Do you know what the word “evangelical” means? Contrary to what many believe, it has nothing to do with judgment or dogma. The term stems from the Greek word eugangelion, meaning "gospel," or the good news of Jesus and the redemption he brings to the world.
Dave Ferrell is a tall white haired Texan. He is a life-long Pentecostal, and he has a gay son.
Maybe you think you already know his story, but it has an unexpected twist. This is what he shares in his seasoned, Texas drawl during conferences held by The Evangelical Network, an LGBT-affirming association that strives to restore the term "evangelical" to its rightful definition.
You might want to grab a tissue:
I developed gaydar early. I knew my son was gay. Pentecostals can come up with a lot of things to pray about and confess and rebuke, and that’s what I was doing, but then I got this call. It was from my daughter. She said, "Daddy, can you come home?” Well the first thing I think of is that somebody has died. Then she said, "Daddy you’ve got to come home. Todd is gay." I felt better after I heard that. I thought something serious had happened. But I went home.
My wife took Todd's pictures off the wall. We struggled for years, confessing, begging God, believing God would change our son, but Todd wasn’t the one who was changed. His mom and daddy are the ones who were changed, and God called me into a ministry. I felt like he wanted me to name it “The Unconditional Love Ministry.” God said to me, "David, you will be a daddy with skin who will stand and hold men and women and love them. They will place their head on your shoulder, and they will weep. But you will stand there, and you will hold them until their mom and daddy can step up and assume their rightful place."
Starting in 1996, God began using Ferrell to minister to LGBT people in this way.
Ferrell explains, "God has blessed us in so many ways. The fruits of the spirit, folks get a hold of that. The fruits of the spirit is something that should be prevalent in every one of our lives as Christians. Love and joy and peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law. When your family comes against you, don’t you dare respond to them in a rebuking way. When you do that you bind the hand of God. If you will give to them what you are wanting from them, then God can use that and can turn the situation around. Reach out to them in love."
He offers this advice to LGBT people struggling to relate with their families:
When they say to you, "You’re going to hell," respond back saying, "Mom you really believe that?' She may say, "Oh yes I do." Then your reply should be, "Mom, then pray for me." Say this to anyone in your family, then shut up because here’s what you’ve done. You’ve just placed that in the hands of an almighty God. Don’t fight. Don’t return ugliness for ugliness. Love them with the love that you want back from them whether you feel it or not. You love em but shut up.
The next person who speaks is in trouble, and that’s usually Momma. She can’t hold it in very long after you’ve said to pray for me. She’s going to say, "Honey I will," and that’s what you want because when a mom and a dad are earnest before an almighty God, things are gonna change. God will then do for you what you can not do for yourself and what they can not do for themselves.
Ferrell continues to serve as a type of surrogate father in conversations with hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in churches and around the world online.
Each year, he tells his story at The Evangelical Network's annual conference. He then asks other straight allies, often other parents, to come to the front of the assembly and invites any LGBT person to come up as well.
During this invitation, Ferrell suggests that if anyone has something that they would like to say to their parents but cannot, they should speak that message to the allies.
Each year, LGBT Christians share their stories and weep on the shoulders of these allies. They describe experiences of hurt, shame, and rejection, and most of all, their need for acceptance.
These exchanges are always powerful spiritual experiences. God moves.
Many Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-denominational, and even Presbyterian churches consider themselves to be evangelical. Too often, however, Christ’s good news of love is not the loudest message.
The Evangelical Network reclaims this term as they provide safe place for LGBT people to discover and rediscover Christianity. The network gives people from all backgrounds an opportunity to enter dialogue on the issue of homosexuality and Christianity.
Attendees at the organization's annual conference name the emotional support they experience as one of the best parts of the events.
This year, The Evangelical Network will celebrate its 25th anniversary at an annual conference in Louisville, KY,
on July 4-7.
Dave Ferrell, a conservative Texan who has become a father to many, will once again speak during the general assembly. In addition, workshops at the conference will cover subjects like reconciling sexual orientation or gender identity with the Bible, learning how to forgive, using social media for ministry, and creating dialogue with mainline Christians.
To register for the conference or find out more, visit The Evangelical Network's website, or call 415-286-7751.
Photo by Dave Largo via The Evangelical Network