July 21, 2017

Why Gays, Republicans, and Other Notorious Sinners Are Welcome at My Church

'the conversation' photo (c) 2007, Andrew - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/An imagined , but entirely possible, conversation:

Concerned Christian: Chaplain Mike, if you were a pastor, would you allow gays to attend your church?

CM: Sure. If they wanted to come to church, why shouldn’t I?

Concerned Christian: Well, doesn’t the Bible forbid homosexuality?

CM: Let’s say it does. Wouldn’t church be a good place for sinners to come? In fact, I can’t really think of a better place.

Concerned Christian: But aren’t you concerned to keep your church pure?

CM: I don’t think I’ve ever been in a pure church.

Concerned Christian: But shouldn’t those who come to church be trying to be pure? To overcome sin? To learn how to walk in God’s ways?

CM: I thought they came to seek Jesus and receive his grace for their lives.

Concerned Christian: Well, of course, Jesus is central, but once we believe in him, aren’t we supposed to change and be different?

CM: I suppose so, but every church with which I’ve been involved is filled with people who have a lot of changing to do. Take my church now: We have some unkind people, worriers, gossips and others who can’t control their tongues, folks who have trouble being honest, some rebellious children and angry parents, people who don’t have their theology straight, lazy people, gluttons, jealous and envious people, some who struggle with pornography, teens who’ve had premarital sex, divorced folks, and probably some spouses who have been unfaithful in one way or another. We have a whole host of sinners at our church! (We even have Republicans! — that’s a joke.) In fact, I’m pretty sure the only kinds of people we have at our church are sinners. Why should we single out gay people?

Concerned Christian: I don’t think I’d like your church. Sounds like the world to me.

CM: Except you know what? We all come together and Jesus is there. We sing and pray to him, confess our sins. We listen while the Bible is read and preached. We come forward and receive his Body and Blood at the Table. He sends us out forgiven and renewed to love our neighbors.

Concerned Christian: Wait a minute. Are you telling me you would let a gay person take Communion?

CM: Why would I want to withhold Jesus from anyone?

Concerned Christian: Doesn’t the Bible say a person should examine himself before taking Communion?

CM: That’s exactly what it says. People should examine themselves. It doesn’t say I should examine them. That’s why we confess our sins and receive the words of absolution together when we worship.

Concerned Christian: But don’t you think you ought to confront their sin and challenge them to change?

CM: Seems to me the Gospel says God’s kindness leads us to change, and that his grace teaches us to become more like him. I can’t think of a better way of “helping” people than by welcoming them into God’s household, where Jesus is, where the Good News is spoken and enacted in worship each week, and where we try to love each other with forbearance, patience, and mutual service. I don’t think it’s my job to change anybody.

Concerned Christian: Well, I think a pastor ought to be a stronger leader than that. He should preach against sin from the pulpit and have programs and ministries to help people change and overcome sin in their lives. They ought to be warned and challenged and confronted regularly.

CM: Look, I don’t want to sound smug, because I have a lot to learn, but that sounds like trying to control and manage people, and I would rather simply and regularly invite them to Jesus. What you are suggesting sounds more like living under the law than the Gospel.

Concerned Christian: I don’t agree. Give people that kind of freedom and they will abuse it every time.

CM: Maybe you’re right. Thanks for talking. Hey, before you go, I’m handing out free sins today. Would you like some?

Comments

  1. Oh boy , Chaplain Mike…I predict the comments section on this piece will be a war zone.

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      as you had predicted, the number of responses, their tone & subject matter, has proven once again anything which includes a reference to homosexuals regardless of the original context will take on a life larger than the writer’s intent…

      this one topic, homosexuality, will blind some to the content of inclusiveness, acceptance, respect (hardest attitude to foster), love & simple human kindness+charity…

      i had emailed Chap Mike sometime ago about the last article that he had to close comments on because it devolved into a heated debate outside the context of the article itself.

      all i know is this: i need to be careful how i express my points-of-view regardless of how passionate i am about them or how strong my religious conviction is. i can be insensitive to others in spite of my zeal & i can be convinced of my own perspectives without consideration of alternate ones…

      i know i am not going to be able to address the speck in others’ eyes if i don’t first take care of the log in mine. it is a challenge being able to discuss volatile topics in love with the hope that understanding can be the result. i hope the saints participating in this exchange of perspectives will come away with a greater appreciation of just how a sensitive issue can bring out the best or worse in us…

      Lord, have mercy on us…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        as you had predicted, the number of responses, their tone & subject matter, has proven once again anything which includes a reference to homosexuals regardless of the original context will take on a life larger than the writer’s intent…

        It’s straight out of that Lenny Bruce animated short “Masked Man” (Lone Ranger spoof; you can find it on YouTube). About halfway through, “Masked Man” comes out of the closet regarding Tonto and the townspeople honoring him all go crazy — especially one guy who spends the entire rest of the skit pointing at Masked Man yelling “FAAAG! FAAAAG!! FAAAAAAAAAG!!!”

  2. If Christianity still made sense to me, this is a church I’ve want to join.

    • AGREED!!!!! AGREED!!!!!! AGREED!!!!! AGREED!!!!!!!

      CM, if there were a chruch like this that I could work through my doubts, and uncertanities I’d go there in a heart-beat. Christianity has it so backward. Today many chruches are for the perfect – instead of the broken, the doubter like me. One has to enter the community with full certainity, no doubts, and oh yeah…they believe that pre-trib rapture crap!! 😯

      i don’t know but I-Monk is porbably the closest thing to church that I am a part of today. So in a way CM…I guess you are my pastor!! 😛

      • Danielle79 says:

        “Today many chruches are for the perfect – instead of the broken, the doubter like me.”

        Yes, this has been a big deal for me as well. I need room to exist as a doubter (and other things besides). Moving to other (better?) places? Yes, I hope so, but most of us live in that middle ground between past real past realities and future promises. No amount of trying to be perfect or denying the truth of things changes this fact.

        Of course, when you introduce the question of disagreement, things get even more interesting. There are simply going to be points where I have thought really long and hard, and come to a different conclusion than the dominant evangelical interpretations. I admit readily that I could be wrong, but I also have to live and exist with the truth as I can discern it. Expectations of rigid conformity therefore introduce the same problems to the intellectual life that doubt or sin do in other areas of life.

        I think one thing that has caused me buddlement is that true, blunt honesty is difficult to foster within many churches. It is too costly, and arouses too much anxiety in people. Fear, I think, lies at the center of a lot of things. We’re afraid of loss of power, and loss of certainty, and the dark corners of our souls. We’re afraid to be human because to be human is to be often mistaken, and to die.

      • So glad to have you with us, EAGLE…. now, about that tithe.. ahem…those tithes….

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        You know how I make myself tiresome to those around my by repeatedly calling out the bad habit of Evangelical Protestants to use the word “Christian” as if it were synonymous with “Evangelical Protestant”? This is why. You see CM describing a mythical fairyland church not found in the real world. I see him describing a pretty typical mainline Protestant church (liberal division). (Which is not to say that these don’t have their own problems, but that is a different discussion.)

        Those coming out of Evangelical Protestantism have been repeatedly told that “mainline” and “liberal” are dirty, dirty words, and nothing that a real true Christian would associate with. This is a Big Lie. I encourage you, having moved in your life past Evangelical Protestantism, to see past this Big Lie as well.

        • Danielle79 says:

          Aye. There is a reason I’ve been hiding out in the mainline, for several years now…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          You know how I make myself tiresome to those around my by repeatedly calling out the bad habit of Evangelical Protestants to use the word “Christian” as if it were synonymous with “Evangelical Protestant”?

          They have hijacked the name “Christian” to mean themselves and themselves alone.

          Never mind that in order to see God at all, they stand on the shoulders of mainstream and liturgical giants. The only reason they have a Bible to quote chapter-and-verse is because of those mainstreams and liturgicals who kept the Bible from being rewritten in whatever heresy’s or fad’s own image centuries and millenia ago.

          • If the Bible HAD been rewritten according to some such fad (as Bart Ehrman suggests), would you be aware of it? No, it would seem completely normal to you.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “If the Bible HAD been rewritten according to some such fad (as Bart Ehrman suggests)”

            Ehrman makes a twofold argument: that early Christianity was far more doctrinally diverse than is conventionally acknowledged, and that the thread of Christian doctrine that eventually became the accepted orthodoxy was merely among many rather than a numerically dominant trunk from with non-orthodox versions branched.

            It isn’t a question of re-writing the books of the Bible, but of what books would be included. The textual histories of the books that got included are complicated, but this isn’t a question of their being subject to major revisions.

            For what it is worth, my take on Ehrman’s thesis is that he succeeds in his first point. I am persuaded that there was indeed a wide range of doctrinal thought early on. I don’t think he makes his second point. Jump in your time machine and take a poll of, say, second century Christians. What percentage would be more or less proto-orthodox? Heck if I know. The conventional answer is that it would be the bulk. Ehrman argues that they would be just one group among many and would not stand out. I don’t think he makes his case, but that doesn’t mean the conventional answer is correct.

          • He also gives examples of specific texts that were altered.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            That was the “complicated” part. Yes, there are passages. But they aren’t the wholesale emendations that are often popularly imagined, as if Constantine sat down one day and rewrote the whole thing.

          • Okay, true that.

    • Chaplain Mike,

      i’d like to thank you for this piece, for your courage to yet again bring up such a difficult topic. Painful and scary as it may be, this is a dialogue that needs to happen. We in the LGBTQ community are here, we’ve always been here, and we’ll always be here– and we, just as anyone, want to know that we have a place at the Table. In these discussions, it’s important to remember that this is far more than abstract thoughts and opinions… there are real, live people caught in the middle of this chaos. i am one such person. i’m at a place where it doesn’t matter whether or not you think my sexuality is a sin– whether i am a sin– but not everyone is at that place and more importantly, who are you to deny me, or anyone else, the absolute grace and love and mercy of God? i don’t come from a faith tradition that practices Communion, but if i did and was told i couldn’t partake because of my sexuality… please hear me when i say that would be reason enough for me to walk out on the faith. As it is, CM, i’m sad to say that for my own sense of spiritual and emotional wellbeing, i feel the need to step back from this blog. Perhaps this will be temporary, perhaps not. CM, and the other iMonks, i trust you’ll continue to challenge your readers, so that this remains a place for people learn and grow together. Grace and peace to you all.

      • I feel my comment may be ambiguous–

        Chaplain Mike, the thank you was to you, but later in the comment when I “you”, that was not to you in particular, I meant for that to be a general statement- I apologize.

      • Danielle79 says:

        Thanks for posting, Ally. I am not one of the individuals so caught-up. However, I feel entirely awkward reading the about 95 percent of the responses whenever this topic arises.

        In the discussions, the homosexual person always becomes the ultimate Other: either the “problem” who tests ones theological orthodoxy, or else the ultimate “outsider” that one gets to use to prove that one is tolerant and big-hearted.

        What seems to be escaping the collective moral imagination here (and perhaps in evangelicalism?) is the simple notion that being homosexual may simply be as ordinary and as “fixed” as being heterosexual, and that one’s deepest needs for intimacy is an essential part of a person that deserves respect. I think a lot of people posting here probably believe this is on one level or another, but they’re trapped between a rock and a hard place. They’re fresh out of church battles involving this issue and rather strident, or else they can’t quite figure out how to reconcile their basic human decency with what they think they have to believe for theological and Biblical reasons. So they’re clinging to a middle ground that in which they try to recognize someone’s dignity and yet maintain that their sexuality has to change (this approaches saying that you love someone, provided they become some else). I suspect that many will stick to that line until its untenably becomes clear.

        The problem, of course, is that meanwhile real people exist and have to figure out how to have a productive relationship with people who can’t figure out how to respond to them. I don’t think people are “getting” that that what appears charitable to them is in fact very uncomfortable and unwelcoming.

        I am pregnant now, and I keep asking myself what I am going to do if my child turns out to be lesbian or gay. I don’t know, but I suspect that I will be getting them as far away from this world as possible.

        Anyway, I am sorry. And I know this is an entirely inadequate response.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          In the discussions, the homosexual person always becomes the ultimate Other: either the “problem” who tests ones theological orthodoxy, or else the ultimate “outsider” that one gets to use to prove that one is tolerant and big-hearted.

          Or the Other That Must Be Destroyed. Cue Two Minutes Hate.

          The problem, of course, is that meanwhile real people exist and have to figure out how to have a productive relationship with people who can’t figure out how to respond to them.

          Or Reality must bow to Purity of Ideology. (Remember the classic Communists?)

  3. Joseph (the original) says:

    during my church detox period, i engaged in message forum interaction with mostly those identifying themselves as postmodern or emerging Christians…

    as those familiar with the emerging church dynamic, it was ‘conversation’ that was raised up as its most central characteristic. just like the one posted here, the conversation was the attempt to be able to talk about anything and everything concerning the way church was being practiced as well as what was being promoted as right doctrine.

    although Brian McLaren became the more prominent spokesperson of the Emergent camp, he started out as simply being one of the cadre of ‘voices’ at the time using this same imaginary conversation as the basis for some of his books…

    and i happened to have had the pleasure of meeting Brian at his church one Sunday. went up and introduced myself after service. was surprised at his slight stature. he seemed larger in written form…

    i did identify myself with the emerging trend without ever becoming part of the Emergent Church/Movement. i enjoyed the conversation with many individuals that did not believe the same way i believed. fortunately, there were welcoming venues for engaging in such controversial conversations with no fear of rejection or judgment or condemnation. it is a scary premise to permit such things to happen. it is messy. takes a lot of effort to be understood & it takes patience to deal with people that would not be selected from the familiar social group.

    anyway…there will always going to be proverbial lines drawn in the sand of just how far people will allow themselves to venture up to before accepting those they perceive inhabit the other side. we all have our comfort zone no matter if it is very confined or vast in its extent. i hope i continue on the path of a more generous orthodoxy, if i could quote Brian McLaren. i think i still have some expansion to incorporate into my acceptance & interaction with those unlike me. i think being part of this faith community helps me continue that process…

    • Gosh my fundagelicalism detox period has been going on for over 3 years now…. I’m predicting another couple of years especially as I need to get rid of the irritating catch phrases that I heard over the years. Things that give me headaches include:

      “God is good, all the time’ All the time God is good” (puke….)

      or…

      “Our mission is to impact secular Washington, D.C.” (double puke…)

      or…

      Thoughts of men’s retreats and continaully getting hammered. Plus accountability programs and parterns with this instant fix it mentality. All too often there is this “sucks to be you”approach to theology.

      or…

      Thoughts of the subtle prosperity gospel which I would say entrenches about 95% of funageliclaism today. With career success, marriage, kids (Got to have that James Dobson seal of approval!! 😀 ) staining everything and reaking of the prosperity gospel.

      or…..

      Thoughts of fundys knowing all the answers even done to the End Times, rapture etc… I’m waiitng for the next crisis for fundys to have orgasms of excitement. Will it come though what CNN is reporting on Syria or Iran and nucelar weapons, etc..? Only fundagelical Christians could get that sexually excited over pain and suffering assciated with war when they tie it into End Times theology.

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        …I’m predicting another couple of years especially as I need to get rid of the irritating catch phrases that I heard over the years. Things that give me headaches include:

        “God is good, all the time’ All the time God is good” (puke….)

        Eagle: yeah, i understand much of your journey+angst. however, it is true God is good…and He is good all the time…

        the saying may sound trite & overused, but really, it is a truism regardless of those that misuse it or toss it about carelessly…

        it isn’t the goodness of God that caused your church detox reaction, but those that claim to be His representatives. that is the unfortunate source of your disappointment/frustration/hurt. and many here on this site can personally identify with your experiences.

        i am sorry for the wackiness you endured during your Evangelical circus show. i hope you are able to sort thru the elephant poop, spilled popcorn, sawdust & other religious detritus to rediscover that yes, God is good & He has never changed regardless of His followers that misrepresent Him…

        Lord, have mercy on us. Let us reflect better Your goodness to those that long to know it is true…

        • Eagle, I first learned that phrase, “God is good all the time” when I was in Kenya at an orphanage founded for street children, usually abandoned because of the death of their parents due to AIDS. As they fairly openly shared their stories of horror with us, the healing was apparent. So was their personal knowledge that although the world was evil to them, God was with them in every oppression and loves them now. God is always in the business of recognizing the evil, suffering in it with us, and redeeming us whenever possible.
          But I can see it would be an irritating if said lightly and with no context. I want God is good all the time written on my gravestone, mainly because I have been through a lot of not good crap and am still here because God was good in the midst of it and not because God took me out of it.
          Blessings!

  4. Completely agree with you, Chaplain Mike. The Word and Sacraments are for everyone, for we are all sinners.

    This doesn’t mean we pretend that people aren’t sinners, or that their sin isn’t really sin. But when people sin, they need forgiveness, not gossip, certainly not Mars Hill style “discipline.”

    • “This doesn’t mean we pretend that people aren’t sinners, or that their sin isn’t really sin.”

      Right. That’s what makes me uncomfortable about the post. It’s not clear whether Chaplain Mike thinks its his job to preach the law to sinners at all. This is standard ELCA thinking, but it’s simply not Lutheran or Christian.

      If there no Law is preached, then there is no need for the Gospel and it loses all power. And it’s simply wrong to say the pastor doesn’t examine members of the congregation, otherwise the office of the keys is meaningless, the early church would be entirely wrong, and Paul would have said in the pastorals only “Encourage with all authority” instead of “encourage and rebuke.”

      And note, this isn’t just an issue with homosexuals, it’s often more of an issue with hetero couples living together without marriage, with those having an occupation that is sinful or scandalous, or others in a semi-permanent position of sin they refuse to leave.

      Here are the Lutheran confessions on worthy communion:

      it must [also] be carefully explained who are the unworthy guests of this Supper, namely, those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, and without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives, and by their unworthy oral eating of the body of Christ load themselves with damnation, that is, with temporal and eternal punishments, and become guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

      Now, repentance consists properly of these 3] two parts: One is contrition, that is, 4] terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of 5] the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts 6] the conscience, and delivers it from terrors.

      • Tim Becker says:

        “True repentence and sorrow”? “True faith”? All are excluded then. The man who said,
        “I believe, help my unbelief” is out. Repentence and sorrow all always tinged with a sliver of insincerity.

  5. Chad Winters says:

    This is a great strawman argument, that does not address the true moral difficulties You must know that very few churches would not welcome someone who came as a homosexual and said “I struggle with this and I know it’s a sin and I need Jesus to help.”

    But what do you do when he is proud of it and says it is not a sin and his politically powerful coalition are saying you should not preach that it is a sin and is offended when you do?

    You are correct that it should treated no differently than an adulterer who will not agree that he is sinning or that he should stop. However the Biblical precedent for that includes Church discipline and even casting the unrepentant sinner out of the congregation.

    I’m not soap boxy on this, but I feel that type of narrative argumentation is used to avoid discussing the real difficulties and the valid points of the other side.

    • Chad Winters says:

      The precedent I meant: 1Cor 5:
      1It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife.2 And you are proud!2 Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you?3 For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. 4 When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus,5 turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

      I love the Grace of Jesus, but the Bible says it is more complicated than “the one who is most accepting and loving is the most like Jesus”

      • Aidan Clevinger says:

        I think this is where the Law/Gospel distinction comes in: to sinners who are secure and proud of their sin, they can only hear the Law. But to people who realize their guilt, even if they still fall into it, even if they don’t have it “managed” or “overcome” (or should I say, especially in those circumstances), to those people the Gospel is to be preached.

        The real difficulty (one that I definitely struggle with in my own life, as everyone else does, I’m sure) is balancing love and honesty. Love doesn’t mean that we lie about another person’s offenses; it means that we acknowledge them, and continue to love the other person in spite of them, just as we hope they do for us. And part of honesty in any relationship, but especially in a Christian Church, is going to be a frank refusal to justify other people’s actions when they’re clearly wrong. I think you can love someone, without judging them, even if you don’t approve of or accept what they do.

        • Aidan Clevinger says:

          Of course, we also have to be careful that we don’t become busybodies, always looking to “correct” or “rebuke” somebody for their sin. How we maintain this balance is far beyond me – I’m still very much on the road to figuring out. But I do think it’s a necessary balance.

          • Charles Joshua Lake says:

            I like your views and honesty, Aidan.

            I think a lot of reflection on the motivation and mindset is required, as we are aware it is not just about doing God’s work to be top of the class. Is it out of love or out of pride, ego/power hunger to control and manage an ‘offender’? Worse, is it conceivable that a person’s motivation could be ‘I simply don’t like you and everything you stand for including your immoral ways’, while being more forgiving towards another person who is just as flawed (in different ways)? At which point does one think he has settled his own problems sufficiently to be a busybody? Will one cringe at human efforts to administer Godly functions as if there is a KPI to keep, because it leaves no room for God’s grace? Where sin abounds, grace huperperisseu. Like you said, how we maintain balance is far beyond me. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord my refuge, that I may tell of all your (His) works. I’m a refugee until my King returns, and in my camp, all the refugees look the same.

            Just to quote the dialogue CM: “I don’t think it’s my job to change anybody.”

          • Often times fundagelicalsim is about rebuking and hammering someone to death. Unless someone is having the &^*% pounded out of them…than church serves no meaning for many fundagelcial Pharises.

        • Love is not tempered by honesty, nor honesty, love. Love is being honest. Honesty is the highest tribute to unconditional love. I believe that, in our discomfort with the disparity between popular culture and clear Biblical teaching, that we’ve muddled our OWN understanding. The “new” moralities are just as tough–if not [I think definitely] MORESO–on pedophilia as an acceptable form of expression of “Love”. The broadest brush would still condemn human trafficking in prostitution. My point, I guess is, we are NOT a law unto ourselves. The Gospel of Jesus Christ stands or falls together. I don’t see Him assigning any greater or lesser dignity to ANY form of sin, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF RELIGIOUS HYPOCRISY. If you believe that humanity invented God, and not the other way around, there is no way that I could have a significant dialogue with you, as long as I firmly believe that an Omniscient and Omnipotent [and intentional] God designed us and gave us instructions. How I extend that love must be NOT to “score” or assign value to sin. We are ALL sinners guilty of selfwill-run-riot. When we feel the pinch of conviction, we all want to turn away from the mirror of God’s Word, and deny that OUR sin IS sin. On the other hand, as a recipient of God’s maximum mercy [parable of the unprofitable servant], who am I to withhold mercy from those to whom God extends mercy??? The process of reductionism that seeks to find a point of comfort for all, that defines NOTHING as sin [or even as “inappropriate behavior”], is, for sure, an exercise in futility!

    • Matt Purdum says:

      Thanks Chaplain Mike for a great post. This reader Is profoundly wearied by those who hide behind the Bible and use it as a shield for ignorance and hate.

    • Of the homosexuals I know, very few of them would fall into the militant, or even politically active, category. I’m sure they exist, but I think most of them would be happy to find people who treat them like normal human beings.

      As to what you do if someone does try to advocate a certain position, I’d have no problem telling him to take it elsewhere (which is the same thing I’d tell anyone else who tries to use the church for their own soapbox causes). Honestly in my experience the people who are the biggest pains when it comes to trying to rally people to a particular cause come from the more conservative side of the political spectrum.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Of the homosexuals I know, very few of them would fall into the militant, or even politically active, category. I’m sure they exist…

        Oh, they do. The first non-heterosexual I encountered WAS an in-your-face militant type. I’d known him for a year or two previously, and his “going gay” or “uncloseting” was a lot like a Damascus Road conversion experience; it was like when he turned 30, he Accepted Homosexuality as his Personal LORD and Savior and started aggressively Witnessing to (and claiming Persecution from) pretty much everybody he encountered. And to top it off, he was very predatory about getting some. (This was long before Fred Phelps, but this guy acted like he was using Jack Chick and Fred Phelps’ version of “fags” as a how-to manual. I kid you not. I hate being a weirdness magnet…)

        • sounds a lot like some people i know (except not homosexual). always trying to “witness” and “share the truth in LOVE”…and then when somebody tells them to take it easy , they claim its persecution

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Yeah. In a way, it was like a funhouse-mirror reflection of Wretched Urgency Witnessing. That’s why I refer to the guy “uncloseting/going gay” as “like a religious conversion.” The dynamic and intensity was similar.

            As this happened right after the guy’s 30th birthday, another theory was that he had a spectacular mid-life crisis at 30 and pretty much went crazy. You know, mid-life crisis crazy like disappearing over the horizon in a Maserati bought on credit with a jail-bait bimbo in the passenger seat dopplering “I GOTTA BE MEEEEEEEE!”? Except he didn’t buy a Maserati and his jail-bait bimbos were same-sex. Looking back on it, I can only quote Jerry Garcia: “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been.”

  6. You understand the Gospel, Chaplain Mike! Steve understands the Gospel. This guy “concerned Christian”, and his tribe, and they are Legion, have invented another gospel, a design-your-own salvation plan which they have probably been taught by someone. It’s “chase after the teaching of the guy who taught me this” , instead of “follow Jesus”.

    This looks a lot like Jesus. I’d like to find this church, if such a one really exists.

  7. Charles Joshua Lake says:

    Thank you, CM. This is place is full of fresh air, a nice little sanctuary. Grace Alone.

  8. Robby Elliott says:

    I am fairly new to this website and to Christianity in general so bare with me if I am missing something in my statements and question. I understand homosexuals being allowed to come to church and I am okay with that, especially since I work with and am friends with a couple of guys who happen to be gay (they are not Christian). The question that I get asked and, I guess it is my question to everyone here (because i don’t really know how to answer it) is, if they are allowed to go to church where do you draw the line? Becoming a Member? Deacon? Marriage? Pastor? How are those lines determined and what sort of intelligent answer can i give people when asked if they can be a member or a deacon or get married or be a pastor?

    • In the old days, we had something called “discretion,” which meant that if somebody was engaging in behavior outside the norm (like homosexuality) they kept it quiet, and people who knew about it didn’t discuss it out in the open.

      Implicit to this arrangement was that the norms were the norms. Even the practicing homosexuals of many decades ago would not have had the chutzpah to claim that their sexuality was “equal” to heterosexuality.

      If someone was openly homosexual and refused to admit when pressed that his behavior was sinful, I’d find it difficult/impossible to admit him as a member. If someone calls me on my sins, I will own up to them and ask forgiveness. If I refuse to even admit that I sin, that’s a problem. You can’t receive forgiveness if you don’t acknowledge your sin.

      • And would you let them on the pulpit committee? What happens when the church has a large bloc of people who oppose __________ (fill in the blank with your favorite disputed sin), and another large bloc who say it isn’t a sin at all, and it’s discrimination to preach against it? You might make everybody sign a statement of principles or something (and good luck with formulating one!), then if you’re lucky, wind up with a situation in which gay-sympathizers (or whatever) are relegated to a second class citizenship.

        • Homosexuality is not a disputed sin, but a sin. So is laziness, gluttony, drunkeness, murderous violence, torture and making excuses for the same. Plenty of church people are guilty of these as well, including myself. No, we don’t talk about them as often as we should. Yes, we should figure out how to call people on their sins, but in a respectful and tactful manner.

          Simply eliminating sins and ignoring the plain words of Scripture is not the way to go. Words mean things. Either we believe them or we don’t. If a person doesn’t agree to be bound by what Scripture says, I’m afraid we’re at an impasse.

          • To further elaborate what I mean, a poll from CNN a couple years back revealed that the more often one goes to church, the more likely one is to condone torture of America’s “enemies.”

            Folks, I don’t care where you sit on the political spectrum, that’s a BIG problem. If the same people who harp on the gay issue harped on that issue with equal vigor, the evangelical church would be in better shape today.

          • Kerri in AK says:

            Well, as far as I can tell anything that makes us turn away from God is a sin. While some create levels of sin, it’s still all sin in the end. I doubt very seriously that God is any sadder because someone beats their spouse instead of sneering at a beggar. We take our eyes off God – that’s sin. I might very much be in the minority but I think that we are the ones who place differing values on differing ways to turn away from God. God just sees us turning our backs.

            Given that we all sin most of the time, why should a church deny us entry because of sinning? Don’t we want others to be overwhelmed by the unconditional love of God? Don’t we want everyone to fall madly and passionately in love with Jesus? The only way to do that is to offer that unconditional love ourselves. Yup, it’s the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do but that’s what brings us and others into relationship with God. We’ll fail (that’s a sin) which is a given but so what? We mustn’t ever stop trying. Besides it’s only through God’s love that we’re capable of loving others anyway. Let’s work at keeping our own eyes on God and that example will be more powerful than any Law there is.

          • In what universe is the sinfulness of homosexuality not disputed? You seem to be ignoring whole swathes of Christianity.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        In the old days, we had something called “discretion,” which meant that if somebody was engaging in behavior outside the norm (like homosexuality) they kept it quiet, and people who knew about it didn’t discuss it out in the open.

        “Discretion” = “Don’t Act Stupid”.

        Then came The Sixties (TM), and “LET IT ALL HANG OUT!” Ever since then, everybody has gotten Stuck on Stupid and being In-Your-Face.

        • The 1960’s also brought new attitudes towards miscegenation. Do you wish interracial couples would be less obvious about it? Maybe pushing for full marriage rights was too confrontational of them…?

        • Well, I for one, support the 60s. The changes wrought during the 60s made it possible for women to be employed in huge numbers and it made alternate forms of sexuality that had always existed liveable.

          Without the 60s we’d still have gay youth killing themselves but we wouldn’t have the stones to accept a It Gets Better project.

  9. Robby Elliott says:

    lol apparently copy/paste went haywire on my post, sorry everyone

  10. Mainline denominations like the ELCA, I think, have been toward the front edge of such a perspective as presented in the post.

    • You’re wasting your breath. These guys are caught between the Scylla of the “evangelical circus” and the Charybdis of liberalism.

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        hey…a nod to Sting & The Police’s song, Wrapped Around Your Finger.

        i always like the cultured references tossed into the iMonk posts… 😉

  11. Point 1…..Amazing the focus on gays and not the rest of the message as presented.

    Point 2…..what a coincidence, MY Church has nothing BUT sinners in it, too! We try really hard to follow what Jesus asks us to do, and get every week most of us go out there and mess it up, again (sometimes before brunch is over that morning!) But, we get up, brush ourselves off, apolgize to those we have offended, and try again.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Point 1…..Amazing the focus on gays and not the rest of the message as presented.

      That’s because Homosexuality is THE Bright Red Murder Flag for Christians. Direct Pavlovian Stimulus/Response releasing all the Aggression and Hostility. No higher brain functions involved or needed. Stimulus. Response.

      • Plus it was the example given in the dialogue. Not to mention an important social issue.

        • Actually, it was the stand-in for sin in general, IMHO. Substitute “serial adulterer” or “notorious thief” and the message of grace remains the same….and GRACE is what I thought this was about!

          • It would be impossible to imagine a dialogue like this about anything that was not a “hot button” issue. Since it also has to involve sin, the creation / evolution controversy would be hard to apply. Can we imagine such a conversation being held about masturbation?

  12. It strikes me that our tendency in these comments is to talk about OTHER people’s sins — would I let this person or that person into my church. Surely the focus should be on my sins, and on my amazed gratitude that anyone would let ME into church. Grace in the third person is no good — that’s what the older brother observed, resented, and refused to acknowledge in the parable of the prodigal son. Grace experienced from the inside makes us identify with the prodigal himself, leaving us floored with wonder that our father could still love us so much.

    • Excellent point, Damaris!

    • Christianity is about the other persons’ sins. Never their own. It’s also sin viewed through the lens of white, upper middle class surburbia. That’s why a lot of sin such as pride, greed, gluttony, etc.. are all acepted and embraced. Those sins go along well with the American Dream and culture.

    • Exactly, Damaris. We love to compartmentalize sins, and classify them according to our own opinions. Some are simply more forgivable than others, while our own barely exist, in our own minds. I mean, after all, aren’t we washed in the blood of the Lamb? Meanwhile, the individual who commits sins that aren’t our particular bag couldn’t possibly be as saved as we are…

      Sexual sin is such a complicated issue. Why do we bash certain types of sexual sin as abomination, and others go largely ignored? Could it be that we pastors know that if we preach against adultery and pornography too much, we will offend some members of our congregation?

      • Lee then you also have the aspect of those who confess adultery or pornograghy who just get hammered. This is where Christian faith becomes sucidical for a spiritual life and the’re faith and spiritual life are effictively over and blown apart when they confess. Thus…it gives people the encouragement to keep living a double life and hiding things. Case in point…look at Andrew at Mars Hill Seattle. Many churches would be more than happy to execute the David and Bathsheebas today.

    • David Cornwell says:

      It is so easy to marginalize our own sins and one of the ways we do it is to draw a line in the sand over someone else’s. We can use it to scapegoat “those people” and sinners who seem to be so happy in their sin. When they dare to come to a church (why should they want to?) the pastor should take the opportunity to have a power point sermon all ready and to make it clear they are “that kind of sinner” and that indeed headed into the hottest parts of hell. And then we can also join with other people and politicize the sin.

      For me I like being around “those” sinners much better. For one thing they do not spend all their time focusing on someone else. And many of them have suffered hell already in their experiences of school and church.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Didn’t Jesus like to hang out with messed-up losers instead of the Holy God Squadders?

    • Yes, but the prodigal son had to come home before he could attend the feast. The older brother excluded himself because he regarded the younger as unworthy. But a Pastor isn’t doing the same thing when the recognize a sinner is still living with the pigs and refusing to come home. Discipline is not pleasant, but what is discipleship without it? I don’t think Jesus had in mind a church where everyone disciplines themselves. The purpose of even having leaders in the church is so that the teachers might disciple others. A pastor refusing to commune someone is not barring them from the church, but merely recognizing that they are not a part if they refuse the words of Christ.

  13. “I don’t think it’s my job to change anybody.”

    And it is a very freeing thing once we realize this. It is so hard to remember, though.

    Great post, Chaplain Mike.

    • Wow Joanie ~ thanks. This is my New Year’s resolution. After almost 40 years of being taught that as a Christian it was my MAIN JOB to change other people, added to a typical first-born personality, I am really working on this. It has been painful and yet as you say very freeing. I am now just being with people and enjoying their friendship and variety without seeing them as a “project.”

      • Same here…I finely decided to leave everyone else alone UNTIL the day that I have fixed myself and am sinless……

        ………..you know, on the twelth of NEVER!

    • Can you imagine how a Christian commits spiritual sucide when that concept of quick, spiritual change is linked to their faith in God? This is how athesits and agnositcs get created. THEN you have the fundys who put the onus back on the person, and drown them with guilt in the process. I’ve seen this as well….

  14. Two methods of belonging to the church that we talk about sometimes in seminary (I’m not sure who first came up with the model):

    Way 1: Before anything begins you must confess that you BELIEVE, then you BEHAVE by acting the right way so your confession is accepted by the church, then you are allowed to BELONG after being thoroughly checked out.

    or….

    Way 2: First you BELONG to a community that is full of people in different places with their faith, then you begin to BEHAVE alongside the community of faith via service, fellowship, etc., despite your questions and concerns, and eventually you will come to BELIEVE because the church has modeled Christ by accepting you where you are and coming alongside you in your journey.

    Which do you think gets it (more) right?

    • Oops, I meant that as a response to Eagle’s response to All C. above, as he mentioned that Christianity has this process backwards.

  15. Clay Crouch says:

    CM,

    Bravo for broaching this subject. Would you agree that for most LGBT folk (in and out of the Church), the issue isn’t about welcoming a sinner, but rather labeling homosexuality as a sin?

    • Good point. I remember trying VERY hard back in the seventies to convince myself that pre-marital sex “wasn’t that big a deal”.

      It was a simple case of St. Augustine’s view “Lord, give me chastity, but not YET!”

  16. Jesus taught loving kindness and compassion….period. This is why Authentic Freedom Ministries welcomes all….without judgment. We are all wounded and seeking to remember love……In my mind, there is no sin, only wounded humans seeking to remember their original nature as loving, joyful and peaceful beings.

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

  17. Don’t forget QAI. 🙂

  18. Powerful conversation! The reality is that we are all sinners, but we do need to continually grow closer to Christ, and produce the evidence of becoming more holy (or sinning less)

    There is a balance in most Christian doctrines!

  19. This is possibly my Favorite Post EVER! Thanks for giving me a smile to start my Monday. 🙂

  20. I was part of a similar conversation, or comment thread on facebook rather, just last week. It was in regards to the whole Ellen Degeneres/JC Penney debauchle. Those with traditional values would stop shopping at said store because of their pro-gay movement in choosing Ellen, says the one million mom group. Such crap. But anyway, this person spoke of how there needs to be repentance and people need to be told of their sin. Like Ellen and her gayness. It’s what John the Baptist did (called people out in their sin) and he (the gentleman on facebook) expected disagreement since it was in the Bible. Such crap. But anyway, he said he was far from perfect and that his sometimes attitude problem or trains of thought were unlike living in blatant sin and I just had to laugh. DUDE, that’s all you got? An attitude problem and trains of thoughts gone awry? Now that’s funny, don’t see THAT in the Bible anywhere. Picking out in others what you most certainly couldn’t see in yourself. Such crap. But anyway, it’s conversations like this that still get me to throw up in my mouth a little bit. The holier-than-thou, condescending attitudes, and why, why, WHY is gay the big sin these days anyhow? Good grief!

    Stepping away from soap box now 🙂

    • Matt Purdum says:

      I’d rather spend an hour drinking coffee with Ellen than with any “Christian” who would boycott Penney’s. When are people going to get it?

      • +10

      • I know, right?! Aren’t they’re bigger things going on in this world, as a whole, that we should be focusing our attention on than NOT shopping at a particular store because of their chosen spokesperson? Gee whiz, like loving on some folks, maybe? Just maybe. I could be totally wrong. But, I think it must be in the Bible somewhere 🙂

        • Not “they’re” UGH, sorry! There!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Aren’t they’re bigger things going on in this world, as a whole, that we should be focusing our attention on…?

          Judging from the lead stories on morning drive-time radio, there are — Whitney Houston and the Blu-Ray release of the latest Twilight movie.

          • Yep. I made sure I got my Blu-Ray of Breaking Dawn – Part 1 Saturday morning so as to feed my inner teenage girl. I actually like the series (I’ve not read the books, and don’t intend to). I suspect any credibility I’ve ever had at this Website has now gone way, way South.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And the next day, WHITNEY got pushed off the Lead Story by that Iranian trying out for Thailand’s Dumbest Criminals. Only lasted one or two days, though, until all the flags in New Jersey started flying at half-mast and CNN announced LIVE coverage of the funeral and it’s CELEBRITY guest list.

      • There are many Christians I avoid all together. This was part of the reason why I burned bridges with a number of fundies. Whne they come Bible in one hand and foaming at the mouth and they say, “Let’s talk…” that’s when you run like hell in the other direction.

      • I think I’d rather spend an hour drinking Hemlock than contemplate how dreadfully religions get screwed up when they are the majority religion of a nation or region.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The holier-than-thou, condescending attitudes, and why, why, WHY is gay the big sin these days anyhow?

      Because it’s the sin the God Squadders are LEAST likely to be involved with.

      You only denounce the sins you have NO chance of committing. As for those you DO commit (gossip, greed, straight divorce), well, “That’s meddlin’!”

      Remember when Gluttony got its 15 minutes of fame on this blog? And how “Thou Shalt Gossip” is the Eleventh Commandment in a LOT of churches (“just so we can Pray for Him, of course”)? And how the Evangelical divorce rate is so high (never know when you might need that escape route yourself)? And all the YouTube videos of a grossly fat preacher ranting about some other (usually sexual) sin?

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        How a church reacts to divorce is a particular interest of mine, as it reveals a lot about the church. For one thing, divorce is the one sexual sin Jesus actually talks about, and not in a favorable way. A few decades ago most churches roundly condemned divorce, and being divorced pretty much made you persona non grata. Then secular social norms changed. Nowadays being divorced is unremarkable, whether inside our outside of the church. This poses a particular problem for those churches which enjoy imagining themselves to read scripture literally, with no “interpreting”. They are forced to hem and haw at great length when the topic of divorce comes up, since a large percentage of their members are divorced. (A cynic would mention those divorced members’ checkbooks, too.)

        I predict that most churches will go the same route with homosexuality. The writing is on the wall. The younger generation tends to look at the older generation’s response to gays as just weird. There will always be churches holding to the old position, just as there are churches which don’t accept divorce, but they will be an increasingly marginal minority.

      • HUG, I have many gay friends, some of whom have been involved with churches in the past. They report that many of those who squeal the loudest about the “sin” of LGBTs are themselves closet cases. Apparently their thinking is that if they condemn LGBTs, people will think that they surely can’t be LGBT themselves. (Makes no difference if they’re married, have kids and act totally straight. Looking back, I too have known some of these people. As my dad said, “beware those who protest too much.” – The implication is that they’re probably themselves doing what they’re condemning in others, which I’ve discovered is often true). Isn’t that the story Jennifer Knapp has told about herself?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Two words: TED. HAGGARD.

          Remember Rush Limbaugh being the War on Drugs’ Number-One Fanboy while he was fighting an Oxycontin addiction in secret. Though in some cases I’m pretty sure it’s not so much “people will think that they surely can’t be” as attempts at self-medication or self-treatment, to cure themselves secretly with nobody finding out.

      • Because masturbation is not associated with a politically active identity group.

  21. Chaplain Mike,

    I take issue with your point here. I know you are Lutheran so I can’t speak to that, but here are some instructions found in the BCP.

    Disciplinary Rubrics

    If the priest knows that a person who is living a notoriously evil life
    intends to come to Communion, the priest shall speak to that person
    privately, and tell him that he may not come to the Holy Table until he
    has given clear proof of repentance and amendment of life.

    The priest shall follow the same procedure with those who have done
    wrong to their neighbors and are a scandal to the other members of the
    congregation, not allowing such persons to receive Communion until
    they have made restitution for the wrong they have done, or have at least
    promised to do so.

    When the priest sees that there is hatred between members of the
    congregation, he shall speak privately to them, telling them that they
    may not receive Communion until they have forgiven each other.
    And if the person or persons on one side truly forgive the others and
    desire and promise to make up for their faults, but those on the other side
    refuse to forgive, the priest shall allow those who are penitent to come to
    Communion, but not those who are stubborn.

    In all such cases, the priest is required to notify the bishop, within
    fourteen days at the most, giving the reasons for refusing Communion.

    I think the first thing we have to determine is whether or not homosexaul activity is a “notorious evil.” Unfortunately, that can not always be agreed upon by people who insist they are reading the same scriptures. Many folks in TEC, and it seems from what I have read here and there, the ELCA are not always sure. However, if a person is defiant in their sin, or rather refuses to aknowledge that their sin is sin and instead seeks to call something good when it is not then they should be refused communion.

    Now admittedly there is a difference between a person who is tormented by their homosexual attrations and sincerely seeks to be forgiven regardless of how often they fall into sin and the person who sees nothing wrong with their homosexual activity and goes so far as to not even see it as sinful or if they remain defiant in their sins.

    Now this rubric could and should be used for all sorts of notorious evils. The banker caught in an embezzlement scheme, your wealthy church member who has left his wife of forty years and travels around with his younger mistress etc. But I fear we have gotten to a place in the church where we are very uncomfortable calling sin exactly what it is.

    I’ll go the complete opposite direction than you on this Chaplain. As a minister if we do not warn and caution people to not take of communion with open and defiant sin in their life then we are not helping them by welcoming them to the table, we are rather, assiting them in bringing condemnation upon themselves.

    * this has spelling erros i’m sure, i didn’t take time to spell check

    • My initial reaction is that I would deal privately with such situations in the confessional and in personal pastoral care ministry.

      • Chaplain Mike,

        I would too and that is what this rubric suggests, but let’s say you have met and talked with a gay couple that has been attending your church. You know by their own admission that they are practicing homosexuals and that not only are they not repentant, they don’t even think they are sinful. Perhaps like the comment below they think they should be celebrated.

        Sunday comes and they present themselves at the communion rail to receive the sacrament. What do you do?

        • How would you know they hadn’t decided to repent during the service sometime? I don’t see why homosexuality is a different class of sin than the old woman who persistently gossips or lies about other members. Do you deny her communion, too?

          It’s not the pastor’s responsibility to ensure that the people under his care are sinless. That’s an impossible task.

          • “It’s not the pastor’s responsibility to ensure that the people under his care are sinless. That’s an impossible task.”

            Phil, I think you’ve made a good point. Is it our responsibility as pastors to determine who receives the sacrament and who doesn’t? What about the congregation member who is openly holding a grudge against a neighbor, or the one who viewed pornography right before attending the Eucharist, sinning against his own body, and God, as well?

            Austin, it is a difficult spot we are in. There is much in the Bible about who should and shouldn’t partake of the elements, but not so much about those of us who would be administering. Are we held to a higher level of accountability? If so, what about the priest who alienated or hurt his prior congregation, and no reconciliation has been reached?

            I would hope that if a priest took a private confession, and advised an individual to abstain from the table, they would do so as they reconcile themselves to God. I think what is in question here could be the non-repentant…Those who don’t think that sin is outlined clearly in scripture.

            What a dilemma…

          • I guess my point is, if I partake of the elements knowingly, in a sinful state, then it’s my responsibility. If my priest knows that I have confessed a sin to him, and the priest advised that I should not take communion, and I approach the table, I feel it would be suitable for the priest to embrace that individual, to whisper “Are you sure?”, and administer if the congregant replies “Yes”. If “No”, anoint them with oil, and pray over them.

            As I stated before, it’s a dilemma. If the bread and wine are a means of grace, and we deny grace to the sinner, where does that leave us in the eyes of God?

          • I guess I think we’re all non-repentant to a degree. I think the best we can do is echo the cry of the father in Mark 9 – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The Eucharist itself is the grace that helps overcome our non-repentance.

            I do know this, though, a lot of times if a person isn’t convinced that a certain activity is sinful already, talking to a pastor or a priest probably isn’t going to convince. I think it’s at those times we have to trust that the Holy Spirit will convict them.

          • Phil and Lee,

            Several points. The rubric is desinged specifacly to address those who are unrepentant or who are defiant that what they are doing is not sinful.

            It also addresses your scenerio where a person confesses befor they come forward. The rubric specifially mentions that there should be some demonstration of repentance when the sin has been “notoriously evil.” I would imagine that demonstration in the case referenced above would be the homosexual couple no longer being a couple, or more importantly that they admit to the first place that their lifestyle is sinful to begin with.

            The problem is that we have failed to take a biblical understanding of homosexual deviancy. We fail to realize that it is presented as the end stop on the line of depravity and a complete rejection of the God ordained order of creation. So in that sense it is very much different than all the straw man sins some of you like to throw up.

            Now this may be getting into a denominational setting, but the answer for you and I Lee, both being in the same church, is pretty simple, we follow the rubrics.

            And as to our responsiblity as priest of giving and receiving the sacrament I think this article shows we are doing no one any favor if we enable their rebellion.

            XXIX. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord’s Supper.
            The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.

          • Austin…

            Agree that we follow the rubrics. The difficulty lies in how deep we go into defining the worthiness of the recipient. Are we all truly repentant of our sins? I’ve seen the elements administered to a father who had physically abused a child the week before. It was public knowledge, made the paper. Was he repentant? Only God knows. I’ve seen the elements administered to individuals who were angry, to the point of holding a grudge, against the priest presiding over the Eucharist that day. Were they repentant at that moment? I don’t know. In retrospect, I would say no, judging by their tone when they left the building.

            I’ve also seen the bread and wine administered by men who cheated on their wives, had racist inclinations, and split congregations in two, without remorse.

            If I have advised a congregant against taking the Eucharist, and they come forward, I would do as I stated above, and ask them if they are sure they wish to receive, without making a scene. If they say, I have to assume they are telling me the truth. I would err on the side of grace in that situation. I wouldn’t withhold without a private conversation prior.

        • Here’s a more helpful rubric: one day you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, whose first and only Law is that you love others as he loved you. Do you want to be told that you have been responsible for driving others away from God by failing to show them love and by instead usurping the Holy Spirit’s role as convicter and guide? Given that we’re all going to make mistakes at times discerning what a proper response to someone is, don’t you think it’s best to err, as Jesus did, on the side of showing love?

          It’s also worth noting that the Bible says nothing about refraining from taking communion due to sin in our lives. The only criterion on which we are called to “examine ourselves” is whether or not we are truly recognizing Christ in the elements and seeking to encounter him there. The whole idea of needing to clean ourselves up before being worthy to come into God’s presence is a denial of the Gospel of Christ.

          • Not quite; the first Law is that you love GOD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And to love Him is to love His commands. And if you are of the belief that rebellious, unrepentant people should not take of communion—which is a correct belief, in my view—then you must love God more than loving them, protecting the holiness of His sacrament more than protecting their pride. All in love, because love is our only motivator.

            Examining ourselves means asking ourselves if we are making a mockery out of Jesus’ sacrifice. If you are rebellious against Him (and, potentially, against His agents in the church on a matter of essential doctrine), then yes, you are eating and drinking judgment on ourselves when you take communion. The leaders in the church, then, are responsible (in order to strive for holiness in the body of believers, as well as to preach truth/Law to the rebellious believer) for handling the situation in the most gracious, loving manner possible.

        • If in pastoral care I have encouraged them not to partake of communion for whatever reason, I would still serve it to them, in good faith believing that they come to receive Jesus. However, I would also schedule an appt. immediately to talk with them about the situation.

          • I can see the wisdom there, especially if some time had passed between your initial visit

          • Now that seems like a good way to walk a sensitive line. However, I’m worried that in today’s culture, a public display of ostracism is among the worst of all conceivable sins. To deny communion to somebody, after they have already come forward with everyone else, is socially awkward, and I’m afraid we let this define our practice more than even scripture. Personally, I don’t think the burden is on the pastor to make sure everybody is sufficiently repentant. However, in the case of a person under church discipline (such as a compulsive gossip or fornicating couple), shouldn’t the burden of proof be on THEM to make demonstration to the pastor and church that 1. They believe in Jesus, 2. They accept his demands on their life, and 3. They recognize where they have transgressed and have adjusted course/sought help.

            Sure we’re all sinners. This has nothing to do with who is or isn’t good enough for communion. But the purpose of the general confession and absolution is for all those sins of which we are currently unaware. Those don’t count in this matter. Denying communion is for public sins that must be rebuked in public. You can’t discipline an envious man because that is private and internal; you may never know who is being consumed by this. But when a couple lives together before marriage, and the church shows them how this is clearly sin, and they stay in their lifestyle, what their actions are saying is: “Well, that’s God’s opinion of right and wrong, I know better.” This is the voice of unbelief, and should not ever touch the table. To commune them is to condone their willful refusal of Christ.

          • Jesus can’t be contaminated. It’s not grace to tell people that Jesus accepts them when he does not. Fencing the table isn’t protecting Jesus from lepers, it’s insisting that lawbreakers find grace instead of justice. How is that not a pastor’s job? But, taking your approach, if you make it a point to have contact after the fact, you still have the opportunity to address whatever reason you had previously advised them against communing for.

            • Thanks, Miguel. And that’s really my point. Whenever possible, I prefer to deal with such questions in the privacy of the confessional or in pastoral counseling. Let’s not forget, however, that Jesus served Judas, knowing full well what was in his heart and would soon manifest itself in action.

  22. One of the greatest blessings of having gay Christian friends has been what _they_ have taught _me_ about the love of God. If you ask pretty much any of them why they still go to church and identify as Christians, especially in the light of the serious abuse that many of them have suffered, the answer is always some variant of “I’ve tried to leave, but Jesus just won’t let go of me.” They’ve got a hunger for God that I can’t help but admire, and a sense of being held in God’s hands and drawn closer by God’s love that at times I envy.

    So, it’s not enough that LGBT folks should be welcomed or “tolerated” if they walk into our churches. They should be celebrated, because they have something valuable to teach us about God’s love, which is broader and deeper than any of us are able to grasp. Go out and get to know someone who just can’t help loving Jesus despite being abused by the church, and I guarantee you’ll find your own faith enriched as a result.

    If you’re someone for whom church has always been a safe, comfortable place where everyone affirms you and is just like you, how do you know that you’re doing the Christian thing out of a true hunger for God? But if you’re the kind of person who keeps pressing deeper into God’s presence despite the land mines and razor wire that the church has strung up to keep you out, _that_ is the sort of faith I admire and trust. It’s no surprise that, statistically, LGBT folks are more deeply religious than their straight counterparts in our society.

    • Exhibit A folks of much of the problem.

      “I know some gay folks that are great- therefor we should not just “tolerate” them we should celebrate them.”

      I’m trying to ask this without being too snarky- I probalby will not be succesfull.

      Should the church be in the business of celebrating any sinful lifestyle? Should we celebrate those who are kleptomaniacs, perhaps professional pornographers, bigamist?

      Or should the church be in the business of presenting and celebrating the life changing gospel?

      • What I’m saying we should “celebrate” is the lost sheep who is found, the prodigal son who returns home. Whenever _anyone_ who has been estranged from God walks through the door of your church hoping to come back into communion with God, you ought to be dancing in the aisles. And when someone comes to your church and says, “I’ve been verbally and physically abused by Christians my whole life, but the love of Jesus keeps calling out to me so strongly and sweetly that I can’t help but respond by seeking Christ,” you’re hearing an amazing witness to God’s love, and you ought to _listen_ and yes, celebrate.

        If we had even the tiniest glimpse of how good God is and of how great a victory has been won for us by Christ’s death and resurrection and of how saturated this world is with God’s love and of how powerfully God’s Spirit is at work to bring about the healing and liberation and transformation of all God’s creation, we would just stand in awe of God and hand all these issues over to God to deal with, instead of trying to serve as gatekeepers protecting God from “unworthy” people. So, that’s really all I have to say to you: stand in awe of God. Put your hand over your mouth and stand in awe of God.

      • Austin…keep that thought in mind about celebrating sinful lifestyle when you see that 500lbs guy go back to the serving table at the Potluck for the 5th serving. Or keep that in mind when people show up to church each week with the newest designer clothes that get attention.

        I could go on…but you get my point.

        • Eagle,

          I would insist, and do frankly because I think the scriptures do, that while gluttony and homosexual activity are both sinful, that homosexual depravity is marked as especially telling as to the level that one has completely rejected Godly order and creation.

          So, while I would agree that gluttony and poor stewardship are likewise sinful, I do not, in fact get your point.

          Austin

          • Upon what are you basing this idea that homosexuality is the ultimate rejection of God? Romans 1? It seems Paul has a whole list of activities that are evidence of one being of a depraved mind.

            Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

          • Austin my point is that many evangelicals act like homosexuality is the only sin. Even hertrosexual sins in some venues can be given a pass. If someone has sex with their girlfriend in high school or has a one night stand, that will be more likely to be overlooked than say a guy in high school who had sex with another guy. There are different standards and fundagelcials hold to those standards. I don’t see why they do that…they just do. I was and remain confused as to what sin is because sin is so subjective. That remains a problem and that’s why many evangelicals have lost face value. People on the outside of the system see through the facade and “how sin is defined”

            Nuff said… 😯

          • you are especially telling……

      • Austin, I normally line up with you a lot on issues of discipline, but I think there needs to be a distinction between celebrating a person and endorsing their weakness. It is possible for homosexuals to be convicted of their sin, willing to follow Jesus, but unable to break free of the lifestyle. I’ve known a few in the past, and it is a miserable place to be when you sin torments you and the church adds insult to injury. For them, they need to receive the message that Jesus loves them unconditionally, and his arms are always open wide, no matter what sin they just committed. Hell, if we’re honest, that what the rest of us living in “quiet desperation” really need most, too. Don’t make “cleaning up their act” a pre-requisite for full participation in the body of Christ. Allow the life of the church rather to have a cleaning up, or edifying, effect on them as they seek to grow in Christ.

    • David Cornwell says:

      …”they have something valuable to teach us about God’s love, which is broader and deeper than any of us are able to grasp.”

      Amen.

  23. CM, I think the difficulty in the analogy is we all agree that gossip, gluttony, jealousy, etc. is sin. We may be in denial or be hypocritical about out our own sin, or we may try to justify it or minimize its seriousness, but we don’t deny the Bible declares these as sins. But homosexuality seems like the only sin our western culture currently wants us to stop declaring to be a sin, to recognize we are all “born this way” and that our sexual orientation should be embraced as a hardwired part of our identity. It is the door in our house that God is no longer allowed to enter, except under our own rules.
    Using the analogy of drinking, it reminds me of the movie “Leaving Las Vegas” where love and grace were portrayed not merely as three free sins, but as supporting and enabling someone to drink themselves to death. That’s not Jubilee, declaring a forgiveness of debt; it’s redefining debt out of existence.

    • well said steve

    • I happen to believe that homosexual sex is sinful. By that, I mean that sexual acts between same-sex individuals are outside of the bounds of what would be considered good and God-honoring in the Biblical narrative. At the same time, so are sex acts between members of the opposite sex who are not married. And if you look at the statistics, there are plenty of people who are doing this, and a lot them who consider themselves Christians. I’ve heard Christians try to make the argument that sex outside of marriage should not be considered sinful. So it’s not just homosexuality that is being redefined. It is sexuality as a whole.

      As far as sexual orientation, I would separate that from homosexual practice. I don’t think there’s anything more inherently sinful in someone being attracted to someone of the same sex than there is in someone being attracted to someone of the opposite sex.

    • Serious Christians disagree on whether participating in state-sponsored violence is a sin (military service, etc.). Many Christians think violence in self-defense is OK. Christians also tend to disagree on whether greed and materialism are sinful, or to what degree. (Not all Christians live lives of voluntary poverty, or even tithe.) The same holds true for divorce and remarriage. And I know many churches, even very conservative ones, that knowingly turn a blind eye toward premarital sex as long as the couple is heterosexual. Christians also hold different opinions on what forms of birth control are acceptable. Some Christians smoke. On the other end of the spectrum, some churches don’t allow drinking or dancing or playing cards or women wearing pants. There’s a _huge_ range of issues that Christians disagree on, yet Jesus calls us to still behave as members of one family. Why should this one issue be any different?

      • The problem I have with this approach is that it seems to incrementally inch toward the proposition that everything is okay. I would phrase the argument like this:

        We know gossip is wrong, so we wink at at, overeating is not good, we tolerate it, we disagree on some issues, so lets just do that with everything (agree to disagree), some people pet, others have sex before they are married, and yet others get divorced, so why not just accept this as another one of those issues?

        Eventually you end up where the Anglican Church of Canada is, lets celebrate homosexual behaviour as a legitimate form of Christian love. And if someone shows up in some of those circles and dares say ‘God has delivered me from a gay lifestyle’ that person is demonizied.

        Rather than saying ‘how much can we sin’ I would rather say ‘so how can I approriate the grace of God in my life such that I do not gossip?’. Can I be helped to overcome gluttony? Can we encourage people to seek renewal in their marriages? Will I allow others to encourage me to deal with my pet sins, or will I dig in my heels and insist that I am right?

        I cannot change the fact that scripture regards sexual sin as serious, of any sort. It has only been in my lifetime that we have been able to minimize the effects of heterosexual sin, use the pill or have a ‘safe’ abortion. Because we can do that we no longer think of it as wrong. Ditto with marriages. I have seen many break up and it is always a tragedy. In my fair share of the cases I have seen entrenched attitudes in either partner that have led to the divorce, and often an unwillingness for them to deal with the ‘sin that so easily besets them’.

        The problem I have with seems to be your position is that rather than encouraging people to appropriate Christs grace and live in that, it seems to say if we tolerate one, why not the other? It presupposes that the answer to the problem is to lower the bar. And that to my mind is looking at the problem the wrong way.

        We need to be encouraging one another to receive God’s grace and live within that, not finding excuses to diminish the standard that Christ calls us to. Maybe part of the journey that we are on is to learn to overcome sin in our lives and walk in Christ’s grace, and to extend that grace to others.

        Without that hope that Jesus transforms us, can heal our broken sexuality, our broken relationships, and help us overcome sin we really are of all people, to be pitied.

      • Michael, the difference is that whether the issue is military service, smoking, materialism, etc. , it is not discussed in the context of my core IDENTITY. No sane person says “my ontology is greed, I must be greedy, and you must celebrate and affirm my greed”.
        In our current western culture, expressions of sexuality – in particular, homosexuality – are required to be declared as inherently righteous (or at least, morally neutral), as a necessity of embracing the person’s core identity. Many in the LGBT culture get very upset with people who change their sexuality (to hetero, or even bi), and with those groups / ministries who support the change, as it is seen as undermining the genetic and moral legitimacy of their identity.
        Conversely, our homosexual brothers and sisters in Christ may already be more keenly aware than most of us what it means to die to self, and learn to embrace our greater identity as a “new creature” in Christ, and in that regard we have much to learn from their journey.
        Back to Steve Brown comments: in his book, Steve recalls Martin Luther telling Melanchthon to “sin boldly”. The context of that comment was to NOT minimize or rationalize away something that is really sin, declaring it to not actually be sin so that he can feel self-righteous. Rather, Luther seems to be saying we should boldly speak the truth both about our own sin AND about God’s grace to cover that sin. (I’m not Lutheran, so correct me if I’m misrepresenting this.)

        • “No sane person says ‘my ontology is greed, I must be greedy, and you must celebrate and affirm my greed.'”

          Whether only an insane person would say such a thing, I leave to others to resolve, but change ‘greed’ to ‘profit,’ and watch the uproar in the evangelical church that doesn’t affirm unfettered American capitalism.

    • Why do so many fundys get so hung up on homosexuality? Do you act like this toward the glutton or so many others?

      • Aidan Clevinger says:

        First of all, I think it’s a little uncharitable to assume or accuse Ken of being a “fundy” (or, even if he is, to assume that this carries with it the stereotypical negative qualities). And second, unless I’m mistaken, the point that Ken is trying to make is that we can’t discard repentance from Christianity. No, we shouldn’t treat one sin as worse than another, and no, we shouldn’t demand that people “shape up” before we accept them – far from it. We should leave them as they are without reservation. But from the standpoint of proclaiming truth, particularly from the pulpit, there NEEDS to be an application of Law and a clear preaching of the necessity of repentance.

        I know many people (myself included) who struggle with habitual sins like pornography, gluttony, pride, etc. And I can’t pretend like I’ve gotten any “better”; it’s a constant battle, and one that I lose more often than I win. I would class homosexuality in this category. For me and people like me, we need to hear Law before we hear Gospel. We need to be reminded that our actions are NOT right, that we ARE sinning, and that we NEED the grace of God to save us from wrath. And then, following that, we need to hear the Gospel; to be absolved and forgiven unconditionally. The difficult thing (as I mentioned before) is striking a balance. But a balance does have to be struck. There is no Gospel without Law. There is no grace without wrath. There is no salvation without condemnation. Gospel may be the final word, love may have its last laugh, grace may blot out all of our sins – but this doesn’t get rid of the need to preach judgment.

        Of course, I’m talking about this from the perspective of official preaching. To be honest, I don’t know how we in the laity should approach the subject of judgment and calling others to repentance (what we call the 2nd use of the Law). But I do know that, from the pastor at least, there needs to be both Law and Gospel.

        • Aidan Clevinger says:

          Typo: “leave” in the first paragraph should be “love”

          • Final Anonymous says:

            Aidan, I am so not picking on you, but that Freudian slip illustrates it perfectly to me… no matter how much we justify it in online debates and conversations, that IS the attitude of evangelicism toward homosexuals… “you should leave,” not “we should love.” Sadly you hit it spot on.

            I’m not sure a perfect balance between law and love can ever be struck. Perfect balance is rarely achieved in anything.

            My question is, why do we as Christians feel more comfortable, more correct, erring on the side of law? Wouldn’t God’s grace, Jesus’s life and sacrifice, and the whole message of the gospel dictate that when we have differences or questions in theology, in “classification” of sin or whatnot — shouldn’t we be erring on the side of Love?

          • Aidan Clevinger says:

            1. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive; whenever a human being applies Law it has to be done in love, 2. I don’t think we ought to “err on the side of the Law” – but neither can we throw it out entirely. Grace always triumphs over the Law, but that doesn’t mean we can become antinomians, 3. The balance seems to be more in line with the actual practice of Jesus and the Apostles. You’ll never find more gracious, humble, loving people; you’ll also never find people who are more stern and unyielding. They say things that are soothing and comforting beyond measure, they also say things that (to steal a phrase from a better author) crack like a whip. In fact, it’s in line with the New Testament’s explicit declarations – go look at 1 Timothy 1:8-10.

            It’s funny, but whenever I come to IMonk I feel a little out of place. Usually, when I talk to Christian friends, I’m the one that weirds everyone out by talking about grace so much. But here I have to come down a little harder on the Law side: I do believe that you can’t have one without the other. Unless we preach wrath, what is it that people feel they need salvation from? Unless we preach judgment, what are they going to believe the Gospel for? Jesus’ death was to save; we do people a great disservice if we don’t tell them what He’s saving us *from*.

            As regards my slip, I can’t say that I’m a strict enough Freudian to regard it as devastatingly significant. But if I were, I could easily level the same charge towards the perspective presented in the comments here: such an approach “leaves” sinners alone, without any conviction of sin, and therefore without faith.

            Of course, as I mentioned, all of this is only my perspective on how we approach sin from a pastoral point of view. As a laymen, I struggle. The best balance I’ve been able to find so far is to make clear to friends, if we ever talk about it, what my thoughts on sexual morality are, but only to do so if my opinion is desired and always in such a way that clearly expresses that our friendship isn’t going to be affected by our differing perspectives of morality. And I don’t want to be misunderstood – I believe that there are gay Christians, just as I believe that there are dishonest Christians, or vain Christians, just as I myself am a proud, lustful Christian. But that admission doesn’t mean that I (or anyone else) should be spared the preaching of the Law, because only by it can any of us believe the Gospel.

          • Aidan Clevinger says:

            “Proud” in a negative sense, that is, not “proud to be lustful”.

        • Aiden…many Christians do get caught up on homosexulaity and sexual sins. I’m not talking about Ken specifficlly…but when I heard about sin, most of the time it was in context of ONLY sexual sins. Therein lies the problem…

          • I some ways I know what you speak of. It used to drive me up the wall that people would go on about external things like smoking/drinking, but ignored gossip or lack of love (which frankly I think are far larger problems).

            But being hard on one and soft on the other cannot be an excuse to simply say it is all okay. I can’t use my brothers judgmentalism toward sexual sin as an excuse that lets me off on my sin. Playing one against the other and using this as an excuse to lower the standard diminishes the good news of Christ.

            Each of us has our own stuff to deal with and we have to accept it squarely before God. Alcohol, drugs and homosexuality are not my thing. Neither is gossip. Anger, lust and uncharitable attitudes are my problems and I need the grace of Christ. And I do believe that in time, Christ does transform us and some sins we end up habitually overcoming.

            But I do not believe I have the warrant to turn to anyone and say:

            Go your way and sin more.

          • Ken I have a lot of respect for you, so please don’t think like you were being criticized. That was not the intent.

          • btw Eagle, I didn’t think you were aiming that one my way…..

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Aiden…many Christians do get caught up on homosexulaity and sexual sins. I’m not talking about Ken specifficlly…but when I heard about sin, most of the time it was in context of ONLY sexual sins.

            That’s because Christians are just as screwed up sexually as everyone else these days, just in a completely different direction.

          • Aidan Clevinger says:

            This is true, and I see you’re point. As Ken pointed out, though, there is a danger of going too far to either extreme. The best course is right down the middle.

      • Fundy’s are not hung up on homosexuality. Evangelicals at large are hung up on sex, period. If it feels good, stop. And fundy’s are hung up on fun. 😛

  24. MelissatheRagamuffin says:

    I can’t think of any example of the Bible telling us to celebrate ourselves in any way shape or form. It pretty consistently says quite the opposite. So, I really don’t get saying that we should celebrate homosexuals.

  25. Our congregation is roughly 50% consevatives, and 50% liberals. Being a member for about 14 years and speaking to these folks, I know their politics.

    And we have some gay people in the congregation.

    ALL are welcome. ALL are sinners.

    But no one is allowed a platform to advocate their sins, or their politics inside the sanctuary. The mission of the Church is far too important to advocate any political gospels.

    When our pastor preaches and mentions anything about politics or sin…it is to put a pox upon all their houses.

  26. In my heart, I sound a lot like Chaplain Mike in that dialogue. In my mind, I sound a lot like Concerned Christian. (Or is it the other way around?) What to do, what to do … God, have mercy on me, a sinner …

  27. David Cornwell says:

    “The mission of the Church is far too important to advocate any political gospels.”

    “put a pox upon all their houses.”= purulent skin eruptions

    Not a bad description of the sick politics in vogue right now. And it’s catching.

  28. To get to that point…the law must do it’s job.

    No law…then why do I even need grace?

  29. So many liberal Protestants believe that everone is going to be saved anyway. They cook that one up out of their generous ‘reason’. And they get there by tossing out Scripture.

    So, you end up with a social project. Many in the ELCA are like that. And many in other liberal denominations, as well.

    It’s terrible and dangerous theology.

    • Frankly, what I find more “dangerous” is theology that claims to know the absolute truth about things, like the end of time, that are really a deep and impenetrable mystery to us and that the Bible only sketches in a vague and symbolic way. So I have a really hard time with Christians who make “universalism” a litmus test for judging who does or does not have correct theology. Shouldn’t that test, if there has to be one, be based on something more important – like, say, the resurrection?

      Consider: flowing down from the throne of God, in the city where there is no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, is a river on whose banks are two trees, whose leaves “are for the healing of nations.” Who are those leaves for? Could it be that part of God’s plan in triumphing over death through Jesus was to make it possible for the healing and reconciling work of God to continue even on the day when the dead are raised and the world is created anew? Why does the Bible say that the gospel was preached to the “souls in prison” who died in the days of Noah, if the love of God cannot reach out to people after they die? Why does it say that Jesus descended to the depths and led forth captives? You may not find those arguments convincing, but they’re at least proof that the Biblical text is ambiguous enough that you ought to be cautious when assuming you have the “right” theology about something like that.

      • I like the comments you have been making on this post, Michael Z. I have a longer comment about some of what you have written, but I see that comment is being held up for “moderation.” I didn’t post any links, so maybe it is just too long. I hope it shows up later though!

      • Aidan Clevinger says:

        I’ll point out that the text never says that the Gospel was preached to those spirits, it only says that the spirits were preached to. The popular interpretation in the Lutheran Church is that Jesus was proclaiming His victory over sin, death, and the devil in such a way that it was actually a preaching of Law.

        And I think what the original comment was pointing out is that we can’t promise grace to people who don’t know their own sin. Preaching the unconditional love of God without *first* preaching His wrath against our evil will produce a faith that is without repentance, which is never the biblical idea of faith. You’ll never hear me say a word against God’s overwhelming grace, and I believe firmly that there will be people in heaven whom we’d never expect to see there, but that doesn’t mean that in this life we can throw out the preaching of repentance and the Law.

      • I guess I believe that many will be lost because Jesus said as much, in several places. Because the Scriptures say it in many places. And because I have a hard time believing that Jesus would have had to come down here at all, and suffer and die on a cross…for what?

        If everyone is going to be saved, anyway.

    • Steve, I totally agree that quite a few liberal denominations have ended up as social projects. But, honestly, what is the Christian Right if not a “social gospel” (a right-wing soical gospel, but a social gospel nonetheless)

  30. I thank God, that being a republican, I am still accepted here! Seriously we are all sinners. Why are homosexual sins worse than heterosexual ones, or pride and theft farther down the list?

    • Exactly right, Vern. For righteousness sake, sin is sin..is sin is sin.

      Trouble is, that many throw out the unabiguous word of God on the matter and decide unto themselves what is sin, and what is not. (“we know better now, than they did”)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’ve heard it said that “A fanatic is someone who carries out what God’s Will would be if God Only KNEW What Was REALLY Going On.”

        P.S. Vern? That other Vern (the troll) is back. Saw him comment on a thread here a few days ago. He’s using the handle VERN (all caps) this time.

  31. i’ve been sitting in the pew over the past few months wondering whether such a place as you described could exist. i’ve wondered whether it would be possible for someone like ME to be the pastor of such a church. i long for a community of faith where FEAR is truly overcome by the LOVE of Christ. let’s be honest, the hot button issues you raise make people cringe because they are AFRAID.

    until churches open that look like the church you’ve described, i believe we will continue to see a staggering number of young people leave the church after high school.

    • I do not think you will find a perfect church community.

      You will find communities of where they try to walk in Christ, but all have their issues. That used to disturb me. But then, I can’t think of any other communities I have been in that are better than what I have seen in the best churches.

      And that applies to everything from Rotary to AA.

      • that’s true Ken! perfect doesn’t exist, and there’s something nice about that; i mean, if perfect existed, we wouldn’t need grace. on top of that, a church where everyone thinks alike sounds really boring, actually! my hope is that the Church can be a place where people can blatantly disagree, and yet continue to be in community with one another.

  32. There are a few comments that stand out to me. Phil M writes, “The Eucharist itself is the grace that helps overcome our non-repentance.” And Michael Z writes, “that’s really all I have to say to you: stand in awe of God. Put your hand over your mouth and stand in awe of God” and he also writes, “”There’s a _huge_ range of issues that Christians disagree on, yet Jesus calls us to still behave as members of one family. Why should this one issue be any different?”

    I think those are all very important comments. We Catholics have prayed during the Mass before Communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Now we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We are acknowledging that we are not worthy, but that we need God’s healing and that Communion will assist us in that healing.

    I do realize what the apostle Paul says in at least one of his letters about people attending the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, but he seems to be mostly referring to people receiving it without attempting to make things right with people they have hurt or they are receiving it in a way that shows a lack of love towards others. Also (and I know this will go over like a lead balloon with those who believe that challenging anything in the Bible, especially anything in the New Testament and especially anything Paul wrote, is a slippery slope) it is possible that Paul and the other apostles were not ALWAYS correct about things. Peter was wrong for a while about some things until a dream (and maybe Paul) set him straight. They were only human and as Paul told us, we do not always see everything clearly on this side of life.

    So, since we can’t know everything about everyone, let all who wish receive Communion. BUT, you may say, “Everyone? You want murderers to receive communion? You want child molesters to receive communion?” You know, there is a BIG part of me that wants to say “No, I don’t.” But IF we truly believe we are receiving God in a special way during Communion, then perhaps it is especially these people who need to receive Communion. Let the Holy Spirit work gently in their hearts and minds. It will be the Holy Spirit’s influence that can create change in the person much more than you or I could by telling them that they are not worthy and that they need to change. I know I am unworthy and I feel humbled to be allowed to receive God in this special way through the Eucharist. May God make it ever more clear to me just HOW unworthy I am and just HOW loving He is!

    • Final Anonymous says:

      Lovely thoughts, Joanie. : )

      I agree with the sentiments on the apostles. Personally, when there are points in the Bible where Jesus and Paul seem to disagree, I pick Jesus.

  33. Amen, JoanieD.

    If we feel we are unworthy to receive it…then it IS for us.

  34. Randy Thompson says:

    Regarding the original post: I tried this (as a pastor). I don’t pretend I did it with wisdom, but I did try it. For awhile, it worked out very well. But, my friend and I fundamentally disagreed whether or not homosexuality was Biblically permissible or not. (I was the “not” side.) We agreed on virtually everything except for this one, not unimportant subject. The result of this attempt was pain—pain for him, and pain for me. It finally didn’t work.

    A sociologist of religion I knew used to say, when it came to the relationship of religion and culture, “who’s influencing whom”? There’s a sense where that mutual influencing is good, healthy and godly. It makes you sensitive and helps you to listen. But, my sociologist friend’s comment doesn’t go away.

    I have come to see that it’s important to define yourself in regard to this issue, not with the intent of excluding, but with the intent of making sure the other party knows what she’s getting herself into in this relationship. “Good fences make good neighbors,” and, sometimes, by God’s grace, you find a gate in the fence.

    • Randy, this is off-topic but if you don’t mind…are you the Randy Thompson who offers the Forest Haven retreat to pastors who need a break? I ran across it online. Thanks.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        Yep.

        • Randy Thompson says:

          A further thought, JoanieD:
          You saw a reference to me or Forest Haven online somewhere? Is this something I should worry about??! As far as I know, I’ve been behaving myself, even here. (I think.)

          • Not to worry at all, Randy! You are one of the good guys. I read the nice interview done with you and Jill for the Bradford Bridge September 2011 community newsletter. I hope you are enjoying your place in NH. I love NH!

    • I’d be really hesistant to “define myself” with regard to any issue that isn’t absolutely central to Christianity. That Jesus walked out of the tomb on Easter morning in a resurrected body – that, I’ll define myself by. That he is the Son of God and the Savior of the world – that, I’ll define myself by. That we each one day will be resurrected too and stand before him in new bodies in a new Creation – that, I’ll define myself by. That God is love, I’ll define myself by. But all this tangential stuff just isn’t worth drawing a line in the sand over – all of us shift over time in our understanding of God and of what God expects of us.

      What your experience with this friend shows is just that it doesn’t work to try to “fix” someone. The reason it doesn’t work is because that’s not our job. If a friend of mine is indeed held in God’s loving hands as securely as I am held, then surely I can trust God to direct that person’s life and growth in faith. God is so close to each one of us and so powerfully at work in the world to bring healing and redemption in such complex ways that even if we could see it all woven together, we’d never be able to comprehend it or unravel that pattern. God’s ways and thoughts are utterly alien to us. So, our reason for trusting God can’t be because we think we know what God is planning and approve of it. Our trust has to just stem from knowing that God is good – and that God is present to others as much as to ourselves.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        I agree with you about trying to fix people. And yes, I agree with you about trusting God to direct someone else’s life.
        But, to use a term from the Cold War, “peaceful coexistence” is ultimately a false peace. You may have no intention of trying to “fix” someone, but often someone else will want to “fix” you. My friend wanted to “fix” me by getting me to agree with him that a stable gay relationship is OK. Biblically, I simply couldn’t do it. To do so was to give away not only the Scripture, but my own conscience as well. I realize there are those who disagree, and I can and do live with that disagreement, but I can’t ignore the disagreement. The issue, for me, finally came down to the sexual “rules of the game.” God has plenty of grace for people who have broken the “rules,” but it is a dangerous thing to ignore or revise those “rules” in the context of a highly sexualized and commercialized culture.

        Gay people are my neighbors. If someone is going to harm them, my neighbor, they go through me.
        Do I agree always with my neighbor? No. And, my neighbor doesn’t always agree with me. Disagreeing, we try to do so without being disagreeable.

  35. We are not for life simply because we warding off death. We are sons and daughters of the Most High and are maturing in tenderness to the extent that we are for others– all others– to the extent that no human flesh is strange to us, to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love, to the extent that for us there are no “OTHERS”.

    Brennan Manning “Reflections for Ragamuffins” Oct. 14th entry

  36. Okay, assume you are engaged in some form of sinful behavior on a continuing basis. Pick one, it really doesn’t matter what. Who are you most likely to respond to, someone who tries to shame you into repentance because you are not good enough for church? Or would it be the one who comes alongside and expresses their concern that what you are doing is hindering your relationships both with God and with others?

    I spent years on the side of the older brother, until God got through to me that life with Him is supposed to be about healing. Isn’t that a large part of what Jesus was doing when He was on earth? And the more I learn about healing, beginning with my own self, is that most of the time there is more to it than simply changing behavior. God wants to change our hearts and he does that by going for the roots of those behaviors. Sometimes it’s as simple as our having made the wrong choice at some point and never quite repenting. But the things we struggle with the most often have something to do with spiritual entities fighting against our efforts to change and sinful patterns of behavior that we have inherited.

    How did confessing our faults to one another and praying for each other, so that we may be healed, get turned into a culture of shame and accusation? How about asking God to show them the truth of their situation while being open to Him showing you what He wants to heal in you?

    • I have not been many places where confession turned into a culture of shame.

      I have seen people who want to do their own thing and then get ticked off when someone tries to talk to them about a behaviour they have that affects others. And some of them shout the loudest about spiritual abuse.

      I have tried to live my life being open to the correction of God and well meaning members of my community. And sometimes people have been right on and I have to repent. Other times they get it wrong and it is their stuff that is in the way. MOST people I know who have talked to me about blind spots or sin I have are humble people who are trying to help. And I accept it because God uses others to speak to me.

  37. Ok, but what about 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

    • Keep talking like that and all the antinomians will come out to stone you! :;)

    • Hmmmm! Guess we’ll have to stop going to church, since churches are full of such folk.

      • Aidan Clevinger says:

        But you can’t just dodge that passage, Sam…

        • I think we can dodge that passage as it was written by Paul to a particular group of people in Corinth. It represents nothing of how Jesus lived his life. He associated with whomever he damn well pleased and loved them all as He loved His father in heaven. Why is everyone so quick to quote Paul while ignoring the all-encompassing love of Christ and what He represented? Paul was completely flawed and strange and in need of God’s grace as are we all. It was Jesus who lived a perfect life.

          • Aidan Clevinger says:

            But none of us are arguing that we shouldn’t love homosexuals, or that we shouldn’t treat them like any other human being. All we’re arguing for is that we should denounce homosexuality like we denounce every other sin, clearly preaching against, and clearly offering full forgiveness to all who repent. It’s not a matter (or at least, for me it’s not a matter) of casting out gay people while shouting, “Hie thee to Hell, sinner!” It’s a matter of saying, “This is a sin; it is condemned by God’s Law like any other, and it brings death like any other. But thanks be to God that we have grace in Jesus Christ, that He has forgiven you your sins out of free grace”. That’s the ONLY thing I’m contending; that we ought to preach repentance for homosexuality like we do for adultery, or pride, or vanity, or gossip, or lying, etc.

    • Regarding 1 Corinthians 5, I think Paul’s argument in this chapter, and in the larger letter itself, is based on identity. What sets the Corinthian Christians apart. It isn’t that they follow a certain Apostle, and it isn’t the fact that they are Corinthian. It is that they are in Christ. Corinthians were known far and wide for their promiscuous ways – Corinth was kind of like the Las Vegas or Atlantic City of its day. So if a person simply called himself a Christian but refused to take on any of the identifying characteristics of such, he was simply fooling himself. It’s not a matter of liberty, but of honesty. Paul is saying, “quit fooling yourselves. If these people simply refuse to give up their former identity, they are not Christ-followers. You’re doing them no favor by pretending they are.”

      It’s analogous to someone today who defines themselves first an American and then as a Christian. They let their American values override their true identity in Christ.

  38. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Never mind “Gays, Republicans, and other Notorious Sinners”, CM, how about D&Ders, Anime Otaku, Furries, and Bronies?

  39. I see nobody has seriously attempted to deal with the passage Aidan posted above. That’s a shame, because few things are more dangerous than risking giving people false assurances that they’re okay when they may not be.

  40. Aidan Clevinger says:

    If I can interject, I think a large part of the problem is that many of us (and understandably so, given the abuse that many people have suffered at the hands of churches) can’t conceive of Law preaching that ISN’T focused on “being better people” or a twelve-step program. So much of our preaching in the Evangelical world has taken passages which rail against sin (like the passages in Corinthians or 1 Timothy, for instance) and turned them into “Go and do this to get right with God”, and I think a lot of us are convinced that this is the only way we can preach Law. I don’t think that’s quite true. It is very possible to preach firmly and clearly against sin, proclaiming the necessity of repentance, and then to follow that up with pure Gospel. It’s possible (should I say, necessary) to speak boldly to the evils of sin, but then to speak just as boldly about the unconditional and unearned grace that Christ won on the cross and distributes through Word and Sacrament. *That’s* the Law/Gospel paradigm: to denounce sin, but then to declare God’s grace, not works, as the answer for sin.

    I don’t know if this will help, but it seemed like a distinction that might have gotten lost in translation. Peace, everybody.

    • That’s sort of the vibe I get from Jesus’s interactions with people. Yes, he said go and sin no more, but didn’t just stop at that.

      • Aidan Clevinger says:

        Notice too that Jesus gave them forgiveness and love even before they stopped sinning; He did it the moment they came to Him. There’s no evidence that Zacchaeus really gave away his possessions, but he was obviously repentant, and so Jesus came and dined with him anyway. He only ever said “go and do no more” AFTER He’d first assured the woman in adultery that He didn’t condemn her.

    • That is probably the best explanation I have ever read about the Law/Gospel paradigm.

      • Aidan Clevinger says:

        Thank you, Michael. To tell the truth, though, I’m really just paraphrasing Luther and Walther. I stand on the shoulders of giants.

    • I’m not convinced of the Lutheran paradigm that the Law has to be seen as a negative thing – something that condemns us or proves that we’re sinners. For one thing, I see no evidence that Jesus approached the Torah in that manner. He never condemns the Torah itself. He condemns people for missing the heart of the Law. The Torah was given to prevent people from being as sinful as they could be. It’s a restraining force.

      When Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery, “go and sin no more”, I don’t imagine He’s leaving out an “or else” at the end. I imagine it is with much compassion in His voice. I imagine it is with the tone of, “sister, leave this sin – can’t you see it’s killing you. You were created for something much better than this.”

      • Aidan Clevinger says:

        I think Scripture very much supports the idea that the Law is given for our condemnation (I’ll get to some passages in a moment). Not to say that this is its only purpose, but it is a main purpose. Even without explicit proofs from the Bible, what else could the Law do? How could sinful people look at the expectations of God, along with His threats against disobedience, and NOT be afraid? Furthermore, it’s our contention that the Law has no power to make us obey God, and that this power comes only from the Gospel. If you look for passages about Jesus using the Law in this way, we usually point to the rich young man as an example of this; Jesus used the Law to show the man his sin, and did not pronounce the Gospel Here’s a few passages to reflect on:

        “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.” (Romans 7:9-10, 13)

        “For the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:19)

        “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

        “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:19, 21-22, 24)

        • I wouldn’t say the Law was given for the purpose of condemnation. As Paul says in Romans, people are already condemned even having not been given the Law. The Torah is a teacher. It taught the Jews to walk in the way of the Lord, and applied correctly, it taught them to depend on God’s grace. The Jews who were pointed to a faithful in Hebrews were shown as such as because they trusted God, knew His heart. They were able to fulfill the heart of the Law because of these things.

          All I’m saying is that I do not get the idea that Jesus or Paul (nor the Jews in general) saw the Law in an overly negative light. The Law condemned people who deserved to be condemned, yes. But I don’t think Law and Grace are contrasting forces. The Law is actually a foreshadowing of grace. Even though God the Jews were nothing special and their hearts would be unfaithful, He chose them and gave them the Torah. He made a covenant with them not because of them, but in spite of them. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of that. In those passages you listed, it isn’t really the law that brings death, it’s sin. We are bound to sin whether we have the Law or not. The Law is an act of grace because it shows how sinful we really are.

          • Aidan Clevinger says:

            “The Law is an act of grace because it shows us how sinful we really are”. I think this is an excellent summary of what I was saying – that the Law shows us our sin. Thus, it brings condemnation, because it forces us to confront the fact that we’re condemned. I apologize if I didn’t make this clear by how I was speaking. The distinction of Law and Gospel simply says that the Law does not *give* us grace, while the Gospel does – even though both can be motivated by the same thing (i.e. God kills to make alive).

            Also, in terms of the Law/Gospel distinction, “Law” in this sense is the moral law, the prohibitions and threats against sinful behavior. The Levitical codes did, as you say, foreshadow the Gospel; but the moral Law doesn’t. The moral Law leads us to the Gospel by delivering the message that we are condemned in God’s eyes because of our sin, thus illuminating the need for a Savior and preparing the way for the Gospel.

  41. Donegal Misfortune says:

    Random question: when someone who is gay who has come a certain point in Christ and begins confronting their sin is it an automatic change in disposition at that point or is a gradual relinquishing of the sin. I ask this since those who are drunkards, who come to a point to confront the sin in Christ, there isn’t necessary an automatic change, there may be several years of struggle, and relapse back to the bottle, then finally freedom. What about those who have been caught up in gossip, is there a sudden change when they stop gossiping or is it gradual. What about the glutton who has confronted his sin, every bite is a possibility into going back to gluttony. Every time one goes through the grocery store, every check out line is a possibility to fall into lusting, you know with all the cleavage laden magazines there. SO the question is at what point is enough enough for one to be worthy of the table in ones mind when judging one’s self, yet if we were to judge ourselves we would not be judged.

    • Donegal, you might want to check out this person’s story: http://reneeatplay(dot)blogspot(dot)com
      She was on Wayne Jacobsen’s “The God Journey” podcast last spring, and she described the long process of sanctification, including the patience of her christian family and friends in the period while she knew that her sexual activity was a sin but was not yet willing to deal with it.

      Wayne has said that pushing someone for transformation based solely on a theological premise makes no sense outside of their own growing relationship with Jesus:
      http://lifestream(dot)org/blog/2011/06/04/does-grace-excuse-or-transform-2/
      “I don’t think it takes a long time in being with someone to sort out whether their passion derives from a theology they only espouse, or whether they are truly getting to know the Father of our Lord Jesus. If the latter, then I give them a wide berth. I know transformation takes time, and if I push them to conform to some external principle that isn’t rising out of their relationship I am pointing them down the wrong road.”

  42. Churches can be broadly divided into the following categories:

    (1) Homosexuality is actively and officially denounced as a sin. Gays either avoid such churches, or attend if they are racked by feelings of guilt / deep in the closet / get off on homophobia.

    (2) Homosexuality is affirmed. Gays are well represented, including in leadership; gay marriages are celebrated.

    (3) Homosexuality is avoided as a topic of discussion, or nuanced views of it are promoted. Gays are welcome provided they do not call attention to themselves.

    It seems to be that the dialogue participants disagree as to whether (1) or (3) is preferable. They belong in different churches–as do I, who prefer (2). Difficulties are most likely to arise in cases where the identity of the church is in question.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      I think that the trick is combining the clarity of (1) with the love of (2).

      • You can’t.. They are mutually exclusive.

        • Aidan Clevinger says:

          Why? We denounce other sins as sinful, yet we can still practice love towards those who do them. Why should homosexuality be any different?

          • Because lying or stealing is not as intrinsic to a person’s basic self as their sexuality. Its very different to tell a thief not to steal, than to tell a human not to love.

          • Aidan Clevinger says:

            That doesn’t mean we can’t both denounce sin and love those who practice it. Paul didn’t seem to have any sympathy for the Corinthian who was married to his stepmother, even if the man *was* in love. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t love the man. And besides, denouncing sin doesn’t mean that we expect perfection. People who struggle with sexual sins are going to fall many times (I certainly have). When they do, and when they repent (which will oftentimes come as a result of hearing preaching against sin), then they can be told that their sins are forgiven, and instructed to go cheerfully on their way, no matter how many times they fall.

          • You know, I have friends and relatives that are gay. Some of them are partnered some are not. I would no more expect a man or woman in a stable relationship with someone of the same gender to separate for the Almighty than I would expect a straight married couple to separate.

            And really, what kind of deity would expect it? Why expect a couple to give up the happiness that their relationship gives them? What if they have children? Should the home be broken up for this deity? I would not consider said deity to be particularly worthy of worship if it expected this.

          • Aidan Clevinger says:

            And I, too, have friends and relatives who are gay; all of whom I’m able to remain friends with without even thinking about their sexuality. I’ll stress this again: I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t love homosexuals, or that we should treat them differently. We shouldn’t.

            But didn’t Jesus talk about taking up a cross to follow Him – something terribly painful and difficult? Didn’t He say to cut off our hands and pluck out our eyes in order to avoid sin? I’m not saying that any of us (least of all me) do this well, but that doesn’t alter the command on all of us to do so. Faith brings a cross because it means we have to repent of sin. I have a friend of mine who’s a gay Christian; he’s had to remain single for many years. It’s painful. It hurts. He slips and falls and sins just like we all do. But every time, he is reminded that he’s forgiven for Jesus’ sake, and shown the love of family, friends, and the community, and he gets up and tries again. That’s the Christian life; not an unbroken series of victories and triumphs, but a continual struggle with sin, always supplanted by a continual affirmation of grace.

            As regards your last sentence: we can’t judge God by our standards, we have to judge ourselves by His. Why should we be the standard of right and wrong? Why should we, we who are sinful, we who are fallible, we who are broken and limited, be able to pronounce edicts on God? I understand your difficulty with this, it’s one that I myself have had. But in the end, we have to submit our opinions to God.

          • Why can’t we judge the Almighty by our standards? In a lot of cases, we have better ones. The Almighty commands genocide. We condemn it (not as muscularly as I would like) and have a convention against it. He commands Abraham to kills his son. We consider that pychological torture. The Almighty doesn’t seem to care whether women are allowed to be equal in rights. We consider equality to be crucial.

  43. At least the fog is clearing and we are starting to see where Mike’s journey is going.

    • One more Mike says:

      Yes we can. He’s going here:

      “Seems to me the Gospel says God’s kindness leads us to change, and that his grace teaches us to become more like him. I can’t think of a better way of “helping” people than by welcoming them into God’s household, where Jesus is, where the Good News is spoken and enacted in worship each week, and where we try to love each other with forbearance, patience, and mutual service. I don’t think it’s my job to change anybody.”

      Sounds like a great place to wind up after all this wandering about.

      • I have this quiet hope this is the case. I have prayed for Chaplain Mike, that he would have ears to hear and eyes to see what it is the Lord is showing him.

  44. For the GRACE of God has appeared, BRINGING salvation for all people, TRAINING us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, (Titus 2:11, 12 ESV)

    Let’s let God’s grace do His work.

  45. Tax Collector says:

    You know, every few months I come to check in on imonk.com and see if the community here has grown up yet. And each time I find within the first page or so that there’s an article mentioning gays, and the comments quickly show me that it has not. I guess I’ll check back again in a while.

    I sincerely and fervently hope that at some point in my lifetime the church will get over itself and I’ll be welcome somewhere as the Christian I am, instead of as a project that needs fixing.

    • Huh huh, hey Beavis, he said “gay.”

    • ARE YOU THREATENING MY BUNGHOLE?!!! Heh heh, heh heh

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      But none of us ever said that there’s no such thing as a gay Christian, nor did we say that gay Christians weren’t welcome in our churches. We simply said that we ought to preach against that particular sin the same way we do every other. We’re not trying to elevate homosexuality as some unforgiveable sin – it isn’t, no more than my sins are. Everyone struggles, and everyone falls, and everyone needs to be continually brought back to repentance and faith in Christ, no matter if their sin is homosexuality or arrogance or vanity or lust or lying, or any other. What about that do you object to?

      • Don’t know about Tax Collector, but the objectionable part for me is the complete unwillingness on your part to acknowledge the fact a person can be gay and a Christian, and it’s not for you to call me a sinner based on that. We can’t read the bible literally and survive in this world. Paul didn’t have the word “homosexual” in his vocabulary, so we have to discern his intent, and i just can’t accept that he was referring to committed, loving relationships who are focused on God as a couple, who are living the word in being a light for others. I have been convicted by God for gossiping, lust, lying and other things, but not once for being in love, and I happen to have loved two women in my life. I know this with my knower, and it’s frustrating to have to defend that to other Christians who should know better than to judge others. I don’t want or need spiritual correction from anyone on this matter. Stay out of my bedroom.

        • Tax Collector says:

          Well, I’m glad I checked back today. Debra, the biggest issue for me is I’m fed up with being an issue. I’m coming to resent being dragged out to make a point about this or that, about grace, about sin, etc… I’m not an issue, I’m not a political talking point, I’m not a discussion topic. I’m a person, saddled with all that entails, who has to deal with being a lonely minority of a minority. It sounds like you know the feeling.

          And I can’t for the life of me imagine what our brothers and sisters think would happen if LGBT folks were suddenly allowed to attend church un-pestered. Maybe we’d hear the gospel? Find strength in sharing our struggles with other believers? Might we even find opportunities to practice Christian love and charity? How scandalous.

          I agree with your final statements. My conscience, which is perfectly capable of throwing me into pangs of guilt over the tiniest thing, does not bother me over this. If someone thinks I am sinning, I would ask him to keep his thoughts between he and God. Indeed, to pray for me if it bothers him so much that he cannot let it go. But I don’t need to hear about it. I need to hear that Jesus’ shed blood saves even a Christian, erases all the -other- sins I’m sure are sin, of which I have so many. I need to hear that over and over, because it is dreadfully easy to forget.

  46. We are all sinners, none of us deserve the Lord’s grace and his forgiveness upon our repentance. As I see it, there are two issues that have polarized the discussion from CM’s post: grace, and homosexuality. Addressing grace: too many Christians have been so immersed in the law due to poor teaching and preaching that grace is a word they cannot fully comprehend. On the other hand there are those who are so enamored with it they have either forgotten or not been told why the Lord gives it. Addressing homosexuality (chosen I’m sure because of its polarizing affect?): Homosexuality is a sin like all the others mentioned in Scripture. It should not be treated any different than other sin (like gluttony or gossip or various other forms of porneia). All sins are forgiven upon confession. Those who hold one sin to be more egregious than others are wrong, as are those who deny certain sins are sin. Our Lord does not expect us to walk in perfection but to walk in the light (1 John 1.7 “if we walk in the light…the blood of Jesus…purifies us from all sin.”). It is not up to any priest or pastor to withhold communion from those wishing to partake but to proclaim God’s Word on the subject (1 Corinthians 11.27-29) and leave it with each soul and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  47. So very true Danielle. I think many, many people are not so much afraid as they are intellectually lazy (which sounds harsher than I mean it). They want things simple; black and white is so much easier to navigate than gray. Added to this is that birds of a feather flock, so welcoming a gay, or someone from another culture, or whatever, who the birds have previously had no contact with, and you’ve introduced that dreaded gray area which is hard to manage. So, many just don’t.
    I attend a women’s bible study sometimes. Recently we were discussing the story of Sodom and how Lot offered his daughters to the men at the door. The comments came fast and furious as to how Lot’s wife could allow that. One woman tried to explain that it was an ancient culture with different values and a completely different view of where women stood in that culture. The reaction was that that was silly and no matter what the culture, Lot’s wife would have been horrified. In other words, all cultures should just think like we do and if they don’t, or didn’t, they are wrong.

    I didn’t even broach the subject of this story as possibly a myth as I did not care for the tarring and feathering…

    • Well, that was in reply to Danielle’s post further up, but there was apparently a posting scramble…

    • I think when looking at scripture we have to be aware as well of our cultural predispositions. This sword cuts in both directions. Liberals tend to use it on fundamentalists (rightly so), but it cuts back on them as well.

      Modern Western culture tends to say that anything goes. In my day (the early 70s) we said ‘if it feels good do it’ and the other mantra was ‘do your own thing’.
      When we get into relationships of any kind sooner or later we discover hard edges. There are things our spouse will not countenance, and perhaps things we will not either.

      There are things that are fairly gray in scripture, other things that are not. Maybe there are things in terms of moral behaviour in general that are just plain wrong. Whether we like it or not! Perhaps God has hard edges and is not the celestial teddy bear we are looking for.

      As much as I do not always like it, the biblical writers made some strong claims. We can choose to listen to them (and they may be nuanced) or we can choose to ignore them. Moderns tend to look down their nose and assume they are more enlightened, and that somehow because I was born in the 1950s (I am speaking of me), that I come from an era where we know much more, so I can stand in judgement over scripture, especially the things I do not like.

      I do not see that either scripture itself or any of the church in history gives me license to negotiate morality. Honestly speeking, in moments of temptation there were times in the past that I wished it did.

      I do not for a minute assume Paul to be a troglodyte because he lived before AD 100. The Roman Empire was fairly sophisticated and people knew a lot. They may not of had modern science, but that cannot be our main criteria for judging a society.