No.6 The listening factor
If people are going to reach out to dialogue there has to be a willingness on the other part to engage. Of course their willingness to listen depends largely on the approach and the language used to reach out. No one is going to engage if they are attacked and the language consistently accusatory or defamatory. I don’t bother with emails or people like that myself. Alan’s words in his response during our interview probably sums it as well as anything.
When I asked him the question “I’m here, and you said ‘I’d love you to come,’ so that’s probably intriguing for a lot of people as to why would you want Anthony Venn-Brown to be attending that conference and so what was all that about?”
His answer was a simple yet incredibly enlightening. “You have been kind to me and these days kindness is hard to come by, so it means a lot to me, and you’ve wanted to have a conversation though we disagree on some things, that’s what I want to do and it’s amazing to me that here I am, saying very clearly what I believe and yet creating this new space, what some are calling this wishy washy space, my gay friends and my gay activist friends haven’t doubted for a minute what I really believe and yet they have been so welcoming and so warm, and so receptive and so desirous of relationship with me”
Alan was willing to listen but it had to be the right approach.
One thing I remind churches and leaders of constantly is “No conversation about us, without us”. It’s important to remember that having a conversation about us (LGBT) without us will usually be a recycling or preconceived ideas and misconceptions.
Can you imagine a group of male church leaders discussing the role of women in the church without females present. We would call that misogyny. Or church leadership discussing indigenous issues without ever consulting with indigenous people themselves to get insight into what their life experience is really all about. We would call that white supremacy/racism/elitism. The church has done a great deal of talking about us but rarely has spoken with us. So when church leaders discuss LGBT people, relationships and the community without speaking with or spending time getting to know LGBT people it does beg the question why.
What is there to fear? Why the exclusion? Is this another evidence of homophobia?
It’s time for the church to invite LGBT people into the conversation. For some this is a conversation about their thoughts and beliefs but for us it is about who we are. You can ask questions. What was it like to sit in church and hear the word abomination to describe your orientation. What was it like to get to the point of coming out knowing you might be rejected by those you’ve loved and a church you’ve served.? How did you find resolution of your Christian beliefs and your sexuality? In listening you will learn.
That’s why it’s so important to remember. No conversation about us, without us.
Read the 8 Factors that Created the Tipping Point separately:
No.1 The Society Shift Factor
No.2 The Gulf Factor
No.3 The Internet Factor
No.4 The Honesty Factor
No.5 The Bridge Building Factor
No.6 The Listening Factor
No.7 The Evolving Faith Factor
No.8 The Midlife Factor