September 25, 2018

A Response to Nicki: Acceptance (3)

In my last response to commenter Nicki, I want to open up some of the difficulties that flow from her call for embracing homosexuals on the terms which they want. Nicki wrote

Until Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender persons are embraced by the Church as another part of God’s wonderful creation, they will not feel welcomed. They are unique and special and have insights and gifts to contribute to the Church.

Nicki’s appeal to the church to embrace gay, lesbian, bisexual and transexual persons within the church is a genuine and heartfelt invitation that I believe places a claim on every person who claims to know and follow the Lord of love.

As has been pointed out in the comment threads, there are places in scripture that must be discussed and not ignored. Luke Timothy Johnson’s appeal to honestly say scriptural statements must be set aside on this issue will not gain much traction with evangelicals who believe that, even though we don’t heed scripture perfectly, we must heed it all the same.

I Corinthians 5: 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges* those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Passages of scripture such as the above require the formal fellowship of the local church to have boundaries of visible fellowship that take into account unrepentant sin. If we were talking about “obvious” sins that all agree are destructive, there would be no debate. No one I know would recognize the anti-gay hatred of Fred Phelps as acceptable within a Christian fellowship.

But for evangelicals who believe that any sexual behavior other than celibacy or monogamous heterosexual marriage is sinful, there is a similar problem. The person singled out in I Corinthians 5 would have defended his relationship as legitimate and would have, no doubt, found his removal from the membership of the church to be harsh and judgmental.

For Paul, this is not a matter of personal association or friendship, but a matter of the integrity of the church’s understanding of sin and sexuality. There are no “contextual” issues, such as how much of an understanding of Biblical morality did this person actually have. Paul assumes that a these greek converts are aware that a relationship with a stepmother qualified as “sexual immorality.”

(I’ve always wondered how many evangelical churches today would even take notice of such a relationship.)

So we come back to talking about whether homosexual behavior falls into the category of sinful sexual behavior. I find the demand that evangelicals simply “cease, desist and surrender” to the view of some in the gay Christian community to be extremely unrealistic. The Gospels contain standards for divorce and remarriage that few churches can take straight. The mentions of homosexual sexual behavior in I Corinthians 6 and Romans 1 are beyond dispute. No recognized evidence for approved gay relationships in early Christian fellowships can be cited.

While evangelicals can be faulted for their own behavior and attitudes towards the gay and lesbian community, I believe many on those communities can be faulted for asking for what amounts to the migration of tectonic plates of authority in order to embrace gays and lesbians within local churches.

Of course, Paul makes it clear that outside of the boundaries of membership and oversight in a local church, there is no issue that restricts relationships and friendships. Within differing understandings of Christian discipleship, there is much room for relationships and respectful common ground.

I want to close this response with an acknowledgment that I have not settled in my own mind and heart how Paul’s words in I Corinthians 5 and 6 fit together with Jesus’ example of table fellowship during his ministry.

If a Christian friend came to me and said he was struggling to repent of sexual sin, on what basis could I refuse to share fellowship with that person? I live with constant awareness of my own sexual sins, and lack of repentance is one of those sins. I do not blatantly promote my sins and insist that other persons accept them, but if I honestly gauge my own heart, I have no reason to come to the table of Jesus while refusing to sit alongside someone else whose sins seem more obvious.

I would not argue with anything said in the Bible about sexual sin, but I am deeply disturbed by the tendency to make homosexuality into a special category where repentance can only be certified by modern day Pharisees.

I do not believe the church should be asked to desert its confessions or understanding of what scripture reveals is the divinely revealed, authoritative word regarding God’s design for sexuality. At the same time, I do not believe I can sit in the place of God and judge those whose sins are much like my own. The Gospel judges and invites us all.

Many people will find my positions in these posts to be inconsistent. I agree. I have not found consistency between all that I am hearing in scripture. What I aspire to is a consistency of humility and a consistency of joining all other believers in confessing that Christ alone is our righteousness.

Comments

  1. Most find themselves in two distinct positions.

    1. Homosexual relations are sin.

    2. Homosexual relations are not sin.

    The real issues outside those non-intersecting positions are much more nuanced. Even if you embrace #1, how do you deal with sinners who call themselves homosexuals and/or homosexuals who desire redemption without a Biblical understanding of their lifestyle?

    The two positions I’ve provided are easy. Discerning the ministry of Christ within the context of #1 remains elusive mainly due to our assumption that we are already practicing it. Everyone has an answer, but only the Spirit has the truth. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost and He said “As the father has sent Me so send I you”.

    So after all the word pictures, Greek etymologies, Old Testament commandments, cultural illuminations, and tons of verses cross referenced and used to prove all sorts of things we arrive at the obvious, the practice of homosexuality is a sin, what then? We should have known that all along and now we act as if it is something we haven’t thought of before.

    No, what we haven’t thought of before is how would Jesus deal with people with same sex attraction who cannot see the practice of their attraction in the framework of eternal truth? What would He say to them? Would He shoo them away if they wanted to follow Him in spite of how He viewed their lifestyle? What if they wanted to hear more of His words while still in their lifestyle? Would He sympathize with their resistance to acquiesce to His views on that subject? Would He understand why they came to their convoluted view? Would He never leave them or forsake them in spite of their confusion?

    God says, “Ephriam is joined to his idols, LET HIM ALONE”. Later in the same book God says, “Oh Ephriam, HOW SHALL I GIVE THEE UP!”.

    Would Jesus utterly reject them forever, even those who desired redemption through God’s Son? There is very little discussion about such things much less an attempt to emulate the Master, especially when we haven’t shown the concern or inclination to investigate what “in His steps” might look like in this situation.

  2. A question for those here who believe homosexuality is a sin:

    Do you believe that physically owning another human being is a sin? Please provide biblical support for your answer.

  3. Rick –

    Though I appreciate the approach you take in your comment, I think (and please correct me if I’m wrong) it lacks the seriousness of sin before the Lord. Jesus ate with sinners, but when they became His followers He asked them to leave their sin behind.

    While I don’t believe there is a clear cut process, I agree with Michael – there is most certainly a biblical precedent for removal from the church. In the passage in 1 Corinthians 5-6 Paul goes so far as to describe the man’s removal as turning him over to Satan so that his flesh may be destroyed so that his spirit might be saved.

    Jesus will never call sin good, whether it be homosexuality, adultery, gluttony or greed. And He will judge sin, both the act of the individual and the church that tolerates it (Revelation 2:14-16, 20-24). Again, I don’t know the line. But it certainly exists.

  4. there ain’t no man righteous. christ died for all and our sins are forgiven and forgotten by grace thru our faith in christ. our job is to bring all to christ for salvation. you may be saved but you are still and will always be a sinner so take care of the two by four in your own eye. mike I applaud you for this discussion, well done.

  5. I believe the sin of homosexual attraction, and or practice, is just that…a sin.

    I believe the practice of overeating (of which I am guilty) is a sin.

    The overeater(glutton)and the practicing homosexual ought both be welcomed into the church.

    Neither sinful practice ought be flaunted or advocated by the offender. Neither practice ought be apologized for and defended as a right.

    Am I sorry(repentant)that I am a glutton. No I am not, and I try to tell others that the Bible is wrong on this score and that it is my predisposition to overeat and I believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, and in this day of fast food restaurants and slick advertising no one can honestly be expected to feel like they are committing a sin when they overindulge.

    I should be asked to leave the congregation, because openly unrepentant sin within a congregation can be a poison and affect others.

    Should a ‘gay’ person, who attends worship and does not flaunt his homosexuality and feels sorry for his sinful thoughts and deeds, be asked to leave a congregation? I say definitely not.

    On this score we cannot know who is really sorry or not. Only God knows the heart. All we know, as believers, about other believers, is their confession and their actions.

    In my congregation, gluttony and homosexuality are preached on with about the same frequency…almost never. Instead God’s law is presented in it’s overarching totality and intensity so that no one, absolutely no one, gets out of there intact. We are cut off at the knees by out thoughts, words, and deeds, and by what it is that we have left undone, as well. We can all repent, and we can all be raised by the gospel…together.

  6. Scott M says:

    Ahhh Corinth. I think we like them so much because they were such a mess we can empathize. It’s interesting to me that this one man — out of all the crazy sinful behavior in the church — that Paul singled out to be set outside the communion. The nature of the relationship is not entirely clear. Given a polygamous culture, one option that I don’t hear is that the woman was one of his father’s wives, but not the one who gave birth to him.

    All that aside, could not part of the reason this man was turned over to Satan in order that he might be saved lie in the phrase “as is not even named among the gentiles”. In other words, something that was reviled even among the pagans. The effect would have been felt on many levels. For the man, if set outside the fellowship, would experience rejection and suffering from his pagan neighbors which Paul seems to believe will work toward his salvation. Further, by embracing sin that even the pagans rejected, the Church risked gaining a deservedly bad name.

    And so Paul didn’t say to put out all the people who visited temple prostitutes, failed to share with the poorer members, engaged in gluttony and drunkenness when celebrating the Eucharist, were divisive, and the host of other deliberate and ongoing sins contained in the letters.

  7. “Though I appreciate the approach you take in your comment, I think (and please correct me if I’m wrong) it lacks the seriousness of sin before the Lord.”

    Without the seriousness of sin the depth of grace cannot be understood. The man in Corinth was a professing believer while what I am speaking of are seekers or new believers who haven’t as yet gotten their doctrinal feet under them. And we treat heterosexuals much differently in the church.

    We don’t require heterosexuals to abandon greed, lying, gossip, judging, prayerlessness, questionable movies, slander, lust, stealing, and almost any other sins. We allow them to grow and mature and more accurately we allow them to continue in those sins. Jesus said not to store up money on this earth and yet the average pew dweller has savings, a 401k, and maybe some investments that he plans on lavishing on himself when he retires. Oh yea, I forgot, that is not what Jesus meant when he said don’t store up ,omey, or waht paul meant when he said with food and clothing be content, and a host of other Scriptures which heterosexuals do not obey.

    I do not say that the lifestyle of homosexuality is not a sin, it is, what I am attempting to put into context is how we as the church reach out to them and even have as much patience with them as we do ourselves. There were things that happened in the early church that seemed to warrant divine intervention. How many people have you seen that God struck dead because of lying to the Holy Spirit?

    And of course it is uncomfortable and makes us uneasy when we show some grace without condoning sin because we cannot stand loose ends and the prying eyes of other camps that might criticize us. A man in New York City was a transvestite. The believers from the Brooklyn Tabernacle had been loving and witnessing to him for several years, and one night he received Christ.

    He was welcomed into the church dressed as a woman and loved through many months. It took him the better part of a year before he received the strength and faith to start dressing as a man, and they loved him and the pastor kept counselling him throughout. He now is a husband and a father and sings in the choir. That is not be soft on sin, that is being hard on grace. That is the kind of situation I am suggesting for gays.

  8. It may help to draw the distinction between temptation and action. Everyone faces different temptations based on a number of factors: enviroment, culture, and even genetics. For some people drunkeness is a temptation, while others can’t even stand the smell of alcohol. It is obvious that some people face the temptation of homosexuality, while others are drawn to other sexual sins. However, having a temptation does not make participation in the activity OK. The Bible clearly states that homosexual activity is wrong. It is one of those actions that is condemned in the Patriarchal age, the Mosaical age, and the Christian age. The Bible also clearly teaches that repentance is required for salvation. Repentance doesn’t remove temptation, so after repentance we all still struggle with temptation and even fall back into sin due to weakness. We can “walk in the light”, but still sin (I John 1:7) However, that is clearly different than saying “I know stealing is a sin, but I’m going to keep stealing anyway and I have no intention to change”. The reference to I Cor. 5 shows that unrepentant sin must be dealt with for the benefit of the church and with the intention of bringing the sinner back. I know people in our congregation that are struggling with homosexuality, and although they want to do better, they sometimes falter. We are all in that situation with our own sins for which we have great temptation, and we all hope to encourage, love, and support each other to overcome these sins. But if any person says that they don’t care about their sin, and openly communicate through words or actions that they have no intent to change, then that person has to be withdrawn from. Tolerance of unrepentant sin is not love – it is apathy.

  9. Unrepentant sin is universal in every congregation. Everyone commits sins about which they do not repent. Speeding, judging, sins of omission, prayerlessness, Word apathy, and many other sins remain unrepented of daily.

    But these people about which I speak are for all practical purposes seekers. The difference is that at some point a gay person must admit that their lifestyle is wrong and begin a struggle of some kind before they can be received as born again members. They cannot just practice their lifestyle continually without any evidence of the Holy Spirit’s ministry for years.

    But we must as well put on Christ in the situation, which, is still being flushed out.

  10. I don’t know if I can say this any more graciously than Rick has, but I also struggle with separate but equal status given to homosexuals in the evangelical church. We all have unrepentant sin that we knowingly struggle with. Things that we refuse to give up and we know is/are wrong … sinful even. For some those even include sexual sins (adultery, pornography, etc.)

    My list includes gluttony, blasphemy, coveting my neighbors stuff, lies of omission, … and it’s late I’m sure there is more. No one has ever suggested that I be excluded from fellowship because of my lack of repentance … but perhaps they should. Or perhaps the rules for homosexuals might be re-examined.

  11. If a gay person comes to church with the attitude of “My sexual activity is sinful I ask for forgiveness and will lean on God to help me overcome it” then I don’t see a special problem. Just like I should come and say “My overeating, lustful thoughts, greediness, materialism, and all my numerous other sins are problems that require me to seek forgiveness and God’s strength to overcome.” For me, the problem isn’t so much what do we do with people you say “There is nothing wrong with my sin.” If Chad and Susie are going to our church and they are unmarried, cohabitating and getting it on, I sure wouldn’t expect us to just shrug our shoulders and say “God made them that way so it is not sinful” no matter how long they’ve been together or how committed they are to each other. I would sure hope the pastor, if they asked if it was “okay” would tell them “no.”

    An earlier poster said we should all feel convicted by sin. I agree. I am not going to pretend to have an answer about who we should fellowship with and who we shouldn’t. But again, we cannot pretend that it is okay to flaunt sin, no matter what the sin is. This reminds me of my bible study group earlier in the week where one of our members, who I guess you could describe as a seeker, said “A lot of good people are atheists — are they going to hell if they don’t accept Jesus?” We cannot shy away from the truth just because it’ll hurt some feelings, but we can deliver the truth in a loving way.

  12. Gordo –

    As far as I’ve encountered, the Bible doesn’t allow or accept slavery. What the Lord gives regulations to is indentured servitude, something entirely different from the owning another human. In the Old Testament there are rules for paying off your debt through labor. Even then, every seven years the Israelites were commanded to release any indentured servant in their household. It was a very different system from slavery.

  13. sonja,

    I think the key is when you said, “…that we knowingly struggle with”

    To ‘struggle with’ shows repentance. One does not have to achieve victory over sin in this life.

    Indeed, in this life there is no peace, no rest, and no victory.

    But thanks be to God, for He is our Victory.

    Blessings to you in your struggles.

    – Steve

    PS – My list is bigger than your list

  14. I find the demand that evangelicals simply “cease, desist and surrender” to the view of some in the gay Christian community to be extremely unrealistic.

    As a ‘supporter’ – albeit not a gay one – this is the sort of statement I find frustrating.

    I equally find unrealistic your (plural) demands that I give up my view. Even as I understand that you believe that you have a no-brainer argument that all Christians should plainly see as being true.

    As someone who supports lifetime gay monogamy *I* feel totally unheard in the Christian environment and I can only imagine how a gay person must feel.

    Hear this, please: I’m not demanding that you drop your view, but I’d like my view to be heard without feeling that I’m being judged as a non-Christian. Until you (plural) stop telling us that our viewpoint can’t be held by a Christian, then I don’t know how any kind of conversation can actually happen.

  15. I think if the person with the sin, (homosexuality, or gluttony) as th poster Steve up above is seeking to CHANGE their life then they should be welcomed with open arms. There is no scale of sin. Sin is sin. gluttony, or luing, or adultery or homosexuality are all equal in the eyes of God.

    Not to say that on the path to repentance they wont stumble, because they will. but you can’t come to church and PLAY church. You are either really working on yourself and your sin or you aren’t. Believe me , God knows your heart.

    But it is not up to the congregation to judge. if a “sinner” (which we all are, by the way) comes forward, then we need to accept them, pray for them, and help them any way we can.

  16. PamBG:

    I am not and have never said you are not a Christian. That’s utterly antithetical to what I said.

    But many evangelicals wouldn’t receive a person who redefines Heb 13:4 to mean homosexual monogamy into a local church fellowship.

    I have been told a million times that such a decision is not rejecting a person as a fellow Christian.

    I certainly do not, and I’m sorry you’ve misread me.

  17. Lauren –
    But Paul’s instructions are not about Hebrew “slavery,” which did involve indentured servitude and the year of jubilee… he was talking about Roman slavery, in which slaves were personal property, and could even be killed at the whim of their masters.

  18. On one note:
    The Bible is vividly clear in the Old Testament, particularly Leviticus, that there are foods which are unclean and abominations. Severe penalties for eating (or in some cases touching)them were in place.

    However, in the New Testament, it is made clear that under Christ, what enters the body does not make someone unclean, and as a result, the dietary restrictions so clear in the Old Testament are set aside for Christians. They can still choose to follow them or not, and they should avoid doing things that scandalize, but it becomes a matter of individual conscience.

    The Bible is also clear, in far fewer places, and with far more room for discussion (the Sodom story condemns gang rape by crowds of otherwise heterosexual men, but is less clear on the nice gay couple next door inviting Lot’s guests for brunch, for example) that homosexual acts – or, more precisely, lying with a man as with a woman, something I have never done, since I have no interest in or experience of lying with a woman – within a few paragraphs of other similar, now dismissed purity laws.

    The New Testament clearly states things like “In Christ there is neither male nor female” and “For love is of God, and anyone who loves is born of God and knows God” and yet there is no willingness to entertain that, like just about every other tribal purity law, the New Covenant might have room for setting aside the sweeping prohibitions.

    If in Christ there is neither male nor female, then laws based on gender have no room in the Christian view. Just as with the dietary things,it should now be for the individual conscience.

    I know people will disagree, but it gets tiring hearing that there is “no Biblical support” for chaste, committed, faithful gay relationships. There may be nothing people are willing to hear, but that’s rather a different issue.

  19. Rick:
    “Most find themselves in two distinct positions.
    1. Homosexual relations are sin.
    2. Homosexual relations are not sin.”

    I find myself banging my head against the wall. I will agree that the vast majority of Christians who discuss this issue judgementally see it as exactly that dichotomy, but it’s a false one, and it works brilliantly as a straw man, because all you have to do is find one instance that is clearly sin, and you’ve proven 2 false, which conveniently leaves 1 true by process of elimination.

    But you are mis-defining the position of the vast majority of people who aren’t on your side. Feel free to disagree, but don’t feel free to misrepresent, especially to artificially support your own view.

    Back to the original thread, about what gay and lesbian Christians hear, this is a huge one. It is the false statement that these are the only two (or even the most common two) views.

    What is far more true is that people fall into two distinct positions:
    1. All homosexual relations are always sin.
    2. Not all homosexual relations are always sin.

    I have never heard anyone who believes in sin claim that gay relationships are somehow blessedly free of sin, nor that all expressions of same-sex orientation are blameless. Rather than believing that all homosexual relations are not sin, they (we) believe that some homosexual relations fall under God’s plan for people and can be good and healthy.

    So, homosexual infidelity, homosexual abuse, homosexual licentiousness, using someone else as an object, etc, etc, etc are just as sinful as the parallel heterosexual sins.

    You may still disagree. But please don’t dishonor us by misrepresenting our views. If it is not deliberate, please try to listen to us more clearly. If it is deliberate, it sure seems to border on false witness.

  20. I was greatly affected by listening to a respected member of our (very traditional) parish who is gay and lives a celibate life with his partner. What he hears is heterosexual Christians all finding some good reason why their own sexual sins–recognized by the universal church as sins for two millennia–suddenly don’t count as sins anymore, but never extending such theological leniency to homosexual behavior.

    He refers specifically to-

    (1) contraception: suddenly discovered not, in fact, to be a sin anymore, due to helpful new understandings of the sin of Onan and the discounting of Christian and Jewish morality stretching from the first century to the 20th (Protestant); or due to the existence of one Vatican committee shortly after V2 that recommended changing the teaching regarding contraception, which we can pretend holds some sort of authority (Catholic); or due to “economy” (Orthodox).

    and-

    (2) divorce/remarriage: despite Jesus’ clear teaching, it turns out that remarriage after divorce is a *special* kind of adultery, which can be repented of but then continued in (Protestant 1); or there’s an exception made for “porneia,” which it turns out doesn’t just definitely mean “adultery” (though it doesn’t mean that in all scriptural texts), but also includes any other reason (Protestant 2); or it turns out that matrimony is a special special sacrament, requiring such levels of maturity, theological understanding, and clarity of mind and will that it hardly ever actually occurs, thus making annulments the order of the day (Catholic); or Tradition has always allowed three marriages per person, and if in the past that always was understood to mean after a spouse’s death, today we can understand it to mean after divorce (Orthodox).

    Gay Christians see these convenient new theologies. They see that they favor heterosexuals, but never homosexuals; they see that the new discoveries always seem to mean *more* sexual freedom, and never less.

    This isn’t meant to reignite inter-church warfare, nor theological wrangling on divorce or contraception. I’m just sharing what my friend sees. And since he opened my eyes, I have to admit that I keep seeing it, too.

  21. Stupid question:

    If two people of the same gender have been living together for a long time, how do we know what is happening in their bedroom?

    If we don’t know, how can we say that there is sin?

  22. My point in rasing the question of slavery is that Christians follow a different authority today than the scriptures which contain not one word against the practice.

    If I came into your church to fellowship and dislosed that I had a farm in the Sudan with 500 slaves, I doubt I would be welcomed.

    If you can follow a different authority for one culturally based practice, why not another?

  23. Lauren, limiting the type of slavery that God’s law explicitly regulates to simple indentured servitude is wrong, but understandable. Leaving aside references to Abraham, etc and looking only at the explicit direction of the law delivered to Moses we find: slaves are referred to as the money of their masters (Exod. 21:20, 21) and included in lists of other property, Masters are allow corporal punishment of their slaves (Exod. 21:20, 21), if a slave was given a wife by a master the wife and child must remain with the master when the husband/father is set free (Exod. 21:2-4), the year of Jubilee only applied to Hebrew slaves (Lev. 39:40-46, with v. 55) Here is a particularly forthright ( and disturbing) passage: “Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land, and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen forever;” The references go on and on. My point is that I suspect this sort of thing strikes all of us a particularly anti-gospel… and rightfully so. But the passages are clear and unequivocal; yet none of us view a defense of their inherent viewpoint as synonymous with a defense of the gospel. In fact, standing against this sort of thing seems more in line with being faithful to the gospel. How did we get there? What makes the reversal legitimate? Charles Hodge and Robert Dabney saw the abolitionist “revisison” of scripture as an attack on God’s word- not least of all because scripture is so consistently non- abolitionist- from the slaves given to Abraham by God, all the way to the apostles directions to slave holders. “Let them go.” was simply never commanded. God’s word regulates people being bought, sold, beaten, families split up and inherited without any negative comment. It was through the application of the “spirit” of the gospel that a change in society’s attitude was effected. While I’m personally confused by the whole homosexual debate (not on what scripture says, but about what we are to do with it), I think that Gordo’s question is very apropos. What is the scriptural argument against slavery?

  24. Gordo, Please refer to the second post in this series for your answer. Micheal answered this question well, and in detail.

  25. Grub – Michael didn’t answer the question. He grouped slavery with the Biblical practices which most now regard as cultural. He is unable to view homosexuality as cultural because “sexuality is mapped into creation before culture becomes a factor.”

    Fair enough.

    But Adam was not created for slavery either. He was created in the image of God to fellowship with God, yet the scripture clearly allows slavery.

    Michael is cherry picking. He’s allowing his personal prejudices to influence his interpretation of the scripture. He is interpreting scripture based on his own personal “ick” factor.

  26. Not true. And not expressed very constructively. I don’t have an “ick” factor with homosexuality and I resent you implying I am prejudiced against gays.

    You have a very unsophisticated view of slavery in the AME. Try Glancy, Slavery in Early CHristianity. There were several kinds of slavery and servitude.

    Slavery and honosexuality are apples and oranges. Many scholars say this.

  27. I am not and have never said you are not a Christian. That’s utterly antithetical to what I said.

    I apologise for my sloppy writing. I understand that you (singular) don’t hold this position.

    Let me ask you the question, then.

    When I speak to people who believe homosexual acts to be sinful, I say ‘OK, I’ll enter into the paradigm where gay acts are sinful. How then can we treat gay people with love?’

    I’ve never yet seen anyone with the opposite view enter into my contextual world and say ‘OK, I’ll enter into a paradigm where we hold monogamy constant for gay people and for straight people. How then do we draw the line on morality and immorality biblically?’

    It’s usually some variation on ‘Well, I can understand you wanting to be compassionate, but homosexual acts are sinful and must not be condoned by the church.’ In other words, a complete failure – for whatever reason – to step into this paradigm for even a minute.

    People with formal theological training understand the hermeneutic being used by those of us who support lifetime gay monogamy. Even if they disagree with it, the have the tools to understand it. But nevertheless, in the UK, the two factions are de-churching each other and driving the church into schism.

  28. PamBG:

    Thanks for the continuing discussion. I’m a bit pressed for time and won’t be able to say a lot.

    My position:

    Hebrews 13:4 rules out all sexual activity except heterosexual monagamy.

    We’re all sexual sinners. I am a sexual sinner and have violated Hebrews 13:4 and other Biblical commands.

    I have, to the best of my ability, chosen to view all other persons as sexual sinners like myself. So there is no issue with me on that score.

    The problem is the reinterpretation of sexuality itself and of Biblical statements about sexuality that are required to accept gay marriage and ordination.

    I, and most other evangelicals, can’t make that shift. We have an impasse and it won’t go away.

    We can go outside of the churches to treat one another as brothers and sisters, but in the boundaries of the visible churches, there will always be this impasse and we should stop trying to convince the other side we’re right.

    The lines are drawn on deep issues, and we simply have to accept the divide.

    Again, any sexual sinner is welcome at Jesus’ table. But the shift to blessing Gay marriages is a shift I can’t see happening among the majority of evangelicals.

    My deep respect and thanks for participating.

  29. “Again, any sexual sinner is welcome at Jesus’ table. But the shift to blessing Gay marriages is a shift I can’t see happening among the majority of evangelicals.”

    And now we light a match inside a dark tunnel and try to find our way around those two truths. This will be a theological course taught be some amateurs who cannot refer back to the Reformation for precedent. Lots of homework too.

  30. Peter:

    “If in Christ there is neither male nor female, then laws based on gender have no room in the Christian view.”

    profound.

    Anna:

    “Stupid question:

    If two people of the same gender have been living together for a long time, how do we know what is happening in their bedroom?”

    haha, this made me laugh, because ’tis very true that, just as in straight as well as gay marriages, there are some bedrooms where the most action comes from the tumbleweeds rolling across the bed.

  31. Peter – All statements represent my opinions.

    “So, homosexual infidelity, homosexual abuse, homosexual licentiousness, using someone else as an object, etc, etc, etc are just as sinful as the parallel heterosexual sins.”

    Almost all those views would emanate from perspective #2 since #1 never gets that far.

    Your #1 and #2 are semantics. Most evangelicals believe ALL homosexual acts are sin. There are a growing number who ascribe to a non-sin view as it pertains to the acts, the other relationship aspects you describe notwithstanding.

    I present what I believe is a valid perspective from within the evangelical community, and from many discussions and reading of the perspectives of gays who do and who don’t desire Christ.

    “Feel free to disagree, but don’t feel free to misrepresent, especially to artificially support your own view.”

    So I can disagree, but my disagreement must not contain misrepresentations that artificially support my position. I’m not sure what my position is, so please feel free to inform me of just what you perceive is my position on…again…I’m unsure what position about which you speak.

    If it about parsing the terms gay, homosexuals, homosexuality, homosexual behavior, homosexual acts, or any other combination of terms save your time. I always refer to sex between same sex partners – period.

  32. Thanks for the answer, Rick. The problem I had was with your statement dividing the views on the subject as “It is sin” and “It isn’t sin.”

    The more I read about your views, the more I wonder if what you were getting at is the idea that “It is inherently sin” and “It is not inherently sin.”

    If that’s the direction you were going, I apologize, and we agree (at least on the division of thought.)

    In my experience, the vast majority of people (including many of the people who are posting on these threads) use this “It is or isn’t sin” as a club against gay people, because they immediately follow with the complaint that those who say it isn’t sin are therefore saying that anything goes, which is an insupportable position about any human activity.

    I may have misunderstood your point. If so, sorry. I suspect you can imagine how tiring it is to constantly defend yourself against people who insist they love you (even though they are utterly unwilling to listen to you, spend time with you, let you in their church, of leave you alone to live your life in peace.)

    I try to avoid knee-jerk responses. And sometimes I fail.

    The original thread was about the perceptions that gay and lesbian people have when hearing evangelicals speak about homosexuality. That was an amazing idea, and one I was pleased to participate in.

    I’m not surprised, however, that almost nobody was interested in actually pursuing that idea, and it almost immediately lapsed back into the underlying issues, and rather than an effort to understand how and why we hear what we hear, turned back into pretty self-congratulatory efforts to once again prove how wrong we are, and in the process, how unwelcome we are. Full circle.

    Rick, I appreciate what you’ve written, and you do have a nuanced approach. Thanks for that.

    Michael, despite my frustration with where the discussion ended up, right back in exactly the same ruts that are so firmly established, I want to once again express my deep gratitude for your original post, and the tone you’ve maintained, and for at least taking a stab at trying to get people to talk about how to deal in a Christian manner with something unlikely to go away.

    You’re doing good things. Thanks.

    But I’m tired. I’m not going to get into another round of trying to defend my existence with people who, essentially, refuse to acknowledge that I even exist. I learned,painfully, a long time ago that I would not be welcome in your churches or your communities, and I’ve come to terms with that. And I have a fine relationship with God without them

    When you all lock your doors to us, remember, you may be locking us out, but God is on both sides of the door. And I really, really hope that you all find that “whatsoever you do to the least of these” was just a metaphor after all.

  33. Peter, thanks. You must realize that when you are welcomed into a discussion on a blog such as this that most of us are not speaking TO you in any sort of condemnation, in fact MS has given a vunerable confession about his own sexual shortcomings. But we are speaking from an evangelical perspective and you are both listening and contributing. I do not wish to argue over the sin question, I believe all sex outside a monogamous heterosexual marriage is sin.

    My nuanced approach concerns how do we interact spiritually while there still exists a disconnect about that subject. It may seem sometimes as a clumsy attempt at inclusion, but it is an attempt nonetheless. But from your perspective you cannot demand we change our view, but you can and should discern our sincere desire to interact with you on every level and an open invitation to come and sit at our table as we sit respectfully and happily at yours.

    The Holy Spirit is working in this but this is a journey of faith not an algebraic equation that has an easy and specific answer. Thanks Peter.

  34. Peter:

    Thanks for the kind words. Let me assure you that you are not speaking for me or many other Christians when you describe Christians who treat you as a non-person. The whole discussion is premised on the dignity of the human person made in God’s image and redeemed by Jesus.

    I cannot see the rejection you describe when we would gladly invite you into our homes and families, and yes, our churches, as a brother, even if a brother with whom we have disagreement. Most of us would treat you and any person you love with hospitality and complete respect.

    Our parting would come at the place all Christian divisions come: Our mutual concern to be faithful to God and to obey him. It is your moralism as a Christian that is offended by other persons’ Christian moralism.

    You are not despised. You are disagreed with. I cannot commune in half the churches in Christendom because I am a Protestant. It offends me, and is similar to how you feel, I’m sure. But I recognize that my Catholic friend and I are overwhelmingly in agreement and view one another as persons belonging to Jesus. If we fall short of total unity, such is this life.

    Most of us are not the persons you discribe.

    peace

    MSPencer

  35. We can go outside of the churches to treat one another as brothers and sisters, but in the boundaries of the visible churches, there will always be this impasse and we should stop trying to convince the other side we’re right.

    I appreciate the civil way in which this discussion has been conducted, but what I heard from this last post is a refusal to even try to understand my position.

    I didn’t ask for you to say I was right and I’m not trying to convince you of my position. I grew up in an inerrantist denomination and I know better than to think I’m going to convince anyone.

    I was asking to be heard. It’s probably more important to genuinely hear someone and honestly disagree with them than to not hear them and try to be kind. To hear me is not necessarily to agree with me; it is simply to understand where I am coming from. To understand where I am coming from does not necessarily require agreement either.

    But I will shut up and go away from this conversation now. However, the initial hope of this conversation has once again resulted in disappointment and I once again believe that conversation on this topic is useless and futile.

  36. I can see that it’s quite important to eventually villanize those who disagree at all. That’s a shame. I am no more mistreating you by way of disagreement than you are mistreating me. Why can’t I say I haven’t been heard since you haven’t changed your mind? How many unedited comments of yours do I have to publish before you’ve been “heard.”

    I am truly sorry the impasse won’t go away by all of us saying we wish it would. I wish I could commune with Catholics, but I won’t be saying I haven’t been heard. Protestants and Catholics have heard each other for 500 years. We disagree.

    If “hearing” = “agreed to new understanding of sexual standards” then you’ll be able to continue saying you haven’t been heard for a long time, and most evangelicals could say the same to you.

    We’ve heard each other and disagree. Now what?

    respectfully,

    MSpencer

  37. Pam – your comment is not congruent with the overall content of this thread. Many of us have been searching for avenues of understanding and commonality that don’t have agreement as their building materials but rather humility, love, and grace. This is especially difficult when such stark disagreement exists on an issue about which such entrenchment and anticipated views flourish.

    If we are to arive at any subset of understanding we all must be prepared to be offended, thought to be unheard, and to suffer the frustration that always accompanies such passionate communication. In short we will have to exhibit divine love that requires nothing more than reception and comes with no strings attached.

    I cannot imagine what it feels like to have what is inherently real and active within me and what I feel defines me, to not only be invalidated but be the one area about which I am rejected. That my friend is a pain I have not endured. Do not leave the conversation because there is much to be shared in this journey.

    Rick

  38. If “hearing” = “agreed to new understanding of sexual standards” then you’ll be able to continue saying you haven’t been heard for a long time,

    In the post that you are replying to, I said the opposite of ‘hearing = agreed to new understanding of sexual standards’.

    We’ve heard each other and disagree. Now what?

    Now what? As I said, I go away.

    Have we heard each other? No. Obviously not if you think I’m demanding that you change your mind.

    I don’t know how to communicate any better with someone I’ve never met. I’m trying my best. I’ve asked to hear that my position has been understood.

    To me ‘understood’ is not the same as ‘I agree with you’. It appears that to you and to many others, if you understood my position, you would necessarily have to agree with it? I don’t know. But when I ask for comprehension, I’m apparently getting refutation instead.

    If we are to arive at any subset of understanding we all must be prepared to be offended, thought to be unheard, and to suffer the frustration that always accompanies such passionate communication.

    Fair enough. I thought this series of posts was intended to come to some sort of understanding / rapport / mutual comprehension or whatever.

    It appears rather disingenuous to say ‘I want to learn how to communicate better with you but I’m not comfortable with the idea of understanding where you’re coming from.’

  39. It’s very frustrating, I’m sure, but it’s also frutrating to know you would have someone in your home, eat with them, work with them, respect their partners, pray with them, etc. Everything I can think of in the “human dignity” category, and it’s still not enough.

    But I’m still listening.

  40. “I thought this series of posts was intended to come to some sort of understanding / rapport / mutual comprehension or whatever.”

    Then you have seriously underestimated the extent of the gulf which now presents itself and the length of the journey that seems to be in its embryonic stage.

    “It appears rather disingenuous to say ‘I want to learn how to communicate better with you but I’m not comfortable with the idea of understanding where you’re coming from.’”

    Pam, who doesn’t desire to understand where you are coming from? You seem to want us who’ve never walked in your shoes to take the final exam on the second day of the semester. Did you not read this in my previous comment:

    “I cannot imagine what it feels like to have what is inherently real and active within me and what I feel defines me, to not only be invalidated but be the one area about which I am rejected. That my friend is a pain I have not endured.”

    Do you think coming to even that understanding is easy for a fundamentalist like me? You underestimate the barriers we must forge as we do of you as well. If you can accept our theological point of view as ours, and if we can accept yours as yours, then we can discourse on a level of mutual respect that doesn’t always have to be communicated with our sexuality as the foundation.

    I mean you have interests and opinions and perspectives and questions and an entire life that isn’t completly tethered to your sexuality, right. Do you like football? Do you like Chinese food? I mean let us drop some of the baggage and interact above the fray and with that we may feel enough confidence to delve into more serious aspects of our lives with somewhat less of a defense mechanism. You won’t feel that I see you as a “scalp” and I won’t feel like you’re trying to steal my faith.

    And if you can never understand my non-personal opinion about sexual behavior without believing I think less of you then not only will that restrict our commitment to each other, you have completely missed the depth to which I assign (and MS) my own sins and shortcomings. And I in turn receive you completely with the knowledge that you do notconsider your lifestyle as sinful and/or a shortcoming.

    OK, I get it. Do you get me?

  41. It’s very frustrating, I’m sure, but it’s also frutrating to know you would have someone in your home, eat with them, work with them, respect their partners, pray with them, etc. Everything I can think of in the “human dignity” category, and it’s still not enough.

    But I’m still listening.

    OK, sorry. I got the impression I was being told ‘thanks for your opinion, now stop expressing it’.

    I’m afraid I’m just running out of language to express myself. I try to meet evangelicals on their terms when I speak about this issue. I try not to repeatedly say ‘Your views are wrong’.

    Story. I belong to a prayer group whose ground rules are that we go away and pray about a bible passage and then come back in two weeks and talk to the group about what has happened in our prayer. The other day, one of the members of the group said: ‘I realised that I didn’t believe in X and I really surprised myself. Then I told God that and got a sense that he could handle the fact that I don’t believe in X.’ A big part of me wanted to say ‘I know how to solve the dilemma about X! Here is The Right Answer ™.’ But the ground rules prohibit that; and I totally understand why they do. To me, that’s listening.

    I think that’s all I have to say. Thanks for listening.

  42. Kevin Montgomery says:

    I’ve been keeping track of the comments on this set of posts, and I have noticed some things. On one hand, there isn’t the personal and blanket condemnation that many of us have experienced. To an extent there’s also been a recognition of the complexity of the issue. However, the original question of this thread was “What do gay people hear?” Well, the only way to know that is to listen to what gay people say that they hear.

    You might not be intending it, but the message that comes across very often is one of “You are full and equal members of the Church, but . . .” “You’re a sinner just like everyone else here, but we can’t let you have a leadership position or teach our children, etc.” “Yes, your orientation is toward someone of the same gender, but you can’t be in a committed sexual relationship because sex is only for marriage, and you can’t get married because gay sex is wrong.” Essentially, it seems to boil down to “You are full and equal members, but heterosexuals are more equal than you are.”

    Oftentimes, those of us who are invited to tell what we hear and try to explain just that (in as many ways as we can think of) are met by the same arguments as before that seems not to even recognize what we just said. This isn’t about making you agree with us. This is about telling what our experiences are with the Church but then it seeming as if we hadn’t said a word.

    Sometimes, I’ve found in dialogues that it helps to listen to what the other person says and then try to say back what we heard. Then the other person is able to respond, “Yes, that’s what I’m saying” or “No, you’ve misunderstood.” Of course, this goes both ways. However, I’ve seen plenty of examples of gays trying to get inside and understand the evangelical arguments but almost no examples of the reverse. Instead of telling what you heard us say, you simply repeat what you said before. If someone of us express exasperation, realize that we’ve been trying this for years and years, but the engagement only seems to go one way.

  43. Kevin and others:

    First, I haven’t seen anyone say you can’t teach our children.

    Second, the various discussions in various denominations are matters that denominations get to decide through their various processes. Right or wrong, the process has to be respected, otherwise what’s the point?

    Third, I’d suggest you read Marcus Borg, the Heart of Christianity, and appreciate that the two paradigms competing in Christianity are too different to produce the same treatment of this issue. Ever. I’m sorry, but that won’t ever change unless someone abandons a fundamental belief, at which point I don’t see what they would continue as part of Christianity anyway.

    peace

  44. Kevin Montgomery says:

    Another thing that gets frustrating is that when we say tell what we’ve experienced, we often get the response, “Well, I have seen that. It doesn’t exist.” No, YOU haven’t said that we can’t teach children, but we’ve been hearing it from lots of people all our lives, either explicitly or implicitly. Perhaps you don’t see it; I don’t doubt it. Not everyone sees everything, but when you start saying that the other point of view is automatically wrong, then we’ve got a problem. In that case, why did you even ask about what we hear?

    In addition, the trouble with the whole two irreconcilable paradigms approach is that it cuts immediately cuts off debate. I’ve also noticed that when people start talking in terms of two mutually exclusive positions, the wrong questions are often being asked. Perhaps we need to start thinking of other questions to ask from different perspectives. Maybe that will help break the logjam. Any suggestions?

  45. Kevin provides a good example of another aspect of this dialogue that must be understood. There remain many different and nuanced views and on all “sides” and there may never be any agreeable compromise although there may be opportunity for some patience among some of the more humble and dispassionate view-holders.

    1. Teach children? No.
    2. Denomination decide.
    3. Marcus Borg? Never.

    It’s been a good discussion although the definition of a “perfect” discussion is when everyone ends with my view. 🙂

  46. OK, I get it. Do you get me?

    Rick, your post is very long and complicated. What is it particularly that you would like me to ‘get’?

    Addressing the points in your post as I understood them (and if I’ve misunderstood any, then feel free to correct my understanding):

    1) I agree with you that the there is a large gulf and the journey only begun. I ‘get’ that. I did not mean to say that I thought we were all going to solve the issue here. I’m not sure that this is actually a solvable issue. That’s why I think we have to listen rather than try to solve. I will try to do better at listening.

    2) I hear that you have tried to imagine feeling invalidated. Thank you.

    3) I believe that I do accept ‘your viewpoint’ as yours. I understand that there is a desire to be biblically faithful. I don’t actually think I’m even trying to change your opinion.

    4) I’ll admit that the hanging point for me is your last point. I do understand the difference between ‘objectively thinking something is a sin’ and ‘thinking less of an individual’. But – correct me if I’m wrong – the evangelical position does always seek to separate or ring-fence gay people in some way. Heterosexual sinners admit their sin; gay sinners in monogamous relationships do not admit their sin. Therefore the latter group must be ring-fenced (e.g. variously denied membership, lay office or ordination)

    I’m not gay, so I can’t say ‘what gay people hear’. But that was the original question. What *I* hear as a ‘gay supporter’ *is* a ‘thinking less’. And that will always be the hang-up on my side of the fence: no matter how lovingly it’s couched, it will always sound like a ‘thinking less’. Even as I appreciate the lengths that some individuals to sympathise.

    Have I ‘heard’ any of the points you wanted to make? I was trying to, but I’m not sure what was especially important for me to hear.

  47. First, let me say that any given answer may or may not be to any specific person, so some of what I say I have experienced here on the thread may not be in reaction to a specific person’s posts, much less their unexpressed feelings.

    And, as others have pointed out, and I think validly since the original thread was about what gay people hear – and not just from the posters here – is that some of what I am reacting to isn’t directly what is expressed here, but what I have experienced from others, many of whom express the same views as those here.

    And posters here are equally expressing things about gay people that haven’t come from what we have posted.

    For me the biggest frustration is that most Christians refuse to acknowledge that we actually exist. Michael, while you do it less than many, you do it too. Just as a left-handed person is not simply a right-handed person who makes the choice to use his left hand, and could simply choose otherwise, being gay is not being a heterosexual person who is tempted towards or chooses to have sex with someone of the same gender. It isn’t even solely about the isolated fact that our sexual, emotional, and psychological attractions are same-gender oriented, although that is far more accurate.

    Just as a left handed person not only happens to have the basic reality that they have a primary orientation towards using their left hand, their reality is also irreconcilably wrapped up in having that be true in a world where just about everyone else takes for granted the exact opposite. It isn’t just using the left hand, but also doing so in a world designed for and by right-handed people.

    What we hear from evangelicals is that we are not, and never will be welcome among you. Of course, we can go back into the closet and back to lying to everyone about the central relationships in our lives.

    But be very clear what we hear, even when you all start saying that we should pray to be healed of the “temptation.” You are asking us to agree that what we experience as a huge and central part of the way we interact with others, how we see the world, who and how we love, and our experience of our place in the world is wrong and must be changed. That who we actually are has to be destroyed, and that, like the women in the Stepford Wives, be replaced by someone who isn’t us, and whose experience we wouldn’t recognize.

    We are welcome among you to the exact degree to which we are willing and able to be someone else Gay people are welcome, as long as they aren’t gay.

    There are many atheists in the world who are convinced that there is no such thing as God, and that any experience someone has of the Divine is simply delusion, that prayer is an act in complete violation of reason, and that spiritual or religious growth is a sham.

    If (when, no doubt), you are in conversation with them, how willing are you to grant them their premises, and when you do, what are you left with to explain “your side” with anything resembling truth or integrity. Yet that is what most of our conversations with Christians turn into. In order to have any conversation at all, we are asked to deny many of our own fundamental realities.

    I’m sure that’s what others are saying when they say they’re not being heard. The underlying basis of the conversation starts from a falsehood, and we are asked, either directly or by omission, to continue that falsehood.

  48. Peter,

    I’m glad you got it all out of your system, because I am not going to have you accuse me of the complete opposite of what I believe and practice.

    Lines like we want to “destroy” you are obviously talking to someone other than me, so you can find them.

    Every single thing you’ve written here I could say in reverse about your view of me. But since I’m sure that’s blatantly inaccurate, I won’t do so.

    Some things are more important than rhetoric.

    Thanks

    MSpencer