at all). And perhaps the same might be true for you too.

    I want to say also that (though I’ve never met you personally) I view
    your family as being just as real as Billy’s with the same emotions of
    love and connectedness and bonding. I don’t think its different than his
    (or mine). And having been involved in foster care and adoption, I
    certainly think many children in this country would be much better off
    being cared for or adopted by the average gay/lesbian couple than to
    continue to shuffle through the foster system without a family.

  11. Kim, you are a sweet person, but honestly, I think you were insane to meet this Billy character. He’s not about love, or being Christian, or even religion. He’s about power. He is a neo-fascist demagogue, and he is just using the Bible as a political tool to accumulate power over people. He’s actually quite a dangerous man. You will never reach him, because he is truly evil, his heart is a black lump of coal. You may reach some of his followers, and that is worth pursuing, because the only way that evil can be defeated on this earth is for people to be enlightened, to understand its consequences.

    It really wasn’t worth 3 hours of your time to meet a petty tyrant, with Hitleresque delusions of being anointed by God with absolute power. God will reward him appropriately in the next life for the hatred, fear, and bigotry that he is spreading in this life.

    • Basil,

      I appreciate where you are coming from but I still feel like those 3 hours were worth my time if there is any chance at all that Billy or anyone else like him could possibly see my humanity that does not look as different from his as he previously believed. I still believe it was worth my time for him to look in my eyes and see my faithful conviction and sincere pain as people like him continue to try strip me of my humanity. I also think it was important for me to look into his eyes and recognize that I do not believe he is evil or the host of a black heart, simply pursuing his willful ignorance with misguided passion that he truly has convinced himself is loving.


  12. You know, you did something here that we progressives don’t do enough of: sit and down and have a real conversation with the people we disagree with on so many things. I know it wasn’t easy; I did it for quite a few years before I retired from the FD and I know how draining a conversation like that can be. I think two things happened as a result of this little coffee klatch. First, as Roger said, Billy got to see a big ol’, real, live lesbian and found out that she has many of the same concerns as he does. He may have seen it before, but seeing it again can’t hurt. The second is that you got to see a big, bad evangelical who’s said some rough things about you and found out that he isn’t all that different from you either. Oh, you may read the Bible differently, hold some diametrically opposed positions about the faith and believe each other is dead wrong, but you both put your pants on one leg at a time (even though he may think you shouldn’t be wearing clothes that pertaineth unto a man). In the end, despite our differences, despite how much “those people” piss us off, they’re still our brothers and sisters. And, if we’re going to do this Christian thing, we really don’t have any choice but to love them. Just the way they are.

    • Agreed J – more actual conversations together rather than talking about one another. I do believe a small bridge might be built but I am also clear that I stand where I stand and that it is as important for me to say what I believe is right and wrong as he feels it is for him to do the same. That is what makes me the saddest, our mutual conviction that there is a vast difference that may never be crossed. And for me, as you know, about some things I simply can not agree to disagree.

      • When it comes to matters of your humanity, you shouldn’t. Eventually, beliefs like Billy’s will be as far out of the mainstream as the overtly racist ones we both remember growing up, along with the institutional discrimination you have to put up with every day. Until then, we just have to keep plugging away. It kinda sucks, but that’s life, isn’t it?

      • (I just got here from Slacktivist.)

        One might think that “agreeing to disagree” _means_ acknowledging that there is a vast difference that may never be crossed. But more often it means “agreeing to change the subject” or “agreeing to shut up.”

        The ideologues (especially the professional ideologues) aren’t likely to change their minds, although from time to time one does. But many more people are capable of (1) being surprised and (2) learning from the fact that it is even possible to believe what you believe, and not to back down. So, you did a mitzvah — not that you should burn yourself out doing this all the time!

        Have you ever read Donna Minkowitz’s account of her visit to Focus on the Family?

      • I believe in love and I believe in Christ Jesus. I do not get to cast any stones, as I am far from sinless. As in all evangelizing, you must believe in the power of the seed you have planted. I think that is the problem nowadays, we feel it is up to us to change people’s minds. I have never believed that (probably why I’m a plain united Methodist and not evangelical). You don’t know how that seed you planted will be treated, but it’s there. And someone else Billy comes in contact with may plant a similar seed, and so on. A door has been opened. Since we all have the right to our own opinion, I can agree to disagree…mostly because it is not my job to change anyone’s mind, that is up to God. Agreeing to disagree is not a concession to another’s point, it is letting something lay, because here and now, it won’t be “solved”. If we would all remember that each of us is human, a product of our upbringing and circumstances, and love each other fiercely anyway….ah, the world would be a better place.

        • Very well said Christina. It really is only through relationship (and never through clever arguments) that people’s hearts and minds are opened to more loving possibilities.

          But sometimes agreeing to disagree, just letting something lay, is no longer possible when one’s very life is the “idea” about which people disagree. I simply can not agree to disagree with Billy about whether or not my family is good and right. I can not agree to disagree about an essential element of my humanity. I can not agree to disagree about my civil rights, unless of course he is content to allow me to have them and agree to disagree…

  13. Kimberly,

    I always feel humbled when I read your blog. You are so open and vulnerable and honest as you “stumble towards grace and lurch towards love; it is how I would like to be living my life. How brave you are.

    I, too, think there is Truth (capital T), but I don’t think any of us will know it on this side of life. Part of that means never, ever condemning anyone to damnation. Jesus is the only one with that power, and I’m awfully glad that’s the case.

    • Agreed, and I absolutely do not condemn anyone, anywhere to damnation but can be clear that as long as a person’s intentions and efforts are to prevent me from living fully into the life I have been create to live, or deny me civil rights, that is not love and that is not truth.

      • Kimberly, I have never read or heard of an instance of a gay person condemning a heterosexual to damnation. Yet the reverse is common. It is to that which I object.

  14. Kimberly I had to admit first of all that I see more eye to eye with Billy on this than I do with your position. However, the one part I think Billy gets wrong in all that you captured of your conversation (assuming you relayed it accurately, and I have no reason to assume otherwise) is that I do think evangelicals need to concern themselves with real human emotions in a much more real way than they often do. For instance, from the safe distance of doctrinal standpoints, Billy does not seem to understand that even though he (and I) would view the formation of your family as having been done apart from Christian orthodoxy, that I would also assume that everyone in your family is as deeply bonded and invested in those family relationships at this point as everyone in Billy’s family is deeply bonded and invested in those family relationships (heck, maybe even moreso as heterosexuals don’t exactly have a great track record at staying together in the longterm.) The realities of the blood and guts reality of the bonding you share with your partner and children should not be something that I, Billy, or anyone else can easily brush aside or call illegitimate or be callous towards – your love is real, and real, and real. What else can be said there? To say anything else without that reality being really grasped is certainly to proceed in a fashion that cannot hardly be anything but diabolical.

    That said, I do want to bring up a point of disagreement with your end, Kimberly – how can you so confidently state that people who have through whatever journey decided they are now “ex gay” must only be deceiving themselves? I know many such people, and while I can understand the reaction of not wanting to make their story somehow a template for your life, it is not as if to say that say, out of 100 people, 5 people have experienced “being gay” and then “becoming heterosexual” should necessarily be looked at as defining what the other 95 will or should experience – but let the 5 have their own story, without seeing it as a threat to yourself. It’s their story. It could be every bit as legitimate and real as your story. It might one day become your story, and it might never be your story, nor might you want it to be true, because of the risk you feel it presents to your story. But what if it is true? Can you engage with that amount of diversity in the LGBT world? Or do you have to stomp it out?

    Thanks for letting me comment. 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment – it seems such an honest and faithful series of challenges and questions.

      I appreciate your challenge to the evangelical set to connect more deeply with the human stories of families like mine.

      Here is why i am concerned about ex-gay testimony, and this is what I told Billy. As we currently understand sexuality, there is not an either or proposition. There is a a sliding scale of sexuality from rigidly straight to flaming from birth queer (I encourage you to explore Kinsey). So, for example, a person who may be bisexual, who has been told from birth that a homosexual relationship is out of the question, will desire to be cured of that as if it is an affliction rather than accept they can find covenantal happiness with a person of the same gender. So with all the pressure to conform to a certain world view they will “be cured” and live into the side of their bisexuality that craves the love and affection from an opposite gender partner.

      What I was hearing, and hear every day, from people like Billy, is that Christian, covenantal same sex relationships are not permissible. This is where the notion of Ex Gay “ministry” to be is deplorable. For those folks who are all the way on the big old queer end of the spectrum, he is saying that celibacy or hell. That is not true, that is not love and that is not ok. And for me, that is not a litmus for all queer people.

      • Kimberly,
        I appreciate your reply and I have read Kinsey, but have never thought about Kinsey in relationship to what people who are “ex-gay” might be experiencing. You certainly have put forth a tenable hypothesis there, one that has me thinking further on the issue. The question then remains if having encouraged people who are able to enjoy being heterosexual to do so is somehow negative and destructive to them, or if it is in fact helpful for their life.
        Of course the biggest part for you in this is highlighted in your closing paragraph, that anyone who believes that same-sex covenants are not morally acceptable is not loving. However, people who are loving people may come to moral positions through a whole set of factors that have nothing to do with how loving they are. Fundamentalism is not something that happens “to” people who are only mean horrific monsters, it happens to people who have been inculcated with a belief that this or that belief *needs* to be accepted as truth whether they *like* that belief or not. They accept their morality as coming from without, not as coming from within – and are always living in the tension of not allowing their own feelings to dictate to them what their understanding of morality is to be. This is why people often say things like “love the sinner, hate the sin” because it reflects their own inward conflict between the morality they believe they MUST affirm as truth and their desire to in fact be loving, compassionate people.

        • I have a few thoughts on regarding your comments and questions.

          First – I disagree with the notion behind the impulse to encourage folks to enjoy the heterosexual life if they can. This still sets up that as the Christian path and homosexuality as the evil to be avoided. I can not assent to this proposition. Why not encourage them to find the love of their life, the soul mate with whom they can build a fulfilling and faithful life regardless of gender?

          Second – My deep and justified (and verified) concern over ex-gay “ministry” is that it sets up potentially bisexual paths of “change” to heterosexual as normative for all gay people. This is a lie – a dangerous and deadly lie. My life is not normative for all people, all queer people, all women,all mothers, all Christians or all lesbians. One person’s “change” should not be held up as an example that is could or should be possible for anyone other than that one person (and I deeply question whether it “should” be for even that person).

          I agree with you completely that some (perhaps MANY) people who rely on the “love the sinner, hate the sin” meme are actually doing so out of a loving place as they search to be compassionate and understand new ideas and people. What concerns me is manifold but here are two: 1. leaders who should know better are banking on good and faithful people parroting what they are being told. 2. good and faithful people need to read, pray, work and think for themselves and that is a very scary request for some, I get that. But there is enough information from Christian allies, theologians, sociologists, doctors and psychologists to help people move beyond what is being imposed from without. And the moment that journey often begins is when someone they love deeply comes out to them. In the meantime I hope people will take the time to get to know Christians like me who is here to walk on the journey with them.


          • Once again, I appreciate your replies K. My question then is: just because someone has certain sexual preferences, does that give them an intrinsic right to practice those preferences as a lifestyle? Scientists are now beginning to view paedophilia as an innate sexual preference, every bit as wired into someone as homosexual preferences are. (DISCLAIMER: I am in no way whosoever suggesting that gays or lesbians are pedophiles, or have any more inclination towards pedophilia than the hetereosexual population; only that, the same arguments that say someone is “born” with this or that sexual preference apply to pedophilia as well.)
            Society has long believed that all sexual desire is governed by an overarching moral compass which says what can or should or should not be allowable and pursued. Our current moral compass has shifted to one that says it is immoral or unloving to deny someone pleasure if their sexuality is not hurting anyone. It’s a rational viewpoint, but it is still a new moral viewpoint, and opens up a lot of questions – for instance, when we watch people in the middle east marrying off 6 year olds to old men, and they claim it is actually in the best interest of the 6 year old, it is simply one chosen morality challenging another chosen morality.

            • Because you are comparing homosexuality with pedophila here you are no longer welcome at this table.

              If in your heart and mind you truly do not understand the difference between consensual, adult relationships that can be uplifting, life giving & loving and predatorial behavior that robs one non-consenting individual of their humanity then there is no reason for our conversation to continue.

              • Um, Kimberly, he was very careful not to compare pedophilia to homosexuality, and went out of his way to insert a disclaimer stating that he didn’t see them as the same thing, but was simply noting that claims that “x is scientifically shown to” does not necessarily enable something to fit cleanly into our cultural matrix.

                I think he’s asking good questions that, unfortunately, tend to devolve into people yelling at each other about content rather than dealing with the practicalities at hand.

                The general argument currently is “sex should be a consensual act between two adults”, devoid of whether it’s homosexual or heterosexual.

                But there are plenty of (mostly males) getting on the sex offender list right now because they hit 18 before the girl they were dating, and are now accused of statutory rape.

                We’ve said that you don’t have the ability to determine whether you should be having sex before you’re 18, but we know that kids are currently having sex (and getting pregnant) as young as 12 or 13. So kids are making those decisions for themselves, devoid of what the law says.

                On the other hand (this is rambling, I apologize, but it’s a broad topic) we have a multitude of issues in the U.S. (and elsewhere) with people (mostly women) being in abusive relationships that are far closer to rape than anything else who are unwilling to speak to the authorities about that, and there is an assumption that capping the age of consent at 18 acts against that happening to kids, when in fact it mostly just sends older boyfriends to jail.

                I think that generation4Him’s point would be closer to the idea that the models we’re using for why something is right or not, at least in our current arguments, are extremely flawed and problematic, as they only carry so far. Our society doesn’t really allow for us to deal with age of consent issues on a case by case basis, and we live globally with nations like Afganistan where all women are considered unclean, and the ideal lover is a 7 year old boy.

                When we try to make broad, sweeping statements about what is or what isn’t, we mostly just trip on ourselves.

                No, gay marriage isn’t anything like pedophilia. At all.

                But the argument for why or why not is exactly the same as why or why not for pedophilia. We need to change the argument, and the conversation, or it’s just going to keep ending in anger and people banning each other.

                Which means that sometimes, as a bridge builder, all that you can do is maintain your half of the bridge, and maybe prepare for the next generation, and practice patience, because, maybe, the conversation isn’t going to happen now. Maybe it will only really happen with your kids, or your kids’ kids.

        • Generation, you make Fundamentalism sound like brainwashing. Now, as someone outside the whole Christian meme, I might say that, but did you mean to?

          • No, I don’t think fundamentalism is brainwashing per se, (and although it is a particular mental construct. (It should be noted that there are various flavors of fundamentalism, not all of them being the same, and not all of evangelicalism is fundamentalism either.) But my overall point was that people don’t choose a set of beliefs because they LIKE every aspect of that belief system. They choose a set of beliefs because they believe in the underlying tenets of that belief system, and at that point, they feel constrained to uphold all of the aspects of the belief system whether they like all of them or not.

            • I do not think people actually think about it that deeply, may are either born into and parrot what they have been told to say, do they are told to do and believe what they have been told to believe.

              Or they are drawn to a lifestyle, the fundamentalist lifestyle, that lies to them and tells them that there are easy answers to life and they are all found in a book written by a small set of men in and for a particular culture with specific cultural filters over their hearts and then later reinterpreted by men with particular agendas. These lies make life seem easier because they are required to think less for themselves and they are affirms in hating who they want to hate.

            • If your “religious” “beliefs” are making your miserable, you are doing it wrong. Jesus said: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.

    • I really, really like about the last half of your first paragraph. I have reason to suspect that at least one member of my family equates “gay” with “pedophile” (at least in the case of gay men). So your view is like a breath of fresh air to me, in a limited sense.

      I appreciate hearing something I don’t often hear from people with your perspective theologically/morally: that people who are gay have real relationships. Thank you for posting.

  15. Kimberly, I appreciate the extreme graciousness you have and continue to show to Billy. He is indeed absolutely welcome to his own beliefs and ideals and, whether I like them or not, I am still bound to extend the love and grace demonstrated by Christ, just as you have done. However, something you touched on in your follow-up piece here really resonates with me. Radical grace and radical inclusion requires our acceptance of Billy and his entire being, his humanity, his unique and irreplaceable value in creation, and, God’s love for him and plan to fully redeem him, his citizenship in the Kin-dom of God, both here and now, and in its complete dimension. All of which he renders himself incapable of doing for us. However, I’ve come to the place where I have to begin to confront religious bigotry. We simply do not have to, nor should we, continue to say that what Billy teaches and preaches in any way,shape or form represents Jesus Christ. Of course, some of what he teaches and preaches may indeed represent Christ, such as his activism in the realm of human trafficking. But, if a person claiming to teach Christ in any way seeks to control and manipulate persons toward seeing any particular people group as less human and outside of the love of Christ, and advances the cause of dehumanizing and restricting basic rights, and other acts of hatred and bigotry, we have to be OK with simply telling the truth and calling her/him out. In regards to the humanity of LGBTI persons, Billy acts as a bigot and therefore in no way speaks for Jesus Christ. It is very much OK for us to say that. Hatred cloaked in words that seem to drip with “love, care, concern” is indeed the most dangerous and harmful expression of bigotry. I rest in the hope that Billy will one day repent and turn away from the sin of religious bigotry. I predict that he will, eventually, if for no other reason but to avoid complete irrelevancy.

    • Indeed and amen. I am not so sure I experienced him as a bigot but I definitely experienced him as a Pharisee. I imagine that would be more of a surprise for him to hear than me calling him a bigot.

  16. Building bridges doesn’t always bring us what we had hoped, does it? Like you, I still feel driven to do it anyway. But sometimes a meeting of the minds only goes to show us that we live on different ideological continents. Makes me sad.

  17. This post sounds exactly like what I am going through with my parents right now. We sit down to talk for hours and come out realizing we view the world from opposite lenses. They think I won’t have a real life with my girlfriend, I believe I can build a family with her. They think the bible is literal, I wholly agree with you that Love is the truth north of the bible. Although the relationship between you and Billy is naturally very different from the one between me and my parents, it encouraged me to hear your perspective on the conversation you had. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mary,

      I am sorry this is your experience with your family right now. I have been on that side of the sofa with my own family. It does get better. If you ever want to talk one on one please feel free to reach out to me on facebook.

      Love is on your side.


    • So how do they deal with the cotton/polyester issue, or the shrimp/lobster issue?

  18. I think that what you have done is one of the bravest things I have ever seen. I cannot imagine keeping composure and temper through such a conversation, and I applaud you for taking on this meeting. It’s easy for both sides to stay on our own side of the line and wait for the other party to cross over for face to face discussion. You have guts, heart, and truth, and God is cheering you on.

    And regardless of what was said or not said, NO ONE has the right to tell you that your family is not real. Family is where love is, no matter who the members are or what their relationship is. Some of the most dear members of my own family have no blood tie, but a blessed one. I believe God brought us together to help and love each other through whatever the world throws at us.

    Blessings to you, Kimberly. Hug your spouse and children tight tonight.

    • Kelly,

      I am utterly humbled by the notion that this has been a brave thing. I just feel like I am stumbling toward grace and lurching toward love. Thank you for your blessing on this middle-age mamma who is trying her dead level best to live the Great Commandment.


      • Knowing that you are right and that God has your back doesn’t mean that you are always confident in facing what is to come. Feeling unsure of what you might face in such a conversation and doing it anyway is courage in my book. You are setting a example for all of us who continue to have these conversations with our friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. As long as the dialogue continues, we have the hope of love, connection and understanding. You and your family are in my prayers up here in the great state of Maine!

  19. I tried to write him a personal note and AGAIN challenged him to go to the LGBT Christian conference that has been going on. No need to– he has talked to a few gay people and even gone to Pride.

    If he were to invest time in others and risk the challenge, he would lose his church if he questioned his beliefs and found them not able to stand the scrutiny. We will all make great progress with the people in the pews. Then the people will insist that their leaders engage in productive conversations.

    Billy let me know that my thinking is destructive. I am not challenged by that. I see the fruit in the the theology I hold and the form of Jesus I reflect.

    • That’s an interesting thought, Kathy. Ones step further, if Mr. Humphrey changes his beliefs, he not only loses his church, he loses his livelihood. I wonder how that affects what evidence he is willing to look at?

  20. I believe there is a capital T truth and I do not believe it is on the path that Billy currently is following.

    This is an important statement. I think many fundamentalists believe that progressives, as you say, “bend over backward to affirm all paths as equal,” thus denying that there is a capital T truth and giving them- fundamentalists- a clear advantage in Biblical exegesis. Why, after all, should they see it our way if even we admit that any other conclusion is just as valid? It’s great to see such a clear pushback and strong condemnation of Billy’s worldview.

  21. Kimberly, as promised, I prayed for you two yesterday morning while you met. It would seem that the prayers were answered in that you were both at your best and neither of you poured hot coffee on the other. Perhaps I should have been a bit more expansive in my prayers. ; )

    You may’ve done more than you know however in that the more real live homosexuals that he meets who aren’t stereotypical, who aren’t cartoons, who aren’t strawmen… but who have lifestyles that are frankly, a lot like his — is bound to cause him to shift at some point. It’s like how the waves of the ocean can reduce a massive rock.

    Perhaps we can take heart in the knowledge that more and more Christians are coming out in favor of marriage equality. http://www.everydaycitizen.com/2013/07/christians_for_marriage_equality.html

  22. Thanks so much for sharing your initial thoughts, Kim. I don’t think I could have – or would have chosen to – engage with Billy, as I too often find such conversations are soul-killing and fruitless. That said, I also understand the value in such conversations, and am glad there are folks like you who are willing and courageous enough to engage at that level.

    The only thing I questions is in the second-to-last paragraph, where you state (correct me if I’ve misunderstood) that each side is certain of the other’s damnation. First – I don’t believe in “damnation” to begin with. I place my trust in a loving God of forgiveness, and I know you do, too. I don’t believe fundamentalists are headed toward damnation for their beliefs, or even their often odious (and indeed sometimes deadly) actions toward LGBT persons. While they might see me as headed toward damnation, I cannot see them the same way. I see that as a major difference between fundamentalists like Billy, and progressives like myself. One is willing to believe those who disagree with him are headed to hell, and the other believes in a God of forgiveness who welcomes His children back into his arms in love.

    And I don’t know if the way I read that sentence is really what you intended.

    Thank you for this, Kim. I look forward to reading more about your time with Billy and how we can learn from it, and move ahead.

    • Yes, I wrote that sentence wrong. Told y’all this was a little raw. I meant that we each see our own damnation on the other side.

      • Just to be clear I didn’t mean my comment as a criticism – I was just a bit confused. I understand now what you meant. I knew you didn’t mean it the way it came across to me. 🙂

  23. I’m sorry to read this, but thankful that you took the time to try to have this conversation.

    I’m particularly saddened about the problems that he has with your family. Two of my gay friends had children this week. My friend Sean and his husband brought home a 7 year old boy, and my friend Renee’s wife had a baby girl. I have been cry-laughing as I look at their pictures and read their updates. It’s so beautiful to see these families expanding and I hate (!!!) that there are people who would say that it’s not right.

    Big hugs to you to be delivered in person in less than a month!

    • Alise,

      Thank you for your expansive heart that sees love where it is rooted and growing! Thank you too for sharing with us the joy you are witnessing. It is all of our joy!


      • I wonder then, whether both of you miss the main point …about the damnation thing. Homosexuality will no more send you to hell than hetereosexuality will send you to heaven. According to the traditional teaching from the bible (for those of us types), what will send people to damnation is their persistent unrepentant decision to be their own Lord and Master and refuse the Lordship of Christ. This is why a discussion, such as here, can get some things out of focus imo. There’s way more to what I am than just my sexuality. That’s why I appreciate how you often bring up the issue of what God also said about caring for the poor, etc etc. All of us are bent toward living our life as our own Lord and Master and it results in the expression of life that is not only bent but broken, and in need of redemption.

        • Your “main point” sounds quite a bit like Billy’s position, no? Billy believes that Kimberly is asserting her own lordship and mastery before that of Christ, and therefore that will damn her.

          • My “main point” is that being a homosexual no more sends you to hell than being a heterosexual sends you to heaven. After having read Billy’s position, is that something you think he would agree with? I believe that anyone who intentionally and consistently elevates their own self above the value and voice of a creator and redeeming God, has a huge problem. In reality, all of us have a tendency to do this and actually live that way at times. Some acknowledge this and both receive and experience the amazing love and grace. of God. This is my belief and I believe it is based on sound hermeneutical principles when interpeting what has historically callled the bible. You may not agree with what I have just said, but for you to read my comment above and conclude that my main point is to think I can/am or intend to condemn Kimberly for who she is, seems odd to me. I just read her entry today about the trolling christians and drive by bible verses. Her comments about our country and its bloodlust for violence and war while ignoring the poor and needy as well as her warning to the “christian church” about its lust for succcess and power while also ignoring the poor and disadvantaged. These are the issues that need to be brought into any discussion about what makes sin, sin. My apologies, because now I am rambling. But even while rambling on, I do so with the knowledge that all of the applies to me more than anyone else. I speak from the background of being a trained killer for the US government, from a history of trying to be my own Lord, from the record of a life of hypocrital judgemnt of others… but God has shown me mercy. And God is showing me the extent of his grace through people like Kimberly. That’s why I’m here in this discussion even though I will not always being in agreement with the prevailing opinions.

            • My “main point” is that being a homosexual no more sends you to hell than being a heterosexual sends you to heaven. After having read Billy’s position, is that something you think he would agree with?

              Maybe, but I think Billy would probably ask you about actions rather than just “being” homosexual. And the answer still might be no based on your response there.

              You may not agree with what I have just said, but for you to read my comment above and conclude that my main point is to think I can/am or intend to condemn Kimberly for who she is, seems odd to me.

              Ah, I apologize. No, I don’t think that your main point was to condemn Kimberly. I just was pointing out that your arguments are similar.

  24. My heart hurts for you; I feel like you stepped up and took one for the team. I believe there is much room for dialog with MOST people, but no room with people like Billy. To be told that living a lie and tearing your family apart would be more Biblical and make you a better disciple of Christ is just plain bad theology, not to mention what it does to one’s physical and mental health, and that of one’s family. I stand with you in rejecting this.

    • One of the oddest things I have noted about the far reaches of conservative Christianity is how little they care for outcomes.

      Mr Humphrey’s message to gay people:
      Deny yourself. Don’t love. You (and those like you) are destined to be alone. Abandon your kids, you should never have had them. Abandon your spouse, it’s not a real relationship anyway. You’re bad. You need to change. You can change. If you can’t change, you’re not trying hard enough. These ideas are driving gay people to suicide, see how weak and sinful gay people are? No one but me knows the truth. I speak for God.

      Seriously, do they never see how badly this all works out. Outcomes matter. Gay kids killing themselves matter. Kimberly’s family matters. She and her wife and kids are happier, and happiness matters. Love matters. And no one can claim to speak for God.

      • Gimpi1,

        No, I’m afraid they neither see nor care. What seems to be the sole focus is their eternal salvation that is dependent upon following a very strict list of behaviors that includes converting “saving”‘others from hell. As I understand people like Billy that I have encountered many times in life, if he is not trying to save me then we are both destined for hell. There here and now is only the beta test for the hereafter and all bugs need to be fixed before end game.

        Which of course I find a ridiculously superstitious way to interpret the bible and relate to God and your brothers and sisters in Christ.


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