Sons of evangelical missionaries in Indonesia and Latin America, respectively, Andrew Freer and Samuel Díaz-Littauer grew believing “homosexuality was one of the ‘really bad sins,’” Freer says.
Freer started questioning this belief A an international relations major at Wheaton College, which officially condemns homosexuality. “But “students… are becoming more willing to talk and act humanely about this subject,” he says.
“My ideas about who I thought Jesus was, and how Christians are called to love one another as themselves, seemed at odds with how the Church often seemed to react against homosexuality,” Freer continues.
“They want to do something about the fact that the conservative Church’s standard historical stance has affected so many of their friends who struggle with homosexuality in a negative way.
In 2009, three recent students committed suicide — two of them had ‘struggled’ with homosexuality.” As students, Freer produced and Díaz-Littauer shot the feature-length film “Nightlight” as a student.
Freer, who founded Heave-HoProductions in 2007, has freelanced as an editor and crewmember for Resolution Digital Studios, PBS, National Geographic, Angle Park, Radar Studios, Coach Marketing, Film Garden Entertainment, and Citizen Film.
In 2008, Freer and Díaz-Littauer were exploring Oak Park churches when they came upon the New Spirit Community Church, a locus for the area’s Christian LGBTQ community.
Getting to know New Spirit pastor Rev. Bradley Mickelson and the congregation pushed the filmmakers to further question the relationship between Christianity and homosexuality, and they soon realized they’d found the subject for their first feature-length documentary. Their film, “New Spirits,” premieres Feb. 10 at the Portage Theater.
“Reverend Bradley’s hope for the church is that it grow into a thriving community that embraces both LGBTQ and straight individuals,” Freer says. “Membership struggles have often gotten in the way of this vision but he still continues to persevere.”
With associate producers and fellow Wheaton College grads Claire Harrier and Lars Hayne, Freer and Díaz-Littauer filmed “New Spirits” in 2008 and 2009, interviewing activist pastor Dr. Tony Campolo, Oxford theologian Dr. Rev. Marilyn McCord Adams, and openly gay Republican former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, as well as Bradley members of the New Spirit congregation.
“They often had been thrown out of their own churches and families,” Freer says. “I saw the negative effects this had on the community and began to strongly feel that the Christian Church and the broader community needed to find a better response to this issue than the one they currently had. LGBTQ theology and LGBTQ churches deserve respect as their own Christian tradition.”
Considering what he’d been taught as a child, Freer hesitated to tell his parents about “New Spirits.” “I was somewhat nervous about their reaction,” he says. “In the end they have been very open and respectful of the project and my current ideas.”
Screening Thursday, at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., 8 p.m., $10. See newspirits.net. —Ed M. Koziarski