Changing Our Mind

Dr. David Gushee

On November 7, McCormick hosted Dr. David Gushee, a prominent theologian and ethicist.  Dr. Gushee was on his way to the first Reformation Project gathering in Washington D.C., where he advocated for the full and unequivocal inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the Evangelical tradition.  His lecture at McCormick focused on the experience of LGBTQ homeless youth, and how their experience demanded a new response from the Evangelical Community.  Student Sarah Bennett (MAM, 2016) reflects on the event. 

On Friday, November 7th, Rev. Dr. David Gushee spoke to the McCormick community about his new book, Changing Our Mind. In the book, Dr. Gushee acknowledges his responsibility is the reading of scripture that helped create tensions between religious families and their LGBT family members. “Pushing peacemaking and urban violence together with LGBT rights helped me find the intersection of these 2 issues,” Dr. Gushee remarked. His opening statements heavily focused on the homeless youth population in the United States.

 Many of these youth identify as LGBT. “As sexual diversity is becoming more widely discussed, the coming out age has lowered to around 13 years old with the average age of a child identifying as gay between 7 and 12 years old”, said Dr. Gushee. These children, if rejected by their families and communities, do not have the coping skills for survival and are more emotionally vulnerable. Among LGBT youth there is an increased rate of suicide and are more likely to stay homeless for longer periods of time. Dr. Gushee is now working as a Faith Consultant with the Family Acceptance Project, so this issue is very close to his heart.

The dialogue between the audience and Dr. Gushee after his remarks was especially memorable. The sincere vulnerability shown by students with their questions for Dr. Gushee is not something that happens in the average guest lecture. By sharing their experiences, these McCormick students enriched the experience for all – including Dr. Gushee.

One particularly moving comment came from D’Angelo Smith when he challenged the use of victim language and statistics in Dr. Gushee’s talk about LGBT homeless youth: “By choosing to leave, the youth become victors in their life. They take back the control. I am gay; I am black, I am happy. You have to talk about hope because it opens up a broader perspective and helps the church understand. Even though we all may not agree, there is still hope”. Gushee is working to raise awareness among evangelical Christians who cannot wrap their minds around the LGBT community. He is doing this by documenting harm statistics and stories to show that Christians need to stop doing harm to their own children.

Students Vimary Couvertier-Cruz, Eddie Rosa-Fuentes, and Jene Colvin engage Dr. Gushee in conversation
Students Vimary Couvertier-Cruz, Eddie Rosa-Fuentes, and Jene Colvin engage Dr. Gushee in conversation

Gushee maintains that he has not wavered from Evangelical theology and refuses to let himself be pushed out of the evangelical community. Dr. Ken Sawyer asked if Gushee could share the particular strengths and resources that he draws upon from the Evangelical tradition. “Evangelicals say that following Jesus is the key to everything. If you can make a case that acceptance is following Jesus, then that is a resource. When I say, ‘This is hurting God’s creation’, that gets to the heart of evangelicalism. This motivation to save Creation and follow Jesus can do great things when properly directed. The problem is that we have not been properly directed in the past on LGBT acceptance,” explained Gushee.

Jene Colvin, M.Div. student, offered herself as a resource for Dr. Gushee as he continues to educate himself using non faith-based disciplines. “I have to move beyond the white, Christian male voice. I am not doing enough if I don’t include other voices”, Gushee said. Showing his sincerity to learn more, Dr. Gushee left the podium to hand Colvin his business card.

Dr. Gushee ended the evening with an interesting statistic: there are 31,273 bible verses and only 6 have been brought into the LGBT discussion. “What happens when the entire cannon comes alive in our churches again?”

Dr. Gushee spoke in Washington, DC on Saturday, November 8th at The Reformation Project Conference, giving many of the same statistics as the beginning of his lecture at McCormick. If you are interested in these stats and for a full transcript of the address, “Ending the Teaching of Contempt against the Church’s Sexual Minorities”, visit TheReformationProject.org.

sarahgushee2Sarah Bennett is an Masters of Arts in Ministry student in her final year.  Her reflections originally appeared in McCormick’s student newspaper The Herald on November 13.