Evangelical conservatives will sit side by side with progressive Christians at the world’s largest annual LGBT Christian event next January in Houston, Texas. At the Gay Christian Network (GCN) Conference, experts and laypeople from myriad theological, social, and racial backgrounds will gather to ask the practical – but highly divisive – question, “What’s next for LGBT people and the Church?”
During this four-day event, an expected 1,500 Christians on both sides of the discussion will look beyond their differences. Together, “Side A” Christians, who believe God blesses same-sex relationships, and “Side B” Christians, who believe marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, will all enter into these conversations to learn from one another. Through workshops and keynote presentations, attendees are as likely to discuss ways to biblically strengthen their same-sex marriages as they are to learn about ways to live out celibacy, tackle homophobia in their church, provide much-needed support to their LGBT children, or live a fulfilling faith life as a transgender Christian.
“Christians continue to be strongly divided on LGBT issues, but there are LGBT people in every denomination, including those with the most anti-LGBT reputations,” said GCN executive director Justin Lee. “The GCN Conference is a unique opportunity for families, church leaders, and individuals on all sides of this debate to listen to and get to know one another. This is where we learn to love each other in spite of our disagreements and work together for a better world for everyone. In our polarized climate, there’s nothing else like it.”
Since GCN’s first conference in 2004, the organization has featured many prominent keynoters from both Side A and Side B, including bestselling evangelical author Philip Yancey, Harvard Divinity professor Peter Gomes, popular blogger and columnist Rachel Held Evans, and Baptist theologian Tony Campolo. Next January, the GCN Conference will welcome Baptist preacher and national transgender leader Allyson Robinson, Episcopal curate and social justice advocate Broderick Greer, and the founder and executive director of GCN, Justin Lee, with more speakers to be announced in the coming weeks.
Between GCN’s 2014 and 2015 conferences, attendance leapt by nearly 100 percent and the organization hosted nearly 1,400 people from diverse Christian backgrounds. GCN believes this jump is a result of the rising need for safe places to explore the complexities of being LGBT in the Church. With 50 percent of all lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans identifying as Christian, and many Christians feeling that popular culture is at odds with their faith, people from many different traditions will come together as one community at the 2016 GCN Conference to ask, “what’s next for us?”