What does a “godly” person look like? Is there a right way to love God? Is there a correct path to follow Jesus?
I just returned from my fourth “Christian” conference of the year.
January I was in Chicago for the Gay Christian Network Annual Conference, where some 700 people gathered to celebrate, learn, and share community. Rob and I were among 200 parents, the rest were LGBTQ people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, gathered in the name of Christ. The worship, the camaraderie, the joy of the Lord, filled the conference hall. If you had been there, you would have basked in it! No denomination, no distinction, no made to feel second-class. They’re just brothers and sisters in Christ, full of gratitude for Christ in us, the hope of glory.
God is God.
In June I returned to Chicago for a “By Parents, For Parents” conference. Parents of LGBTQ children coming together to learn how to unconditionally love, accept and affirm their children. They disagreed on whether or not it was a sin – on whether or not they needed to “fix” their kids. But in the midst of that disagreement — and some heated discussion — there was an overwhelming sense of God’s grace. These parents were coming together for the sake of their children.
God is Love.
Also in June I was in St. Louis at the EEWC conference — Christian Feminism Today. Some 150 feminists gathered to learn and grow and experience the love of Christ. Mostly women over 40, they push boundaries (and buttons), reminding us that we are neither male nor female in Christ. They point out the Bible’s many feminine images of God, and use gender inclusive language to remind us that God is God of ALL of us, not just men.
As Nadia Bolz-Weber put it, “If God is male, then male is God.” An exclusively male God is not a biblical God. “God created them (humankind) in his image, male and female he created them.” (You see the awkwardness of English, using “he” to mean male and female – said to be “gender inclusive” but the image that comes to mind is undoubtedly male.) Feminists often spell God as Godde, to nudge out that white-bearded old man we envision, to remind us that women have a stake in this too. It is not to be a pain in the neck (or blasphemous as many accuse them), but to remind us all that we women are not merely observers in this astoundingly good news.
God is Godde.
Last weekend I was in Houston at The Evangelical Network Conference. It is maybe 150, mostly gay men but plenty of lesbian women, who also count Jesus as their Savior. Voices sang out old-time gospel, charismatic hymns that most had learned as children, growing up in churches that no longer welcome them through their doors. But these people love and belong to God too. These people have a stake in the Gospel too.
God is Good.
God is so much bigger than the image from our own little box, so much more welcoming than our own tradition expects, so much more magnanimous and then we could possibly imagine. Seeing God and all these colors is broadening and exhilarating.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Here. Now.
[To read more from Susan Cottrell, visit www.FreedHearts.org]
SUSAN COTTRELL is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: Mom, I’m Gay – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith, as well as How Not to Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization – FreedHearts.org – Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that “loving God and loving others” are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said.
She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”
She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at FreedHearts.org and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHearts and Jesus Blog columns.