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There is generosity of geography in British Columbia—great humps of dark green mountains, water falls everywhere I looked, broad flowing rivers, trees of stupendous height. British Columbia says BIG. BEAUTIFUL. SPACIOUS.

But Generous Spaciousness is not about the topography of a Canadian province. It is about a concept and a conference I attended this past weekend. The concept is that people, and especially Christians, can live in unity with one another even when they differ about how the church should respond to LGBTQ Christians. To learn more about the concept, go to the link below the photo to read my earlier review of Wendy VanderWal Gritter’s book, Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church.

The conference was a generous space that contained all stripes and spots: lesbians, gay men, transgender, gender fluid, gender neutral, and queer. Oh, and straight—almost forgot them for a second, and that would be a mistake because the straight people there were our beloved allies, people willing to learn from us. There were people in many stages of coming out, regardless of age. There were preachers and musicians and teachers and veterinarians and students and writers and artists and nurses and … you get the idea. There were 64 of us. And all of us had some history with and some present relationship to Christianity—whether harmonious or conflicted and mostly some of both.

It’s so long ago that I came out and left the church, and I still have large swaths of doubt clinging to my skin. So I wasn’t always so sure how to be in this crowd. And I was there, ostensibly, to teach. To teach something, anyway. I did a short reading from To Drink from the Silver Cup. At the end of the reading, I said that several people had already asked me why I’d come all the way to BC from New Mexico to be at this conference. “I’m here,” I said, “to share my story with you and to help other people share their stories. We all have a story, and our stories are important.” A little later, I would lead two workshops on experiencing one’s faith journey through writing. These are workshops I love to do, because such tenderness, such harshness, too, and such beauty come out of them. And story. I am, as I told the people in my workshop, greedy for story.

Because it’s been a long time since I came out, I didn’t really expect to be deeply moved. That time is somewhat past, I thought—healed to a large extent by work I’ve done and by the love that surrounds me. But we had these community groups—six in my group, and all weekend we gathered for an hour or so at a time to respond pretty vulnerably to some provocative questions. The last session, where we were to appreciate each person in our group had me weeping copiously, much to my surprise. It’s not over yet.

The conference was all about celebration of ourselves and of the intense beauty of our differences. But afterwards I couldn't help thinking of the dark side of our relationship to Church–that our pain is not just about banishment from fellowship. It is also about the devastating damage done to us through non-acceptance of our very being, especially through ex-gay "ministries," through the attempt to change people into something we are not. I was struck by how that dishonors the God who made us who we are. I was again grateful that I left the church when I did–nevertheless, not without scars. As I observed my non-binary family in this setting, I was struck once more by what a man said at the Gay Christian Network conference: "The reason we love Jesus so much is that he is all that we have left." Because I also saw that passionate love and devotion.

The generosity I witnessed at the conference continued afterwards. Two women I’d met there knew I had no plans for Sunday night, and they invited me to stay in their lovely home, where we sat over a light and delicious supper and talked into the evening. When I got back to the States the next day, it was to stay for two weeks with a friend I’d hadn’t met IRL until this weekend. Two more people are working on setting up events for a return to BC in January. Generous Spaciousness.

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