I feel so free. I feel fully embraced and loved. This is a new feeling, one that I can’t fully describe. All I know is that I’ve been liberated from the chains that was holding me back from fully experiencing God’s presence in my life.

Representation matters.

Going to The Reformation Project National Conference, Equipped for Change, this past few days was an amazing experience. I’ve never experience God move as apparently as she did this weekend. There were 400 other LGBTQ+ Christians and allies in worship together. We brought our entire selves into that sanctuary and placed it at the alter. Queer people led worship, led keynotes and workshops. It was the representation that I had been craving for so long but could never find in Nashville.

My faith grew so much this weekend. I realized that in Nashville I was tired spiritually. I felt like when I stepped into a worship space I had to fight for room at the table. Especially the spaces where the table was supposedly open to all were the hardest for me to feel welcomed and affirmed. I hadn’t taken communion in weeks because of that. I didn’t feel like a part of Christ’s body.

Fighting for space is exhausting. Fighting to continually prove your worth and validity is exhausting.

So, I gave up. Church felt unappealing and difficult to get to. When I didn’t feel a part of Christ’s body but so desperately need it, I walked away. I didn’t want to be in an environment where I had to fight for space. I didn’t want to have to fight to prove my worth in God’s eyes. I didn’t want to have to fight to prove that my identity as gay and Christian was valid. I didn’t want to have to keep doing that Sunday after Sunday.

But, coming to TRP National Conference revived me. I have never felt this full and loved in a very long time.  This space was intentionally created with queer people in mind. They had me in mind when planning this. They didn’t have a book of discipline calling my “self-proclaimed homosexuality” was “incompatible” with Christian living. They didn’t have a panel of people deciding the fate of queer Christians’ places in the life of the Church. They were fully intentional in being inclusive and representative of everyone on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, numerous ethnicities/races, people of all abilities. Holy shit, it was amazing. (There was cussing too, and there was nothing wrong with it!!!)

I was validated in many ways. I grew in many areas.

This weekend provided me with reassurance of God’s calling on my life: that it’s okay to be called into ministry as a gay male, that it’s okay to want to make old straight white men feel uncomfortable on Sunday mornings with progressive ideals, that it’s okay to feel excited to push boundaries in systems that want to suppress me.

The denomination that I had been attending for so long feels oppressive to me. It’s not going to be what I need it to be for my ministry. For a denomination to erase Queer callings is not okay. For a church to deny Queer people from becoming ministers is not okay. For a church to take until 2019 to MAYBE affirm and include Queer people is not okay. There has been so much hurt caused to Queer Christians in such churches.

“If you don’t fit inside the box, then find a new [damn] box.” – Rev. Stanley Ramos, amplified by me

I don’t find inside many boxes. For so long, I was willing to do whatever it took to fit in, even giving up my hopes of love and family. I was going to allow a Church to dictate who I was but not anymore. This conference helped me grow the courage to finally stand up for myself and find a box that is going to fully embrace me, even the gay in me.

For so long, I felt like I was breaking up with my denomination. I felt like I kept getting called back into it by saying yes to things, but not anymore. I refuse to participate in a system that doesn’t fully affirm all of me.

It’s all of me or none of me.

I still want to get ordained. I still want to plant a church. I still am a Christian. But, the God I follow affirms all of me. The God I worship loves all of me. The God I share is for everyone.

This conference helped me reimagine what God looked like to me. For so long, I thought God was an old, white man with a long beard in the sky. But, God is NOT that! God is expansive and can’t be boxed in. Who am I to say God is or declare God is this one thing? I am not! My God has many faces, many tongues, and may not even resemble me at all.

Leea Allen, an Atlanta based worship leader, said this weekend “the day God revealed herself to Moses was way different than Paul. Does that mean God’s original expression was a mistake?” God takes numerous forms. I find comfort in that. God is not just for the elected or predestined white, cisgender male or female. God is for everyone. God gave her son Jesus for everyone including you, me, your neighbor, and your enemy.

We no longer have to create apologetics for ourselves and our identities. We no longer have to defend ourselves, because we know God is for us and not against us. We are valid; we deserve inclusion; we deserve happiness.

No longer will I let people have the power to condemn me to Hell. No longer will I be sheepish in the face of adversity. No longer will I step back when I should step up and be vocal.

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