Rev. Harry Knox is a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the newly appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). Most recently, Harry served as Interim Executive Director of Integrity USA, the organization working for full inclusion of LGBT in the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church. He is also a former executive director of Georgia Equality, program director of Freedom to Marry, and was the founding director of the Religion and Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Harry was even appointed by President Obama to serve on the President’s first Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
I was delighted to have recently met and talked with Harry and grateful that he accepted my request for a conversation to be posted here, on Time to Embrace. I trust you will gain much from Harry’s wisdom and experience.
How has your personal journey to justice ministry strengthened or challenged your faith?
Confronting daily the pain inflicted on LGBT and other marginalized people in the name of Jesus Christ has forced me to stay in close contact with my Redeemer, lest I begin to believe what some people say about Him. Thanks be to God, my study and prayer confirm my belief and experience of Jesus as the ultimate manifestation of God’s unconditional love for us all. It allows me to love even those who would harm me and those I care about.
Is there a prayer or meditation that helps you make it through trying times?
I was brought up with conversational prayer as a child of the 1970s and the Jesus Movement. In times of trouble, my prayers usually begin, “Oh God, oh God, oh God…” and end with me offering thanks for affirmations of what I already know or for lessons I need next to learn as Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens me. What happens in between is as different from time to time as each conversation with my family, mentors, colleagues and friends. As with those who love me, I am grateful that God understands that the panic or pain that prompted me to start the conversation isn’t the sum of our relationship!
What is one of the defining moments in your life as a Christian?
Learning I am HIV+ 25 years ago called all I believe into question. The fear of extinction drove me back to the bedrock of my faith. Jesus died so I don’t have to. That understanding freed me to see each day on earth as a gift through which something important could be achieved on my way to Heaven. Since I was granted a miraculously long life here compared to those of so many of my friends who died quickly from AIDS in the 1990s, I now look back with joy and forward still with hope and determination that each day will be meaningful.
Do you have a story of a person who embodies Christ’s teachings?
I love my friend, Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, in part because he has the divine ability to comfort and encourage, even as he calls students and friends to think about one more step we might take toward justice. Steve is part Santa Claus and part Emma Goldman. He reminds me of Jesus and he makes me want to be like him/Him.
In your mind, what are the Biblical foundations for LGBT inclusion in the church?
Those who think the Bible must authorize explicitly every action we take discount the role of Holy Spirit in our lives. Thanks be to God, Spirit has led us out of Biblical literalism as the Word has taught us the value of women, the wickedness of slavery, and the divine nature of justice which integrates and celebrates the marginalized. I see in Acts 10 and Acts 15 wonderful good news for Church – we can work through controversy over inclusion and find ourselves ready to grow in numbers and increase the efficacy of our work when the storm has passed. At Integrity USA, we recognize that the question on inclusion of LGB folks has been called and answered affirmatively in the Episcopal Church. Now we are ready to lead a new era of church growth, even as we expand the conversation with our neighbors about the gifts of transgender people to Christ’s Church.
What would you say to those Christians who have a different view on inclusion?
“I love Jesus and I love you. May I share with you what Jesus has done in my life?”
I find that what follow that opening is usually tailored to the individuals in the conversation in wonderful ways. What I find important to remember for myself is that the last conversation I had with that person about LGBT people, God and God’s Church, is not the last conversation they will ever have about those things. I can plant seeds and trust God to water and feed them.
What can we do to foster dialogue and build bridges with people with different views on inclusion?
Tell our stories! The greatest antidote to the fear that drives exclusion is real understanding of who LGBT people are. If we answer exclusion with our own lack of willingness to engage, we feed the fear. When we answer it with openness, love and self-assurance, we move the fear to the margins. Jesus might say we “cast it out”.