Have you ever been to an event or in a situation where you were no longer the minority? The bittersweet realization that you are not alone can be difficult to process. Being surrounded by others just like you–the ones that don’t fit in the church, the ones that feel marginalized by the margins, the ones that simultaneously wish they were visible and invisible. I had the surreal experience just a few weeks ago when I attended a Generous Space Retreat.
What is Generous Space?
I could go into the exact ideology behind it, but I feel like that’s for a different post. What you need to know is how Generous Space feels.
64 of us gathered together in Hope, B.C., Canada the second weekend in November. We were from all over North America, mainly the West Coast but not entirely. People travelled from New Mexico, Wisconsin, Seattle, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and one person even came home early from Europe. Here we were, the ones mainstream church had politely (and impolitely) removed from fellowship. We gathered to worship Jesus, to heal, to pray and to make life long friendships. We represented every letter of the acronym and every colour of the rainbow with some allies thrown in for good measure.
There were preachers, teachers, students, worship leaders, sons, daughters, parents, spouses and singles. We didn’t all agree on what being LGBTQ+ and Christian looked like, we didn’t all agree on what we thought about God and the Church or even whether we believed anymore. What we did agree on was profound.
There’s a place at the table of Christ for anyone and everyone who is willing to be vulnerable and come. Unfortunately, many Christians have forgotten that integral part of the Gospel. We commiserated over the pain of lost ministry, of having to explain that we knew God loved and accepted us and celebrated us even though his people did the opposite…or worse…abused us in the name of love.
We ate our meals together. We attended workshops on sexual ethics, writing our stories, gender binaries and the Bible, and so much more. We were witness to each other’s pain. We were witness to the transformative stories of trans men and women reconciling faith to their reality. We did all this at a conservative Mennonite Bible Camp and Retreat Centre. The entire time realizing this is the closest to church many of us have been or will be for a long while.
When I first came back to reality, back to university and back to being a minority–I was depressed. I didn’t want to return to the wilderness where I felt like an outsider no matter where I was. You see the LGBTQ+ community has been greatly hurt by the church. My being a Christian and LGBTQ+ feels like a betrayal to many people. I understand and empathize with my brothers and sisters and gender non-conforming folks. I stand with them in the brokenness rendered by hurtful zealots. I stand here and offer a better way. The way of love.
Likewise, I feel out-of-place with my Christian brothers and sisters. We have Jesus in common. My gender identity and sexuality causes a dissonance that is heavy and easily felt. I am not safe to attend church or young adult events without being on the defence or being the token gay christian who needs to be corrected in their wrong thinking. I stand here too to offer a better way.
Generous Space isn’t about agreement. It’s about unity amidst disagreement. Jesus didn’t say “they will know you are my disciples by your agreement” he said, “they will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.” Shame on us for being shitty lovers. I mean it. No more mincing words. We’ve removed Christ from Christianity and replaced it with a systematic theology that Jesus never taught. We have become the pharisees and it’s horrible, harmful and inhumane.
Let’s reclaim the faith of our Father. Let’s go back to loving one another and sharing everything in common. Let’s go back to housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger–and doing it all with no strings attached. Let’s open our doors and our hearts to the lost and the broken regardless of their conformation to our ideals of what makes a “good christian”. After all, rules don’t make one righteous, faith does.