On his blog Anarchist Reverend, the Rev. Shay Kearns, a transman and priest with the Old Catholic Church of the Americas unpacks some of the underlying issues behind the closing of Exodus and the rebranding of this organization under the name reducefear.org. He illuminates how this kinder, gentler approach toward LGBT people fails to address the underlying principle inherent in evangelical theology that “homosexuality” is sinful.

Evangelical Christianity is masterful at changing their language without changing their theology. They say things like “love the sinner, hate the sin”, “building bridges between the church and the LGBT community,” “You may not be able to change your sexual desires, but you can choose how you act on them.” They say the conversation isn’t about “sin” but about “grace” without ever saying that gay sex isn’t a sin. All of this is thinly veiled code for, “We believe gay sex is a sin, but we don’t want to be seen as homophobic.” The danger of theology like this is it fools you into thinking these are safe people to be around. Unless you have spent years in this culture, it can be easy to miss the undertones in what they are saying. It certainly sounds nicer than, say, Fred Phelps screaming that you’re going to hell, but underneath the theology is the same.

Kearns reminds us that this conversation transpiring in evangelical and emergent circles continues to be led by those who self-identify as straight.

There is a similarity in all of these conversations: They center around the experiences and the feelings of straight and cisgender people, not queer and/or trans* people. We are still being asked to come to the table and defend ourselves. We are still being asked to sit there and listen while you say horrendous things about us. And if we get angry? You tell us that we are being “grace-less”. You want us to sit there with a smile and listen to you. Or you want us to give you a hug at the end of a conversation where you have said our lives and loves are sinful because you “feel bad” about having to change your theology (this happened to me with a prominent “ally”).

Moving forward, Kearns articulates the need to change the conversation.

Until the conversation is centered around the experiences of queer and/or trans* folks then we will continue to have the same circular conversation. Until the starting point is queer and/or trans* people AND their relationships and bodies are holy and good, then it’s not a “new conversation”; it’s the old conversation in slightly less hateful terms and we just don’t have time for that any more.

For those looking to join in this new conversation, check out Kearn’s online course Reading Queerly.

Cartoon taken from Naked Pastor.