This place — the presence of the wounds and the grief and the pain — I believe it is strangely and profoundly sacred. I feel the presence of God in such a place, perhaps more-so than when I have stood in large crowds of people singing upbeat worship songs. 

TW: this piece of writing tells a story about LGBTQI+ discrimination in a church context.

Prefer audio? Listen to this piece of writing via our podcast feed here.

This week, my friend showed me the rejection letters. 

Not from a publishing house rejecting a manuscript. 

Not from a university rejecting an enrolment. 

The letters are from the church she grew up  in. And their rejection is of her. This dear friend I admire so much.

The letters lay it out clearly: 

We love you. We are for you. But due to your ‘lifestyle’, we must distance ourselves from you. You’ve gone beyond the bounds of God’s grace and the Bible’s clear teaching. We urge you to change. Otherwise there’s no place for you here. Oh, and did we mention it’s because we love you?

Yeah, I’m paraphrasing — but trust me, the actual thing was much worse.

So, what did she do to deserve being excommunicated from the faith community she was raised in? Had she assaulted someone? Stolen from the offering plate? 

Worse. She had shared openly about the agonising journey she had been on to come to accept her sexuality. She had dared to believe that God loved her, as she was. She had shared this with her people — the ones she had considered to be as close as family. And in their response, casually construed as ‘love’ they had made it abundantly clear that she was no longer welcome.

The dates on the letters are from many years ago. 

The letters have accompanied my friend to psychology appointments, where she has done the brave and difficult work of processing this painful and manipulative act of rejection. 

They have moved housed with her, and travelled with her through several years of pain, not limited to this rejection, but also encompassing relationship breakdown and long-term physical illness. 

Perhaps the letters are a testament to her survival. Like a piece of debris from a car crash. Perhaps they serve as evidence that she has not twisted or exaggerated her story over the years. They are a sobering reminder that her experience was not imagined; it was real.

And here, I was being shown them for the first time. And they still dripped with the sting of poison. The barrel of the gun still smoking.

As I read them, I felt the strange mix of emotions that always accompanies the experience of someone courageously opening up their wounds. I ached for my friend. I was grateful for the trust she extended me. I saw and celebrated her resilience; the muscles she possess that only grow through suffering. 

This place — the presence of the wounds and the grief and the pain — I believe it is strangely and profoundly sacred. I feel the presence of God in such a place, perhaps more-so than when I have stood in large crowds of people singing upbeat worship songs. 

And in that very moment, it felt very much like Jesus was there. Weeping. Aggrieved. Like when he heard of the death of Lazarus, perhaps even knowing he would resurrect him, Jesus wept. I hold this seed of hope in my heart that Jesus will still reconcile and redeem all things and all people, everywhere — and at the same time, I am sure, he continues to weep. 

There he was, with us. In the aftermath of religiously stamped punishment. A familiar place for the crucified Christ. 

And somehow my friend’s attitude towards these people remains gracious. She speaks of how she held such attitudes once. She says these people were well-intentioned. The wounds are still there, but she speaks with more sadness than resentment. More heartache than outrage. 

Of one thing I am sure in this situation: my friend here, is the one who tangibly embodies the presence of Christ. She has suffered deeply and yet is not consumed by (easily justifiable) hate. Grief, yes. Anger, yes. But even in all this, I sense the presence of divine love in and through her.

Later, as I drove home, aching with the weight of my friend’s story, I wondered, why is Jesus so often misrepresented? His message of love so distorted and contorted? 

I know I must do this too. I am not claiming to fully understand how Jesus looks in each and every situation. Yet, I emphatically reject the notion that Jesus would ever sign his name to a rejection letter, exiling someone from the community they grew up in, for humbly and vulnerably sharing their true inner world. 

As I thought about all this, in my minds eye, I saw the disfigured face of Christ. Bleeding brow. Eyes black and blue. Lips cracked open. He looked at me, hauntingly locking eyes with my gaze. 

And in that moment, I wondered:

Are we still crucifying him? 

Are we still nailing him to cross-beams? Are we still forcing God into torturous positions? 

And even so, I heard the echo of his words, 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And it feels like it is all, always happening. 

The weeping. The crucifying. The not knowing what they are doing. The father forgive thems. 

And if the weeping and the crucifying continues, I must hold hope, that the resurrection is always happening also. 

That people like my friend do not have to stay where the nails were inflicted. The wounds may remain, but love does not stay on the cross. 

The message of Christ remains for the exiled and rejected ones. For the religious outcasts. 

And so if I want to find Jesus, I will not look in the church that uses his name to kick someone out. 

I will sit in the courtyard of the one who was rejected. 

And there, we three will weep. And hold out hope for resurrection.


For many Christians, the journey towards an LGBTQI+ affirming theology can be a complex one, navigating the Bible, the teaching you grew up with and the unfortunate tendency for sensitive conversations to be turned into heated and hurtful debates about real people. Here are some helpful resources to start with if you or someone you know is open to rethinking your approach in this area, including the poem I wrote about the changes my own beliefs underwent (previously shared on this website but here if you’re visiting for the first time). There are many other fantastic resources in this area; if you would like to know more, please send us a message.

Listen to:
You Have Permission podcast episode 10: ‘To be Gay Affirming’, Dr J.R. Daniel Kirk in conversation with Dan Koch:
Episode transcript:

‘Changing our Mind’ by leading Christian ethicist Dr. David P. Gushee:

‘If You’re Still Here’, spoken word poem by Will Small

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