God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.
The church is like a swimming pool. Most of the noise comes from the shallow end.
(John Shelby Spong)
Those two quotes are why Whosoever needed a moment of resurrection. When Candace my sister, friend, college and s/hero started the first a print version and then a webzine the audience was squarely USA LGBTQ+ Christian. Then a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a life saving tool for many… Whosoever became global.
With each passing year of Whosoever’s existence and Rev. Candace’s spiritual growth and maturity it became more and more clear “God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God.” (John Shelby Spong)
Sadly, by the time those two lessons were something that could not be ignored, Rev. Candace after 18 years of fighting the good fight with the extreme folks in our society along with her spiritual growth, struggle and formation had used all the energy she had for the Webzine. So, 4 years ago things came to a stop – Whosoever didn’t disappear, but rather just sat there on the internet as if in a deep hibernation.
Mr. Lance Helms (Webmaster) a member of Gentle Spirit Christian Church asked me one day what the plans were for Whosoever. That one question set off a series of conversations which lead to the discovery that whosoever was more than a Christian phrase. Whosoever was indeed whosoever!
Rev. Candace’s challenge of figuring out how to go beyond the impenetrable walls of Christian tradition was solved by letting Bishop Spong’s thought sink all the way in, and we discovered Christian tradition was not an impenetrable wall but rather a house of cards. While Christianity has a deep influence on the webzine we will not be limited in taking on homophobia in any faith or spiritual practice. To that end we have re-written our Mission, Vision and Values:
Whosoever exists to publish resources, primarily in the form of curated content, for those who seek a deeper understanding of a truly loving God, whose unconditional love is experienced as boundless grace.
We aim to present a true diversity of voices that allows for the perspectives of those of various faiths, traditions, creeds, cultures, abilities, sexualities, ethnicities, socio-economic levels, geographies and gender expressions. Whosoever doesn’t limit itself solely to what Christians call God.
We aim to do this in a way that finds questions more interesting than answers, that values individual prayer and discernment over interpersonal argument, and that values real-world interaction over digital discourse.
We give ourselves permission to walk away from negativity, particularly online – and as necessary, to remove that negativity if it crosses the line into abuse and/or isn’t done in the spirit of true mutual understanding.
A core value of Whosoever is that the individual has been granted by God the free will to pursue their own faith journey. Because of that, nothing is more important than an individual’s own relationship with their Creator, which is where the best work in the Omniverse takes place. This is opposed to having that relationship defined, controlled, mediated or disrupted by any person or institution.
Whosoever rejects all forms of fear-, guilt- or shame-based religion. We support the view that human beings start from a place of original blessing, not original sin.
Taking the example of the radically inclusive Jesus; Whosoever supports an infinitely expansive view of God that values inclusion over exclusion.
Whosoever defines spiritual violence as anything that attempts to disrupt an individual’s relationship with their Higher Power.
Because of the above statements Bishop Spong’s second quotation has greatly influenced this resurrection moment.
Those who feel it necessary to exhort, to preach to threaten or otherwise leave no options except to bring people to salvation through the shed blood and grace of Jesus will not find a comfortable home here.
That sort of thinking has had approximately 1,986 years to get it right. So far it has failed miserably both intellectually and physically. Now, it is our turn. We are taking the conversation back. We will lead the discussion. We will teach people to “own their faith” rather than rent it. As our Assistant Editor Dr. Robert N. Minor says, “Whosoever is not a place to argue for your faith (religion) as opposed to those of others, but a place to discuss how your faith/religion relates to LGBTQ+ people – either by critiquing one’s own or showing how one sees their own.”
With the re-launch, Whosoever will make a transparent effort to support an infinitely expansive view of God that values inclusion over exclusion.
With all my heart I desire for Whosoever to reach all who seek a deeper understanding of a truly loving God, whose unconditional love is experienced as boundless grace. To help the whosever’s of this world to know there are no impenetrable walls to the Divine, only the all-embracing inclusion which is defined by love. Let there be no doubt each of you are a whosoever!
Let us begin…
Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever and Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994, have been in a committed partnership since the early 1980s and have been legally married since 2015.