This week, hundreds of evangelical Christians will converge on Nashville, Tennessee to attend a conference organized by the Southern Baptist Convention in opposition to marriage equality. I'll be there as a representative of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, to present the signatures of hundreds of evangelicals--one thousand, in fact--who disagree.
The official name of the conference is The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage, and it features over 40 of the church's leading voices on issues of sexuality and marriage. I am a committed evangelical Christian myself, whose faith has been greatly shaped by many of the speakers at the conference. But like many of my evangelical brothers and sisters, I have come to fundamentally disagree with their stance on same-sex marriage.
My perspective changed on this issue while I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, a leading training institutes for young people seeking to devote their lives to full-time Christian ministry. During my time in Chicago, I regularly came in contact with LGBTQ Christians while visiting different churches around the city, and heard stories of how Christians caused tremendous harm to LGBTQ people by the way we treated them in our churches.
It was the combination of hearing these stories and a season of intense study of the Gospels of the New Testament that began to cause my heart and mind to shift on this issue. Did Jesus really call us to work to legislate his commands? Was I more committed to a set of political values than I was to the Gospel that Jesus preached, a Gospel that was supposed to be "good news of great joy for all people?" (Luke 2:10)
It was as I prayerfully reflected on these questions that my heart began to change on this subject. I am not alone in this shift either. Scores of young evangelicals are feeling compelled by the Scriptures to change their view on civil marriage equality in the United States. According to the Public Religion Research Institute poll released in February, 69% of millennials overall are in favor of same-sex marriage, while 43% of all millennial evangelicals favor same-sex marriage.
The numbers reveal a trend that cannot be ignored--more and more young evangelicals are reexamining the words of Jesus and being compelled to rethink their posture towards civil marriage equality in particular, and LGBTQ men and women generally. That doesn't mean they're "precocious" young adults willing to abandon their faith; rather, they're prayerfully reconsidering whether a particular reading of the Bible should be use to set the definition of marriage in a religiously-diverse society like ours.
Our organization, in its few weeks of existence, has already been on the receiving end of strong criticism from the Southern Baptist Convention. At this week's conference, I hope to engage in meaningful conversations with evangelical leaders about our points of disagreement. I believe that when we are face to face, true transformation can occur because we are no longer disembodied names and ideas but real, flesh and blood human beings who both love God and are trying to be as faithful to Jesus as possible.
I'll be supported in spirit by the one-thousand other evangelicals who took a step of faith to publicly sign our statement of belief. This isn't a trend, and it's not a fringe movement. It's my prayer that Southern Baptist leaders will begin to see that this shift is truly one that has been initiated by the Spirit of God and is not going to dissipate. And if that can happen, I believe there is a real chance for evangelicals to reclaim our title as people of the Good News... for all people.