Tag Archives: wendy gritter

Generous Spaciousness: Whose Space is It?

Earlier this week, i received my Kindle edition of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter’s book, Generous Spaciousness:  Responding to Gay Christians in the Church.  I’m about to start chapter 11 (which puts me a little over halfway through the book), and it’s so far been a pretty good read.  I haven’t decided whether I’m going to do a review of the book itself yet.  I’ll have to wait until I get finished with it and mull over if there’s anything that I want to say about it that other potential readers might find helpful when considering whether to pick up a copy.  (Generally speaking, I think people would do well to pick up a copy, but that statement alone is probably not very helpful to most potential readers.)

As I’ve been reading the book a number of thoughts have come up in my mind.  The one I want to blog about today is related to the question I put in the post’s title:  Whose “space” is it?

From reading the book so far and conversations I’ve had with Wendy1 in the past, generous spaciousness is a concept that is meant to be applied on the personal and institutional level.  On the personal level, it is an attitude of welcome and agreement to live in tension and even disagreement with others.  On an institutional level, it is a formal or informal policy that encourages leadership and members to embody that attitude in word and deed.  The latter, which I’m going to focus on, can be more fully seen in Wendy’s recent OnFaith article about how go engage gay Christian who attend one’s church.  Because the title of that article also points to the one nagging problem I see:  Whose church is it?

While I’m not arguing against the idea that churches need to consider how to be more welcoming of and how to minister to LGBT people, people who are questioning their gender and/or sexuality, or people who are simply wondering what God really says about sexuailty, gender, and same-sex sexual relationships, the very notion of “making space” for such people suggests that the church belongs to a different group of people and not those for whom such “space” is being made.

Ultimately, it becomes a question of how welcoming a space can truly be when the space is controlled by others who get to decide how welcoming to make that space.  Such a space still offers a great deal of comfort, safety, and privilege for those who control it and demands more risk and potential discomfort for those form whom “space is being made.”  Those who wish to truly be welcoming of LBGT people, their supporters, and those who are sorting through questions about LGBT lives and faith journeys need to wrestle with that injustice.  How does one make a space truly welcoming and generous to those who do not share “ownership” or control of a space?

Ultimately, I think that Christians also need to consider that rather than or in addition to “making space” for others in their space, they need to be prepared to completely give up their privilege, comfort, sense of control, and “home field advantage” by humbly2 seeking out those they wish to know in their own spaces, where they can feel safe and truly feel on equal ground or even at an advantage.  After all, trying to meet others only on one’s own terms is not an attempt to meet others at all.  Wendy talks about doing just that in her book when she talks about the first year she attended the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference.

1As an aside, I should point out that I have spoken with, met, broken bread with, drunken wine with, and gotten my butt kicked in a game of Stone Age by Wendy.  As such, my interactions with her do affect how I approach and engage with this book and the subject of generous spaciousness in general.

2As anyone who has maintained or or belonged to any space that caters to and seeks to be safe for marginalized people can tell you, there are different ways for privileged people to try entering and behaving in those spaces.  Some of those ways can disrupt such spaces and even make them unsafe.  Wendy exemplifies one of the better ways to go about this when she talks about how she approached seeking entry to her first GCN conference.

Spotlighting a Couple of BTG Posts

I really don’t have much to say today.  This is fine because it gives me the chance to point out a couple of posts written by Wendy over at the Bridging the Gap blog.  The first post is where she gives a brief summary and a few thoughtst about about the GSCR.  As I’ve blogged a bit about my own experiences at the retreat, I thought some readers might be able to hear someone else’s thoughts.  I particularly liked the sampling of quotes Wendy included from various attendees toward the bottom of her post.

The other post I want to draw readers’ attention to is one in which Wendy talks about a video showing a discussion between Rob Bell and Andrew Wilson in which the topic of the morality of same sex sexual relationships comes up.  Wendy offers her thoughts on how she might have responded to Wilson’s comments and questions, had she been in Bell’s position.  Her detailed and thoughtful analysis of some of the underlying questions — questions that don’t always have to do with human sexuality no less — that must be answered, as their answers will greatly influence how someone approaches the whole topic.

Wendy, being who she is, ties it back to Generous Spaciousness:

My point is not to argue for Rob Bell’s position. My point is that there are robust theological reflections that help us to understand why we can come to such different perspectives on matters such as our theology and ethics of sexuality. My point is to try to demonstrate that generous spaciousness is not some weak, compromise that is simply motivated by keeping up with culture and trying to make God relevant in a gay-positive context. Rather, generous spaciousness costs us our pride, it costs us the luxury of arrogant certainty. Generous spaciousness costs us our security in our exegesis, our hermeneutics, our interpretations. (especially when such exegesis and hermeneutics result in prohibitions for others that do not personally affect ourselves) Generous spaciousness forces us to find our security in the wild, untamable revealing of Jesus Christ to us through the Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, through tradition (including contemporary tradition), through the academic disciplines, and through our experiences. And the truth is that this revelation is not in our control – it is in God’s control. This demands our humility, our openness, our fearlessness, our willing to risk following – even when it seems God is doing a new thing.

I absolutely love it when Wendy — or anyone else — talks about humility and then goes on to practice it.  I find her willingness to let go of determining what is right for someone else’s life and leave that in God’s hands refreshing and powerful.  I also think it takes no small amount of faith, personally.

If you haven’t done so already, go read Wendy’s posts.  The whole blog, if you have the time.

Soon, I’ll be Canada-bound

Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be headed to a Christian retreat center in Canada.  There, I will spend the weekend hanging out with other people at the Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat.  Here’s a brief description of the retreat:

A safe place to be
authentic, to share, to worship, to learn and to grow! All are welcome
to enter this experience of Christian community with generous hearts, a
listening and humble posture, to experience God’s outrageous love and

The retreat is being organized by New Direction Ministries of Canada.  I’m looking forward to it for a number of reasons, including the fact that attending means I finally get to meet Wendy Gritter, with whom I have conversed online for two (three? four?  I’ve lost track!) years now.  Wendy is one of the driving forces behind the concept of Generous Spaciousness and has done a great deal of blogging about it.  Her thoughts on the topic are great.  I’m not sure if this particular description was written by her, but I think it accurately reflects her vision of Generous Spaciousness:

What is Generous Spaciousness? GS is a relational posture
that acknowledges the reality of diverse perspectives on the question
of faithful discipleship for same-sex oriented people. These differences
have polarized the church, hindered our public witness as the Body of
Christ, and alienated LGBT people from the church.

This posture prioritizes nurturing a safe and encouraging environment for gender and sexual minorities to explore and grow in faith in Jesus Christ,
entrusting each individual to the leading of the Holy Spirit while
encouraging them to be a part of a Christ-centered community.

Generous Spaciousness seeks to build bridges, to find unity in our diversity, and to pursue peace.

I’ll admit that earlier this week, I was very skeptical about the concept of Generous Spaciousness, or at least whether it could ever be successfully applied.  To be honest, between reading material that called me and other LGBT people to tell our stories and educate Christians in spite of the fact that many Christians are poor listeners at best and actually hostile to the listening process at best and being faced with some Christians who are unwilling to let go of their overpowering need to “answer the morality question,” I found myself disillusioned.

But then I remembered that people like Wendy have demonstrated both an eagerness to listen and engage with LGBT people and have even been willing to set aside the “morality question” or at least accept it as a disputable matter which Christians can disagree on in good faith, allowing them to focus on hospitality and fellowship.  As I considered these things the past couple days, my hopes for finding Generous Spaciousness and the retreat to be something worthwhile have returned.

I’ll blog about how it went and my thoughts sometime after I get back.

Upcoming Synchroblog: Bridging the Gap

profile pic.jpgFor the past month or two, I’ve been following the Bridging the Gap
blog.  I’ve also been publicly commenting there and privately
conversing with Wendy Gritter, the woman primarily behind the blog. 
Wendy is a wonderful woman and I’ve been blessed with her friendship.

A while back, Wendy told me about a synchroblog that New Direction and the BTG Project are sponsoring on June 24.  The press release for the event describes the event as follows:

Direction has been seeking to foster safe and generous space for
authentic conversation about faith and sexuality. We have committed
ourselves to building bridges. But we cannot do it alone. We need other
Christ-followers: gay and straight and everything in between, to speak
up and join the conversation, to share the heart of the gospel in the
midst of this conflict. We need those beyond the walls of the church:
gay and straight and everything in between, to speak up and join the
conversation, to share their thoughts on how the church can reach
across the divide and build bridges.

In light of her desire to get people of all walks of life
to join in the conversation, Wendy has asked me to participate in this
synchroblog.  As a friend and someone who believes that this dialogue
is an important one, I have graciously (at least I hope I’ve been
gracious about it) accepted her invitation.  I would like to invite any
of my other readers — regardless of sexual orientation or religious
persuasion — to also participate in this event.  It’s only through the
addition of a multitude of voices that a real dialogue — or rather a
harmony of related dialogues — can emerge.

Some may wonder why
I would choose to participate in such a dialogue or encourage others to
do so.  After all, they reason, it’s clear why Christians would wish to
engage in this dialogue in order to gain converts — though I
personally do not believe that’s the only reason Christians choose to
enter into this dialogue.  But what possible reason could a
non-Christian — especially one who has been hurt by Christians in the
past — have for entering into such a dialogue?  What do I hope to gain
from it?

the question contains its own answer.  I choose to participate in this
conversation because I’ve been hurt by Christians in the past.  To me,
reconciliation is an important part of the healing process.  Conversing
with Christians — even Christians who theology and sexual ethics
differ greatly for my own — gives me another opportunity to make peace
with my past.  It gives me the chance to realize that while I’ve been
hurt in the past, other Christians really are decent and loving.  It
also allows me to regain the love and dignity that was stolen from me
by those past experiences.

in such a dialogue also gives me the opportunity to tell my story and
serve as a representative for all those others who still might be hurt
by some Christians.  It enables me to raise some Christians’ awareness
of just how little it takes to create great pain for young people
struggling with a sexual orientation that their friends, family, and
church says is bad.  If offering my story will help one Christian
better reach out to and support another gay person when they
desperately need it, then my participation in this dialogue is well
worth it.

btg cover.gifI also wish to participate in such a dialogue because
that gay person sitting in the pew may need to hear my voice and know
my story.  Sadly, far too many Christians have a very stereotypical
understanding of gay people.  Too often, being gay is equated with
having multiple sexual partners, abusing drugs and alcohol, and
engaging in several other destructive behaviors.  And while I do not
deny that some gay people do engage in these and other behaviors, it is
not as universal as some Christians might believe or pretend that it
is.  As a well-adjusted — in my opinion at least — gay man with
relatively healthy sexual ethics, my participation in dialogue with
Christians serves as an opportunity to demonstrate first-hand that gay
men like me exist.  Coming to the table provided by folks like Wendy
provides me with an opportunity to demonstrate to conflicted gay
Christians with evidence that they have more choices than the dismal
options that others have painted for them.  (And I admit that I admire
the integrity, confidence, and grace of people like Wendy who are
willing to give me that opportunity despite their own desire to see
people make a different choice than the one I have in regards to

Finally, I choose to participate in
such a dialogue because in the end, it is in my best interests to do
so.  To be honest, there are many Christians — including Christians
who believe that people should not get involved in same-sex romantic
relationships — that are in my life.  These people are my friends, my
coworkers, and my family members.  They are not going to change their
beliefs any time soon, nor are they going to disappear from my life
anytime soon.  So I can either choose to live a life where we are
distant from one another and suspicious of each other.  Or I can choose
to enter into dialogue in an attempt to find mutual understanding and a
better sense of peace despite our differences.

To me, the choice is obvious.

(The images in this post were provided by Wendy Gritter and used with her express permission.)