One week ago, I arrived for a long weekend in Portland, Oregon (“Stumptown” as it’s nicknamed) where I attended the Gay Christian Network conference (GCNconf). This was my first time attending a GCNconf, which this year drew a record number of attendees (around 1500 if my memory serves me correctly). I found out about the conference purely by chance online. I knew nothing about the Gay Christian Network, aside from what I’d read on its website. It seemed to be primarily a group of gay evangelical Christians who believed it is OK to be gay and Christian.
I certainly do not consider myself an evangelical Christian. In fact, I sometimes jokingly call myself a “recovering evangelical.” My belief in following Christ as a Christian does not involve the conviction that I am obligated to forcefully spread the Gospel to others and try and convert them to Christianity. I believe in a more subtle approach to faith…one based on personal journey and witness, not forced conversation and proselytizing.
The conference did have a heavy slant on the contemporary/evangelical Christian side in terms of speakers, worship, and the like. In spite of these elements (that don’t do much for me aside from make me uncomfortable), I found the entire experience to be a rewarding one. There were Christians of all different walks of life and regions of the country and world. I was able to connect with a group of other Episcopalians, and met a couple of orthodox Christians and many, many who identified as evangelical or Baptist.
I made a point not to attend every single session…I’m an introvert and like time for introspection and reflection…which requires silence and sometimes a beer or a journal to assist in the contemplation. The sessions and workshops I did attend, I found rewarding. If I had to identify one specific thing that I took with me from the conference…it is that I should not be afraid to share my story with others. It is in sharing my story as a gay Christian that others (young and old) can learn from my experiences and my faith witness. In doing so, hopefully others will be emboldened to embrace their faith even if they happen to be gay and their church tells them they can’t be both gay and Christian.
I am thankful that I was able to attend the conference, and have a renewed hope for my sisters and brothers in the evangelical and conservative Christian traditions where they might not always be accepted in their churches. As an Episcopalian, I sometimes forget that Christians in other traditions don’t have as open and accepting of an environment in which to exist and worship and have fellowship.
Following is an excellent article that I think summarizes the weekend very nicely…and even includes a photograph of one of the more amazing things that happened this weekend surrounding a protest that happened on Saturday of the conference.