Q Christian Fellowship
|Legal status||Nonprofit charity|
|US $157,000 (2010–2011 fiscal year)|
The Q Christian Fellowship ( or QCF) is an ecumenical Christian ministry focused on serving lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, and straight ally Christian persons. It was founded in 2001 as The Gay Christian Network (GCN) by Justin Lee and is currently administered from Raleigh, North Carolina. It was re-branded in 2018 to better reflect the diversity of the ministry and community they serve. According to the re-branding documents, the 'Q' doesn't correlate to any particular word, it is just the letter 'Q', open for interpretation.
The organization operates an online community "safe space" for social networking and support; hosts the QCF Conference, the world's largest annual LGBT Christian conference each January; organizes local Bible study groups; and produces resources including QCF Radio, a weekly internet radio program, online chat forums, age-block groups, regional chapters, semi-annual retreats and vacation/mission trip travel programs.
As of August 2015, the organization has over 30,000 members around the world. The average size of attendance at the annual conference is about 2,000 people.
The Early Years (2001-2017)
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.
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.
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."
Re-branding and expansion (2017-present)
On July 19, 2017, it was announced that GCN and Justin Lee went their separate ways.
Due to irreconcilable differences about the direction and future of the organization, Justin Lee and the GCN Board of Directors have agreed to his amicable separation from the organization. Justin Lee will no longer serve as the executive director of GCN, effective May 4, 2017. Neither Justin nor the Board will publicly discuss the reasons behind Justin's departure other than to affirm that it was a practical business decision intended to allow for the growth of this important work.
In January of 2018, the new name Q Christian Fellowship was adopted.
In January of 2019, at the Chicago II Conference, QCF expanded to offer travel programs to destinations across the globe, and a mid-year retreat.
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.
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
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.
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. 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.
The QCF Conference
According to QCF, its conference is the largest annual LGBT Christian event in the world. The conference includes a wide variety of workshops that explore the LGBT and Christian landscapes, particularly where they intersect. The most recent QCF Conference was in Chicago, Illinois, while the next host city will be Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The workshops cover topics from a broad spectrum of Christian belief and LGBTQ life. The overall theme for workshops is the intersectionality of Christianity and being a LGBTQ person. The plenary session speakers are given a chance to present workshops to expand on topics not discussed in the larger session.
Some past workshops have discussed:
- The Bible and Homosexuality
- Support for Parents
- Resources for Pastors and Churches
- Race and Intersectionality
- Making a Real-World Impact
- The Trans Community and the Church
- Supporting LGBT Youth
- Side B and Celibacy
- Couples' Communication
- Prayer and Spiritual Growth
- Responding to Homophobia
The QCF Conference attracts keynote speakers and performers from a variety of perspectives, known nationally and internationally for their faith work. Past conferences have included names such as Philip Yancey, Rachel Held Evans, Vicky Beeching, Jeff Chu, Peter Gomes, Tony Campolo, and more.
The 2016 GCN Conference will include Rev. Allyson Dylan Robinson, believed to be the first openly transgender person to be ordained by a Baptist church; the Rev. Broderick Greer, Episcopal Curate specializing in conversations at the intersection of social media, queer theology, black theology, American history, racial justice, and human rights; Justin Lee, the founder and executive director of GCN; and Tracey Lind, recipient of the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award, who has been named Woman of Achievement by the YWCA Greater Cleveland, and has been honored through the National Council of Church's Circle of Names program.
Since 2014, the QCF Conference has highlighted Christian LGBTQ or affirming performers with an evening concert. Past concerts have been Mary Lambert who was featured on Macklemore's "Same Love" single and duo Gungor.
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. 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.
Reception in the media
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. 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"".
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.
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" and the Associated Press article "Gays, lesbians join the chastity movement," which interviews members of the site's "Waiting for Marriage" group. 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. GCN members have been featured on the LOGO TV series Be Real  and in OUT Magazine.
- rounded up from monthly figure given here (accessed 31 December 2010)
- "Our Name". Q Christian Fellowship. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- "An important message. – Justin Lee". geekyjustin.com. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
- "Our Statement of Faith". www.gaychristian.net. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
- GCN Homepage (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved on 5 March 2008.
- For more information, see The Gay Christian "Great Debate" (website). Gay Christian Network. Retrieved on 2008-02-13.
- Dr. Phil. "Dr. Phil Episode 601" (website). Dr. Phil. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
- Banerjee, Neela. "Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance", The New York Times, December 12, 2006. Accessed February 11, 2008
- Annie's Mailbox, 6 February 2008
- Chuck Colbert. "Progressive Christians see hope for gay marriage" Archived 2008-03-14 at the Wayback Machine, InNewsweekly.com, 1 March 2007
- Jeff McMillan. "Gays, lesbians join the chastity movement", Associated Press, 31 May 2007
- Michelle Bearden. "Band embraces being gay and Christian", Media General News Service, 28 December 2006
- Episode 103, "Reconciling Faith
- Stephanie Fairyington, "Virgin Marys," 1 February 2007, pp.46–49.