October 17, 2017

Open Mic: A New “Emerging” Church

CM: I’m sorry I haven’t been able to moderate as closely as I’d hoped today. I’m going to close the comments. I think we’ve covered this enough for now. I’m more convinced than ever that we as Christians are going to have to learn to talk about issues like this in more loving and helpful ways. We’ll give it another try soon.

. . .

As I have been driving around the city lately, I’ve noticed billboards for a “new” church. The slogans are catchy and direct people to their website. So I checked it out.

The billboards are advertising a name change for a congregation that emphasizes ministry to the LBGT communities. They are a fully “affirming” church, in fact, the original congregation was founded by 18 gay believers who felt unwelcome in other churches. They are known for their intentional outreach to and inclusion of LBGT folks, and this ministry has come to define them.

But now, in their informational and promotional materials, they report that they are trying to broaden their appeal and become known as an “Emerging Church” that goes beyond the old categories of thinking, welcoming all people, celebrating diversity, and encouraging independent thought.

…our Vision is to become one of the world’s foremost Emerging Churches, then share that model of ministry with others, ultimately affecting the course of the global Christian movement.

Although there is no one fixed definition of an “Emerging Church,” we define it as a church that operates in accordance with the Guiding Principles listed above.

Congregations who self-identify as Emerging Churches are generally motivated by a deep desire to move beyond the conservative/liberal divide that has come to characterize modern Christianity and get back to focusing on the basics of following Jesus, as presented in the Holy Gospels. Emerging Churches encourage honest questions and allow room for freedom of thought and conscience.

What interested me as a subject of discussion was their statement in which they contrast their vision with that of “traditional, institutional” churches. In essence, they are saying that many churches today are not presenting the true Jesus, while their aim is to recover an accurate presentation of who he is and what he came to do. Here’s the statement:

There is a huge gap between how Jesus is described in the Bible and how he’s often presented in many churches. It’s almost as if the real Jesus (generous and loving) has been kidnapped, and a false Jesus (mean and judgmental) has been trotted out in his place. At ____________ Church, we’re under no illusion that we’ve got it all figured out. But we are genuinely concerned and want to spark an honest dialogue.

Consider the evidence:

  • The real Jesus taught that his followers should take a flexible approach, doing what love requires in any situation (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 3:1-6). Many churches today teach that rules are more important than love.
  • The real Jesus offered hope (Luke 4:18-19); one of his most common statements was, “Be not afraid” (Luke 12:32). Many churches today actively promote fear.
  • The real Jesus defended sinners from attack (John 8:1-11). Many churches today lead the charge against them.
  • The real Jesus empowered women spiritually (Luke 8:1-4; John 20:11-18). Many churches today teach that only men are worthy of spiritual leadership.
  • The real Jesus encouraged simple living (Luke 12:13-34). Many churches today celebrate flashy materialism.
  • The real Jesus celebrated diversity in God’s creation, including gay and transgender people (Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 19:1-12). Many churches today call diversity an abomination.
  • The real Jesus boldly crossed racial and ethnic boundaries (John 4:1-30; Luke 10:25-37). Many churches today are segregated by race and ethnicity.
  • The real Jesus celebrated life and loved having a good time (Matthew 11:16-19). His first miracle was to create wine (John 2:1-11). Many churches today give the impression that fun is dangerous.

The list could go on and on. There’s a huge gap between the real Jesus and the Jesus often presented by institutional Christianity.

Now, it is no secret that Internet Monk has a well-earned reputation for being critical of the church, especially in its lack of a “Jesus-shaped” spirituality.

But I would like to know what you think about this statement, the contrasts it draws, the criticisms it levels against the traditional church, and the vision of Jesus it promotes.

WARNING: I am not going to tolerate belligerent behavior in the comments. Speak clearly, speak directly, and feel free to express your opinions strongly. However, keep in within the bounds of courtesy and respect. Any questioning of salvation or use of demeaning language is strictly prohibited and I will not hesitate to “trash” offensive comments.

Comments

  1. Another group of well-meaning people who see problems in various Churches/communities and want to start their own to recover “the real Jesus.” No doubt many of their criticisms are valid, but I don’t think starting yet another different denomination helps work toward unity in the fullness of the truth that Christ has revealed.

  2. Noticeably absent from the statement are Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

    Its likely a well meaning attempt to bring hope. However, if it is like most emergent churches (based on my listening to the diet of the church, their sermons) it will focus on the imperatives of the gospel and not on the gospel itself. It will put the cart (how we live and feel) before the horse (what Christ has completed for us sinners). The cart naturally follows the horse.

    • You should read Scot McKnight’s new book The King Jesus Gospel. He challenges your notion that the story of salvation is the gospel and does so by pointing to the text.

      • And that is good news? That because of Christs death on the cross for me a sinner is wrong?

      • JoeyS
        The gospel has enormous implications for me, my family, and the word. Living a life of repentance, turning from my wicked self-serving ways (greed, lust, comfort) and hearing the weekly proclamation (from my pastor, in my readings) that Christs blood forgives, brought to me a individually in communion, is a profound comfort. Daily/weekly comfort that I am His child despite my nature is profound. Does Mr.McKnight have better news than this? I suspect you are misquoting McKnight to suggest the gospel is not Gods story of salvation for fallen humanity, starting with me.

        • i assure you– this isn’t a misquote. McKnight believes, as many of us do, that salvation didn’t begin at the cross; rather, it began with the Incarnation. Why else would Jesus proclaim the Good News even before his death and resurrection??

          • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            I’m reminded of something NT Wright said that really tickled me: Paraphrasing, he said that “liberal” Christians often seem to view the cross as a tragedy because it cut his important ministry short while “conservative” Christians often seem to view the three ministry years (not to mention the 30 years prior to his ministry) prior to the Crucifixion as as strange and unnecessary to his real purpose. The Gospel, of course, isn’t so dichotomized. You can’t have the Crucifixion without the Incarnation and the Incarnation is robbed of its climax without the Crucifixion.

          • It isn’t that strange. The incarnation as the beginning of salvation is a theme in Eastern Orthodoxy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated a similar theme in one of his Christmas sermons. I don’t think that diminishes the atonement and the cross.

          • Well you do have the problem of what happened to those people who were born or never heard the gospel. How is the gospel applicable to someone in Wuhan, China in 100BCE?

          • Glenn A Bolas says:

            Speaking as someone in Wuhan, China in 2011AD, I’d say it’s applicable because in Jesus God has become human, so any human being, past or present, alive or dead, now has something in common with God that was inconceivable before the Incarnation. That’s kind of a big deal.

            As to the eternal salvation of Wang Yuqing, Li Fengong or his brother (or any historical individual from BC days), I’ve no idea. But I do believe that God is both merciful and just, and I’m happy to abide by His decision without trying to pre-empt it one way or the other.

  3. Greg Weaver says:

    They have some legitimate complaints and some misguided ones. However, the irony of it all is that whether it’s the Emergent Church or this Emerging Church all they’re doing is exchanging one law for another. In some ways they redefine love to mean tolerance of whatever their particular bent is. They’re creating a new system of self-righteousness which will ultimately lead them to same place as the churches they’re reacting against.

    It sounds as if they see Jesus as a new law-giver and not the one who fulfilled the law and has imputed His righteousness upon those who trust in Him alone for their right standing before a Holy God. It’s not new. It’s just a slightly different shade of the same crayon.

  4. “It’s almost as if the real Jesus (generous and loving) has been kidnapped, and a false Jesus (mean and judgmental) has been trotted out in his place.”

    That’s sounds a lot like Marcionism.

    • So why can’t an ancient heresy be re-examined? Seriously, a lot of heresies were “stamped” out in the early days of the Christian religion that may have had been good ideas. I see no reason why they can’t be re-evaluated, especially since now Christianity has no ability to collude with government to use violence to end heresies (which is how some of them, indeed, were stamped out).

      • > “So why can’t an ancient heresy be re-examined?”

        [Re-examines Marcionism]

        Yeah, no thanks 😉

        > “Seriously, a lot of heresies were “stamped” out in the early days of the Christian religion that may have had been good ideas”

        Such as?

  5. I’m in rough agreement with Devin Rose here. I’m involved in gay rights issues: I think equality and acceptance is the Christian thing to do (and the obviously right thing even for those who aren’t Christian) and I’m ashamed of the way some people of my faith are so stridently anti-gay. But that said, I don’t think having a ‘gay church’ or even a ‘progressive church’ as an alternative is a step towards integration. I would like to see people trying to change their churches from within and bring Peter’s rooftop vision of no man being unclean to those who most need to hear it.

    I agree with the points made about Jesus above. But Jesus didn’t have one space for Jews, one for Romans, one for women and one for tax collectors. He fed them together, all at once.

    • i want to agree with you– i do– but we’re not there yet. Those of us who want an safe place for GBLTQ persons of faith have had to create a separate space, because we’re not welcome within many “traditional” churches. Church growth tends to spring from new churches, or church splits– because you can’t change a church (or any organization) from the inside out with a church (or any organization) that refuses to change.

      • Certainly if there’s an issue of safety or simply of being allowed to attend, I agree with you. Those that don’t listen can’t be told. But so many people feel all right with homophobia largely because they rarely (knowingly) meet anyone it affects negatively. Just meeting someone to challenge your views can have more effect than reading any number of arguments. Perhaps the best way for this new church to proceed would be to energetically build links with all the others in the area: joint events, mutual visits, pastor-swaps. That way they can be safely separate as well as engaged.

        There was a short documentary on Britain’s Channel 4 a while back called ‘Father Ray Comes Out’. The subject was exactly what it said on the tin. What was fascinating was the hostility many of his congregation expressed before the vicar’s coming out (they thought the documentary was just about modern church issues, not anything specific to their congregation) and how it contrasted with the apologies and beautiful messages of support afterwards. Sometimes all people need to hear is ‘I am a gay Christian’.

        • “Sometimes all people need to hear is ‘I am a gay Christian’.”

          i’ve gotta admit, i don’t know what to say to this… this isn’t been my experience, but perhaps for the very reasons you’ve given– people often don’t think beyond the black and white of an issue, until they have to… but with this, it’s a catch-22 of sorts– we’re afraid to come out, because of homophobia; one reason homophobia persists is because we’re afraid to come out and on and on the cycle turns.

          i do believe the church should build links with people of all backgrounds– we should be a safe place for anyone.

          • Clearly there’s some difference of setting here. I take from your comment below about visiting this church that you’re American and so I guess that you must have seen or experienced homophobia of a style that goes far beyond what we in Europe are used to. I pray it gets better for you as it has for us.

        • Sometimes–but it helps if that someone is the vicar and the person they have come to respect as a leader. It’s one thing when Father Ray “comes out”, it’s another for some youngster in the youth group with no social standing. Unfortunately.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Well, there’s traditional and there’s traditional. My church, which is over two hundred and fifty years old, has passed a “Reconciling in Christ” resolution. Each week we include in our bulletin this:

        “Zion Church is a “Reconciling in Christ Congregation” and adopted the following Affirmation of Welcome: “At Zion Church of the City of Baltimore, all who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, are welcome within the membership upon transfer or affirmation of faith regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational level, economic status, ability, health or geographic distance.”

        I just checked, and find that we are one of ten Lutheran churches in Baltimore alone who have passed similar resolutions. Several other denominations are at least as far along this road as are we.

        Of course this is from a mainline perspective. If a mainline doesn’t fit your needs, that is another discussion. If you are looking at the Evangelical tradition, it may well be that you are right.

    • Jack-

      Its going to get worse before it gets better. I’m out of the faith but I wonder in the places I used I dwell what are they saying about the repeal of DADT? What are they saying baout gay rights moving forward? Are some digging in the trenches. Let’s be honest…there are many fundys who treat gays like %^$#!!! They ridicule, demonize, etc.. I’m speaking as one from outside the faith, but I see many good things in this church. If the fundys are going to bitch about stuff like this it should be pointed out that the helped create this situation. Remember the church is for perfect people not a sinner. I got hammered in my own way but I can empathize.

      I really do believe that if Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan today, the Good Samaritan would be a gay male infected with HIV. And the people who would ignore the injured poeple are the fundys, and the pastor who feels like he has to get to church on time.

      • Oh, indeed. As I say, I don’t know much about how things are in America save what ugly stories filter across the Atlantic. My experience here in Britain is that the greatest barriers to gay acceptance in churches are that there are too few gay rights advocates within churches, especially not the larger churches. Things are nevertheless slowly moving forwards for us.

        The vitriol coming from the American right is something else, something I find incomprehensible.

        You’re absolutely right about the Good Samaritan.

        • David Cornwell says:

          Jack, the vitriol of the Right in America is inclusive however. It covers far more than gay issues. It has become metastatic to the body politic.

      • First, let me say that this strikes me as hopeful. They’re moving beyond being a niche church for a particular sector of people with certain emphases, out to being a broader church and more involved in a community of various types of people. That’s always good.

        But I have no idea what an Emerging Church is or does, or what the Emergent movement is about, so I’m lost there.

        And here’s where I show my hater homophobic instincts, I suppose:

        “The real Jesus celebrated diversity in God’s creation, including gay and transgender people (Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 19:1-12). Many churches today call diversity an abomination.”

        I don’t get this, and I have to say regarding the Centurion and his servant, what annoys me is that the assumption here is that no-one can care about his employees, servants or inferiors unless he’s banging them? All human relationships and affections come down to sex, and the only reason for a man in a position of authority in the ancient world to show any care for a sick member of his household is because they’re lovers? Never mind that in Luke’s account we hear that the Jewish elders pleaded on behalf of this Gentile “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

        Are we to take the nudge-nudge-wink-wink-know what I mean implication from “loves our nation” here? “Yeah, this goy likes Jewish boys, Rabbi, so help him out!” I’m not even going near the transgender thing because I have no idea how you get from A to Z there.

        This is what drives me spare: people twisting passages to prove their own point because Christ on His own isn’t enough, it has to be Christ and Guns, or Christ and the Environment, or Christ and White Male Privilege, or Christ and LGBT Rights.

        Nobody should be kicked out or barred from any church merely because they’re gay, straight, married, single or struggling. And nobody gets to revise what sin means so that it’s “Culturally bound notions” because hey, our notions are just as culturally bound. I don’t care if Jack loves Tom, I do care if Jack is committing adultery or robbing banks or cheating his employees or thinks all those brown people should be rounded up and deported home at gunpoint because they’re coming over here taking our jobs. I also care if Jack is saying “No, I’m not breaking any commandments because we have a better understanding nowadays and what Paul really meant was – ” or the stupid shellfish argument.

        And yes, I am struggling with my own prejudices, but telling me grass is purple with orange-polka dots is not helping me see your point.

  6. i know of the church in your post– and plan to visit soon– for all the reasons they list on their site, and more. i would say, that despite the validity i see in their criticisms and my general sense of skepticism at new church starts, i do believe that “the church” must be always be in a process of rebirth; we need to be fluid in our understanding of Christianity, not static.

  7. This is really a interesting post for me b/c I’m reading Brian Mclaren’s ‘A New Kind of Christianity’. Though I don’t agree w/ everything in the book, I do believe he brings up some real issues as the church goes forward. He seems to believe we are in a new phase (or reformation) where the old structure (or institution) will not meet the generation of today. People are not reading the Bible the same way(constitutional), conseding to Church structures the same way (more individual), or viewing outsiders in the same way (more pluralism).
    Something is changing weather we like it or not.
    I see obivous things in this church that I would not agree with. but I would rather walk with this Church than be in a Church that is defensive instead of engaging. peace.

    • Why does it have to be either or? I think these arguments assume that nobody is doing it right, nor can they be convinced to do so. Real Christians exist and so do real churches. People are doing it right but no one notices because complaints speak louder than praise.

      • Between Defensive or Engaging what is your middle ground? doing it right???
        I do believe that there are “real churches” out there & I am not really excited about making anymore denominations, —–but what about those who live where their is not a “real church” ???? where christians are feeling targeted ??? where all the other churches in their area are fundies???
        I don’t know what the area is like —I don’t even know where we are talking about . —–but I also know there are real deserts of “real churches” out there and there are many christians who don’t know what else to do but start a community of the outcast christians.

      • I find that hard to believe that people are doing it right. If people are doing it right…would churches like this come into existance? In my fundagelical days most churches were white, upper middle class surburbia havens. “Kathy” would be driving the latest car and listening to KLOVE while pulling in the mega church parking garage having an orgasm of excitement at the thought of meeting like minded stepford wife clones.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Not a “latest car”, Eagle. The Latest SUV/Minivan. And it wouldn’t be just Kathy pulling in at the Megachurch parking garage, it would be Kathy and her 2.7 kidlets fresh from Soccer practice.

          (Note: According to a much-earlier comment thread on Christianese enclaving and the arts, “Kathy the Christian Soccer Mom” IS the Target Demographic of Christian marketers; no other Christians need apply.)

  8. Aside from the common complaints that a theologically conservative Christian might have, this kinda is the pot calling the kettle black. It seems whether liberal or conservative the best tactics to gain support are:

    1) Find common assumptions
    2) Find common complaints
    3) Generalize accepted truth
    4) Mix in personal and unfounded claims with your personal and unproven vision
    5) Rinse and repeat

    This works for all types of “change” in the church. Whether you want your church to become more contemporary, traditional, cool, active, Calvinist, young, anti-Calvinist, biblical literalist, liberal, fundamentalist, etc., etc.

    They aren’t creating anything new or untried, nor are they following different methods to get there.

    • What an insightful analysis. I think you are right. As I was even reading their statement, I began to think: “Have I seen this somewhere before?”

    • Yes. I found it interesting that their goal was to be 1) successful (where did I read that that leads to problems – oh, yes, Mere Churchiantity) and 2) bridge/eliminate the divisions between liberal and conservative by …… apparently establishing a new us against them by providing a list of ‘we do it right, not like them, they are all wrong’. Reminds me of the pharasee praying to thank God that he was not like ‘that sinner over there’.

      The entire thing is arrogant.

  9. I would say that their critique succeeds so long as it touches on issues having to do with the lack of grace in American Christianity, otherwise it fails in general.

    Here’s the critique of institutional Christianity that I would like to see:

    (1) Rediscover the gospel of the kingdom. God has already prepared a kingdom in another world – a new heaven and a new earth that is just beyond the veil of death. In this kingdom all the problems and evils of this world will no longer exist and God himself will be king over us and we will be able to meet our creator face to face. This is truly good news!

    (2) Stop using the tactics of fear to spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus and his kingdom. The anti-gospel that God created the vast majority of humanity just so that they would be permanently separated from him misrepresents the character of God and is unbiblical as it stems from a mistranslation of aionios. The truth of God is more glorious than the beautiful mistranslations in the King James Bible (i.e. “eternal life”, “eternal punishment”).

    (3) Rediscover the grace of God by leaving behind the distortions of that grace that were introduced by the Reformation doctrine of PSA [ed: penal substitutionary atonement]. It is true that God is holy but it also true that he is willing forgive our sins so long as we humble ourselves and turn to him in repentance and faith. The idea that in order to do this he first needed to transfer the wrath we deserved to his son on the cross distorts the grace of God and is an unbiblical speculation that misinterprets the significance of the cross and completely misunderstands how the atonement works.

    (4) Rediscover the grace of God not only in doctrine but also in how we are called to relate to each other. We need to rediscover the burden of manifesting the fruit of the Spirit in our everyday life – love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faith, patience, and self-control.

    (5) Rediscover the truth about the Bible. The Bible is not a perfect book that dropped out of heaven in King James English; rather, the Bible is the tool that God has given us to learn about him and what he’s doing in the world, and he doesn’t need a perfect book to accomplish his purposes anymore than he needs perfect people. We cannot afford to be willfully ignorant about this any longer.

    • these are all good points.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Well stated. This church was probably born in frustration. Now they will discover the frustrations and realities of being a local church. I have areas of agreement with them, but also areas of concern.

    • If Christianity is not going to have any grace…my question is why bother?

      • Eagle,

        In my opinion, it’s a silly thing to let the likes of Falwell get between us and the living God, for the latter loves us too much and the former is dead!

        The kingdom of heaven is worth bearing any burden in this life.

    • NW: are you starting a church anywhere anytime soon ?? That is one awesome (sorry for the trite adjective) list. Multiply, bro, multiply.

      GregR

      • The great news is that the major defects in conservative theology can be exegetically demonstrated! I can get conservatives to come around on (1)-(3) by beating them over the head with their own Bibles, once they’re sufficiently humbled I then deliver a knockout blow by showing them how the NT teaches a form of universalism (conservatives are always amazed to find out what Paul meant when he taught that Jesus was the second Adam). Honestly, I can discern at least three different gospels within the NT, the amount of good news we have to share with the world is beyond ridiculous!

        The Church has missed much of this because it has yet to discover the true eschatology of the NT, once that’s recovered everything else follows. Anyway, I’m in the process of publishing what I’ve discovered, so wish me luck.

        • Current state of conservative theology:

          (1) Bad news about God: He created almost all of us to be permanently separated from him.

          (2) No news about the kingdom: What the heck is that all about?

          (3) Good news about salvation: Today we can be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.

          What I think the NT actually teaches:

          (1) Good news about God: The God who created all of us also loves all of us and will eventually reconcile all of us to himself.

          (2) Good news about the kingdom: God has already prepared a new heaven and a new earth in another world (not this one!) in which he will be king over us.

          (3) Good news about salvation: Today we can be reconciled to God through faith in Christ so that we can live with him in that kingdom upon our death.

          • David Cornwell says:

            I have some quibbles about the following that you wrote:

            “God has already prepared a new heaven and a new earth in another world (not this one!)”…

            …” so that we can live with him in that kingdom upon our death.”

            Not the time or place to pursue those quibbles.

    • Yeah, that’s why I’m an Episcopalian. Those are the points I’m hearing from the pulpit and the bible studies and the workshops… I hope you find or start a church that can emphasize those points too!!

      • I would like to see the Protestant world develop a new consensus that marries the orthodox spirit of conservative evangelicalism with the sanity of the more liberal mainlines. It would be a powerful combination.

  10. I don’t see how to run a church that allows equality in church leadership for women, with any integrity, without either 1. removing the letters of Paul from the Christian Scriptures or 2. imposing a permanent hermeneutic that Paul will always be understood in his time period with only a limitted if any amount of relevancy to the modern era.

    The same would be true for the LGBTQ issue.

    Had I had the option of such an religious community, I might not have left Christianity. Now, I would not change, but would be glad that others (especially those without the heritage association with another religion), would have that option.

    • so your church has head coverings & slaves???

      • I think you misunderstood. I left Christianity (as in no longer am) because of (largely) the teachings of Paul.

        • Cermak, this is off topic, but I would love to hear about your move in more detail. If you’d like to share, drop me a line.

        • yes, I miss read.
          but I think you can see Paul as a man with an almost impossible task of trying to help different communities understand how to follow this Jesus. He wrote letters to individual communities with individual problems 2000 years ago. Those letters give Christians today insight in to how to live out God’s kingdom in our world. But our world will not always fit a 2000 year old letter. Some problems they had then have been sorted out in our communities today.
          The Bible is a library of books not a constitution. I hope you will keep an ear out for God’s voice while you are on your journey. peace.

        • Cermak, where are you at right now? If you don’t mind me asking?

        • Cermak_rd,

          It has been a long while since I’ve had exposure to reformed Judaism (actually since I was a kid – it was the predominant faith tradition in my neighborhood). Does this expression support a woman’s leadership role in the temple? Is there more tolerance for GBLT issues in light of the Torah as well? I was too young too ask these questions then…

          Regards…

          • Yes and yes. I have attended services led by women Rabbis. It’s important to realize that being a Rabbi is a scholarly pursuit and a teaching position. So, not much need for gender elimination there. Also, Reform has no problems with gay rabbis, gay members, etc. Rabbis are allowed to perform gay marriages and blessings. Just as we don’t throw a fit if farmers don’t let their land lie fallow (which is at least more honest than the sham selling to someone else for a year) during the Jubilee, we don’t get upset if two men or two women are partners.

            The Conservative denom also allows women rabbis (for the same reason), and they took a split opinion when the issue of gay couples/rabbis came up before them last so it is up to each congregation.

            Modern Orthodox congregations also tend to be accepting places for LBGTQ Jews as well as women who want to be Rabbis.

          • Thank you for the update…

    • Matt Purdum says:

      Cermak, let me recommend NT Wright’s commentary on Timothy & Titus. The KJV is imprecise there. Wright gets it right.

  11. On this site, you complain about other,more conservative Evangelicals. But to gays, liberals, and other “emergent” Christians, you too are the enemy. The only difference between you and Pat Robertson is that your bigotry is more subtle. Sorry for the harshness, but it has to be said.

    Fred Phelps: God hates fags.
    Normal Baptists, Evangelicals, etc.: God loves everyone, but homosexuality is wrong.
    You guys: It is legitimate to disagree about homosexuality (though not, apparently, slavery or wife-beating.) Anti-gay sentiment should be respected as part of Christian tradition; liberalism is suspect.

    This is just not enough anymore, at least for Christian liberals. Maybe we should just see ourselves as different religions and leave it at that. Sorry if this “emerging” new religious identity inconveniences your attempts to be seen as moderates in the culture wars, but hey–you’re just a website.

    • Drew, I want to hear more. I don’t think there is only one view represented here, by the writers or the readers.

      • Your columnists may not agree on everything, but they have obviously been selected (and their articles culled) to represent a certain “face” of Christianity, one in which the UU’s or John Spong are presented as much beyond the pale as Pat Robertson.

        Think about it–why Martha, but not HUG? I suppose it was because you found her Catholicism congenial to your project of bringing mainline / liturgical / “ancient future” influences into Evangelicalism, while HUG–though equally reasonable–is too radical and unsupportive of institutional Christianity.

        In all of these denominations and movements, homophobia is admitted to be a debatable issue (when it is not actively affirmed), in a way that anti-Semitism is not. For many this is no longer enough. In this respect you’re a bit like “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military–better than what might have been, but still basically a concession to bigotry.

        • First of all, our columnists were not “selected.” This is a blog, not a newspaper. We are friends who happen to love writing. Secondly, of course we have a point of view. We are evangelicals in doctrine, and mostly post-evangelical when it comes to the system of the evangelical church in the U.S. If you read the bios and the FAQs, you will learn more about us. I am one of many who, frankly, don’t know how to think about many aspects of the homosexuality issue in America and in the church today, and I’m trying to figure things out.

          If you know anything about the history of this blog, you will know that it has always carried on a hearty interest in Roman Catholicism. It was a personal as well as a theological issue for Michael Spencer. We asked Martha to write because we love her writing, and thought she could represent things from the RC perspective in a way that was attractive to our readers.

          And yes, the UU’s and John Spong are beyond the pale as far as I’m concerned. This is a not a site that claims to represent every viewpoint in our posts.

        • Drew, I’d love HUG or Eagle or JoanieD or Damaris or anyone to come on and write. I do write from a particular perspective, but you have to take what I say in the spirit that accompanies the columns or letters in the newspaper: “The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors”.

          What I get from this is a swelled head, an engorged ego, and I hope helping people undestand that there is a reason behind all these crazy doings and sayings that Catholics get up to. I have been helped to understand that Evangelicals and Fundamentalists and Mainline (and for a start, that’s a term I knew nothing about before, “mainline Protestant”) are not monoliths all adhering to one form of thinking or doing or understanding. The same way, maybe you or him or she or they might not think that reason X is a GOOD reason, but at least there is a reason for it, and not just because one day the Pope said “Hey, I think that today I will say all Catholics must wear pink bootees on their left foot or else I will sentence them to burn in Hell for a thousand years!”.

          I’d love views from the Orthodox side, because we often come to similar conclusions from different starting points. I’d love Catholics from the opposite side of me (which is very traditional, but not Traditionalist) to express divergent opinions, to prove that the Catholic Church is diverse.

          I’d love to hear your opinions and why you hold them.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            …and not just because one day the Pope said “Hey, I think that today I will say all Catholics must wear pink bootees on their left foot or else I will sentence them to burn in Hell for a thousand years!”.

            Not “pink booties on their left foot”. It’s everyone must wear bras on top of their clothing, by order of World Dictator Dogbert.

        • On the matter of attitudes to homosexuality within the Catholic Church, someone who is a blogger I admire, who has a different attitude to mine, and who is ten times nearer Christ in her living than I am:

          http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/2011/09/am-i-my-gay-brothers-keeper.html

          Maybe she’s not enough for you, an accomdationist who, at heart, still accepts the bigotry of the institution. For me, she’s chipping away at my attitudes, which do go to that of the Older Brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son: what do you mean he gets to live high on the hog, burn through his inheritance, then come home and not a word said about it?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Did Drew just take my name in vain?

    • i have to agree with the general sentiment of this– i don’t want to outright accuse anyone on this site, but i do find it valid.

      • You guys are being too coy. We can take it. If you don’t feel comfortable in the comment thread, drop me a line. I’m eager to listen and learn.

        • Chaplain Mike– you have not been offensive. However, the comment below from “Ben” that leads off with “I do not believe it does anyone any good to pretend that GLBTQ people are normal,” is offensive, hurtful and if i may be so bold, makes me feel uncomfortable and wonder whether it’s safe for me to continue with this conversation.

          • Thanks, Ally. I hope you notice I cut him off there. I let one comment stand because I thought it important for all points of view to be represented. I was sure we would get at least one. But one is the limit in this post thread.

        • i did notice– and thank you.

    • i disagree….if a Christian shows grace and uncondiitonal love I think people would take notice. Do to how fundys have operated many gays, liberal Christians, etc.. are not expecting love. They are expecting more of the same even if it were more subtle. If Christianity is going to “succeed” its going to be due to showing love, love, love and leanring to be patient, patient, and patient in the process. But if Christians show some of these individuals love…I wonder how many of them would be disarmed. The problem is grace is a myth. If Christians gave grace and dispensed it freely I’m sure it would cause more questions.

  12. It’s important for us to be aware of these concerns so we can understand what others think we believe and how they think we act—whether it’s the case or not (and some of the time they’re perfectly correct).

    As others have said, there are valid points here, but the “real Jesus” may be somewhere in between the extremes cited. For example, it says, “The real Jesus defended sinners from attack (John 8:1-11). Many churches today lead the charge against them.” Both statements are true, but not entirely. Jesus did speak harshly against sinners when needed, thought they were often the hypocrites or those who abused power. And in the John 8 passage about the woman caught in adultery Jesus did forgive her, but then he said, “Go and sin no more.” That often gets left out.

    It also says, “The real Jesus celebrated diversity in God’s creation, including gay and transgender people (Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 19:1-12). Many churches today call diversity an abomination.” I can see why they might interpret the Matthew 19 passage this way, althought I don’t agree; but the Matthew 8 reference (the Centurion’s faith) doesn’t make sense in this context. Could it be a misprint?

    And most importantly (although there is probably more to their statement of faith) it seems that “the real Jesus” to them is more of a role model than the living Word become flesh, crucified, dead and buried, and risen again to save us all from sin. Nothing wrong with role models, but Jesus if far more than that and I’d be interested if it’s mentioned somewhere in their literature.

    Always good to know what people are thinking about us out there.

    • Ted, as far as Matthew 8 goes: Some people have interpreted the Greek word that is used for the centurion’s servant as denoting a homosexual (boy) lover. I haven’t heard anyone outside the gay community accept that interpretation. I don’t know Greek myself, so I can’t give the details, but my Greek relative (multilingual and scholarly) has never come across the word in Matthew used to imply homosexuality.

    • I’m not sure how they could interpret Matthew 19 in the way they describe; it just doesn’t make sense.

      Disclaimer: the following is pure speculation on my part. I am also not a Greek scholar.

      As far as Matthew 8:5-13 goes my guess is that they are interpreting the term “my servant” which apparently is “pais” in the Greek and is often used of a slave who was regarded with some degree of affection to mean that there was homosexual between the centurion and his servant. From there I would guess that by healing the centurion’s servant Jesus is then celebrating the homosexual relationship between the centurion and his servant.

      Source for the Greek is here: http://net.bible.org/#!bible/Matthew+8

      • Just to add to the above, I don’t agree with Matthew 8:5-13 being about celebrating diversity regardless of how they arrive at that interpretation.

        • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Yeah, it seems to me that Jesus is filling a real, physical need in that passage, not making a political/social statement.

          • DreamingWings says:

            Yes, he was filling a need. And if the ‘servant’ was more than just a servant; than the ‘real, physical need’ Jesus was was filling was for the centurion to get his lover back. No questions asked; no issue taken with how they lived together in the future. Sounds like a pretty definitive statement.

    • Ted, thanks for sharing, this is exactly what I was thinking.

      Dreamwing: I could see how someone might want, wish, hope or need that to be what the passage is saying. I really do. However, It seems like a HUGE strech, certianly not definitive.

    • Ted, I’m surprised it took someone this long in the comment thread before someone pointed out that this scripture was taken out of context and poorly applied. I suppose the author intended to imply that eunuchs were transgender, and that’s simply not the case. The idea that the centurion and the servant were gay is also a stretch. Remember back in the early 2000’s, when someone came out with a book implying that David and Jonathan were in a homosexual relationship? This reminds me a great deal of the tactic…taking a preconceived ideology, and searching for clues to reinforce your opinions and thoughts in scripture. The correct approach is to develop read scripture, then reason it through to develop your ideology.

      I once presented a pretty good argument that you had to own a donkey in order to be saved, using scripture.

      It’s an ugly analogy, but the statement “The real Jesus celebrated diversity in God’s creation, including gay and transgender people (Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 19:1-12)” feels like someone went looking for pearls in a garbage dump, found a rusty old refrigerator, and exclaimed to the world, “I told you there were pearls here!”

  13. Gotta say I agree with them about what many churches are doing: teaching legalism, promoting fear, attacking sinners, marginalizing women and minorities, promoting materialism and conformity, and be no fun.

    Hopefully their honest in their statement, “We’re under no illusion that we’ve got it all figured out,” and use their “evidence” as a starting point to find the real Jesus, rather than a foundation.

    Otherwise, humans being the creatures of extremes that we are, they’ll swing the pendulum the other way, and teach anarchy, that we ought not even fear God, to permit sin, promote hedonism, fear anything that slightly resembles conformity, bash the rich, and be in their own way no fun. That’s not the real Jesus either.

    • Christianity in the United States is a blend of materialism, consumerism, conservative Republican politics, and capitalism all rolled into one. One good thing is that in this envirnment I can’t imagine someone actually teaching that God ordains evil. This DEFINTELY will be a John Piper free church…and I like that!! 😀

      • …materialism, consumerism, conservative Republican politics, and capitalism?
        Perhaps you mean Evangelicalism in the United States, not Christianity at large. Aside from the large swaths of liberal Catholics, what about the Episcopal Church? The United Church of Christ? The Metropolitan Community Church? Or even any mainline denomination? Eagle, I have a high respect for your observations, I feel they are insightful and need to be well heeded, but it seems you project the right wing of Christianity over the whole of it, when it’s really much more diversified than that. Despite what media hype might seem, Piper is not the Protestant Pope, and I think that both globally and historically, more Christians would disagree with him than agree on many points. 5 point Conservative Complimentarian Calvinism has always been a minority viewpoint, except for perhaps early in the Reformation around Europe.

        • Liberal Catholics have no power. Even if you bundled up all the non-conservative Christian churches in America, I doubt you’d even have a sizable minority. If you want to look worldwide then look to Africa and some of the hostile attitudes toward liberality there.

          And who has the megaphones?

          People I encounter in my life, sometimes ask me my faith, and when I reveal I’m not Christian, they talk about Christianity. Many of them have lived it and left it, these folks at least have an understanding of it, though seldom in experiences other than the way they experienced it. So former Pentacostals may be almost ignorant of Lutheranism, and a Methodist of Christian Orthodoxy.

          The ones who have no experience of Christianity, when they think of it, they think of what they have heard on radio, tv, etc. So they do think of FoF, even though, in my area, the number of churches agreeing with FoF would be amazingly small.

          • Hey, I’m not gonna deny right wingers make a lot of noise. But the loudest doesn’t get to define orthodoxy. Sure, it defines the common perception of the faith, but you’re surely not saying that the common perception defines the true essence. Christianity is NOT whatever Pat Robertson says it is. So we’ve basically agreed that those who identify Christianity with politics have misunderstood the core teaching of the faith, even though they’re hardly to blame for it.
            And about liberal catholics having no power: They vote with their feet, and the Pope knows it. JP II was known for his ability to walk a fine line between political extremes in the RCC.
            About size, after the SBC, (5 mil in the US), the largest Protestant denominations are the ELCA, PCUSA, and UMC, all far left mainlines representing several million members apiece. The TEC and UCC are good for a mil each, and this doesn’t begin count the smaller groups like the Disciples of Christ. Check adherents.com. That all Protestants are as Jerry Falwell and all Christians must embrace the same political viewpoint is a false stereotype if there ever was one.
            Going worldwide, the prosperity gospel may well be more prevalent than fundamentalism. And Anglican bishops in Africa have very little influence on our country, outside the AMiA. Now that is a tiny minority.

  14. At ____________ Church, we’re under no illusion that we’ve got it all figured out . . . .

    As one who lives in a place where the majority of churches are very interested in telling everyone just how they have everthing pretty much figured out, this statement is the one that gives me the most hope that they will endure.

    • Yes, but a humble statement matched with: “…our Vision is to become one of the world’s foremost Emerging Churches, then share that model of ministry with others, ultimately affecting the course of the global Christian movement.” Humble, but we plan to change the world equals……comflict at best.

  15. I won’t lie, this stuff kind of drives me crazy.

    Not because of the gay issue, at least anymore than if this was a group of Liberals, conservatives, drug legalization groups, nudist Christians, Tea Partiers, Dominionists, people tired of James Dobson, people tired of people tired of James Dobson, or other group that has started a group based on the assumption that everyone else is judging them.

    Take away the gay issue, and you’re left with another church that claims to be following the “true” Jesus, while all of those hypocrites (who just so happen to disagree with us) so obviously don’t. We’re got it — they don’t. They’re dead religion, we’re thriving relationship. We’re organic Christ-followers, they’re institutional Christianity. They’re judgmental, we’re not (provided you don’t count what we just called them).

    It’s hard to call for honest dialogue in one paragraph and then harshly stereotyping a group of people you don’t like in the next.

  16. It’s sad that they are able to find so many things wrong with the Christianity in order to support their argument.
    And I agree allot of those problems that they find with the Christianity (as internetmonk does in some of your posts too).
    But Homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27), and even though Christ came to die for our sins, it doesn’t mean we should keep doing them. Christ died for us while we were still sinners, but loves us too much to keep us that way… he wants us to start to walk with Him and be sanctified by His grace.
    I also think;
    I. They are certainly right that the Church needs to accept LGBT peoples… but we need to offer help for them and acknowledged that we are sinners too with our own flaws. (1Corinthians 6:9-11)
    II. That there’s not a sudden a lack of diversity based on sexual orientation.

  17. I do not believe it does anyone any good to pretend that GLBTQ people are normal, and just like heterosexuals except that they have a differing “sexual orientation.” The APA used to classify homosexuality as a mental illness, but reversed its stance because of political pressure, not because the science changed. I still think that “mental illness” is the best classification.

    It may be that same-sex attraction, gender identity confusion and so on are more or less permanent difficulties that can’t be totally overcome with therapy for the vast majority of sufferers. Nonetheless, the Church does itself no favors to pretend that the Bible does not say what it clearly says and that Nature itself also teaches us, sacramentally, that our gender is part of who we are as creatures, and that there are general norms that prescribe what men and women are and what they are to do. If you break this harmony and impose an unnatural vision on top of God’s vision, you will end up constantly frustrated, unhappy and ultimately, destructive–much like a strip-miner who destroys mountains and natural beauty in order to impose his own unnatural vision on the places he destroys.

    Not only are these folks wrong on the GLBTQ issue, but they have become so obsessed with the Church’s perceived and real intolerance towards GLBTQ folks that they have lost the focus on what makes the Church the Church in the first place: the Gospel.

    The Church’s primary responsibility is to preach forgiveness by the blood of Christ, and deliver this forgiveness in the forms of Word and Sacrament. Everything else flows from that. Get that wrong, and there’s no point to calling it a Church.

    Our gay friends need to hear that they are forgiven. They need the Word and the Sacraments. With that in place, the Holy Spirit will go to work and their mental illness will have hope of healing or subsiding. It will probably be a slow and uneven process, but it will be better, and more in line with God’s revealed will, than simply pretending that all is well when all isn’t well.

    • Ben,

      A word of sanity finally. Thanks for writing what you did.

      Austin+

    • I think you nailed it.

      I would add, however, that it’s not our job to change people’s orientation. Homosexual people may or may not change due to the work of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being attracted to members of the same sex – what matters is how we respond to that impulse. But regardless of orientation, as believers we are called to follow the pattern God lays out for sexuality and marriage: a man and woman in marriage, or chastity in singleness.

    • Ok, but I am not going to let this slide into being about LBGT issues and what anyone thinks about them. The point of this post is that this church, which historically has defined itself as being for LBGT Christians, is now trying to broaden its focus and appeal. It is trying to take its place as an “emerging” church with a new ethos. No longer conservative or liberal like other churches have been. No longer presenting what they think is a wrong portrayal of Jesus and his message. Obviously, their background as an LBGT congregation gives them a foundation for their point of view and you have addressed that, Ben. You disagree with their understanding of what it means to be LBGT. OK. Now let’s move on from there and talk about the way they are trying to redefine themselves and their mission.

      We are not going to get into the issue of homosexuality per se as the main topic here.

      • But homosexuality per se IS the main topic here. It is nicely packaged in terms of an “emerging” church with a new ethos but the main purpose is to bring the LBGT lifestyle into the acceptable mainstream. Many, if not most, of their criticisms of the institutional church are unfortunately true and we should repent of our elitist attitudes. But we should not glibly dismiss our attitude toward the LBGT lifestyle as intolerance.

        • “Glibly dismissing…as intolerance” is not what I am doing. I’m simply trying to stick to the topic of the post.

          This church is facing and dealing with the opposite of what a lot of more conservative churches are facing. Conservative churches (if they are welcoming to LGBT folks) are starting from a position where those LGBT folks were excluded, and are now trying to figure out how to best include them and minister to them. This church is starting from a position where they were exclusively LGBT, and are now trying to figure out how to include folks from the heterosexual community in a way that they will feel comfortable.

          Frankly, I think what I’ve read so far shows that they are having as hard a time doing that as the conservative churches are having with regard to dealing with gay issues.

          • They were originally exclusively a LGBT church? Somehow I missed that point in the original post. That makes all this much more interesting.

      • ^Thank you, Mike

    • Mental illnesses are mental illness because they get in the way of people living their lives. In the case of homosexuality, it was the fact that homosexuality was a mental illness that was getting in the way of people living their lives. That’s why it became a political struggle, because it was very much chicken and egg situation. Were the people who rioted at the Stonewall Inn mentally ill or were they rioting because they were being mistreated under the law?

      Now we have several data points since homosexuality was removed from the DSM as a mental illnesses and I’d have to say that most LBGTQ folks are able to live their lives. My state does not imprison folks for being gay. Gay bars are not routinely tossed just for the heck of it. My state even has a human rights law that forbids discrimination against LBGTQ folk. And the community has shown that once the state stopped oppressing them, they made as good of citizens as anyone else.

      • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

        Yeah, similarly, a couple generations ago it was common for immigrant students who didn’t know English well to be labeled mentally retarded because of their lack of English skills. Definitions and labels are always being revised, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I think many times such things tell us more about the culture/society that is doing the labeling and defining than the ones being labeled and defined.

    • “Percevied intolerance” Ben…. I take it you don’t have a gay member in yoru immediate family or a close friend who is gay.I couldn’t believe some of eeh stuff I heard in the minsitries and chruches I was invovled with. It wasn’t “perceived” but real. I recall a Campus Crusade volunteer who told me that AIDS was God’s punishment for sin. That’s why it hits the gay community at large. I believed that until I heard a story of a nurse who accidently pricked herslef with a needle in the health care industry. Gays have every right to feel as they do.

  18. Churches that are in the business of affirming sin seem to be on the rise.

    Jesus said , “Go your way and do whatever you want to do…it’s ok.”

    ….

    • Are they affirming it or redefining it? Is that the same thing in the end, or is there a difference?

      • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

        I think it often ends in the same place. While there are some grey areas regarding sin (especially those that aren’t quantifiable), there are many that seem pretty cut-and-dry as far as Scripture’s treatment of them goes. If one’s definition doesn’t match with Scripture’s definition, it seems that it’s about the same as affirmation. Looks like it once again boils down to ecclesiology and authority issues.

      • What is the practical difference between the two ?? And like it or not, as I see it, much of this thread really does boil down to “is homosexuality sin ?”. Much of the subsequent conversation follows AFTER that question has been at least somewhat answered and addressed.

      • Yeah, if the definition of sin is up for review, anything can be “affirmed” by adjusting the definition to fit your preference. We have to let God’s law be the definer of sin. There’s only one other option: our opinion defining sin, which is usually determined by our preference. It will always look like this: “Those other people OUT THERE are dirty, rotten reprobates, but not us. We’re not like them, we’re better.” It’s either that or holding to God’s law, I am not aware of any in-betweens.

        • God’s law is an equal opportunity condemner. If we truly hold to it, the only derived ethos is, “Those people out there are dirty, rotten, reprobates, just like me. We should be friends! Maybe then I can help them to find grace and forgiveness from Jesus.”

        • My language was imprecise. By “redefining” I meant that they are understanding the Scriptures to say something different than what is traditionally understood.

          See Michael Z.’s comments above. I think he states it well.

          • Ok. I’m still wrestling with this one, but when it comes to understanding and application of God’s law, there absolutely must be room for us to disagree and still remain in fellowship, if there is to ever be any semblance of unity in the church. But exactly how far can we allow it to go? When murder is up for debate because some progressive has come to a new understanding of the 10 commandments, there becomes precariously little difference between “innovative hermeneutics” and redefining. Its just painful to see people bend over backward to make the text say the exact opposite of what a plain reading might suggest. It smells of ulterior motive…

      • I don’t think this is a question either of ‘affirming’ sin or even of ‘redefining’. It’s a question of ‘reconsidering’.

        ‘Affirming’ would mean ‘yes, it’s a sin but we don’t care’.
        ‘Redefining’ would be ‘we don’t think it should be a sin anymore’.
        ‘Reconsidering’ would be ‘we don’t think it ever was a sin – we got it wrong in the past’.

        God’s law may be unchanging and absolute, but that doesn’t mean our understanding of it is. We see now as through a glass, darkly, and our own failings blind us.

    • The Scriptures are pretty clear on the subject of sexuality.

      It’s a tough thing for folks. So is gluttony, and every other sin that people struggle with.

      We have every type of sinner in our congregaration. They are all welcome. But no one is allowed to use their sin as a platform, or to ask us to affirm that sin.

      • Very well put….I can be a self-righteous witch, but I have no desire to found a church where being snotty and judgemental is “celebrated”. We are called to conform to the gospel, not try to explain away the bits we don’t like.

    • I didn’t see anything in their statements that affirmed sin per se. More that affirmed people. There is a difference. That said, maybe they do and maybe they don’t, but that wouldn’t be anything particularly new. There are plenty of churches that affirm sins such as greed, consumption, gluttony and violence in various ways, all of which the Bible is clear about. But these don’t get the attention or airtime that sexual sins do . . .

      • Well said.
        I don’t see anywhere the emotional rhetoric over lying, cheating on taxes (stealing), materialism (idolatry) or any other number of horrific sins. We will let those people sing praises to God with on Sunday mornings, but in no way will we allow the LBGT community to participate in anything Holy. Why is that?

    • Hanukkah is a minor festival in Judaism. It is not particularly important, which is why we can’t even agree on a transliteration into English! Anyway, the reason I mention it, is that one of the way you can get a pulse beat of the Jewish people as a whole is to look at what the predominant story line currently being accepted for Hanukkah is. There are two predominant story lines. 1. is the magic oil story, that the Almighty made the oil last an extra long time so that the rededication could be performed. 2. is the civil war story, that the Maccabbees defeated the Hellenizers to keep Judaism Jewish.

      So, depending on what’s going on in the world, one or the other story line might be pressed (fwiw, civil war is the story line I see most often these days).

      So, too, with Christianity. At times, the forgiveness of sins, and lamb and servant themes are predominant; and at other times, it is the go and sin no more, the spiritual mercy of admonishment of sinners, and the angry Jesus in the temple that is the main thrust.

  19. Matt Purdum says:

    I don’t think they go nearly far enough. We need to re-imagine church in two or three ways. Firstly, gotta get rid of the corporate/business model and its concerns with growth, profit, demographics, and market share. Second, gotta get rid of the “Hurray for our team” mentality and the denominational/doctrinal model that says if I change or grow, I gotta go. Every church including this one is looking for people who will conform rather than grow. We have to tear down ALL the walls, abandon ALL the labels, and abandon all attempts to contain Christ in a denomination, a doctrine, a theology or a religion. If an atheist walks in who thinks Jesus was a great role model, I’d encourage that. “Good,” I’d say. “Learn more about Him. read everything you can about Him. Pursue it passionately.” Then trust God to do whatever else needs to be done. We need to encourage everyone — Christians, Buddhists, atheists, gays, pastors, prostitutes — “Move toward Christ!” No walss between Greek and JUew, male and female, slave and free, Christian and atheist, gay and straight. Didn’t he die for everyone?

    • I like this, Matt. Welcome them and then trust God to do whatever else needs to be done — to me as well as them, whoever they are.

  20. All you need to do is read part of the first line:
    “…our Vision is to become one of the world’s foremost ….”

    That speaks volumes about their ecclesiology.

  21. Randy Thompson says:

    A bit of historical perspective, perhaps:

    I’m now 60 years old. Forty years ago, there were lots of Christian people running around looking for alternatives to “traditional institutional churches.” (I was one of them, by the way.) Guess what happened? Most of them created what soon became traditional institutional churches. This type of thing has been going on ever since. You’re pretty much doomed to become the “institutional” church you dislike. (Max Weber called that the “routinization of charisma.”)

    As for the “real” Jesus. . .

    I’m reminded of that wonderful old line about quests for the “historical” Jesus, or the “real” Jesus, as here. The Christ these folks see, “looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness, is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face reflected at the bottom of a deep well.”

    Along the same lines, the always relevant words of Yale’s H. Richard Niebuhr: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

    In short, this is just the same old stuff that’s been floating around liberal protestant seminaries for decades. This is new to a lot of people here because most seem to be fleeing from “fundagelicalism” at warp speed and it looks inviting by way of comparison. (To be honest, Pat Robertson does make this stuff look good.)
    However, after you’ve spent time on the liberal protestant end of things, snake handlers make more sense spiritually than do some of these folks (although not all).

    If you’re going to flee from fundamentalism (and that’s worth doing), then don’t ride the pendulum to the other extreme. Run from liberal protestantism too. Hunker down in that odd no man’s land that’s neither of the extremes. No one will understand you, and you’ll constantly be mistaken for a fundamentalist by the liberals, and for a liberal by the fundamentalists. The fun of it is, you’ll end up surprising everyone. The liberals can’t write you off as a fundamentalist, and won’t know what to do with you. The fundamentalists can’t write you off as a liberal, and they won’t know what to do with you either.

    And, whatever you do there in no man’s land, don’t start a church. At least, don’t advertise it.

    • David Cornwell says:

      “Yale’s H. Richard Niebuhr: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

      Not bad for a liberal theologian educated in what is now a UCC seminary.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      Well said, Randy. It is the nature of movements to become institutions. And then there’s either reformation/revival or death. But yeah, this all smacks of de ja vu.

    • Excellent comment. I think you hit the nail on the head for the most part. One minor difference based on my experience, though is that both the fundamentalists and the liberals will indeed write you off as the opposite if you stray from the party line. Been on the receiving end of that one. The no-man’s land can be a lonely place.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        You’re absolutely right. The political correctness of both sides is intimidating, and can turn nasty.

        A further thought on no-man’s land: Isn’t that where Jesus was?

        He was not a Pharisee. He was not a Sadducee. He was not an Herodian. He was not an Essene. And, to state the obvious, he was not a Roman.

        Maybe to take up your cross and follow Jesus is a trip to no-man’s land.

        • David Cornwell says:

          “Maybe to take up your cross and follow Jesus is a trip to no-man’s land.”

          I like this idea. This is a difficult trip to this “no-mans land.” If we follow closely enough it will lead back out to every-man’s land.

          Reminds me of Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

        • Maybe to take up your cross and follow Jesus is a trip to no-man’s land.

          Yes, absolutely. You just filled in where I would have gone in my thinking if I had thought a little more.

        • Kinda like Hebrews 12:12-14. Jesus is there “outside of the camp” and ultimately its a wonderful place to meet Him.

  22. I agree with everything they said, but it made me sad anyway. I don’t know anyone involved and I’m not familiar with this church at all, but it almost felt like they were taking a small church that knew how to love well and were trying to market it to draw in the young and trendy. It’s difficult for the former to last with the latter.

  23. Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

    By way of caveat, I tend to be somewhat of a traditionalist and tend to have somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction against new and independent ecclesiastical groups. So, take this with all the appropriate grains of salt.

    First off, I think their portrayal of the “real Jesus” is as incomplete as the caricatures of the “institutional Church’s Jesus” and it’s just as unbiblical. Second, as seems typical of such manifestos (Pagan Christianity? anyone?) what they consider to be the “institutional Church” seems to rather be the shallow big-box evangelicalism that has almost no awareness of historic Christianity. How about engaging the Catholics (who are the majority of world-wide Christians) or the Orthodox, or the Reformation-era Churches? I’m thinking of something’s lasted for 500-to-almost-2000 years, it ought not be cast off so casually.

    Ultimately, I guess I’m just not really that impressed. I guess I’d recommend they do some more homework or something.

    • If this church is indeed part of the MCC, then I would argue they have a valid history and their own unique place in Christianity. They were borne out of necessity, at a time where discrimination was legal and naked in its hostility (1968, IIRC). Some MCC churches are liturgical, some are not. I believe it depends on the congregation.

      • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

        Fair enough. 1968 is still a bit Johnny-come-lately for my tastes, but that at least gives it a context and history beyond the all-too-pervasive independent and unaffiliated thing that is all the rage.

  24. I like their “the real Jesus…” commentary, but something’s leaving me hollow. What do we infer from this? That the basic announcement of the church is “we ought to be like Jesus?” Which I couldn’t fault them for, but a steady diet of that will drive you to despair. It’s a nice vision, and it’s a good aspiration, but it’s like flooring the accelerator in a car with no gas. I prefer that my What Would Jesus Do? be firmly prefaced by What DID Jesus do?

    Or maybe that’s somewhere else in the website/ministry. I don’t wanna be too quick to judge them. But I would suggest that the “huge gap” between the real Jesus and the one in institutional Christianity is the gap between sufficient, compelling, fascinating, beautiful…and flat, boring, unattainable, unnecessary. Personally, I find that first list of adjectives comes into focus in defeat of his enemies at the cross and his Resurrection from the dead. So what do we do about that? Give people more “be good” stuff and call ourselves “different” cause we’re not conservative? Not good enough, imho.

    I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh. I have deep respect for any church that’s even bothering to wrestle with the rift over homosexuality. But however close to home that issue hits, you still have to concede the cross as being a bigger issue. I hope they do that.

    • The obvious Scripture here for me is Ephesians 2:14-16 (profoundly good news): “For rhe himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in uordinances, that he might create in himself one vnew man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might wreconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

      “In his flesh” and “through the cross” being the lynchpins of the statement.

  25. The church in question is part of the Metropolitan Community Church denomination.

    I think it would be helpful to draw attention to draw attention to their statement of belief as found at the Toronto MCC church.

    At MCC Toronto, we believe……
    In a loving and good God, known by many names
    God’s love is offered to everyone unconditionally
    There are many paths to God, and one of them is Christianity
    God is everywhere, with us always, gives us strength, and works through us
    Every person is created in the image of god, and is inherently good
    All life is a gift, and each life has a purpose
    Jesus is our teacher, example, saviour and friend
    In the power and effectiveness of prayer
    And we believe In eternal life

    While the one that Chaplain Mike referenced were not so bold with their own statement, I think that the fact that the denomination allows such a statement at their Toronto church, means that they are not really that interested in what Jesus had to say. “I am the way…”

    • Or they’ve come to understand “I am the way” in a different way than you. They could, as i do, understand John 14:6 to mean just what it says– no one comes to the Father except through Jesus– that is, it’s only by grace of God and grace alone that anyone– whether they fit our perception of what a “Christian” is– finds their way into heaven. Jesus is who saves us; not our prayers, not our professions of belief, not our sacraments. And with that in mind, it becomes fully possible that there are “many paths to God”.

      • I believe that there are many paths to God….jsut look at the billions worldwide who have never heard the name of Jesus or His Father. If minor Hindu deities are all you ever know…well, you are doing the best you can with the information you have Ditto for every non Judeo-Chrisitan religion on the planet.

        BUT….if you get to the point of acknowledging Jesus Christ and the Hebrew scriptures that He lived, then you are obligated to be true to ALL that He spoke and affirmed. It is not a cafeteria where you can pick and choose the concepts that you embrace and ignore or explain away the rest.

        Does anyone actually lack clarity on the Lord’s view of sexual expression? The teaching about sexual love being a perk of marriage is pretty clear. I agree that those involved in a physical sexual relationship with a HETEROsexual partner not their spouse are sinning, as clearly affirmed by Jesus. I simply cannot carve out an exception to this guidance against sin because the partners are homosexual.

        I reject the label of bigot or the heavy handed “homophobe” for following the gospel….whcih also teaches about greed, lying, cheating and all the other sins that we despair of and condemn. All I know is that God gave us free will. I don’t really care what temptation or sin someone is abstaining FROM, merely that they don’t assume that I as a Christian sister am obligated to celebrate hateful gossip, cheating on tests, ignoring the poor…or sex outside of a valid marriage.

        Oh….and hate isn’t okay either, but truth is.

        • i have to disagree with your second paragraph– from the perspective of, i fully believe it’s possible to come to know Christ without knowledge of the name Jesus– we Quakers hold to this idea of “Inner Light”– that there is that of God in every person, and in that way, any one can come to know that still small voice of God, whether or not they know it as “God” or “Jesus” or any other name.

          As for the rest of your comment… i do want to say, that the blanket term “homosexual” is seen as offensive to many within the LGBTQ community, as it’s often thrown around as a derogatory insult, much like the n-word. In regard to what you call “the Lord’s view of sexual expression”– i do lack clarity, in all honesty. For example, i grew up in the church, i was told all my life pre-marital sex was wrong, yet look at Song of Solomon- here is a beautiful example of sexual expression outside of marriage. Or is yet another of an incident the Bible records, yet doesn’t condone? And you say, sex outside a valid marriage– what makes a marriage valid? Are the marriages of atheists valid? Jews? Buddhists? What if i find a partner and make a commitment to her before God, to love her and to hold her always until death do us part… is such sexual expression still sinful?

          i’ve gotta say… the Church needs to wake up and realise, we’re not gonna go away. We’re here. We’ve always been here. We’re always gonna be here. People are straight. People are gay. People are lesbian. People are bisexual. As my father would say, people is people is people. And at the end of the day, we all just want to love and be loved.

        • It depends on what a person does with his anti-gay sentiments, I would say, that determine whether that person is a homophobe. If one uses his religious beliefs to thwart the achievement of basic equality for the LGBTQ community, then I would say the term homophobe is not a misplaced one, though I usually just use the adjective anti-gay.

        • “I reject the label of bigot or the heavy handed “homophobe” for following the gospel…. which also teaches about greed, lying, cheating…”

          Um, I’m pretty sure the Gospel is Christ crucified for sinners, and your list is nothing other than law. It may be Christ’s law, but the law is not the same thing as grace. The law condemns, that is its purpose, and that is how you are using it. If people want to give you derogatory labels for sticking to your guns, remember it’s God’s law that infuriates them, not his forgiveness.

          • Oh, God’s forgiveness can be pretty infuriating, too, especially when it’s offered to other people.

    • You are obviously offended by at least one of their beliefs. But this amounts to a matter of opinion.

    • Ok, so the ARE part of the MCC. That clears up some confusion for me. I knew MCC was gay friendly, but I didn’t know they were universalist! Wouldn’t it be more honest to wear the pluralist label than the Christian one?

    • In the church and denominational materials, they state that their theological position is summarized in the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds.

      • I investigated recently when the Pastor of the Toronto MCC officiated at the funeral of Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s second largest party. He said: “It’s not about which spiritual path you choose, it’s about choosing a spiritual path and going deeper and respecting people on various paths.”

        I said to myself that this sounds pretty universalist. I wonder if the website would confirm or refute this. In my mind it was confirmed. So, while they say that their theological position is summarized in the creeds, that doesn’t seem to mean too much.

        • “So, while they say that their theological position is summarized in the creeds, that doesn’t seem to mean too much.”

          Don’t you think that’s a little presumptious and offensive to the many Christians who consider themselves universalists?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The church in question is part of the Metropolitan Community Church denomination.

      From the initial description of “the church in question”, I kind of figured that.

  26. I don’t have the time to read all 95 comments so if anyone has already touched on this I apologise in advance 🙂

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of churches always trying to reinvent the wheel and come up with something new all the time. Someone, somewhere always seems to have a ‘light bulb moment’ where they have discovered some untapped source of enlightenment to set the church straight and initiate a paradigm shift.

    This obsession with novelty is worthy of repentance IMO.

    The straight forward gospel where sinners (ALL types, including homosexuals) are called to repentance and the forgiveness of sins, doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Terms and concepts are continually nuanced and redefined to the point that the simplicity of Christ has become the complexity of Christ.

    To this end, I take my hat off to the Lutherans for sticking to the basics that have stood the test of time and have been espoused by Christians throughout the ages. At least with them, you know what the Sunday menu includes and you know what to expect.

    (John from down under)

    • John, I just said pretty much the same thing just above you….and us Catholics are right there with our Lutheran brothers and sisters in calling a spade a spade, not an entrenching device.

  27. I can only speak to my own personal experience. I was raised Catholic and still consider myself Catholic (at least as a tribal association and in regards to some beliefs and practices). When I began my own spiritual search (somewhere in my twenties), and came to know Jesus through prayer, contemplation, meditation and the practice of Lectio-Divina (sacred reading), I found a man quite different than the one sometimes portrayed by my Church. I did not find judgment, but compassion. I did not find separation (by denomination), but Oneness. I did not find false-piety but passionate joy and celebration. I did not find “the King of kings” but a humble servant. I did not find “the truth as it is handed down by the magesterium,” but a truth that is individually and personally revealed by an intimate and loving God. Most importantly….I found no fear…only the healing, expanding, freeing power of LOVE. This is the Jesus I know and this is the Jesus I pray that others have the opportunity to discover. This is the Jesus that I can call “my beloved” because I know his love and am content to sit at his feet, learning, growing, finding healing and comfort.

    Lauri Lumby
    Authentic Freedom Ministries
    http://yourspiritualtruth.com

  28. CM, this is a timely piece. I believe that the issue of human sexuality, and how the church is going to approach the growing cultural acceptance of sexual tendencies outside of the norm, is and will be one of the most compelling issues of our generation.

    Homosexuality is a sin. There is no argument there. Paul defined sexual sin as a special type of sin, a sin against God and self (I Corinthians 6:18). He did not, however, differentiate between adultery, homosexuality, pornography, or even having lustful thoughts…He talked about them separately in other places, but in I Corinthians 6, he gave us a mandate to “flee from sexual immorality”. We are all guilty of this type of sexual sin, in some form or another.

    I believe that the church should love sinners, and extend grace, because much grace has been extended to us. The great commandment is to love God, and love our neighbors, without narrowly defining who our neighbors are.

    I’ll echo an earlier comment I made…The real problem I have with this particular church is that they are taking an ideology or philosophy, then searching scripture to see if they can make their ideas fit into the Gospel narrative. It just doesn’t work…It’s like deciding to insert Luke Skywalker into “Wise Blood” as a primary character. End times, sexuality, universalism…It seems rare to find an idea that hasn’t been applied to scripture, in attempt to justify the activity or line of thought.

    The problem here is that these particular folks are saying “Scripture should taste like this, because this is the flavor we like”. Scripture defines its own taste. Our tastes do not define scripture. Along the same lines, Christianity was never intended to be culturally appealing…It’s counter-cultural. Exploring different avenues of sexuality is a cool thing in pop culture right now, but that doesn’t change the Gospel.

    Now, if y’all will excuse, I’m going to find some secret codes in the Bible to tell me that the Braves are going to win the wild card tonight…

    • But of course there is argument. Look at it this way–no church (well, hardly any) would take the biblical condemnations of “the Jews” as a license for anti-Semitism. Why, then do thoughtful people continue to take biblical proscriptions of homosexuality at face value?

      • Drew, I have trouble swallowing the argument that homosexuality isn’t a sin, along with lust, adultery, pornography, etc. I think Paul was pretty clear when he defined sexual sin. If there are scriptures that you feel are vague or open to interpretation on these things, could you point them out for me, for argument’s sake? Maybe you can change my mind?

        • Just curious. Do you believe that Divorce & re-marriage is adultery??? Is someone who is divorced & re-married living in Sexual sin or condoning their lifestyle??

          • Brian, I am divorced and re-married. As a pastor, my divorce has been examined and re-examined by churches and denominational leaders in order to determine whether I had disqualified myself from ministry. Each time, it was determined that I had not. It was a painful process, having my history picked apart, having to answer the same questions time and time again, being under the microscope. My wife has had to endure the same scrutiny.

            I’ve heard one million times that the “only Biblical reason for divorce is adultery”. My ex-wife committed adultery. My previous relationship was pure hell, but I was encouraged to stick it out and be “God’s man” by evangelical pastors (“You made promises you need to keep, even if she doesn’t keep hers…”), even though my ex committed adultery multiple times with different people. I stuck it out for years, until she finally filed for divorce. It was a miserable existence.

            But your question isn’t about whether or not divorce is a sin…it’s about divorce and re-marriage. I’ve seen and heard all the Biblical arguments about whether or not I should have remarried, and there are numerous denominations that would allow me to lead a congregation as a divorced pastor, but not as a remarried one. It’s difficult for me to read scriptures that mandate against remarriage, because I’ve done it, and don’t regret it. I now have a loving wife, and a beautiful 8 month old baby girl. I would marry my current wife again, if I had to do it over again.

            In response to your question, I’ll ask another question…In John 4, Jesus has a conversation at a well with a Samaritan woman who had experienced multiple marriages, and was living with a man when He met her…Did Jesus condemn her? She had clearly sinned, hadn’t she? I guess I have, too. Thank God Christ fulfilled the law for all of us, huh?

            I’ll say yet again…the Bible is clear on what is sin and what isn’t sin. Christ commanded us to love our neighbors, so we should love our neighbors without narrowly defining who our neighbors are. I’m not ranting against homosexuals, so if anyone is interpreting what I’m writing in that way, you don’t know my heart…I just think we have to call a spade a spade…sexual sin is sin. We all have sin in our lives. Good thing we have a merciful Savior!

          • Lee, I know you have been thru pain. I don’t know you but I would not disqualify your ministry b/c of re-marriage. But I think you have experienced the pain of having somebody “proof read” your life style or judge you as “living in sin”. The homosexuals are feeling that same pain. I may not know yet what is “the right answer” for them. But I know Jesus calls us to love & serve them —-NOT judge them.
            Thanks, I know you have been thru pain & i’m not judging you – but you have a very good story that needs to be heard. peace.

          • And peace be with you, Brian.

            Hey, if we don’t challenge each other in our iMonk community, what fun is it?

        • If by homosexuality, we mean the actual sexual acts, I’d have to agree that the Biblical narrative would consider those to be sinful. However, I don’t think that someone who identifies him or herself as a homosexual is living in sin simply because they’re a homosexual. I think the problem that a person’s sexual orientation is so wrapped up in their identity, that it’s hard to separate the two. But homosexuality has become a different sort of sin in many churches. If someone struggles with lying, gossiping, lust, etc. we don’t make that their primary identifier. We allow that they are who they are regardless of their struggles with these particular sins. I just don’t see that same sort of grace being shown for the issue of homosexuality.

          • Thanks, Phil, for expressing how I feel much more eloquently than I am able to. Why do us pastors preach so violently against homosexuality, but not adultery? Could it be that we know many of our congregants would be offended, and take their tithes elsewhere?

  29. I’m a member of an Episcopal “emerging” church that intentionally welcomes LGBT folks. I don’t know how similar this church is to my own, but in my own church that search for the “real Jesus” has led people to dig far more deeply into Scripture, the early church fathers, and church tradition than I’ve ever seen people do in an evangelical setting.

    In my church people are seeking for a way of understanding the work of Jesus that goes beyond penal substitutionary atonement. As a result our preachers (lay leaders, rotating every month) tend to draw on the full diversity of salvation language that we find in the Bible: salvation as liberation from slavery, as transformation into the likeness of Christ, as participation in the nature of God (theosis), as healing, as new creation, as victory over the power of sin and death and the devil. In so many evangelical churches you never hear salvation described in those terms because they’re reading the Bible purely through the “four spiritual laws” lens.

    I find it telling that if you go to an average evangelical church on Easter, you’re unlikely to hear anything half as radical or exuberant as the Exsultet declaration that many liturgical churches start that service with:

    “…The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, and brings to mourners joy. It casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride. O night forever blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth and humankind is wedded to God!…”

    or, for that matter, the Orthodox declaration:

    “Christ is risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life.”

    The atonement gospel that so many evangelicals fixate on sounds, well, rather pale and lackluster in comparison to proclamations of the power of Christ transforming all of creation and uniting us with God. As much as some people above complain that the search for the “real Jesus” too often turns into a search for a Jesus who is easier to digest, there are also times when that search turns up treasures that had stayed buried for way too long and that turn out to have a real and breathtaking beauty once we dust them off. And although sometimes people who are hurt by the Bible seek to disregard it or de-claw it, there are also times when those same people instead dig _deeper_ into the Bible and listen more fully and with fewer preconceptions than others, because they aren’t comfortable with the surface-level understanding that satisfies others.

    • Michael, my particular issue with this group isn’t that the blood of Christ isn’t sufficient to cover ANY and ALL sin…I think it’s more the attempt to say, “We endorse this particular lifestyle, so it’s not sinful”, by implying that the scriptures (Matthew 8 and 19) say that Jesus also embraced the lifestyle…there’s absolutely nothing in the cited texts that indicate that the centurion and his servant were in a homosexual relationship, and implying that eunuchs were transgender is quite an incredible, and wholly inaccurate, stretch.

      Don’t misinterpret how I feel about this issue…I believe that God has called us to love ALL of our neighbors, without being selective about who we call “neighbor”. As I’ve stated earlier today, though, we cannot develop our own ideologies, then use creatively selected scriptures to justify our sexual/political/ethical/cultural beliefs. If we are to define ourselves as Christians, then we don’t define scripture…scripture defines us.

      • I agree wholeheartedly that we need to let Scripture define us, rather than imposing our own ideology on Scripture. But the point I’m trying to make is that anyone who views the Gospel through the “four spiritual laws” sort of lens _is_ allowing their preconceptions to distort their view of Scripture and to blind them to the full message of the Bible.

        If your theology revolves around substitutionary atonement, you tend to believe: 1) that the problem with people is that they are sinners, and that 2) the solution is for people to repent and trust the sacrifice of Jesus. If you view salvation through that lens, when encountering a “sinner” your attention will automatically focus on their sin and your efforts will be focused on leading them to conviction and repentance. And that lens so distorts and narrows your vision that it’s easy to not even realize it is there.

        But it is equally faithful to Scripture to view people primarily as: broken and in need of healing; alienated from God’s family and in need of welcome; spiritually dead and in need of resurrection; enslaved and in need of liberation; fueled purely by human will and in need of union with God; under attack by Satan and in need of rescue. That’s not to say that we aren’t also sinful and in need of forgiveness, but that’s not _all_ we are, and that’s not _all_ the Gospel proclaims to us.

        Therefore we are being just as faithful to Scripture (I would argue more so) when we encounter people and work for their healing or liberation or acceptance or transformation first and foremost, rather than feeling that our only job is to convince them that they are sinners or that the only door through which they can enter God’s church is the door of repentance. The truth is that all of us, both before and after we begin to identify as Christians, are being changed by the Spirit in a wide variety of ways, and that transformation is on-going. That work is the Spirit’s work, not ours, and we do not have the wisdom of God to know what inside a person truly is or is not in need of “fixing” or on what schedule that change should occur. So our task is to usher people into God’s presence and to share with them all the myriad ways that the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus have and are and will transform us – not to present people with a formula and expect them to change on our schedule into what we envision.

        • I absolutely agree, Michael. I do hope that I haven’t come across as a fundamentalist snob, because I certainly am not. As I’ve stated numerous times today, I believe that Jesus mandated that we love our neighbors, without narrowly defining who our neighbors are. I just think that sometimes we play dangerous games with scripture, when we apply our own agendas to the word.

        • I have absolutely no problem with your third paragraph, and to edit what I typed earlier, sooner or later you will have to come to grips with what homosexuality is. Is it like skin color or body type , or does it reflect the fall , and all that goes with that . And if you want to use healing and comfort instead of forgiveness and salvation, sure, but the discussion of love and help and dealing lovingly with each other goes nowhere until we know , or BEGIN to know, what we’re dealing with. Until then, I think we just talk past each other, and categorize each other. That’s where I”m at with this, so far.

      • Lee, but see to many of us that makes about as much sense as you saying to me

        “I love you and treat you as my neighbor even though you are left-handed. Being left handed isn’t a sin in and of itself. I will pray that you are able to learn to enjoy doing things with your right hand and perhaps if you are not able, you may give up using your hands alltogether. However, I just cannot condone your lifestyle if you insist on continuing to use your left hand. But please don’t accuse me of anti-left handed bigotry, I said I loved you, being left-handed is not a sin, but acting on that impulse is, and I refuse to consider otherwise.”

        You go home convinced of your lovingness, and I go home condemned.

        • Marie,

          That is an interesting analogy. So here’s where I sit currently… I am conflicted. I know two people both in monogomous relationships. I care about them, they have a deep spiritual life. I don’tthink about the sexuality component when I am with them. But when I do I just want to ask why because I can’t understand it.

          Now take things up 20 thousand feet. my view from up here is whatever occurs behind close doors is ythat person’s business. It will all get sorted out in the end. But i will tell you I do struggle with public affection in front of my kids, parades where there is flamboyant behavior. Of course from a public lewdness aspect that can go for either sexual orientation. And Marie, if the world were a perfect world I would not want my child to pick this lifestyle – but then things aren’t that simple because some may have gender identity situations or other inclinations and if things were brought down to earth again I would still love and try to understand. Yes Marie -self examination states that i could be a hypocrite here – but an honest one I remain.

          As for the original intent of this thread at starting a new church – I get the feeling it may just turn out to be exclusive in the other direction.

          My thoughts for what its worth.

        • But Marie, just because we enjoy something, does that mean it isn’t sinful?

          You’re bringing into the equation the argument that homosexuality is not a preference. I don’t see anywhere in scripture where there’s any line drawn between “doing it because you like it” or “doing it because I was born that way”. My ex-wife’s father committed adultery multiple times while married to her mother; she had two aunts that committed adultery with five different husbands; a cousin of hers tore a church apart by committing adultery with an associate pastor; then my own ex committed adultery. Was there a genetic predisposition? Learned behavior? Lack of self-control? Or just the thrill of doing something naughty?

          If we open the genetic door re: homosexuality, don’t we have to open it toward all sexual activities? Is it sexual sin, regardless of DNA and experience? Is homosexuality not a sin, but adultery, pornography, etc…are sins?

          As I’ve stated in previous comments, my own sin is no less real or weighty than homosexual sin. I’m not, nor have I ever been, on a tirade condemning homosexuals. God’s grace is every bit as available to someone of a different sexual orientation as it is to me. All I said was that the scriptures this particular church is using to demonstrate Jesus’ attitude toward homosexuality that were taken grossly out of context. Please show me some evidence that the centurion was having a homosexual relationship with his servant, or that eunuchs, in the context of 1st century Jerusalem, would be considered the same as transgender persons today.

          Please, please, if you can look at the Biblical passages that address homosexuality, and tell me somewhere in scripture where homosexuality isn’t defined as sin, please tell me where I’m wrong, so I can correct myself.

          Please don’t try to paint me as self-righteous with snarky remarks like “You go home convinced of your lovingness…” I would never, ever point my finger in someone’s face and yell, “Sinner!”, anymore than I would use some cheesy, offensive Ray Comfort/Kirk Cameron method of evangelism to convince someone of their own depravity. I’ve got my own depravity to deal with, and that’s plenty enough. If I’m making a point in this forum using scripture, then please use scripture, and not personal feelings toward a topic, to show me where I’m wrong. Anything else would be throwing stones, wouldn’t it?

          • And Marie, I’ll agree with Radagast….My personal opinion is that what happens in the bedroom is between you and God. That doesn’t mean I can’t be loving and kind.

            Listen, I had to counsel with a guy yesterday that conceived a child in a threesome with a stranger and his wife. He isn’t caring for the child. We still sat at the table and had civil conversation. Recently, I met a woman who conceived a child while participating in a foursome with three men…I’m not even quite sure how that works. She allowed another man, who molested her children, to stay in the home with them long after she had knowledge of what was happening. My heart aches for this woman, even though I find some of things she has chosen to do absolutely deplorable. I provide her with no less compassion and service than I would someone who is struggling for reasons not associated with sexual activity, or personal choices…not because it’s my job, but because it’s what I’m called to do. My boss is a lesbian, and one of my closest friends in the world. I would trust her with my child, the thing I love the most, more than I would some of my own family members.

            Being aware that some human behaviors are sins doesn’t mean I don’t love people who sin.

            I didn’t write the scriptures, but I’ve read’em enough to know that some things therein are just not so difficult to understand… Sin is sin. Love God, love your neighbor.

  30. I wish them the best of luck. They are filling a deep, deep need in their community, and more power to them. If they are a little feisty about it in the beginning, that will either wear off as they grow and calm down, or become entrenched defensiveness and they will wither.

    I agree that many of the “radical new” churches of the 60s and 70s are now standard fare, just as much an institution as the branches they split off from. Let’s talk 7th Day Adventists, shall we? 🙂 Or hey, St. Francis and his revolution. It seems to be part of human nature, that every so often someone tries to try to fix what is perceived as wrong with their world. Can’t argue with that (unless I’m on the receiving end of the guillotine, in which case I might object a bit ;). But no guillotines are involved here, so more power to their attempt to change the world.

    • The problem is that we are too quick to remedy by separation, cutting ourselves off from those people we deem “problems.” The way of Christ, however, it to unite Himself to them, taking their sins upon Himself and paying the price for it in order to redeem them. Perhaps we can follow this type of example when it comes to fixing problems in the church: Stay united to the group, be willing to associate with them in their err, and suffer alongside them for the consequences, while remaining uncompromising with the truth. If we all did this, perhaps the church would still all be one. We are too quick to leave a group who is “doing it wrong” in order to be safe, have our own needs met, and feel like we’ve found the hidden faithful.

      • Christianity is quick to splinter because of the fact that there is no autonomy allowed in Christianity. That whole body thing. Paul (again with that troublesome tendmaker) intentionally rules out autonomy the individual believer. So if you can’t have autonomous believers, but you can have autonomous churches, it makes sense for people to pick their church wisely.

        • That troublemaker Paul… Did’t Luther have trouble with some of his letters, saying they ought not be canonical? Congregational autonomy is a somewhat recent notion, which many Christians reject. There is a difference between choosing your church wisely and splitting the one you’re already in over small a matter of interpreting the law or abstract doctrine. I just think too many splits I’ve seen may not have been necessary, both on the congregational and denominational level. I believe John Stott encouraged evangelicals not to leave the mainlines, but stay and work for good within them. I think I agree with him.

  31. I haven’t read through all the comments here, but I have to agree with a lot of their critiques. I don’t know that saying they’ve found the “real Jesus” while everyone else has it wrong is going to help them, though. I know it’s a somewhat old critique, but I think it still rings true – Dallas Willard said that most evangelical churches produce “Vampire Christians”. They want Jesus for His blood and what it can do for them and nothing else. They don’t really fell any need to do the hard work of becoming disciples and looking like Jesus, so it’s not surprising to see the outcomes we have now.

    Regarding homosexuality, I think the real problem is that many Christians will say stuff like, “we love the sinner, but hate the sin”, but that doesn’t really bear out in real life. I have heard more gross and disgusting jokes about homosexuals from Christians than I have heard from anyone else. And it wasn’t just from young and immature Christians. It’s been from people who were elders in churches. So, yeah, we can tell homosexuals we love them all we want, but it’s like an abusive husband saying he loves his wife after he beats her senseless. It’s simply not true. There are some Christians who are doing a good job, but still not nearly enough.

  32. Can somebody even tell me why this church is even necessary? Don’t they have an Episcopal church or something similar in their area? What they are doing is fine, I guess, but hardly original. And I feel like there is a little anger beneath the surface. “We’ll show those jerks what it means to be a loving community!” Also, there are hints of idealogical imperialism: They overtly aim to influence the global direction of Christianity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, everyone has the right to try. But I thought they were tired of having other people’s viewpoints crammed down their throats.

    But mostly, I just don’t see that they are offering anything new.

    • I would argue that not wanting to be part of the Anglican Communion might be one powerful reason for not wanting to worship as an Episcopalian. In Africa, some of the Bishops are pretty foul in their disdain for homosexuals. To the point of wanting to lock them up for being gay or advocating for their basic civil rights.

      Also, this church apparently is part of the MCC. It was accepting to gays long before TEC was.

      • Yeah, I just discovered that. It makes sense that this group is part of the MCC. However, I don’t think any Episcopalians give a whoop what conservative African bishops think about them, or much less guilt by association for sharing a communion with them. TEC is functionally independent from the communion,

        • When I was attending a TEC parish, it mattered a great deal to me. I was stating, every time I said the Credo, that I was in Communion with those individuals.

          • Right, but in the same way that Presbyterians and Catholics are in communion with them. Credal unity isn’t the same as denominational unity. The latter means precariously little to the leadership of TEC, though there are many shining stars among their ranks who would differ.

    • Not sure about this church, but the “emerging” Chruch often does not want to be part of a institution that requires old models of faith though they do want to bring the good from all Christian traditions. also, the State & Church issue is very much in play. Anglican Church would somehow be under the Queen in some wierd way (even if the queen & everyone in the church ignores this).

  33. I could probably embrace all that was said by this”emerging church” except the gay-lesbian-transgender issue. I see no where in the Gospels that Jesus embraced this lifestyle. He talked about God bringing man and woman together as one and about how God hates divorce, but the other issue wasn’t addressed by Jesus except the aforementioned subjects make it pretty clear that monogamous heterosexual marriage was considered the standard by the Son of God. That is not to say that we are to be exclusive, hating, or beating down any particular sin more than another. I just don’t see the gossipers starting their own emerging church to show how gossiping should be embraced by all of Christendom. We all have sins to put under the Grace of God, but I don’t think it helps anyone to pretend that sin isn’t sin.

  34. For every heresy there is an equal and opposite heresy.

    C FitzSimons Allison develops this idea in _The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy_.
    http://www.amazon.com/Cruelty-Heresy-Affirmation-Christian-Orthodoxy/dp/0819215139

    I spent years of my life in congregations just like the one described (including MCC Toronto). A church that preaches “Neither do I condemn you” without also preaching “Go and sin no more” is a bird with one wing. As is a church that does it the other way around.

    We find lasting freedom only in the fullness of truth handed down from the Apostles.

  35. So a church led by the LGBT community is attempting to reach out to a broader audience. I think this comment thread illustrates pretty well how much work they have cut out for them. Nobody can seem to get past the homosexuality issue and actually talk about the post at hand. But yeah, you all totally treat homosexuality like any other sin. Totally. Gotcha.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It’s one of those Bright Red Murder Flags, just like Evolution. Once that flag gets hoisted, everybody goes Dalek on the Other.

    • It’s not the idea of reaching an audience anyone has a problem with, Marie. For me, it’s this particular church taking scripture completely out of context to make a point. Once again, where in scripture is it indicated that the centurion was in an intimate relationship with his servant? Or give us any inkling that first century eunuchs are the equivalent of transgender persons today? I would feel as strongly against them twisting scripture to suit their own agenda as I do churches promoting a prosperity gospel; churches that teach “grace alone”, but embrace fundamentalist values; or protestant churches that condemn Catholic or Othodox believers (or vice versa). Contradictions create nothing but confusion, and the Holy Spirit isn’t the author of confusion.

  36. When it comes to this new emerging church and its list of self-defining assertions, I think I’ll just take the advice given by wise old Gamaliel when he and his colleagues were trying to figure out how to deal with a strange new sect of Judaism that had popped up in Jerusalem. If it’s originating from God and in line with His will, then it will grow and bear good fruit. If not, it might grow for a while but bear questionable fruit and eventually end up in church history’s trash pile.
    As far as the issues surrounding the church, the gospel, scripture, and homosexuality, I think history and the One who rules over it are going to eventually work that one out as well.
    If homosexuality is of sinful original or one of the countless by-products of fallen human nature — and scripture certainly seems to indicate that it is — then sooner or later the practicing homosexual who genuinely desires to follow Christ will reach a point of inner conflict and tension where a choice has to be made. At least, I suspect that to be true.
    And I believe that if a church is honestly keeping its central focus on Jesus and His gospel, then the true Head of the church will eventually address any sin issues in His own way and on His time table.
    Still, I suppose it’s possible that when a church just uses Jesus as a figurehead and a endorser of a particular religious paradigm, then such a church could conceivably harbor or even openly embrace sin without experiencing conviction from the Holy Spirit.
    As someone with a close friend and brother in Christ who came out of the closet in a very active way several months ago, I have really felt squeezed between loyalty toward my friend and what I see that scripture has to say on the issue. And though I and other members of our church family really tried not to judge him or make him feel isolated, it has been painful to watch him isolate himself from us, cutting ties with family and friends to pursue (if what I’ve heard through the grapevine is true) the gay lifestyle with hedonistic abandon.
    But I did much the same thing with drugs, alcohol, and sexual immorality of the heterosexual variety at one point in my own life. And while I was living that way, I became a master at rationalizing the way I was living and projecting my own twisted viewpoint on to God — until the extremity of my depravity made that impossible, and I decided I would be much more at ease as a nihilist.
    Thank God for His unbelievable mercy!
    I truly pray that my friend is not heading down that dark road, but I fear that he is.
    And if I had it my way, the practice of homosexuality would not be a sin, which, if left unrepented, brings about isolation from our Heavenly Father. But, deep down, I fear that it is.

  37. CM, you might want to take an extra month off, after moderating this discussion…