The Gay Christian Network: Reconciling Faith + GLBT Sexuality
(888) GAY-4-GOD Hotline
(919) 786-0000 National HQ
GCN, P.O. Box 17504, Raleigh, NC 27619
An Up, Close, & Personal Interview with GCN’s Executive Director Justin Lee
The Gay Christian Network is an interdenominational nonprofit organization serving GLBT Christians and their supporters around the world. GCN provides resources and support to help individuals reconcile their faith and sexuality; builds interconnected networks of supportive Christian communities; and works with families, friends, and churches to create respectful dialogue on sexual orientation issues. Go to http://www.gaychristian.net/.
Where are you from? As a teenager, was your family open-minded, intolerant, or somewhere in between concerning homosexuality and religion?
I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, with two wonderful and loving, Christian parents. As a teenager, it was my view and my parents’ view that homosexual relationships were sinful and that identifying oneself as gay was wrong. We all believed that this is what the Bible taught, and we all were committed to living out the teachings of the Bible.
Were you raised in a gay-affirming church or congregation?
Not at all ... I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. My church unequivocally condemned homosexuality and anything relating to it.
If not, how did you deal with the dogma? When was your moment of awakening?
I had never questioned my church’s stance on homosexuality, so even though I was attracted to other guys, I didn't consider myself gay. I just thought my feelings were temptations I’d outgrow. It wasn’t until I was 18 and a senior in high school that I started to realize that I was gay and that these feelings weren’t going anywhere.
Even then, I was reluctant to depart from my church’s view that gay relationships were sinful. For a while, I thought maybe God wanted me to be celibate for the rest of my life. It took me years of Bible study and prayer before I was able to fully embrace the possibility of a relationship with a guy.
How did you reconcile your sexual orientation with your spirituality?
Ultimately, it was studying the Bible itself that changed my mind. The more I studied it, the more I learned about it and the clearer it became that the anti-gay interpretations I’d always heard were actually inconsistent with what the Bible really said in context. These days, the Bible itself is my best weapon against those who would condemn me.
Do you believe that the Holy Bible is the living Word of God – to be taken literally, a valuable historical document, or somewhere in between?
Our Statement of Faith describes the Bible as “Holy Scripture, divinely inspired and authoritative, and not merely a human work.” I agree with that assessment.
How did you get involved with the Gay Christian Network?
I founded the organization in 2001 after meeting hundreds of gay Christians who didn’t have any support in their families or faith communities. We started out as just a Website with an online support community, but today we’re much more. Currently, there are more than 13,000 members and growing.
Among our most popular services are:
1) Our online community “safe space,” which features over 100 forums catering to different regions, denominations, and special needs;
2) An annual winter conference, which brings hundreds of GLBT and gay-supportive Christians together each January for fellowship, worship, workshops, and fun;
3) Local volunteer-led groups around the world including the one guided by Colorado Event Coordinator Kurt Rivera;
4) A brand-new documentary, Through My Eyes, chronicles the powerful stories of young gay Christians wrestling with their faith and sexuality (Go to http://www.throughmyeyesdvd.com);
5) A weekly Internet radio program, GCN Radio, available via iTunes;
6) Funny and informational videos about homosexuality and Christianity including our YouTube series, Gay Christian Answers;
7) A toll-free support and information hotline available during business hours at 1-888-GAY-4-GOD.
Ultimately, our goal is to do more than just support gay Christians. We want to change the way the church sees gay people, and many of our resources such as our Through My Eyes documentary are designed for that express purpose. Already, we're having tremendous success at creating productive dialogue with formerly anti-gay Christians.
How do you approach spreading the Gospel to unbelieving gays and lesbians?
Most of us in America, and especially in the GLBT community, are tired of people trying to convert us or shove their beliefs down our throat. I don’t want anyone to do that to me, so I have no interest in doing that to anyone else. GCN’s primary focus is to support people who are already Christians and who need help wrestling with these issues as Christians.
Of course, we do often hear from non-Christians who are intrigued by what we do. Sometimes they’re “lapsed” Christians who still love elements of the faith, but haven’t felt welcomed by the church in a long time. Other times, they’re confirmed atheists or members of other faiths who are just curious about us. For them, our approach is simply to love everyone and respect their beliefs. And if they want to get involved in what we’re doing, they’re more than welcome to do so.
We know how badly the Christian gospel of love has been distorted by anti-gay churches and individuals, and we know a lot of people will regard us with suspicion or disdain as a result. But we refuse to concede Christianity to the homophobes. We believe in the gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of Fred Phelps.
Where along the line of spiritual development and enlightenment do you find yourself: “1” being a doubting Thomas and “10” being a true believer in Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation?
I'd have to say 10. This is something I’ve devoted my life to. In saying that, of course, I don't mean to suggest that I’m somehow fully spiritually developed or “enlightened” with all the answers. Every one of us has plenty more to learn! I just mean that I’m fully confident in Christ and in the Christian faith despite having seen the ugly, human side of the church as well.
Are you struggling, self-actualized, or taking it day-by-day in prayer and Bible study?
I am fully reconciled with my faith and sexuality. There is no doubt in my mind that God loves me as a gay man.
For a list of gay-accepting/gay-affirming churches, go to http://www.welcomingchurches.com.