By Gabry Tyson
New Direction Ministries’ West Coast Generous Spaciousness Tour is leading a discussion at Bethany Presbyterian Church on Monday (Nov 17). Spokane is one of the tour’s 13 stops across Canada and the U.S.
New Direction Ministries of Canada is dedicated to creating safe environments for members of the LGBTQ community to explore their faith.
According to its website, the goal of Generous Spaciousness is to “facilitate conversations in the church [that will] equip leaders and followers of Christ to navigate the reality of a pluralistic cultural context in the interaction between faith and matters of same-sex sexuality.”
Wendy Gritter, the executive director for New Direction and the author of “Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church,” said the idea for the tour stemmed from her book and the chance to establish new connections in different cities.
“In many places within church communities, this is a difficult conversation to have. This question of how faith communities can be places of hospitality and justice is not a conversation that can be delayed, however,” Gritter said in an email. “If we are to be faithful to share the good news of God’s unconditional love and welcome, we need to have open conversation about how to embrace our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers.”
Paul Rodkey, the pastor of Bethany Presbyterian, hopes this event will offer awareness and optimism to both the LGBTQ community and the Christian community, specifically conservative Evangelicals.
“I am looking forward to this [event] to give a community of people more understanding of a conversation that they haven’t heard before,” Rodkey said in regards to conservative Evangelicals. “I would really pray this will be a way for a new set of ears – a community closed off to this conversation – to find some things to hold on to.”
Bethany Presbyterian calls itself a “safe, inviting and progressive Christian community” devoted to living out its faith in Christ through strong beliefs in “social justice, education, environmental concerns, acceptance, and equal rights for all of God’s children.”
Alyson Lauber, who attended the Generous Spaciousness event at Lakeview Church in Saskatoon on Nov. 5, said the biggest thing she learned was how ill prepared the church is to host these kinds of discussions.
“We have still not created space to discuss LGBT issues and culture as a whole, or we’ve created enclaves for people of the same views, so that there is no movement in our understanding or opinions,” she said in an email.
Lauber said she thinks the Generous Spaciousness tour is important because it allows for progression within the church and shows that Jesus’ followers aren’t known by their stances on specific issues, but their love for one another.
The discussion at Lakeview touched on ways to make room for conflicting opinions through theological and practical reasoning, such as how gender and sexuality are transforming within our culture, Lauber said.
Gritter said this conversation is for anyone who believes that we would all benefit from a deeper sense of hospitality and a greater embrace of diversity within our faith communities.
“It is OK to have questions about what the Bible says, or what the church should do, or what the best way to move forward is,” she said. “It’s OK that we don’t all think exactly the same about these matters. The priority is to come together, listen to one another, and pursue a positive path forward that is hope-filled and life-giving to all people.”
Monday’s discussion will be at 7:30 p.m. at Bethany Presbyterian, 2607 S. Ray. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP online.
Gabry Tyson is currently a student at the University of Missouri pursuing three degrees in journalism, international studies and religious studies. The Pennsylvania native hopes to one-day work for a non-profit with an international focus, preferably aimed at combating human trafficking. She has a keen interest on human rights issues and enjoys blogging, baking and traveling. Tyson plans to travel the world but until then, she interns for SpokaneFAVS.