In Christian homes across the nation more and more parents are hearing the words, “Mom…Dad, I’m gay.” (or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender, or queer) As parents wrestle with what this revelation means for their child and their families they may feel bewildered, ashamed, frightened, and very alone. Uncertain of how their church communities will react Christian parents often retreat into the closet and become trapped in a gloom of fear, despair, and isolation.
Where do you go if your church is not a safe place for this discussion? How do you love your child unconditionally if you don’t share their beliefs? From whom can you find guidance, resources, empathy, and a listening ear? Christian parents need each other, but it can be very difficult to connect.
That is why in June The Marin Foundation partnered with FreedHearts Ministries and Unconditional Ministries to host our first ever conference for Christian parents of LGBTQ children. Parents came to hear from, worship with and experience community with other Christian parents who are learning to love their children unconditionally without having to sacrifice their faith. The weekend included speakers, praise and worship, group sharing times and a Q&A panel discussion. Staff member Laura Statesir described her personal journey as a LGBTQ Christian child and shared findings and advice for parents from our Christian parent research study.
Below is a description of the conference in the words of some of the parents who attended, so please keep reading. Also, The Marin Foundation would love to offer more parent conferences in the future. If your church or community is interested in hosting one please emailLaura@themarinfoundation.org
In the words of Christian parents who attended this conference:
– “I came hoping to meet other parents who could share their stories about their reactions to their LGBTQ children and how their faith impacted and continues to impact their relationships with their child. I hoped to hear from parents who had come to different conclusions on how the Bible feels about our children and see that there must be a way to still love each other when we are together. I hoped to learn language and skills to interface with my friends who ‘approve’ and particularly those who don’t so that I can graciously bring as many people possible into the conversation about Christian LGBTQ issues. I hoped to look into otherparents’ eyes and see the same love, confusion and courage that we have experienced and to give hugs and share tears of joy and understanding. I hoped to meet articulate, bright and winsome parents who are trying to determine if God has any new area of ministry he might be calling us to. I hoped to make new friends. I hoped to feel safe and loved and encouraged and cheered on!
All my hopes were met in completely different ways than I anticipated. How like God to be so creative and generous at every turn. I look forward to many more Parent Weekends in the future and to building a community of amazing and superstar moms and dads.”
– “We so enjoyed the conference. It was a real eye opener. I am glad we had the opportunity to go. I hope that other parents find the time and space in their lives to connect with people on this similar journey.
We came to the conference because we thought it would be good to get together with other parents sharing the same struggles we were. It was nice to know that we aren’t the only ones in this place. We learned that there are many different facets to this journey and most people are on different parts of it…some just starting out and others still trying to find their way, as if in the dark, through this labyrinth of a life.
The conference was helpful in that it gave us different perspectives from the parent to the child POV [point of view] and also gave us time to get to know other parents. I would strongly recommend any Christian parent of an LGBTQ kid to find their way to a conference.”
– “I went to the conference because I wanted to connect with other parents of gay kids. There are not a lot of people you can talk openly with about the issues that face us, who will truly understand. The conference was very well organized with speakers presenting from different points of view in an open and respectful way. Laura Statesir’s work with parentsof LGBTQ kids was relevant and gave us all practical tools for communicating and loving our children.”
-“As Laura shared [her] story from [her] heart, I could see my daughter in similar struggles. Hearing Laura’s story was like hearing her story. I know it’s different, but hers would be similar, I believe. Hearing from Laura seemed to fill some of the gap missing from my daughter’s silence.”
-“As the mother of a gay son, I want to tell you that I am glad I attended the conference last weekend in Chicago. It was very helpful for me to hear all of the speakers and to be with other parents who also have gay children.”
– “We came to the conference looking for dialogue with other Christian parents of LGBTQ kids. Sometimes you just want to know how everyone else is handling this thing and what their attitudes are, coping strategies, lessons learned, etc. To be honest, talking about this topic is not easy, and we are a little tender here and there, so talking with other folks can be difficult but is still desired.
I think we learned more about the variety of ways people respond with the same philosophy. We all believe we love our kids and want to respond in love, but how that is lived out can vary greatly. Hearing Laura’s perspective (a grown LGBTQ Christian from a Christian home) was especially helpful. We heard Laura say what many of our kids are trying to say, want to say, or have said. Hearing it from more than one source is confirming. And hearing other folks joke about a situation and realize it’s the same as yours is comforting somehow.
It was not an easy conference for us. The tension was present both in ourselves and in the conversations around us. That just confirms the reality of the topic and how it is handled. But overall the message of love and keeping our focus on the God who loves us all unconditionally holds us together despite the tension.”
– “We came to the conference because we continue to trust The Marin Foundation to be one of our main sources of credible and compassionate information. We jumped at the chance to attend especially knowing that y’all have gathered all of the parent information. Also, after four years [of knowing our child is gay] we still desire to connect with other LGBT parents.
We really appreciated the time that we were given to talk with other parents and share our stories. The thing that stood out to me the most is how “lonely” so many of us are in our churches. It was good to be able to talk that through with other parents of LGBT children. We felt that the conference gave us some very useful information that will help us as we continue on our journey as parents of a gay son.
It was interesting to see the places that parents were in this journey. Some parents had just found out months ago, others have known for seven or more years. Yet, I think that we were all able to connect and support one another and take something helpful home from the conference.”
– “I personally wanted to attend the conference in an effort to support and encourage otherparents and The Marin Foundation. For me, meeting and talking with others was the highlight of the conference. I also really enjoyed Laura’s presentation – I always learn something new from the personal stories of those who identify as LGBTQ. It was also good to hear some results from the parent survey. The list of “things you want your parents to know” was informative. I eagerly await to see the full report.”
-“Laura’s personal story opened my eyes and her “insider’s” advice helped me to feel more confident when interacting with my son.”