How Creating Change Shot Me Home Raring to Go

Creating Change is the annual organizing conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. It is big, refreshing, challenging—great for running into old friends and making new ones—and generally awesome. Creating Change shot me home like the ball out of a cannon. Let me try to inspire similar enthusiasm in you by sharing some reflections on my experience there.

Of course, there was general rejoicing in the recent victories for the freedom to marry and other affirmations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people this past year. There was also substantial recognition that the faith organizing—LGBT people of faith reaching out to other people of faith—made a huge contribution to this progress, particularly in the electoral wins in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland and Washington. And there was also the clear, loud message that there can be no rest for the righteous. The work of LGBT Christians and allies has only begun.

I have known for some time that my calling is to reach out to those who most insistently oppose LGBT inclusion in the body of Christ and in society. The importance of this work was brought home to me in stunning fashion by the screening of a new documentary, God Loves Uganda. God Loves Uganda is about the export of the most hateful type of anti-gay extremism by American fundamentalist Christians. Efforts to criminalize LGBT people and their supporters, which include lifetime prison sentences or execution, are being organized and led by American fundamentalist leaders. After viewing the film, I went to a workshop with several activists from across the globe who documented the use of the same tactics in their countries as those in Uganda.

It is our responsibility to stem this spread of what we know is life-threatening to many, and poisonous to the Gospel. Stopping this will only happen through our relationships and conversations right here at home with conservative Christians. When their eyes are opened to what is being spread across the world in the name of Christ, they will then hopefully take the lead in bringing a stop to our evangelical colleagues. The evangelicals we know are by far the best messengers to those propagating extreme anti-gay doctrine here and abroad.

The crucial question is: How do we engage conservatives in such an effort?

Creating Change workshops with Jay Michaelson, Justin Lee, Believe Out Loud and PFLAG offered some answers. All four focused on the ways we approach and speak with those who disagree with us on God’s view of LGBT people. They shared a common message that I had not heard as clearly articulated before: Our conversations with those who differ with us are meant to help them along a road. The steps taken are the important things, not the destination we yearn for them to reach.

Here’s what I mean: conservative Presbyterians, for example, may not share our interpretation of Scripture, but they will share our horror at Christians advocating long prison sentences and even death for LGBT people or their loved ones who stand by them or anyone who publicly speaks up for the fair and humane treatment of LGBT people. When we share with them succinctly the situation spreading now to Nigeria and Malawi in Africa, the Caribbean, South America and Eastern Europe, there is a good chance they will take a step toward joining us in speaking against the practices of their fundamentalist colleagues.

Such conversations with many of us might, taken together, nudge them to the destination of agreeing with us and none of us will ever know they got there. But God will, and even one of these chats can move them along on their journeys. Such conversations are one important way we can work to halt the anti-gay efforts abroad riding on the back of Christian mission.

The PFLAG materials to strengthen allies among people of faith repeated several times that 8 in 10 Americans now report knowing an LGBT person. The LGBT community has done the courageous job of coming out. It is our work to highlight with every church person we know the question, “What would Jesus do?” in the situation of virulent anti-gay American Christian activities being exported to other nations. Evangelicals need not agree with us on everything in order to agree with us and work with us on this.

So, I came home raring to go. Among the first things I see to do is to inspire you to join with me in talking with those who disagree with us. I know how difficult this is for many. What struck me is the possibility that our hesitation arises from passionate expectations of getting them all the way to the destination of embracing God’s love for all. If we could, together, draw in our expectations for any one exchange to just moving our friends a step or two along the journey, then we are very likely to have some success. The stakes around the world are so very high (and there is still great need here at home, of course). Are you fired up and ready to go? Please say yes!

11 Responses
  • Donna on February 18, 2013

    “Our conversations with those who differ with us are meant to help them along a road. The steps taken are the important things, not the destination we yearn for them to reach…Such conversations with many of us might, taken together, nudge them to the destination of agreeing with us and none of us will ever know they got there…’What would Jesus do?’…”

    Oh wow…no wonder I don’t go to church anymore…who are you to decide on a destination someone else should reach, as if you were righteous, as if you were God?

    Again, it’s not the goal I disagree with but the method. Indeed, what would Jesus do? Look at His behavioral model…He did not acknowledge alleged human power, but only the will of the Father and His role in bringing all to salvation through Himself.

    And when will you realize that, despite the actions of the evangelicals, your “us and them” marginalizes “them” (even as GLBT people are marginalized by “them”)? Aren’t you all Presbyterians? Aren’t you all Christians?

    Ignore me if you wish…


  • Janet Edwards on February 18, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Comments are very welcome here, Donna, unless our exchange seems to be going in unproductive circles.

    You prompt me to clarify what I am saying here and to ask you to clarify one thing you say.

    Yes, I am being honest here that I have a point of view of what is right and I would like others to have it too. I also know that my view is only through a glass dimly, as Paul says. My view is partial; I am ready to learn. I expect to be nudged just as much as I hope to nudge others.

    Some of the best moments I have experienced as Holy Ground has been when an outcome to a conversation arises that neither of us had thought of before or anticipated at the start. These are moments of experiencing the moving of the Holy Spirit, for me, and the new alternative is astounding grace to us both. That, for me, is the best outcome of a blessed conversation over serious matters in which I and the other disagree.

    I continue to want clarification from you concerning the method you feel would help us find our way together in the church. Jesus was intent on bringing all to salvation through Himself. How, exactly? And how are we to participate in that together with Christ and one another?

    Jesus certainly had a point of view about what God’s Realm is like and the Gospels record all kinds of conversations between Jesus and all kinds of people. It seems to me there are examples of Jesus in dialogues where He is trying to nudge–sometimes more sharply, sometimes more gently–the other toward His point of view. Does this mean, then, that nurturing dialogue, as I seek to do, is one way to follow Jesus?

    Yes, evangelicals are Christians and some are Presbyterians. Every morning, I ask God to use me to join in a communion of love with everyone and I remember, every morning that those with whom I most disagree in the church are included in that “all.” Yes, I realize this. And then exactly what comes next, in your view?

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on February 22, 2013


    I would look for a place where people can voluntarily participate in discussion, as opposed to being solicited. Is there a Gay-Straight alliance of some sort in the PC(USA)? If I recall correctly, it has a number of commissioned efforts for race and gender equity, but I don’t recall one on GLBT issues with straight allies being involved. Such a group might bring people together voluntarily to discuss and pray together about GLBT issues and possible resolutions to them. Or perhaps my memory is faulty.

    The answer to your question about how exactly did Jesus bring all to salvation? You know the answer: by keeping the will of the Father foremost (always praying “not my will, but Thy will be done.”). Perhaps a Gay-Straight alliance group in the church could meet, discuss, but more importantly pray about what God’s will is for the church (and not anyone else’s will). A regular, ongoing meeting of minds that is established safe place to share without condemnation pros and cons of these issues and then to lift them up in prayer by all.

    If such a thing already exists, perhaps it is underutilized?



  • Janet Edwards on February 24, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    I am glad you continue to be an active part of this community, Donna. And thanks for answering my questions.

    I would say that More Light Presbyterians is a gay/straight alliance in the PCUSA. We know that LGBT people will always be a minority in any general group like the church. We will always need straight allies if we are to have a full-throated voice in any community and we certainly do have a lot of them in the PCUSA.

    I wonder if what you are getting at, more, is a group that crosses the progressive/fundamentalist divide in the church, or, more specifically, that has people who disagree on LGBT inclusion in the group? There have been many, many such gatherings since 1978 when the PCUSA began to talk about this.

    The most recent was a forum called by the Moderator before Christmas with leaders from More Light, Covenant Network, Presbyterians for Renewal, The Fellowship, Presbyterian Voices for Justice, and some other groups I can’t remember. The last two before that were created by the General Assembly: The Marriage and Civil Union Taskforce and the Peace, Unity and Purity Taskforce.

    Every single one of these groups worshipped, studied Scripture, talked, broke bread, and worked together for a few days or over years. And the outcome in every case was an across the board appreciation for the faith in, and service to, Christ of those with whom participants disagreed. Often, this displeased colleagues in the participants’ own factions. But the presence of the Holy Spirit and their unity in Christ within the Presbyterian tradiiton could not be denied by any involved.

    As I see it, the challenge is to bring this experience to everyone in the church. It has been demonstrated enough at the “grasstops” level of the PCUSA. We need to find a way for this to happen at the “grassroots” level of the church. Perhaps the marriage study, commended to the church by the last GA, and expected to be offered to the church in the spring, will serve us in this way.

    It strikes me that we are in solid agreement on this possibility. lYour thoughts?

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on February 24, 2013

    I’m not talking about ad hoc groups that study or address issues on temporary basis. What I’m thinking of is more of an on-going effort *commissioned* by the church that includes people on both sides of GLBT inclusion, and does not have an agenda one way or the other. MLP has its agenda and claims God’s will. Those against GLBT inclusion have their agenda and claim God’s will. There is no group welcoming both as a safe place for discerning God’s will for the church.


  • Thomas Fultz, Elder on February 25, 2013

    After a particularly fractured meeting of Presbytery in August of 2011, the Presbytery of South Alabama began a test group of Teaching and Ruling Elders to discuss a way foward together in the midst of divergent views. We are a small group of 8 that has met 5 or 6 times to discuss our concerns for the Presbytery and the PC(USA) in a covenanted fashion of confidentiality and trust. Over the months we have developed a faith statement to focus on what we agree are essentials. For a view of whether we are succeeding along the paths mentioned in these postings, I suggest you contact Samford Turner, Executive Presbyter, 251-626-1915

  • Donna on February 26, 2013

    Thank you…it sounds like I’m not far from the mark in saying something official is in order.


  • Janet Edwards on February 27, 2013

    Dear Donna and Thomas,

    Yes, Donna, you are right that many across the PCUSA are thinking along the same lines you are. Thanks, Thomas, for sharing the movement in your presbytery.

    Pittsburgh Presbytery, Donna, is in a true reformation of how it works as a church community in order to live out what you are yearning for.

    When the new way was proposed, the speaker shared the early history of Calvin’s “presbytery” in Geneva as they remade community in Christ there. All the pastors met weekly for Bible study, support and discussion of the challenges they faced in their congregations. This was the genesis of presbyteries. They are meant to be a community exactly like what you desire.

    Pittsburgh Presbytery will have two fewer full meetings a year. It will also have, I think, four regional meetings a year for Teaching and Ruling Elders living or serving in these regions. While there may be some standard business, the meetings really are for building the kind of community Calvin created. The hope is that doing this geographically will lead to groups that include some of all the different kinds of people in the PCUSA.

    I hope you see that others share your vision and are working to put it into practice. I certainly share it and have changed travel plans to be at the first meeting of my branch of my presbytery.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on February 28, 2013


    Yes I do see that. Please know that I have no commitment to the PC(USA) one way or the other. My thoughts are in response to your questions only – you have asked how or in what ways can a peaceful accord between both sides be reached and that is my answer: provide an official safe place for both sides to commune and discern the will of God for the church. Whether a resolution happens or not is of no consequence to me.

    The way I perceive her, Justice weighs the scales in order to equalize them, and equalizes them by adding to one scale (side) what the other already has, not by taking away from one scale (side) and adding it to the other.

    However, that is not the way the world works or thinks. Would that all anti-glbt people would see that giving rights to others leaves their own rights intact – no one wants to take anything away from anyone. Or at least I hope that is the case.

    Just so you know, the PC(USA) will likely never be the church I yearn for, not because of it, but because I seek something radically different.

    Having made my points here, finally, I wish you all well and bid you farewell (from the site).


  • Janet Edwards on March 1, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Your point has been well made and I hope you will continue to join in the conversation here.

    I have not shared what is happening in the PCUSA in order to get you to come to our terribly flawed fellowship. I did it to show that there are others (including me) who also desire what you see as God’s will for us and are trying to make it real in this world.

    I pray that you find the radical home you seek, Donna, and that you continue to participate in the community here.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on March 1, 2013

    Thanks Janet. The community I seek is a reconciling/affirming Pentecostal one, and there isn’t one here.


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