Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I'm honored to have one of my blog essays published in the recent quarterly newsletter for Evangelicals Concerned Western Region. It's from my post "Embracing A Different Gospel" and is featured on page 1! It indicates my alias last name ("Johnson") on the byline.

The newsletter is called thECable and the paper version is mailed out to its members. You can view the PDF version by clicking the link below:

thECable - Winter 2005-06 Newsletter

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Agree To Disagree

So i've made a few references here and there about this event that i'm a part of putting on. It's kind of like a conference except it's alot more interactive among the participants. The focus is on looking for indications of hope and life in the city of Los Angeles. We're bringing together different sectors of the city as well as different theological streams of the Church. This is something that is put on in several other major cities around the world and the planning teams typically have 1-2 years to plan ahead of time.

We were given two months.

It's been an exciting journey. In planning for this event, worlds constantly collided - anywhere from clashes between theological perspectives, issues regarding the whole gay Christian thing, differences in worship expressions, leadership styles, organizational styles, and even personalities. In the midst of all this clash, I have witnessed God redeeming relationships and situations. I mention all this because we are currently having the event right now - this weekend. My responsibility for the event is to manage all of the logistics and so I happen to have some down time allowing me to write and process recent events . . . .

All of us are pretty exhausted though - emotionally, physically, mentally, even a bit spiritually. I'll be looking forward to taking a couple days off.

One of the major issues that came up during the past two months was that the original location for this event was going to be hosted at a church in Los Angeles that is known to be gay-affirming and has a gay pastor. That raised a red flag in several people and so a decision was made (without discussion) to change the location. This is what I articulated in "Profoundly Offended". Since then, the team met through the Christmas and New Year holidays, wrestled over the issue together and we were able to form a kind of bond with each other while being able to move forward. We learned how to work together even though we may disagree on certain things. The location of where the event is hosted now has worked out pretty well.

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how "Some People Make Me Vomit". This was when some people voiced strong opposition to praying with certain other types of people. Literally, they were not wanting to pray in the same room as "them". At first, the main issue was that they didn't want to pray with people who believed that "homosexuality" was okay. (They were connected with alot of the drama that was happening with the split in the Episcopal Church USA with some of their churches disaffiliating and realigning under the covering of some African Anglican bishops because the American Episcopal Church was allowing gay and lesbian clergy.) So at first, it was a gay issue (even though they say it's a "Truth of Scripture" issue but I say it's an "Interpretation of Truth of Scripture" issue). Whatever. After a lot of conversations and wrestling, they ended up quitting from the prayer team which I felt pretty bitter about because they hindered my efforts and stimulated a divisive attitude towards an event that is meant for unity.

Even through some rather difficult times of trying to figure out how we can function together and even trust each other, we've all been committed to what we're trying to do in this event - which is to identify signs of hope in the city. God redeemed alot of the conflict by bringing about unity among us. This "unity" doesn't necessarily mean that we all agree. It just means that we all have acknowledged our common bond of Christ and our common heart for the city. In this way we have agreed to disagree. In other words, it's okay that we disagree about some things. As long as we remain committed to the cause - the cause of Christ and His will for the Kingdom in our city.

We've partnered with several seminaries, colleges, and universities who are offering their students class credit for registering and being a part of this event. In addition, there are pastors, church leaders, non-profit leaders, business leaders, civic leaders, professors, and even authors that are participating in this event.

Yesterday morning and afternoon was the class portion for the registered students. Then last night began the weekend event for all of the participants. From a logistical point of view, everything ran smoothly! In fact, it was odd. I've organized and planned many events and last night ran extraordinarily smooth. We stayed on schedule - everything was on-time! It was great. I heard some good feedback from participants who found the first night to be very insightful.


Today was a bit more hectic because we had a tight schedule. In the morning, we had 7 panelists comprising of two elected officials, a faith-based community leader, two non-profit leaders, a business leader, and a school psychiatric/social worker. All have had some kind of impact in Los Angeles and so hearing each of their different perspectives regarding the city and where the signs of hope are was very interesting.

A small snag that we hit, behind the scenes, was that the lunch caterer came 45 minutes late which increased a bit of the stress level. An interesting moment that I had was sensing from the Lord telling me to ask the two individuals (who I mentioned before that quit the prayer team - the ones who made me vomit) to pray. They agreed to pray. When the caterer finally arrived, it gave us only 15 minutes until the scheduled lunch time. We had an army of people ready and waiting for them to arrive, so when they finally came, they all worked together to get it all done. Lunch was ready only 5 minutes after our scheduled time.

Having lunch ready was significant because of what was happening next. All the teams were placed in five groups who went out into Los Angeles to visit 3-4 sites where people and/or organizations were working to serve their community. The goal was to actually see, hear, touch, and smell what God is doing out there in the city - outside of the church walls. The key here, too, was that they all took public mass transportation. That's why lunch being on time was important because we were worried about one of the groups missing their bus. Anyway, many of the people have been saying that the experience of mass transit in visiting these sites has added value to what they are witnessing. My buddy is on one of the teams and he shared with me that it was incredible to see Skid Row with his own eyes and to interact with people in his group.

So that's what's going on right now. All the participants are out in the city and I'm here in the command center in case anyone encounters any problems or emergencies. Since everyone has been making their buses on time and making it to their sites, I haven't had much to do - thus, the free time to blog! =)

Tonight, everyone will come back as a group to debrief their experience. Tomorrow, everyone is going on church visits - going to churches of varying denominational and worship expressions. Sunday afternoon, after lunch, they'll return here again to debrief their experience visiting the different churches and to talk about what they all have seen and observed throughout the weekend. Then we'll follow up with a time of discerning how we each should respond locally to what was seen.

The goal for all this is to stimulate ongoing relationships and ongoing conversations. We are all seeing signs of hope in the midst of geographic, ethnic, theological, age, and gender diversity. It's amazing! Let's hope and pray that God continues to open the eyes of His Church in the city and to prompt us all to respond to His Spirit!

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.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Florida Connection

While I was in Florida for the GCN Conference, I had the wonderful privilege of meeting Angel. She is a fellow blogger and friend who lives in Florida and knowing that I was going to be in her neck of the woods, she and her family traveled over an hour just to meet up with me and have lunch.

Wasn't that sweet of them?

I got to meet her husband and kids and we got to hug and chat face to face for the first time. She's got an incredible heart!

I discovered Angel's blog right around the time I started Two World Collision and the thing that hooked me to hers was reading about the darndest things that her kids say and do. It's hilarious!

She was even the one who helped me get into the "GCN Official Dork Club". I was placed on probation for not being dorky enough so I was given an assignment to find out where the phrase "Alohamora" comes from and what "Squee!" means. Not having a clue what either meant, I googled them and found that they were a Harry Potter reference. Since Angel is a fan of the books, I knew she'd have the answers I needed. I was right and she helped me with my dork homework. I got in - i'm officially a dork!

Anyway, Angel has always supported me in my journey and has kept up with TWC since the beginning. I'm proud to call her my friend! It's been such a blessing getting to know her over the past several months and I'm glad we got to meet!

Angel, YOU ROCK!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Some People Make Me Vomit (Part 2)

And another thing . . . . (I make no apologies for using my blog to vent right now)

Only 12 minutes after posting the last blog entry, I read this article.

I am so sick and tired of hearing people call any GLBT attempt to live a normal life or claim the right to live a normal life - an AGENDA! I'm referring to the reporter's comment - he says, "Will the President take any measures to prevent these activists from using this non-political event as a way to push their agenda on the rest of us?""


Yeah, i get it. Any story can be spun any way to produce the desired response from the readers. I'm sure there will be lots of spin when that reporter writes his piece. But how is gay parents wanting to allow their children to enjoy themselves with other children on the White House lawn during Easter - an AGENDA?

It's like anything that GLBT people do in public that brings some kind of peace and joy to their lives is suspiciously an infiltration into our society to break down the moral fabric of our families. Who's got the agenda? The people who want to raise a happy family or the ones who want to raise children who will hate the happy family?


Some People Make Me Vomit

I just had another frustrating conversation with a friend of mine. I love her. I really do. She has an incredible heart for unity within the Church . . . as long as those who are unified all agree with the same thing. Then the gloves come off!

Why is it that some people are so dead set about everyone being in agreement? Why can't we disagree and just be okay with the fact that not all of us think the same way and no one holds the market on absolute Truth? It's like she (and some people) just can't grasp the concept that unity doesn't necessarily mean total agreement.

I think that we can function together with the fact that the only thing that we may possibly agree on is Jesus Christ. I think He's enough to bring us together.

It's so frustrating to talk to people who outright refuse to pray with people who may love Jesus but disagree about certain theological items. I literally wanted to VOMIT tonight after talking to someone who wanted to FILTER who she prayed with! In fact, she literally said that she would leave the room and pray by herself if those certain "other" people were there. With a heart like that, would God even honor her prayers "against" her own brothers and sisters in Christ? Isn't there a reference somewhere about leaving your sacrifice at the alter to make amends first with your brother . . . .


Explosions Leading To Harmony

When will the Church embrace itself fully? We are comprised of men and women, black and white and asian and hispanic and every other race, ethnicity, and nationality across the globe. We express our worship differently. We express our theologies differently. We even express our sexuality differently. However, we all have come to a point of faith in Jesus Christ - the One that connects us all by His Spirit as One Body.

In a 'church culture' where the message of unity can't seem to be lived out, I feel called to be a catalyst - someone who brings two things together to cause a reaction. Sometimes, that reaction can be explosive. Sometimes, that reaction can lead to harmony. Sometimes, the explosion blows up what shouldn't be there so that what's left is in harmony . . . .

The past several weeks have been a wrestling match for me with some within the Church about the issue of homosexuality. About a month ago, for the first time I owned the feelings that come with injustice - those feelings of being "Profoundly Offended". The interesting thing that i'm finding on this journey of mine is that as I accept myself more and more as a Christ-centered gay person, it's helping me to see how I can help others within the Church accept other Christ-centered gay believers.

Raising the issue is bound to result in hostility, animosity, or at the very least discomfort. But raising the issue does just that - it raises the issue. It gets people talking. For too long, homosexuality has been a "hot zone" topic where no one in the Church wanted to talk about it. When the topic is silenced (when we are silenced) then the assumptions, myths, and hysteria breed an unchallenged culture that justifies the casting out of the Christian lepers - those who are marginalized as those who have the sinful audacity for suggesting that one can be both gay and Christian. They say that the integrity of the truth of Scripture is being compromised and they use the Law against us.

Who is right? Who is true?

For me, I had to wrestle with this issue in order to find resolution in my being. I had to experience some explosive reactions in me so that God could lead me to a place of peace - harmony. The things I learned when I was Side X had to be challenged. They had to be challenged because the facts they presented didn't add up.

I was told that God loved me. I was told that God hated homosexuality as sin. I was told that I am a new creation. I continued to experience same sex attractions. I was told I can change. I was shown people who changed their lifestyles but not their inherent attractions. I was told that God's love was unconditional. I was shown a conditional love by the Church. I was told to value truth. I was shown a Church ready to stone a person for articulating a truth about himself. I was forced to secrecy - darkness - for my own safety. I was told that the real enemy is Satan. I was shown a Church that wasn't safe for me. I was told that God's grace is sufficient for me. I was told that I couldn't be gay if I claimed to be Christian. Apparently, grace wasn't enough. Somehow, heterosexuality was "added" to the salvation formula.

My journey is rooted in certain core truths that I know about God. These are things that I wasn't simply told by the Church, but rather things that I have experienced from God personally and confirmed in Scripture for myself. I know God to be love. His love is unselfish, patient, kind, and keeps no record of wrongs. I know God to be sacrificial. He would rather die than to see me hurt. I know God to be just. He values equality and fairness in the world, in me, in His people. I know God to be slow to anger. God's wrath towards me is tempered by His enduring love for me so much that it would be a really long time before He was really angry with me. I know God to be righteous. He calls for a standard of holiness. I know God to be sovereign. He demands obedience for He is the King of all. I know God to be my Creator. He knew my name before I was even born. I know God to be my friend, my Father. He comforts me, nurtures me, and counsels me.

This is what I know about God. This tells me what I know about myself.

The person I am was created by Him. I am known by Him. I am loved. I am called to mirror His love towards me by loving all people properly. This expression of love is to transform my very being. It doesn't transform my biology, but rather it transforms the way I love God and love others. I worship Him alone. I seek to bless my friends. I strive to love romantically as one who expresses commitment, unselfishness, patience, kindness, and keeping no record of wrongs. When I identify myself as a gay Christian, I am not claiming an identity outside of God's intent - for He created me. I claim an identity that loves God and loves others properly. I am a creature of healthy love. At least, that's the intent. It's not about the gender of whom I love, but rather it's about properly loving without the context of sin - lust, idolatry, and violence. Since I am not a perfect creature, He is constantly molding me - transforming me - so that I learn from my mistakes, my sins - so that I may not engage them again. In that process, I have the privilege of grace to spur me onward.

My God is not a condemning God. There is no compromise for this truth. There are those who say that I cannot be both gay and Christian. They attempt to use the Law against me, claiming that I am 'breaking' His Law while attaching their own interpretations of it. They call their interpretations truth. For me, I think truth is found only in God. He is truth. If we want to know Truth, then we ought to look at what we know about God - and that should be our lens for our interpretations of Scripture. I find my confidence in Christ alone and in my relationship with Him.

Thank God that He is who He is because He made who I am.

What is it that you know of God through your own personal relationship with Him and how does that define the person you are? What else have we been taught in the past that need a stick of TNT so that we can find harmony?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sankofa (Part Three)

**Sankofa is a four part series looking backward so that I can move forward. Be sure to read Sankofa (Part Two) to see how I came to have faith in Jesus, became part of the 'church culture', realized how unwanting it was, then was led towards embracing a lifestyle of faith. From there, we continue to Part Three . . . .

The more I grew in the 'church culture', the more I experienced the colliding worlds of my homosexuality (or rather, my 'same sex attractions') and the mainstream church's teaching and interpretation of Scripture that it was a sin. That's all I knew. That's all I was taught. Why question it? In fact, I wouldn't have known to question it because at the time, to me, I believed it to be true. So for 13 years of being a Christian, I embraced the concept that something was wrong with me for being gay and, for some reason, God saw fit NOT to change me . . . .

There were so many times when I pleaded with God to make me straight. I begged Him to remove these desires (temptations) towards other men away from me. But every time I asked God why I still have these inclinations, He tells me that His 'grace is sufficient'. Quite frankly, I needed alot more than His grace. I needed Him to change me. I needed Him to bring peace to my flesh. I needed Him to help me feel normal. I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to be able to be attracted to women. I wanted to be able to have a wife. I wanted to be able to have it in me to do what was necessary to produce children. Sex. There's no way that I could pull that off. With a woman?! Yeah, right! Not a chance. I'm just not built that way.

So what am I supposed to do, Lord, if You won't change me?

There's a taboo in the church associated with being gay. No one wants to talk about it unless it's being condemned. The problem with that is that it doesn't help me much for it to be the 'unspoken' topic. I didn't want to be gay, but there I was - a professed Christian who consistently and continually experienced same sex attractions. The stigma kept me silent out of fear. Since the church didn't seem to want to do anything to help, I stayed paralyzed with the struggle. I was in a never-ending cycle of a dualistic life. I'd "go to" church to feel close to God. I'd "leave" church feeling unknown and unnoticed because no one knew how depressed I felt (much less why I would be depressed).

In 2003-04, I was introduced to the ex-gay ministry. I had heard about Exodus International. I became associated with a similar type ministry called Desert Stream. An ex-gay ministry, or rather "Side X" ministry as I seemed to have coined recently (in this blog and in a paper I wrote - I never heard it used that way before), is a Christian ministry that holds the perspective that all forms of homosexuality - whether in thought or action - are a sin. They invest their energies to exploring the "brokenness" within an individual's life, pursuing God's "healing", and hoping for a transformation by God from being gay to becoming straight - normal. In a nutshell, the Side X view says that one cannot be both gay and Christian.

I held to the Side X perspective for 13 years believing that it was wrong for me to be gay and that I needed to be changed. I thought that being gay and Christian were two fundamentally opposing contexts that cannot be experienced without compromising the "truth" of Scripture. So I avoided anything remotely related to gay Christian literature. I avoided any contact to the gay community. Yet, despite what I believed about how wrong it was, I still existed with those two realities. I am gay. I am Christian. Those two life contexts kept me living a dichotomous life - a life that kept my gayness hidden, secret, and in the dark and shameful closet and a life that kept my Christianity public, in the light, and something to be "proud" of.

The frustration of living a dualistic life led me to connecting with Desert Stream. I participated in weekly "Cross Current" meetings that gave me a context of openly talking about my struggles. I also participated in a six month intensive program called "Living Waters" for dealing with (what they referred to as) my sexual and relational brokenness. I have since heard many horror stories about other people's experiences in ex-gay ministries. However, I can say that mine was a positive experience. I didn't feel oppressed by them because, at the time, I actually did feel like being gay was a sin. I was Side X so there was no conflict in me with what the ex-gay ministry was teaching me. Aside from the whole homosexuality thing, they also taught about relational idolatry, narcissism, codependency, and sexual promiscuity. In addition, we were all involved in small groups where each of us had the opportunity to talk about our struggles and receive support through them. I found value in the program because I can acknowledge the unhealthiness of how we interact with each other - whether gay or straight. I also found value in the program because, for the first time, I could be heard. I loved being able to talk about the things that I was too afraid to talk about (or the things the Church didn't want to talk about) - the dynamic of being gay.

I was with the ex-gay ministry (in one way or another) for about 3 years. During this time, I was connecting with prayer intercessors from multiple churches throughout the city (as part of my public ministry) to pray for the city as a whole. Since Long Beach, CA has a large gay population, we often prayed against those people and their agenda. Then God began to convict my heart about two things over a period of several months. He asked me two questions: why am I praying against a people I don't even know? why am I praying against "them" when I am one of "them"?

Those two questions led to a significant moment in my life in the Spring of 2005. Those two questions served as seeds to prepare me for what God was about to do in my life, my faith, my sexuality - in me. I met a person who I typically refer to in this blog as "my buddy". We both had a mutual friend who thought it may be beneficial for us to meet. Our mutual friend knew my buddy was gay but not that I was. So we ended up meeting for an early dinner just to connect. It was a somewhat formal dinner with the standard get-to-know-you type of questions. We also talked about the whole gay thing and where each of us stood on the issue. My buddy shared about how, in recent years, he came to terms with him being gay and Christian. I shared about my hope for a wife, a family, and the grace from God that I live with in my struggle with same sex attractions. I don't know if he actually "bought" it. But he did say that he respected the fact that "I owned what I believed about it and was living it out".

That screwed me up.

I began to question his statement to me. Did I really own what I believed about homosexuality? Why do I believe that it's a sin? I realized that I believed that homosexuality was a sin because that was the only thing I was taught. The only interpretation offered to me regarding homosexuality was the Side X view. When I read the Scriptures for myself, I had the filter of the interpretations that were given to me. So then, can I really say that I own what I believe about these things?

I decided that I wanted to be able to own what I believe. I wanted to be able to say that homosexuality is a sin and to be able to say it with conviction. I wanted to be able to say that I came to this decision having been well-informed of all sides to the issue and that through my own prayer, study, and discernment I formed my conclusions. I wanted to own it.

Although I entered this journey thinking that I would come full circle and remain Side X, I knew that in order for me to genuinely process these things on my own, I had to take a step back and claim a neutral position on the issue of homosexuality. I wanted to allow myself to explore what others had to say about it. There are those who believe that a person can be both gay and Christian in a monogamous relationship because it's not a sin to be gay but it is a sin in specific contexts (Side A). There are those who believe that a person can be both gay and Christian but must be celibate because being tempted is not equivalent to acting upon it - it's still a sin (Side B). There are those who believe that a person cannot be both gay and Christian because it's all a sin and one must be transformed to be straight (Side X).

I began this journey of exploration and study and started this blog to chronicle my process. I began to meet new people who are gay and made awesome friendships - some Christian, some not. I began to nurture the friendship with my buddy - a friendship which I've grown to value greatly. I began to visit and participate with inclusive churches. I began to read books, essays, and articles. I began to hear countless stories of people from varying backgrounds. I began to get emails from people from around the country and parts of the world. I began to chat online with people going through a similar journey.

Along the way, I tried to blog with honesty and vulnerability for both my benefit and yours. As I peruse through the archives over the past 7 months, I can't help but think that it's been an interesting journey so far. I began to witness gay Christians actually worshipping the Lord. As I got to know them, I saw the fruits of the Spirit in their lives and I got to a point of realizing that I cannot deny that these indeed are my brothers and sisters in Christ. With that realization, it led to an important question: now what? If I conclude that these gay Christians are genuine believers, then what does that mean for how the Church ought to treat them? Further, what does this mean for me? I saw a parallel between this realization and the one that Peter had when God revealed to him that salvation had come to the Gentiles (Acts 10 - Cornelius' home).

Along the way, instead of seeking to answer the questions that I had, I began to question the answers that I was given. And in this process, I realized that the judgment from the mainstream Church towards gay people (including those within the Church) was a sin worthy of rebuke. This led to a study in Galatians which resulted in a milestone blog post for me called, "Embracing a Different Gospel". I realized that when I accepted Christ and believed in Him 13 years ago, it had nothing to do with my sexuality. It was His grace that I accepted. I realized that adding the Side X component of trying to change my sexuality had nothing to do with my salvation and that in doing so I was embracing a different gospel - one that appeased the mainstream Church's Side X perspective but denied the full grace of God available to me through faith in Christ.

Another significant realization that I had was about 'love'. I realized that both homosexuality and heterosexuality (as defined in today's English) are simply expressions of sexuality. In Scripture, sexual sins are described in the context of unhealthy and unloving expressions of sexuality - for both homosexual and hetersexual expressions. Both these expressions can also be conducted in the context of love.

For quite some time, I had inclined towards the Side A perspective but remained open to the other perspectives (as I still do). However, I realized that all of my study and interviews and research was merely academic. All three perspectives have seemingly good arguments, good points, and good examples. But I got to a point where I felt that I was on the fence and that I would never get off that fence until I took this journey out of the "books" and "dialogue" and started to live this out. In that process of living it out, I trust Jesus enough to continue walking with me and speaking to me about these things. I needed to experience for myself either God's peace or God's conviction about these things - trusting Jesus enough to reveal His will to me along the way and that it was okay to make some mistakes so that with Him I could learn from them. So I decided to take some relational risks. With pre-set boundaries, I decided that I was ready to start dating and meeting people in a romantic context. And I have. And it's been fun and freeing.

Some recent significant moments for me was when, for the first time, I owned my sexuality as a gay man in "Living Life As All of Me" and when I owned the injustice that the gay community often experiences but that I ignored in "Profoundly Offended" and when I spoke to my family this past Christmas that I wasn't simply "struggling with same sex attractions" (that's what I told them in 2001) but that I was actually Side A in "It Felt Like Family, It Felt Like Church" (see comments of that post).

So now, in this part of my journey, I'm finding cohesion in this Two World Collision. Whether its the collision between Church paradigms or between issues of sexuality, my peace is resting on the commands to "love God" and to "love each other". As a single guy, gay Christian and all, it does get pretty lonely. But i'm making healthy connections with people while trying to demonstrate a sincere love - the same love that I receive from Christ.

Sankofa. "Looking backward to move forward."

This is an ongoing journey for me. This is where I've been and where I am now but i'm excited to know that where I'm headed is still a mystery, still uncertain, still exhilarating. I'm still exploring. I'm still just trying to live this all out. I still trust Jesus enough to be here with me and even lead me. I have alot to learn.

**Read on to Sankofa (Part Four) to read about the vision and direction that I sense the Lord leading me into as I move forward from here!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Week In Florida

Hi everyone,

Only have time to write ya a quick note - i'm off to Orlando, Florida for the GCN Conference! I'm so excited because this will be my first gay Christian conference. I'm looking forward to gaining both insight and connection! I'll be leaving tonight and will return next Thursday - after the conference i'm spending a few days to check out Disney World (of course!). I'm also excited because i'll get to meet my new bud and fellow blogger, Angel and her family! They are driving about an hour from where they live just to see me and have lunch with me!

I was hoping to finish Sankofa (Part Three) but haven't yet. Perhaps, the conference will provide some good insights for me to process for it and other future posts. Either way, when i get back, i'll finish off my testimony and let you all know what God's been placing on my heart for the future - (plus, i've been kinda seeing a guy - so maybe i'll fill you in *grin*). In the mean time, I encourage you to check out the links in the sections on the left and right columns. Also go through the archives to catch up on anything you might have missed! =)

I'd appreciate your prayers! Also please keep an eye out for the Figure Skating National Championships next week. My good friend is competing in the pairs competition! (I'd mention his name but i didn't get a chance to ask him if it was okay.) Stay tuned!


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sankofa (Part Two)

**Sankofa is a four part series looking backward so that I can move forward. Be sure to read Sankofa (Part One) to see early beginnings and the wonderful love affair I had with my porcelain punisher. From there, we continue to Part Two . . . .

So I survived in pain. It was utter suffering. By 5:00AM, it was done and I could safely sleep. I hadn't yet been introduced to a personal God but it was only a matter of time. Nobody knew what I had done. I was alive so it really didn't matter - I suppose. I hadn't told my family nor my best friend because, well, let's face it, I had already detached myself to the point of not wanting anyone's help. I was going to do this alone. Nobody knew what I did. Nobody would understand why. I was still alive so the only thing left was to move on with my life - alone . . . .

My mom bought a house in Riverside so we moved. By that time, all I really had was JROTC because that was the one place that, if I performed, I was acknowledged - noticed. My tantrum didn't help much so I started my 10th grade year in a new high school. The blessing in this was that my one year in Long Beach as a part of a championship team gave me the experience and the edge above my new classmates. I was placed in leadership, as a sophomore, and remained in leadership since. I naturally rose up the ranks, continuing to earn the awards and recognitions, while being placed in authority over my peers. It was at this young point in my life that I understood how lonely it is at the top. Leadership provides a different perspective - one that most teenagers never really comprehend. So I saw myself set apart from my peers. With a different perspective, I saw things differently and so I made decisions differently. I was different.

I definitely had my share of crushes. Boy, did I have crushes! My hormones were raging and my same sex attractions were denied a real life outlet because of social stigma. Fear. It was easier to hide behind success. That made the facade so much easier to maintain. But even though I crushed hard on many, many, many, many, many guys around school, I was drawn towards a female friend of mine because she was right there with me in leadership. The two of us were typically in command (of something or another) in JROTC and so we found in each other a person who could understand - the stress of responsibility and the drive to achieve. So we started to date and we became a couple. I tried. I really tried to make it work. We lasted about three months, broke up, got back together again, lasted for another two months or so, then broke up mutually agreeing that we were better off as friends. It was true. We're great friends - even now - we just aren't the boyfriend-girlfriend type. Funny thing - she ended up being the girlfriend-girlfriend type while, as you know, I'm the boyfriend-boyfriend type. Go figure.

High school was a lonely time because of the leadership dynamic, the family dynamic, and the whole gay thing. During the Summer after my junior year in high school, at 16 years old, my cousin invited me to a Christian church. The first thing that I noticed was the music. Drums! Guitar! Keyboard! Microphones! What the - ? This is church? This is way different from mass. I began to be introduced to a formerly foreign concept to me - a personal God. Jesus. As I learned the truths of what He did for me, I embraced Him as my God - my Savior. As I recounted in a previous post called, "Embracing A Different Gospel," me being gay had nothing to do with my decision to believe in Him and accept His Sovereignty. It wasn't about feeling any kind of guilt for being gay. It was about realizing the fact that God loved me even though I didn't deserve it. Period. Purely grace.

It wasn't until afterwards, that I realized a sense of condemnation for being gay - not by Jesus but by His people. The tough thing about this was that the church served as my surrogate family. I allowed myself to see them as family - my brothers and sisters in Christ. Over a period of 10 years, I grew in faith. I grew in my knowledge of Scripture. I grew in the many ways that I could serve Him. In various contexts I led Bible studies, I led worship (keyboard), I led youth groups, I was a greeter, I helped to set up/take down for services, I ushered, I counted tithes and offerings, I did baptisms, I created church bulletins and calendars and flyers, I was a part of small groups, I preached at Sunday morning services, I did neighborhood prayer walks, and I was a part of ministry to the homeless, elderly, and at-risk youth. I listened to nothing but praise and worship music and contemporary Christian music. I was all about the "church culture". I was a "successful" Churchian.

I can own the fact that this seems consistent with my drive to achieve in order to gain a sense of acknowledgement and acceptance. But I can also say that through it all, I was sincerely loving Jesus more and more.

In whatever local church that I was a part of at the time, what I found consistent was that there was a limit to the level of depth that I could have with my surrogate family. The love and connection seemed limited to the confines of the "church culture" - the events, the programs, the ministries, the services. I saw the acceptance of God's people only when I was doing what they viewed to be righteous - merely being present, being in attendance. As long as I was doing the church thing, then everything seemed great. Their knowledge of me was limited to the person they saw at those events. But what about when I was away from church? Did they really understand the profound loneliness that I was experiencing among them? Would they truly love me and continue to hug me on Sunday mornings if they knew that I was attracted to other men?

So over these same ten years, I experienced two types of colliding worlds.

The first type of collision was between the "church culture" that expressed a conditional love in the context of a spectator faith clashing with my recognition of how superficial this felt and how ineffective we were being with the very people we were trying to reach out to. As a person who desperately hungered for relationships with substance, I starved within the "church culture".

I began to have questions - questions about why? Why are we simply going through the motions? Why do people within the church not realize how ineffective we are being with people outside of the church? Why do we play church on Sundays without acknowledging the pain of the person sitting in front of us, or next to us, or behind us, or in the back row? Why do we call each other brother or sister without even knowing where the other lives or what the other needs or even the other's name? Why do we condemn each other without even knowing the context of how things came about?

Over the past three years, I began to realize that Jesus was leading me back to when I first accepted Him - back to when I realized that He was a personal God. I began to realize that He was revealing to me the "church culture" and drawing me away from it, and instead was drawing me towards living a lifestyle of faith that wasn't confined to the structures of brick and mortar or programs and events. And so, I began to realize what I articulated in several previous posts on my "Church" paradigm ("Death of a Church and Life in the Hot Zone", "Jumping the Walls", "Band of Brothers and Sisters", and "Church Outside The Box" - I definitely recommend reading all of them in that order) and instead of waiting for the church's permission or programs, I simply chose to live and function as the Church among the Church and the world. I began to live out my faith, follow Jesus to the places the Churchians didn't want to go, and explore what it looks like to be the Church there.

The second type of collision that I experienced was the clash between what the mainstream church interpretted in Scripture regarding all forms of homosexuality being a sin (an opinion that I held at the time for 13 years of being a Christian) and the reality of living with my same sex attractions for 22 years (since I was 8 years old) while discovering that there were indeed Christ-centered gay people out there.

*Read on to Sankofa (Part Three) to read about this second type of collision and how I entered this journey of exploring these colliding worlds which led to this blog - exploring what it looks like to be both gay and Christian!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sankofa (Part One)

"Sankofa" is a Swahili word that means "looking backward to move forward."

Today marks the first day of a new year! The past several years have been a roller coaster of emotions - with highs and mostly lows - trudging along this journey of finding peace in the midst of colliding worlds. This past year in particular, 2005, has been a milestone year for me because it's been marked with freedom, clarity, and cohesion that has released me to live an active lifestyle of faith in the context of being gay.

How did I get to this point? How is it possible that I can live, with good conscience, both a Christian and gay life? Now that I'm here, where do I go now?

Sankofa. In a series of four posts, I shall attempt to reflect backward so that I may move forward in the direction that God has called me . . . .

Being filipino, I grew up with a Catholic background. I remember going to mass but for the most part we were pretty much non-practicing. I was born in the Philippines and left at about the age of 3 years old. I haven't been back since so I don't remember anything about it. My family moved to Illinois for a couple of years (the last time I remember falling snow) then moved to Hawaii. I spent my elementary years on the island of Oahu - no, i never did learn how to surf!

It was here when I remember my first gay inclinations. In 3rd grade, I started to have crushes on fellow boy classmates. I also knew that it was considered wrong. Even at that young age, I sensed the stigma attached to what I was feeling. I knew that I couldn't tell anyone or else people would make fun of me. I "tried" to have crushes on girls. I remember trying to draw my attention to Cherie (in 4th grade) and Allison (in 5th grade) but it was never as natural as I felt towards Scott and David. Yeah, I knew I was gay.

My parents decided to divorce after I was in 6th grade. I chose to live with my mom and so we moved to Southern California - to Long Beach. Junior high school years are cruel and unforgiving. 7th grade was marked by physical awkwardness, social insecurities, and gym class. It didn't help much that I was new and didn't have any friends, that I got the chicken pox and missed several weeks of school and had difficulty catching up, and that I was a gay pre-teen experiencing puberty in a school where no one wanted to be called a 'fag'! Ouch. Those were tough times.

The only redeeming thing that happened to me by 8th grade was learning how to dance. My cousin and her neighbor friend had the heart to invest some time with me in teaching me some 'moves' for the dance. Here's a flashback for those who remember the great American urban 80's: i learned the 'running man', the 'roger rabbit', the 'troop', the 'kid-n-play', the 'robocop', the 'electric slide', and the standard step side to side and move your arms about casually to look like you're having a good time. Dancing. The day of the 8th grade dance (where I had a girl date) was the day I rose up the social ladder - one rung.

By 9th grade, high school, I had a bit more confidence. I had friends. I joined JROTC where my brother had been a successful predecessor before me so my last name was well known. He had just graduated so I wasn't in his shadow. I had the opportunity to prove myself on my own merit. JROTC is a military structured high school program (this was public school) that teaches leadership and discipline. I was a cadet. I was already feeling detached from my family after the divorce - I suppose, in a way, I emotionally divorced them and gradually became independent - and so JROTC was the perfect context to find community in esprit de corps. I was a part of the armed rifle exhibition drill team. We had a strong camaraderie because we were city champions and were very competitive across the region. I found a place where I could be acknowledged when I performed well. By the end of my freshman year, I had a large amount of ribbons and medals (awards and recognitions) to wear on my uniform, competition trophies, and a school athletic letter to sport on a jacket (should I have ever chosen to get one).

It was also in 9th grade when I had my first big crush. I was a freshman who had a senior for a best friend. It wasn't just my fantasy or imagination. He called me his best friend too. He was a senior cadet in JROTC also and so we spent alot of time together. One day, I felt the crazy notion to tell him I was gay. Actually, I chickened out and watered it down by saying, "I think I'm bi." He responded with an, "oh." We didn't talk about it since. I don't remember much after that except that I think he told a few people.

In the Spring of the same year, the night of the senior's prom, I felt like my best friend had rejected me. At the time, my head was spinning from the confusion and self-hatred of being gay. I had also started surfacing the bitterness, anger, and sadness about the divorce - feelings that I had repressed and was just now allowing myself to experience. I felt rejected by my parents as if they were divorcing me. I felt rejected by my best friend as if he were divorcing me. I felt rejected by my friends (who either knowingly or unknowingly made fag jokes often) as if they were divorcing me. I felt rejected by the world that held this stigma of being gay against me even though it wasn't my fault. It wasn't my fault. Or was it?

So I decided to die.

The medicine cabinet had lots of options. I had heard once that taking a bottle of asprin could stop a person's heart. Good idea. I began to empty out the bottles in the medicine cabinet. I held the bottom of my shirt out like a pouch and collected all the pills. Then I managed to scoop all the pills into both my hands cupped together. Two full handfulls of pills and I poured them into my mouth trying my best to swallow them as they went down. Once my hands were free, I cupped my hands with water and washed down the rest of the pills.

That was it. It was finished. I did the deed and I was ready. I put on one of those Catholic rosary necklaces around my neck and went to bed. Now I could finally sleep. No one knew what I had done. No one knew that I would have needed to go to the hospital.

I had a digital clock in my room, so it was easy for me to see the time. It was 4:00 PM. My head was tired from the whirlwind of craziness going on inside so I fell asleep pretty quickly. And I slept for three hours.

I opened my eyes. It was 7:00 PM. My head felt hazy and I looked around a dark and spinning room. I didn't feel sick to my stomach. But all of a sudden I felt as if I was carried up out of my bed and over to the bathroom toilet. As I knelt over it, it happened. The stirring began from deep down and the eruption traveled up my throat and out into the toilet. Oh F*ck! That feeling completely sucked! I tasted the bile and the medication in my mouth and the room was spinning and my palms were cold but sweaty. I felt a chill and I dragged myself to bed. Oh God that sucked! I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

I opened my eyes. It was 8:00 PM. Haziness - darkness - spinning. It was weird. I felt carried up again out of my bed and over to the toilet. No. Not again. Stirring. Eruption. Throat. Up and out. Oh F*ck! That feeling completely sucked! Didn't I just go through this? I crawled back to bed with my mouth still flavored with the taste of bile and medicine. Vomitting sucks. I fell asleep again, thank God.

I opened my eyes. It was 9:00PM. No. Not again. I felt carried up out of my bed to face my porcelain punishment. I stood there, looking into the water, knowing what was inevitably going to happen. I felt the churn from deep within. My throat was already sore. The floodgates were unleashed and my insides gushed up and out and down into the toilet. Oh F*ck! That feeling completely sucked! Alright already. Let me be done with this! Flush. Crawl. Bed. Bile. This poor schmuck fell asleep.

I opened my eyes. It was 10:00PM. Same thing. 11:00PM. Same thing. 12:00AM. Same thing. Every hour, on the hour - like clock work - every time feeling carried up out of my bed and over to the toilet as if some unseen Being were pumping my stomach of its contents. No one else was going to do it. Every hour, on the hour, from 7:00PM until 5:00AM. Divinely timed.

I never wanted to die so badly in my life! If I ever had a reason to end it all, it was this night. I would rather die than vomit one . . . . more . . . . time.

Surviving suicide completely sucks.

In hindsight, I can see the intervention of a God who knew my name before I acknowledged His. This was the year 1990 and He wasn't quite done with me yet . . . .

*Read on to Sankofa (Part Two) to read about how Jesus entered the scene and the realization of colliding worlds!