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Faith renewed, again, at the Gay Christian Network Conference

Faith renewed, again, at the Gay Christian Network Conference

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By Kyle Franklin

I feel a bit like Moses today.  I returned yesterday from my second Gay Christian Network Conference.  To fully understand this year’s experience, I think it is important that I mention a bit about last year’s experience, too, before explaining why I feel like Moses.

Last year, I got word of the conference on Twitter and recognized that my attendance may help open some opportunities in my work with the church.  At that time, I was solely thinking in terms of career advancement and had no intention of being fulfilled spiritually.  Even as I entered the worship space on the first night, I was hesitant and unsure of whether I should be there.  But then the band came out and a chorus of voices—many of whom had been ostracized by “the church” at one time (or continually) joined their voices together in worship.  This chorus of about 1,400 voices was unapologetic for believing that they were worthy of love from the Creator and Giver of Life.

I was surprised when my own voice cracked and gave way to tears.  I mean, I came for work—not to connect with Jesus again…  But I had this unexpected realization that this was sanctuary for me and that I could genuinely worship in this space without fear of others calling into question my relationship with God.  I had a place at the table.

Upon my return, there were some dramatic shifts in my life—I found myself praying more and trying to live out my faith  better.  I also found myself trying to be a better ambassador for both the LGBTQIA+ and church communities (recognizing that there is some overlap).  So while I haven’t read my Bible every day and I still find myself being critical (even judgmental), I am more aware of what I need to work on in my own life and am willing to address those things.

So when I returned to GCN this year, I was prepared for those experiences again.  And they happened!  While aspects were different—different worship leaders and different speakers—the chorus of voices proclaiming that they are worthy was the same.

It should not be a surprise, then, that I feel like Moses coming down from the mountaintop.  Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai and spent 40 days and nights with God (Exodus 24).  And God instructed him on numerous things—the Ark of the Covenant, specifications for the Holy of Holies, and numerous other things having to do with the place in which God would reside “with” the people.  And when Moses returns, he finds that the Israelites have already moved on.  They created a golden calf and worshiped it in place of God.  The Scriptures say that Moses burned with anger, but I have to wonder if his main emotion was disappointment.  I wonder if he was disappointed that the people so quickly turned their eyes from God to something else.  After rebuking the people and destroying the golden calf, Moses returns to God for another time.  The Scriptures say that, when he returned to the people after meeting God again, his face glowed.

I feel like my face is glowing.  I have just encountered God again in a place uninterrupted by the world.  But I also know this feeling is fleeting.  Even in the airport on the way home, I was looking at Twitter and realizing that the world did not stop while I was at GCN.  But in talking with a friend about my trip this year, I said, “It was amazing, exhausting, fulfilling, life-giving, and a reminder of a reality that is easy to overlook when confronted with the world.”  The reality I spoke of is that this connection with God (and the knowledge that I am worthy of love from the Creator and Giver of Life) is present to me daily.  But it is when I allow human voices to infiltrate my story that the connection feels broken.

The truth is that the world is polarized.  And it is likely that oppression in Jesus’ name will increase rather than cease.  But Jesus stands on the side of the oppressed—not the oppressor—and those who hunger for justice and righteousness will receive it.  Until then, we join our voices together, proclaiming our place at the table as daughters and sons of God, our Creator and Giver of Life.

 

Kyle Franklin

About Kyle Franklin

Kyle A. Franklin is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University, where he earned his Master's in Religious Studies. He completed his bachelor's degree in history and religion at Pacific Lutheran University in 2007 and has worked in both the ELCA Lutheran Church and the United Methodist Church.

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