Last week I had the privilege of attending my first Q Christian Fellowship Conference (formerly the Gay Christian Network) here in Denver.
I first found out about QCF at the Wild Goose Festival in 2012. At that time I was still very much new to the progressive side of christianity and had never heard of a Gay Christian. Now thinking back on that time I find it quite funny considering I’ve been one my whole life.
Nevertheless at that time I wasn’t out and the idea of Gay Christians stuck me as scandalous. I decided I wasn’t going to talk to them. Considering I’m the type of person that generally talks to everyone this probably should’ve been a sign I was avoiding something more than just the GCN booth. So rather than just go up to the table I slowly and probably not so subtly walked by as often as I could trying to get a sense of what it was all about.
Fast forward six years to the night before the conference, I was looking at the schedule and wondering why there was so much time between break out sessions.
“Don’t they know they could fit in a lot more sessions if there wasn’t so much free time?”
It took me all of five minutes of being at the conference to realize the sessions weren’t really the point of the conference. Were they inspiring? Yes. Were they thought-provoking? Yes. Were they really why people attend? No, at least not really. I soon realized the gaps in the schedule were very intentional. This is where people met one another and reconnected to those that had met at previous conferences.
It was during one for these times that I met Andrew. Andrew is also gay and the same age as me. He is deeply thoughtful with an infectious smile. I liked him immediately and like me it was his first time at the conference too. We spent most of the next three days navigating the conference together and swapping stories both about church and our lives. We connected more in just four days than I’ve connected with friends I’ve had for years. From talking to others this story is not unique to Andrew and me. Over the four days I heard the same sentiment from many people. It’s part of what makes the conference so special and so hard to leave.
Most of the people who attend the conference identify as LGBTQIA+ and nearly all identify as Christian. I realized that for many in attendance this is the only time of the year they get to spend with other LGBTQIA+ Christians. This is a big part why people connect so quickly at the conference. Being young, gay, and Christian tends to make us a minority within a minority. In many communities that may be a minority of one. Going from that environment to suddenly being surrounded by hundreds of people who can empathize with your story in a way that others who don’t share parts of it simply can’t understand lends a certain energy that can’t be described. The best attempt I can make at capturing it is to say everyone there is family, we just haven’t met one another yet and even thatdescription falls short.
Unlike a lot of Conferences I’ve been to there was very little showmanship, no long drawn out prayers, no one trying to show that they were a better Christian than everyone else. Instead there were lots of deeply honest stories. Heartbreaking Stories of being forced to leave a church, stories of friendships that fell apart after coming out, stories of parents who didn’t understand or didn’t approve, these were all to common. There were also stories of people being loved and accepted by their church, stories of friends who rallied and watched out for their newly out friends, stories of parents who did the work to understand and who not only approved but celebrated their LGBTQIA+ child. Many of those parents were in attendance and I found their presence especially moving. More than anything there were lots and lots of hug. Many from strangers who didn’t feel like strangers at all
QCF was one of those all too rare places where I got a glimpse of the kingdom of God. The conference is made up of mostly people who have been told there is no room for them at the table, people who have been marginalized, outcast, or made to pretend to be something they’re not, people who have every right to have a permanent chip on their shoulder, but instead I found a group of people who were deeply committed to one another and to bringing about the kingdom of God in a real way. When we consider Jesus’s ministry here on earth would we really expect God’s kingdom to look any other way?
Next year the conference is headed to Chicago, and so am I. If you’re a LGBTQIA+ Christian or ally I’d invite you to consider joining me there.