I’ve been to many conferences – both Exodus and otherwise – over the past 20-some-odd-years…and I must say, this was one of the greatest conferences I have ever been privileged to be a part of. I must also be honest and say that I did not want to be a part of the conference as I had gone through some wounding due to all that transpired as I stepped down as a board member of Exodus and then due to the news of the closing of the Exodus doors. It was difficult to know who to trust. As a result, I had backed off on many relationships. This, of course, was the scheme of the enemy all along. All I can say is thank God I made the wise choice to attend this conference in spite of my reservations!
As I led worship on Saturday evening I felt great freedom to minister as the Holy Spirit led. We were met corporately with a oneness that one could only understand had they been there. Tears flowed freely and broken hearts were mended and it all came together to cause a great trust and feeling of affirmation to rise up in my soul. And then something unexpected happened. Jayson Graves, that night’s keynote speaker, began calling names and asking those people to come to the front of the room. My name was called. A bit apprehensive at first, I soon found myself standing with about 25 great men and women of the faith. Jayson then explained the purpose for this moment.
Speaking to the youngsters (all those under 50!), he said (Jernigan paraphrase!), “Young people. These are the men and women who paved the way for you. None of this would be possible had they not fought the fight. And we are never putting them out to pasture. We need what they have. Let’s affirm them and let them know we’ve got their back.” He had put into words something that I felt but had no way of ministering to myself. Since 1988 I have been telling my story and watching people come to freedom in their own lives as a result. Because of various situations through the years – like the body of Christ at-large feeling that guys like me “had the homosexuality thing covered so there was no need for them to get involved” and the Christian music world telling me “We just don’t know how to market you” or “can you forget about your story? It’s old news,” I have often wondered if I was doing any good at all. At times feeling utterly alone in the body of Christ. Besides the Lord all these years, it has been hearing from men and women who have come to terms with freedom from SSA that has kept me going. What Jayson said – his words of honor and blessing – were like a kiss from heaven. I was walking on air. And that’s how I felt in regard to the entire weekend.
Because I am typically on stage at such events, I decided to sit and observe the sessions in which I did not have a part. What I found was a joy in watching people respond to God’s presence. Actually sitting down through worship and simply reflecting was good for my soul. I even had several people say to me how much it meant to them that I would sit through the sessions…that it made them feel valued.
On Friday afternoon, we showed the film Sing Over Me – the documentary of my life story. As the film ended I could hear weeping in the room as people stood to their feet in applause. On Saturday we showed it again. This time the weeping was even more pronounced and people seemed to sit in silence and contemplation. Each time I envisioned the world’s response when the film finally comes into the public arena. Such endeavors could not be possible if I did not think at least some in the body of Christ are with me. These dear brothers and sisters are WITH me! And before you think that I think the entire conference was all about me, I have to admit that, in a way, it was. What I mean is this: I went into the gathering with great apprehension and came away being ministered to deeply in ways I had not expected or even knew I needed. Thank you, McKrae, for being so persistent in getting me there!
And then Sunday morning came and I was, once again, PRIVILEGED to lead worship with such an expectant and know-they-need-Jesus crowd. The intimacy was so thick in the room that I felt I would pass out at times…like one could cut the air with a knife. Tears flowed. Voices rang out in praise. Jesus was there lavishing His love upon us. I would advise anyone who desires freedom of any kind to be there next year! You’ll encounter Jesus in a refreshing way.