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My Chains Are Gone

Reflections
on My Journey as a Gay Christian

— guest post by Dave
Farmer —

October
1, 2013

My Chains Are
Gone.  I’ve been set free.  My God my Savior has ransomed me.  And
like a flood his mercy reigns.  Unending love.  Amazing grace.

These words have been in my mind multiple times daily since the
worship team started practicing a rendition of “Amazing Grace”
(and other songs) in preparation for the Friday night service during
The Reformation Project
Conference
(TRP).  If you’ve never heard this treatment of
“Amazing Grace,” listen to Chris Tomlin’s version here,
so you can experience the powerful message for yourself.

God puts you on
mysterious journeys at different times in your life.  Sometimes you
don’t realize it until you come close to the end of that journey.
You see my brothers and sisters, I have been on a 40 year journey.
I’ve been on a quest to reconcile for myself the question of
whether it is possible to be gay and Christian and escape the
condemnation that traditionalists vehemently spew forth in their
messages on a daily basis.  The promise of the unconditional love of
our God and justice that ultimately prevails were never good enough
to satisfy fully my fears.  I needed to deeply understand the
biblical texts on matters relating to homosexuality, but I never
figured out how to gain that knowledge in a way that I believed would
be balanced.  God had a plan, however, and sent me on a journey so
that I could come to my own conclusion.  His plan included finding
The Reformation Project.  The mission of TRP is to train LGBT
Christians and their allies to reform church teaching on sexual
orientation and gender identity through deep study of the Bible and
the historical and cultural context of passages referring to same sex
activity.  On September 21, 2013, I finally reached the end of that
journey and the chains of fear that have troubled me for most of my
life are now gone.  Yes, I declare unequivocally that I am a gay
Christian, and am right in the eyes of God.

TRP was the last leg
of the journey God placed me on in early 2009.  (See my July post
for a broad overview.)  In future posts, I will share with you the
“roller coaster ride” I experienced this summer during the
intensive preparation for the TRP conference.  Now, however, I want
to share the experience of the conference itself and the new path God
has put before me.  To tell this story, I have to mention some of my
fellow conference participants.  Everyone in the group is very
special so I would like to bring attention to them all, but space
will not permit.  I will focus on other participants in future posts.

After an exhaustive,
13-week preparation course that included more than 1,400 pages of
reading to understand the cultural and historical context of biblical
writings, 50 hand-selected participants gathered at the Asbury United
Methodist Church in suburban Kansas City on September 18.  We had
dedicated our summer to research, reading and discussions (via an
online bulletin board).  The minute we started in June, we formed a
family unit that will forever be connected.  There was electricity in
the air when we first met each other in person that first evening.
To start, we kind of felt awkward.  We already knew each other.  We
knew about our families.  Some of us had faced job loss during the
summer just because of being part of TRP.  Coming together that
evening we suddenly morphed from images on computer screens into
actual people.  At first it felt kind of strange but we didn’t
hesitate to shrug off the awkwardness.  Looking back, the electricity
in the air was undoubtedly God joining us together so we could make
the most out of our short time together.  I write this because His
presence was very strong every minute of our time together.

We started each day
with a 20-30 minute worship service, and each service became more
powerful than the one the day before.  Fourteen of the other TRP
participants and I had volunteered to be on the worship committee.
Everyone had a special gift to offer for our worship services, but we
needed a leader.  Matthew Vines asked Amy Tincher to take on that
role and plans started to develop before the conference. It was clear
that she was truly led by God in her mission to pull us together in
worship.  (See her story here.)
I am amazed and inspired how everything came together.  After all,
the TRP participants came from 14 different denominations, so we had
at least that number of different preferences for worship.  Yet
through our use of Facebook, Amy helped us create magical worship
experiences.

As part of the
worship committee, my contribution was a reading on our first day.  I
also was allowed to make any comments I wanted to share with
everyone.  Amy asked me to read Isaiah 1:18 (Come now, let us
argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they
shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall
become like wool.
)  As I considered what I would say, I
remembered several of the participants had expressed their sadness
over being anti-LGBT at one point in their lives.  I identified with
their pain and believed they should let go of their shame and embrace
the healing they deserved; after all, they were certainly loved by
the people in the room.   After reading I John 4:16(b)-21, which
concludes with “those who love God must love their brothers and
sisters also,” I shared my hope that those that were formerly
anti-LGBT would forgive themselves and receive the healing they
needed.  The message from I John still sticks in my mind, and the
thought recurs to me that it will be hard at times to love those that
hate me because of my association with TRP and standing up for God’s
truth.  I pray that God will give me strength to never feel hatred or
act in a hateful way no matter what is hurled at me, and that I
remember to love my brother and sister.

The worship team
used lunch time and other breaks to practice for the Friday night
service that was open to the public.  I again had a reading/speaking
role and most everyone else had instrumental or singing roles, so
practice time became a period when I could enjoy the beautiful voices
sing praises to God and meditate upon what I was experiencing.  As
everyone practiced, each song was a worship experience for me.  I was
amazed at how I could be sitting there in among Christians from 14
different denominations and feel such a unified connection to
God…with people I had just physically met!  I constantly felt
tingly all over and overcome with emotions because of the awesome
experience of being surrounded by so many LGBT and straight
Christians that were on fire for God that had come together through
TRP to bring truth to those in pain.  Some of my brothers and sisters
had not been allowed to participate in worship services for years, so
we all were overwhelmed several times during our practice sessions. 

During practice, I also developed a close relationship with Melody
Stoner.  Melody is deaf, and she tirelessly helped me learn to sign
the chorus of the rendition of Amazing Grace mentioned above.
I felt like such a klutz, but I so wanted to honor her by learning
this short chorus.  The entire worship team learned how to sign the
chorus which we (kind of) did in unison.  (I really am in this
picture…look close and you can see my eye.)  Melody’s
Christianity and love for others radiates from within when you are in
her presence (see her story here).

Come Friday night,
the evening started with Jane Clementi telling her story.  She shared
the loss of her son Tyler, who committed suicide three years ago.
The anniversary of Tyler’s death coincided with the departure day
of our conference.  Jane is a beautiful testimony to the love of
Christ.  My heart broke when I first heard the news of Tyler’s
suicide three years ago.  My heart broke when I learned that she was
going to be part of TRP, and my heart broke when I finally met her on
our first night at the conference.  It broke a fourth time during her
story.  We have such a need to bring healing to the church and our
country so that the suicides will come to an end.  Jane and her
family have started the Tyler Clementi Foundation that works to
prevent teen suicide.  Please take a moment to learn more about what
Jane and her family is doing here.


After Jane’s keynote, the worship service began, and once again the
air was full of electricity.  God’s spirit was definitely there and
among us all.  I’ve never been part of such a powerful,
interdenominational, overwhelming, spiritual worship service in my
life.  There was incredible singing, readings, meditational music and
prayers that touched every person in the room.  My reading focused on
the commandments to love God and thy brother (from Mark 12).
Struggling with the realization that I will be tempted to hate those
who hate me and that we will be faced with adversity, I bridged to I
Corinthians 13 so we would all know what love looks like, and I asked
everyone to remember those verses when we are faced with that
seemingly rational temptation.  Making the connections between
Scriptures to deliver messages is not what I would consider my usual
talent, but I felt it was a gift to me during the conference.  I’ve
been changed by the worship experiences during TRP, the preparation
during the summer as well as the lectures and other elements of the
TRP conference.  Based on what I experienced, I am concerned about
any Christian that does not believe that someone can be LGBT and
Christian.  God most certainly was among us from the moment we
arrived until the moment we left.

I want to mention one final person, and that is Aaron Crowley.  I
learned a lot from this Pentecostal brother of mine.  Aaron has a
checkered past (see his story here).
He is a true testimony to the power of Christ to turn one’s life
around and he is at work for God.  I don’t understand much about
the Pentecostal denomination, but I do know that finding evidence of
the Spirit is important to Aaron.  During our final open mic session
(where we could say anything on our mind), Aaron apologized for
questioning whether the Spirit was present among some of his brothers
and sisters, because he was surprised and humbled to see the Spirit
operating in people from so many other denominations.  This was an
important and closing message for me, because it is so easy to
question the faith of others when their worship customs and beliefs
may be significantly different from your own.  Thanks Aaron for
pouring out your heart on this, and thanks for sharing your gifts
with us.  I truly saw and felt the Spirit in you and everyone during
the TRP conference.

Since the
conference, I read an interesting comment by Tony and Peggy Campolo.
“The mind, like a parachute, works best when it is open.
Christians should always be open to learn those new things God wants
to teach them.  God is still speaking.  Jesus made that clear to his
disciples when he told them that he had more truths for them to
apprehend, but that he did not consider them able to handle them,
given their present existential situation (see John 16:12).”  I now
know that I started this mysterious leg of my 40-year journey early
in 2009.  I now know that I wasn’t ready for this journey, and for
my newfound truth, until this time in my life.  And, I now know I
have a role in helping others rightly divide the word of truth, and
in being a catalyst to bring healing in the church.  This is my new
journey.  I thank God for my newfound family that will forever be a
part of my life.  I thank God for the support my RBC family has given
me.  And I thank God that my chains are gone…amazing grace has set
me free!  I look forward to some of you joining me on this journey
that will help others find new truths.

David Farmer lives in Springfield, Virginia, where he is a marketing communications professional. He holds a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from George Mason University and a MBA in International Business from George Washington University.  David and Ron, his life partner of 21 years, attend Ravensworth Baptist Church in Annandale, Virginia.  Jesus and the church hold a powerful centering influence in David’s life, helping him get through life’s challenges, both great and small. Mark 12:31 holds special importance to David because he believes that, if the world truly focused on Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, the conservative church would accept gay Christians. 

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