Last week we had the privilege of interviewing the creators of #AffirmingSunday, Adam Evers and Will Remigio. Affirming Sunday is a national campaign to welcome LGBTQ+ people into affirming churches on the first Sunday of Pride month in order help them integrate their pride and their faith and to show the world that you can be queer and Christian.
Below is part of our interview with them, edited for clarity and brevity. But Adam and Will have tons of personality, so you may want to watch the whole delightful, thoughtful conversation!
SCBT: Why did you launch Affirming Sunday?
Will: Adam’s original idea was to have a day of protest.
Adam (laughing): I’m like “Fight the man!” And Will was like, “Maybe we could reframe that.” So it was a combination of both of us, because we thought, Why don’t we create our own holiday for LGBTQ people to celebrate our identity and be welcomed into safe spaces in the church. There are people everywhere who identify as LGBTQ+ and Christian so it would be fun to celebrate that identity in church.
Is church trauma part of your story for creating Affirming Sunday?
Adam: I definitely have more church trauma than Will does. I was actually removed from church membership for being gay. I have some pretty serious church trauma – I went through conversion therapy and tried to be a good kid and all that kind of stuff… so I have a more visceral and violent reaction to churches in general.
But my view of church has changed ever since going to Oak Life Church in Oakland, CA. My first time at Oak Life I remember bawling and weeping after the welcome video mentioned being able to be fully myself, to know that I could be me and could be in this space. The guy next to me was gay and was like, “Are you ok?” and I said, “Everything’s fine – don’t look at me!”
How about you, Will?
Will: For me, it’s more the hiding that hurts so much. The church I grew up on wasn’t outwardly condemning, but there was this unspoken white elephant in the room. Being gay was never talked about in a positive way. So Affirming Sunday is… (Adam jumps in, “Flipping the script!”) saying you don’t have to hide this year. You will be talked about and considered an equal just like the rest.
It would have been so nice if I had been part of a church that was outspoke about these things instead of treating it with silence. We know from the Civil Rights movement that silence is violence. If we’re not talking about it, we’re saying something important. So I thought, how cool would it be not having to hide.
What would you say to a gay friend who was going to a non-affirming church?
Will: I know what YOU would say.
Adam: What would I’d say?
Will: You’d be like, “Get the F* out of there!”
Adam (laughing): No, no, no – I would not do that! I would try to ask a lot of questions. If you’re there, and you’re there while they are not affirming, there’s a reason. And more than likely it’s community.
For me it was people – people that I loved, that I was in relationship with, who I was siblings in Christ with. So I would seek to understand why they are there and dig a little more. And be like, “Can you talk with them about being gay? Can you talk with them about that experience? Can they walk with you in that or can they not walk with you in that?” That kind of conversation is very different than “You should not go to that church!” – that’s not helpful.
Will, do you want to add your perspective?
Will: I think it’s really scary for someone who’s going to a non-affirming church to hear about a church that affirms…. I remember when I heard about an affirming church when I was going to non-affirming churches. I thought they were mostly heathen, and I thought they really didn’t know the Bible. I thought they would cherrypick whatever was comfortable for them. I know for me I needed to think that celibacy was the only route for me before I could accept the love I deserved. I was settling for the love that the pastor said was available to me but I didn’t know I could have this promise of a partner and companionship in physical form as well as in spiritual form.
So if someone told me, “Hey I’m going to this non-affirming church,” I’d be like, “I love that journey for you,” and as long as they are not telling you that you need to change who you are, I think that’s a beautiful thing for you to be with your own people. Because people have their community and we can’t just disrupt their community just because they don’t believe one thing. We are more than our beliefs.
Any final thoughts you want to share?
Adam: There’s never a wrong time to celebrate a marginalized group of people in the church.