“Celibacy at Gay Christian Network: What’s That All About?” by Stephen Parelli, Other Sheep Exec Site, January 12, 2016; “Why this Christian Lesbian was Not at the Gay Christian Network Conference” by Kimberly Knight, Progressive Christian Channel, January 11, 2016.
by Dr. Ralph Blair
(PDF version available here.)
The Gay Christian Network was founded in 2001 by Justin Lee, a young Southern Baptist who, since 1997, had been hosting online conversations on evangelical Christian faith and same-sex attraction. GCN’s first conference was held in 2005. With sensitivity, Lee has made room for those who are same-sex oriented and committed to celibacy (Side B) as well as for those aimed at a committed same-sex relationship (Side A). GCN presents conference speakers from both perspectives but has never supported “ex-gay” claims. Lee has been a keynoter for Evangelicals Concerned conferences in the east and west.
Founded in 1975, EC began our summer conferences in 1980 and, to date, we’ve had seventy-three. We’ve always been supportive of those on both Side A and Side B as it’s psychologically and spiritually unhealthy to violate conscience. However, we’ve always featured only Side A speakers. That’s because, back in those mid-70s, few evangelicals had “come out” and many of the openly gay men who came to our first EC Bible studies and conferences were only just beginning to explore Christian faith. Side B speakers would have been a discouraging distraction in their quest. By 2005, GCN conference folks were familiar with the Side B view from their conservative church backgrounds yet, out of this context, many have been able to move to Side A through GCN fellowship with solidly evangelical peers in committed same-sex relationship. Still, those who stay on Side B enjoy empathic, supportive fellowship with both Side A and Side B Christians.
In 1992, missionary Tom Hanks founded Other Sheep. Stephen Parelli now leads this LGBT group. Both men tried to overcome the homosexuality by “ex-gay” efforts and in heterosexual marriage. Both failed. Both now accept and embrace their homosexuality.
Parelli, a first-time attendee at a GCN conference, is upset and angry over the inclusion of Side B speakers. He claims he found it “a conundrum” that a Side B speaker “would expose the ‘ex-gay’ movement as a myth while defending celibacy, the exact same practical outcome of the ‘ex-gay’ movement.” Says Parelli: “I could see no real practical difference between [her] position on celibacy and the ‘ex-gay’ movement’s position.”