I had such high hopes for 2020.
CenterPeace’s e3 Conference, traditionally held every other year, was scheduled for October of 2020. This conference was going to be extra special, not just because of the physical gathering of people from all over the country who are like family to me. This year’s conference was going to be special because I was planning to share the process of how I had come to interpret Scripture differently – how I had come to see same-sex marriage as God-honoring.
In other words, I came out again, only this time as fully affirming.
Knowing many would not understand this seemingly abrupt shift in my views, I wanted to share with as many people in person as possible. That made the e3 conference a perfect venue, because many of the friends I’ve connected with through CenterPeace over the years would attend the conference and I could share with a large number of people at one time. I could also respond to questions, sit and talk with people who wanted more explanation, and most of all, reassure people face to face that I still hold tightly to my identity in Christ and in my relationship with God.
And that I have no desire to walk away from Christianity. Or from church.
But thanks to the pandemic, that wasn’t possible.
The whole year I kept hoping the pandemic would pass. I kept imagining being on that stage, looking out into your faces, sharing my whole heart with all of you. If I could’ve had what I envisioned, I would’ve gathered everyone up that I’ve ever cared about, including those of you I don’t personally know, but who sat in classes I’ve taught at the Zoe Worship Conferences, ACU Summit, Pepperdine’s Harbor, Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration, or in chapel talks in universities all over the country. Or retreats and workshops. My preferred gathering would include all the ministers who have reached out for guidance with a student in your youth group or a family in your congregation. And church leaders who gave up a weekend to grapple with a topic that was uncomfortable, but oh, so needed in our congregations.
If I could have, I would have gathered all of you up to tell you personally, from my heart, how I’ve sincerely come to see things differently. I would have explained to all of you in the ways I’ve shared with my own family and church leaders.
But I didn’t get to do that.
Even without the pandemic, such a gathering just wouldn’t have been feasible. But I want you to know, I’ve never forgotten any of you.
I haven’t forgotten the coffee shops and kitchens and living rooms and auditoriums and fellowship halls where we’ve met to talk.
Nor the lavish meals you prepared.
The hospitality you showed me.
The prayers we prayed together.
The trust you placed in me.
While I didn’t get to share with all of you in the way I would have preferred, live-streaming the e3 conference made it possible for me to at least share with this year’s nearly 400 participants from all over the globe. Still, I knew there would be people who would hear the news secondhand, and I knew some would be disappointed, hurt, or even angry. I thought that maybe hearing from me personally would ease those feelings, so we videoed my keynote address at #e32020 and after the conference, uploaded it onto our YouTube channel. I posted the link on social media in hopes of reaching as many of you as possible.
But in case you missed it, I’m posting the video one more time here, in this blogpost, so that anyone who wants to hear from me, can listen.
And in the near future, it will also be available on our website.
I’ll warn you – it’s long! And it’s not the most powerful speech I’ve ever given. But it’s from my heart. A heart that feels for all the LGBTQ+ individuals and our families I’ve interacted with over the last fifteen years. A heart for people who have felt there was no place for them with God because of their sexuality. A heart for the church and her future. And also, a heart for those who will be disappointed and not understand how I could have come to such a place.
Listening to the video will not provide an explanation of how I have come to see Scripture differently. It’s too complex a process to describe, at least for me, in a succinct amount of time. Truth is, coming to see things differently has happened for me over a lifetime. A lifetime of being deeply involved in a faith community that values Scripture and is committed to following Jesus.
This past year I wrote about the process – the journey – that led me here. The stories I wrote turned into a book – “Affirming: A Memoir of Faith, Sexuality, and Staying in the Church” – which will be released from Eerdmans Publishing in February. You can pre-order from the Amazon link below, and until its release, I’ll be writing more about what’s in the book here.
I didn’t write the book to persuade anyone to think like me. I just simply wanted you to know where I was coming from, and to assure you, I’m still one of you.
High hopes for 2020, indeed.