Broadleaf Books, 240 pages
When her 16-year-old daughter came out, Christian music artist Staci Frenes found her faith faltering. For Frenes, being gay was unacceptable within a “Jesus-loving, church-going, Bible-believing family.” Wasn’t it? In “Love Makes Room,” she reexamines all she had been taught in evangelical circles about the LGBTQ community, and reaches the conclusion that her daughter’s sexual orientation is neither a choice nor a sin.
Frenes draws us into her personal story, as her daughter gracefully gives her permission to recreate the scene when she reveals that she is brokenhearted over a romantic relationship with a girl. Frenes and her husband are devastated as they fear the spiritual implications of their daughter’s revelation. After a sleepless night of pacing prayer, her husband gives up trying to fully understand and vows to simply love their daughter without reservation and without trying to change her.
In 2015, her blog post “What I Learned About Love When My Daughter Came Out” led to Frenes being uninvited from a women’s conference she had participated in for years. At the same time, she was approached by many others who took comfort in her message that we are all God’s beautiful complex creations, created for love and companionship, including the LGBTQ community. She describes being messaged privately by evangelicals who shared her belief but were afraid to speak openly or advocate for full inclusion for fear of being shunned and losing their ministry jobs.
Frenes’ book is timely. This year’s spate of legislation seeking to prevent transgender young people from fully accessing healthcare, public facilities and sports is tied to the work of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization founded by evangelical leaders. The Southern Poverty Law Center deems ADF a hate group for many reasons, including its “claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society.” The ADF also opposes the Equality Act, which would add protections for women and the LGBTQ community to the Civil Rights Act. “Love Makes Room” provides an approach to caring for our children with Christ-like compassion.
A resource list in the appendix would have been a valuable addition to the book. Readers could use help in navigating the coded language of nonaffirming organizations, such as the Gospel Coalition and Focus on the Family, that draw in vulnerable evangelical Christians seeking answers, then condemn the LGBTQ community. Affirming and biblically-sound alternatives include the Reformation Project, Q Christian Fellowship and Queer Grace. I also recommend works by Matthew Vines, Kathy Baldock and Austen Hartke.
Anyone in a nonaffirming Christian community or who is struggling to accept an LGBTQ family member could benefit from “Love Makes Room” with its safe space for parents and others to reconcile what they have been taught with what they instinctively know to be true. With empathy and compassion, Frenes describes her own experience in a heartfelt, easy-to-read manner, providing a sort of blessing to her readers as they trod similar paths.
Brenda Walker is a retired PC(USA) pastor living in Richmond, Virginia, is the author of the forthcoming “Martine: A Memoir.” It tells of her transformation into a trans ally as she discovers that her oldest sibling, who died in 1982 under mysterious circumstances, was transgender. Contact her at pastorbrendawalker.com.