We met Susan and Rob Cottrell, founders of FreedHearts, at the Gay Christian Network Conference back in January. FreedHearts works to support Christian parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) children, and offer them resources to “help parents reconcile their faith with their God-given desire to unconditionally accept and affirm their LGBTQ child.” Our Program Officer Twiggy Pucci Garçon reached out to Susan after the conference to learn more about the work FreedHearts is doing.
What’s the history of FreedHearts and why did you create it?
FreedHearts was created in 2013 as part of our journey as Christian parents of an LGBTQ child. We have five children, and when our daughter, Annie, came out to us 5 years ago, we loved and accepted her. However, having been in the Evangelical Church for more than 25 years, we felt a conflict between our love for our child and our faith beliefs. Our journey to reconcile this opened up out box and revealed incredible truth to us about God’s truth and heart – and how far away from that the non-affirming church had come. We struck a chord with other faith parents and it led to FreedHearts becoming a 501c3 nonprofit, a full-time ministry, and our life’s work. Recently, our youngest daughter came out publicly, blessing us with our second gay child.
What programs and resources do you offer to parents of LGBTQ children?
We help Christian parents learn to unconditionally love, accept and affirm their LGBTQ child without feeling like they have sacrificed their faith. We speak at local, regional and national conferences. We counsel parents and their kids. And we have one book, “Mom, I’m Gay” – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith – another book that will be out soon called True Colors – Discovering the Truth and Beauty of the Real You for the LGBTQ community. We are about to launch a webinar series, and we have Parents Gatherings – a free conference – taking place in a number of cities. We also blog – www.FreedHearts.org – and have tens of thousands of views per month.
What advice do you have for parents of LGBTQ children?
We have lots of advice, but we always start with the advice to breathe. Relax, trust that the answers you need will come, and, most importantly, err on the side of love. Being raised in a Christian home, there are spoken and unspoken “expectations” and beliefs that gay kids deal with. They can be terrifying. And the response from parents has, too often, been cruel and tragic. We come alongside these parents and we encourage them to relax, breathe, trust and let God unfold his plan and the answers to questions and concerns, and absolutely focus on loving and accepting their child. It is a critical, fragile moment in that child’s life and we always advise the parents to err on the side of love. Period.
What does it mean to support LGBTQ youth using “Christ’s example?”
Scripture says that “the enemy comes against the simplicity of life in Jesus.” Jesus gave a very simple and profound and perfect example… love God, love your neighbor. To love and support LGBTQ youth is to set aside whatever conflicts and issues we have in favor of the person – and to love that person as we have been loved. To see them through God’s eyes – perfectly created and living true to who they are.
What is your “tweet-able” take back for those interested in this issue?
To stand at the family door or the church door and block someone from entering because they are gay is indefensible. — Love as you have been loved. Be radically inclusive, because you have been radically included. — Many Christian parents believe they have to choose between their faith versus accepting their LGBTQ child. This dichotomy is false and leads to much spiritual harm. There is a better way.