After many weeks of preparations, the Ontario Public Service Pride Network (OPN) produced the first in what we hope will be a series of symposiums on the the topic of “Redefining Family: the LGBTQ Experience”. The sessions examined a wide variety of topics relating to families of non-traditional formats: from parenting to travelling to legal issues. It was enlightening. I think one of the things that was encouraging was being around so many people who, though from different backgrounds and perspectives, nonetheless supported gay and lesbian people in being themselves. For a few hours it was possible to forget that there is conflict in the rest of the world about a subject as simple as who a person loves.
Although I was MC for most of it, I also participated in a panel on faith and the LGBTQ Experience. We had people representing Jewish, Muslim and Christian perspectives; having attended Moody Bible Institute, I represented the more conservative Christian side. It was interesting, because we had some similarities and some differences. I’ll write more about that, but one of the most interesting things was that none of felt that we had lost much as we redefined (or re-examined) our faiths. We had all discovered new ways of being, new ways of perceiving our faiths, and new ways to express ourselves. In my case, I know that understanding God as One who loves (and created) my gay qualities was a new discovery into a God who loves diversity, creativity, and human beings as unique individuals, not copies of a regimented plan.
Then I got home and checked the news. One of the highlights: the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. (at over 16 million strong) have a new president. Ronnie Floyd, a megachurch pastor from northwest Arkansas, was elected to the position (Oakridger, 2014): a man who once called homosexuality “Satan’s con job” (LGBTQNation, 2014). He affirmed that, in spite of cultural changes, “the denomination won’t relax its position on same-sex marriage and transgender identity” (Times Free Press, 2014).
So much though attitudes are changing faster than ever before, many in conservative leadership are refusing to budge in their theological stand. And that prevents some from even questioning what they see around them. Although we can certainly hope that the influence of such leaders, and such churches, will diminish over time: I’m not sure we can count on that. If there’s one thing that history tells us, it’s that such odd diversions from the real love of God will only slumber, and will crop up at the most inopportune time.