Last Sunday afternoon I got involved in yet another conversation with a conservative Christian on Twitter who wanted to “stand up for the truth” and tell me that I was living in sin.

This is nothing new. I talk with people like this all the time, and I honestly consider it a part of the ministry to which God has called me. But this time I started to get a little frustrated by his refusal to engage in dialogue beyond simply making proclamations and listing out-of-context Bible verses. The thought occurred to me that people like him often don’t realize that people like me are so much more than 2D cartoon villains. So I wrote a thread that I thought might be helpful. It got a lot of attention, to say the least. I was absolutely bombarded with replies, retweets, quote tweets and DMs, and within 24 hours, I had gained over 1100 new followers! It has led to several days of really beautiful and productive conversations with so many people, and I’m always grateful for the change to do this life-giving (and in some cases, life-saving!) work.

So I’m turning my Twitter thread into a blog post. Maybe this will be helpful in continuing to break down stereotypes and humanize LGBTQ+ people. Here we go:

For what it’s worth, simply pronouncing “Homosexuality is a sin” or “There’s no such thing as a gay ‘Christian’” and copy/pasting a list of six biblical prooftexts probably won’t be very effective for someone like me. Let me explain.

First of all, I’m a gay Christian. Not a gay “Christian.” Putting something in quotes doesn’t make it go away. And I’m delighted that you finally get to meet one of us! I am always happy to have this conversation with people who are interested in good faith dialogue. But to be honest, I’m getting a little tired of people like you mocking me and calling me names. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am. Can I encourage you to show a little respect? It’s really just basic courtesy in good conversations.

A little background: I grew up in fundamentalist Christianity. I prayed the sinner’s prayer as a young boy, probably 4 or 5, and spent my whole childhood in conservative churches and Christian schools. I was devout and convinced, and I felt a call to ministry early on.

I knew I was gay as early as ten years old, but in my world – evangelical Christianity in northern Indiana in the early 1980s, the only thing I knew about gay people is that they were broken, perverted haters of God. The only media representation I saw consisted of 1) flaming sissies on sitcoms 2) dying AIDS victims or 3) effeminate or gender-nonconforming entertainers like Liberace or Boy George. None of those things described me, a faithful Christian kid from a devout family.

So I made a vow to myself to keep this secret to my grave and to do everything I could to live a faithful Christian life. I was a leader in my youth group and school, and I enrolled in Christian college to become some kind of pastor. My gay orientation never went away, no matter how much I prayed, fasted, memorized scripture, confessed… But still I tried to live in the way I thought I was expected to. By my family, my community and my God.

And so, at the ripe old age of 21, I got married to a wonderful Christian woman. We had 4 kids together and a 23-year marriage. I was an evangelical worship pastor for nearly 20 of those years. In 2002, after 8 years of marriage, I came out to my wife and to my pastoral staff friends. I was seeking healing and deliverance. I spent many years in conversion therapy groups, 12-step groups, individual and couples counseling… on and on. After that confession, my wife and I stayed together for 15 more years, until I came out publicly in 2016, ending my marriage, surrendering my ministerial credentials in my denomination and resigning from my local church job.

I guess I tell you all of that backstory so that you’ll see how thoroughly I understand your perspective. I was there. I believed and lived it for decades. I didn’t change my mind overnight, and it wasn’t easy.

So I hope you can understand how ineffective it is for a random internet stranger to come at me with one-sentence pronouncements about my faith and copy-pasted lists of bible verses. I’ve read those verses hundreds of times, studied them for years, read so many commentaries and books and websites, had so many conversations, prayed so many prayers, sat through so many lectures and sermons. And since I came out in 2016, I’ve had this exact conversation with literally hundreds of people like you who seem to think it’s as easy as quoting Romans 1 at a gay Christian. The Word of God “not returning void” and all that…

But here’s where I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. You didn’t know all that about me. You don’t know me at all. You don’t really know my history, my education, my life experiences, my work, my writing, my advocacy, my TEDx talk, my parenting, my Christian history, my faith.

You don’t know that I read the bible every day, that I’m currently reading not one, but two devotionals every morning. You don’t know how I pray with and for people every day or about the groups and studies that I lead every week.

You don’t see me praying with my partner Alejandro over FaceTime or know that I still cry sometimes when I listen to hymns and worship songs.

How could you know all that? No, you just saw a gay person on here claiming to be a Christian, and that was outside your paradigm. And here’s the thing. I get it. It’s disorienting when we encounter new ideas, new perspectives. Especially when we didn’t realize they exist.

But I do! We do! And now you know that!

So, with all of that backstory, I would love to invite you into a broader perspective. To be open to the possibility that you may be wrong on this one. That my faith might actually be real. That you might actually have a little bit more to learn and grow.

I’m praying for you, and I welcome your prayers for me. Let me know when you’re ready for a real conversation.