To the dearly beloved queer people of ACU
To the dearly beloved queer children of God, especially those connected with Abilene Christian University;
From the co-conspirators and friends of Galileo Church, a gathering of God’s faithful in the suburbs of Fort Worth;
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Mother-Father and our brother-Savior Jesus.
We hope this letter finds you feeling strong in the strength of God’s power; but we fear that may not be the case. Your identity, wherever you fall on the LGBTQ+ rainbow, has been under assault during this last little while. It’s likely that your school and church communities don’t feel like safe places for you right now.
That’s why we’re writing to you. We have news for you, and we’re hoping you’ll receive it as the best news you’ve ever heard: God’s love is real, and God’s love is for you, and God’s love is worth it. (We’ll say more about “worth it” in a minute.)
Just so you know, there are lots of people at Galileo Church who come from the same theological background that you do. Yeah, we’ve got a lot of former CofC-ers in our number. (A bunch of Baptists, too, and you might find this hard to believe, but there’s not that much difference. At least, not in the way those groups have historically thought about LGBTQ+ people.) We were Christians who thought we knew that God likes and approves of some people more than others; and that God dislikes and disapproves of the way some of us feel in our hearts, in our bones, in our spirits. Some of us tried for years (and prayed, and prayed, and prayed) to become other than we are. Some of us even tried to hurt ourselves to get rid of the constant pain of thinking God didn’t want us.
And then we found out the truth: that God’s love, rather than God’s judgment, is the force that powers the entire exquisite, expanding universe; and God’s love is not meted out in stingy little portions to some people and withheld completely from others. God knows exactly who each of us is, and God is so extra that God loves us like a freakin’ waterfall of love, just as God made us. And God, as you no doubt know, made some of us QUEER. And fabulous. And glittery. And gorgeous. And did we mention fabulous?
So, listen, there are a couple of things we would really like you to hear from us, as sort of sub-points to the main point about God’s love for you.
1. You are not an issue or a problem or a pawn in a theological or institutional debate. You are a human being, made imago Dei – in the very image of God. You don’t have to sit still and react politely when people all around you are debating your right to exist here in all the fullness of your LGBTQ+ identity. You can argue, or ask a friend to stick up for you, or leave, or curse a blue streak and then leave. Any of those paths is honorable.
If you have the strength right now to remind people that you exist, you splendidly queer Christian, that’s great. If you don’t, give yourself a break. Please take it from people who have known the existential exhaustion of having to defend their right to breathe the air we are all sharing: sometimes you can’t even, and that’s okay. Because we’ve got your back! (Better than that – Jesus has your back! See sub-point #2.)
2. You do not have to feel grateful to us, or any of your friends or family, for “accepting” you. One thing we have learned is, without queer people, the church is not the church. Jesus lived and died outside of the religious establishment because of his preference for people just like you – debated, belittled, marginalized, rejected. And Jesus showed us the very heart of God, so…voilà, God’s very heart is for you.
(Indeed, in the gospels, Jesus’s ire is only ever aimed at Very Religious People who keep trying to box other people out of the blessings God has in mind for all people, or step on people whose defenses are not strong. Ever notice that?)
So there are tons of “allies” at Galileo Church – straight people, cisgender people – who really don’t want to be congratulated for “welcoming” LGBTQ+ people. Mainly, they feel grateful that there are any LGBTQ+ people who will give them a chance, and give Galileo Church a chance. Because let’s face it, the straight-cis church has not often been worthy of your trust. At Galileo the allies finally figured out that Jesus was hanging out on the margins of society, outside the religious establishment, with people just like you, the whole entire time. So if the allies want Jesus, they gotta stand with you. See?
3. Back on that thing about God’s love being worth it – we get that you might not be thinking that’s true right now. It has cost you dearly to stay in a place, among people, who can’t be trusted to love you completely. And because many of those people carry the name “Christian,” you may be ready to throw in the towel on your own Christian faith. We get that. We seriously do. Some of us have barely hung on to our faith by our fingernails.
But we want you to hear us say, from over here in a very safe, very brave, “unironic supergay,” Jesus-loving church, that God’s love is tooooootally worth it. We don’t know anymore how we would live without our #churchfriends. We are so glad we did not give up Jesus to those – well, we’d like to say a certain word here, but this is an open letter – so let’s just say we’re really glad we didn’t give up Jesus to the people who mistakenly thought they owned him. We have found joy in our rediscovered, rehabilitated Christian faith. We wish the same joy for you, so to reiterate: God’s love is real, and for you, and so gosh-darn worth it.
Now this letter has gotten long. If you’ve read this far, thanks. As we wrap it up, can we ask you for a couple of things?
a. Can you share this letter as widely as you can imagine? It needs to get to people, especially all the dearly beloved queer people of ACU, who don’t yet know that God’s love is the realest thing in the world. Post the link to this letter on Facebook (tag Galileo Church); tweet it out (tag Galileo_Church); Insta a photo of a rainbow-unicorn and tag us again (tag Galileo_Church); rinse; repeat. (And if it works for you, share this letter with people who might share financially in Galileo’s mission of “seeking and sheltering spiritual refugees.” We want to keep sharing the news about God’s Niagara Falls of love, and we’re not embarrassed to say, that costs money, and we’d love to have help.)
b. Can you be sure to talk to someone you trust if the controversy over your personhood begins to make you feel hopeless or helpless? The world can’t afford to lose you. Galileo Church can’t bear the thought of missing out on your companionship for this journey. Reach out to us if you need to – we’re here, just down I-20, and we want to be of help.
Again, thanks for reading. More than that: thanks for being. You are so loved. And nothing – no one – will keep us from telling you that, again and again and again. Because “neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Believe it. And stay fabulous.
In the peace of Christ, and in the power of his living Spirit —
The pastoral staff, Missional Logistics Team, and Spiritual Care Team of Galileo Church; and our co-conspirators and friends:
Rev. Dr. Katie Hays, Galileo Lead Evangelist
Rev. Ryan Felber, Galileo Evangelist for Youth & Public Provocation
Stephanie Hord, Galileo Worship Architect
Corina Sosa, Galileo Missional Logistics Team President
Astreia Yates, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Secretary
Dr. Susan Chiasson, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Co-Treasurer
Katie Owens, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Co-Treasurer
Mark Wikoff, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Big Red Barn Boss
Missy Holtman, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Lady Justice
Aisling Jones, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Procurement Boss
Allison Justus-Smith, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Personnel Caretaker
Kimberly Grogan, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Cecilia B. DeMille
Francine Speer, Galileo Spiritual Care Team
Melina Wikoff, Galileo Spiritual Care Team
Dr. David Grogan, Galileo Spiritual Care Team