Looking Back on 6 Years of Bridge Building

Some of our college students involved with our booth at the National Coming Out Day Rally on the UI Quad

Today was the National Coming Out Day for the LGBT Community.  Why is that of consequence on a Christian minister’s blog?  Well, other than the obvious, it was 6 years ago today that we began to actively engage the UI LGBT Resource Center in open dialogue.  About what?  Trying to lay down decades and century’s old conflicts between our camps.  I wanted to see and know first hand why we couldn’t sit down and talk things through.

One of the first conversations I had was with one of the Pride exec team members who gave a speech at that 2006 rally.  He had come from a strict, fundamentalist background that was less that willing to welcome his orientation.  I sat with him for 3 hours listening to him recount many of his experiences growing up gay in a Christian home.  This new friendship became a big help in meeting many other students with similar situations.

I wasn’t totally ready for the onslaught of first hand accounts:  growing up in conservative evangelical homes, scared to talk to anyone for fear of being condemned, threats of eternal damnation, and being ostracized from church groups and even families.  It was to be a soul searching and gut wrenching period as I took the time to listen and try to understand the pain and agony that so many had faced at the hands of others “in the Name of God.”

What didn’t make sense to me was the anxiety, the stress, and loathing I sensed among my fellow Christians.  I was under the impression that our mission of service was to be of reconciliation and unconditional love.  That was quite contrary to the reactions I received when speaking about my concerns and even burdens.

It became my personal mission to begin building a bridge, one of understanding and compassion, where we could listen to each others’ stories.  An environment where we could get to know each other as fellow human beings, focus on our commonalities rather than our stark differences.  And with many the opportunity to share about Christ’s love and redemptive plan for ALL people.  It was a moment of helping friends to reconnect with God.  And still yet with others, offer an apology for the way they were treated in the past and try to bring healing to very damaged emotions and memories.  Little did I know it was to become an amazing journey, yes accompanied by some humiliating and humbling experiences, frustration, stress, and even tears.  But I’m so glad we stuck with it and have built some incredible relationships along the way.

Many who have moved on but I want to say thank you for meeting us halfway:  Curt, Sara, Casey, Khristian, Nirali, Jeanette, Seth, Robbie, and Katie.  Those who are still here: William, Anthony, Nate, Jim, Jon, Minsu, Peter, and Harrison.  And a special shout out to Leslie who has put up with us for so long and who I am honored to call my friend.

I also want to thank my partners in crime even from the beginning:  Aaron, Jesse, Christian, Elisabeth, Kelly, Erica, Zack, Luke, Ryan, Lillian, Jonny, and Rachel.  To Pastor Kevin and Pastor Ricky–thanks for standing by me and helping me to realize I was indeed crazy, but it was ok.  And PG, this was an answer to your prayers.  Andy Marin you’re my constant inspiration — thanks for leading the charge!

Daniel and Brandon…you guys constantly remind me that it’s all worth it!

The journey continues…

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