Justin Lee (activist)
Lee in 2010
|Education||William G. Enloe High School|
|Alma mater||Wake Forest University|
|Occupation||Author, speaker, LGBT Christian activist.|
|Known for||Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate|
Justin Lee is an American author, speaker, and LGBT Christian activist known for his focus on building bridges between groups who disagree. He is the author of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, and the director of a 2009 documentary, Through My Eyes, which explores the struggles of young gay Christians. He is also known for founding the Gay Christian Network, which he ran from 2001 to 2017. Currently, he is the executive director of Nuance Ministries.
In 2017, Lee announced his next book would be published by Penguin Random House on the subject of "fighting cultural polarization and talking to the people you disagree with." That book was released in 2018 as Talking Across the Divide: How to Communicate with People You Disagree With and Maybe Even Change the World.
Lee grew up in a conservative Christian home and continued identifying as an evangelical even after coming out as gay. According to The New York Times, "Justin Lee believes that the Virgin birth was real, that there is a heaven and a hell, that salvation comes through Christ alone and that he... is an evangelical Christian."
In 1997, after struggling to reconcile his own faith and sexuality, Lee posted his story online and heard from others who were similarly struggling. This led him to be more outspoken on behalf of LGBT Christians.
Involvement with the Gay Christian Network
In August 2001, Lee launched the Gay Christian Network (GCN), first as a small online community of gay Christians, and then as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to provide resources and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians. The organization was notable for its welcoming of "Side B" gay and bi Christians who abstain from same-sex sexual relationships, despite Lee's own "Side A" (affirming) views. In an interview for CNN, Lee explained:
We're just trying to get people together who experience attraction to the same sex, however they have handled that, and who love Jesus and say, OK, you are welcome here, and then let's pray together and figure out where God wants us to take it.
In 2007, Lee discussed the organization's origins as an online community:
The Internet has made a huge difference in creating a movement [...]. What at first might have seemed a little fringe group is then able to gain momentum as people meet others and discover they’re not alone.
By 2016, the organization had grown to the point that its conference was being promoted as "the largest annual LGBT Christian event" with an attendance of "1,500+ LGBT Christians and allies."
In 2017, Lee and the GCN board of directors announced in a joint statement that he would be leaving the organization "due to irreconcilable differences about the direction and future of the organization," and that the organization's name would soon be changing.
Fight against reparative therapy
In his book Torn, he discussed his own experience with the "ex-gay" movement in the 1990s, writing that "therapy can't make gay people straight...what's typically happening is behavior change, not orientation (that is, attraction) change."
In 2012, Lee held a public conversation with Alan Chambers, then the president of "ex-gay" organization Exodus International, in which Lee argued that Exodus was hurting people and being dishonest about their results. Chambers then admitted that
The majority of people whom I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they can say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way, or experience some level of same-sex attraction.
A year later, when Exodus announced that they would be closing, Lee wrote, "As a Christian, I grew up believing groups like Exodus could make me straight. Even years after I realized that didn't work, I continued to hear from friends and family who pushed me to keep trying to change my orientation. Exodus's announcement today is the acknowledgement many of us have been waiting to hear for a long, long time."
"Side A"/"Side B" dialogue
Lee engages in frequent public dialogues with Spiritual Friendship co-founders Ron Belgau and Wesley Hill in which Lee takes a "Side A" position (arguing for monogamous same-sex relationships) and Belgau or Hill takes a "Side B" position (arguing for celibacy).
Other notable details
- Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians debate (Jericho Books, 2012)
- Talking Across the Divide: How to Communicate with People You Disagree with and Maybe Even Change the World (TarcherPerigee, 2018)
- Religion and homosexuality
- History of Christianity and homosexuality
- Queer Theology
- List of LGBT religious organizations
- Lee, Justin (2013-05-14). Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate (Reprint ed.). Jericho Books. ISBN 9781455514304.
- "IMDb listing: Through My Eyes". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
- Justin Lee. "Statement on GCN" (website). Retrieved 2017-11-05.
- Justin Lee. "My Books" (website). GeekyJustin. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
- Neela Banerjee (December 12, 2006). "Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2008.
- Cohen, Todd (28 August 2009). "Accepting his sexuality, he now helps others". Triangle Business Journal. p. 12.
- Fairyington, Stephanie (February 2007). "Virgin Marys". OUT. pp. 46–49.
- Murphy, Tim (17 June 2008). "The Believers". The Advocate. pp. 52–58.
- Transcript of 18 December 2006 episode of Anderson Cooper 360
- Jeff McMillan, Gays, lesbians join the chastity movement, Associated Press, 31 May 2007
- Gay Christian Network. "GCN Conference". Archived from the original (website) on 2015-09-18. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
- Eliel Cruz. "What's Next for LGBTQ Christians?" (website). Retrieved 2017-11-05.
- Eliel Cruz. "Founder of Gay Christian Network Parts Ways from Organization" (website). Retrieved 2017-11-05.
- Justin Lee. "Nuance Ministries" (website). Retrieved 2017-11-05.
- Dr. Phil. "Dr. Phil Episode 601" (website). Dr. Phil. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
- Chambers, Alan; Chambers, Leslie (2015-09-29). My Exodus: From Fear to Grace. Zondervan.
- The Gay Christian Network. "Gay Christian Network Applauds Decision to Shut Down "Ex-Gay" Ministry". The Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
- BiolaUniversity (2015-05-11), How Do We Love? A Thoughtful Dialogue on Sexual Differences, retrieved 2017-11-06
- "Building Bridges at Pepperdine and Seattle Pacific". Spiritual Friendship. 2014-05-06. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
- "The Great Debate". Ron Belgau. 2016-09-21. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
- "The Great Debate: Justin's View – Justin Lee". geekyjustin.com. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
- The Gay Christian Network. "GCN Radio transcript 29 February 2008" (website). The Gay Christian Network. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
- "Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate • Geeky Justin". Geeky Justin. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- "Talking Across the Divide by Justin Lee | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved 2018-12-11.