Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sankofa (Part Four)

**Sankofa is a four part series looking backward so that I can move forward. Be sure to read Sankofa (Part Three) to see how I've been journeying through what it looks like to be both gay and Christian. Now, we've come to the final part of this series - examining the direction that I've been sensing the Lord leading me . . . .

Years ago, I used to teach in Bible studies that God would use a person's greatest weaknesses to reveal His strengths through that person. I believed that. Sort of. That is, I believed that it was true for those people in the Bible studies I was teaching - but not for me. Definitely not for me. My weaknesses? That's practically . . . . unbelieveable. There's no way!

My greatest weaknesses were my gayness and my disconnectedness. Keep in mind, this was years ago - back when I was way way Side X. For God to use my weaknesses, they would have to be made known. And with me being in the dark and lonely closet, that was not going to happen!

I've always known God to have an odd sense of humor. The way He pin points the things I'm most afraid of and then uses me to minister on His behalf in that area. I'd almost say it's kind of cruel if I didn't know through first hand experience how much He really loves me and would never do something like that as a mere joke for the heavenlies. Nah . . . . I know better than that.

So now, I'm seeing Him do it again. He's using the fact that I'm gay and that I've always felt disconnected from people, family, the Church, the world - leading me to a place of personal resolution and connection so that I can help others going through a similar journey - leading me to a place of being a herald for God's people to live a lifestyle of faith . . . .

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It's a battle, isn't it? This struggle for justice - equality for GLBT individuals in our society and in our Church. Differences in theologies mixed with social stigma keeps people like us marginalized, even silenced. All of our efforts to live a public life are labeled an "agenda". We have parades and TV shows and 'out' celebrities to pave the way for dialogue - hoping that, slowly but surely, society and culture will shift and change to eventually and inevitably accept us.

Is it enough? What will it take for us to see change? What do we need to do to stimulate the unstoppable revolution that will bear the same kind of fruit for GLBT acceptance that the Civil Rights Movement bore for ethnic minorities?

I do not want to wave a rainbow flag!

This is not the cause I signed up for! As a believer in Christ, He is my cause. My cause is to love Him more properly. My cause is to love other people more properly. My cause is to inspire others to do the same. These are our two greatest commandments and our Great Commission.

That is my agenda.

If we are going to move forward, insisting to our society and our Church that we are accepted by God through faith in Christ, then we must move beyond simply proclaiming it. We must function as if we have already been accepted by God. I agree with GCB that "we simply have to start living what we desire". As the GLBT faith community, we need to start demonstrating God-given leadership within His Church. Just like the GLBT community, the Church as a whole has also been marginalized - even silenced - to where we no longer shape our society. Rather, we are merely reacting to society. We have lost our effectiveness. We need to be salt once again - flavoring the world around us so that Christ's love is revealed. That love will shape relationships that will, in turn, shape our neighborhoods and communities. The Church needs leaders and I think that we are the ones who should step up and fill the gap.

God has fully empowered us to accomplish His will. We don't need to fight for the right to be a part of it. We already are! So we can't legally be married and be acknowledged in all states. So what? It doesn't stop us from continuing to love each other properly. So we can't legally get full insurance benefits and privileges that heterosexual married couples enjoy. So what? It doesn't stop us from continuing to support one another (and even more so, as a community). What if we entrust these "issues" to God and focussed our energies on the things in this world that God talked about constantly - the poor, the sick, and the elderly?

What if the GLBT faith community led the way of serving those in poverty, ministering to the sick, and caring for our seniors? What if we supported the ONE campaign? (I've got my bracelet! Do you?) What if we lived out our faith in such a way that our servanthood revealed our leadership rather than us waiting for the Church to acknowledge our right to be leaders? Perhaps the GLBT faith community can set a positive example for the broader GLBT community by demonstrating what genuine healthy platonic same gender friendships looked like. What if we called on our community to uphold a value of respect, love, commitment, faithfulness, and monogamy? What if we inspired people to love properly?

We need to be the ones who serve as the role models for young GLBT people newly "out" to themselves and the world. We need to be the ones to show them that they don't have to have the old typical "coming out" experience of exploring newfound freedom. We ought to introduce them to the freedom we have in Christ - to love properly, healthy, and respectfully other people of the same gender.

A couple weeks ago, a woman shared during a service that she heard a song on the radio and decided that she wanted to learn how to play it. So she took the time to learn the song, practice it, and played it for all of us. We need to do the same thing. Jesus modeled for us the Kingdom values. He showed us what it looked like to love the outcasts. He showed us what it looked like to pray to the Father for each other. He showed us what it looked like to serve those in need. He showed us what it looked like to bless those who were formerly cursed. He played an awesome song for us. Let's learn how to play it! Let's live out a lifestyle of faith that affects every person we interact with.

Over the past several weeks, I've been seeking the Lord what He wanted of me through this whole Two World Collision thing. It was clear to me that this blog was meant to be a tool to help me and you process - something that would inspire us both to a lifestyle of faith. So He's placed several other things on my heart - a ministry for serving the colliding worlds of church paradigms and sexuality.

We'll see how this all evolves. For now, I think He's given me direction - a vision - to catalyze a culture of trust and unity among the GLBT faith community and the broader Church by inspiring them to live out their faith.

What will this look like? I'm excited to see what's ahead. In the mean time, i'd like to start moving towards the following objectives:

Personal Coaching and Scholarships

I'd like to provide personal coaching for others struggling with the conflict between their faith and their sexuality. I'd like to be a part of helping these loved ones along that journey of seeking Christ personally for the answers. I don't want to be the one to necessarily give them the answers. I want to stimulate them with the right questions. Even the ones that question the old answers. I trust Jesus enough to guide them with the peace, resolution, and even answers.

I'd also like to partner with other personal coaches who will journey with these loved ones. This personal coaching can take the form of personal phone calls, emails, instant messages, or even personal visits. I'd even like to travel across cities, states, or the nation for week long coaching. Instead of them going somewhere foreign for help, I'd like to go to them - the place where they have to live this all out. I'd like to be able to give them an opportunity to talk with a person face to face about the things they are terrified to say to anyone in the Church. I'd like to allow them to ask their questions and to start their journey of exploring those questions with Christ. If it's fitting, i'd like to be able to accompany a person as they try to talk with a family member or pastor about their sexuality and faith journey - hopefully enlisting their support. I'd like to be able to give them resources (Side A, Side B, and Side X) and allow them to discern for themselves with the Lord what they believe.

I'd like to offer $250 or $500 scholarships to some of these loved ones so that they can cover the registration and travel expenses to attend gay Christian conferences that are happening around the nation. What if individuals and businesses partnered together to sponsor one of them? What if we could get grants to help fund these scholarships?

New Ministry Empowerment

I would like to empower the emerging leaders of the GLBT faith community who have been inspired by God to initiate certain ministries. I'd like to assist those who want to start up gay student ministries (GSM's) on campuses, working in partnership with gay straight alliances (GSA's). I'd like to assist those who want to start ministries in their city to help coach young GLBT teens in their "coming out" process. GCB has an awesome vision for GLBT people leading the way in helping people to find "alternative environments of safety, protection, love, and acceptance". He talks about safe houses and shelters for those escaping abusive families or partners. He talks about programs to assist GLBT youth go to college. I want to empower people who have a heart for making these kinds of things happen by helping to inspire them, resource them, equip them, and help them to connect with others who can help them develop their ministry.

I believe that we must value each other's unique call and mission for ministry. Two World Collision alone cannot sustain a revolution. We all have a dream to see these kinds of things happen. But when each of us die, the vision of what we personally saw also dies. Therefore, I want to empower others who will seek to be inspired by God for their own similar vision and who will work towards accomplishing it. In this way, the dream lives on without me as God continues to inspire people with ways of connecting with their communities. Then, i'd like to see each of these new ministries networked together in partnership - sharing each other's support, encouragement, and resources. This is what will stimulate an uncontainable revolution of GLBT people living out their faith.

GLBT Faith Leaders Retreat

I would like to provide a retreat for ministry and organization leaders of the GLBT faith community to give them a context of renewal and connection. I want to serve these leaders by helping them to get away from the busyness of their operations. I want to encourage them to rest and be ministered to. I also want to help provide a context for them to connect with other leaders for mutual support and encouragement. I know how lonely it can be to be the sole leader in a ministry. I know how frustrating it can be to not have the time to brainstorm fresh thoughts and insights because of the day to day operations of the work. I want to help these leaders inspire each other - to offer ideas, experience, questions, and prayer for each other.

Church Leaders Round Table

As I establish and nurture relationships within my city (or others), I want to bring them together for dialogue. In the past, I've defined the "hot zone" as the place where homosexuality and faith and God are no longer the "unspeakable" topic. I want to bring together pastors and leaders of mainstream churches with pastors and leaders of inclusive churches for "transformational conversations that point to reconciliation" (as Zalm describes it). I suspect that this will be a challenging pursuit, however, I entrust these relationships to the Lord for His redemption and grace.

So there it is! Sankofa. "Looking backward to move forward."

In Part One, I reflected backward to the time my parents got divorced, how I struggled through the confusion of my sexuality, and when I tried to kill myself. In Part Two, I reflected backward to when I came to faith in Christ, became a part of the "church culture" that proved itself to be unwanting, and challenged those old christendom paradigms in favor of an organic paradigm of Church that involved living out a lifestyle of faith. In Part Three, I considered the journey that the Lord has just recently brought me on - of exploring what it looks like to be both gay and Christian - and finding peace and resolution. Here in Part Four, we've looked forward to potential future ministry of being a catalyst for revolution.

Who knows what the Lord has in store? What I do know is that God has given me the privilege of serving Him, as I am - both gay and Christian - and that He qualifies, inspires and empowers me to live out my faith as a lifestyle of loving Him and loving others.

In my greatest weaknesses, He reveals His strengths through me.

Update (June 29, 2006): A lot has happened since January 25, 2006 when I wrote this post. To see an evolution of the vision I articulated in this post, see May 5th's post where I announce the Catalyst Web site and blog.

4 comments:

E said...

"My greatest weaknesses were my gayness and my disconnectedness. Keep in mind, this was years ago - back when I was way way Side X. For God to use my weaknesses, they would have to be made known. And with me being in the dark and lonely closet, that was not going to happen!

"I've always known God to have an odd sense of humor. The way He pin points the things I'm most afraid of and then uses me to minister on His behalf in that area. I'd almost say it's kind of cruel if I didn't know through first hand experience how much He really loves me and would never do something like that as a mere joke for the heavenlies."


Have you been rooting around inside my head? Get out of there!

Okay, seriously. For my part, I first got a sense of that about a decade ago (during my Living Waters days), and spent as many years running from it as I could. God very patiently waited for me to come to the end of myself, and yet somehow it all still seems to be working out in his perfect timing.

God hasn't yet given me a clear vision for what should come next, but in the meantime I'm looking forward to seeing what comes through the one he's given you.

Zeke said...

Eric, your story really is inspirational. That you have turned your focus outward is the best indication that the power over you that fear of judgment once held has been driven to heel. I'm genuinely impressed with your strength and commitment to transparency, authenticity, and compassionate service. Thanks for sharing all this.

Angel said...

You are SO AWESOME. I will pray for God to bless your ministries!!!

grimke said...

I've never commented on such a bloh before. I've been very reluctant to do so. However, I wish to stay in contact with you, because I acknowledge your struggle and your bravery and your absolute commitment to the Lord. I thought there would never be a time I could actually write that. However, since I've been "out of the box" of institutionalized church". I'm beginning a journey of discovery towards God's heart. His love for us IS unconditional so why should I set boundaries in my love for others? I will need to go back to those scriptures which refer to homosexuality, and really see what Paul is refering to.
You might like to look at my website - www.grimke.co.uk - which has the title: From Slavery To reconciliation. My email address is:grimke@hotmail.co.uk. God bless you!