Rejecting LGBT Children of God Means Rejecting the Full Body of Christ - An Interview with Eliel Cruz

Eliel Cruz is a graduate of Andrews University who has gone on to do organzing work and journalism at the intersections of faith and the LGBT+ community. Cruz recently launched a new venture, in the fundraising stage, that will document gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals of many faith traditions. Cruz travels to various conferences on faith and sexuality, and in the process, has learned the stories of many for whom their religious identities and LGBT+ identities overlap. Cruz has launched the #FaithfullyLGBT Photo Series project to collect and tell the stories of queer people of faith whose stories are often overlooked or ignored. In this Q & A, Cruz talks about his motivations as a storyteller, and what he hopes this project will accomplish.

There are many parts of your identity that you emphasize at various times. What makes you you?

I emphasize various parts of my identity—like my Christianity, bisexuality, and Puerto Rican heritage—because all of these things together make me me. I discuss the intersections of my faith in both Christian and LGBT communities because for many I’m seen only as an LGBT person, or in other spaces as a Christian. Our experience on this world is greatly shaped by our various identities and for me it’s important to discuss who I am wholly in order to be fully me.

How does who you are as a person translate into what you do as a vocation? What motivates your work?

I’m driven by empathy and who I am, as well as what I’ve been through because of who I am, greatly influences that. I do the work that I do in religious spaces because I don’t want a single LGBT person to go through even a bit of the things I’ve been through. I also think it’s gospel work. What I see in the Jesus story and how He continued to center, that is emphasize, those on the margins; I recognize that is what I’m, as a Christian, called to do.

As far as the #FaithfullyLGBT Photo project is concerned, how did that come about? What’s the backstory?

FaithfullyLGBT was the name of my blog at Religion News Service which was a yearlong grant funded project. For that year, I provided commentary on LGBT issues in religious spaces – mostly Christian but other faith traditions as well. At first, I used the #FaithfullyLGBT hashtag for people to be able to find my work quicker on social media platforms. Soon enough #FaithfullyLGBT became an interfaith hashtag for queer people of faith. It's a place for LGBT people of faith to share news stories, share their own stories, and find other people going through similar experiences in places of worship. It has become quite the vibrant online community.

I wanted to continue the community and find ways to use the hashtag to continue to amplify stories. I decided on the photo project due to my travels. Currently, I’m full time freelance writing and speaking. I get to meet so many awesome readers who have such amazing stories to share with me. Yet, these stories never see the light of day in media nor the religious spaces that need to hear them. I wanted to start putting more faces to LGBT persons of faith.

Images from Cruz's first series of #FaithfullyLGBT photos depict people from faith traditions, mostly Christian, from Huguenot/Mennonite to Non-denominational, and from Lutheran to Universalist. The subjects fall all along the spectrum of sexualities.

What do you hope the project will accomplish?

I want to start ending this dichotomy between religion versus the LGBT community, especially in media. The Seventh-day Adventist church is a good 20-30 years behind in the LGBT conversation. For most other faith traditions, even those that hold to conservative views, the idea of a “Gay Christian” is becoming less of a foreign concept. And still, religion and LGBT persons are pit against each other as we move forward in progressing LGBT equality.

As a faith organizer and writer, I find that’s due to a lack of visibility of LGBT people of faith. There are plenty of us out there, according to the last Pew Research almost half of the LGBT community identify as Christian, but they’re not getting platforms to share stories. I want to help provide this platform.

You mentioned in the promo video that you hope to feature LGBT individuals of all kinds of faith traditions. Why is it important to you that this not simply be a Christian-centric project?

It’s really interesting to me. I just graduated Andrews University last May and I’m finding how much of the Adventist bubble I really lived in. I went to Seventh-day Adventist schools my entire life and until my college years I really didn’t know any other Christians of other faith traditions, let alone other faith backgrounds.

I know how contentious interfaith work can be – especially for Christians (see Wheaton College). For me I think it’s a great opportunity to show the common themes in the experience of LGBT people of faith. We have different belief systems yet the way LGBT people are treated in their places of worship mirror each other in ways that are uncanny.

Can you say a bit about some of your collaborators on this project--who they are and what they do?

So far I have three people helping me out. They’re friends of mine that I’ve met through the years doing this work. Matthias Roberts is my graphic designer. He’s a gay Christian currently studying for two masters: one in Counseling Psychology and the other in Theology and Culture. Daniel Rarela is my photographer. He’s a gay Christian and photographer, as well as graphic design, is his day job. Then there’s Austen Hartke who is my accountant. He’s a bisexual trans guy with a masters in divinity. HE does this awesome YouTube series on being a trans Christian that is such a great resource.

I have Austen because taxes and money are not my thing. But also because I’m using some of the money to file for nonprofit status to create the FaithfullyLGBT Foundation. I have some other ideas up my sleeve in the coming years that I’ll want to be registered for.

Looking at the big picture, what would be some of your goals for the intersections of faith communities and LGBT communities?

For this project I just want to share stories. I would love to collect over a hundred photos this year to share and maybe start doing some video work as well. In terms of my faith organizing work, my goal has always been to make religious spaces safer for LGBT people because when we reject LGBT children of God we’re rejecting the full body of Christ.

Find out more about the #FaithfullyLGBT Photo Series at the project's IndieGoGo fundraising page.

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7300
3 Likes

May God bless you in this unique mission field, Eliel. Don’t give up, trust in the promises of Jesus.

5 Likes

I object to the title of this article. It is misleading, and distorts the reality of the situation. Too often opposition to the homosexual lifestyle is labeled as “rejection” of the person involved. That’s nonsense. One of my employees has a homosexual daughter who married her same sex partner. He and his wife do not approve of it at all, of course, since it is unbiblical. But they love their daughter, and have not rejected her in any way.

Anyone who defies God, by willfully rejecting the standards He has given us in His word, cannot, by definition, be considered part of the body of Christ. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matt. 7:21.

14 Likes

Eliel’s work to reconcile the inherently false but all too prevalent perceived divide between being LGBT and being Christian is of paramount importance. #faithfullyLGBT is just the start, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens in the future with the foundation and the other forthcoming ideas.

In far too many situations, LGBT Christians feel such a deep internal conflict between our faith and sexuality that we are unable to serve God adequately and fully with either. And in FAR too many situations, that conflict is exacerbated by non-affirming Christians who use whatever means at their disposal, overt or covert, to convince us that we are unworthy of sitting at the table God has set for all His beautiful children.

Eliel and the great people he has recruited for this task are peeling scales back from eyes, and baptizing us all once again in God’s radical grace. I encourage everyone reading my comments or Eliel’s words to support his endeavors wholeheartedly. He’s a great person doing the most for the least.

5 Likes

I love the photos and stories that Eliel has already created for this project, and I can’t wait to see more. I think it’s so important that straight Christians stop talking about LGBT folks (as per some of the comments on this thread) and start listening to them and talking with them.

4 Likes

Eliel’s online presence was my first window into the possibility that my identities as both gay and Christian are not in conflict; that I can be who I am and still be loved by God. Keep up the great work!

11 Likes

People who cant justify actions with the bible create strawmen. Simple as that.

4 Likes

As a straight ally, I love the work Eliel is doing. I have crossed paths with him through social media in several occasions and every time I walk away with the conversation with new ideas for being a better ally. On occasion I have been convicted of microagressions and had to learn new paradigms. I know his work with #FaithfullyLGBT will be blessed as he is a truly inspiring and Christ-like person.

6 Likes

Hopefully it will stem the exodus from organised religion by fellow God lovers.

1 Like

God cannot bless that which He explicitly condemns. There are many Bible texts which speak of homosexuality, none of them in a positive light, and the practice gets labelled as an abomination. Likewise, the Bible explicitly condemns men dressing in women’s clothing and vice-versa. Regarding transgender, the Bible also condemns lying (bearing false witness), and referring to someone as a woman who was born as a man is plainly lying. There are many issues that one can recognise the deeper one studies these things.

We have not followed cunningly designed fables, rather we follow the Word of God. If the Word of God says one thing, who are we to think that we can go against it and receive God’s blessing? Remember Balaam, who tried to curse that which God had blessed, or the false prophets in Israel who tried to bless the military effort of the kings which God had already determined would not succeed.

Galatians 6:7: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

11 Likes

The Episcopalians have fully accepted homosexual, and homosexual behavior. Period. Yet they are loosing membership at an amazing clip.

How do you explain that in light of Eliel’s project?

7 Likes

Having made a good friend among the Christian Gay community, I regard him as a decent and moral individual. He told me from a boy he never was drawn to females.

Try as I can, in toleration, compassion and openness toward the LGBT individuals—to me, it breaks the Eden and Patriarchal pattern.

I am in a quandary. Do I openly condemn LGBT practice as unbiblical? Do I turn away in silent rejection? Do I say to myself if God can overlook the attitudes of Crusaders who killed in his name, of reformers who rejected adult Baptism and the Sabbath—just to name a few issues. Then can God overlook LGBT practices?

In the end. I want to give the LGBT freedom as I regard them as brothers in similar faith. We don’t all agree on everything, do we? I want them to give me the liberty to hold that such practice breaks the Eden pattern, as they consider me their brother in alike faith.

1 Like

AMEN!! We need to understand that we must obey God. Our own desires are Not to be the criterion.

1 Like

If counting numbers are indicative of truth, why is the SdA church so small? People should be flocking to it if your position is correct. How many times must it be emphasized: Correlation is NOT causation? That is a major fallacy most commonly used by those who posit a position based on numbers. All surveys show that religion is far less important in people’s lives, regardless of what the beliefs. Adventists reflect that in the attrition and fewer converts in all the first world countries.

3 Likes

Yes indeed. The word of God keeps us from the path of the destroyer. In these very final days of earth’s history the Scriptures enable us to detect the deceiver in his disguise. Whatever contradicts the word of God, we may be sure proceeds from Satan. It is not love that gives in to a lie and endangers souls. It is love to sound the warning against error. It is the truth that shall make us free!

2 Likes

God is so much stronger than Satan. I am quite saddened by so many on this forum, giving what I perceive to be, so much power to Satan. When I read the posts above, all I see is fear that your life is not going to be acceptable to God and that although you are trying to follow God, He is going to allow Satan to snatch you away. For me that is a very sad state of being and not a religion or God that I want to be involved with. God sent His son to die in my place and to pay the price for my sins, so I am a redeemed child of God. My Bible tells me there are no “ifs” or “buts” involved. God finds no condemnation in me because He sees my robe has been washed in the blood of Jesus. End of story.
"#faithfullyHIS" regardless of what letters I or anyone else use to describe me.

6 Likes

The Old Testament is FULL of commands for the Children of God, the Worshipers of God to embrace the other nations. To WELCOME them to worship in the glorious Temple in Jerusalem.
They were not to be seclusive and reclusive. It was to be by associating and participating with them and the Word in the Temple that transformation by the knowledge of God was to take place.
The Body of Christ if believing in the Old Testament, will not be seclusive and reclusive and rejecting. It will embrace, Invite, Welcome into the Worshiping of God and participating in the Word.
We have to remember the words of Paul – only we can plant and perhaps fertilize. It is the Spirit that Waters. It is the Spirit that causes maturation. It is the Spirit that Reaps the result.
Remember ---- some plants have a very l-o-o-o-n-g growing season to maturity. Others have a very short time to maturity.
We cannot hasten either one.
Our job is just to Invite To Worship. Each one has to find The God Of Their Understanding for themselves.
Even individual SDAs have A God of Their Own Understanding.
Each different from the other in the pew next to them, in front, behind.

Even Ellen had to develop a God of Her Own Understanding over time. And one can see this in the chronology of her writings.

3 Likes

Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, For the Kingdom of God is within you. God is long suffering not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance.

1 Like

the title is far too dogmatic. Jesus ate with publicans and sinners, but He didn’t indorse their life style. Certainly one should not deny access to the Table, one but need examine their own heart. The Church has no stones to throw but neither does it have authority to define sin. But it does have the right to define membership.

The new militant posture is unbecoming. Salvation is not institutionalize. Fellowship and worship where one is comfortable, no need to attempt to expand the envelope. The bottom line is accepting the substitutionary gift of Divinity for all of us none excluded. We come together to celebrate God’s Grace not to defend one’s life style. tom z

4 Likes

i don’t see how Eliel’s project will cause people to hit the wall more than others who get caught up on Hebrews 10 26 and therefore conclude they have no further place in Christiandom. point being liberal initiatives get blamed for causing people to exit stage left of religion while looking at the denomination’s recent history what of the ministers and members who resigned after 1980? not all liberal’s cause.