17 Jan Back to Blogging: Some Updates and Hopes

After an extended break from blogging, I’m back in the game. I initially stepped away at my employer’s request, and then, with the exception of sporadic posts here and there, I continued to lay low because life happened. My views on how the church can best support LGBT people shifted, which was kind of a big deal since I’ve spent most of my life doing advocacy work in this space.

It’s challenging to undergo an evolution in thinking when you’re in the public eye. Not only are you trying to figure out what it means for your life in particular, you’re doing it in the midst of criticism and demands for explanations. We know changes in beliefs are part of the human experience. We anticipate the emergence of new perspectives after years working with people who are directly affected by these beliefs. We learn new information – what helps and what harms – and it’s reasonable to come to new conclusions based on the information we learn. But grace and nuance are hard to come by when you talk about hot topics in the culture war, so I needed some space to decompress.

The changes also had a significant impact on my career. Since I’ve served in ministry for my entire adult life, and most Christian employers only hire staff who hold traditional views of marriage, I’ve faced new questions about where to use my gifts to serve the world. I’ve been thankful to land some writing projects that have kept me afloat financially, and I look forward to seeing where things open up from here.

All that to say: I’ve had a lot to figure out in terms of what these changes mean for my faith, what they mean for my career, and how they shape my contribution to contentious conversations about justice and faith in a pluralistic society.

I’m happy to report that the fears I had when I initially spoke up in support for same-sex marriage were unwarranted. For years, concerned Christians said changes in how we interpret Scripture precipitate a collapse of one’s entire faith system. They said it was a slippery slope that led to relativism, where we can no longer discern truth at all because foundational principles of have shifted.

I realized we had been doing this work of interpretation all along; no Christian reads the Bible literally. We’re always discerning which parts of Scripture were written for that specific context and which principles apply today. We do the hard work of allowing the spirit of the text to inform our engagement with our changing world, which is vastly different from the context in which the Bible was written.

After years of being warned that supporting full inclusion and equality for LGBT people would lead to the erosion of my faith, it’s a relief to tell you I’m as passionate about Jesus as I’ve ever been. Everything I do is motivated by a desire to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. My concern for the poor and oppressed is rooted in my deep love for Jesus and his vision for restoration. I still aim to live a life full of hospitality and close community in a world where so many people are so lonely.

There will be no shortage of things to discuss here. Donald J. Trump will be sworn in on Friday and 81% of white evangelicals helped make it happen. Immigrants, women, religious minorities, people of color, those with disabilities, and LGBTQ people will be more vulnerable than they were before he was elected. There will be greater threats of violence, discrimination, and policies that tell human beings loved by God that they’re not wanted here. We Christians have a responsibility to stand with and for the excluded and oppressed, and I intend to write about that here.

I also plan to continue writing about LGBT issues related to the Christian faith. We will have important conversations about religious freedom and protection for LGBT people from discrimination. And we’ll return to basic conversations about what it looks like to exist as sexual and gender minorities in a faith that has previously kept most of us in the closet.

I would like to do my small part to heal some of the divisions we see in our communities. We’re pretty polarized right now. From our news sources, to our social media feeds, to the churches we choose, and the spaces we inhabit, we can craft communities that tell us what we want to hear. I’ve been widening the circle of influences in my life so I’ll be more exposed to views that challenge my own. We do not have to downplay our convictions in order to learn from, and respect, those with different beliefs.

In the coming years, I plan to speak out more, but I also intend to listen more. One of my hopes in blogging again is to enter into more conversation than I have in the past. I would like to hear from you and learn from you. I’d like this to be a place where people feel safe to express unpopular opinions so we can grow together.

Let me know in the comment section or by email if there are certain topics you would like me to write about. And thank you for sticking with me on the journey when I faced new challenges and grew in different directions. We are the first generation of LGBT Christians living out and open in the church. There are no clear scripts to follow and we haven’t had role models to look to when we’ve tried to imagine our futures. Thank you for sticking around and listening. Thank you for walking with me into that future.

  • Laura Jean Truman
    Posted at 12:44h, 17 January Reply

    So glad to have you back! I’m particularly interested in your continued thoughts about how queer Christians participate in conservative spaces – I’m a queer at a non-affirming church and I spend a lot of energy trying to learn and discern how and when to use my anger, how and when to be gentle, and what it means to turn the other cheek but also acknowledge the power dynamics at play. The prophetic role the oppressed is really really hard for me to sort through and I’d love to hear how you balance it!

    • Julie Rodgers
      Posted at 13:28h, 17 January Reply

      Great question! First of all: thank you for doing the hard, often thankless work of staying in a community that struggles to fully affirm your humanity. It can be exhausting. But I also think it’s how the church will change. Christians need to see examples of LGBT people following Jesus in their communities, and they’ll never get to see it if we all leave.

      I’ll probably write a longer post about this, but one important thing is to surround yourself with people who truly understand and support you. We’ve got to have friends who let us drop our filters and emote when we need to. We need people who feel our anger at injustice but also help us guard from cynicism. They can be hard to come by (especially if you’re not in a big city), so treasure them when you find them.

      It’s also good to relieve yourself of any guilt or sense of obligation you feel. While people like you are an extraordinary gift to your community, it’s not your personal responsibility to change them. It’s okay for you to withdraw and care for yourself when the burden is too great. It’s okay to let yourself feel hurt and angry. You don’t have to be the perfect Christian we often feel pressure to be in our hopes to be accepted––you can be human.

      And then continue to do things that nurture your faith. It can be tempting to do away with it ALL when you’re in communities that use their faith as a weapon against you. Read the books and pray the prayers and invest in the practices that point you back to Jesus. I think sometimes Christians who care about social justice can take more cues from activists than Jesus, but I think there’s a distinct way of seeking justice as Christians that will look different. I don’t feel like the expert on that, but it’s a question I’m asking and something I’m seeking.

      Let me know if you have more thoughts. And thanks again for the work you’re doing. It’s so encouraging to know there are people like you in communities all over the country.

  • Katie Melone
    Posted at 13:18h, 17 January Reply

    I intend in going into ministry hoping to work with queer Christian college students like you did at Wheaton and I’m not sure how that will work seeing as affirming yet Christian spaces seem hard to find especially at Christian colleges…advice would be awesome since you have experience with this

    • Julie Rodgers
      Posted at 13:45h, 17 January Reply

      Katie! So great to hear from you! We need more people doing that kind of work and I would love to see you leading in that way.

      A couple options initially come to mind: one could be that you start informal groups for LGBTQ students. It would probably be hard to find an organization to fund you in that work, but you could have students over once or twice a week for a Bible study or just a safe place to exhale. Another thought is that you could get involved serving in an affirming church. That would probably mean you’d have to go to a mainline church, which might be a shift for you, so that’s something you’d have to weigh based on where you are and what kinds of churches bring you to life. I’m sure many would have a place for you though.

      My hope is that more churches and institutions will shift in the future. Even if they don’t become fully affirming, I hope they’ll see the benefit of having diverse staff and faculty to lead and guide their students. I imagine there will at least be more opportunities in the future than there are now. Keep the faith and keep being faithful where you are. That’s probably the most important thing any of us can do.

    • Kevin Harris
      Posted at 18:02h, 17 January Reply

      Katie, check out Incarnation Ministries at http://www.john1.org/. They’re a campus ministry in the beginning stages that is Christ-centered, Bible-based, LGBTQ-inclusive, and multi-ethnic. It’s my understanding that their chapters will primarily be on the campuses of state schools (think InterVarsity but affirming of LGBTQ people). There are still plenty of queer Christian kids at public/state schools who don’t have any idea what to do with their sexuality (I was one of them : ).

      My good friend Max Kuecker,, who was previously on staff with InterVarsity before working for The Reformation Project, is heading up the project with his wife Jane Liu.

  • Nathan Self
    Posted at 15:32h, 17 January Reply

    Hey Julie,
    Glad to see you’re back at it! I’d love to hear stories of your relationships with non-affirming Christians. What makes them health?, how do you know when to put some distance in? I think initially I was naive about how hard it would actually be to love and trust and be honest with people who I have SO much in common with but also significant differences.

  • Ashley
    Posted at 16:15h, 17 January Reply

    I think something that is a valuable conversation to be having is relations between affirming and non-affirming both inside and outside of the community.
    Like, not only how can affirming people thrive in non-affirming spaces but how can those of us who are non-affirming support you in a way that doesn’t feel like compromising our convictions. And what can affirming people do to make non-affirming feel safe in affirming spaces

  • Sara Mitchell
    Posted at 07:50h, 07 February Reply

    So glad you are writing more! I need every thought you post.

  • Charissa McAfee
    Posted at 00:41h, 07 June Reply

    Julie- I am visiting your blog for the first time. Reading this post in the context of your engagement warms my heart. What a beautiful thing it is to see where your new direction led. I wonder if when you wrote this post, you imagined the happiness of this week. I hope you did. And I hope it was even more wonderful than you dreamed possible.

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