As many of you know, last week we attended the Gay Christian Network (GCN) Conference in Chicago. GCN is a gathering of over 600 people across the wide spectrum of perspectives regarding sexuality in the Christian church. Most of all, however, it’s a weekend of coming together despite the differences of belief and taking time together as the LGBTQQIA community to focus on Christ and grow together to be more like Him. We are so grateful for your support which made it possible for us to attend and teach and are eager to share some of the stories from the weekend.
On the first evening of our arrival, we went to dinner with some friends and it was over shrimp-filled spring rolls in a pub around the corner from our hotel that I met Eliel. New York-based author Eliel Cruz is the president and co-founder of the Intercollegiate Adventist Gay-Straight Alliance Coalition, a 501(c)3 organization which represents six unofficial LGBT-straight alliance groups on Seventh-day Adventists educational institutions nationwide. An aspiring author, Eliel frequently blogs on the topics of sexuality and religion as seen at The Huffington Post, The Advocate, Believe Out Loud, Campus Pride Blog, Spectrum, Patheos, and various other publications.
Eliel’s kind heart, ambition, and love for Jesus and others captured me immediately and I asked him to share a little of his story with me. I sat in stunned silence as he, hardly able to catch his breath for a solid thirty minutes, recounted story after painful story of religious-based brutality and bullying that caused him, at a young age, to undergo a psychotic break, to contemplate suicide, and to suffer extreme physical, spiritual, and emotional consequences from repeated trauma. Eliel is bisexual and he loves Jesus. The number of stories of red-faced Christians who have leaned in with fingers pointing, shouting and hurling insults and threats at him were overwhelming. Yet somehow he has maintained a decided strength which refuses to play the victim or to respond with hate.
I recognized Eliel when we first met, but I wasn’t certain why. In the course of our conversation, I realized it’s because I’ve read his latest poem, “Where Were You?”, which recounts the pain of rejection he has felt from well-meaning Christians who thought they were speaking the truth in love. I hope you’ll give it a listen here, or at least read the words here.
If you want to follow Eliel and his work with Intercollegiate Adventist Gay-Straight Alliance Coalition, check out the following: