Over at Learning From Hagar and co, Sally Rush has cheered me up no end with her list of Christian LGBT+ groups and supporters, along with their various events and activities. I remember when I met Sally, five years ago at a Gay Christian Network retreat. At the time, I had met a sum total of zero LGBT Christians; the closest I could find were gay people who had been Christian until they realised their orientation meant exclusion and derision in many Christian circles.
I had stumbled upon the Gay Christian Network a few months previously, one night alone in my room at 3 am dejectedly trawling the internet for any tiny glimpse of other Christian gay life. Somehow I found their dazzlingly ridiculous musical (seriously, you have to watch it) which, aside from setting me off giggling hysterically for an hour straight, filled me with a bright, inexpressible bubble of joy. I wasn't the only one! There were other people out there who knew God, and loved him, and were gay!
The Gay Christian Network retreat was in Buckfast Abbey, Devon, not that far from where I grew up in Cornwall. I arrived with a guitar in my hand and no idea what to expect, and left with thirty new friends. It was insane how close I felt with them all. For the first time, there wasn't any sense of barrier, any requirement to hold back a part of myself, to check my pronouns or weigh up people's theology to anticipate their reaction to gay people.
Now - woah! Look how many groups there are! The Two:23 Network sprang up a year or so ago, and now has spawned a sister group, Diverse Church, for young LGBT+ in evangelical churches. The denomination-specific groups - Changing Attitudes, Accepting Evangelicals, Inclusive Church - are going from strength to strength and more and more evangelical public figures are coming out in support of LGBT people. Vicky Beeching's Faith in Feminism is packed full of fascinating dialogues on gender, sexuality and the church; check out her interview with Rachael Mann, a transgender lesbian vicar (in a metal band). Mann's book Dazzling Darkness spoke to me when I was in a deep, dark place last Christmas.
More and more I feel the tide is turning, the lights are going on and the conversation is moving out of the dark, closed, inside places to the bright, wide open space of public discourse. 'Gay' isn't a word you only hear in lists of sin and shame any more. The church is waking up to the realisation that they can't just sit on the issue and hope it goes away. And for someone who has spent a lifetime yearning to break out of the narrow confines of our evangelical conversation, this is like a breath of much needed fresh air.