Gay Christian Network

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The Gay Christian Network
GCN-logo.jpg
Abbreviation GCN
Motto Sharing Christ's light and love for all
Formation August, 2001
Legal status
Nonprofit charity
Purpose Religious, LGBT
Headquarters Raleigh, NC
Region served
Worldwide
Membership 24,000
Executive Director
Justin Lee
Budget US $157,000 (2010-2011 fiscal year)[1]
Website http://www.gaychristian.net

The Gay Christian Network (GCN) is a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight ally organization and ecumenical Christian ministry founded in 2001 by Justin Lee and administered from Raleigh, North Carolina in the United States.

The organization operates an online community "safe space" for social networking and support; hosts an annual Christian conference each January; organizes local Bible study groups; and produces resources including GCN Radio, a weekly internet radio program,[2] and Through My Eyes,[3] a documentary film about young gay Christians.[4][5] The ministry also maintains a database of welcoming congregations and churches,[6][7] and seeks to mobilize community volunteer action through its Action Center.[8]

As of December 2010, the organization claimed on its website to have over 15,000 members around the world,[5] although a post that same month by one of the administrators stated that the number had risen to 17,000.[9]

History and Purpose[edit]

GCN was founded in 2001 as an online community to provide support to gay Christians. Founder Justin Lee had struggled for years to reconcile his own Christian faith with his sexuality, so he set up GCN as a way to support others in similar situations.[4][10]

As the organization grew, its mission expanded. In 2008, GCN officially adopted five "missional directions": promoting spiritual growth, cultivating safe community, supporting family and friends, educating and encouraging the church, and engaging the wider LGBT community and the world.[11]

Lee has said that GCN aims "to change hearts and minds in the church, and to provide support to parents and to pastors as they are wrestling with these issues in their own families and congregations."[4]

Financial Support[edit]

In the United States, the Gay Christian Network, like most churches, is an Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides resources and support to its members.[5] Like church membership, people participate in the Gay Christian Network ministry without financial cost. Members and supporters can choose to offer financial support for administration and programming through one-time and/or recurring free-will donations.[12] Financial support is also provided by planned giving opportunities.[13]

Theology[edit]

Members of The Gay Christian Network have a diverse set of theological beliefs from very liberal to very conservative.

The organization's "Statement of Faith" is broadly consistent with orthodox Christian beliefs, asserting the existence of one God, the divinity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, the Bible as the authoritative word of God, and the importance of living holy lives in service to God. (See "GCN Statement of Faith")

Beyond that, the organization does not take public stands on most theological issues; instead, it offers support to individuals in a wide variety of Christian sects and denominations, including but not restricted to Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Metropolitan Community Church, Pentecostal and other Charismatic churches, Presbyterian, Quaker, Seventh-day Adventist, United Church of Christ, and unaffiliated/nondenominational Christians.

Sex and Christianity[edit]

Members of the Gay Christian Network have expressed a wide variety of opinions concerning gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender life and how it should be lived from a Christian perspective. For instance, the site is committed to being a safe haven both for members who believe it is okay for gay Christians to enter into healthy, committed relationships (including sex) and for those who believe that the Bible prohibits such behavior and requires chastity. On the site, these two positions have been nicknamed Side A, i.e., those members who believe that homosexual activity is not sinful, and Side B, i.e., those who believe that God does love gay people but does not accept homosexual activity.

It should be noted that the Side A members are not advocating promiscuity or other casual sexual behaviors; many of them are looking for a monogamous, marital relationship (e.g. a civil union). Similarly, the Side B members are not advocating an ex-gay position; many of them believe that God is not asking them to change their sexual orientation, but simply that they remain sexually chaste. As the site describes the two sides:

Here at GCN, we have two types of gay Christians. On one side are those who are in gay relationships or hope to be someday. On the other side are those who view their same-sex attractions as a temptation, and strive to live celibate lives. We call these views Side A and Side B, and both are well-represented at GCN.[14]

Although both sides have strong contingents on the site, many members have not fully decided which side they belong to. For these members, the site provides a safe place in which to think through these issues and the resources to help people make informed decisions.[15] Another example of the variety of opinions is that many Side A members on the site choose to remain sexually abstinent until they are in a committed relationship and/or legal marriage. These types of beliefs exemplify the conflicts that some gay Christians have encountered with the mainstream gay community.

Reception in the media[edit]

The ministry gained national attention with the founder's appearance on the Dr. Phil television program's Gay-to-Straight Debate in 2006 where Lee argued against conversion therapy. Lee debated an ordained priest who was a former prostitute who claimed sexual reorientation therapy works.[16] Lee and the organization's website were also featured in the opening paragraphs of the New York Times front-page article "Gay and Seeking a Place Among Evangelicals"".[17]

The organization's website has become well-known enough that it was recently mentioned as a resource in the syndicated advice column Annie's Mailbox, written by two former editors for Ann Landers. The column lists GCN alongside such denominational gay Christian groups as IntegrityUSA (Episcopalian), DignityUSA (Catholic), Seventh Day Adventist Kinship International, the GLBT-focused Metropolitan Community Church denomination, and PFLAG, the nation's largest support network for parents, siblings, children and friends of GLBT individuals.[18]

The ministry has also been mentioned (often alongside or through an interview with Lee) in articles on gay Christians and their fight for inclusion in the church, such as the article "Progressive Christians see hope for gay marriage"[19] and the Associated Press article "Gays, lesbians join the chastity movement," which interviews members of the site's "Waiting for Marriage" group.[20] The ministry's annual conference was featured as part of an article on the gay Christian rock group Canaan, some of whose members are also regular contributors to the site.[21] GCN members have been featured on the LOGO TV series Be Real [22] and in OUT Magazine.[23]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ rounded up from monthly figure given here (accessed 31 December 2010)
  2. ^ Gay Christian Network. "Gay Christian Internet Radio" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  3. ^ "Through My Eyes" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  4. ^ a b c Cohen, Todd (28 August 2009). "Accepting his sexuality, he now helps others". Triangle Business Journal. p. 12. 
  5. ^ a b c Gay Christian Network. "About GCN" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2010-12-28. 
  6. ^ Gay Christian Network. "Current Ministry Work" (website). Gay Christian Network. Archived from the original on 2007-08-18. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  7. ^ "Welcoming Churches: The National Directory of LGBT-Friendly Congregations". The Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 30 December 2010. "...a ministry of GCN" 
  8. ^ Gay Christian Network. "The GCN Action Center" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  9. ^ Post on 28 December 2010, accessed 28 December 2010 (log-in required).
  10. ^ Banerjee, Neela. "Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance", The New York Times, December 12, 2006. Accessed February 11, 2008
  11. ^ Gay Christian Network. "GCN Mission Statement" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  12. ^ Gay Christian Network. "GCN Giving Center" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  13. ^ Gay Christian Network. "Planned Giving" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2008-02-12. [dead link]
  14. ^ GCN Homepage (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved on 5 March 2008.
  15. ^ For more information, see The Gay Christian "Great Debate" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved on 2008-02-13.
  16. ^ Dr. Phil. "Dr. Phil Episode 601" (website). Dr. Phil. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  17. ^ Banerjee, Neela. "Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance", The New York Times, December 12, 2006. Accessed February 11, 2008
  18. ^ Annie's Mailbox, 6 February 2008
  19. ^ Chuck Colbert. "Progressive Christians see hope for gay marriage", InNewsweekly.com, 1 March 2007
  20. ^ Jeff McMillan. "Gays, lesbians join the chastity movement", Associated Press, 31 May 2007
  21. ^ Michelle Bearden. "Band embraces being gay and Christian", Media General News Service, 28 December 2006
  22. ^ Episode 103, "Reconciling Faith
  23. ^ Stephanie Fairyington, "Virgin Marys," 1 February 2007, pp.46-49.