November 21, 2018

Why I am an Ally – Ministry That Helps


I have been blessed with a significant number of friends who are, or have been, Pastors and leaders within their churches. These are men and women that I respect and hold in high regard. Most of them are Canadian, and most of them are what I would term “moderate evangelicals”. My moderate I would mean that for the most part they are theologically conservative, not overly political, and have a Pastor’s heart to care for people.

A few weeks back, a reader commenting on Internet Monk asked a question along the lines of:

For those of us in churches that are fairly conservative theologically and who consider homosexual behavior to be sinful, what are you asking us to do?

So I asked my friends.

The responses that I got back have quite frankly been overwhelming. Overwhelming in the amount of material I received in response, and overwhelming in the sense that I wanted to be faithful to my friends who have answered me in good faith, and faithful to our reader who asked the questions, and not sure how to accomplish both.

I am not sure how to adequately convey the Pastor’s heart that was expressed in page after page of response. Many of them expressed that they were active in ministry to LGBTQ congregants within their own churches. As they were theologically conservative, they called for celibacy in their members who were same sex attracted. But they tried to do so in a way that was coming alongside that individual as a helper rather than a judge. Most of the pastors said that some one who was same sex attracted and trying to be celibate would not be restricted in ministry in any more than any other person in the church with similar gifts and desire to follow Christ.

Two of the Pastors pointed me to the same resource, and I upon reading it again I was reminded  that another person had previously also pointed this out to me. It is written by a same-sex attracted celibate Christian. The article was originally posted on SpiritualFriendship.org and is reprinted with permission of that site.

I include it in its whole here because I think it does a wonderful job of answering the original question. “What are you asking us to do?”

——————————-

 

Ministry That Helps

By Wesley Hill

Recently I gave a talk to a group of folks who work for a campus ministry. They had asked me to come and speak on the theme of ministering to LGBT students at colleges and universities. I get a lot of requests like this, and, truth be told, in the days leading up to the event, I was thinking I would simply dust off a talk I’d given a dozen times before. But the more I thought about it, the more I kept combing back through my memories of being a—deeply closeted—college student and of the kind of ministry that meant the most to me. After a few days pondering these memories, I took out a pad of paper and started to write a list. I wrote down the characteristics of the people and the gestures and the conversations that helped me find grace and hope when I most needed it. I came up with a list of ten points, and I’d like to share them here… And I’d love it if folks added to this list in the comment section.

The ministry that has helped me most has been:

  1. ministry that doesn’t underestimate the power of small gestures.

I recall listening to a sermon by John Piper on the word “everyone” in Romans 1:16 (“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”). And this is what he said:

O, what an exhilarating word to those of us in this room who feel that there is something about us that rules us out! Wrong family, wrong background, wrong education, wrong language, wrong race, wrong culture, wrong sexual preference, wrong moral track record. Then to hear the word, “Everyone who believes.” Everyone! One thing can rule you out: unbelief. Not trusting Jesus. But nothing else has to. The good news that Christ died for our sins, and that he rose from the dead to open eternal life, and that salvation is by grace through faith – all that is for everyone who believes. Not just Jews and not just Gentiles and no one race or social class or culture, but everyone who believes.

The only reference Piper made to sexuality in that sermon was that reference to “sexual preference”—to those in his congregation who might be ashamed of their same-sex attraction and who worried that it somehow disqualified them from living a Christian life. It was such a tiny, fleeting reference, but what it said to me was that this pastor was aware of gay folks in his congregation. They were on his mind and heart. They were visible to him, and he wanted them to hear the gospel as a word specifically for them. A small, almost minuscule gesture in the big scheme of things, but it landed powerfully on me at the time.

My friend Brent Bailey has described “safe people”—people with whom gay and lesbian Christians can be honest without fear of judgment or disgust—as people who aren’t afraid to raise the issue:

Without a doubt, someone’s willingness to broach LGBT issues in any sort of positive or empathetic tone is the clearest and most visible indicator they might be prepared to listen to me talk about my sexuality. They may do something as noticeable as leading a Bible study about homosexuality or as simple as posting a link on Facebook to a story about sexual minorities; but in environments where nontraditional sexuality receives no attention, even the tiniest statement of knowledge or interest can communicate a loud-and-clear message (accurate or not) that this person is the safest person in the room.

Amen.

  1. ministry that avoids assumptions about the causes of same-sex attraction and my personal history.

I recall a particularly difficult time in my life when I was trying to make an initial appointment with a Christian counselor to talk about my homosexuality. As we were emailing and comparing calendars, he asked me to describe briefly what I hoped to discuss with him. When I said that I was gay and was experiencing a great deal of confusion in a particular friendship, he immediately wrote back and asked if I could bring my father along with me to our sessions since, he said, he had never met a gay man whose sexuality wasn’t, at root, about a deficit of masculine, fatherly affirmation. I was dismayed. This counselor had never met me, had not heard me try to articulate what was drawing me to seek counseling, and already he was offering a diagnosis. I felt hemmed in, confined, as if the multi-shaded threads of my story were being bleached to a monochrome. No matter that I felt my relationship with my father was a far cry from this typical “father wound” story the counselor presumed.

Melinda Selmys has written very powerfully about how hurtful it can be when straight Christians offer a one-size-fits-all narrative of the origins of same-sex desire:

Where the animosity [from LGBT people] comes in, is when people try to aggressively project such narratives onto others. It’s one thing to say “My mother really was smothering, my father really was absent, and that really did leave me in a headspace where I feel driven to have sex with men in order to reconnect with my damaged masculinity,” it’s another thing to say, “That guy over there is just saying that he had a perfectly normal childhood because he’s unwilling to confront the pain of the deep wounds which his parents left on his psyche.” That guy over there has an absolute and inalienable right, for as long as he is alive, to wrestle with his own experience in his own way, to seek the Truth of it within himself, and to construct whatever narratives he requires to provide for his own spiritual and psychological needs.

Ministry that’s helped me most has been ministry that begins with the assumption that my story is unique, that my gayness isn’t the same as anyone else’s, and that that uniqueness is worthy of attention and respect and dignity.

  1. ministry that recognizes that my sexual orientation affects everything about me, just like heterosexuality does for others.

I won’t belabor this point since I’ve written at length about it elsewhere. Suffice it to say, in the words of my friend Misty Irons, the ministry that has been most consoling and helpful in my life is ministry that recognizes that “the experience [of being gay or lesbian] is nearly parallel to finding oneself heterosexual.” If you want to know what it feels like to awaken, during or even before puberty, to being gay and to understand what it feels like to long for intimacy and companionship as a gay person, your best bet is to reflect deeply on what it feels like for you to be heterosexual. Just as your (straight) sexuality suffuses much more than your overt romantic encounters, attractions, or relationships, the same is true for a gay or lesbian person: our sexuality is more like a facet of our personalities than a separable piece of our behavior; it’s more like a trait than a habit, more like a sensibility than an action.

I still remember reading this older post by Eve Tushnet for the first time and immediately emailing it to a dozen friends. “This,” I said, “is what it feels like to be gay and Christian.”

My lesbianism is part of why I form the friendships I form. It’s part of why I volunteer at a pregnancy center. Not because I’m attracted to the women I counsel, but because my connection to other women does have an adoring and erotic component, and I wanted to find a way to express that connection through works of mercy. My lesbianism is part of why I love the authors I love. It’s inextricable from who I am and how I live in the world. Therefore I can’t help but think it’s inextricable from my vocation.

Experiencing same-sex sexual desire isn’t just about who you want to go to bed with; it shapes your entire way of being in the world.

  1. ministry that recognizes that my sexual orientation doesn’t define me.

Many traditionalist Christians have written in recent years on what it means for Christian ethics and pastoral care that sexual orientation as we know it is culturally constructed. In other words, same-sex attracted people throughout history have not always understood themselves as having fixed sexual “orientations” and cultural “identities,” nor will they go on doing so forever. Those things—those understandings of what “being gay” amounts to—are a particular reality of our cultural moment, and same-sex attracted people like me are having to figure out how to navigate it.

But how does that help, in terms of ministry to gay and lesbian people? Well, for starters, realizing that my gayness isn’t some fixed script that I must conform to has given me freedom to explore historic Christian, chaste ways to express my love for men. What my culture defines as “gay”—the story my world offers me for who I’m supposed to be and how I’m supposed to live—isn’t something I have to embrace, and there’s freedom in choosing to try to express my love for men through friendship and service rather than through marriage or romantic partnership. Granted, opting out of the dominant way of understanding “gay” can often feel more like martyrdom than freedom. But if traditional Christianity is true, then self-denial—taking up one’s cross and following Jesus—is, in fact, regardless of how it feels, real freedom.

  1. ministry that takes the risk of speaking up about the topic.

One of the most dangerous things you can do right now, ministry-wise, it seems, is broach the topic of homosexuality in a church or campus ministry. You’re almost guaranteed to offend dozens of people, on every “side” and end of the spectrum, and probably even cause a firestorm. But consider the alternative: what if you stay silent? What if you never preach a sermon on this, or lead a Bible study on it, or ever mention it in your prayer group? Andrew Sullivan has written about the deadly consequences of silence:

In my adolescence and young adulthood, the teaching of the Church was merely a silence, an increasingly hollow denial even of the existence of homosexuals, let alone a credible ethical guide as to how they should live their lives. It is still true that in over thirty years of weekly churchgoing, I have never heard a homily that attempted to explain how a gay man should live, or how his sexuality should be expressed. I have heard nothing but a vast and endless and embarrassed silence, an awkward, unexpressed desire for the simple nonexistence of such people, for their absence from the moral and physical universe, for a word or a phrase, like “objective disorder,” that could simply abolish the problem they represented and the diverse humanity they symbolized.

The ministry that has helped me most has been ministry that has ventured to say something about how I might live my life, how I might go about giving and receiving love. The times when a Christian friend or priest has offered me some concrete, hopeful possibility of how I might shape my life—those have been lifelines for me. But they’ve required my friends to take the risk of speaking up and of committing themselves to learning along with me.

  1. ministry that shows a passion to engage Scripture and Christian theology in a deep, rigorous way.

Talk to virtually any gay or lesbian believer, and I predict that within five minutes you’ll be hearing a tale about long, anguished wrestling with Scripture, with church tradition, with books of exegesis and psychology. Unlike some of our straight peers, we same-sex attracted folks don’t have the luxury of remaining neutral on “the issue.” We’ve had to make concrete choices about how to “glorify God in our bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20). And many of us have therefore learned to crave serious, deep, searching engagement with Scripture and Christian theology. We’re impatient with hasty arguments and shallow Scriptural reasoning. We’re frustrated when our fellow Christians want to slap a quick answer on our questions. We want to know if the church’s historic opposition to gay sex is just about cultural prejudice or whether it really is rooted in the Bible’s basic view of human nature and redemption.

A while ago Rod Dreher published a letter from a millennial who left the church because of her church’s refusal or inability to offer a serious theological case for its ethical stance:

In all the years I was a member, my evangelical church made exactly one argument about SSM [same-sex marriage]. It’s the argument I like to call the Argument from Ickiness: Being gay is icky, and the people who are gay are the worst kind of sinner you can be. Period, done, amen, pass the casserole. When you have membership with no theological or doctrinal depth that you have neglected to equip with the tools to wrestle with hard issues, the moment ickiness no longer rings true with young believers, their faith is destroyed. This is why other young ex-evangelicals I know point as their “turning point” on gay marriage to the moment they first really got to know someone who was gay. If your belief on SSM is based on a learned disgust at the thought of a gay person, the moment a gay person, any gay person, ceases to disgust you, you have nothing left. In short, the anti-SSM side, and really the Christian side of the culture war in general, is responsible for its own collapse. It failed to train up the young people on its own side preferring instead to harness their energy while providing them no doctrinal depth by keeping them in a bubble of emotion dependent on their never engaging with the outside world on anything but warlike terms. Perhaps someday my fellow ex-evangelical Millennials and I will join other churches, but it will be as essentially new Christians with no religious heritage from our childhoods to fall back on.

The upshot? Theology matters. Serious, sustained reading of Scripture is vital to those of us who are trying to figure out what to do with our baptized bodies. We need ministry that recognizes that.

  1. ministry that tries to imagine the difficulty of being gay (regardless of one’s “position” on the issue) and the costliness of staying single.

The ministry that has meant the most to me is ministry that doesn’t try to whitewash or downplay the sheer difficulty of the discipleship I believe I’m called to. Sometimes straight Christians have tried to comfort me in my loneliness by reminding me that marriage is no cakewalk either—and, in many cases, marriage can exacerbate loneliness. “I’m in a very good and happy marriage,” a friend once said to me, “and I still battle loneliness.” I appreciate that perspective very much, and I need it, since I have an inveterate romantic streak that I’m always trying to temper. But, frankly, the more lasting consolations have come from people, like my friend David Mills, who are willing to say things like this:

We ask our homosexual brethren, and our divorced brethren without annulments, to deny themselves something almost everyone else can have: a marriage, two people forming a haven in a heartless world, with someone they actively desire, with all the pleasures of romance that sexual desire brings. We ask them to live as celibates in a sexually-sodden culture where they may never find the alternative of deep, committed friendships. We ask them to risk loneliness we don’t risk.

Naming and honestly facing the depths of the risks and the burdens I’m asked to shoulder is a hallmark of the ministry that’s meant the most to me. The way I’m trying to live often seems very hard, and I appreciate it when my fellow Christians acknowledge that.

  1. ministry that seeks to imagine and implement creative avenues to spiritual kinship and friendship.

The kind of ministry that has most consistently given me hope is ministry that doesn’t end with bemoaning the difficulty of celibacy, though, nor with a negative. It’s been ministry that majors on the positive: what kind of life, what kind of future, what kind of relationships am I being called towards? We’ve beaten this drum a lot here at SF, and no one has said it better than Eve Tushnet. “[I]nitially,” she’s written, “I conceived of my task, as a lgbt/ssa Catholic, as basically a) negative (don’t have gay sex) and b) intellectual (figure out why Church teaching is the way it is). I now think of it much more as the positive task of discerning vocation: discerning how God is calling me to pour out love to others.”

Part and parcel of this kind of ministry is a refusal to look down on celibacy as “second best.” Too often the possibility of chaste, committed friendship has gone unexplored because of our determination to get as far away as possible from singleness. If we’re on the left side of the spectrum, we want same-sex marriage rather than celibacy, and if we’re on the right, we’re often interested in ex-gay approaches that hold out the promise of opposite-sex coupling rather than celibacy. But ministry that has been the most helpful to me over the years is ministry that, without dishonoring marriage in the least, has encouraged me to imagine a single life overflowing with familial ties and hospitality and “thick” kinship commitments.

  1. ministry that seeks to recognize and nurture the gifts of gay and lesbian believers.

One of the dangers of the whole notion of “ministry to LGBT Christians” is that it neglects to talk much about the “ministry of LGBT Christians.” The kind of ministry that has been most important in my life has been ministry that doesn’t simply look on me as pitiable or “broken” or the perpetually needier, more fragile party in the relationship. Rather, it’s been ministry that sees me as a complex, in-the-process-of-being-redeemed person—a “glorious ruin” (in Francis Schaeffer’s fine phrase)—whose experiences of temptation, repentance, grace, and growth have equipped me with unique perspectives and have forged a certain sensitivity in me that can be drawn out for the good of the church.

Honestly, my gay and lesbian Christian friends are some of the deepest, most thoughtful, most compassionate believers I know, and the ministry I’ve received from them has been some of the most caring I’ve experienced. As Misty Irons has written,

So many times when I encounter a song, a performance, or a piece of art [or, I would add, an act of service or kindness in the church] that strikes me as so true and subtle and poignant and uplifting I feel almost a spiritual connection with it, I later learn the artist behind it is gay. It’s happened so often I now take it for granted. Maybe there’s something about being gay that enables an artist to see more clearly what it means to be human, to identify certain truths about us all. Maybe it is the ones who are forced to the margins who truly understand what it is we all have in common.

Maybe, as C. S. Lewis has said, there are “certain kinds of sympathy and understanding [and] a certain social role” that only gay people can play in the church. Maybe we are “called to otherness,” and the church’s ministry to us is in large measure about cultivating the ministry we can offer to the church.

  1. ministry that revolves around the basics of the gospel and the “normal means of grace.”

I often tell people that the best “gay ministry” I have benefitted from has been ministry that only rarely mentions anything “gay” at all. It hasn’t been a gay small group or support ministry or gay-themed Bible study or anything like that (as good as all those things may be for some people!). Rather, the ministry that has proved most stabilizing and encouraging has been garden-variety gospel preaching that has held the Cross and Resurrection constantly before me.

When I was in the throes of the coming out process and struggling with more loneliness than I felt before or since, I belonged to a church that emphasized, over and over again, how suffering and tears and struggle were normal parts of the Christian experience. As the New Testament scholar Richard Hays has written, commenting on Romans 8:23 (“not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies”), “Anyone who does not recognize this as a description of authentic Christian existence has never struggled seriously with the imperatives of the gospel, which challenge and frustrate our ‘natural’ impulses in countless ways.” More than anything else, it was that kind of ministry that provided the framework, the plausibility structure, if you like, that made my own frustration and struggles seem bearable and maybe even beautiful.

As I’ve gone on in this “gay Christian” life, I’ve come to see that the kind of ministry I most crave, the kind that most helps, is the regular, bog-standard ministry of Word and Sacrament. Sitting under preaching that points me to Jesus and receiving Communion (which is “Jesus placing himself in our hands so we know exactly where to find him,” as one of my Lutheran colleagues has put it)—that’s the kind of ministry I need. Kneeling at the altar rail is where I receive the strength I need to keep going on this journey.

——————————-

 
I am afraid that I still haven’t been able to coalesce the material that my pastoral friends wrote. Next week I will be using a fair bit of it as I look at how traditional churches respond to same sex couples. I do think that this article at least partially answers the original question that was asked. I will finally (phew) conclude the following week with my own thoughts on the matter. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome. I repeat Wesley’s request: “I’d love it if folks added to this list in the comment section.”

Comments

  1. john barry says:

    This is a many layered, complex issue that diverges into so many areas. My first response would be in todays current environment in the USA does not a gay person have recourse to corporate worship and a denomination that will not only accept but truly welcome their membership or leadership service?

    I know I am on the “wrong” side of history and all the rest but I have many concerns and reservations about where we as a society are headed.

    I believe that the homosexual lifestyle is built upon, acted upon and focused on sexual activity and sexual satisfaction. I believe it is a promiscuous lifestyle that is at odds with biological procreation

    I agree with Saint Aquinas, which I am sure he is glad of, about the natural law.

    So if a homosexual choses to find a place of worship that accepts them as they are and welcomes them, if they have all the legal secular rights and cultural acceptance that is now the norm , where is the deep conflicted anguish come from?

    I believe that homosexuality sexual activity is a sin and most church do believe that, So why does a homosexual care and want to be accepted by those who disagree with them. Why is the approval of a group of people who do not believe as you do so important? I do not care if some religions think that women wearing makeup is sinful, I just would not join one or care what they thought , unless they were trying to ban makeup. After seeing some women in Wal Mart today I would say not wearing make up is a sin to many. Of course I am rolling around on one of the scooters I use to make fun .

    I know I speak for many here and would like to hear from the few who disagree. Do not worry, within 30 years John Barry will not be on the wrong side of history, he will be history.

    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      You have your views and aren’t going to change them, but here’s two things to think about:
      There’s no such thing as a “homosexual lifestyle” any more than a “heterosexual lifestyle”. What you describe as “a lifestyle is built upon, acted upon and focused on sexual activity and sexual satisfaction… a promiscuous lifestyle that is at odds with biological procreation.” could easily describe a lot of heterosexual people’s lifestyles as well, whilst, if you think about it, what is the desire of gay people to be able to marry but a precisely a desire not to have such a “promiscuous lifestyle”? To be asked to be LGTB affirming is not to be asked to abandon sexual morality entirely, or to cease to support the ideal of a lifelong exclusive partnership within a Christian marriage, but rather to apply it in a different way in particular unique circumstances. Again, I am not expecting you to change your mind, but only to perhaps consider that those who disagree with you, even if wrong, may not be so far from you as you think.
      The other thing is about why gay Christians can’t just go to some other church which accepts them. The problem with that is, I think, that you are seeing “gay Christian” as a generic abstract, rather than an individual with their own unique faith. I doubt you go to just any old church regardless, but do so for reasons related to your personal Christian faith. A person’s sexuality doesn’t define their faith, or their beliefs, or they way they feel they are called to worship God. To be told that regardless of all these you have no choice but to go to the “gay church” as none of the others will have you, will therefore necessarily rankle. That is not, of course, a reason for a church to abandon its own beliefs about these things, but does I hope, explain why, if people think those beliefs are wrong, they do have a keen interest in seeking to change their minds.
      Not trying to argue with you, just giving you some things to think about.

      • john barry says:

        Iain Lovejoy, Thanks for your comments, they are well taken. I believe there is a historic heterosexual lifestyle that has been established, maintained and reinforced though the ages. It is the natural law manner to get a man and a woman a way to advance their goal of protecting, raising their young ones. My question is exactly what is the point of gay marriage other than the desire to absolutely make normal what is not natural or desirable for the good of society. Exclusive sexual partnership is not the goal of most homosexual men. quiet the opposite.

        I believe having multiple wives, husbands, multi sex. marriages, marriages to underage children and bigamy is also not to be condoned, again for the good of society. I do not know why I would be rankled if told that that my views on marriage or not being LGTB affirming was not welcome at a gay affirming church, I respect their right to their belief and would find a church that I found agreement with, if I could find one, which in few years will be hard to do.

        Homosexuals have social , legal, cultural acceptance in the secular world. The last obstacle to overcome is for the churches to change their beliefs and teachings on the issue. Why should I be homosexual affirming when I believe it is morally wrong , against the natural law? If society wishes to accept, condone and legitimatize homosexuality , which it has, I will render unto Caesar but at of now a church can still believe its own beliefs.

        Of course we are not arguing , that is what I do with my wife. Always love the last name Lovejoy as in Frank Lovejoy, a great B list actor. If I could pick a last name Lovejoy would be top of the list. My wife says I would be better named Killjoy.

        • “Why should I be homosexual affirming when I believe it is morally wrong , against the natural law?”

          We’ve discussed “natural law” here in the comments before. It is, much like “biblical law”, a slippery concept that is often an exercise in cherry picking which aspects of “nature” fit the conclusion one wants to arrive at. What exactly about non-hetero sexuality violates “natural law”?

          • Robert F says:

            Natural law advocates talk about marriage as a necessary accommodation for children, for procreating, and for the stability in society that children best flourish in. But then that leaves my own childless marriage as something outside the natural law purposes of marriage, as if it’s some kind of allowable but gratuitous, freakish aberration that should be treated kindly, but kept in a remote upstairs room where guests can’t see it. They don’t get that marriage is not about natural law, but relationship.

            • You hit it. It’s all about making babies from that perspective. Probably why singleness and celibacy also tend to get short shrift. But that’s most certainly not the only perspective on the subject recorded in Scripture.

              • Robert F says:

                You would think that Jesus’ singleness and childlessness would be enough answer to that kind of thinking, but it is a persistent feature of religion (should I say natural religion?) around the globe and throughout history to want to regulate procreation, and to use marriage for that purpose. And let’s face: to many Christians, Jesus’ singleness and childlessness seems like a freakish aberration, as does Jesus himself, to be accounted for and neutralized by theological casuistry, a divine one-off, rather than the model of and for all humanity.

                • He didn’t marry or have kids…

                  He lived for years as a homeless itinerant preacher…

                  He insisted we love the people we hate the most…

                  He flouted all the accepted social and societal norms…

                  He rejected money and power as legitimate goals in life and signs of God’s favor…

                  Yeah. Freakish aberration ro the max.

                • Christiane says:

                  ” And let’s face: to many Christians, Jesus’ singleness and childlessness seems like a freakish aberration, as does Jesus himself, to be accounted for and neutralized by theological casuistry, a divine one-off, rather than the model of and for all humanity.”

                  a lot of truth in this, Robert F.

                  I remember how Our Lord was portrayed by one group of misogynists led by Mark Driscoll, as a ‘tough guy’;
                  and how Our Lord is still portrayed by another group of misogynists as a ‘lesser’ in the Holy Trinity in the strange consttruct of the ESS teaching (Eternal Subordination of the Son).

                  In the Driscoll model of Christ, ‘tough guy’ Jesus is a role model for, you guessed it, ‘tough guys’ . . . whose view of the place of women is quite literally unprintable in some cases.

                  And in the ESS crowd, a much different ‘Jesus’ becomes a model for women who will be ‘subordinate’ to their husbands in an extreme patriarchal pattern of marriage that has no connection to the traditional Christian marriage of ‘either to other’ mutual caring and mutual giving of self.

                  So, I agree that Our Lord has been ‘used’ to shore up some pretty miserable theological view points. Not exactly anchored in ‘the faith that was handed down’ from the Apostles, no.

                  And I have wondered how DT became a hero of white evangelical males . . . but enough, enough . . . . that explanation also must find us bewildered greatly upon honor and conscience as to how Jesus Christ can be put in His place so that a person can then celebrate the likes of DT ???

                  ?

                  • “how Jesus Christ can be put in His place so that a person can then celebrate the likes of DT ???”

                    A long string of theological caveats. “Yeah, Jesus said ‘love our enemies’, but He *really didn’t* mean it literally… yeah, Jesus said ‘sell all you have and give to the poor’, but He *really didn’t* mean it literally… yeah, Jesus said ‘turn the other cheek’, but hey He laid a beatdown on the moneychangers!…”

                    Ad infinitum ad nauseam.

                    • Christiane says:

                      the worst I ever heard was a total take-down of the parable of the Good Samaritan, which in reading it, I wondered about the mind and heart and soul of someone who was able to see the Samaritan in negative terms . . .

                      it takes all kinds

                  • Robert F says:

                    How did he become the hero of white male (and quite a few female) evangelicals? Simple: he promised to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would roll back Roe v. Wade, if they got the chance, and to stock the lower federal courts with similarly minded judges as well. Along with this, the Christian right is no doubt hoping that these same judges and justices will find ways to roll back recently recognized legal rights of LGBT people. So, once again, the rejection of non-heterosexuality travels together with the desire to assert control over procreation (by controlling women’s sexuality), and marriage is thought to be about childbearing rather than loving relationship.

                    • Robert F says:

                      For the ethic that got DT evangelical votes, controlling genitals (especially women’s) and procreation by the force of law and culture is more important than any of Jesus’ positive and clear commands in the Gospels. For instance, in their ethical math, Love they neighbor = make sure they can’t procure a safe, legal abortion, or, make sure that openly gay teacher is not allowed to get anywhere near the front of a classroom.

                    • Christiane says:

                      But Robert F,

                      have you not heard the news?

                      It seems after all the fuss by the ‘christian’ far right, these stats are emerging (I can’t speak for their accuracy):

                      check out the 49% of white evangelicals who want to keep Roe v. Wade as opposed to 47% who want it gone.
                      (and OF COURSE I will be checking this report against other reports and over time to see if there is a comparison/contrast ):
                      http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2016/12/29141221/FT_17.01.03_RoeWadeWidedifferences1.png

                      The only thing I suspect may be true is that R v. W has been a drawing card for the Republican Party and what will they have to bring normal decent people into the craziness that is now the Party if R v. W is no longer a draw?

                      We live in strange times. What’s with them white evangelicals these days? Is there some OTHER motivation for their coming up alongside ‘craziness’?

                    • Robert F says:

                      Christiane, I’m skeptical about that statistic. Locating those who identify as evangelical in any metric is a dicey affair; pollsters are often not careful in doing so. And besides that, there are actually lots of old-timer mainline church members, and Catholics, who voted for Trump, including in my own ELCA parish; to my thinking, they are practical evangelicals, occupying the same socio-political-religious position as evangelicals, with nothing distinctly Lutheran or mainline in their theology or politics.

                    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                      …appoint Supreme Court Justices who would roll back Roe v. Wade, if they got the chance, and to stock the lower federal courts with similarly minded judges as well.

                      THAT has been a Holy Grail (and Salvation-level Dogma) of Christian Culture Warriors since around Watergate. Ronald Reagan was the first of these Great White Hopes to Restore America as a Christian Nation a la Barton, and the GOP’s been stringing the God Squad along with it ever since.

                      I remember this from my time in-country in the pro-life rallies around the early Clinton era, when each pro-life group was infighting with each other over The One True Way. NRLC was committed to the above; so was American Life League, except they were all caps & exclamation points; I remember the latter telemarketing me and trying to strong-arm me into giving money to get Bork confirmed with indirect threats of Eternal Hell/God WILL Hold You Responsible For Every Unborn Child Massacred.

                      And now with the God Donald (all chorus AAAAAAAA-MENNNNNN!!!!) their prophecy hath been fulfilled. Now about the side effects and collateral damage…

                      So, once again, the rejection of non-heterosexuality travels together with the desire to assert control over procreation (by controlling women’s sexuality), and marriage is thought to be about childbearing rather than loving relationship.

                      Quiverfull.
                      OUTBREED THE HEATHEN.
                      Quite Darwinist, actually.

                    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                      For the ethic that got DT evangelical votes, controlling genitals (especially women’s) and procreation by the force of law and culture is more important than any of Jesus’ positive and clear commands in the Gospels.

                      Christians have an obsession with “Pelvic Issues”.

                      Remember the old saw about “Sex Makes People Stupid”?
                      Well, it also makes Christians Crazy.

                  • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                    I remember how Our Lord was portrayed by one group of misogynists led by Mark Driscoll, as a ‘tough guy’;

                    Does anyone remember a pop psychology of the Seventies called Transactional Analysis (which made a lot more sense than its counterparts)? Best known for a popular best-seller called “I’m OK, You’re OK”?

                    Well, “I’m OK, You’re OK” had a companion volume called “Games People Play” that coined the term “head games”, cataloging patterns of behavior.

                    One of these “games” was called “Tough Guy”, where a weak man fanboys REAL Tough Guys (Mafia types, street gangs, MMA fighters, Navy SEALs, you name it). And/or tries to pass himself off as one. “I’m Tough! See who I hang out with? See? See? See?”

                    And “Tough Guy” (the head game) explains a lot.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                > But that’s most certainly not the only perspective on the subject recorded in Scripture.

                +1,000. Scripture, IMNSHO, does a pretty good job at demolishing at least this arc of Natural Law argument; yet they persist.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I believe that the homosexual lifestyle is built upon

      Trope.

    • John, the reason lots of Christians who are gay don’t just go to churches that are more accepting of folks who are gay is that those are not “their people.” They grew up in the churches that refuse to or don’t do a good job of preaching and living the Gospel to them. They love those people – and those people love them – but Christians who gay are often wounded by their church’s sin. And even more, oftentimes it is their own families who read the Bible in ways that exclude and wound people who are gay.

      It’s not as simple as “forget those people who you disagree with” because the people who they disagree with are people they love – and people that love them.

      • Robert F says:

        That’s a good point, Wesley. As moderns, we tend to imagine and talk about selection of church membership as like selection of goods in a supermarket, or of the kind of car we want to buy. But, think and speak of it as we may, human beings are not merely consumers who can easily move among so many ecclesial homes in the religious marketplace: we are embedded by birth in communities and among people, and we pay a steep price to leave them behind. It is wonderful that modernity allows us to do that when we must for our own safety and well-being, but is still not what we prefer or are genetically prone by millions of years of evolution to do or want, and it carries a heavy social and personal price-tag.

      • Mike Bell says:

        To put it this way. If I am gay, but am 95% in agreement, with your church, beliefs, and the way you worship, you want me to go to a church that I only agree with 45%? In the case of the post, the author, is not pushing back on anything the church believes. His post is about how you can encourage him and support him in that environment as someone who is seeking to live a celibate single lifestyle..

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > as someone who is seeking to live a celibate single lifestyle

          And we are pretty lousy about that from any angle.

          When I was involved most deeply in “Evangelicalism”, I was younger and **poorer**. Housing was always an issue for people – I was the leader of a college age ministry – and it was an issue for me. So you had, of course, the issue of “cohabitation”. Gosh… i cannot imagine how fraught that must be today.

          I am older now – and I honestly cannot imagine myself asking someone to live alone.

          Blunt application of any kind of “moral standard”… but especially for those who want to be involved in Ministry. Simple seeming policies must exclude many people from deeper participation.

        • Christiane says:

          Is possible evangelical Christianity has made TOO MUCH of the whole ‘sex’ thing, as people are MORE than their gonads. That evangelical over-emphasis on ‘vive la difference’ (instead of understanding ‘there is neither male nor female in Christ’) has thrown evangelicals off-balance in more ways than just their contempt for LBGT folks. Evangelicals have struggled with ‘the role of women’ in the home and in the Church more than mainline Christians and even Catholics who have women ‘Doctors of the Church’ even if they don’t have women priests.

          This from Dave Mills, a friend of Wesley Hill:
          “WE ASK THEM TO RISK LONELINESS WE DON’T RISK”
          I expect at the heart of that quote is that in doing this, we are being ‘unkind’ in the truest sense of the word, as we explore ‘who we are’ as human-kind in this world.

          If we don’t consider the full humanity of another person, but only see them in terms of ‘male’ or ‘female’, we are not acknowledging the full truth of ‘there is neither male nor female in Christ’. Maybe it’s time we gave one another more respect for the fullness of our human personhood.

    • bad49brains says:

      John, your reply is the definition of the phrase “missing the point”. It also fits the bill for the term “off-topic”. Perhaps you’re wondering “How can my reply be off topic? The original post was about homosexuality and I spoke at length about my beliefs about the sin of homosexuality”

      The original post was an honest, and vulnerable one by someone who took the time to answer a specific question by our group. And the man in the post (by the way, this was somehow lost on you) apparently agrees with your take on homosexuality to a large extent because he is gay and is choosing to remain celibate. I mean, did you actually read it?

      Trying not to rant dude, but I’ve got to tell you, this is the kind of thing that really gets under my skin. I mean, I pretty sure gay people get it, you’re against it and you don’t want to be around them. But please, tell us again. I forgot for five minutes that evangelicals believe marriage is only between a man and woman, thanks for the reminder. The original poster didn’t ask you to have sex with a man or go march in a gay pride parade or change your beliefs on gay marriage or even challenge you on whether homosexuality was a sin or not. All the post was doing was answering a question and providing us with an opportunity to see some ways we can,in essence, be more Christlike. Be kind. Listen. Befriend. Encourage. Be gracious. Have compassion. Be a good neighbor. Walk alongside someone. Serve. Nurture. Be humble. Oh, and again, be kind.

      And your takeaway is to wonder aloud why gays just can’t be happy at their own churches.

      I’d have to sneak up from behind and tranquilize my gay brother to get him in any church at this point (think B.A Baracus before an A-Team flight) because of this type of attitude. He’s ruined on church. Makes me sad. Hoping at some point, regardless of where we stand on the issue, we (including me) can ease up on beating each other over the head with our personal tenets of faith and be a little more gracious and loving.

      I don’t know – i’m just bummed and frustrated. I love my brother and Ii’m tired of this. This was the simplest of posts today – and it’s still gotta be a problem. I don’t get it.

      • Michael Bell says:

        Thank you. You said in much better than I could.

        • john barry says:

          bad49brains , Mike Bell, I understand your valid point and I was addressing the “whole’ topic of being an ally and not specifically Wesley Hill individual comments as expressed today. I tried to keep it on a broad overview. . My takeaway todays topic is this and I will personalize it though I do not like to do so .

          When I was a young man my main focus in my personal life was to have consensual sex with as many women as I could. My personal life centered around that , I will call it , lifestyle. I am a baby boomer , a child of he 60,s and lived happily though the sexual revolution. To me that was my sexual orientation, to be as promiscuous as I could . Did not attend or want to attend any church as I know my lifestyle was not going to be condoned nor did I think it should be, plus bars and bowling ally and concerts were better pick up places.

          Then at 26 I had a life changing event and got married , knowing that it would be end of my promiscuous lifestyle as I took the marriage vow. Then I became a Christian, soon after my marriage. My attraction to women never changed but my desire to act upon it did change for the obvious reasons if I were to remain married and observe the teachings of my church.

          I did not identify my struggles to my wife, my church or seek any accommodations by anyone for my , what I how considered sinful urges. I knew the church position on sexual immorality. I worked on my sinful nature by avoiding situations where I would be tempted, some call it the Billy Graham rule, I call it the John Barry, you are weak do not tempt yourself rule. I tried not to be what is now called a player, I believe.
          It was not easy for a long time as due to my life circumstances I met many a lovey lady. One good side of my “change” is I got to really appreciate women more admiring more than their looks or lamenting lack of.

          I struggled with my sinful nature for years but never acted on my desires remaining faithful to my wife and keep faith with my faith. I had to work at it and at times remember temptations will pass. I did the same with alcohol as that was part of my lifestyle. I repented ie, I changed with the Grace of God.

          I was a “sinner” according to what I now believe but I am not what I once was, to borrow a quote. I appreciate the honesty and searching of Wesley Hill but the answer is there within us. Looking back over the past 44 years and where I am and my journey I am grateful to God I left my hedonistic lifestyle and I am where I am.

          My thoughts were I knew my faith’s position on the subject sexual immorality and I should follow them . On my previous post above substitute homosexuality with my own sexual immorality and it would hold true.

          Again I did address my comments to the arch of the series on being an ally and was not specific to Wesley Hill. I believe he is honest, searching and sincere. If I were to meet him in my church setting I would welcome him as he is seeking the Lord and will be born anew .

          Any church I know of would accept and welcome anyone into their fold who accepted and practiced the teaching of their faith. or is making an earnest effort to change .

          John Barry tries to sin no more but he does but it is okay with Jesus. So to sum up , I was able to change because of the power of Christ. We are have our sinful struggles and my sexual immorality was no less, no more than any other sexual immorality. It is no longer a part of my life, thanks to God.

          • “I was able to change because of the power of Christ. We are have our sinful struggles and my sexual immorality was no less, no more than any other sexual immorality. It is no longer a part of my life, thanks to God.”

            Ok, so how does that jive with the myriads of folks who tried sexual orientation alternation therapy, realllly wanted it to work… and it didn’t. Do they “love their sin” too much? Did they not try hard enough? Or were they trying to change something that didn’t need changing?

            • Pellicano Solitudinis says:

              A good example of this is Bob Brown, long-time leader of the Australian Greens, who was raised as a Presbyterian:

              “As a medical student at the University of Sydney, Brown says, he cried himself to sleep every night and even saw a psychiatrist who tried electric shock, aversion therapy. ‘I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was gay, I was talking a lot with Jesus about it, but he didn’t come good.'” (Excerpt from interview)

  2. Christiane says:

    From Rod Dreher’s letter, THIS:

    ” In short, the anti-SSM side, and really the Christian side of the culture war in general, is responsible for its own collapse. It failed to train up the young people on its own side preferring instead to harness their energy while providing them no doctrinal depth by keeping them in a bubble of emotion dependent on their never engaging with the outside world on anything but warlike terms.”

    I remember going to SBCtoday and being ‘questioned’ by someone named ‘Norm’ who wanted to know where I ‘stood’ on LBGT matters. When I didn’t respond ‘properly’, I was consigned to the trash heap by ‘Norm’ and his cohorts. In time, those strange and extreme folks influenced the administrator of SBCtoday who took on an attack against some other Christian people using very foul terms. I didn’t think that administrator could have come up with something so vile unless he had the ‘encouragement’ of those commentators on SBCtoday who never engaged ‘with the outside world on anything but warlike terms.”

    Of course the administrator apologized for his unspeakable attack on those other pastors in his denomination, but it was ‘too late’. He had broken some kind of ‘rule’ I guess, in that he had ‘crossed the line’ that separates the extremes of hatred and contempt from something more palatable and finessed as used by the ‘Norms’ of the denomination. So the administrator was deposed and condemned by his own.

    There is some kind of ‘line’ that separates the ‘acceptable’ forms of contempt from the ‘too extreme’ forms of contempt, and only the initiated and well-trained understand not to cross that ‘line’. But to those of us who find any contempt for LBGT folks too extreme, it is always sad to see a situation like that on SBCtoday play out.
    It was a painful thing to see. In their trashing of that administrator, they deemed themselves ‘above’ him; but the fact is they had encouraged his contempt onward to the point where he had no understanding that there was a line awaiting his fall that betrayed their influence all too clearly. I felt sorry for him. Still do. And I do blame the Norms and the cohorts who egg people on to hate with ‘let’s you and them go fight’, while they watch and stand back.

  3. As a theological conservative, I WILL AFFIRM those who struggle against sexual temptations [ not just limited to homosexual temptation but also adultery, porn, pedophilia etc.];
    I will NOT AFFIRM engaging in sexual activities outside of the God affirming sexual relationship of a husband and wife.
    ________

    Nice post Mike Bell

    • Well, ok. Just don’t go around trying to pass laws telling people who don’t believe that that they have to abstain anyways.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Well, of course they don’t intend to do that…. but it they just so happen to support people who do want that, because you know, other stuff, well, then….

        • Robert F says:

          The so-called conservative keep telling us not to make these discussions political, but conservatives are always trying to make the rest of the church and society do what they think should be done by passing rules and laws of one kind or another. They don’t seem to recognize, or admit, that their way of approaching these things is almost always political, even when it involves assuming the that the traditional understanding should be the default setting. When they say, “Don’t get political,” they seem to mean, “We like things the way they’ve always been before.”

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > the traditional understanding

            There is – and this is what bugs a history and data nerd like me the most – a GROSS GROSS GROSS exaggeration of that “traditional understanding” and the pervasiveness of whatever they are asserting that understanding is.

            “Traditional” – aka Historic – white north American populations had an adult marriage rate which hovered between 70% and 80% – meaning TRADITIONALLY there was a LARGE unmarried adult population. For whatever reason – who cares! – that was the “Traditional” reality.

            And we won’t even get into actual history of Sexual Norms – – – when nearly ever community had a THRIVING “red light” district, especially on Friday nights [the day industrial workers go paid]. Our recreational culture still carries heavy echos of that.

            It is that they are either a bunch of liars or they flunked history [and mathematics and economics].

            Because, trust me, I have deep sympathies for legitimate Conservatism. They are so rare these days.

            • Robert F says:

              Okay, I’ll revise: …what they understand and assume to be the traditional understanding….

              I’ll revise, but they won’t. Their stock-in-trade is idealization of the past, whether it be the past of the church or the country, and wanting to get “back” to that, even though it never was. Utopia = place that doesn’t exist; is there an equivalent word for wanting and trying to return to a past that never actually was?

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                > I’ll revise, but they won’t.

                I know. But, to me anyway, the REAL history is sooo much more interesting, dynamic, strange – and familiar – than the Faux History used by the various partisan factions. It also has so much more to teach us.

                > there an equivalent word for wanting and trying to return to a past that never actually was?

                I do try to avoid use of the term “Utopia” or “Utopianism”, it is so warn out, and used so cheaply by many. Goodness, I’ve listened to people complain about people who want the bus to show up on time as wanting a “Utopia”; it is used so absurdly.

                Most of what I hear is best described as a revival of Classical Romanticism which very much looked backwards to a more pure heroic age amid pastoral landscapes peopled by [homogeneous] hard working agrarians. Classical Romanticism updated by Normal Rockwell illustrations; like Browning’s Love Among The Ruins, but they drove to the ruins in a Chevy. Look at the cover art of most church bulletins, etc… Gosh darn, obvious much.

                In my own head I think about it in the terms of Tolkien’s “Sin of the Embalmer” – which is a great bit of thinking. Imaging a Golden Age – with “good” intentions – and attempting to achieve it or sustain it by whatever [however coercive] means necessary; this was the Elves in Middle Earth, who were responsible for creating the whole hot mess – justified with arguments of preservation and restoration. It is an analogy which works very well for today; see the world, and the demographics, and sympathize: being moved away from the center stage, the experience of diminishment, is HARD! Yet, it had always been the role of the Elves to fade away, they were the First, meant to tech the Second, and so surrender their dominion. Who, having dominion, wants to surrender it? This was what Galadriel, the ancient warrior, meant at The Mirror when she says “I have passed the test”; power was before her for the taking, to accomplish all she had fought for, and – – – at long last – – – she had the strength to turn away from it. After that test her choice is no longer battle, but gift giving, even of herself [the hair to Gimli].

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    Excellent post. “What are you asking us to do?” is always a great question.

    • Ronald Avra says:

      Yes, it was a very helpful post that presented the perspective of an individual who is attempting to faithfully and creatively exercise his faith.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        +1. Very helpful post for those of us who want to engage in a manner that reflects Jesus.

  5. Stbndct says:

    Eeyore, I agree with John Berry and Seneca. But I am not trying to pass any laws nor was this post in any way political. It did not take long to bring DT into the conversation where he does not belong. This was a well reasoned post about what the Church can and should do from various standpoints. Keep the politics at bay and discuss the post.

    • Robert F says:

      The Church doesn’t exist in a political vacuum. You can’t talk about what the Church can and should do without talking about what it has done, and what it has done has always overlapped into the public square, up to and including the present day. That makes it political.

      You demand, “Keep the politics at bay and discuss the post.”
      I ask, “Please stop telling the rest of us what to do.”

      • Christiane says:

        Robert F.

        I agree with the ‘overlap’ paragraph, yes.
        But I would not have this person silenced in the way she/he ATTEMPTS to do to others, no.

        • Robert F says:

          Christiane, I’m not asking him to be silent, only not to tell the rest of us what to do. And it’s a request, not a demand.

    • Christiane says:

      How ’bout discussing the ‘connections’ between the God Squad and their affinity for Putin as it relates to LBGT issues? Now THAT’s a discussion you might REALLY object to. 🙂

      seems Putin is on the right side of the LBGT thing in Russia according to the President’s ‘christian’ advisers and from that perspective, we find at least some explanation for the very high percentage of white male evangelicals who approve of the antics of Die Teufel and his affinity for the likes of the murderer Putin . . .

      we have to look for understanding in the muck of evangelical/political alliances, yes; and it doesn’t take long to uncover something that can ONLY make sense in the context of Dreher’s words, these:
      “In short, the anti-SSM side, and really the Christian side of the culture war in general, is responsible for its own collapse. It failed to train up the young people on its own side preferring instead to harness their energy while providing them no doctrinal depth by keeping them in a bubble of emotion dependent on their never engaging with the outside world on anything but warlike terms.”

      Good luck on dis-engaging connections that are interlocked in ways that are OPENLY visible and out in the public eye. ‘Silencing’ others is your repetitive theme? Good luck with that also. The Culture Warrior finds pushback and all of a sudden, they can’t take it? Please. Silence at this time, while still so many people who are targeted by the negativity of culture warriors? No way. Let the push-back get louder and LOUDER, so LBGT people know they are not alone in the Christian faith, without the friendship of those who know what’s going on in the real world. 🙂

      • senecagriggs says:

        Christiane, I don’t give a crap about Putin and Russia, and neither do you.

        As for President Trump; he is NOT a moral conservative, he is NOT a conservative Evangelical, I doubt he actually has a problem with homosexuals. He has expressed he doesn’t believe he has a sin problem.
        I think he does.
        ________

        I-MONKERS: Repeat, D.T. is NOT an Evangelical, theological conservative. [ His history, he’s a sexually immoral man ].

        He does, apparently, think that joining the military so you have a free sex change operation isn’t the best idea.

        • Christiane says:

          Hello Senecagriggs,

          there are a lot of decent people who got caught up in politics thinking it would find answers for their concerns; but this time, they are riding a bad tiger . . . oh my goodness, I am fearful for the Christian witness of some of these people

          my son says that their witness is forever ‘gone’, but I can’t accept that, no. I don’t think it’s too late.
          Admittedly, I was horrified that not more evangelical people stood up for the border babies, poor lambs.
          (sigh)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Admittedly, I was horrified that not more evangelical people stood up for the border babies, poor lambs.

            They don’t count.
            Not only can’t they speak English, they’ve already been born.

            Remember Kyle’s Mom, South Park’s Social Activist? To a lot of Social Activists/Culture Warriors, all too often The Cause is there only to cleave to and Show All Of You MY Righteousness. And all of us (including the “poor lambs”) become unpaid extras in the do-it-yourself Reality Show of MY Activist Righteousness.

            This dynamic explains a LOT of the pushback you see nowadays. When you’ve been on the receiving end of these Righteous Scolds/Busybodies seeking Power…. (“Stick It To ‘Em! Stick It To ‘Em! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!”)

        • No, he is not. But a huge chunk of his supporters *are*, and they’re sticking with him no matter what. So don’t expect us to ignore the question of “Why?”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        How ’bout discussing the ‘connections’ between the God Squad and their affinity for Putin as it relates to LBGT issues? Now THAT’s a discussion you might REALLY object to. ?

        Stripped of all the high-falutin’ language, it’s just another case of “Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend”.

        With The God Squad’s Anointed in Trump Tower having a bad case of “Tough Guy” every time Putin flexes his Awesome Pecs.

    • I didn’t bring him up, but the question of how self-professed admirers of fidelity and financial integrity could support someone so polar opposite of those is a viable theological and social question – as well as a political one. 😉

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Because they see Caesar as getting them what they want.
        (Maybe a similar deal like the Russian Orthodox Church has with the Russian State.)

  6. Mike Bell says:

    I am very disappointed in the comments so far today. John Barry, did you even read the post? This was written by a Christian who experiences same-sex attractions who is endeavouring to lead a celibate single lifestyle and is posting about how you can encourage and support him in that. Your response doesn’t even touch on this.

    The comments started off topic and have for the most part continued off topic.

    If people don’t want to start focusing on the content of the post itself, I will start deleting comments.

    • Robert F says:

      The denomination I’m in accepts non-heterosexual people as fully communicant lay members, but each parish decides for itself whether or not a non-heterosexual person in a romantic relationship may serve as clergy. As for supporting a non-heterosexual person trying to lead a celibate lifestyle, I don’t see that my church really tries to support or discourage anyone, heterosexuals included, with regard to that. People are expected to lead and regulate their own sex lives, without much input from the parish. We’re very American that way, although I’m not sure how Christian.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      As an outsider, I would actually day that the comment in question was elucidating, in that it illustrated why these issues exist in the first place. Very, very few people think about how to include their fellow humans “as they are”. Most are trying to define and elevate their own position or belief regardless of the cost to others because that affirms their own existence and importance. This is never about theology- it is about in and out groups, about being better than my fellow human beings. In other words, it is antithetical to the spirit of love and care you are trying to advance here, Michael.

      That is why this atheist would like to remind his Christian friends about the words of one of their own, which they continually forget: “… and the greatest of these is Love”.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Agree

        > This is never about theology

        . . . unless defining those groups is the purpose of Theology? Sure feels that way sometimes.

        > … and the greatest of these is Love

        BUT what he actual meant was … 🙂

      • +1

      • Rick Ro. says:

        –> “That is why this atheist would like to remind his Christian friends about the words of one of their own, which they continually forget: ‘… and the greatest of these is Love’.”

        Some of us Christians try to remind our Christian friends that, too. And then, when we do, we get, “Oh, I DO love them. But I still need to point out their sin!”

        Face palm…

        • Or even worse, “I *do* love them, and I show it by constantly pointing their sin out to them. Love talks tough!”

    • Radagast says:

      Mike,

      Ideally Catholicism has a place for singles and elevates it to a vocation. For those who are celibate whether hetero or homosexual it can give them a place to go and a spiritual purpose. I applaud this person’s journey and recognize his struggle, because at some point every human craves touch. I also understand that this, in some deeper way can be a decision to be lonely, and I get a glimpse of this from Catholic priests I know. So this note is for recognizing that there is a struggle, a huge sacrifice that shouldn’t be taken lightly by those of us in relationship.

      I will also acknowledge, having not spent any time in evangelism, that there can be a negative view about singles independent of preference but I cannot speak to that.

  7. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””One of the dangers of the whole notion of “ministry to LGBT Christians” is that it neglects to talk much about the “ministry of LGBT Christians.” “””

    This is an interesting point. The “TO” part seems to really entangle the notions of Endorsement [or non-Endorsement] which many are concerned about, while “OF” less so. [although I have to admit to “TO”-ness of many “ministries” often feels weird to me].

    The hard part is maybe getting to “OF” without clearing the hurdle of talking ABOUT.

    • Robert F says:

      Same danger in notion of “ministry to the poor/needy” vs. “ministry of the poor/need.”

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Agree.

      Come to think of it, isn’t the problem with most ministries (and even sermons), that they’re too much “TO”…?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      All too often, “Ministry TO” means getting the targets to walk the aisle, say the words, and buy that Fire Insurance. With great ego-boo (and brownie points at the Bema) for the Minister that Saved them.

      Prosletyzing Project, not someone to Come Alongside of.

  8. I think we have a pretty good image of the issue here: Micheal Bell shares a post by a lead voice among celibate gay christians about the ministry that nurtures him in his christian walk, and John Barry’s response is all about sex and what he sees as the outgrowth of sex.

    I’d “add” to the list something about this, but Wesley already covered it himself in points 3 and 4. 😛

    This is about personhood, not about sex. If you cannot truly listen to, support, and treat your celibate gay folks well, you don’t even have a basic place of recognition of personhood to stand on when you try to talk to people who actually disagree with your sexual ethics.

    Imagine your own church from the perspective of a teen who has just discovered they are gay that grew up there. Sex isn’t the big question at that moment, the questions are things like:

    Do they think God loves them anymore?
    Do they see chances for long term, supportive community?
    Is the most reasonable conclusion of their experience that everyone would suddenly take 10 steps back from them in if they knew?
    Do they trust any adult authority figure – be it parent, youth worker, pastor – to be safe to come out to?
    Do they have a positive image of what old age could look like for them?
    Do the side comments people have made in their presence make them more ore less likely to think they are welcome there?
    Does it seem like their parents might feel they have to disown them if they knew?
    Is there a glass ceiling on how they might grow into ministry in the church?

    Do they have hope?

    I phrased these things in adult ways, but the heart of those questions stems from 15-year-old me, for whom actually seeking out sex of any kind wasn’t in my plans. Only after someone feels accepted, wanted, and supported as a person can you talk denominationally-required sexual behavior with them. Being queer isn’t about behavior, it is about BEING.

    For conservative denominations, there is the extra burden of providing the support that society doesn’t for the actual lives of celibate gay folks or people trying to be that. Who moves with them when they get a new job, who lives with them, who shares necessary incarnate life with them outside of the church walls? What means of deep companionship is there? Is the church ready to stand up against people who will make grand gestures about seeing even celibate gay folks in leadership positions? Are they willing to bear reproach from their conservative fellows when some of their gay people live in intimate friendship with someone of the same gender in a way that reactionary folks always seem to assume are sexual relationships?

    There are way more questions beyond this one, these are the -softball- questions, but if you can’t answer them, you aren’t ready to deal with Level 2 questions in a pastoral way.

  9. Richard says:

    Thanks, Mike, for this series, and especially today’s entry. It’s good to hear that at least some Christian leaders are paying attention to the folks in the pews, some of whom find themselves LGBT+.

    Echoing Tokah’s excellent comment, it’s not about sex. I was celibate for my first 50 years, married for about 5, and celibate since. It’s about being. How much of myself, of my truth, do I have to lie about to be a member of this community of truth? It took most of those 50 years to find anyone, anywhere, that I could talk to about this stuff, gender identity included. As I started to come to an understanding of myself, it seemed starkly clear that if I wanted to transition, or even to talk about gender identity issues, I would have to leave (my parish of) the church. It’s loosened up some in the last decade or two (since the Associate Rector received death threats for talking about accepting gay people), but I’m still really uncomfortable in that community.

    They’ll know we are Christians by our love. Right.

    So the questions I would have of a new congregation… And I’m about to move across country and hope to find one in my retirement community… would echo the adolescent Tokah’s questions:

    Does God love me, as I am?
    Is there a loving community here?
    What does this ‘love’ thing you talk about actually mean, in practice?
    How much of myself do I need to hide or deny to be a part of the community?
    Do the side comments of community members make me feel welcome, or threatened?
    Are at least some of the community members curious enough about different kinds of people to imagine a situation like mine?
    Are there small gestures to indicate welcome for people who are different?
    Is there support for single people to form deep relationships? Not sexual ones, but as the original post said, every relationship I’m part of is queer, because of who I am.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Is there support for single people to form deep relationships? Not sexual ones . . .

      It would be very interesting, in the modern context, to ask “What would that look like?”. Because I honestly don’t know. At least from my Church Experience it seems like something so very different than what we have.

  10. Dana Ames says:

    Please excuse this detour.

    Please pray for us in California, again. An uncontrolled wildland/urban interface fire at the west end of Redding, at the top of the Sacramento Valley, gained +40,000 acres overnight, and the entire city is under some type of evacuation order. Not close to where I am, but we lived there for a short time when we were first married. Daytime temps +100, nighttime about 80, no respite from the heat except when the winds blow up the Sacramento River, which is also not good for fighting the fire. Shasta Dam is endangered. This one is like Santa Rosa last year, only worse, with the potential for unthinkable disaster if the dam should fail. Two firefighter fatalities and many serious injuries. Lots of livestock in the area as well.

    Lord, have mercy.

    Dana

    • Robert F says:

      My prayers for you and the people of your region, Dana.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It’s called The Carr Fire; searching on “Carr Fire Map” will get you the area.

      * French Gulch and Whiskeytown (NW of Redding) are GONE. That cuts Highway 44 over the Trinity Alps.
      * Fire has also shut down the N-S railroad mainline through the area.
      * The fire is coming into Redding from the NW, driven by 30-knot winds. Currently it’s at the NW outskirts of the original town; the other bank of the Sacramento River (where I-5 runs) is more recently built-up (McMansions and strip malls for San Fran expats).
      * A lot of the area burned is sugar pine, which burns like eucalyptus soaked in gasoline. According to my informant who came from Redding, once the fire hits sugar pines, they don’t even try to fight it; at that point, all you can do is run.
      * “This is why anyone who grew up in Northern California has it hammered into them in elementary school to CLEAR ALL BRUSH AROUND YOUR HOUSE.” Much of the footage shows new-construction houses with sugar pines picturesquely growing right up to the house, sign of city types who moved to the country.
      * Shasta Dam is due north of Redding, and the fire seems to be burning SE; looks like it’ll miss the dam. I’ll ask about whether Shasta Dam would be vulnerable to fire.

      And from living in SoCal (note: to someone from Redding, San Francisco is SoCal), some characteristically-Cali things to expect:
      * So far, none of the usual wagging-finger lectures from Our Betters in San Fran/Sacramento on Global Warming(TM); according to my informant, that would be asking for armed rebellion. Redding is in the 80% of Cali that is “Far West” cultural roots, with a Western frontier attitude towards their Enlightened Betters from the Left Coast who run the state.
      * And how many of the burned-out will get attorneys, sue for everything they can, and then rebuild right in the exact same spot? With picturesque sugar pines and underbrush planted right up to their doors?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Further info from my informant who grew up in Redding.
        * French Gulch used to have only one business in town; “The best steak house in all Northern California” with “the best REAL sourdough in the state”; their batch of sourdough starter went back 170 years to the Gold Rush. They almost certainly saved the starter when they evac’ed.
        * Another place that’s GONE is “Old Shasta”, a wide spot in the road halfway between Redding and Whiskeytown. This was the original settlement in the area during the Gold Rush; Redding didn’t exist until the Western Pacific railroad came through some years later.
        * Shasta Dam shouldn’t have a problem. All the facilities there are concrete and there’s a wide cleared area around the dam and its auxiliary installations. The only thing my informant figures might happen is radiant heat might melt the windows in the powerhouse, but a coat of whitewash over the windows would minimize that damage. And Shasta Lake IS wide enough to act as a firebreak, so the fire WOULD be stopped at its SW shores.
        * The only way to stop a fire in the sugar pines is to get ahead of it and bulldoze a WIDE firebreak; bulldoze all the trees and logs onto the side facing the fire and light them off as a backfire.
        * The fire got to the NW edge of Redding and torched at least one “historic landmark structure”; no further details. “There’s a reason when my grandfather built the shop, he put in an all-STEEL building.”
        *Redding itself is at a 90-degree bend in the Sacramento River flowing down from Shasta Dam, where the river makes a sharp bend from east to south. “Old Redding” was built up around the WP rail line, on the West Bank of the river. “New Redding” is along the East Bank around I-5, and is the current center of population.
        * The main industry of the area used to be logging, but the sawmills all shut down in the early Eighties, leaving the city like a rustbelt depression with high unemployment. (As all the schools were geared to turning out sawmill workers, an entire generation was left pretty much unemployable.) The main industry now is tourism and servicing the travellers going up and down I-5. Another informant from Redding told me about “The Redding Dollar”, i.e. Redding was so depressed when he was there they have one dollar in the entire town, and everyone does business by trading that one dollar back and forth.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Good to hear about the dam being okay.

          For a couple of years we lived at the junction of hwy 299 and the road that goes (went) to French Gulch; I used to ride my bike into French Gulch and back for exercise, as the only people who used the road were residents. For another year we lived in a mobile home park on the northwest edge of gold rush Shasta. Hard to believe those places are now ashes.

          The only “historic landmark structure” at the west end of Redding proper is Nova High School, a leftover building (former Shasta High) that the school district turned into an all-eighth-grade school. I worked there for 2 years before we moved to SoCal.

          We used to joke that the only culture in the area was Agriculture. It was still very much a cow town when we lived there, definitely with a “Western frontier attitude.”

          D.

  11. Thankful for the conversation today. Recently a long time friend and new grandma told me about a recent visit she’d had with her daughter and baby grandson. She was appalled that her daughter had on a TV show with gay people in it with her baby in the room. She’s afraid that her daughter will wrongly influence her grandson. So many things we could discuss about that! But what stabbed me was how insistent she was about “hate the sin, love the sinner”.
    The tone of voice was not loving. I thought, but did not say, “What would that look like?”
    This post and comments did have some good thoughts on how to move toward love the PERSON, and to walk alongside each other, appreciating each other, having a relationship.
    I’m saving it to refer back to because I can’t master it nearly as quickly as I’d like.