A CAREFUL VIEW OF SCRIPTURE with Regard to LGBT Questions
Personal Testimony on God's call in my life in this area...
People have asked me: How is it that you are ministering in this area?
The short answer is: Because of God’s call in my life.
For the long answer see below...
Well that is a long story… a story that began several years ago as far back as late Fall of 2005. At that time I sensed God’s direction in two areas... one was toward inner city ministry (which is a whole other story still being written) and the other was toward the gay and lesbian community. God gave me very little to go on other than an initial inspiration and direction to have a booth at a local Pride fest event. At the time I knew very little about gay and lesbian people though God had been softening my heart in this area for many years. Since I was pretty much clueless in this area I took some time to study and understand what was going on. There are times I really wish that God would lay out the whole script but I have found that other than unctioning me in a particular direction, He tends to quietly lead as I step out in faith and obedience to Him.
So my studying included going to a Love Won Out seminar (though I initially liked what I saw there I have since come to a different conclusion about orientation change ministries see link). And my wife and I visited a Pride fest event for the first time just to see what it was about. The people were fine but I found the street preaching around the event very offensive and not at all the way I believed Jesus wanted to be represented. I shared video of these street preachers with some of the groups I lead who were equally offended by what they saw. I spent about a year doing some research and praying to better understand what God expected of me.
So the next year, 2007, my wife and I did set up a booth at the event. This would be the first time we would ever (knowingly) talk to lgbt individuals. We had helpful material to hand out (i.e. living will info, designated health care spokesperson info) along with a survey to help gain a better understanding of the gay and lesbian community. The results of the survey can be found here. We actually had a wonderful time talking with many who came to our booth. At the same time it turned out to be quite a culture shock to us. Re: ‘Hmmm ... Gee Lord these folks seem pretty cool. What is going on here? This is not what we expected.’ So this led to further questioning.
Ever since I had been at the Pride fest event, and perhaps even before, communication and dialog were some of the big needs I was seeing. As a minister trained in, among other things, being missional (i.e. being able to relate to other cultures with the message of Christ) I could see how there was much miscommunication and misunderstanding. There was a need to find ways to agree to disagree on some issues and come together on the many issues we could agree on.
We subsequently visited an MCC church and once again were surprised by what we found. They seemed to have a pretty normal worship service with the typical songs and message and communion. And they were a very friendly congregation. So this meant even more questions for God.
In the process of my research I was still somewhat exgay in my thinking and it would take a while before my view changed in that area (more like a full 180 degree turn.. see here). In the meantime I found a really great website and forum called Bridges Across in February of 2008. This multi-faith multi-worldview website put into words what I was looking for in terms of communication. They introduced me to the Side A / Side B terminology and various methods (Method D / Method E) of communication. Their purpose was and is:
“A cyberspace initiative providing models and resources for building respectful relationships among those who disagree about moral issues surrounding homosexuality, bisexuality and gender variance.”
My understanding grew in leaps and bounds on this website because people could freely talk about differences of viewpoint without getting mad at each other. They could agree to disagree and still be friends. In other words they were able to practice true tolerance which involves love and respect as well as being honest about one’s position on issues. I learned about GCN from their website and eventually joined in April of 2008. Again my understanding of the concerns and journeys of gay and lesbian people abounded. This website also utilized the Side A / Side B terminology and prominently displayed both theological viewpoints under a section titled ‘The Great Debate'. I hadn’t really heard of Side B celibate support until I came to GCN. Over time I have formed some unique friendships with some of the Side A members on the forum (and some Side B folks as well). In the process God has continued to mold and shape the ministry he has called me to.
My beliefs in this area and my philosophy of ministry …
What I believe about....
Sexual orientation is real (not a choice) and is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors as the APA states.
While I appreciate the terminology of the Sides I think they are, at times, inadequate in terms of labeling an individual’s beliefs.
Labels serve to pigeon whole people into certain stereotypes. My focus is more on the concept of journey and letting / helping people find their way. An atmosphere that allows this is sadly absent in most of our churches. I believe we need to work to establish safe harbor so that people can grow in Christ without the distraction of being mistreated, made fun of, or being constantly condemned. Having said that, theologically, I am Side B with a bit of a twist. The twist is that I do not view Christians who are in Side a relationships as condemned or lost. Instead I view them as folks who are journeying in Christ just as I am
I don’t define sin the way many other folks do. Sin, in my Wesleyan theology, is a willful violation of a known law of God (see this link for more). If a person believes that God has revealed something to them in His Word or otherwise and they fail to follow it then they are sinning and need to repent. I have been around folks who are Side A / Side B long enough to see that they are sincerely following their beliefs about what sin is and isn’t. And I can certainly understand Side a theology even if I don’t follow it to the same conclusion that others do. (Note: I give a brief overview of Side a Side B theology here.) So I leave these things to God. He knows people's hearts. This is my methodology with all the people God may put in my path.
My understanding of what sin is applies to ALL areas of life not just the Side A / Side B question. This is about how God looks at our lives as followers of Christ. Each one of us walks in the light that Christ has shown us. I believe He holds us accountable for what we know and are personally convicted of. This is a gracious theology that moves us away from judgmentalism where we judge someone according to what God has revealed to us and instead leaves judgment to God who knows our hearts. See Romans 14:4-5, and I John 3:21.
Now of course if we know what God wants and go against that, then that is a bad idea no matter what the issue or the Side you are on. The call of a Christian is for the Christian to love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength and to seek to follow Him according to what they know living in total submission to His revealed will.
I believe ALL Christians are both holy and being made holy regardless of whether they are gay, straight, Side A or Side B. (Hebrews 10:10, 14) There have been a lot of goofy statements about holiness coming out of the exgay movement which I reject. One such statement is: “The opposite of homosexuality is holiness.” This statement is problematic as it implies that gay people cannot be holy. But holiness comes from Christ not from our sexual orientation. It would be equally ridiculous to say that the opposite of heterosexuality is holiness. Holiness is being like Christ. It is pursued through consecrating ourselves completely to God, submitting to His will as He reveals it to us. It is independent of orientation. For more on holiness see this page and its links.
-Very simply, my philosophy of ministry is that people may know Christ and grow in Christ. Everything else is secondary. This is what I should facilitate as a minister of the gospel... calling people to Christ... calling people to holiness.
My role as pastor is to shepherd people along in their understanding of Christ and their journey in Christ. As such, I meet people where they are in their faith journey. I do not try to hit people over the head with my ‘rule book’. I think that would be rather offensive and just plain wrong because, again, I do not know where God is convicting the individual or what God has revealed to them. Not only that, but it is always possible that I am the one that is wrong.
Growing in Christ is a long process with many, many, issues, challenges and questions. The Side A / Side B question is but one of hundreds perhaps thousands of questions that a Christian will need to seek discernment on. The Holy Spirit illuminates and directs each individual in their journey according to God’s will. So I look for where God is moving in a person's life and seek to get in step with that. This is the come alongside ministry of Jesus that I seek to imitate. This applies whether you are gay or straight, Side A or Side B.
...So what is God directing me to do? What is my passion??
-Being a witness for Christ: Jesus is the way the truth and the life. He has commissioned us to share His gospel everywhere we go. (John 14: 6 and Matthew 28:19)
-Pastoral care: This involves coming alongside of people gay or straight wherever they are at in their journey. This may involve encouragement, prayer, bible study or any number of things.
-Helping families and individuals in the coming out process: This is one of the main purposes of this website... to help both parties involved to be able to respect one another and love each other even with disagreement.
-Creating and facilitating safe harbor: Gay and lesbian folks need to have safe places where they can grow in Christ just like everyone else and not be condemned while they do.
-Bridging across the divide: Finding ways to agree to disagree while still building each other up in Christ.
-Education: Helping my straight Christian friends to understand gay and lesbian people and their unique journey.
Recently .. I have begun working with others to develop a Parent's forum to help parents through the coming out process. I will provide a link to it when it is established.