When I mention to my straight friends that I attend a gay Christian Bible study, I sometimes get the feeling that they think I went to someone's house where half the guys were fornicating in the upstairs bedrooms while the other half sat around shirtless, leering at one another. Doesn't matter that I said "Christian" or even "Bible study." The only word some people hear is "gay," and that will often send their minds off in a certain misguided direction.
It's possible that I've presumed too much on what people know about gay Christians. So first off, yes, gay Christians do exist. And also, being Christians, they are interested in studying the Bible. Why do they have "gay Christian" Bible studies? you might ask. Because most evangelical churches don't welcome gay people--at least the ones that they know about--so if gay Christians want to be part of a Bible study quite often they have to form their own. It's admirable when you think about it. If you were told you were no longer welcome at your church, would you be so committed to studying the Bible that you'd go out of your way to form your own group to do so?
What's it like going to a gay Christian Bible study? Well, it's usually at someone's home or apartment. You need to get there early because sometimes the place is packed and you will be forced to sit on the floor. At one study I attended I walked in late, having fought through traffic in the rain. I found myself crowding into a small living room with about fifteen other people, and someone was nice enough to offer his chair to me. Copies of song lyrics were distributed, and we started off with a praise and worship time. I noticed a couple of open laptops on the coffee table. People who couldn't make the drive were Skyping in.
They were studying through the Gospel of John verse by verse. We took turns reading out loud from chapter 6, and the leader guided the discussion by asking questions. One of the verses seemed to support a Calvinist view of election and there was lively debate over that. We noticed that different Bible translations put the verse in slightly different lights. Which translation do you have? the leader asked someone. ESV, came the answer. Any others? People called out KJV, NIV, NAS. What about The Message? Anyone here use The Message? There was a friendly sort of tension in the room. Everyone knew who it was that didn't approve of dynamic equivalence Bible translations. If you guys are okay with it, I'll go ahead and read what it says in The Message, the leader said, taking one last cautious look around. Apparently, the coast was clear for a brief lapse into liberalism.
We wrapped up our time by sharing requests and praying together as a group. The fellowship time was a bit cramped, trying to make it through the crowd to the kitchen for soda and store-bought cookies. Then someone broke out a birthday cake and we all sang in honor of the recipient, who was obviously surprised. Aren't you glad you came tonight? people called to him. We were afraid you weren't going to be here.
People hung around until close to 10 pm. The Bible study leader gave me a lift to my car since I was parked two blocks away. He was in the Army Reserves, grew up Southern Baptist, and had recently returned from his second deployment to Iraq. He mentioned that some of his Christian friends had been unfriending him on Facebook for being gay. All I could think was that if my son grew up to be like this guy, I'd be very proud.
So that is what a gay Christian Bible study is like. A bunch of Christians, who are gay, get together to study the Bible. They ask questions, debate a little, and try to keep the peace between the traditionalists and progressives within the group. But in the end, they support and care for one another. In other words, it's not a whole lot different from any other Bible study. Just like, I suppose, being a gay Christian isn't a whole lot different from being any other Christian.