By Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
“Gay Christian? Yes! Campaign
By Theresa D. McClellan
GIFT’s Faith Advocacy Coordinator
“Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign Coordinator
These are the only words to describe the actions and non-action at the Gay Day celebration in a Grand Rapids neighborhood park where Bible-toting characters spewed hate and violence toward women and anyone within earshot.
On Saturday Aug. 4 the East Hills Neighborhood Association organized “Gay Day,” as a day to recognize and celebrate diversity, the current and historical presence of gays in their community, and an inclusive spirit.
The family-friendly event featured food, local bands and educational booths about organizations such as the National Organization for Women and TEAM (Tolerance, Equality and Awareness Movement). Our Gays In Faith Together (GIFT) “Gay Christian? Yes!” table was scheduled to be there, but a family crisis kept me away.
Unfortunately, nothing deterred protestors from “Gay Day” in Cherry Park. But this was a different kind of protest. These “protestors” made vile threats against some of the women in the park, threatened to rape them and cited Bible passages as support for their threats. Other women reported that the men suggested someone should put a bullet in their head. Much of this vitriol was caught on video and audio tape.
This goes far beyond free speech. This is hate speech. Violent-inciting speech. Fear-inducing speech. The kind of speech that if not slammed as unacceptable and unfitting of anyone purporting to be a person of faith, is seen as acquiescence. These characters can be dismissed as fringe, and attention seekers, but their message of Biblically supported violence and hate leaves a stench in the air that has to be addressed.
The Bible can and has been used to support violence and dismissal of women, foreigners, blacks. As a follower of Christ, I use the Bible to show expressions of God’s love for all and to share the Christ message of celebration, acceptance and inclusion of all that God has made.
I am calling on other followers of Christ to reject and dismiss these Bible-toting characters and their message of oppression and hate which marred the day in the park.
Silence is unacceptable.
If silence is allowed to be the norm in this community, the Grand Rapids Police Department would feel no compulsion to change their stance and say they would now investigate the matter.
Initially, the GRPD said there was nothing they could do, despite video evidence of threats. Police allegedly said threats could be taken seriously if they were made over the phone. Really?
That response led people in the LGBT community to relay ,through social media, other acts of violence against them that were allegedly ignored by police. This created a sense that not everyone deserves police protection. Again, unacceptable.
But members of NOW and TEAM and yes GIFT’s “Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign are raising their voices to say the violence and threats of violence are unacceptable in this community.
I have a special message to my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally brothers and sisters of faith.
The days of “just sitting with it” because you think no one hears you or sees you, or will stand with you in solidarity, are over.
For too long we have sat silently in church pews, in classrooms, in public places, where others have felt it was their right to create an atmosphere of shame and fear.
Because you raised your voices as victims of oppression, and as oppressors of oppression a light has been shined on this community. We will continue to hold up that light.
We will not be dimmed.
By Theresa D. McClellan
GIFT’s Faith Advocacy Coordinator
“Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign Coordinator
When you are a small community church with a mission to listen and be heard, what do you do?
If the church is the “Square-Inch Community,” you bring multi-textured music to the masses and raise the bar by highlighting tough social justice issues happening in our community.
So that’s exactly what Pastor Steve DeRuiter chose to do by creating the free “Inch Fest” concert. The concert will be 4 p.m to 10 p.m. Friday June 20 in a parking lot in the 1000 block of Wealthy Street SE across the street from the Sparrows Coffee House.
The event features six bands offering music styles from indie alternative, to folk to Christian hip-hop to punk. And when your not jammin’ with the sounds, you have the chance to get more involved with six local social justice groups – including GIFT – that will have information tables and representatives who work on tackling issues of affordable housing, sex trafﬁcking, safe neighborhoods, and safe and afﬁrming places to worship for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender communities.
“We want to promote local goodness,” said DeRuiter in explaining how he chose the participating social justice organizations. “Our church is really interested in promoting local business and justice organizations and art” said DeRuiter. His small church community meets Sundays in an upper room at the Inner City Christian Federation Bldg. at 920 Cherry St. SE.
The social justice organizations represented will include the Manasseh Project which is working on educating others on what is called the sex-slave industry occurring right here in West Michigan. The project is an outreach of Wedgewood Christian Services which is working to end the sexual exploitation of men, women and children.
“They have stats on how many of these victims are homeless and from the LGBT community, especially when LGBT kids get kicked out of their homes,” said DeRuiter.
Too often, LGBT youths and young adults are ostracized by their families – based on church teachings – and wind up disconnected and on the streets.
GIFT and the “Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign, which works to spread the message that you can be gay and Christian, will also be present. Our persistent message of hope and afﬁrmation is crucial for youths and all who are told they are worthless and something to be dismissed just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
To be able to spread our message of hope and afﬁrmation in the neighborhoods and on the streets of Grand Rapids is indeed a blessing for GIFT and for all those who will hear. Our website includes a growing list of inclusive churches and more churches are wanting to know how they can embrace all of God’s children. We regularly connect with people of faith who attest to the difference it has made in their lives to have found a supportive faith community.
Pastor DeRuiter is a Christian Reformed Church pastor whose small community of believers come from the parent church of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church. ”I want to ﬁgure out how we can best be a church for our LGBT brothers and sisters, even though our Christian Reformed Church has miles to travel. How can we approach this as a church? We have gay members, they just want to know how to be a disciple of Christ,” said the pastor.
So one way to reach out to multiple communities is to create a festival. He will not be preaching at the six-hour event. He will have free Bibles available and a box for prayer requests and literature about their church. It will mostly be multiple musicians, diverse information and a chance to get to know and learn about each other. There will also be vegan treats for sale.
Other justice groups expected are Safe Haven Ministries, which provides help for women in abusive relationships. The Inner City Christian Federation which helps create affordable housing and the East Hills Council of Neighborhoods which works on community development and building strong, safe, connected neighborhoods. Square Inch Church is in the East Hills neighborhood.
“We are letting people know we are a Christian community in this neighborhood and we aim to be a safe place for you. My prayer is that people will know who we are and seek out questions about us and the universe in a Christian context,” said DeRuiter.
He calls the expected music the “the Best local Band Lineup of the Summer.” They are:
Heartside Hooligans: http://heartsidehooligans.bandcamp.com/album/heartside-hooligans-2
Circle Maybe: http://circlemaybe.bandcamp.com/
Alert (hip hop from Chicago) http://www.facebook.com/thealertlive/app_204974879526524
The Soil and the Sun: http://thesoilandthesun.com/
Cains and Abels: http://cainsandabels.tumblr.com/
Ghost Heart: http://www.ghostheart.com/
For more information on Inch Fest, search “Inch Fest 7/20 Free Admission!” on Facebook.
Churches, please tell us of your programs and efforts to include the LGBT community and we will help spread the word on Theresaʼs Table. Send story ideas and church information to Theresa@GayChristianYes.org
Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
Gays In Faith Together (GIFT)
While it seems that one can be transgender and Christian, and having laid out guidelines on how this can best happen, it is ultimately important to remind all Christians that our final identity is in Christ.
Yes, one can be transgender and Christian. Through a loving and respectful journey they can find how best to understand their identity and express themselves in a way that is appropriate to their identity and their comfort. Yet it would go against the Gospel to claim that we can find fulfillment in ourselves. The crux of the Gospel is that we are to be like Christ, while this does not mean denying a transgender identity; it does mean putting ones identity as a Christian in priority. Our personal identity is important, but only if it is properly oriented toward becoming more like Christ. We must remember, as Bonhoeffer so eloquently put it, “Christ is truly the center of human existence, the center of history, and now also the center of nature”. Let us keep Him at the center as we discern all of our identities. Let us keep Him at the center of all.
 Bonhoeffer, 120.
These are obviously complex ethical issues that the Church must discern as a body. Having come to an understanding of transgenderism, as well as how the Church has until now responded to transgender individuals, and finally what the Scriptures and ethics say about gender variance, I will now seek to formulate a framework for how Christians, in various roles can properly respond to Transgender people in a way that best empowers them to live their lives authentically while finding ultimate meaning in Christ.
For Pastors and Church Leadership
As a Pastor or Church Leader, a key rule will be responding in love. If a transgender individual is sharing with you, it is because they trust you. To respond in prejudice, or with a look of disgust, would be incredibly hurtful and damaging of the trust relationship that has been built up between yourself and your parishioner. It would also be intelligent to let the parishioner know if you need time for research, so that you come at the situation knowledgeable. It is also vital to let the parishioner sit down and talk with you, and share their story. Transgenderism can manifest itself differently in any individual, and it is important to understand what this person is saying by coming out as transgendered. What are their plans and desires? It is also vital to take note of other aspects of their life situation. Are they married, if so does their spouse know of their identity? Does their immediate family know?
If they are coming out to you, there is a chance they are looking for guidance on where to head. Try to not go into the situation with their life plan already figured out for them. Rather, help them to work through the multitude of issues they are working through. Do not go in with certain options off the table, but rather with a mind towards discerning what works best with them.
The second key rule will be to come at the situation with a discerning attitude. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the discussion, perhaps it may be wise to refer them to a professional counselor to help them work through some of these issues. But you should make sure to get to know the potential situations that will arise from their decisions. It is useful to help them realize that there are more options for transgender people than medically transitioning. If they are transsexuals and feel that they must transition, then be prepared to work through any life consequences they could face with that- breakup of marriage, loss of job, and disrespect in the community. If they are cross-dressers, help them to assess how this will manifest itself. If they are transgender (in the specific sense), what does that look like for them? There are as many ways for someone to express their identity as there are transgender individuals.
As you approach them with love and discernment, help them to focus on their ultimate identity in Christ. Help them to realize that they must approach the situation with love and discernment as well. Remind them that prayer is a helpful tool for discerning their path.
It must also be remembered that young people are also transgendered, and in this case it is especially important to be a loving presence in their life. As “the isolation that transgendered children feel puts them at high risk for abuse from others and from themselves”. Their families may have a hard time adjusting to the concept. Yet while transgender youth have the fortune of not having the ramifications on life commitments such as marriage to be worked through, they have many important decisions to be made about how their gender identity will express itself.
Depression is a realistic issue that will be faced in most transgender people, as the burden of hiding their identity has often taken a huge toll on their emotional help. This will definitely be one case to first spend time with them in prayer, but then to make sure they receive the proper psychological care that they need. It would be irresponsible to not help them battle real psychological problems as they work through this tumultuous time in their life. The love of God is a powerful tool in battling depression as one travels towards self acceptance. If we are able to feel accepted towards God, we are better able to deal with our negative feelings towards ourselves.
Finally you must be prepared to help guide the congregation along the journey that the individual is making. Do not disclose more information than is necessary, but be helpful in reminding them that this is a journey for all involved. You must not make a spectacle of the transgender individual’s experience, as that is a negative for the community as a whole. Perhaps you need to sit down with families that have concerns. Try to get all church leadership on the same page, so that the church does not faction off into various camps. Address the needs the individual may have in relating with the congregation properly.
For the Transgender Individuals
For those who are transgender or gender variant, it is important to be responsible and be healthy. Take time to prayerfully discern your identity and expression instead of hurrying into major decisions. What is your life situation? Take time to work with your family and friends in this journey. You may have had many years to work through this yourself, thus it is the loving option for you to give these important people in your life time to join you in your journey. If you are married, work with your spouse to see what the healthiest path is for everyone. It is vital to be honest to yourself in the way that best matches how you need to express while also being faithful to any life commitments.
What will be your decisions as far as where you are headed on this journey? Do you desire to transition? Just to live as the opposite sex? Only to crossdress in private? These are incredibly important decisions that should not be rushed.
Just as you journey with your family, work on journeying with pastor and church leadership. Let them know what needs you may have. It is also especially important to work out how you will journey with the congregation as a whole. What can the congregation do to be friendlier to you? Will everyone know, or will you only tell certain individuals in the congregation? How can you best contribute to the Church? Be loving and humble in your attitude, finding your ultimate example of how to act in Christ.
Be prepared to mutually journey together. This can take time. While the transgender individual should have love and respect towards the congregation, it is vital that the congregation also treats them with love and respect. Be sensitive to the individuals needs. As a congregations you may need to address appropriate issues such as: Which restrooms will be used by the individual? What are their preferred gender pronouns? How will they be expressing their gender, and will the congregations work to feel comfortable about that? It is important to have leadership from the Pastor and other church leadership while working together on these issues with the transgender individual. It is vital to respect the fact that this individual has decided to share and be honest with the congregation concerning their identity.
Section 5: Questions of Ethics
While transgender individuals are clearly welcome to become Christians, while maintaining their identity, many Christians would raise concerns about how they express this identity. There are a few main ethical questions that I will discuss in hopes of covering these major ethical dilemmas that transgender individuals and Churches seeking to respond properly to transgender individuals may deal with.
One ethical issue that must be addressed is the developing of a healthy sexuality in transgender individuals. Boyd, in My Husband Betty, discusses some possibly ways that transgender individuals can end up having sexual problems. These problems should be addressed in a Christian ethic of transgenderism. First among these problems is what she calls a “desire to be ‘the woman’ in bed”, or to apply in a wider sense- a possibility of distorting how their identity is expressed in sexuality. In the case of the male to female cross-dressers discussed by Boyd, she sees this as a focus on “submission and the desire to be seduced”. However, this is a distortion of a real female sexuality, as being female is about far more than being submissive. It is a simplification of what it means to be female, and a distortion of feminitiy. As Boyd observes, “The way I see it, most crossdressers are straight men who are socialized to objectify women sexually. Therefore, if they in fact do have an ‘inner woman’ (for whatever reason) they objectify ‘her’ too.” The Christians sexual ethic is not one of objectification, but rather of two individuals giving of themselves to each other. A Christian transgender individual must seek to overcome broken elements of their sexuality.
Another type of problem Boyd observed is sexual addiction. As she observes, “many crossdressers indulge their erotica habit on the sly”. A hidden addiction to pornography or to indulging fantasies through online sexual conversations is an improper way for a Christian individual to come to terms with their gender identity. This is especially problematic if one is in a relationship, as the focus of a Christian relationship should be on love of the other not pleasure of self. Both of these problems may lead to what Boyd defines as a third problem, a lack of interest in sex. Individuals may put in a mental block of not being able to enjoy sex without some sort of fetish involved, or some sort of fantasizing. This is also a problem in the context of a Christian sexual ethic.
Many transgender individuals do develop healthy sexualities, so these problems should not be seen as universal. Rather these are issues that some transgender individuals may run in to that must be changed as a Christian transgender individual comes to better understand their identity.
Perhaps the area of discussion that brings up the most debate when discussing Christian transgender individuals is the individuals gender expression and their possible desire for Sexual Reassignment Surgery. A prominent voice in the criticizing of the practice of sexual reassignment surgery is Paul McHugh, who wrote a piece entitled “Surgical Sex” to express his beliefs on the topic. He believes that the performing of gender transition is “a misdirection of psychiatry”. His article, while written recently, is based on his experiences as a psychologist in the 1970’s. He also bases his concepts off of two studies, one of following up with transgender women, and the other discussing surgeries performed on intersex infants. His work in the article, is sadly full of stereotyping, ad hominem statements, and misused data. The article is primarily focused on male to female transsexuals, and in that sense misses a whole set of data and ideas found in discussion of female to male transsexuals. In discussing these transsexual women, he continually demeans them. At one point he calls them “caricatures of women”. He also insists that these individuals cannot be women as “discussion of babies or children provoked little interest from them” and that many of them “found women sexually attractive.” However, even with the flawed nature his argument is presented with, is there an actual argument from a psychological perspective against SRS; what is the data he presents? Strangely, the data given seems to be distorted to prove the ideas he comes into the piece with. He writes concerning the study that followed up with these transsexual women, “found that most of the patients he tracked down some years after their surgery were contented with what they had done and that only a few regretted it”. This seems to conflict with his idea that this treatment is an improper road for these individuals. He also analyzes data from a study of intersex individuals who were assigned female at birth. The data shows that “eight of the fourteen subjects assigned to be females had since declared themselves to be male”. From this it seems clear that individuals develop their gender identity before birth, yet he uses this information to claim that SRS is damaging to individuals of all ages. He ultimately states that “we psychiatrists should work to discourage those adults who seek surgical sex reassignment”, primarily because he believes that transgender identity is simply a sexual perversion.
However, the American Psychological Association, the largest association of psychologists worldwide, disagrees with his findings. They support the right of transgender individuals to express themselves and to seek SRS if they meet proper criteria. They also support legal protections for transgender individuals and legal recognition of their identified gender. The APA acknowledges that there is no simple explanation for the existence of transgender individuals reasoning that
The diversity of transgender expression and experiences argues against any simple or unitary explanation. Many experts believe that biological factors such as genetic influences and prenatal hormone levels, early experiences, and experiences later in adolescence or adulthood may all contribute to the development of transgender identities. 
The APA, based on the combined results of peer reviewed study, has found that allowing individuals to express themselves and seek SRS if necessary is in fact that proper course of treatment. Thus McHugh is in the minority of scientific opinion on the subject, and given his clear bias against transgender individuals, it would be difficult to recommend that Christians follow his ideas. However, it seems that given the fact that the largest psychological association in the world believes that transgender people should be treated in a way that allows room for gender expression and possible SRS, that this would be the proper Christian method for treating transgender individuals.
Even McHugh allows room for intersex individuals to “postpone any decision about sexual identity until much later”. Why not allow transgender people the same right to discern their own gender identity? A useful guide in discerning this complex realm of gender and sex discussion is Anne Fausto-Sterling. In Sexing the Body Fausto-Sterling also connects the transgender experience with the intersex experience, so there is scientific room to make this connection with regards to ethics. Both intersex people, and transgender people, should be given room to express their identity. It must be noted that not all transgender people desire to express their gender identity in a certain way, and that only transsexuals desire SRS as a way to gain mental peace with their identity and bodies. The Church must be prepared to deal with the reality of transgender experiences, and should do so in the ways given by the APA- allowing room for gender expression and the possibility of SRS. In light of the Scriptures discussed in the last section, this seems like the right choice for the Church in proceeding.
The final ethical question that is brought up in discussion of transgender issues is that of discerning what to do with marriage and other life commitments. Many transgender people do not end up disclosing their identities until they are older, and possibly married. The Church must move cautiously in this area. How does the individual identify? Do they desire SRS? How does the spouse feel? Many couples are able to integrate a partner’s transgender identity into their relationship given time and guidance. This is especially true if the identity is disclosed before marriage. However, many spouses may feel hurt if the individuals identity does not come out till after marriage. This should be handled as delicately as possible, and the emphasis should be placed on how to work through things while staying together.
It is clear to me that while some situations must be carefully discerned, there is no reason that Transgender individuals should not be allowed to embrace their identity.
 Boyd, My Husband Betty, 153.
 Ibid, 156.
 Ibid, 162.
 Paul McHugh, “Surgical Sex.” First Things (2004): 34.
 Ibid, 35.
 Ibid, 36.
 Ibid, 37.
 American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/about/governance/council/policy/transgender.aspx.
 McHugh, 37.
Who Are We to Hinder God?
By Rev. Jill R. Russell
“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Acts 10.47
Whenever I read this text I immediately think that it is as timely and prophetic today as it was to Peter and the early church when it was first shared. Peter speaks these words with wonderment and conviction when he realizes that the Holy Spirit has fallen on Gentiles just as freely and fully as the Spirit has come upon his fellow Jewish believers. This passage expresses the core of my conviction: God’s Spirit is alive and active in the world and we see that Spirit of God moving and working through people of various sexual orientations and identities. There is no distinction. If God makes no distinction, then why would we? It seems so obvious, so simple. I am grateful beyond measure to pastor a congregation where this is the principle by which we live and serve. I’ve only been serving my current congregation since 2008. Their journey toward becoming a Room for All congregation began long before I came. Some initial conversations began earlier but the real in depth discernment came in the early to mid 1990s. I realized recently that their process of discernment paralleled my own.
It was 20 years ago that my understanding about homosexuality began to change. I was raised in the Reformed Church in southwestern Michigan and held very traditional views about human sexuality and marriage. It never even occurred to me that people could be both Christian and gay. And then I took a course in college in which we read “Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today” by L. William Countryman. The book took us through a very careful reading of Scripture and it opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing this issue. By the end of the class, I was stunned by how narrow my views had been. It would be another year or more before I would meet anyone I knew to be gay or lesbian and several years before I would see how personal this question in my own life had become. Mine was an intellectual and spiritual conversion driven by an intense study of God’s Word. I’ll spare you the long intellectual road I went down as I examined the several texts that seem to condemn homosexuality in Scripture.
I’ll share just one insight because it reflects the most troubling of questions Christians sometimes ask. Did God create human beings for heterosexual relationships? If that was God’s intention in creation, then it gets tricky to discern what to do with those who do not find themselves within that typical pattern of sexuality. What makes a relationship holy? Can the relationships of gay and lesbian couples be counted by God and by God’s church as holy? I believe they can and they are. When you read the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 and consider the question of why God created us as sexual beings, the answer in Scripture is more profound and nuanced than simply procreation. The reason God creates a partner for Adam is because it is not good for human beings to be alone. Human partnering is created in response to human loneliness. If, then, the blessing of human sexuality is for intimacy as much as procreation, how can we deny that intimacy to those who fall in love with someone of the same gender? Do we say you may not enjoy the comfort, companionship, passion, and joy of married life? God said that it is not good for human beings to be alone. Sexuality is a gift from God for our pleasure and fulfillment as much as for procreation.
The bottom line for me is that the Bible does not address the modern situation of same-sex relationships directly. Jesus never speaks about it at all. As I have listened to Scripture and as I have listened to the faith experience of my fellow gay and lesbian believers, I am convinced that the Church must take a stand for the full inclusion of all people regardless of sexual orientation. And I do not mean a quiet tolerance. I am not advocating a don’t-ask-and-don’t-tell policy but genuine embrace and affirmation. We need to celebrate the gifts God gives to all people regardless of their sexual orientation and we need to provide the same support for these relationships as the Christian community provided for me when I married the person God gave me to love.
Just look at the depth of faith and the contributions in God’s realm that have been accomplished by people who are both gay and Christian. The Spirit has clearly fallen upon those of us who are bisexual and gay, lesbian and straight, male and female and transgendered. And if that is true, then how can the church exclude any of us from the body? God has clearly blessed and gifted people of all sexual orientations with the presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God created us for fully intimate partnership. We need to support those relationships and welcome the gifts of the Spirit wherever they come. If God gave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people the same gift that God gave to heterosexual Christians when they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who are we to hinder God?
By Theresa D. McClellan
GIFT’s Faith Advocacy Coordinator
“Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign Coordinator
Starting today, the streets of West Michigan will seem a little more encouraging as three buses bearing a message of hope hits the street.
From now through the end of June 2012, our ”Gay Christian? Yes!” message will be seen up close and personal by pedestrians and motorists alike. The “queen-sized” sign appears on the side of three buses – #266, #296 and #285 – with daily changing routes. I am excited to see this next phase of getting out the message of God’s unyielding love and we will be sharing with you ways to be even more involved.
When we first talked about spreading the word with this campaign message, I had visions of a dejected young man or woman sitting in a car near a stopped bus while recalling a particularly homophobic message from the pulpit. With the bus’ movement, the motorist’s eyes would see and focus on the message, visit our website and be filled with encouragement upon discovering a growing list of churches, programs and individuals willing and able to embrace, celebrate, challenge and nurture all of God’s creations.
Plymouth United Church of Christ took the lead and stepped up to make the first month happen, purchasing three bus ads for just over $1,000 . Many churches have plentiful ministries, but resources are spread thin, so it was amazing for me to sit in a meeting of the church’s Open and Affirming Committee and listen to individuals and other church committee representatives decide to pool funds to give this moving gift to West Michigan.
It is especially encouraging that these buses will appear throughout June during Pride month. Our hope is that other churches will pick up the message in future months and spread it throughout the land sparking conversations, engagement, study, and action for the rest of the year.
Now that we have three buses, I imagine other churches and church members asking themselves what they are doing to push this movement forward. How can they start and grow the conversation and what kinds of changes will occur because of those conversations?
I think of the riders, young and old, who may enter these buses and wonder what that would mean for them to see and hear “Yes!” What would that mean for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths kicked out of their homes and into the streets. What kinds of programs would rise up to meet them and let them know they are not damaged or wrong or unworthy.
What impact will this have for the politician riding in a car and stopped alongside a bus bearing a message that tears at the belief system that Christianity looks and loves only one way. If truly thoughtful, how will that change the way a policy-maker becomes a leader.
The “Gay Christian? Yes!” message is just one of many messages to come from the Gays In Faith Together organization that will stress God’s love for all God’s creations and the beauty that occurs when we accept and honor all that God has made and meant us to be. Because we live in a predominately Christian culture and Christianity historically has been at the root of oppression against the LGBT community, we are focusing on this message of hope that Yes, you can be gay and Christian.
We are also highlighting our churches that are spreading this message of hope through conversations, prayer, interaction. Throughout the month of June you can engage in any of the free sessions “What the Bible Really Says About Gay Christians (May Surprise You)” held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday a St. John’s Congregational United Church of Christ., 1934 Bridge St. NW. These free thought-provoking sessions led by the Rev. Bill Lyons are enlightening, challenging and encouraging. Join us!
And if you can’t join the Sunday interactive sessions, return to our site during the month of June on Mondays where you will find a series of informative and engaging video essays by Lisa Daily on the subject. I am sure these will spark good conversation in our forums.
Because we know that not everyone is Christian, we at Gays In Faith Together, are also examining the messaging that comes to other faiths. How do you reconcile your faith and your sexuality? In this year of Interfaith Dialogue, we are seeking to explore the possibility of an Interfaith Coming-Out Day Service in October. If there is interest in creating a planning team around this, we would love to hear from you and the experiences of members of the LGBT community in other faith communities.
We are living in an exciting time and you can see the Spirit moving in this work. Now we are in the season of Pentecost, please check out our Sunday essays called Pentecost People written by theologians, pastors and believers. And if so moved, please submit your own.
If you have enjoyed what we are doing and if you would like to know more about GIFT, consider stopping by the First United Methodist Church, 227 East Fulton Street 7 p.m. Tuesday June 5 for our membership and appreciation celebration. You can become a member that night or just come and get to know everyone and hear what we have done and are doing.
We invite you to bring a dessert or bottle of juice/soda to share. If you are not able, you are still most welcome to attend.
If you are not yet a member of GIFT, we welcome you to become a member Tuesday night when you arrive. You will then be able to vote in the election of board members. Membership dues are still $40/person or $55/couple. Student/senior membership dues are $20/person or $35/couple.
Turn from Fulton onto Barclay. Park in any of the church lots. Enter the main church building at the northwest corner door off the parking lot behind the church. Ask the greeter to direct you to the GIFT gathering. Moving Forward.
Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
Gays In Faith Together (GIFT)
The Scriptures that are usually referenced when condemning transgender individuals are not many, in fact there are really only two primary passages used. The first of these passages was referenced by Chambers, and that is the creation story. It is reasoned that since it appears that God created man and woman in the creation story, there is no room for variance and thus transgenderism goes against God’s will. However using this passage to condemn transgender persons seems an improper hermeneutic.
First, this passage is referring to the process of creation, not necessarily giving rules on how we are to live, thus it should not be interpreted as something it is not. It would be improper to read a condemnation of transgender individuals into this text.. Secondly, this reads our understandings of gender and sex into an ancient text. In fact Gregory of Nyssa, an early theologian, read the creation narrative as stating that gender was not an integral part of our given human nature. Further, Mollenkott points out a reason why it is improper to use this text in this way, the fact that “the Genesis narratives in no way indicate that the sexual relationship and parenthood of Adam and Eve are to be considered normative”. Christ is the only normative rule for Christians, as all of our human ancestors were ultimately flawed. Finally, this interpretation does not take into account that gender roles, such as child rearing and working the land, were not given until after the fall.
The second major proof text used to condemn transgender individuals is Deuteronomy 22:5, which reads “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” As Justin Tanis points out in his book Trans-Gendered, “Deuteronomy 22:5 is the only verse in the Bible that explicitly talks about crossdressing”. Yet, is this enough reason to condemn all transgender people, and in essence the transgender experience? We must understand why this verse was included in the law in the first place. Tanis relates that, “ the most prominent explanation is that this verse was designed to prevent the Israelites from participating in pagan worship that included elements of cross-dressing and cross-gendered behavior”. He supports this theory of origin with a quote from a theologian writing in 1895, long before the emergence of a move for transgender equality would have influenced his interpretation of the passage. Thus it is likely that this law was related to proper worship, and to proper order in society, more than towards condemning transgender individuals.
Tanisalso wisely points out “that modern Christianity, and many in modern Judaism, no longer follow literally the prohibitions listed in Deuteronomy”. It seems unwise to use this text as a proof text against transgender individuals unless we are to follow the whole of the law. Many Christians have sought to distinguish the Old Testament law, in order to discern what is applicable still today. It seems unlikely that we would follow many of the rules surrounding this verse, things such as- taking care of our neighbors donkey or ox, taking care of birds, making sure that no one falls from our roof, or wearing clothes of two different fabrics. Rather, we should interpret Deuteronomy 22 as we would these verses- by looking at the principle that is being taught. That principle was that Israel should not be like the other nations, it was not a condemnation of all transgender individuals.
However, what can we draw from Scriptures to support the potential inclusion of transgender individuals in the Church? What principles can we draw to support this conclusion?
First, Christ intends the Church to be inclusive of those who were disallowed by the Law for being gender variant in the Old Testament- Eunuchs. In the Torah it was written that, “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” Yet, Isaiah had prophesied ,
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
Jesus then subsequently teaches that
There are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.
The Eunuchs, who had been cast out of Old Covenant worship for being gender variant, were to be included in this New Covenant. This is further evidenced by the fact that an Ethiopian Eunuch was one of the first major converts to the Christian faith, as recorded in Acts 8. The Christian community, not only inclusive of men and women of all social strata, was to be inclusive of the Eunuchs- of the gender variants.
This follows a long pattern in the Scriptures of God using people who were gender variant in the eyes of their society. Whether Jacob, who preferred to cook rather than hunt, or powerful women such as Esther, God has a consistent pattern of embracing all people regardless of how their gender expression fits into the society around them.
In fact, St. Paul tells the Galatians that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, categories do not matter, but all that matters is our identity in Christ. If our identity in Christ overrules gender separation, then why prohibit transgender people from coming to Christ.
Scripture does not bring condemnation on Transgender individuals, but rather invites them to find their ultimate identity in Christ. General revelation, in the form of medical research, has proven that transgender individuals really do exist, and the Scriptures do not seem to provide any solid reason for excluding these individuals from the Christian community. We do also have the precedent that most Christians would not prohibit intersex individuals from their Churches, and from determining their own identity as variants from the norms of biological sex.
Thus why should the Church prohibit transgender and gender variant people from determining and defining their identities? Rather we should be seeking ways to develop a framework and guideline that can best assist the Church in ministering and guiding these transgender individuals as they discern their identity, both personally and in Christ.
 Nyssa, Gregory. “On the Making of Man.” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.x.ii.html.
 Mollenkott, Omnigender, 93.
 Deuteronomy 22:5 NIV
 Justin E. Tanis, Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith. (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2003), 62.
 Ibid, 63.
 Ibid, 65.
 Deuteronomy 23:1 NIV
 Isaiah 56:4-5 NIV
 Matthew 19:12 NIV
 Galatians 3:28 NIV
We Are the Pentecost People
By Theresa D. McClellan
GIFT’s “Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign Coordinator
I love Christmas and Easter, but as a woman of faith, Pentecost is the most exciting time for this is when faith meets action.
This is when the Holy Spirit poured out onto the followers of Christ; empowering them with wisdom, knowledge, faith, grace, healing powers, discernment and boldness. This is when miracles were rampant and when the miracle of hearing occurred so that suddenly, everyone could hear and understand the message of Christ’s life, love, death and Resurrection from the disciples in their own language.
As the head of the “Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign, that scriptural story of making Everyone aware of God’s unyielding love is one of my favorite stories from the Book of Acts, which is one of my favorite books in the Bible.
You see, since unveiling our billboard campaign during Holy Week, we have been bringing a message of hope about God’s welcoming love to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, our families, our allies, and all who will listen.
Before returning to heaven, Christ promised his followers that he would not leave them alone. He would send the Holy Spirit, to be with them always. John 14:16.
In one passage in the Bible, the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples who are gathered in prayer during Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, when thousands of international or “foreign” people are in the land for a harvest festival.
The miracle is that everyone could understand the message in their own language. Because the message was not just for one group of people. Today in Grand Rapids, we do not necessarily have different languages hearing the message of God’s love, but we have people who have been told all their lives that if they live under the gay umbrella, God is not for them.
For some the idea of a gay Christian is just foreign. So our hope has been that through the “Easter Keeper” essay series, which ran during the 50 days of Easter, the multiple messages of God’s inspiring love in the lives of gay Christians and allies would be a beacon of hope.
Today we are starting the “Pentecost People” essay series where you will have the opportunity to share the gifts of the Spirit that God has left for everyone who believes in Christ’s promise.
- Pentecost People are people who are willing to tell the story of God’s work in their lives so all can hear and understand.
- Pentecost People are people like the men and women portrayed in the Book of Acts in the New Testament who realized and embraced Christ message – that was made clearer through the Holy Spirit – that God made everything and no one can call what God made profane or unclean. Acts 10:34-38
- Pentecost People are those who grew the early church by spreading Christ’s message of reaching out to all, excluding no one and embracing those on the margins of society.
“In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Growing up Catholic, this is how I learned to start and end each prayer that left my lips.
These different names or identities for God are also how I learned to see and eventually understand God and God’s connection and direction in my life.
I was always familiar with “God the Father” and “God the Son. It is “God the Holy Spirit” – the entity that made its presence known to Christ’s disciples on Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Easter – that resonates deepest with me.
Since I’ve always read the Bible to see where I fit in, early on I saw “God the Holy Spirit” as the mothering, nurturing or feminine side of God.
This is what I call the “ooomph” of God, the powerhouse piece of the Trinity that brings together the whole story of Christianity, keeps it alive and vibrant and serves as a constant and divine reminder that God is still speaking.
Let all who can, hear.
Identify. Tell me why. GCY!
Need to create your video? All it takes is a webcam and five minutes of your time.
Using YouTube (or another preferred video hosting site), you record a web or phone cam video of yourself. Just tell us who you are. LGBT+? Ally?
Tell me why.
Explain why the “Gay Christian? Yes!” message resonates with you. What is your story? How do you find yourself reconciling your spiritual walk, your involvement in a church community, and the various other aspects of your humanity? Allies too! What message of hope can you offer your Christian LGBT friends and neighbors?
Affirm that you are among those who unconditionally recognize the sacred worth of each person and fully welcome all into the life and community of the church by saying “Gay Christian? Yes!” and/or by making a whimsical sign with the GCY name and website to hold up at the end of your video
Submit a link to your video at Facebook.com/GayChristianYes
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"Gay Christian? YES!"
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- June 19, 2013 7:00 pmGRITS (God Rocks In The Stream)
- June 26, 2013 7:00 pmGRITS (God Rocks In The Stream)
- June 29, 2013 1:00 pmHolland Area Pride Festival
- July 3, 2013 7:00 pmGRITS (God Rocks In The Stream)