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Bridging the Gap – Who is the Real Threat?

My post today is part of a larger initiative of more than 50 bloggers all sharing their thoughts on how to ‘bridge the gap’. You can check out the other perspectives here. Catalyst was involved in an Encouragement Grant to New Direction in 2008 to support work with an organizational consultant. I’ve never considered myself a threatening person. I’m shorter than average, generally friendly, and like to be liked. So it came as a surprise when my new friend told me that when I moved in down the street they had a serious conversation about moving away to protect their children. A little background might be helpful here. When my wife and I moved into our new home three years ago with one son and another child on the way (we now have three kids) I was working as a pastor, trying to start a new church in the community. The person we bought the house from asked about the new church and I said it was evangelical Christian. He may have misheard me because by the time we arrived the word was out that an evangelist was moving in. Over the next several months we began getting to know the neighbours, especially when my son started school. One of his friends from school lives up the street and has two moms. While picking up our children and walking home I got to know one of the couple and we have developed a meaningful friendship. My friend has taught me so much that I didn’t previously understand about parenting, our neighbourhood, reiki, spirituality, and particularly what it is like to be a lesbian living a monogamous married life in suburban Southern Ontario. I treasure our friendship. One day as the kids were on her swingset she told me what happened when they heard about the evangelist moving in: (paraphrase)

We put the kids to bed one night and sat down to talk about whether we should move. As much as we love it here we just didn’t know if we could put our children through the risk of being targeted at school by some religious bigot because of our relationship. We couldn’t trust you at first and it has taken a long time to feel safe with you as a neighbour and friend. We’ve both had so many bad experiences with church people that we were genuinely afraid about what would happen.
I still feel sick when I think about it. I spent years in a church culture that occasionally talked about “the gay agenda”. I never thought about how my subculture might be perceived on the other side. I still have theological questions that I hope to someday earn the trust to ask about, but if I ever do, I know i’ll be asking friends who have learned that even an evangelist (which is not a word I would ever use to describe myself) isn’t always a threat.