Feedback from participants:
OTL "taught me to love better – I hope. It certainly widened my horizons of mercy. It changed the conversation from an issue to a person(s). It has caused me to grieve the pain of rejection, the pride of superiority, the damage of harsh judgments, and to become sensitized to the stench of hypocrisy. It has helped me listen better."
"OTL sharpened my ability to think outside my personal experience and my comfort zone, and strengthened my resolve to work with those who have suffered injustice."
"Thank you for your willingness to 'Go where angels fear to tread.' You have demonstrated that there is a strong possibility to be "oriented to love" and that difference does not have to be as threatening as we make it in the church."
"Oriented to Love has the potential to play a huge part in ending the awful wounding of LGBT people being done in the name of Jesus. This wounding is hurting and even killing LGBT people, but it is also turning LGBT people and their allies away from Christianity in droves. When the actions of some Christians are causing injury to people and distorting the meaning of Jesus, it is the responsibility of all Christians to actively illuminate Christ's love in such as way as to mitigate the harm being done. Oriented to Love is the first tool I've seen that could be effective in mitigating this harm on a large scale."
"At the Oriented to Love dialogue I was imagining all sorts of shenanigans from what I considered 'the antagonists.' I came with the idea, 'You need to change your thinking.' Ironic, isn't it? People telling me I need to change my orientation is outraging to me, and here I am thinking that the other person needs to change in order for them to be lovable. Instead, I found that I needed to change my heart. To make room for the other, as Christ has done for me, and at that point I can learn to delight in them. Through honesty and vulnerability I was able to learn to cherish these people who were quite different from me. On such a 'touchy' issue, I found hope that it is worth dialogue across theological lines in order to be family."
"I now have the courage to engage in these discussions and to be the one to initiate the discussion. I look forward to using this as a model for dialogue with my community. I now have friends and resources to dialogue with as I seek God's face to be a wounded healer helping others on this difficult journey of helping others understand the gifts the LGTBQI community can bring to the table and especially the church."
"At Oriented to Love I was both encouraged and equipped to continue ministering within my church family, helping people to better understand and meet the needs of LGBTQ people."
"Because of Oriented to Love I will be more protective of brothers and sisters who are being condemned or demeaned."
"The vulnerability, safety, and sharing made me want more authenticity and connection in my personal life and community of faith."
"Oriented to Love gave me a tangible experience of the hope for unity in the Church in the face of profound disagreement. I had hoped this in theory, but to see it and experience it was an invaluable gift."
"I left thinking that reconciliation is actually possible. I wasn't sure before. I became more convinced than ever that the key to 'fixing' this lies in ending the isolation of the two groups from each other. I walked away with confirmation of something I had started to suspect a few months earlier—that changing minds and hearts is not my job, it's God's. My only job is to slog through my own fear and show up in places where I am called to be and allow Spirit to animate my being."
"Now I have hope that by vulnerability and love it is possible for the church to reach a place not defined by our theological stances but by our discipleship to Jesus. It will not be easy, and it may not be successful but it will be worth the gamble in order to love our neighbor."
"I have not changed my conservative theology, but I am much more committed to be a part of the solution in repenting of our judgmental spirits and making the church a welcoming place where we all can learn and grow and serve together in Christ regardless of our sexual identities."
"I saw that the gay men and women were people of sincere faith. They are precious witnesses of Christ love and Christ's love for the world. The Church is missing out on a lot when we fail to hear their voices."
"I was surprised by the level of safety and love, of unity I felt with the dialogue group. Never have I experienced so many people talk so seriously about the heavy matters of living faithfully, without anyone tossing out a cliché, an easy answer, or a disregarding change of conversation. We sat in the tension of not having all the answers, of recognizing the depth and importance of what we spoke about, of the impact it could have on our own lives and the lives of those sitting next to us. We shared that weight and I felt so safe. I expected to say my piece and be heard, but not necessarily to share my life and be received, and that is what I think actually happened. More than speaking our theologies and beliefs we shared ourselves, our experiences, our joys and sorrows, and we embraced one another in those shared moments."
"I left with a more robust vision for how God can work in our world, in our lives."
"In my personal life, OTL has given me renewed hope for bringing people together in an intentional dialogue space—where they are willing. It also helped me realize that I still make assumptions about people that can turn out to be unfounded or just plain wrong. I need to learn to ask more open-ended questions, and just listen."
"Now I don't feel so alone or so ridiculous in my trials, since I know there are others who understand and live through the same things. I do not feel as afraid to be open with others, especially in my own church, since I have seen firsthand how what separates us from one another falls away in communion with Jesus."
"As the dialogue [advanced] and the depth and beauty were unveiled, my fears were immediately diminished. I had no fear of judgment or questions of who I was as a person, but rather I was seen as a human yearning for God and His truth and guidance in my life. I was taken seriously and saw that people wanted to connect with me and my story and my life with God. All of the hopes that were so little in me grew beyond belief!"
"I feel that my OTL experience has helped prepare me for two unrelated 'allyship' situations, which in turn are helping to inform my thoughts on LGBTQ issues. One is that my church family is going through a particular time of reckoning with its history of racial injustice, and the other is that my professional community is going through a particular time of reckoning with its endemic enabling of sexual harassment. … OTL sharpened my ability to think outside my personal experience and my comfort zone, and strengthened my resolve to work with those who have suffered injustice."