For the first time this June, The Table Church marched in Washington, DC's Pride Parade. My family and I marched alongside our LGBTQ church family and allies. It was an incredibly moving experience, and I want to tell you why.

Homophobia and anti-LGBTQ discrimination has existed for centuries, even before we had the vocabulary for understanding the diversity of people's sexual identities. However, in the past 100+ years, some Christians invented misinterpretations of Scripture to enforce the culture's hatred and intolerance. Over time, Christianity became the primary force ensuring that gay, trans, or queer people were treated with disgust.

In the church, LGBTQ Christians had to either stay closeted or risk being, at best, ostracized; at worst, lynched. Yet, God was indwelling LGBTQ people, granting them spiritual gifts and holy experiences. God was drawing them closer, while much of the church pushed these holy people away.

Fortunately, churches exist that did not invent a theology of LBGTQ-exclusion or have repented from it. These churches became places of refuge for LGBTQ Christians. The Table Church is one of those places. Over the past few years, we've become more and more clear on affirming gay, bi, trans, and queer people. As a result, The Table is home to a rich and diverse group of folks who routinely teach me what it is to follow God, even through adversity—even while families, other churches, and pastors continue to tell these people that they are less than human and inherently deserve fewer rights.

So imagine the utter joy of being an LGBTQ person, not only marching in a Pride parade but marching with your church. I loved watching my and others' children joining us in the parade, not being indoctrinated in a belief system of exclusion. I loved watching the sheer exuberance of being free to be who you are. It made many of us marching cry as we experienced the pure joy of being celebrated, not merely tolerated.

We're still hearing the stories of the effects of our church marching. Some parade-watchers literally pulled our members aside to talk about how meaningful it was to see a church marching. We received numerous emails and messages from people who didn't know a church like ours could exist. That they didn't think they could love Jesus and be queer.

They didn't know. The church has so much to repent of.

Straight Christians like me have much to learn from our queer family in Christ. Of following Jesus even when others push you out. Of staying true to your identity even when others tell you it's wrong. Of risking abandonment. Of clinging to your faith. Of living out a more beautiful Gospel than many of us have dared to dream.

The church should have never been a weapon of discrimination and bigotry. By marching in Pride, we were not creating some new trendy faith. Instead, we were restoring the church to what Christ intended: showing the world what God's gorgeous, rambunctious, colorful, diverse, holy, and rowdy Kingdom looks like. The church should be lightyears ahead of the world in enacting what love, inclusion, and justice looks like, not playing catchup. Marching in Pride this year was a step in that direction. But, we still have so much work to do.

This year was The Table's—and my own—first year of marching in Pride. But it won't be our last. We will continue pushing back at the lies of bigotry and exclusion and preaching a more beautiful Gospel til Kingdom come.