You may think I’m wrong about LGBTQI. So, now what?

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I am fully affirming because of my faith, not in spite of it. I came to believe what I believe after extensive theological study, my own life experience, examining the lived experience of others, research, prayer, and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

It was a journey. All I did was stay on it, take the next step, and love – while God brought answers.

This is Robert Cottrell, Susan’s husband, writing today.

I am now more in love with God, with Jesus, with my family, with my children – my faith is deeper and richer than it has ever been.

That is the hope I offer to you.

But let’s talk about right now.

What if you are as convicted as I am about your beliefs, but we have ended up on opposite sides of this?

What do we do now?

I suggest that maybe we use Jesus as a model and focus on humanity and on the heart.  Instead of debating theology, can we just talk about people?

Every single day a family – struggling with their child coming out as LGBTQI – are shamed and rejected in churches.  I am not talking about a radical church like Westboro Baptist with their God Hates Fags signs. I am talking about churches with grace in the title, who preach that all are welcome – like the ones I used to attend. Maybe one like yours.

Every day a parent is put in a devastatingly painful position of being made to believe that they must make a choice between God and their child.

Can you imagine that?

And every single day an LGBTQI child is shamed and rejected, told they are abominable to God, disgusting to God – simply for being who they know to be their true self.

Every day a child is kicked out of their home, just because they are gay. 25% of all LGBTQI homeless youth became homeless on the same day they came out to their Christian parents.

Can you imagine that?

If you love and follow Jesus, I know that this breaks your heart – as it does mine.

So, what do you and I do now?

Is this what you want to be known for? Is this how you want to love?

Is this where you want to leave these families and your LGBTQI brothers and sisters – is this the message you want to convey?

I would ask that we both press into Jesus, listen to that still small voice of the Spirit in our hearts and ask ourselves if we are both able to love God, focus on our OWN life, and love others the way that God has loved us.

God is able to handle everything else – especially the things we understand the least.

I’m in. Will you join me?

– Robert Cottrell

We have ‘pay-what-you-want’ video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private Facebook support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

Can My Young Child Know If They Are Gay?

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“Stop letting awful parents put these labels on young children! It is going to destroy their lives!”  We hear some version of this every day. What these people don’t realize is that it is not the parent who is doing anything, it is the child driving the vast majority of these conversations.

Gender identity and orientation are complex issues and it can be especially difficult and confusing when your child is young. But the best response can be surprisingly simple. 🙂

A Mom contacted me recently, and I wanted to share our interaction…

Dear Susan,

My 8-year-old daughter asked me today if she is gay because she wants to kiss girls more than she wants kiss boys. My husband thinks she is just confused and too young to know what she wants. My question is: can a child this young know what their preferences are? I myself have thought for years that she may be bisexual or a lesbian, but I never thought anything of it until she asked me. Any information would be grateful so I can make sure I can always support my child with whatever path she follows in life.

Thank you, Jane

Dear Jane,

Well, yes, children often know this very early. I know that idea can be very hard – sounds like it’s hard on your husband. How you should respond might be simpler than you think. 🙂

I would recommend you affirm whatever she is telling you about herself, and let it emerge. If she’s asking whether she is, you can tell her that only she will know, and if she doesn’t know now, she’ll know later. There’s no rush to sort it out.

I would affirm her and who she is saying she is, and leave room for her to bloom.

If she isn’t, great, if she is, great.

Either way, shame or trying to steer her into a different direction will have negative, often tragic effects.

Either way, affirming her will allow her to become who she was meant to be.

You are courageous to write me and ask my opinion. It would be so easy just to shut her down, but it would hurt her. So, good job, Mama.

Love to you on your journey,

Susan

We have ‘pay-what-you-want’ video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private Facebook support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

We Have A Secret Weapon Hidden in the Anti-Gay Church!

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Shhhhh. We have a secret weapon. Powerful. Effective. Ready to change the world. And it is hidden right in the middle of the nonaffirming conservative, evangelical church.

There is a wall, erected by Christian leaders who are nonaffirming, between the church and people who just so happen to be LGBTQI. Their teachings have encouraged or at least justified kicking LGBTQI children of their homes, removing their LGBTQI brothers and sisters out of churches, conveying an unBiblical, unChristlike message of condemnation and judgment.

Why? It has nothing to do with the truth of Scripture, or the teachings of Jesus, or the heart of God. It is because they are afraid. Keeping the LGBTQI community oppressed, marginalized and outside the wall makes these Christians feel safe.

“Every time we use religion to draw a line to keep people out, Jesus is with the people on the other side of that line.” – Hugh L. Hollowell

What they do not know is that those of us who are affirming, those of us who follow the teachings of Jesus and the heart of God, have a secret weapon. And it is right smack dab in the middle of those churches. On their side of the wall.

What is that weapon? 

Parents.

Parents of children who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex. Along with other family members and allies, these parents are an unlimited force for change within the anti-gay church that has fought so hard to feel safe by labeling others as somehow unworthy, inferior.

These parents and others are a force committed to radical love and inclusion. The same way Jesus was.

The church has gotten away with this unBiblical, unChristlike condemnation of those who are LGBTQI, and with kicking them out of churches and homes, kicking them to the other side of the wall.

But things are changing.

Pews and pulpits are filled with parents who are pastors, elders, deacons, leaders, and givers. Parents who have LGBTQI children and who know in the deepest places of their hearts and souls, that the only thing their faith requires of them, the only thing in line with the heart of God and the teachings of Jesus, is to unconditionally love their precious children. Period.

I am one of those parents, and we are affirming BECAUSE of our faith, not in spite of it.

We agree with St. Augustine, who taught that no matter what interpretation of scripture you arrive at, no matter how clear you think the Bible is being or how faithful you think you are being to the words on the page, if your interpretation (and therefore way of life) doesn’t adhere to the greatest commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself – then your interpretation of scripture is wrong.

Some of these parents will stay in the closet about their LGBTQI child, but they will work in the background to bring about a change to help the church love and include – as each of us has been loved and included.

Some of these parents will come out as Moms and Dads of an LGBTQI child. Then, others will come out in support of these families. They will stand up on their firm and solid foundation, speak up with loud clear voices of love and truth, and say, “No more! We will not allow you to speak about our children the way you do. We will not allow you to treat our children the way you do. It stops now.”

Radical love and inclusion was what Jesus modeled and taught. That IS our faith. That IS our message.

Every single day, more and more parents in the nonaffirming church are standing up, speaking up, sharing their stories, defending their children.

They are our secret weapon, and the message of radical love and inclusion will change the world.

– Robert Cottrell

FreedHearts Online has full, conference-length, comprehensive video courses helping LGBTQI heal from family, religious and community wounds, and helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children. Please just click here. 🙂 In celebration, you can save 25% by redeeming this coupon code: LAUNCH25

LGBTQI: You Deserve to Love & be Loved! You Deserve to be Free!

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Well, here you are! You’re gay or bi or lesbian or transgender or intersex or queer in some way or other. You may be or agender or pansexual. Or you may not yet be sure what the heck is going on! I understand. I really do.

You may even be in a straight marriage and now you realize you’re not straight. Believe me I’ve heard that dilemma many times in private conversation.

Wherever you are, I am here for you—to help you navigate your questions, your uncertainty, your spinning head, your aching heart.

I want you to find peace. True peace. Peace with yourself… peace in your spiritual life… and as far as it’s up to you, peace with others as well.

You may have been told all kinds of things—about sin, about needing to change, about a requirement to be celibate… THIS IS NOT THAT! AT ALL!

I am all about healing from those kinds of lies, hurtful comments and treatment.

Just so you know, I wouldn’t change my LGBTQI kids, or you, if I could.

It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey, you belong. You may be a Christian, a recovering Christian, an agnostic, or something else: that’s great! You belong!

You may have once believed in God but now—with all the stuff that’s gone down—you want nothing to do with any of it. You may now consider yourself an atheist—and who could blame you?! I understand that.

You belong!

Through FreedHearts, every day I engage with people who have been hurt and need to be loved. I love them, and encourage them, and offer them hope. And I tell them they are good exactly as they are. They are delightful and lovable and worthy. Period.

And so are you.

I want to walk this road with you—as a mentor, as a friend, as a mom if you need it!

I have no agenda for your spiritual life… except to free you from lies you’ve been told about God, about what God thinks of you, and about your worthiness.

Far too many LGBTQI people are bludgeoned with vitriolic lies—that God is not happy with them, that they’ve disappointed God. Really? What is God—an alcoholic rager you need to tiptoe around lest you get zapped with a lightening bolt?

As a mom and a friend, here’s my promise:

I am here for you on this journey of healing, to discover how beautiful you are, just as you are.

No exceptions. I will tell you what you should have heard in school, in church and in your family.

Together we will recover the love that belongs to every human being.

Healing is in three areas of your heart: healing with others, healing with God, and healing with yourself.

Some people may have told you that your heart is deceitfully wicked and you can’t trust it… but then… aren’t you being told that by people whose hearts are deceitfully wicked?—so you why would you trust them?! 🙂

Your spirit IS good, and you do know. You know what’s good for you—and you know what doesn’t fit you! You are the expert on you. Nobody else is!

Wherever you are, I want to help you to discover and celebrate the truth and beauty of the real you.

So your heart can be set free.

So you can love and be loved, as you deserve.

FreedHearts Online has full, conference-length, comprehensive video courses helping LGBTQI heal from family, religious and community wounds, and helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children. Please just click here. 🙂

Are You the Parent of an LGBTQ Child? You Are Not Alone.

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“Mom, I’m Gay!” You want to shove those words back in and put the lid on. But you can’t. Having a gay or trans child may may go against everything you’ve been taught. It was not what you had in mind, and you instantly wonder where you went wrong.

When you become a parent, you know to expect the unexpected. But for many Christian parents, nothing can prepare them to hear that their beloved child is gay.

How could this be? What will the church say? What will your friends say? What does the future hold? You can’t even get your head around this.

You are not alone.

My husband and I were in the conservative, evangelical church for 25 years. We led small groups, Bible studies, retreats, and Rob was a worship leader. You get the idea.

Then our daughter Annie came out! She was 20 years old, she called me from college, and she said, “I’m struggling with same-sex attraction”—because that’s the language we had then. She said, “I’m attracted to girls, and I think I’m bisexual. I have tried to deny it but it just won’t go away.”

In that moment. I wondered: “What will become of her? Will she live a normal life? Will she have a career or even a job? Will she be bullied? What does this mean about her faith—and our faith?” And then this other thought: “We’ll never be the same in the church again.”

Now just think about that. In this tender moment, when my daughter is sharing the most intimate part of her life, I feel the ground crack because my church, my worship community, will not be there for me. It’s a strange thought, isn’t it?

Church is the place we all believe or pretend is safe for our deepest hearts—and heartaches—we think of it as our community, our family. Suddenly it was exposed as not being safe at all.

What do I do at this point? Do I continue to go to this church that, if they knew about my daughter would not accept her? If they knew I accepted her as is, they would not accept me?

Do I live in silence about my daughter among these people whose marquis says, “All Are Welcome!”—and whose Savior says, “All Are Welcome!”??

That’s the position the nonaffirming church put me in, to be brutally frank. It essentially asked me to deny my daughter: either outright by rejecting her or implicitly by not talking about her.

This was the very beginning of the journey, when the world was spinning and we had no idea what’s next.

My husband and I had a choice to make.

Let me tell you about this choice. Some will say: you must choose between your child and God. That’s not the choice.

You may have to choose between your child and the church, or your child and your own beliefs around this—but it’s never between your child and God.

To choose your child is to choose God, because this is the child God gave you!

God does not call us to abandon our children. God did not give us a little warranty with our child that says, “If they don’t turn out the way you hope, you can just get rid of them.”

We get to choose whether to surrender to this path God had placed in front of us or resist.

We chose the path God gave us; we chose our child.

After awhile, Annie moved to New York. She was dating women. She called me some months after she moved. She said, “I love being in NY, I’ve stopped fighting who I am—and I’m more at peace with God than I’ve ever been.

I said, “Annie, that’s all I need to know!” I knew enough by then about an authentic relationship with Jesus to know that peace is the marker. It’s what confirms to you that you’re in the right place.

Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.”

Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

1 John 3:21: “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God.”

Next thing I know, God’s leading me to work with parents and LGBTQI. I had no idea what that meant, no idea where I would start, but I knew it would cost me in the Christian community. And it did.

About a year later, our youngest daughter came out as well! Our first thought was, “Okay it is us!” But it’s not. 🙂  And to see her blossom into the beautiful young woman she is today brings joy to my heart.

Here’s the amazing thing: I wouldn’t make either of them straight if I could!

I’m just a mom who’s going on the journey in front of her. If you’re a parent on this road, let me speak to you parent to parent—or maybe you’re an LGBTQ person reading this, let me speak to you as a mom, whatever your age.

God has got this! God has got you!

You can rest, be at peace, and find joy in this journey. You’re not alone. You’re on the right side of history.

And you’re on the right side of God’s heart. Trust God—and trust your heart.

If you have to choose between loving and doing what you’ve been told is right, choose love because to love is always right.

My love for my child and for my family, my faith, and my relationship with God are deeper and richer than ever before.

That is what’s available to you!

Love, Susan

Wherever you are on this journey, FreedHearts Online has a full, conference-length, comprehensive video course helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children, and strengthen their faith in the process! It addresses the core issues and answers the tough questions.  We also have a course for LGBTQI to help heal from family, religious and community wounds. Please just click here. 🙂

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Coming Out to Christian Parents

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If you are LGBTQI, coming out to your Christian parents and family can be overwhelming. You don’t know their response until you tell them… and then it’s too late. I hope this article, written with a gay friend, will help.

Be honest

This is the most fundamental piece of advice, and also the most important. It is so easy to water down the truth of what you are saying out of fear, but this will never work out well in the long run. Instead, be honest and clear about the truth of your experience and feelings. If you have uncertainties, it is okay to be honest about those, too. You want to get them on the same page as you, so you can go through this together.

Tell a friend first

If you have a close, trusted friend who is outside of your family, think about telling them first. This gives you a sort of “practice run” with someone who you trust, making it easier the second or third time around. Of course, ask them to keep it completely confidential until you are ready to tell others.

Answer some of their questions before they ask them

While some may debate this one, I believe it is much easier to try to answer some of their questions before they have a chance to ask them. Rather than just saying, “I’m gay,” and then waiting for the crickets, tell them a bit more about your journey. Say things like, “I have been feeling this a long time,” or “I know I had a[n opposite sex] girlfriend/boyfriend, but I just did not have those feelings for them.” This kind of preemptive answering can also help alleviate some of the potentially awkward/hurtful questions they may otherwise ask.

Be forgiving

For most Christian parents, this is a whole new world for them, even newer than it is for you. Know that, in their confusion, they may say things that feel hurtful. While it is important to acknowledge that hurt, and even tell them (now or later) that what they said was very hurtful to you, it will not help your communication if you storm away because they asked something like “Have you tried just not being gay?” (Sure, I’ll get right on that — thanks, Mom and Dad.) Instead, take a moment to breathe, and remember that you have been preparing for a while, but this is a shock for them. Better yet, forgive them ahead of time. Remind yourself that there is a good chance they will say something wrong, and it doesn’t mean they no longer love you.

Give them time to hear God for themselves

Most Christian parents have internalized from church that homosexuality is a sin and a choice. Those beliefs can be so firmly stuck (from years of repetition) that only God can dislodge them! Give Him time. Offer resources to help them work through it. I’m not justifying their negative reaction in the least – their job is to love you without condition. But this might help you see how their reluctance here is not at all about you.

Ask for their prayer

This is an easy one, but it says a lot. It acknowledges that you are always their child, and that your coming out has not changed your relationship with God. One of the hardest things for my friends and family to understand was that my faith and my orientation were perfectly compatible; many assumed that I had chosen orientation over faith. Not so! Just be sure to acknowledge what you want prayer for specifically; ask for prayers for protection from bullying or violence, for God’s guidance as you come out to other people, for deeper growth and joy in your relationships. This helps them know that you do not view this as an “issue to overcome”, and in fact, it is even okay to specifically ask them not to pray for change. Instead, ask for them to pray for God’s clear will in your life, and for positive prayers that can help them understand your hopes and desires.

Be safe

Tragically, some of you may have parents who are very homophobic. I am so sorry for what you have had to go through. If you worry for your safety with your parents, you have a couple of options. First, find a family member or friend (or two) whom you trust completely – maybe an aunt/uncle or church mentor – and tell them first. When you’re ready to tell your parents, you can ask them to come along as a protective presence. (It definitely helps if this person is physically intimidating.) The other option is to tell your parents from a distance, by phone or email/letter. While it is usually better to have this conversation in person where communication will be easier, the exception is when you are afraid for your physical or emotional safety. Do not put yourself in harm’s way. Finally, if you are seriously concerned, I strongly recommend you wait until you are 18 and have the independence to leave if necessary.

Telling them does have to not mean telling everyone – unless it does

If you are not ready for other family or friends to know, tell them to keep it completely confidential. Ask them not to tell your brother or sister, Aunt Bertha, or even their “prayer partners”. Tell them that you will reveal this to people in your own timing, and that it is important to you to tell them personally.

If you truly do not trust them to keep it confidential, that is a different matter. In this case, think about people whom you may want to tell personally (siblings, grandparents, etc) and prepare to tell them all at the same time or within a short period (before or after) so that it comes from your lips and not your parents’.

Do not be afraid

The most often repeated divine imperative is “Do not be afraid.” Almost every time an angel appears in Scripture, it immediately begins with the same command: “Do not be afraid!” When faced with the unknown, our first instinct is fear. Why? Because it is something out of our control. We are afraid of things we may not be able change, but that could potentially change us. The truth is that you cannot control your parents’ response – but you can control yours. They could reject you, waver for a time, welcome you with open arms, or any of a hundred other responses. The fact that you cannot control their response provides you with an incredible opportunity: to cling to the truth of God’s love in the face of possible rejection. Yes, it will be a deep loss if they choose to reject you, and it will be healthy to grieve that loss. But assurance in God means that no matter what they do, they cannot take away God’s love for you or the truth of God’s involvement in your life. No. Matter. What. Do not be afraid.

Let me urge you that this is not a foolproof formula for coming out. Some parents will respond viciously, and there is nothing you can do about that. The world as it is and as it should be are two different things, and that includes family. Please tread carefully. (If you have concerns, feel free to email me.)

This blog was written anonymously. Though the author is out to friends, family, and colleagues, possible career ramifications prevent using their name publicly.

We have just launched FreedHearts Online — comprehensive video courses, including one for parents to help them love, accept and affirm their LGBTQI children, and strengthen their faith! This course addresses the core issues and answers the tough questions. Please click here. 🙂

Does Christian Scripture Really Condemn Homosexuality? (Hell No!)

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Rejection, shunning, condemnation, ridicule, bullying, all in the name of God. If you are LGBTQ, or the parent of an LGBTQ child, or anyone who is affirming and including, you have likely been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment. And worse.

Does such treatment have anything to do with God?  No, not really. It is about fear.

Does it have to do with the Bible? Not at all. Those who use Christian Scripture to stand against same-sex relationships are twisting those Scriptures to justify the marginalization and oppression of an entire group of people.

Indefensible.

The rest of this post is courtesy of our friend, Pastor Jim Rigby. With his permission, I share it with you.

5 Things You Need to Know About the Bible and Homosexuality.

1. Neither Greek nor Hebrew had a word for the modern concept of homosexuality. The English word “homosexuality” was not coined until the 19th century. This means that phrases like “a man shall not lie with a man as with a woman,” are not as clear as it may seem. They may refer to other same sex practices such as temple prostitution, rape or pederasty, but we don’t really know. Jesus did not mention the topic.

If the point of the text were to condemn all homosexuality, it is strange that women would be left out of the prohibition. The best concordances and modern commentaries no longer use the word “homosexual” to translate those phrases because they could mean other things. In any case, because the terms are not completely clear, the benefit of the doubt should be given to those being attacked.

2. It is dishonest to say biblical marriage was between one man and one woman. Many characters in scripture had multiple spouses. Some of them impregnated their slaves or the widows of their dead relatives. “Biblical marriage” was nothing like our modern concept of marriage. The Bible says nothing about needing a wedding license, nor the blessings of the church.

(For more on the issue of the Biblical definition of marriage, you can read Susan’s post about it by clicking here.)

3. The “cleanliness codes” of Leviticus were cultic practices, not ethical norms. I will let Rabbis explain what Leviticus means to modern Judaism, but in the Christian covenant such cultic practice are clearly overturned. “Unclean” foods were considered acceptable, and Christians were specifically commanded to call no person “unclean.”

The healings of Jesus seemed to focus on people whose illness would render them “unclean” by the Levitical Code, and one of the first converts to the new religion was a Eunuch. If the Levitical prohibitions were still intact that never would have happened.

4. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is often interpreted as a condemnation of homosexuality, but the prophets clearly refute that interpretation. The crime of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality, but cruelty:

“This is what your sister Sodom has done wrong. She and her daughters were proud that they had plenty of food and had peace and security. They didn’t help the poor and the needy.”(Ezekiel 16:49)

And: “Hear the word of Jehovah, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. What unto me is the multitude of your sacrifices? …And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:10-17)

5. Finally, the ace in the hole for those who try to use the Bible to attack the LGBTQI community is Paul’s diatribe in the first chapter of Romans. What homophobic theology always leaves out is the whole point of the passage, which is found in Romans 2:1, “Therefore none of you has an excuse when you judge others.” In other words, the entire passage was NOT a condemnation of homosexuality, but of judgmental Christianity.

Amazing isn’t it? That so many unloving people in the church have taken stories and passages condemning mistreatment of the vulnerable, and used them to persecute the vulnerable?!

When heard in the spirit of love, the stories of the Bible are a source of ever-widening compassion. When heard arrogantly and lovelessly, the Bible becomes one of the deadliest books ever written. When we project our current prejudices upon the ancient stories we “weaponize” the text in the same way violent prisoners see every spoon as a potential knife.

Christianity was a call to a new understanding of humankind where there are no longer religious insiders and outsiders, no longer masters and slaves, and no longer gender roles. (Gal. 3:28)

Gay bashing is a renunciation of the very heart of Christianity.

We have programs for parents of LGBTQ children, and for LGBTQ. We help free hearts to love, heal and affirm.  Private online support groups, books, resources and our new FreedHearts Online comprehensive video courses! For more information, please click here.