Paula Stone Williams
The first year after coming out was the hardest of my life. I was the CEO of a large Christian ministry, on the preaching team of two megachurches, and editor-at-large of a Christian magazine. I lost it all. Evangelical churches would not let me through their doors, and mainline Protestant churches were afraid of my evangelical background. I was a pastor without a church and a Christian without a home.
The national president of PFLAG, Jean Hodges, was one of the first people who came to my rescue, introducing herself to me at a Boulder County PFLAG meeting. She gave me the friendship and strength I needed. Then came my current co-pastor, Jen Jepsen, followed by the good folks at Highlands Church in Denver, then QCF.
My first QCF conference was in 2016 in Houston, and it opened me to the possibility of a future far beyond anything I had imagined. I found an entire world of faith-filled souls on a journey similar to mine, and found the courage to move full-steam ahead.
Since that time I’ve spoken for hundreds of events in 20 states and four countries. I’ve been privileged to give two TED talks, and am currently preparing to do two more. I’ve spoken on gender equity and LGBTQ rights in some of the largest corporations in the nation. But more satisfying than anything else is my work as a pastor at Left Hand Church in Boulder County, Colorado. Our church is 18 months old and has about 125 people, many of which are refugees from evangelical megachurches. We started from scratch, with very limited funds, but we have been incredibly blessed with people who believe the authentic life is sacred and holy and for the greater good. Together, we are all trying to get it right, serving God with confidence and humility.
I have been blessed. Though I lost much, what I have gained has been wonderfully life giving. A lot of people who dare to be authentic and lose most everything, as I did, are not rewarded with jobs and opportunities and influence. I have been extremely fortunate. But all of us who dare to live authentically share one thing in common–the reward of living a life that is open, transparent, and whole. And we learn that on the far side of conflict and despair, there is abiding peace. We also learn that we are never alone in these things, never.