Today I am pleased to introduce you to my friend Kimberly Knight, who has a new blog at Patheos called “Coming Out Christian,” which features conversations about being Christian and gay in America. In addition to sharing some heartbreaking and healing stories, Kimberly has curated one of the best resource pages for LGBT Christians that I’ve found online...so be sure to check that out if you’re interested.
Kimberly is a self-avowed church nerd with nearly 20 years experience in a wide range of technology settings, plus an M.Div from Candler School of Theology. In her bio she writes that she has “a long history of back-pew sitting, Wednesday night supper eating and generally trying God’s patience since 1969.” She leads social media for ministry intensives around the country, helping faith leaders explore authentic ways to enrich, engage and expand progressive communities in the 21st century, and is the proud proprietor of The Holy Heretic, a thinking person’s tavern found in Second Life. Kimberly lives with her partner and children in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta where they are active members of Kirkwood UCC.
I shot Kimberly a few questions via email, and she graciously responded:
RHE: Tell us a little about your own story. Did you struggle to reconcile your sexuality with your faith? What has your experience with the Church been like?
Kimberly: First Rachel, I want to thank you for your generosity in inviting me to chat with you here on your amazing blog!
Yeah, for a long time I sure did struggle but in the way that southerners often do – full-on denial. I was in my mid 30s before I came to terms with who I am created to be. I was such a naive and sheltered girl that for all of my adolescence I just assumed that whatever I was feeling for girls was what all girls felt for their best friends. Years later, I can look back and fully understand what I was feeling and who I was becoming.
Interestingly enough, my own crisis of faith did not come as a result of my sexuality but when I witnessed deep and revolting racism on display in the so called sanctuary of my Baptist church in Atlanta. I walked away from church at around age 15, wandered through various experiments with pseudo-spirituality, academic study of religion and denominations until I found myself on the path of fully claiming faith in God for my own.
Really, I never had a crisis of faith as much as a crisis of religion. I've always carried with me a clear sense of God's presence even when I talked trash in my agnostic adolescence. I've also never explored another tradition without taking Jesus along with me. No, grace and faith have remained a constant along my journey, but Christianity in its many forms has often caused me great pain.
What continues to astound me is the way in which God is tangibly present and loving me every day since I’ve “come out”. I began to fully comprehend who I am at the same time I took the cotton out of my ears to heed God’s call to seminary. Clearly God’s sense of irony is a tad darker than I understood. My self realization and acceptance was dawning just as I was entering Candler School of Theology - a Methodist institution, for cryin’ out loud! At this point it was no longer a question of whether or not I am gay any more than it was a question as to whether or not I am a Christian. I simply just am - both. Blessed assurance washed over me like no other time in my life and everywhere I looked God was all around me. I knew for the first time what it meant to be whole and wholly loved by God.
Unfortunately, my family and friends did not see it with all that beaming joy. It took many more years and a river of tears before my parents and I would be reconciled. As for church - I am grateful to have found a church that loves a not-always-so-lovable-Kimberly and a denomination, The United Church of Christ, that affirms and welcomes me into the FULL life of the church. Baptism, holy communion, marriage and ordination are all paths open to me and, as my pastor says every Sunday - everyone, everyone everyone.
What sort of online space are you hoping to create with Coming Out Christian?
I want to create a space where we can hear stories from people who are walking this path of being gay and Christian. I believe that, more than clever theological arguments, more than astute sociological analysis, more than lists of civil rights and wrongs, that relationship is the only way hearts and minds are opened to the full humanity of another. I hope that in it’s very small way, Coming Out Christian can be a place where folks can meet people who, as it turns out, are not so very different from them and maybe, just maybe see how much we are all loved by God.
Do you have a favorite post so far? And what can people expect to find on the site in the future?
Yes, and thank goodness it’s not my own! The post “Life as a Queer Chaplain” is so powerful, so deeply moving and I am grateful that I was able to share it with others on such a scale as I am afforded by Patheos. Laura, the author of the post, is a kind, witty and brilliant friend who is doing some of the hardest pastoral work there is and sometimes must lovingly serve others who would hate her.
I have invited many others to share their stories and am excited to have coming up soon voices from African-American and Latino Christians who are faced with their own unique challenges as they embrace the lives they have been given to live. I also want to lift up stories from allies as they work to share their own journey of opening to the truly radical nature of God’s unstoppable love. If any of your readers would like to share a glimpse of their journeys, especially where the in-breaking of hope is present, I would love to lift up those stories as well.
What's something you wish straight Christians understood about LGBT Christians?
I guess most of all that my sexuality does not comprise the totality of me any more than straight sexuality comprises the totality of who you are. I am a daughter, a mom, a sister, a tax payer, a dog walker, a garbage taker-outer, a complainer of heat waves (and cold snaps), a tryin’-not-to-eat-too-many-carbs-except-this-one last-plate-of-wings-and-fries and… a prayer, a reader of scripture, a tither, a really bad singer of really good blue grass gospel music, a cryin’-every-time-I-take-communion-and-sometimes-when-I-preach kind of gal. I want them to know that I deeply love Jesus, fully human and fully divine and I believe the way He lived, with whom he created community and the words He spoke are as important as the death he died and His ultimate triumph over death. None of this is negated by the fact that I also happen to love a woman and that my love might look a lot more like their own than they think. With all of a love’s ups and downs I still love it when her eyes meet mine from across a crowded room. I still I love it when she puts her arm around me in church. But unlike theirs, I am sad and tired of the reality that she is often unwilling to kiss me goodbye on our own front doorstep, just in case it’s not safe. It’s love and I am so thankful that God has given me the capacity and challenge to love in this way in this time and place.
As I’ve said before, I believe the first step in moving away from a culture war mentality regarding sexuality in the Church is to stop talking about LGBT folks and start talking with LGBT folks, particularly those with whom we share a common faith. So if you’re interested in listening more, check out Kimberly’s new blog,“Coming Out Christian.” (Also, be sure to find our friend Justin Lee’s blog, “Crumbs from the Communion Table,” which is one of my favorites.)