RESOURCES FOR PASTORS, PARENTS and PARISHONERS

Our sexuality has a tremendous impact on our lives, both physically and spiritually.  The Free Methodist Church provides this online conversation in order for us to better understand the biblical instruction as well as the truth provided by reason, tradition and experience.  Though at this time in our cultural history the questions often revolve around same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, this conversation is open to all things sexual – from how to teach sexuality to how pornography or adultery has impact upon our sexual and relational lives.

We invite everyone to become a part of this conversation.  Read the Moderator’s instructions and sign-in using DISQUS (located at the bottom of each post). This is not an anonymous place to post.  If you have any questions you may contact the moderator, Dr. Denny Wayman.


12/2016

In answer to the request of our Free Methodist family, the Study Commission on Doctrine (SCOD) presents this resource for pastors, parents and parishioners.  The list is certainly not exhaustive and we recognize there is a continuum of opinions and concerns among us as a family of God.  It is not our intention by offering these resources to make them prescriptive, but rather to provide the best recent work so that every pastor, parent and parishioner can be well informed and respond with God’s love rather than with fear or misinformation.  In 2014 Dr. Denny Wayman created a resource in a digested form that, under God’s leadership, provides the same counsel as the majority of authors: God’s love and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are key.  It is available at:  http://fmcusa.org/files/2014/03/Gods-Love-Expressed-Offering-Pastoral-Care-to-LGB-Persons-and-Families.pdf.

In this resource we have explored seven books that present a variety of perspectives and experiences from Christians.  All write from first-hand experience with some bringing their faith in Christ into their same-sex attraction while others bring their professional expertise either as psychologists, practitioners, or researchers.

We would recommend that these books be read in the following order, with the first four being foundational.  However, there may be special interest that would cause a person to go to a specific book first.  Because of this we have provided a comprehensive description of the content of each book.  We thank Dr. Yarhouse and Dr. Hill for permission to post these digests and encourage everyone to purchase their books, as well as the other authors.

The Recommended order:

  1. Homosexuality and the Christian, Mark A Yarhouse, PsyD. (Bethany House, 2010)  This is a practical guide for pastors and parents in specific language in order to provide pastoral and parental guidance from a counseling perspective.
  2. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill (Zondervan, 2010). This is an excellent book on discipleship as Wesley welcomes us into his own journey as a celibate gay Christian.
  3. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin (InterVarsity, 2009)
  4. Us Versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community by Andrew Marin (Navpress, 2016).  Both recommendation 3 and 4 are written by the founder of the Marin Foundation. God placed his hand on this conservative Christian man to extend the love of Jesus to the LGBT Community.  The first book is his personal journey and experience of the openness of the LGBT Community both to him as a Christian and a heterosexual.  It is his experience that when the Love of Jesus is extended and fear is replaced by trust in the Holy Spirit’s work, then reconciliation is possible.  The second is a rigorous study of the LGBT Community and their religious experiences.  Verifying his anecdotal experience, the research showed that 86% of LGBT people were raised in the church (a few in other faiths), with 36% remaining and of those who left 76% are open to returning to the faith of their youth.
  5. Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian by Wesley Hill (Brazos, 2015).  Wesley (recommendation #2) continues his vulnerable invitation to walk with him as he walks with Christ.  As a celibate gay Christian, Wesley explores the difficulty of being a part of the church when spiritual relationships become secondary to marriage and biological families.
  6. Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan (Waterbrook, 2011). This firsthand account of the journey of a gay man and his mother into faith and understanding.
  7. Changing our Mind: A Call from America’s Leading Evangelical Ethics Scholar for Full Acceptance of the LGBT Christians in the Church by David P. Gushee (Read the Spirit Books, 2015).  Although this is not the Free Methodist understanding, this Baptist pastor and scholar presents the case for the acceptance of faithful marriage for same-sex Christians.  Thoughtfully presented but with less than compelling arguments, Gushee explores the theology and texts of our faith.

Detailed descriptions of the seven books using quotes rather than commentary (The quotation marks are omitted for easier reading.)

  1. Homosexuality and the Christian, Mark A Yarhouse, PsyD. (Bethany House, 2010)  Permission given by Dr. Yarhouse for this digest – the complete work is excellent and recommended since much has been omitted.
    1. Chapter 1: What does God think about Homosexuality?
      1. Sources of authority: Scripture, Christian Tradition, Reason, Personal Experience.
        1. Scripture: Rather than looking at Bible verses related only to homosexuality, it is important to take a broader look at how God’s Word deals with sexuality as a whole.
          1. Creation: What we see in Genesis is that God created heterosexual marriage as the foundation of the family.  This is affirmed later in the New Testament by Jesus, Paul, and others.  God places the act of sex within the bounds of heterosexual marriage, and Christians should understand sex to be a good thing, something intended by God at creation…. Creation is particularly important because it reveals what life was like before the effects of the fall.
          2. The Fall: At the individual level “being fallen” is probably best understood as a splitting of the will…. Many people struggle with obeying God’s revealed will for sexuality and sexual behavior.   The fall has effected sexuality in many ways that have little to do with homosexuality, and there are a large number of examples of this throughout Scripture…. Probably the most common effect of the fall that we struggle with today is our tendency to turn people into objects…many Christians are beginning to realize that homosexuality is one of those areas that can get a disproportionate amount of attention while other areas of concern, such as greed, envy or pride, remain largely unchecked.
          3. Redemption: Christians understand that God in His mercy did not leave us in our sin. He did not abandon us to our fallen state.  Rather, God had a plan…Christians affirm that we are in a place in history in which Jesus has secured the victory on the cross, but that victory is yet to be completed.
          4. Glorification: Glorification confirms that the church is our “first family” and that biological ties should not be our top priority on this side of heaven…Sexuality is important for a number of reasons, but it is not our first identity. Our primary identity is that we are part of a body of believers who are wed to Christ.  This is true whether we are single or married.
        2. Christian Tradition: When considering homosexuality and Christian tradition we need to acknowledge that there are a lot of different beliefs represented within the Christian faith.
          1. Roman Catholic Christianity: Marriage as sacrament meant that the marriage ceremony was a “principal means by which God communicates the grace (favor) that heals human beings of sin and elevates them into the divine life….The Catholic church does recognize homosexuality as a real sexual orientation, meaning that it is an enduring pattern of sexual and emotional attraction…But in spite of this view, the Catholic Church holds that same-sex behavior is against natural law and that homosexuality itself goes against God’s original design for sex….Therefore, the person who experiences same-sex attraction is called upon to live a chaste life, accepting their same-sex attractions as a personal trial in their walk with God.
          2. Protestant Christianity: The relationship between husband and wife is viewed as a “covenantal bond.”…Protestant tradition sees sex within the context of marriage as a normal and positive product of humanity’s creation as male and female….Those within the Protestant Church who oppose this traditional stance on sexuality and marriage are primarily coming from mainline denominations rather than conservative or evangelical ones….This challenge seems to reflect broader issues, with many of the challengers questioning the authority of Scripture and opposing a theology that recognizes the potential value in redemptive suffering….Some protestant groups have moved toward a stance similar to that of Roman Catholicism, holding that if people cannot change their sexual orientation, they are called to live a chaste life in keeping with traditional interpretations of Scripture and Christian traditions….Those Christians who are making this shift seem to be doing so based on reason and personal experience rather than the teachings of Scripture or church tradition.
        3. Reason: …for now I’ll just say that the science is often poorly understood, it’s overstated, and it is essentially misused by those who are attempting to change the church’s historical teaching about sexuality and sexual ethics.  The best studies suggest that only 2 to 3 percent of the population is homosexually oriented, but to some extent those numbers should not effect a Christian stance either way….whether something is common or rare is a separate issue from whether it is wrong.  When we look at the causes of homosexuality, we simply do not know…The Christian should focus on being faithful to God’s revealed will, and for most Christians the concern is with behavior rather than attractions or orientation.
        4. Personal Experience: Christians who are attracted to the same sex but decide not to act on these attractions or form a gay identity based upon these attractions.  These people seem to be disparaged by people on both sides of the debate….Gay Christians tend to emphasize that their homosexuality is “who they are.”  They can no more remove that from their overall sense of identity than can African-American Christians remove being black from their identity.  In our studies of gay Christians, a common theme was that of authenticity – gay Christians told us that it would be inauthentic to deny their own homosexuality…While we can acknowledge that some gay Christians say behavior and identity cannot be separated, other Christians who experience same-sex attraction do precisely that….some Christians foster a primary identity as part of a larger body of believers who share with one another an identity in Christ.
      2. What Sources of Authority do you Emphasize?: most people don’t treat these four sources as equally authoritative….Some Christians claim to give greater weight to personal experience and reason.  But what I think they are actually doing is giving greater weight to the experiences of those Christians who have embraced a gay identity.  Meanwhile, they don’t seem to be as open to the personal experiences of those Christian sexual minorities who have chosen not to embrace a gay identity.  These same Christians also appear to favor a certain reading of science.
  • Conclusion: As for the person, the sexual minority, God loves them.  And just as with any other person, God desires a relationship with them.  So Christians will want to be careful and humble in their attempt to answer the question of what God thinks about homosexuality….I think God is very active in our lives, identifying with us in our longings and struggles, including attraction to the same sex and the desire to experience full sexual intimacy.  And I think the Christian can invite God into the experience of longing…Indeed, from Christian sexual minorities, we learn that the Christian life is one in which we become more Christlike rather than just fulfilling our potential.
  1. Chapter two: Why is sexual identity the Heart of the Matter?  We’ve allowed our culture to choose the terms of the debate…Both liberals and conservatives focus too much energy on the cause of homosexuality…Both liberals and conservatives make their arguments as if the gospel hinged on these claims….My goal here is to do nothing less than change the entire conversation.
    1. What is sexual identity. Sexual identity is about labels.  But the source of a person’s identity can be complicated. What might influence a person to use one label over another?  Here is a list of some of the things that could influence one’s identity: Your sexual attractions; Whether you were born male or female; How masculine or feminine you feel; What you intend to do with the attractions you have; What you actually do with the attractions you have; Your beliefs and values about your sexual attractions and behaviors….two men…One young man experienced a pretty strong same-sex attraction.  He identified himself as gay and Christian.  We talked about the way different things might impact identity and labeling.  He shared that his values and his same-sex attractions were “trump” for him outweighing everything else.  He believed God made him gay and that he was fine identifying publicly and privately as gay….another young man who also experienced strong same sex attraction.  Interestingly, he did not identify as gay.  We talked about the way different thing might impact identity and labeling and he shared that his values and behavior were the most important things to him.  His values were that he affirmed a traditional Christian sexual ethic, and this made an impact on his behavior….he felt that God wanted him to pursue a life of chastity, and he was at peace with that.  His primary identity was as a believer (or “in Christ”) rather than his experiences of same-sex attractions.
    2. A Three-Tier Distinction; I think it is helpful to make a three-tier distinction between attractions, orientation, and identity….
      1. The first tier is same-sex attraction….This is the part of the equation they can’t control….it is descriptive.
      2. The second tier is homosexual orientation…they experience same-sex attraction that is strong enough, durable enough, and persistent enough for them to feel that they are oriented toward the same sex….We do know that some people experience some same-sex attraction but are completely comfortable saying that their sexual orientation is still heterosexual. We take this to mean that the attractions to the same sex are either not particularly strong, are fleeting, or are limited to a specific person.
      3. The third tier level, gay identity, is the most prescriptive. It is a socio-cultural label that people use to describe themselves…Although homosexual behavior has been practiced in other cultures throughout history, we are the first culture in which people refer to themselves in this way…Talking about a gay identity is part of a modern, contemporary movement.  When people take on this label, they move beyond describing their experience and instead are forming their identity.
      4. Another way of looking at it: The vast majority of people have opposite-sex attractions.  About 6 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women report feeling attracted to members of the same sex. But only about 2 percent of men and about ??? percent of women apparently have strong enough same-sex attractions that they would say they have a homosexual orientation.  Then, presumably, some percentage of those with a homosexual orientation have integrated their attractions and orientation into a gay identity….I explained this to Todd one day…It created just enough room for him to be able to ask and answer questions about what his attractions mean to him, how they fit into his overall sense of identity and how they might relate to his personal faith as a follower of Christ….Interestingly, in the 1970’s the average age of labeling oneself as gay was twenty years old.  Today the average is about fifteen….fifteen is too young to commit to an identity label.
  • When and how does sexual identity occur? Some studies suggest that it takes about three to four years for females to go through the attraction, behavior, questioning and labeling cycle, and five to six years for males….Sexual identity development appears to begin with sexual attraction from as young as age ten or twelve, and then moves on to same-sex behaviors by around thirteen to fourteen.  By age fourteen, questioning of identity may occur, followed by labeling at around age fifteen…What about people who are same-sex attracted but do not embrace a gay identity?  These people are often alienated from the gay community and the organizations that support them.
  1. The Gay Script: …a way in which we come to understand ourselves and our lives. In our culture today, experiences of same-sex attraction are typically treated as synonymous with a gay identity, and a gay identity carries with it many connotations….  Here is what I think this script looks like:
    1. Same-sex attractions signal a naturally occurring or “intended by God” distinction between homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality.
    2. Same-sex attractions are the way you know who you “really are” as a person (emphasis on discovery).
    3. Same-sex attractions are at the core of who you are as a person.
    4. Same-sex behavior is an extension of that core.
    5. Self-actualization (behavior that matches who you “really are”) of your sexual identity is crucial for your fulfillment.

This is a compelling script….A young person discovers who he or she already is.  The young person is categorically different from other young people by virtue of his or her attractions to the same sex….The question is, what other options are even made available…what competing or alternative script can he expect from the church?

  1. Another Script for Christians: identity “in Christ”.  In another set of studies we compared Christians who adopted a gay identity label to Christians who chose not to adopt a gay identity label.  Both groups experienced same-sex attraction.  Both groups identified themselves as Christians  We found that both groups were interested in living in a way that was consistent with their beliefs and values.  But they had two very different way of doing this.  The Christians who adopted a gay identity made their beliefs and values line up with their identity and behavior.  In other words, identity and behavior came first and their beliefs and values had to be adjusted to them.  On the other hand, the Christians who did not adopt a gay identity made their identity and behavior line up with their beliefs and values.  For this group, beliefs and values came first….worshipping God on God’s terms.  Worshiping God out of a gay identity would not reflect true authenticity to them….It is essentially an “identity in Christ” script that stands in sharp contrast to the gay script.  Here are the script’s basic points:
    1. Same-sex attraction does not signal a categorical distinction among types of person, but is one of many human experiences that are “not the way it’s supposed to be.”
    2. Same-sex attractions may be part of your experience, but they are not the defining element of your identity.
    3. You can choose to integrate your experiences of attraction to the same sex into a gay identity.
    4. On the other hand, you can choose to center your identity around other aspects of your experience, including your biological sex, gender identity, and so on.
    5. The most compelling aspect of personhood for the Christian is one’s identity in Christ, a central and defining aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

This script relies on the metaphor of integration rather than discovery….Rather than focus on an identity that is negative (not gay), they form an identity that is “in Christ,” a positive sense of themselves and their sense of purpose and community that is based on the redemptive work of Christ in their own lives.

  1. Final thoughts on Sexual Identity: …people can choose to join communities and eventually experience that community as intrinsic to who they really are.
  1. Chapter 3: What causes Homosexuality?  With homosexuality the end point suggests to me that we are really talking about “multiple homosexualities,”…most people would agree that male homosexuality seems different from female homosexuality.  But I think we also see differences among men.  There is no one male homosexual experience;  rather, different men experience homosexuality differently.  The same is true for women.
    1. What could contribute to Homosexuality?
      1. Biology: …studies do not provide much evidence to support the biological hypothesis…none of the researchers found a “gay gene.”…Neil Whitead’s attempt to explain this…says that same-sex attraction, most cancers, stroke and criminal behavior are “all dominated by chance circumstances in life, or individualistic reactions to them.”  So for Whitead, the best answer to what causes homosexuality is that it is “mostly chance.”  To say that differently, same-sex attraction “is a highly individualistic response to what comes naturally in genetics and society…”  As I have been suggesting, these various factors could range from childhood experiences to environmental events and how a person experiences and responds to them…perhaps this places different people on different pathways that can be amplified over time.
      2. Childhood Experiences:…Childhood physical abuse and neglect were not associated with homosexual relationships as adults…Those who have a history of childhood sexual abuse were three times more likely to report homosexual orientation than those who did not report childhood sexual abuse…an even greater likelihood to identify as homosexual those among male adolescents who said they had been sexually abused by men….we need to always keep in mind that most victims of childhood sexual abuse do not identify themselves as having a homosexual orientation.
      3. Environmental Influences:…Children with [homosexual] parents appear less traditionally gender-typed and more likely to be open to homoerotic relationships….the researchers…were saying that if as a culture we are okay with homosexuality among adults, we should not have any problem with increasing that likelihood among children once they are grown…. In one impressive study of homosexuality across cultures, a researcher who believes that homosexuality is more the result of social influences than biology or other factors, concluded: “Where social definitions of appropriate and inappropriate behavior are clear and consistent, with positive sanctions for conformity and negative ones for nonconformity virtually everyone will conform irrespective of genetic inheritance.”
      4. Adult Experiences: People often form a gay identity around their experiences of same-sex attraction by engaging in same-sex behavior and then declaring to themselves and others, “I am gay.”  They define themselves by this part of what they experiences.
    2. Conclusion: The American Psychological Association recently summarized the current understanding of the etiology of homosexuality when they stated:  “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation.  Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.  Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles;  most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
  2. Chapter 4: Can Someone Change Sexual Orientation?  …the American Psychological Association recently published a background document from a task force that reviewed many of these studies.  They concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” to support claims of changes in sexual orientation….Robert Spitzer of Columbia University…documented shifts in the way participants reported their own sexual orientation.  This included changes in sexual attraction, arousal, fantasy and yearning.  Generally speaking females tended to show more significant shifts than did males, a finding that seems consistent with other studies of sexual fluidity among women to experience same-sex attraction.  Before the change attempt, only about 2 percent of men and none of the women met Spitzer’s criteria for good heterosexual functioning (which included frequency of heterosexual sex, satisfaction with heterosexual sex, and emotional satisfaction with spouse);  after the change attempt, 66% of men and 44% of women met the criteria for good heterosexual functioning….it is important to understand that usually we are not talking about 180-degree changes from gay to straight.  Instead the studies show a movement along a continuum of attraction, with the majority of success coming from a decrease in same-sex attraction, which makes chastity not so much of a burden.  These changes may also reflect an important shift in not only sexual attraction but also sexual identity, or a person’s sense of themselves and whether or not they identify themselves as gay…I think those who argue that there is “insufficient evidence” of sexual orientation change are often thinking of categorical and complete change, as though sexual orientation were a light switch that is in one of two positions:  one or off.  Homosexual or heterosexual….Christians can sometimes add to the problem by claiming this kind of complete change happens frequently….So is change possible?  As I review the studies in this area, some people do report a change in attractions over time.  For those who report a change, it tends to come in the form of a reduction in homosexual attractions, but these reductions are typically not complete.  A smaller number of people also report an increase in heterosexual attraction….it may reflect attraction to only one individual of the opposite sex, such as a person’s spouse….On average, there was no evidence that involvement in this change process caused an increase in symptom distress or symptom severity.  At the six-to-seven-year follow-up, the only average change in symptom distress was toward slight psychological improvement.  Participants also completed measures of spiritual well-being.  There was no evidence that involvement in this change process caused a decline in religious or spiritual well-being.  In fact, every reported average difference indicated an improvement over six to seven year.

 

Part Two:  Honest Answers to Questions Facing Families

Chapter 5: What If My Child or Teen Announces a Gay Identity?

Is My Child Gay?…seeds of shame are often planted when a parent first fears that a son or daughter might be gay.  Not incidentally I think this kind of subcultural family shame can lead parents to take extreme positions.  One position is to suffer in silence.  Rather than risk the shame of letting others know…the other position a parent may take is to embrace their child’s gay identity and become for of an assertive advocate, openly disagreeing with the traditional Christian sexual ethic out of a position of being protective of their child or teen….children who display gender nonconformity are more likely to grow up to become homosexual.  However, not all children who struggle with gender nonconformity have problems later with either gender identity or sexual identity.

What can I do about my Child’s Gender and Sexual Identity?  Interestingly Gender Identity does appear to respond to parental intervention.  Recommendations include ignoring and gently but consistently redirecting extreme gender nonconformity, affirming the biological sex of the child, modeling appropriate gender behavior and reinforcing it when the child expresses it themselves….While we know that gender nonconformity is a part of an adult homosexual person’s history, it is less clear from research that intervention in childhood will prevent homosexuality….Parents need to be prepared for different experiences and think about how they will demonstrate love and regard for their son or daughter…demonstrate unconditional love toward their children regardless of what their children experience later in adolescence.

Train Up A Child:  It is one thing to raise a child to know God’s law and to have a relationship with Christ;  we equip them to make decisions by influencing their character in the way we raise them to regard God’s Word.  But it is another thing to make decisions for our older teens.  They are going to be making adult decisions soon.

What If My Teen Announces a Gay Identity?

            Describe rather than Declare:  Talking to others about you experiences of same-sex attractions essentially uses the three-tier distinction (discussed in chapter 2) between same-sex attraction, a homosexual orientation and a gay identity.  It focus more on the descriptive aspect of attraction…Contrast this with the teen who says to his parents “I’m gay.”  To parents this often comes across as not merely a description of what’s going on but instead a pronouncement or declaration….When it comes to family relationships, declarations can lead to emotionally charged exchanges among family members who quickly become entrenched in their positions.  This is one reason I encourage young people to describe their experiences (“I experience same-sex attractions”) rather than form an identity around their attractions.  This can help them avoid polarized “positions” with their parents and move them toward a more honest and respectful relationship….When I talk to parents I encourage them to be descriptive too, or to at least keep descriptive language in mind…Is your son saying, “I am gay and wanted you to know who I really am”? or is he saying “I experience same-sex attractions and am sorting out what that means”?

Keeping the Long View in Mind:  …Although about one-third of the Christians we surveyed initially thought of themselves as gay (at about age seventeen), only a small percentage (14 percent) took on the label “gay” for themselves or were even in a same-sex relationship (20 percent)….It is interesting that sexual behavior comes before labeling.  Maybe behavior helps confirm or consolidate an identity that a person already suspects or is questioning.  This may be one more good reason to delay sexual behavior, a message that parents can give to all teens regardless of whether they experience same-sex attraction…In another study we reported that it took many more years for Christian young adults to sort out their sexual identity questions that it did for non-Christians with these issues often extending into their mid-twenties and even into their early thirties…it is helpful to take a longer view than what is happening right now;  be available to your teen as they are sorting out sexual identity issues, recognizing that where they are today may not be where they are a year from now or five years from now or ten years from now.  Your relationship with them is important and can be sustained throughout these times of questioning and labeling…

What About the Needs of the Parents? …They could expend energy focusing on things they may have done wrong, but none of us have any idea whether those things caused their teen’s homosexuality.  Their energy would be better spent in developing the relationship they want to have with their teen from now on.  The question to ask is:  How can I be a resource to my teen over the next year?  Or What is my adolescent going to need from me moving forward? … Parents will need to come to terms with what their teen’s sexual identity questions may mean for their family… parents must keep in mind that the situation might change, this is not necessarily the last word on their teen’s sexual identity….identify safe, trusted people with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings.  Do not try to go through this alone.  It is also important that parents attend to their marriage and turn toward one another rather than away from one another…. Some parents feel stuck trying to sort out how to love their son or daughter while not saying or doing things that might condone same-sex relationships….There is sometimes a lot of pressure on parents to respond in ways that may go against their beliefs and values.  It may be helpful to take time to think through your beliefs and find ways to communicate them in the context of love and regard for your son or daughter.

Chapter 6:  My adult Child Announced a Gay Identity:  What now?

            Learn to Listen: ,,, Asking an adult son, “What about when you took Marsha to the prom?” is less of a question than it is an accusation.  The parent is in essence saying, “you were either lying to us then or you are lying to yourself now.” …If as parents what your son or daughter is saying doesn’t make sense to you, invite him or her to share experiences and memories with you without interrupting with your own account of them… It is important for parents to remember that people do not choose to experience same-sex attractions or a homosexual orientation; they simply find themselves with these attractions.  Initially these feelings are experienced during the early teen years for most people.  That being said, as we’ve talked about earlier, same-sex attracted people do have choices to make about their identity and their behavior.  But these choices will be made against a backdrop of a powerful gay script that equates attraction with identity.  This script is compelling, and it is understandable why your child is drawn to it as a way to make sense out of his or her attractions and sense of identity….Often young adults hear the Christian message about sex in marriage as a message without hope for them.  They may have already tried to change themselves or asked God to change them.  Or on the other hand, they may not see it as an issue that God cares about.  Meanwhile they see the church saying no to what they experience as a meaningful relationship, and they hear the emphasis on heterosexual marriage as signaling a life without intimacy for them.

Know What You Believe:  …If asked about homosexuality directly, I would encourage parents to step back into a discussion that provides a context for what you believe.  This might mean talking about a Christian view of sex and marriage rather than a discussion of Leviticus 22:18….I think at some point it is important to communicate your beliefs to your adult son or daughter.  But you gain the right to share your view by listening first…. Some parents find it helpful to have a third party present, perhaps a counselor, pastor, or family friends.

Scripture and Related Spiritual Issues:… Many adult children, however, do their homework.  They have often read or are at least familiar with recent attempts to interpret Scripture in a more gay-affirming way.  I encourage parents to be familiar with this literature in order to come to an understanding of what their child has been reading, and to also get to know critiques of those views.  Remember however, that this is not just an intellectual exercise for your adult child.  It is not a theological debate, as important as theology is in this case.  In my experience young adults who have been able to respond positively to the Scriptures and the Christian sexual ethic have felt genuinely convicted by the Holy Spirit.  They are convinced that they should say no to what they experience as a natural desire and longing for connection in favor of saying yes to a personally fulfilling life in Christ…The personal fulfillment that comes with stewarding sexuality takes time to experience; it is more like a spiritual discipline, like silence or fasting.  It can be tremendously rewarding, but not until a person is accustomed to it.  An additional spiritual issue we should consider has to do with resisting the urge to speak harsh words, using anger to correct and bring an adult child “back in live.”

Setting Limits: …the most challenging thing of all is making decisions that reflect those values and affect your adult child.  Parents vary considerably in whether or how they set limits…some parents focus primarily on their relationship with their adult child, not setting any limits around events such as holiday gatherings, birthday parties, and so on… Other parents have little to no contact with their adult child…Most often however, parents set some limits based upon their beliefs and values….limits are typically set around whether their adult child and his or her partner will stay with them, …I tell parents that they are naturally inclined to see limit setting from their own point of view…try to see the limit-setting from your adult child’s perspective.  Limit setting is symbolic; it means something to everyone involve.   That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set limits based on what you think is right or feel you can handle, but it does mean that you are not the only person to consider.

Take Care of Yourself and Your Marriage; …there is a tendency for parents to polarize when an adult child announces a gay identity…. You want to give each other the space needed to express a range of emotions, and if this is difficult for you or if it feeling like you are “locking horns” over what is happening…you may find it helpful to discuss this with a third party, such as a counselor or pastor.

Where is God in all of This?  … I do believe it is okay to express to God the feelings you have toward Him…I don’t think God abandons us in our confusion.

How Will it End Up?  …Most often parents and their adult children work out a relationship based on mutual understanding and respect…. They may disapprove of some of the decisions their adult child is making, but they know that their child knows this, and it does not have to be restated.  Rather, they build bridges based on genuine love for the child – a love that is fueled by the same Christian faith that tells them about sexual behavior and sexual morality.

Chapter 7:  What if My Spouse Announces a Gay Identity?

            Mixed Orientation Marriages: …it turns out that people enter into these marriages for many of the same reasons heterosexual people enter into any marriage:  they love their spouse….I would say that marriage should not be seen as a way to work out sexual identity questions or conflicts.

Stages of Relationship Change: …the general landscape looks like this:  awareness, emotional response, acceptance of reality and negotiating a future.

Recommendations for couples: …I help couples make their decisions in light of what is taught In their faith community and in consultation with their pastor.

A Word to the Sexual-Minority Spouse: …a good place to being is with the distinction we have been making between same-sex attraction, a homosexual orientation and a gay identity…your attractions do not necessarily signal your identity or define who you really are.  It is more complicated than that…. Explore the question:  What do these attractions mean? …some sexual minorities see their same-sex attractions as the first and last word on their sense of who they are as a person.  But others tend to see who they are in light of God making them male or female, or in light of their values and sense of identity in Christ.  To them, their Christlikeness is more important and “real” than the other factors.  Can you align your behavior and identity with your beliefs and values?  The term for this is congruence…Working on sexual identity and what it means and how you will live in light of it will likely take some time…. you and your spouse need to revisit what it means to build trust…. This cannot be rushed.

A word to the Spouse of the Sexual Minority: …This experience of betrayal or other relationship offense has been described by psychologists as interpersonal trauma.  Don’t underestimate how important it is to carefully navigate through this trauma…While I am a supporter of forgiveness in this context, I find that I have to slow people down a little.  They need to work through how they feel about the relationship, how they feel about themselves, how they feel about their spouse, and so on, and all of this takes time.  This seems especially difficult for Christians.  I suspect that they feel they must forgive so they “white knuckle it” by claiming forgiveness in principle while their emotional experience (what they actually feel inside) lags far behind.  It is okay to forgive in principle while you work through the emotions of forgiveness over time – as long as the emotional experience is not neglected…. I would say that it takes a minimum of one year to really work through interpersonal trauma related to an affair or a sense of relationship betrayal.

Resilience and Mixed-Orientation Couples:  …important tools that can strengthen their relationship.  These tools include communication, fostering a sense of “us,” flexibility and sexual intimacy…. Communication: When and How to talk to One Another: ,,, frequently… honesty… empathy…. A Sense of Us:  …this begins by reviewing why you as a couple got together in the first place…what drew you to one another…It can be helpful to review what you currently enjoy that is helping you stay together…what are you enjoying together that gives you a shared sense of identity.

Addressing Intimacy: …It is important not to compare themselves to other couples or to images or messages from entertainment or the broader culture; rather they are building something unique that is a reflection of who they are as a couple…the differences between initiating, responsive and principled desires.  Initiating desire has to do with a drive or interest in pursuing sex in marriage.  Responsive desires has more to do with a spouse responding favorably to sex once they feel connected to their partner.  Principled desire is more like what Christians do in their spiritual lives when they don’t feel like spending time with God; they choose to do it anyway, recognizing that it is a good thing for the relationship.  In the area of sexual intimacy, principled desire is kind of like that.

 

PART THREE:  Questions For The Church

Chapter Eight:  Whose People Are We Talking About? …Christians who struggle with homosexuality are our people…. Because sexuality is tied to our sense of ourselves as a person, it is common for the Christian who experiences same-sex attraction to feel shame for their experience, regardless of their behavior.  What’s the result?  Often Christians who struggle in this way don’t feel they are part of the Christian community…. The sincere struggler is the believer who is genuinely trying to live faithfully before God with their sexuality.  In other words, they agree with traditional Christian doctrine about sexuality and sexual behavior; they recognize that full sexual expression is reserved for marriage between a man and a woman….I want to contrast the sincere struggler with the “assertive advocate”  This is the Christian sexual minority who advocates for a change in Christian doctrine about sexuality and sexual behavior.  He or she leads with advocacy, often placing great pressure on the local church or denomination to change policies that have long been part of a Judeo-Christian understanding of sexuality…. It is important not to confuse the two or respond to all people as though they were delivering the same message.

Mistaken Identity:  Back to the question…Whose people are we talking about?  The gay community admits they have failed to embrace sexual minority Christians, and few churches are welcoming them, so where do they go?  And what do they want? …Christian sexual minorities…tended to think of themselves more as Christians than as gay…forming an identity in Christ is typically a prominent theme among those who do not embrace a gay identity…. Imagine if you experienced same-sex attraction and heard your friends talking negatively about gays or using derogatory terms as put-downs.  It would be hard to see those same friends as safe people with whom to share your struggle.

The Real Issue:  Supporting Our People: …without compromising its position on the issue of same-sex behavior, the church can recognize that Christians who are sexual minorities are our people, and we can speak to them.  Providing support and pastoral care to the sincere struggler will take one form while supportive pastoral care to the assertive advocate will take another. The Christian community often tells them that if they don’t experience a change in their attraction, they aren’t living faithfully before God.  Meanwhile the gay community may mock them, treating them as though they – by virtue of being strugglers – are suppressing their sexuality, their “true nature” and therefore doing further harm to the gay community.  So even here the script tells sexual-minority Christians that their first and primary obligation is to the gay community.  In contrast, the church should tell the sexual-minority Christian that their first and primary obligation is to God, to the person of Jesus Christ, and to becoming Christlike.  After speaking this truth, churches should follow it up with a meaningful way to support sexual minorities through the process.  If our only message is that through enough effort and faith they will become heterosexual, we are misleading them.  We mislead them by setting the wrong standard for what counts as suggest.  Heterosexuality is not the measure of success for the Christian sexual minority.  What matters is Christlikeness, regardless of whether sexual attractions change significantly.  What the Christian community can offer the Christian sexual minority is a vision for what it means to be Christlike.  That vision places the Christian sexual minority squarely in the middle of the Christian community.  They become us…. A Church that facilitates this kind of community treats all people with respect…avoids “arrogant optimism” and replaces it with “realistic biblical hope.” … does not shame people who continue to struggle.

How Change Really Works:   This is essentially a practical theology of sanctification…. It involves seeing thing in relation to their ultimate purpose and value in light of the kingdom and economy of God…continuing to obey and find the reward of our obedience to our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward…. For the Christian, our activity is obedience, discipleship, and sanctification.  That is, being made more and more in the likeness of Christ.  And the final result of this is to be fully Christlike in the glorification that awaits us in heaven…. The church doesn’t teach sexual minorities to praise God to receive heterosexuality in exchange. (I praise you so I can become heterosexual.”)  Praise is the goal.  It is the end, not the means to an end…. The second important practice in a curriculum of Christlikeness involves “Walking the individual through actual cases in their own lives to give them experience-based understanding and assurance.”…Real-life application has to occur….It is also important for us to be in relationships with one another in which we are able to be transparent.  What often makes this difficult is the isolation sexual minorities feel because of shame…they often feel that there is something inherently wrong with them or that they would not be loved and accepted if people really knew what they were going through.  But we are to walk alongside the person who experiences same-sex attraction, just as they walk alongside us in our spiritual lives.  We share and encourage one another as we grow closer to God and more in the image and likeness of His Son…. This brings us to the work of the Holy Spirit…the function of the Holy Spirit appears to be “to move within our souls, and especially our minds, to present the person of Jesus and the reality of his kingdom.” Put differently, the Holy Spirit is active and plays a vital role in shaping our inner lives and the acts that come to reflect the nature of our inner lives.  Do you see how our language has changed?  We are no longer talking about Christians with same-sex attraction as though they were in a unique category of people trying to live faithfully before God.  Yes, there are unique challenges associated with same-sex sexuality in a culture like ours and in light of the prominence of the gay script.  But we do well to speak as fellow travelers on a journey toward the same destination…. The challenge for the church is to support and equip and train Christians, all Christians, in meaningful ways.  We do this together.

What the Church Should Avoid:

            Avoid Tunnel vision:  The church would do well to avoid focusing exclusively on homosexuality to the exclusion of other concerns…hypocrisy in the church – giving some sins a pass while focusing intently on other sins.  To aid in this consider discussing homosexuality only in the context of a broader discussion of a theology of human sexuality, including creation, the fall, redemption, glorification and a discussion of both married and single sexuality…,

            Avoid “raising the bar.”  This means we want to avoid holding out expectations that are too high regarding healing or change.  We don’t want to communicate that someone has to be healed or changed to heterosexuality to have a testimony about what God is doing in their lives….If the church has a low opinion of singles, then the church will imply the need for the Christian struggling with homosexuality to become heterosexual.  In contrast, when churches value being single not as a stage to “get through” but as a good state to be in, they can provide a place that is valued and meaningful to the Christian who is also a sexual minority.

            Avoid “preaching to the choir.”  …less preaching against homosexuality and more equipping of all believers to grow in a curriculum of Christlikeness….Coming Alongside campaign:  Recognize the value in all people as image-bearers of God; Stand together with fellow believes who are sorting out sexual identity concerns; Remove the stigma often associated with the struggle itself; Encourage brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying to live faithfully before God….The church also needs to find constructive ways to respond to the assertive advocate.  I can think of no better resource available to the Christian community than Andrew Marin’s book: Love is an orientation.

            Bring your light: …I would like to see the church say to the sincere strugglers, “Bring your light.”  …I have been impressed by the depth of spiritual conviction I’ve seen among those Christians who are stewards of their sexuality…They say no to what the gay community and broader culture promotes so that they can say yes to something else, something they feel God is calling them to, even if they get little to no support from their local faith community.

Chapter Nine:  What is the Church’s Response to Enduring Conditions? …I do not believe there’s a formula for how God provides.  This is perhaps one of the most difficult realities for most Christians to face…we see throughout Scripture and church history that God’s provision doesn’t always come in the way we want or expect.  He provides to advance His purposes…. My invitation is to encourage the church to change the way it thinks about what matters most.  Sometimes people in the church can get caught up in self-actualization, or, more specifically sexual self-actualization, a common spirit of our culture.  In other words, we tend to justify the things that we want rather than being obedient to what God wants for us.

            Purpose and Stewardship:  …C.S. Lewis…  “I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin.  This leaves the [homosexual] no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying…our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance.  The disciples were not told Why (in terms of efficient cause) the man was born blind (Jn. IX 1-3); only the final cause, that the works of Gods [should] be made manifest in him.  This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest; i.e., that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it….”  …I think a focus on sexual identity can be a helpful alternative to this focus on orientation…The idea of “vocation” has to do with one’s purpose in life.  It refers to who we are and what we intend to become.  You see, sexual identity helps people focus on an end point; it can help us think about whose kingdom we are a part of.  Is our identity to be found in our sexual attractions or in Christ?…Christianity rejects the idea that our impulses are reliable moral guides.  The Christian has to look outside of him or herself for direction on how to live…. To steward our sexuality is to look outside ourselves and our experiences toward a trustworthy guide.  We need to look to Scripture and the work of the Spirit in order to understand our thoughts, impulses and experiences so that we can live in conformity to God’s revealed will for sexuality and its expression….  “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God with your Body” (I Corinthians 6:19) … Mature Christians…see all of what they have and all of who they are as something to steward.

            Principles to Practice in Relationships:

                        The Assertive Advocate:  Rather than talk about all assertive advocates, I want to talk specifically about the assertive advocate who is a part of the church.  They love the church but want to see it change its central teaching on sexuality and sexual behavior.  They reject the language of “love the sinner but hate the sin.”  They would argue that it is a false dichotomy, that “loving who I am means loving what I do, or what I do is an extension of who I am.” …It reflects the gay script…They firmly believe that the love you show them must express itself by your agreeing that homosexuality reflects God’s diverse plan for creation, and that same-sex heavier is an expression of identity and diversity rather than a moral concern….

                        Lead by Example: …My experience is that those who struggle with homosexuality are quite aware of and sensitive to hypocrisy in the church.  They know when they are being asked to do something that others are not.  If you agree that sexual minorities could benefit from following a curriculum of Christlikeness, then follow that curriculum in your own life….

                        Practice “convicted Civility”:  Christians should hold onto their beliefs and values (in other words, their “convictions”) while engaging others in ways that convey mutual respect and a high regard for those with whom they disagree … to hold both conviction and civility in balance.

                        Listen and Share:  …You can listen and reflect on the different weights a person gives to various aspects of their sexual identity…

                        Encourage them in their walk with God:  There can be times when it is tempting to steer clear of assertive advocates, to only hang out with people with whom you already agree.  But keep in mind that even if there appears to be a number of differences between you and the assertive advocate, the one thing you hold in common is a relationship with God.

            The Sincere Struggler:

Solid Foundation: The sincere strugglers I have known who have been able to move forward in a practical understanding of stewardship had a solid foundation in the Word of God.

                        Proper Perspective:  Remember you are Christi’s own…Remember who you are.  It’s a matter of identity…identity formed around the person of Jesus.  Their identity was in Christ… If the sincere struggler is attempting to change their orientation, I would support them in their attempt.  The difference in what I recommend and what I see happening is that today most people who attempt change do so in isolation and in shame, with high expectations that they become completely heterosexual.  I recommend realistic, modest expectations…keep in mind that love for those who attempt complete change is not contingent on their outcome.  Nor is their spiritual maturity contingent on a categorical change from gay to straight.

                        Be Patient and Respect the process:  It would be nice to be able to provide quick answers for those who are struggling with same-sex attractions, but of course it’s never that easy….Respect the process…we can patiently support those who are trying to figure out which way to approach their besetting condition.  Do they say, “I am gay, and I’m sorting out what to do with my Christianity”? Or do they go a different direction: “I am a Christian and I am sorting out what to do with the fact that I experience same-sex attraction”?

Chapter TenConcluding Thoughts:  …Rather than focusing on a handful of passages, I think it makes more sense to look at the overall biblical witness regarding sexuality.

            Two Final Words:  In conclusion, I hope you take from this book a sense of both humility and charity.  Humility is necessary in how we approach our understanding of the causes of homosexuality…. Charity is found in how we respond to those in our community who experience same-sex attractions.  Fellow believers who are sorting this out are our people…. Charity is also found in realistic biblical hope.  We can support efforts to change sexual orientation, but we can also make sure we communicate to our people that their walk with God, their spiritual maturity, their depth of characters is not contingent on the degree of change of sexual orientation they experience.

 

  1. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill (Zondervan, 2010). Hill has given permission for this digest.  Much has been omitted from this digest and it is recommended that his book be purchased.
    1. Introduction: This books is neither about how to live faithfully as a practicing homosexual person nor about how to live faithfully as a fully healed or former homosexual man or woman…This book is about what it means…how practically, a non-practicing but still-desiring homosexual Christian can “prove, live out, and celebrate” the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in homosexual terms.  This book is written mainly for those gay Christians who are already convinced that their discipleship to Jesus necessarily commits them to the demanding, costly obedience of choosing not to nurture their homosexual desires, whether through private fantasies or physical relationships with other gay or lesbian people….”There are probably nearly as many Christians with homosexual feelings who do not believe that homosexual sex is right for Christians as there are those who are advocating its acceptance.”…The Christian’s struggle with homosexuality is unique in many ways, but not completely so.  The dynamics of human sinfulness and divine mercy and grace are the same for all of us, regardless of the particular temptations or weaknesses we face.  In my experience the effort to live faithfully as a gay Christian has involved me in three main battles.  The first has been the struggle to understand what exactly the gospel demands of homosexual Christians;  Why it seems to require that I not act on my homosexual desires – and how the gospel enables me to actually fulfill this demand…Second, for me, being a Christian who experiences intense homoerotic desires has meant loneliness, feelings of isolation, fears that I will be alone all my life with my brokenness, that no one will be there for the long haul to walk this road with me….Finally, in my life and in the lives of many others, shame has been a constant struggle in the effort to live out the life of Christ and his Spirit in homosexual terms.  Guilt over homosexual sin, a nagging unshakable feeling of being “damaged goods,” a sense of being broken beyond repair – and therefore of being regularly, unavoidably displeasing to God….I’ve tried to avoid…referring to someone as “a homosexual.”  I’ve taken care to always make “gay” or “homosexual” the adjective and never the noun….I am a Christian before I am anything else.  My homosexuality is a part of my makeup, a facet of my personality.  One day, I believe, whether in this life or in the resurrection, it will fade away.  But my identity as a Christian – someone incorporated into Christ’s body by his Spirit – will remain.
    2. Prelude – Washed and Waiting: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:11)…There was nothing, it felt, chosen or intentional about my being gay. It seemed more like noticing the blueness of my eyes than deciding I would take up skiing.  There was never an option – “Do you want to be gay?”  “Yes , I do, please.”…In my reading I also discovered that by far the majority of Christians – on the basis of their reading of several key passages from the Bible, together with the weight of Christian tradition, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant – agreed that homosexual practice was sinful.  Having gay sex was off-limits.  Christians talked regularly, I found, of God’s original intention for creation and that, indeed, God, strictly speaking didn’t make anyone homosexual.  Rather, homosexuality was one of the myriad tragic consequences of living in a fallen world stalked by the specters of sin and death…Somehow, in some way, I would have to be faithful to this Christian conviction – that homosexual lust, fantasies, and practice, whether self-stimulated or in partnership with another person, gay or straight, were not God’s will for my life….realizing those words were meant for me.  Ignoring is not the path to redeeming….I have since learned that many gay Christians wrestle with feelings of isolation, shame and guilt that lead them to question God’s love for them or simply feel cold and calloused to it….It has taken years for me to learn, bit by bit, this spiritual practice of meditating on the love of God and to understand that it is central to my struggle with homosexuality….I would discover how crucial nonerotic friendships with peers of the same sex are in my pilgrimage toward wholeness…. I made an appointment to meet with one of the pastors…I had tasted something of what it meant to walk in the light, and I wanted more.  I wanted more than anything to see the church be the church and to know what it can mean to feel  the freedom of openness and the consolations of community….I said I just wanted Christian friends – including friends my age, peers – who would be there for me, who would help me figure out how to live with a tension and confusion that at times seemed overwhelming….I began to learn to wrestle with my homosexuality in community over many late-night cups of coffee and in tear soaked, face-on-the-floor times of prayer with members of my church….No longer was I simply struggling;  I was learning to struggle well, with others, in the presence of God…And so I cling to this image – washed, I am washed, sanctified, justified through the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Whenever I look back on my baptism, I can remember that God has cleansed the stains of homosexual sin from the crevasses of my mind, heart, and body and included me in his family the church, where I can find support, comfort, and provocation toward Christian maturity.  The second image that describes my struggle comes from Romans 8:23-25.  Along with the fallen inanimate creation, “we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”…Taped onto my desk where I write is a small sheet of paper with a quote from German poet Rainer Maria Rilke:  “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart.”…Washed and waiting.  That is my life – my identity as one who is forgiven and spiritually cleansed and my struggle as one who perseveres with a frustrating thorn in the flesh, looking forward to what God has promised to do.
      1. Chapter 1 A storyshaped Life:…in recent years, while considering what we now know of some persons having a virtually unchangeable “homosexual orientation,” most of the church- Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant – has continued to claim that homosexual practice is out of step with God’s will.  Acting on homosexual feelings and desires is contrary to God’s design for human flourishing…The Christian church has consistently and repeatedly said no to homosexual practice…At times, though, for me and many others, the weight of the biblical witness and the church’s traditional teaching against homosexual practice can seem rather unpersuasive….In fact, not only are they not compelling, these biblical texts and Christian pronouncements appear out-dated, perhaps slightly cruel, and in any case, not really workable or attainable….There are other reasons the church’s traditional no to homosexual practice doesn’t seem compelling.  One is that it simply seems out of character with the Christian message of love, grace and abundant life.  Occasionally it strikes me again how strange it is to talk about the gospel – Christianity’s “good news” – demanding anything that would squelch my happiness, much less demanding abstinence from homosexual partnership and homoerotic passions and activities….How could the gospel be opposed to love?…On the surface, the Bible and the church’s demand for homosexuals not to act on their desires can seem old fashioned, life taking, oppressive.  But could it be that if I place that demand into a larger story, then perhaps – just perhaps – it won’t seem as irrational, harsh and unattainable as it otherwise might?  Could the Christian story of what God did for the world in Christ be the framework that makes the rules – “don’t go to bed with a partner of the same sex,”  “Don’t seek to cultivate and nurture desires and fantasies of going to bed with a partner of the same sex” – make sense?…Like a piece from a jigsaw puzzle finally locked into its rightful place, the Bible and the church’s no to homosexual behavior make sense to me – it has the ring of truth, as J.B. Phillips once said of the New Testament – when I look at it as one piece within the larger Christian narrative, I abstain from homosexual behavior because of the power of the scriptural story….Christianity’s good news provides – amply so  for the forgiveness of sins and the wiping away of guilt and the removal of any and all divine wrath through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ form the dead.  Seen in this light, the demand that we say no to our homosexual impulses need not seem impossible.  If we have failed in the past, we can receive grace – a clean slate, a fresh start.  If we fail today or tomorrow in our struggle to be faithful to God’s commands, that, too, may be forgiven….There is a second way the Christian story provides a context…The message of what God has done through Christ reminds me that all Christians, whatever their sexual orientation, to one degree or another experience the same frustration I do as God challenges, threatens, endangers, and transforms all of our natural desires and affections. Theologian Robert Jenson observes:  After all is said and done, Scripture is brutally clear about homoerotic practice:  it is a moral disaster for anyone, just as adultery is a crime for anyone…Of course, every mandate of the law is harder on some, with their predilections, than on others with theirs.  To the fallen world, that is always true of law, divine or human.  Does God’s law then mandate frustration for those unattracted or repelled by the opposite sex?  I fear it does, just as, given the fall, each of us with his or her predilections, will be blocked by God’s law in some painful – perhaps deeply painful – way….Far from being a tolerant grandfather rocking in his chair somewhere far away in the sky, God most often seems dangerous, demanding, and ruthless as he makes clear that he is taking our homoerotic feelings and actions with the utmost seriousness.  Like Cain, we sometimes squirm as we relate to God. We experience him both as an unwanted presence reminding us that our thoughts, emotions and choices have lasting consequences, as well as a radiant light transforming us gradually, painfully into the creatures he wants us to be….When we engage with God in Christ and take seriously the commands for purity that flow from the gospel, we always find our sinful dreams and desires challenged and confronted.  When we homosexual Christians bring our sexuality before God, we begin or continue a long costly process of having it transformed.  From God’s perspective, our homoerotic inclinations are like “the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst” (to borrow Frederick Buechner’s fine phrase).  Yet when God begins to try to change the craving and give us the living water that will ultimately quench our thirst, we scream in pain protesting that we were made for salt.  The change hurts.  “Are homosexuals to be excluded from the community of faith?” asked one gay Christian in a letter to a friend.  “Certainly not,” he concluded. “But anyone who joins such a community should know that it  is a place of transformation, of discipline, of learning, and not merely a place to be comforted or indulged.” Engaging with God and entering the transformative life of the church does not mean we get a kind of “free pass,” an unconditional love that leaves us where we are.  Instead we get a fiercely demanding love, a divine love that will never let us escape from its purifying, renovating and ultimately healing grip.  And this means that our pain – the pain of having our deeply ingrained inclinations and desires blocked and confronted by God’s demand for purity in the gospel – far from  being a sign of our failure to live the life God wants, may actually be the mark of our faithfulness….The gospel proclaims that we belong to God twice over – first because he created us, and second because he has redeemed us through the work of his Son…we are the Lord’s….God reserves all rights for himself.  And this extends even to the realm of our sexuality – what we humans do with our bodies.  “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord,”….Richard Hays writes:  Through baptism, Christians have entered a corporate whole whose health is at stake in the conduct of all its members.  Sin is like an infection in the body;  thus, moral action is not merely a matter of individual freedom and preference…The New Testament never considers sexual conduct a matter of purely private concern between consenting adults.  According to Paul, everything that we do as Christians, including our sexual practices, affects the whole body of Christ….One of the hardest-to-swallow, most countercultural, counterintuitive implications of the gospel is that bearing up under a difficult burden with patient perseverance is a good thing….While those in the grip of Christ’s love will never experience ultimate defeat, there is a profound sense in which we must face our struggles now knowing there may be no real relief this side of God’s new creation.  We may wrestle with a particular weakness all our lives.  But the call remains:  Go into battle….it is a message about God’s strange working in and through that pain – God’s “alchemy of redemption” as Philip Yancey calls it.  “My power is made perfect “ – not in the absence of but in the midst of – “weakness,”…(2 Corinthians 12:9)…The Christian story proclaims that all the demands of Scripture are ultimately summons, calls, invitations – beckoning us to experience true, beautiful, and good humanness….We accept the New Testament’s teaching that Jesus Christ is the measure of true humanity.  “Behold the man!”…as Karl Barth declared, “This man is man.”…Walter Moberly writes, “The Gospels portray a compelling and attractive person, who engages seriously with people and is good company at a party.  Yet all the evidence is that he lived as a sexual celibate”  It may come as a surprise in our age of personal gratification that Jesus never married and never had sex – with a woman or a man….And yet he was the truest, fullest human being who has ever lived.  Indeed, precisely because he never sinned, he was truly, fully human.  From the Bible’s perspective, sin mars and stains humanity.  But Jesus never felt that stain.  Does that mean that everyone who wants to share the true humanity of Jesus must be single and celibate? No. It does, however, shift the terms of our modern thinking about sexuality. It dislodges our assumption that having sex is necessary to be truly, fully alive….Moberly asks, “Are we willing to find our identity in Christ and our appropriate lifestyle in faithfulness to him, rather than in the fashions of contemporary gay movements?…Your struggle isn’t a mindless, unobserved string of random disappointments….And Faithfulness is never a gamble.  It will be worth it. The joy then will be worth the struggle now.  In the end, I think that is how I am learning to live faithfully as a homosexual Christian.
        1. Part two Interlude The Beautiful Incision: …I discovered that Henri Nouwen had been a celibate homosexual, and as a result, had wrestled intensely with loneliness, persistent cravings for affection and attention, immobilizing fear of rejection and a restless desire to find a home where he could feel safe and cared for….”He had a deep need for love and acceptance that no relationship seemed to satisfy…[He] even [feared] that friends would forget him or just disappear from his life.”…Loneliness, as I will try to describe more fully in the next chapter, has been a defining struggle of my life…. Nearly two thousand years ago, Good Friday gave way to Easter Sunday, and at the end of history, when Jesus appears, death will give way to resurrection on a cosmic scale and the old creation will be freed from its bondage to decay as the new is ushered in.  On that day there will be no more loneliness.  The wounds will be healed.  I expect to stand with Henri Nouwen at the resurrection and marvel that neither of us is homosexual anymore, that we both – together with every other homosexual Christian – are whole and complete in the fellowship of the redeemed, finally at home with the Father.
        2. Chapter 2 The End of Loneliness: “There are days when the knowledge that there will never be a place which I can call home, that there will never be a person with whom I shall be one flesh, seems more than I can bear, and if it wasn’t for you, and a few – how few – like you, I don’t think I could.”  H. Auden, on his life as a homosexual Christian in a letter to Elizabeth Mayer, 1943.  It was late and way past dark when I left my friends’ house.  How strange is it, I thought as I backed out of their driveway, that I just spent the whole day with people – some of whom I would count among my best friends in the world – at two Easter dinner parties and a Bible study, and I still feel so desperately, utterly, helplessly lonely….Another option open to homosexual Christians who remain committed to the gospel is celibacy. Those of us who live day in and day out with the disordered desires of a broken sexuality can opt to live as single people, fleeing from lust and fighting for purity of mind and body in the power of God’s Spirit. But with this option…the lack of…a relationship of mutual desire – is even more searing….”Grace, for the Christian believer…is a transformation that depends in large part on knowing yourself to be seen in a certain way;  as significant, as wanted….I often wonder if coming to understand and believe that God does, indeed, desire us and that we are invited to return his desire might be the “remedy,” in some ultimate sense, for the loneliness and craving for love that I and other homosexual Christian experience on a regular basis….Through the Old Testament prophets, God portrays his love for Israel with the imagery of desire…The New Testament too, depicts God’s longing for his people – now clearly including Gentiles in addition to errant Israel. …In some profound sense, this love of God – expressed in his yearning and blessing and experienced in our hearts – must spell the end of longing and loneliness for the homosexual Christian.  If there is a “remedy” for loneliness, surely this must be it. In the solitude of our celibacy, God’s desiring us, God’s wanting us, is enough. The love of God is more valuable than any human relationship.  And yet we ache. The desire of God sufficient to heal the ache, but still we pine, and wonder….One of the most surprising discoveries I made…is that the New Testament view the church- rather than marriage – as the primary place where human love is best expressed and experienced….” the answer to loneliness is not marriage, but, rather the new-creational community that God is calling into being in Christ, the church marked by mutual love, as it is led by the Spirit of Christ….” We must call into question any notion that the supreme expression of human love is found in marriage”…According to Jesus there is no greater love than the sacrificial love of one friend for another (John 15:1)…The remedy for loneliness – if there is such a thing this side of God’s future – is to learn, over and over again, to do this; to feel God’s keeping presence embodied in the human members of the community of faith, the church. “What if the church were full of people who were loving and safe, willing to walk alongside people who struggle?  What if there were people in the church who kept confidences, who took the time to be Jesus to those who struggle with homosexuality? What if the church were what God intended it to be?”…Does God’s keeping presence experienced through the human faces of the church ultimately spell the end of loneliness? Yes, I believe so, in some eventual sense. But on this side of the fullness of God’s new creation, the ache remains.
        3. Part Three Postlude “Thou Art Lightning and Love”: …I found Manley Hopkins. Hopkins (1844-1889) was an English convert to Roman Catholicism…he became a Jesuit priest…wrestled for decades with what today would be called homoerotic inclinations or same-sex attraction…I keep coming back to Hopkins because in the midst of his struggle, he saw God and came to know the comfort of Christ and the Holy Spirit – and he wrote about this vision of God and experience of Christ in a way that continually refreshes, strengthens, and emboldens me for the journey toward wholeness.  Hopkins knew better than many that God isn’t tame or safe. True, he is merciful, but his mercy has sharp edges…. One of the most moving stanzas Hopkins ever penned was an unconventional hymn of praise to the triune God who is fiery and shocking like a bolt of lightning in a stormy sky but who is also – at the same time – tender and nurturing like an infatuated lover.  Paradoxically, it is precisely in the fierce lightning – in his “dark descending” that God’s loving mercy is best seen: “Be adored among men, God, three-numbered form; Wring they rebel, dogged in den.  Man’s malice, with wrecking and storm. Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue. Thou art lightening and love, I found it, a winter and warm; Father and fondler of heart thou has wrung; Hast they dark descending and most art merciful then.” …Hopkins moved to a point of confidence that God was indeed merciful in the very moments when he seemed most ruthless.  Hopkins, “frantic to avoid thee and flee,” as he says to God at one point, discerned a divine purpose behind his struggle…. To engage with God as a homosexual Christian, as Hopkins did, is to find God in Christ to be ever-present, always watching, with ruthless, relentless, transforming grace. And one day, beyond all hopes, that grace will accomplish the ultimate transformation – changing human being with broken sexualities and a thousand other afflictions into shining, everlastingly alive, children of the resurrection.
        4. Chapter 3 The Divine Accolade:  “To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son – it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain.  But so it is.”  S. Lewis “The weight of Glory”…”Sometimes I feel that no matter what I do, I am displeasing to God…Even after a good day of battling for purity of mind and body, there is still the feeling, when I put my head down on the pillow at night to go to sleep, that something is seriously wrong with me, that something’s askew….married heterosexuals are, of course, able to identify moments when God’s gift gets stained, marred by lust – sexual desire that is fixed on a man or woman other than their spouse.  And singles, too, experience lust by entertaining erotic thoughts and feelings for potential partners or spouses.  Dallas Willard helpfully defines lust as “looking to desire” – looking at someone other than a spouse in order to indulge in sexual fantasies.  “That is, we desire to desire.  We indulge and cultivate desiring because we enjoy fantasizing about sex with the one seen…This purposeful looking – the “second glance” – is different, Willard says, from “looking and desiring.”  Looking to desire is intentional, willful.  Looking and desiring is natural, reflexive, part of the experience of a God-designed and God-given desire for intimacy with someone of the opposite sex; it could happen at any time, in any place…but temptation also is not wrong, though it should not be willfully entertained…. For me and other gay people, even when we’re not willfully cultivating desire, we know that when attraction does come – most of the time, it could be as unlooked for and unwanted as it was for me that day on the dance floor at my friends’ wedding reception – it will be attraction to someone of the same sex.  And in those moments it feels as though there is no desire that isn’t lust, no attraction that isn’t illicit. I never have the moment Dallas Willard describes as “looking and desiring” when I can thank God he made me to be attracted to women.  I have only a looking and desiring that causes me to grown: “God, help!  I would love to say thanks for my sexuality, but I don’t feel like I can.  Every attraction I experience, before I ever get to intentional, willful, indulgent desire, seems bent, broken, misshapen….For many homosexual Christians, this kind of shame is part of our daily lives…homosexual attraction is a “grievous affliction” for those who experience it, and part of the grief is in the feeling that we are perpetually, hopelessly, unsatisfying to God…. According to Lewis, the promise of a future accolade from God means we can be satisfied with our work – our lives, our imperfect efforts to sere and love God – now…. However,…the ladder of spiritual growth is one of paradox; the higher we climb toward heaven, the lower we see ourselves sinking into the much and mire of our shortcomings…what if I had a conception of God-glorifying faith, holiness and righteousness that included within it a profound element of struggle and stumbling?  What if I were to view my homosexual orientation, temptations, and occasional failures not as damning disqualifications for living a Christian life but rather as part and parcel of what it means to live by faith in a world that is fallen and scarred by sin and death?…Not only does our homosexuality give us a unique ministry within the church; it provides us with a greater sense of our woundedness and therefore of our dependence on God.  It forces us day by day, to rely not so much on total moral transformation now but rather on our forgiveness, the erasure of our guilt through Christ’s death on the cross.  Our homosexuality…draws us closer to God.

 

  1. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin (InterVarsity, 2009) Waiting for permission to post digest.  What follows is an abbreviated outline.
    1. Forward: I decided to fully immerse myself in the GLBT community. My ultimate goal was to become, as I put it back then, “the most involved gayest straight dude on the face of the earth.”
    2. Chapter 1 We Don’t Need Your God!
      1. They’re just kids: Research now reports that the average age of someone who first realizes  same-sex attraction is thirteen years old….
      2. The battlefield of coming out: Most adolescents experiencing same-sex attraction are too frightened to say anything to anybody for fear of what might happen,
  • What happens on the other side of realization? What happens in the long run to a person who prays the same prayer every night and wakes up every morning not having that prayer answered? … The majority of GLBT people whom I have met over my nine years of being immersed in their community – believers and nonbelievers, black and white, men and women- have told me the same things:  when they first realized their same sex thoughts and attractions they started to pray that God would take those unwanted feelings away.  Even atheists have told me that they were willing to put their unbelief in God aside in the hope that he would make them straight like everyone else…
    1. Preconceived Ideas: …There is an undercurrent of preexisting negative perceptions of Christianity’s traditional belief system
    2. What Can Christians do?: The Christian community is by and large well intentioned
  1. Chapter 2. We Are Not Your Project: Christians tend to perceive themselves as morally superior to GLBT people, based on the belief that the Bible allows only three options for connecting faith and sexuality: be heterosexual, be celibate or live in sin….
    1. Same-sex Sexual Behavior: …Over the years I have had many gay people tell me that if someone were to take away their sexual behavior, they would be taking away all they are as people.
    2. Behavior Versus Identity: Sin of any kind is, theologically, an offense against God’s created intent because it’s a behavior that violates our identity as creatures that bear his image…
  • Sexuality’s Infinite Continuum: …Sexuality’s infinite continuum persists because both communities are working off of a false model of “the ideal situation” –
  1. Abuse and Its Impact: …There are indeed GLBT people who have experienced abuse, and many in the roader gay community do not want to talk about it. But abused GLBT people tell me the reason they don’t want to talk about their past with Christians is because Christians are already expecting that story.
  2. What Has Our Response Been? I have heard from many different Christian churches and organizations around the United States that everything the GLBT community does or believes is just a ploy to normalize same-sex sexual behaviors.  Yet I strongly believe that the Christian community has done more to equate sexual behavior with sexual identity among the GLBT community than they have themselves.
  3. What Christians Can do: Don’t cut the conversation short:  …Looking for opportunities to build trust will inevitably remove some of the fears and obvious obstacles we face.
  • Don’t Take the Bait: Some gays and lesbians tell me they bait Christians, trying to lead them into a no-win debate about gay sexual behavior and identity.
  • Love the Sinner Hate the Sin: One of the most difficult juxtapositions Christians find themselves in is how to balance a relationship with a GLBT person while maintaining their convictions about traditional biblical mandates for sexuality.

 

  1. Chapter 3: Stigma, Shame and Politics – the GLBT Experience in the Broader Culture:… The GLBT community feels a constant unnamed pressure from both sides – an invisible Christian ideal that they can’t see themselves living up to, and an overt push from the gay-friendly culture to just “come out” and be OK with it.
    1. Stigma and Shame in Mainstream Culture: Current data, depending on the source, estimates that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders account for somewhere between 1 and 7 percent of the American population. An overwhelmingly larger percentage of the population – around 36 percent – identify themselves as traditionally conservative, Bible-believing Christians…The GLBT community sees itself as one of the many minority casualties of Christendom.
    2. Stigma and Shame in Historical Gay Culture: …By all accounts the modern era of the GLBT community began on June 28, 1969 when a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people rioted in the streets of New York City.
  • Stigma and Shame in Political Culture
  1. Shame and Church Culture: view from Inside:  The overarching stigma felt by GLBT people with the church is continually brought to light by the ingrained cultural psyche that shame is supposed to be the inherent, default feeling for all who have a same-sex attraction – Christian or non-Christian.
  2. What Christians Can Do: Words Matter:  …the word homosexual has only been used as a derogatory biblical term.  Since the mainstream GLBT community has traditionally looked at the Bible as a tool of oppression, hearing the word homosexual sets off a domino effect of associations: homosexual = Bible = Christian = fundamentalism = anti-gay = anti-me….
  3. Actions Matter: …First, Christians have to get past their own major issues regarding the GLBT community (this will be explored in chapter eight)….Second, Christians should do their homework beforehand….Third, we have to prepare ourselves to say or do anything that would be contrary to our intent to learn or serve – to not preach at, argue with, fight or debate gays and lesbians on their territory.
  • Noticing Matters: The last simple way Christians can step toward the GLBT community is to seek out those who don’t fit in. Be intentional …
  1. Chapter 4: Gay versus Christian and Gay Christians:  …The way that the argumentative nature of the strained conservative-GLBT relationship has been publicized does more harm to both communities than it ever will do for good.  But constructive dialogue just doesn’t make good TV now, does it?  This “war” has been paraded around like a circus
    1. The Words I Never Thought I’d Hear from a Pastor:
    2. The Words I Never Thought I’d Hear from God:
  • The Spectrum of Gay and Christian: … Most gay Christians live in so much fear that they have learned how to proficiently blend in to their conservative surroundings.  It’s a great chameleon job on their part, but it’s a heartbreakingly lost opportunity for authenticity
  1. Gay Christian General Beliefs: First, the GLBT community sees objections to homosexuality by evangelical Christians as a form of unjust religious bigotry….
  2. Gay Christian General Biblical Thoughts: Gay Christians believe that the passages in the Bible that condemn same-sex relationships are not referencing long-term, committed monogamous relationships.
  3. Old Testament Gay Apologetic: The Sodom and Gomorrah Story (Gen 19) is not talking about long-term, committed monogamous same-sex relationships – it is talking about gay rape.
  • New Testament Gay Apologetic: Jesus was silent on the issue of homosexuality. Which begs the question: if homosexuality is so important, why did Jesus not say one word about it?
  • Gay Social Apologetic: Homosexuality is an orientation, not a lifestyle…Homosexuality is genetic:
  1. Intertwined Biblical and Social Gay Apologetic: Gay Christians believe the Bible is used to justify homophobia, judgmentalism and segregation. This improper use of Scripture directly leads to the cultural stigma and shame GLBT people feel within the mainstream.
  2. Mel White’s 8 Premises:
    1. Most people have not carefully and prayerfully researched the biblical texts often used to condemn GLBT children.
    2. Historically, people’s misinterpretation of the Bible has left a trail of suffering bloodshed and death.
    3. Christians must be open to new truth from Scripture. Even heroes of the Christian faith have changed their minds about the meaning of various biblical texts.
    4. The Bible is a book about God – not about human sexuality: It condemns sexual practices we accept and we accept sexual practices it condemns.
    5. We miss what the passages say about God when we spend so much time debating what it says about sex.
    6. The biblical authors are silent about GLBT orientation as we know it today. They neither approve it or condemn it.
    7. Although the prophets, Jesus and other biblical authors say nothing about GLBT orientation as we understand it today, they are clear about one thing: As we search for truth, we are to “Love one another.”
    8. Whatever some people believe the Bible says about homosexuality, they must not use that belief to deny the GLBT community their basic civil rights. To discriminate against sexual or gender minorities is unjust and un-American.
  3. What Can Christians Do? Find a gay church with a gay pastor, ask to get together with them so you can listen and learn…the GLBT community is interested in the things of God
  1. Chapter 5: Who Are We Looking To For Validation:  The GLBT Quest for Good News from God.
    1. Constructing the Bridge Brings a Harsh Reality: Christian’s first move has to come unapologetically in love and humility by building a solid foundation of what we know to be true not only in our faith but also within the gay and lesbian community.
    2. Beginning to Elevate the Conversation: …to elevate the conversation is to change the conversation –moving the starting point of the conversation to the starting point of the conversation partner
  • Where does Eternal Validation Come From? The LGBT community has tended to look to others for legitimacy regarding who they are and what sexual behaviors they have – whether that validation comes from other gays and lesbians, from sections of the religious community or from mainstream culture…. I also believe this is why they fight so fiercely against evangelicals – they are longing to be validated by the one group that has yet to offer it.
  1. Eternal Validation is Not From Humans: Don’t think that the GLBT community has been the only one searching for validation in the wrong arenas. For years Christians have also sought out external earthly means to validate their claims against GLBT people.
  2. The Trouble with Normal: Michael Warner, a gay professor of English at Yale University wrote the book The Trouble with Normal as a critique of secularism, ethics, sexual shame, politics and gay marriage from a nontraditional gay perspective…Warner believes that same-sex marriage should not be legalize because it plays into the conservative Christian belief that marriage is the ultimate expression of love.
  3. The Questions Christians Can’t Answer: …Ask yourself the following questions: Why was I not chosen to have a same-sex attraction?  Why was I born the way I was born?  Why was I always sexually been attracted to the other sex?  Why was I not burdened with all that comes with being gay and lesbian?  Why have I never had to entertain the idea of being celibate for my entire life?  Why have I never had to think about fighting forever against a desire for sexual intimacy?  Why am I me and not any of them?  And why are they not me?  Are you entitled to your straightness? …. Heterosexual Christians take their sexuality as a birthright…
  • The Desire for Sexual Intimacy: …My heart breaks for those who can’t receive an answer to sexuality as easily as heterosexual Christians.
  1. Chapter 6: Reclaiming the Word Love – Measurable Unconditional Behaviors
    1. Those Who Seek and Those Who Don’t: The traditional Christian approach to bridge building with gays and lesbians is what I call the 80-20 reach…. I believe that about 20 percent of the GLBT community is actively interested in ex-gay ministries and a change in orientation. That means on the flip side that 80 percent of the GLBT community wants absolutely nothing to do with it….
    2. Fitting a Round Peg Into a Square Hole: … From a straight Christian perspective, the ideal life is to get married and have a family. From a gay perspective the ideal is to come out and live a happy, sexually reconciled faith as an active gay man or lesbian woman. And for those believers with a same-sex attraction who don’t fit in the other two ideals, the third ideal is to be celibate
  • Why One-Word Answers? The fourth ideal is a good example of a principle I’ve discovered in my relationships with GLBT people:  if you change the questions, you inevitably change the conversation….
  1. What Do You Mean, Change?:
  2. Project Reclaiming the Word LOVE: …when the Graham family was attending a rally in support of President Bill Clinton after his sex scandal was made public. A reporter asked Billy Graham, “Why are you here supporting this man after everything he has done to this country?” Reverend Graham’s answer was succinct, powerful and true.  “it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”
  1. Chapter 7 – the Big 5 – Principles for a More Constructive Conversation: …The argument surrounds five texts:  Genesis 19 – the Sodom and Gomorrah story;  Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 – sections of the Holiness Code that prohibit same-sex sexual behavior and list the punishments for those behaviors; Romans 1:26-27 – determining what is sexually natural and unnatural; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – same-sex sexual behavior’s non-inclusion to the kingdom of God; 1 Timothy 1:9-11 – the need for sound doctrine in opposition to false teachers of the law;  condemning same-sex sexual behavior as part of a larger group.
    1. Biblical Interpretations: The interpretation of Greek and Hebrew terms in the Bible is central to the debates over homosexuality.
    2. Mind-Frame-Shift Principle: Genesis 19:…we can find some insight in Ezekiel 16:49-50 “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.  Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”…
  • Crossroads Principle: The Holiness Code: …When it comes to the book of Leviticus both communities are solely focused once again on the debates of word meaning.
  1. Oneness Principle: Romans 1:26-27: Once a person has made a cognizant decision to either fully live for God, or not for God, they have decided what a relationship with God means to their lives and how that will influence their future path. From that choice comes the Oneness Principle: “Anything that positively or negatively affects an individual’s one-on-one relationship with the Lord – or, for that matter, a person’s form divorce from the Lord
  2. The Great Christian Debate: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: At what point does a Christian release responsibility for someone else’s life? This is the crux of the question at the heart of the fourth principle: The Great Christian Debate. It comes from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
  3. Think-Big-Picture Principle: 1 Timothy 1:9-11: The Think-Big-Picture Principle, our fifth and final principle, prompts us to trust God by standing firm and persevering in our calling because each person has until their very last breath to accomplish what God has set forth for their life. This principle is pulled from the book of 1 Timothy and relates specifically to chapter 1, verse 9-11:
  • The Big 5 Principles Taken Together: To elevate does not mean to ignore. Rather, elevating the conversation between GLBT and Christian communities means making a choice to stop the fight, understanding the differences that tear the GLBT and Christian communities apart and then seeking God and his eternal principles that bridge these two groups of people. God’s intentions are clearly revealed within the passages in Scripture that speak to homosexuality:
    1. To shift each person’s mind frame away from the things that bind our yearning for anything else but God
    2. To bring each person to their own crossroads of belief where they make a choice to live distinctly for him or not
    3. To recognize from that choice what positively or negatively affects an individual’s oneness with the Lord
    4. To know when to release control of someone else’s life
    5. To keep open a path for God to accomplish his will for a person’s life, even until their last breath.
  1. Chapter 8: Laying the Foundation: Commitment, Boldness and the Big 5:
    1. Commitment 1: Commitment: …When it comes to same-sex sexual attractions and behaviors, Christians just give up too easily. Therefore, above anything else when it comes to the GLBT community, the most important thing Christians can do is make a commitment for the long haul…
    2. Commitment 2: Boldness: Boldness is a matter of intentionality. Christians must take the lead in stopping pointless arguments and debates, confronting sexuality’s infinite continuum and refusing to use close-ended questions. The Marin Foundation’s slogan is “be Bold.”
  • Commitment 3: Applying the Mind-Frame-Shift Principle: …This isn’t a trite “Lord, change me.” It is rather a serious self-exposure which deconstructs an old mind that stifles our ability to see God and the GLBT community clearly.
  1. Commitment 4: Applying the Crossroads Principle: Will we make a willful, knowledgeable, and cognizant decision to live differently regarding the gay and lesbian community, or will we just stay the same? The apostle Peter details the countercultural life on the far side of this crossroads in 1 Peter 4:1-11
  2. Commitment 5: Applying the Oneness Principle: When a decision for God is made, the next major movement of growth is communication. The ultimate ideal for the Oneness Principle is that gays and lesbians would one day be able to confidently say that the Lord talks to them and they hear him, and that they talk to the Lord and he hears them
  3. Commitment 6: Applying the Great Christian Debate: …Releasing eternal responsibility while still loving in tangible and measurable expressions of unconditional behaviors actually gives GLBT people the room to live life, continuing to wrestle with issues that are beyond them, and us.
  • Commitment 7: Applying the Thing-Big-Picture Principle: …I’ve come to realize that the bombardment of doctrine or the pressure of a decision is not what is needed to get an eternal point across. Presence is more than enough.
  1. Chapter 9: Building a Bridge: Asking the Right Questions:
    1. Commitment 8: An Inquisitive Approach: Christians feel pressure to know and solve everything…. That pressure is perceived by the broader GLBT community as arrogance.
    2. Commitment 9: Transparency and Truthfulness: Just because a person is a Christian doesn’t give them an inherent right to be trusted…
  • Commitment 10: Don’t be Scared to be Yourself: I have never met a more loving community in my life than the GLBT community. Obviously there are exceptions in any community, but in general I’ve found that GLBT people don’t care if you’re skinny, hairy, fat, pimpled, a millionaire or dead broke;  there is room for everyone.  All they want is to give the same love to others as they want to receive for themselves…
  1. Chapter 10: Crossing a Bridge:  The World Reads Christians, Not the Bible:
    1. Commitment 11: Don’t No Them, Know Them:
    2. Commitment 12: Glass Half-Full:  …Dr. David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church …says “Realists don’t change the world; dreamers do. Therefore become pregnant with a vision and birth it.”
  • Commitment 13: God’s Timetable: Sexual behavior modification, “change” as it’s commonly referred to, is the most pervasive fighting point between the Christian and the GLBT communities. Change is a hallmark of traditional Christian faith – the idea that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, even refashion parts of our life that we thought were unchangeable. But when referring to sexual behavior, “change” in the classic sense of the word can’t occur simply by an act of will on the part of the Christian community…”With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (2 Pet 3:8)…we have to let go of the timelines
  1. Commitment 14: You are Not the Solution: People in need sometimes turn to resources they know will always reliably be there for them: counselors, friends, family or pastors….But as people find themselves deeply involved in another person’s spiritual journey, there can be a very real risk that the more mature Christian becomes not an aid but an easy answer to pain or a quick fix to questions and uncertainty…
  2. Commitment 15: Street Credibility: 
  3. Commitment 16: Always Answer the Tough Questions:
    1. Do you think that gays and lesbians are born that way?
    2. Do you think homosexuality is a sin?
    3. Can a GLBT person change?
    4. Do you think that someone can be gay and Christian?
    5. Are GLBT people going to hell?

Do you think gays and lesbians are born that way? If I were to answer yes or no, I would earn the endorsement of one community at the expense of the trust of the other community…

            Do you think homosexuality is a sin? This is the most loaded of all of the loaded questions. Romans 3:23, however, says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

            Can a GLBT person change their sexual orientation? I believe change happens when Jesus gets hold of someone’s life. Who know, however, what kind of change it might turn out to be?…sticking to facts diffuses the weight of opinion-based answers. Therefore I continue answer the question with: “I also know some people who say that they once had same-sex sexual attraction but are now attracted exclusively to people of the opposite sex, and in fact are married and have kids and are living a happy life. Just the same I know people who have tried and tried and tried, and have not been able to ‘change their sexual orientation,’

            Do you think that someone can be gay and Christian? My immediate thought is, what is stopping such a person from believing?

            Are GLBT people going to hell?…The fear of eternity stares us all in the face, and my opinions are not going to get anyone into heaven, and by extension, they’re not going to land anyone in hell. Only God can accomplish either of those things. And since he is the ultimate judge, a whole lifetime of seeking his face and listening to his voice would be a life well spent…

  1. Conclusion: Every stereotype can be broken with a face and every face has a story…Christian faith calls for a specific distinction: love….we’re called by Christ to be different by being loving – by choosing humility over hostility,
  1. Us Versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community by Andrew Marin (Navpress, 2016).    (Waiting for permission to post digest.  What follows is an abbreviated outline)
    1. Introduction:
      1. Most LGBT people regularly attended a faith community for the majority of their youth.
      2. Most left the church after they came out.
  • Most still believed in God and were interested in one day finding a faith community.
  1. Most were less concerned with a church’s theology of homosexuality than they were with how they were treated by individual Christians at church.
  1. Chapter 1: There is No They – 86% of LGBTs were raised in a faith community from the ages of 0 to 18
    1. Raised in a Religious Community:
      1. 75% General American Population
      2. 86% LGBT
    2. Chapter 2: The Great Exodus: 54% of LGBT people leave their religious Community after the age of 18:  “I left the church because I couldn’t find one person who cared to listen to my story.  I mean really
      1. Leaving A Religious Community after the age of 18:
        1. 27% General American Population
        2. 54% LGBT
      2. Chapter 3: The New Prodigals
        1. 76% of LGBT people are open to returning to their religious community and it’s practices: “I would come back if I had the strength to do so.”
        2. Open to Return
          1. 9% General American population
          2. 76% LGBT community: This total includes one-third of LBTs raised in theologically conservative faith communities.
        3. Chapter 4: Faith in Exile: 36% of LGBTs continue their faith practices after the age of 18. “Disagreement would still be a part of any community I’m involved with…So why would I leave?
          1. Continuing Faith Practices
            1. 47% General American population
            2. 36% LGBT community

Not all LGBT people are outside the church. There are those who never left….36% of LGBT respondents continue practicing the faith of their youth, even as some of them continue to have very serious disagreements over a theology of sin….

 

Chapter 5  An Orientation of Prayer:  80% of LGBT people regularly pray regardless of religious identification or affiliation.  “I pray to God throughout the day…It’s not like I have to be in their church building to pray.”

  1. Regular Practice of Prayer
    1. 79% General American population
    2. 80% LGBT community

…Such incredible and undeviating results highlight that for LGBT people, sexuality and spirituality are connected. They brought God into their identity struggle right at the beginning – typically before their parents, their friends, their teacher, their clergy.  I’m convinced that this near universal experience is why the LGBT community cares so much about religion – even those who were not raised in a religious context or who have outright rejected religious faith…. God and LGBT orientation are irrevocably tied together…

 

Chapter 6 Age Matters in the Culture War.  The LGBT experience before coming out, and the dynamics of closeted adulthood. “I  stopped going to youth group and church altogether after I went to college. I had to start living with the fact that I’m gay and figuring out what that means for my life.  That’s when I started coming out to some people.”

  • Age-related Findings
    1. Average age at which participants came out – 17
    2. Average age of still closeted participants – 32.5
  1. Conclusion – Moving Forward Together: “I want to be a part of something redemptive….I look forward to continuing to see what good we can do together.

 

 

  1. Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian by Wesley Hill (Brazos, 2015 )Wesley (recommendation #2) continues his vulnerable invitation to walk with him as he walks with Christ.  As a celibate gay Christian, Wesley explores the difficulty of being a part of the church when spiritual relationships become secondary to marriage and biological families.
    1. Part 1 Reading Friendship
      1. An Eclipse of Friendship
      2. “I love You Because You’re Mine
  • The Transformation of Friendship
  1. Part 2 Living Friendship
    1. “A Piece of Ice Held Fast in the Fist”
    2. Friendship Is a Call to Suffer
  • Patterns of the Possible
  1. An Essay on Sources

 

  1. Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan (Waterbrook, 2011). This firsthand account of the journey of a gay man and his mother into faith and understanding. Every other chapter is written by Angela and then by Juan:
    1. The End of My World
    2. Out of the Closet
    3. The End of the Beginning
    4. Two lives in Louisville
    5. New Birth
    6. Don’t Try to Change Me!
    7. Baby Steps
    8. A New Love
    9. A Marriage Built on Sand
    10. Open for Business
    11. Let Go, Let God
    12. Circuit Parties
    13. Secret Shame
    14. The High Life
    15. Lost
    16. High Church
    17. A Bold and Dangerous Prayer
    18. Busted
    19. Count Your Blessings
    20. Out of the Trash
    21. Don’t Let Me Cry
    22. Rock Bottom
    23. It Is Well
    24. Hope and a Future
    25. Beacon of Hope
    26. Making It Through
    27. Going to Court for the Right Reasons?
    28. Snitch or Star Witness
    29. Truly Extraordinary
    30. Holy Sexuality
    31. Redeemed
    32. Finally Home
    33. Epilogue: Where are They Now?
    34. Study Guide: Prayer, Redemption, and Holy Sexuality

 

  1. Changing our Mind: A Call from America’s Leading Evangelical Ethics Scholar for Full Acceptance of the LGBT Christians in the Church by David P. Gushee (Read the Spirit Books, 2015). Although this is not the Free Methodist understanding, this Baptist pastor and scholar presents the case for the acceptance of faithful marriage for same-sex Christians.  Thoughtfully presented but with less than compelling arguments, Gushee explores the theology and texts of our faith.
    1. Live From New York
    2. Our Moment: A Church With a Problem
    3. Starting a Conversation
    4. What Exactly is the Issue?
    5. Change We Can All Support
    6. Gay Christians Exist
    7. Six Options for the Churches
    8. If This Is Where You Get Off the Bus
    9. Biblical Inspiration, Human Interpretation
    10. How Traditionalists Connect the Biblical Dots
    11. The Sins of Sodom (and Gibeah)
    12. Leviticus, Abomination and Jesus
    13. Two Odd Little Words
    14. God Made Them Male and Female
    15. Creation, Sexual Orientation and God’s Will
    16. Toward Covenant
    17. Transformative Encounters and Paradigm Leaps
    18. A Dual-Narrative Tour
    19. How I Got Here
    20. Ending the Teaching of Contempt
    21. References