Kevin GarciaAn excerpt from his post Yes, I’m a Gay Christian:
And then, kind of like clockwork, a series of events occurred where I could attend The Reformation Project’s conference in Atlanta. It was the single most important, most life-changing weekend of my life, and I don’t say that hyperbolically. “My entire Christian journey, I felt like I was a second-class son. I felt welcomed, but only so much. I could participate, but only to a degree. But in that moment, I finally felt welcomed into the family of God. I was affirmed in my sonship in its entirety. I never felt more free of shame, more set free from the expectation and approval of man. Jesus met me in the realest way possible. “Today, I’m walking in the fullness of God. I am unashamed, unrestrained, and fully in love with Jesus.More in love with Him than I’ve ever been. And this is just the beginning of my story.
I first heard about The Reformation Project when Matthew Vines attended the Decatur Book Festival in 2014. After his presentation on God and the Gay Christian, he mentioned that he was planning on having a conference in Atlanta about learning the tools for LGBT affirmation in our churches. I was immediately sold. I attend an LGBT-affirming church in an LGBT-affirming denomination. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has done a lot of work on the issue of LGBT affirmation. However, as a mainline denomination, we get dismissed as ‘liberals’ who want to throw out the Bible. For those of us non-theologian ELCA members who hold all of Scripture in high regard and believe strongly in LGBT inclusion, we didn’t know the nuts and bolts of why we knew that Scripture was being improperly interpreted by those who wished to deny inclusiveness. In that spirit, a small group of members from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta came to TRP to learn about the tools to discuss the issue in an in-depth, scriptural way. So that when others may try to say that we are for LGBT affirmation because we are a ‘liberal’ denomination and don’t believe in the Bible, we can refute that notion and specifically answer their arguments. Our group had an amazing experience. TRP matched all of our expectations and then some!We were all impressed by the level of intellectual rigor of the conference. How every ‘clobber verse’ was painstakingly researched, textually and contextually. It gave us the tools to be confident in knowing how to thoroughly discuss this issue. In addition, the fellowship with members from other churches, LGBT-affirming or not, was very powerful and life-giving. It was an incredible conference!
The Atlanta Reformation Project conference was an experience I will never forget. The conference began with The Academy for Racial Justice, which brought up questions I didn’t realize I had regarding race. This day-long session also provided a safe space for me to voice my ideas and concerns about race within my own community. Worship at the conference was authentic and ushered in the presence of God. Each speaker spoke passionately from their hearts about relevant topics and the Word of God, challenging me to dig deeper and make the messages personal. Each panel educated and enlightened me on topics I’ve wanted to know about from real people living their truth and inviting me into their stories. The breakout sessions were refreshing opportunities to mix with a diversity of other attendees from all over the world to discuss the information presented in the morning sessions. Overall, the Atlanta Reformation Project wasn’t just a conference. It was a commission begging the question, “How will you respond to what you now know?” I am excited, equipped, and ready to move forward. The conference was completely life-changing. I was challenged and educated, affirmed and encouraged to move forward and actively respond to the information presented. The experiences and friendships I formed over the weekend will leave a lasting mark on me.
The Reformation Project conference in Atlanta this summer was a total game changer for me. I’ve only been out to family and friends for a little over a year, but I’ve been wrestling with how to reconcile both my spirituality and sexuality for several years. When I arrived at the conference, I immediately felt accepted, included, and valued. In a sea of unfamiliar faces, I found heartbeats that I recognized: souls marked by the struggle to seek God’s face and love others well while discovering more of Jesus’ heart for the LGBT community. All of the keynote and panel speakers were not only articulate, well-informed, and compelling – they were also incredibly approachable. The TRP conference reminded me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And that I have a voice. And a purpose. I expected to be further informed and equipped at the conference, but I did not anticipate how profoundly the experience would both impact and propel me forward in my own personal journey. In the midst of other believers attempting to faithfully reconcile sexuality and spirituality, I found the nourishment I needed from the Lord to continue to serve Jesus and love others without buying into the lies that I am somehow disqualified from these great joys of my faith.