GCN Reflections

8514419418_9d8b7486d3

Just like any other Christian Conference would, the GCN Conference kicked off with praise and worship.

 

The band played the most current ballads, ones that stirred up a flutter of feelings, along with the liturgical hymns that took you back in time. The lights from the stage poured over the crowd in that dark ballroom and silhouetted arms rose up in front, some clapping and swaying, some beautifully still.

 

I closed my eyes for just a moment, because I wanted to hear them. I wanted to feel them. I wanted to capture this night into memory.

 

Because there was just something about our voices singing in that room. Something so subversive. We were singing loud and passionately up to the father who loves us, in defiance to those that say he never could, with sheer freedom and abandon to put on the banner of faith. To commune as a family under God.

 

Our voices, they were struggled for, longed for, and at some point, found. Found in the friend that said I love you and I love you and nothing could ever change that, found in the God that said, I am not like them. Found in the scriptures and the stories and the still small voice, murmuring beneath our hearts.

 

Our voices have spoken three simple words: I am gay, along with four other, far more scandalous ones: And I am Christian, and in a sweeping moment, they shook others to their core, made them look to God, awoke a sudden desire to love and only love. Our voices are powerful and prophetic.

 

But, of course, we know it’s not always this way. Some of us arrived here from families, friends that warmed us with hugs and affection, but others came from a door slammed shut, a frozen front step, a get the hell out! still ringing in their ears.

 

I bring this up now because, well, I get a little teary thinking about it, but several parents came to the GCN conference with pins on their shirts that said Free Dad Hugs! and Free Mom Hugs! They stood in a prayer room where they cradled many sons and daughters in their arms, whispering love into their ears.

 

And their voices matter too- the homeless boy and the mother to many- all of us learning that this world is a place of pain and darkness and fear, but also, rushing rivers of redemption. Big arms ready for the wrapping. Love for the taking.

~

The speakers were all fantastic. There was Dr. Christine Wiley who called us to speak out the “sound of the genuine” within us, liberate ourselves from our internal oppressor, and walked proud in our mark of creation, but humble too.

 

There was Linda and Rob Robertson, and if you do know their story, you know there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. (If you haven’t, you can read it here). They are the parents that once had a deeply broken relationship with their gay son, and then miraculously were restored in it. Their son’s birthday, who died years ago, was the week of the conference. Linda at one point read Psalm 139:7-10:

 

Where can I go from your Spirit?    Where can I flee from your presence?8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,    if I settle on the far side of the sea,10 even there your hand will guide me,    your right hand will hold me fast.

And then she said:

This is a God who pursues us… Jesus is not ashamed to call you brothers and sisters. He loved you before you could even love him back.

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Linda later that night. She had gotten to know my mom online and after she heard someone in the lobby call me by name, she turned to me, bewildered and grabbed me by the arms, asked: “Are you Tami’s?!?” And when I nodded, she wrapped me in a hug. There aren’t many hearts out there larger than Linda’s.

 

The keynote speech was a special one for me, because Rachel Held Evans has been my champion. She’s been a bold and attentive and loving voice to the LGBT community and a personal supporter of my little blog here. And what I want you to know about her is this: She is the real deal. If you are hoping if she’s just as kind and gracious and funny as she is in her writing, she’s all that and more. It was such a gift to meet her.

In her keynote, there was a moment where I daresay she held back tears. It was subtle and moving:

 

This morning I feel more like I’m in church than I have in a really long time. So thank you.

 

I think we all felt that way.

Because our dream of Church was so real here, almost too good to be true. We felt it in the late nights in the lounge, talking to one another about struggles we faced, loved ones who left, the faithfulness of Jesus through it all. In the moments of prayer over one another, followed by shared lists of favorite books and movies and who our first crushes were. We drank Mimosas at brunch and sobbed our way through tender conversations. We loved and we loved fiercely. And that, to me, is church.

~

I could go on about the workshops, about conversations with Matthew Vines and Rachel, about the two girls who stopped me in the lobby and told me my blog was their support system and with just a few words, validated my world forever. I could go into detail of the stories I heard, the depth of vulnerability we reached, the community that knit together so tightly. Maybe another time.

 

I will say, I got sick at the end with the flu and was so sad as I sat in the Urgent Care, knowing I was missing the final night. I paid a pretty penny for the examination, too, because it was late hours, and I was so worried because I had spent so much already on gas and parking and the hostel I stayed in and I wouldn’t get paid for another week… But as I laid awake that night, drugged up to wazoo on cold and flu meds, I thought to myself:

I would’ve paid more if I had to.

This was so worth it. 

  • http://twitter.com/wendelah wendelah

    Ben! It’s Wendi, one half of the two girls who stopped you in the lobby :) Thank you again for sharing your stories throughout the years and for this… Such a beautiful and accurate representation of all that was Conference this year. And for your vulnerability which matches so many hearts, including my own. So excited to have a face to a name now and hope to see you again but this time in Portland!

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      So excited for that too Wendi! It was such a treasure to meet you.

  • Sheila Warner

    “Our voices have spoken three simple words: I am gay, along with four other, far more scandalous ones: And I am Christian, and in a sweeping moment, they shook others to their core, made them look to God, awoke a sudden desire to love and only love. Our voices are powerful and prophetic.”

    So true. Those voices are what first led me to check out the Gay Christian Network in the first place. Also, God has blessed me with gay family and friends. Listening to your voices and finding understanding of your needs brings down walls. I have a greater appreciation for a God who is so diverse in his creation of each human soul. The LGBT community is wise, brave, and engaging. Those of us who have had the privilege of listening to your voices are the ones who are blessed. I hope I can continue to be open and listening to voices around me, of any who is in need of LOVE. Just love.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      You already are open and listening Sheila! It’s been so cool engaging with you here, you have such a good heart. Thank you.

  • Ty McCarthy

    Great sir. And great to connect with you in Chicago. #SeeYouInPortland

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      YES.

  • http://www.idelette.com idelette

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Thank you :)

  • http://aqueercalling.wordpress.com/ Sarah and Lindsey

    We’re so glad you could be present at the conference. Lindsey was in a workshop where Wendy Gritter made a comment that the conference was over 700 attendees. Wendy said that, at its height, the Exodus International conference was drawing about a thousand. Each and every person there, no matter what their budget, played a role in creating a safer spot for LGBT people.

    Thank you so much for making the sacrifices required to get yourself to conference. You matter. Your presence matters.

    After conference, we were encouraged to share a bit more about our story. You can read more about us at aqueercalling.wordpress.com

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Oh my gosh, I went to the same workshop (unfortunately, that’s when my flu symptoms hit me in all their gross fierceness. I loved what I was able to hear (though that wasn’t that much) I’m excited to get the audio from that event.

      • http://aqueercalling.wordpress.com/ Sarah and Lindsey

        Oh no! Sorry you weren’t feeling well. Were you there when Wendy talked about the role of “Life Affirming Stories”?

        • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

          Yes… but I was kind of nodding in and out, that was in the chills came over me and I almost left.

          • http://aqueercalling.wordpress.com/ Sarah and Lindsey

            Understandable! Glad you’re feeling more yourself. We can’t wait for Wendy’s book to come out to be able to sit more intentionally with her approach.

  • http://www.natureofaservant.com/ Andee Z

    Because of posts like this one and RHE’s, a group of us Portlanders are going next year to support our LGBT friends. Specifically one couple who belongs to our church. Thanks for getting the word out!

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      So excited to meet you there! And so thankful for who you are, Andee.

  • http://upsidedowngrace.com/ Carol Vinson

    “We loved and we loved fiercely. And that, to me, is church.”

    Love this! And yes, that is what church should always be about. So shameful that it’s not. Beautiful reflection, Benjamin. Makes me wish I could have been there.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Come next year to Portland!

  • Betsy Henning

    I was there. I was wearing a free hugs pin…I hope I hugged you! (I’ve been following your wonderful blog since before your name was on it. I loved you then, and I love you now!)

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      I love that you guys did that. It was so moving to see!

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

    Free Mom & Dad hugs? That is amazing. Whoever thought of that is a genius. This whole conference sounds incredible, and your post is beautiful, Ben. And happy birthday! :)

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Isn’t it? I saw one dad with it the first night and I just about cried. Such love there. And thank you for the birthday wishes!

  • Stacey Chomiak

    This is so great – it was my third time at a GCN Conference, and I always continue to be blown away by this little community of ours with such a passion for God! Great reflections, thanks!

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Yes, oh, me too.

  • Aidan Bird

    I first heard about this from Rachel’s blog, actually. When she wrote a post about her being there and giving that speech. I had no idea this existed.

    But then, how could I have known? I live on the periphery of Christianity, never quite sure about its sincerity. And I think part of that reason, why I exist on this periphery of everything, is because I’m afraid to actually step into it all. To walk into such a conference, like this one you describe, and to actually have people see me as I am. Because I’m afraid they won’t respond with love, and instead will turn out to be another incarnation of the ex-gay camp. Color me surprised and relieved to hear your side of it, and to get a better glimpse of what it is actually like. Thank you for this.

    • Kate Green

      We should go next year, Aidan! I’ll get us there somehow (and bribe you with Oolong tea to get you to come with me if I have to :) )

      • Aidan Bird

        Well, if there’s tea…. ;)

        but yes, I’d love to go! It’d be an enlightening adventure, that’s for sure.

    • Sheila Warner

      You may find true hope in the Christian community at this site. http://notalllikethat.org/ Christians are giving voice to love and acceptance of gays. Not all of us condemn gays. There are those of us who understand that God has unconditional love for every single soul that he made.

      • Aidan Bird

        Thank you for for the link.

  • TWG_Gloria

    I have friends who went to the conference (Karalee68 is an IRL friend who went), but this was the first I had heard of the free hugs! Oh, my heart! I joined GCN after my son came out and have had so many sweet conversations with guys who needed a virtual hug. I would so love to be there and do that…yet…I would love a hug, too. I just came out to my own parents a couple of weeks ago. Even at the ripe old age of 45, I needed my sister’s help to do it. Having lived it, I’m not sure you could keep me from hugging the stuffings out of anyone who wanted it!

    Here’s hoping for Portland…I truly long for the experiences you have described.