Here we are again at the end of yet another year, but what a year this has been. For me, 2015 has been perhaps the most turbulent, exhilarating, terrifying, and blessed year that I’ve ever experienced. A year that has been filled with opportunity to step into freedom to be the person I was always meant to be. A year with challenges and unanswered questions that I’ve had to wrestle with. A year in which I have been privileged to have a front row seat to watch God work, not only in my life, but in the lives of thousands of other people who have discovered just what it means to be made in the image and likeness of our eternally creative and diverse God.
In early 2015, I was honored to be included in a story in TIME Magazine, highlighting the work that I and so many others had been engaged in to help evangelicals become inclusive and accepting of sexual and gender minorities. Soon after that article was released, I turned in the manuscript of my first book Nomad to my publisher, only to have it rejected and my contract canceled a few days later because of my support of same-sex marriage. This devastating blow was picked up in national and international news outlets and for the first time, I was identified as “queer” publicly. Talk about ripping of the band aid of the “coming out” process.
Following this series of unexpected and life transforming events, I spent the rest of the winter and spring building my organization, The RISE Network’s, which sought to bring together non-affirming evangelical leaders for conversations around sexuality and gender. Through this work, I was honored to meet with our friends at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, members of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the leadership of The Moody Church in Chicago, and others many others from prominent evangelical organizations. These conversations were focused more on building relationship and humanizing each other than they were about changing each others minds. Walking away from 2015, I am so grateful to have gotten to know so many of my perceived “enemies” and have been able to continue in conversation with many of them on these issues that matter most.
The pinnacle of this bridge-building work came when I was invited to participate in a live “discussion” (read: debate) in front of hundreds of people at the National Association of Religious Broadcasters International Media Convention in Nashville, TN. My friend Justin Lee and I sat down with Dr. Michael Brown and Anne Paulk, for a conversation on responding pastorally to the LGBTQ community moderated by Janet Parshall. The conversation was anything but a conversation and our moderator was anything but partial. However, having the ability to speak into a space of prominent conservative media voices was an opportunity that I do not regret. Though the live event itself was not the most productive use of time in the world, the conversations that ensued afterwards were worth it all. Time and time again, I stood in awe as I heard of how the Spirit of God was working in even the most conservative of spaces to open hearts and minds to embrace LGBTQ people. In every space I went into and every conversation I had, I became more and more convinced that the Kingdom of God was expanding and that sexual and gender minorities were playing an integral part to this new movement of the Holy Spirit.
As Fall came around, I started seminary here in Washington, D.C. and continued meeting with evangelical leaders, speaking at churches and conferences, and organizing clergy across our nation to be advocates for justice. In October, I was honored to speak at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions with my friends Isaac Archuleta and Chris Stackaruck on our work to help evangelicals become inclusive. Hundreds of people from various faith traditions gathered together and engaged in almost an hour of dialogue with us, telling of how the Spirit is moving in other faith traditions around the world. About half-way through September, I responded to a nudge of God’s Spirit in my own life to embark on a new journey. In October, I began laying the groundwork for a new non-profit, Nomad Partnerships, that would continue the crucial heart and made transformation work that I began with The RISE Network. I also decided that I would take a leap of faith and move from Washington to Denver, Colorado in January to begin a new chapter of my life and work, away from the hustle and bustle of D.C.
As I come to the end of this year, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities I have had to be involved in the work to help reform evangelicalism to become, at least, people of good news of great joy for all people. I am amazed at how God has worked in my own life, refining and transforming me, challenging me and causing me to grow in ways that I never knew I needed to. I am also more aware than ever of how much more growth is left for me to do personally, and how much work is left to call the Church to reflect the Gospel of Christ in her posture towards sexual and gender minorities. But in the midst of it all, I am extremely hopeful.
In 2015, I believe that we witnessed the tip of the iceberg of a new reality that is dawning in our world. Every tragedy, trial, and triumph are signs that point to a new day being birthed, a day where systems of oppression are deconstructed, where difference is valued as beautiful, where polarization and demonization become things of the past. Something is rumbling just beneath the surface of our world, a revolution, a reformation, a revival. The Kingdom of God is expanding. And I believe that it will change everything. I cannot wait to see what is to come in the year ahead. I am so grateful for all of you, here on the blog, who have supported me and my work, and have been doing important work in your own communities around the world. You all are truly inspire me. Your stories, your passion, your perseverance. Thank you so much.
So with that, I pray that you have a very happy new year. Let’s keep seeking the Kingdom of God together in 2016. I can’t wait.