Category Archives: Sexuality/LGBTQI

American Pastors Rethink Homosexuality

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Coming Out

Previously, I have posted a video about American Christian parents who had rethought their stance on homosexuality and LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning and others) sexualities. And today I am posting a video by American pastors who also have learned God’s heart for LGBTQ+ people.

Why am I posting things by Americans, when I am British? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the persecution of LGBTQ+ people in the United States appears to have become somewhat ‘legalised’ – not that many Christians would care whether it’s legal or not anyway – since Mr. Trump’s Presidency has declared what appear, to the outsider, to be several pogroms against minorities. Anyone who is ‘different’ is made to suffer, it seems. I’d have no chance with my Asperger’s Syndrome! 😉

Secondly, it is usual in British Evangelical churches to parrot/mirror, in a somewhat dilute and more tacit way, the things that American churches take the lead on. And so, the ‘yeast’ of some American churches’ anti-LGBTQ+ attitude comes over here stealthily and infiltrates itself almost unnoticed into out attitudes, particularly among those who are unable/unwilling to think for themselves.

But this can have its advantages too. If some American pastors/church leaders and parents are taking the lead on changing their attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, and changing the way they respond to the peer pressure of condemnatory naysayers, then this will begin to happen over here too.

Maybe one day you will be able to say ‘I saw it here first!’ (here on my blog!)

Anyway, here’s the video. It’s only 3 1/2 minutes long and is well worth watching:

I reckon in twenty years’ time, LGBTQ+ people will be accepted into churches, relationships and ministries in the same way as are heterosexual people. There will of course be bastions of self-righteous people who are still anti-LGBTQ+, but most people will ignore them just like they ignore ranting Christians already. Change takes time in religious circles, and religious people can be some of the most intractable and intolerant people on the planet. That’s not going to change. But as the Spirit works on people’s hearts, those who have ears to hear, people like me, will gradually come around to His way of thinking and include all of God’s children in their perception of God’s family.

And, make no mistake: I still believe very strongly that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (and other) folks are key to God’s plans in this time. I believe there will be amazing miracles, healings, reconciliations and social changes brought about by Christian LGBTQ+ people. Like other persecuted minorities, these people have a special place in God’s Heart, and it will become apparent soon enough.

I personally am looking forward to seeing that coming to fruition.

Grace and Peace to you.

20

The Litmus Test

I feel that a good question to ask of a church one is thinking of attending (I’m not thinking of switching churches, by the way!) is this: “What are your attitudes towards LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex, and others) people?” Or some variation on that.

This question will reveal, all in one go, their attitudes on Biblical inerrancy and infallibility; Bible as Rulebook; their attitude to legalism; their ability to love others they may not agree with; their attitude towards judging others [they would naturally call it something more palatable]; their attitude towards ‘mercy not sacrifice’ (Hosea 6:6); and – in short – to be Jesus to the people they meet.

To me, this is a real litmus test of a church’s sincerity when they say ‘all are welcome’. Is it really ‘All are welcome’, or is it ‘All are welcome, but…’?

I have, in the past, asked such questions of various Christian organisations. I have to say that those people have achieved the pathetic result of not one answer in reply. Not even one. No acknowledgement; nothing.

So, if you are interested in joining a new church, here’s an idea of the sort of question you might ask:

“Hi there

Just been looking at your pages on [churchname].com

I have a question, and it’s this: How do you cope with people of ‘different’ sexualities? (LIke Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual etc.) I have contacted churches with this question in the past, and have not once received a reply! What I mean by my question is, how much do you integrate people of ‘alternative’ sexualities into your church? I’d really love to hear from you on this subject!

Thanks for your time

Anthony”

[Edit: I have just heard back from one church today. Well done, those people!]

20

A 14-Point Rebuttal to The Nashville Statement

Some months ago, you may remember that a group in the USA published the ‘Nashville Statement‘, their statement on their position regarding human sexuality.

Unsurprisingly, their statement triggered a whole lot of controversy amongst Christians, especially (but not limited to) those – like me – who are affirmers of LGBTQ+ people and their relationships.

In September, I read an excellent rebuttal to the Nashville Statement, which I reproduce here for your upbuilding. It makes for excellent reading with its reasonable counter-arguments.

Here’s the article, written by Eric Reitan, quoted verbatim:


A 14-Point Rebuttal to The Nashville Statement from a Straight Cis Christian Man

In the wake of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s “Nashville Statement,” RD [Religion Dispatches, the website this article is from – Ed] published commentaries by Daniel Schultz, who called the manifesto “less of a theological statement than a Facebook post,” and Candace Chellew-Hodge, who argued that “this kind of damage has only been done to the LGBT community because we have given them the authority to do it.” Below, Eric Reitan opts for the point-by-point rebuttal that, we felt, might be of greater utility to readers with family or friends who find this sort of thing compelling. ⎼ eds

I am a straight cisgender Christian man, but for years I have listened to my LGBT neighbors, made LGBT friends, and vicariously shared in their struggles and triumphs. As an ethicist, I’ve wrestled with the lessons of those experiences—lessons that recently culminated in a book on same-sex marriage and Christian love. Based on that work, there is much I want to say to the authors of the Nashville Statement, who sought to reaffirm hostile conservative Christian views on the (presumably sinful) existence of LGBT people. But since the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s manifesto has 14 articles, let me limit myself to 14 points of my own.

  1. You do not speak for all Christians. In fact, there are many faithful Christians, across denominations, who strongly disagree with you. And although you write your manifesto with the kind of confidence that suggests you can’t possibly be mistaken about God’s will, that confidence doesn’t make you right (but does raise important questions about humility and hubris).
  2. The Christians who disagree with you cannot be dismissed as nothing but sell-outs to secular culture. In my book, The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic, I argue that Christian support for same-sex marriage flows from nothing less central to Christian faith than Christ’s command that we love our neighbors as ourselves. I’m hardly the only Christian LGBT ally who thinks so. You may think we’re wrong, but if so you need to wrestle with our Christian arguments rooted in Christian values, not caricature us as cultural accommodationists.
  3. You cannot hide behind the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mantra. Of course we can love people who do sinful things. But the question is whether things like same-sex marriage and gender-affirming surgery are among those sinful things. Sometimes it’s unloving to take something to be a sin in the first place. Can I love my diabetic neighbor properly if I think it is sinful for her to use insulin? Of course not. If our condemnations leave a trail of dead bodies and broken lives, they might be out of sync with the law of love.
  4. The first act of Christian love is compassionate, empathetic attention. This was the first thing the Good Samaritan did on that Jericho road: he paid attention to the robbery victim. Likewise, we must listen to our LGBT neighbors. We must hear their stories. And we can’t shrug off this demand because we think we already know the truth based on what the Bible teaches. When teachings we support lead our LGBT neighbors to cry out in suffering or outrage or despair, love does not permit us to plug up our ears with Bible verses.
  5. And love does not permit us to use the Bible to slam people down. C.S. Lewis once warned that “we must not use the Bible (our fathers too often did) as a sort of encyclopedia out of which texts…can be taken for use as weapons.” It is tempting, when LGBT persons and their allies challenge inherited teachings, for conservatives to pull out “clobber passages” to beat their critics into silence. Anyone who cares about the law of love would do well to avoid this temptation.
  6. Speaking of the Bible, human theories are always subject to error—and that includes your theory that the Bible is not subject to error. Let’s return to our friend C.S. Lewis, who had a high view of Scripture, but was no biblical inerrantist. In his Reflections on the Psalms he insisted that the “human qualities” of the biblical authors show through in the text in the form of “naivety, error, contradiction” and even wickedness. There are many Christian theories about the Bible. Your theory needs to be weighed against the alternatives.
  7. There is more than one interpretation of the “proof texts” invoked to condemn same-sex intimacy and impose rigid gender expectations on those who feel strangled by them. Biblical scholars, trained in the original languages and adept at reading texts in their cultural and historical contexts, do not all agree with your interpretations. Oh, and you might want to wrestle more deeply with that “In Christ there is neither male nor female” bit.
  8. There is more than one interpretation of the Genesis creation story, in which God created Adam and then fashioned Eve to be his companion. The lessons you draw from it imply that gay men, unsuited for the kind of helpmate God created for Adam, must go through life without any helpmate, and lesbians, similarly unsuited for the kind of helpmate God gave Eve, should go through life alone. That’s an interesting take on a story in which God says, “It is not good that Adam be alone”—but it is neither the only one nor the most plausible.
  9. Paying attention to scientific research about human sexuality and gender is not putting science above God. When scientists explore these topics, they are turning their attention to our neighbors with the aim of accurately reporting what they find. Science can help us see our neighbors more honestly, without biases and prejudices. And that’s an important part of loving our neighbors as ourselves—something Jesus lifted up as a core piece of living in accord with God’s will.
  10. Based on the weight of the evidence, social and behavioral scientists overwhelmingly agree that trying to change a person’s psychologies and dispositional structures to conform to rigid social expectations is not a realistic option for LGBT people. Conservative Christians tout a few studies that say such change is possible. But even if we trust them (and there are reasons not to), what these statistical outliers show is that the vast majority of, if not all, attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity will fail. What’s more, as those who have survived such “change efforts” attest, any change that does occur is merely behavioral—little more than an attempt to escape abuse by adhering to conservative norms through repression and self-denial, rather than undergoing some religious revelation that prompts a lasting internal identity shift.
  11. If you say that every same-sex relationship is sinful, consistency demands that whenever it falls within your power to do so, you work to break up every loving, monogamous, faithful same-sex couple, and encourage your community to advocate for broken relationships, broken homes, and people stripped of things that bring meaning and joy. Perhaps that is the true intent of this statement. But if that’s the order you’re giving to your congregants, you must honestly confront the fact that your LGBT neighbors will experience this in exactly the way that loving, married heterosexual couples would: as an assault on their family, freedom, and happiness.
  12. In your statement, your understanding of “heterosexual immorality” offers heterosexuals a place to express their sexuality: in marriage. But the categorical rejection of “homosexual immorality” condemns any expression of a homosexual orientation at all, ever, even in the context of a lifelong partnership of loving fidelity that may well be rooted in a Christian understanding of God’s divine plan. To treat every expression of someone’s sexuality as immoral is to impose on them a burden of self-repression enormously heavier than any you would ever dream of placing on your straight neighbors. If you love your LGBT neighbors, you will pay attention to how this burden affects those who actually try to bear it. You might learn the effect can be soul-crushing.
  13. If you have a theory about human sexuality and gender and you learn that communities teaching this theory have driven LGBT persons to despair—in fact, that acting upon this theory is a leading cause of the astronomical rates of substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicide among an entire swath of God’s people—then you may want to rethink your theory. And if you care about your theories more than you care about the lessons of compassionate attention to your LGBT neighbors, you may want to rethink your claim that you love them. And if extracting rigid gender and sexual requirements from the Bible (or natural law traditions) matters more to you that living by the law of love that Christ laid down, you may want to ask whether that comes from your allegiance to Christ or from some other motive.
  14. If you’re going to make public pronouncements about the lives of your LGBT neighbors, you should first immerse yourself in their struggles. Break bread with them. Form enduring friendships—and not just with those who, like abused children hungry for scraps of parental approval, are putting on a brave front while carrying the weight of “costly discipleship” you require. Maybe you should also break bread with the parents of all those gay and trans Christian teens who killed themselves. You know the ones. They believed you when you said “the pardon and power” of God’s grace could heal them of their “sinful” desires. But when those desires didn’t go away, they decided God must have rejected them. And so they rejected themselves in acts of final self-obliteration.

Love for your LGBT neighbors calls you to pay deep and sustained attention to them in all their rich diversity. Until you do, you have no authority to make pronouncements that impact their lives, and your platitudes about love ring hollow.

– Eric Reitan


For your reference, the Nashville Statement is here as a PDF file (on my servers), and here is the link to the original article quoted above.

And the link to the Nashville Statement itself is here.

An article I wrote about the tyrannical ‘Article 10’ of the Nashville Statement. This article contains links (at the end) to more articles about the Nashville Statement.

(All links open in new tabs)

 

20

Affirmation and Freedom

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Coming Out

In this article by Rob Cottrell, he describes how it was the choice between maintaining his relationship with his Lesbian daughter, and following his existing faith beliefs to the letter that brought him into huge freedom in his faith. Truly, for each of us, God uses different means to bring us into that freedom.

This might sound like a bit of a no-brainer to most parents, but sadly, there are those who would rather follow ‘men’s’ interpretation of a book (Mt 15:9) than do something that is perceived by those ‘men’ as being ‘sinful‘. And of course pandering to the demands of those people always leads to more slavery to rules and regulations; they are never satisfied.

So, here’s Rob’s article, just click the graphic below to go to it. Enjoy!


Yeah, I know that my series on ‘Coming Out’ was supposed to have concluded with the previous piece in the series, ‘Conforming to the Pattern of This World‘. But I wanted to make this present article part of the series because of its relevance. And in fact I might just put all my future posts about LGBTQ+ issues into this series in order to keep them all together 🙂 [Edit: Doing that!]

10

Conforming to the Pattern of This World

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Coming Out

Today, I conclude my mini-series with an appeal to those believers who remain unconvinced about what the Church’s attitude should be about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people, and those of other ‘different’ sexualities (so, LGBTQ+).

It is a fact of life that society in general is slowly becoming more ‘tolerant’ of LGBTQ+ people. Not too long ago, it was actually illegal, in the UK, to be homosexual. Nowadays, of course, same-sex couples have the right to form ‘civil partnerships’ and also to be married, just like heterosexual couples. It is gradually being recognised that the emotional, financial and practical needs of these couples also need to be met by allowing them to have a legally-recognised relationship. So, things like inherited pension rights, sharing of tax benefits; in short, all the rights that a heterosexual married couple would have.

This is not because there’s a ‘gay agenda’. Sure, some people have been extremely vociferous in their campaigning for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. But most LGBTQ+ people don’t have such an agenda. They just want to live their lives with their loved one – who might just happen to be of the same gender – in the same way as other couples do, and to enjoy the same rights that others in equally-committed relationships have.

Many Christians see these changes in society as being ‘The World’ encroaching upon society in a negative way. This is quite understandable if one’s attitude towards LGBTQ+ issues is a negative one. The ‘gay agenda’ is thought of as a threat to the idea of a more ‘godly’ society (which many Christians believe is God’s will) and they therefore find the idea of gay marriage/civil partnerships to be offensive, and, increasingly, ‘worldly’.

And so, they might well quote Romans 12:2 – about not conforming to the ‘pattern of this world’ – that pattern being seen as LGBTQ+ affirming –  because they consider that affirming Christians are ‘conforming to the pattern of the world’; that we are gradually becoming more ‘worldly’ by accepting ‘worldly’ things like same-sex marriage and so on. They will likely quote James 4:4 – “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God”.

Well, these arguments need to be addressed, if indeed it is true that the ‘world’ is dragging sexual morality ‘downhill’ with its affirmation of LGBTQ+ people.

However, I don’t actually believe that this is the ‘world’s’ way at all.

I would instead point out that, notwithstanding the excellent progress which has been made, legally speaking, in the area of LGBTQ+ rights, still ‘the world’s’ pattern is generally to reject LGBTQ+ people. They are persecuted and vilified in public, in the workplace, in schools, and of course in churches. You ask the ‘man in the street’, and particularly those over the age of about 40 or so, and this will be the opinion: ‘They’re queer, those folks…’ If you’re lucky, you might get a grudging, ‘…but so long as they keep theirselves to theirselves… ‘  LGBTQ people are ostracised in the playground; excluded from certain public places; personae non gratae in certain pubs; they are still seen as ‘odd’ or ‘wrong’, and – let’s not kid ourselves – they are still assaulted by homophobic thugs on a daily basis. This is aptly illustrated in the United States, where the homophobic attitudes of President Trump have been taken by some in society as a licence to allow renewed persecution of LGBTQ+ people. This is actually really happening in the real world, to real people. In addition, the self-harming and suicide rates are far higher amongst LGBTQ+ people than those in people of more ‘conventional’ sexuality. Despite current legislation legitimising same-sex relationships, and despite the undoubtedly increased tolerance (especially in British society), still the general consensus in society is that these people are somehow ‘wrong’ or ‘different’, and of course no amount of legislation can change that feeling.

Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that actually ‘the world’ too hates, or at least in some way discriminates against, LGBTQ+ people. It’s a complete misconception that Christians and other religious people are the only people who have a special problem with people of ‘different’ sexualities. The way of the World is not one of acceptance, but of rejection.

Now, Jesus hung out with the social outcasts of His day – prostitutes, tax collectors, political zealots, non-Jews. Those deemed unworthy or unclean not only by the religious extablishment but also by society in general as well. Tax collectors, for instance, were as universally hated as parking enforcement officers are today 😉 He set us the example to follow; not so much as a set of Rules, but to show us that the natural consequence of knowing Him and becoming like Him in His Grace and mercy results in us treating others with the same gentleness and kindness that He has treated us. He went out of His way to go ‘against the grain’ of society’s opinions, in order to include the ostracised (see for example Mark 2:16).

No, the ‘pattern of this world’ is that of separation, segregation, judgementalism, hatred, us-and-them, ostracism and violence, and the other things in the list in Galatians 5:19-21. The huge strides forward made recently for LGBTQ+ rights are nothing short of wonderful and are a result of precious (and, yes, sometimes militant) people standing up for their rights and for fairness. This renaissance in gay rights is advancing the Kingdom of God because it results in goodness and love and peace. And Christians have no right to hinder this because ‘he who is not against us is for us’ (Lk 9:50). This is Christ’s Kingdom at work and indeed advancing, even though it has not usually so been advanced by Christians (although some Christians have bravely identified themselves with the LGBTQ+ rights ‘movement’)

Now, many people quoting the Romans 12:2 verse about not being ‘…conformed to the pattern of this world’, also miss out the second part of the verse, which is ‘…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. This is not correct Biblical  hermeneutics (interpretation), because the verse is actually a doublet expressed as Hebrew poetry. It’s what’s known as an antithetic parallelism. One part of the verse cannot be interpreted correctly without the other. And so the injunction ‘Don’t do this…’ is only complete when we read the ‘…but do this instead’. So, we don’t just not conform to the world, but we need to have our minds renewed as well, in order to indeed not ‘conform to the pattern of this world’. This transformation; this renewal of the mind, is how that non-conformance is enacted in practical terms.

Bearing all this in mind, then, I would therefore propose this idea: that this transforming of the believer’s mind into something other than the ‘pattern of this world’ is actually, in this instance, to move away from the pattern of hatred and persecution that the world inflicts on LGBTQ+ people, and instead to be ‘transformed by the renewing of your minds’ – to change our minds; to ‘Repent’ (for that is what the Greek word translated as ‘Repent’ means – metanoia – to change one’s mind) and simply treat LGBTQ+ people with love and kindness such as ‘the World’ does not do. In other words, the Christians, like myself, who are complete affirmers, are actually pioneers setting the example of what Christian affirmation of the outcasts of society looks like.

Conversely, the rejection and other mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people by Christians is actually conforming to the pattern of this world. Now there’s a sobering thought…

And, as a final point, that kind of love must not come across as judging them or otherwise condemning them. We must treat them as Jesus would treat them. We must treat them fairly; treat them kindly. And, we mustn’t think of them as ‘them‘! These are fellow humans we are talking about here; there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, the same as there is neither Jew nor Greek; slave nor free (Gal 3:28). Let God’s Spirit bring you to metanoia – to repentance. Let Him change your mind!

I would request that, as a believer, you go before God with this concept, and just ask Him to speak to you about it. Come with an open mind – either way – and just ask Him what He would have you do. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Jesus what He thinks!


If you have enjoyed this article and mini-series, or maybe simply for a little more background on my journey to becoming a full affirmer, you might also be interested in reading some of my other articles on LGBTQ+ issues, which are linked to below. Remember that I too was once very firmly anti-gay. I was in the same position as many Christians still are with regard to ‘alternative’ sexualities. But God changed my mind – He brought me to metanoia; to Repentance, on these issues. And He can do the same for you.

Firstly, the link to the other three articles in this mini-series, entitled ‘Coming Out’

How I began my journey towards full affirmation

One of my earlier articles on ‘How the Church should Treat Gay People

The story of my first encounter with ‘different’ sexuality as a Fundamentalist Christian

Finally, this link will take you to all my articles on LGBTQ+ and sexuality issues, including those mentioned above.

11

Are You About to Come Out to Your Christian Parents?

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Coming Out

In my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people, especially young people with Christian parents, I have so far looked at the matter from the point of view of the parents of the LGBTQ+ person.

Today, I want to share another piece by Susan Cottrell of ‘Freedhearts‘. Susan is a strong, loving and totally Christian advocate of LGBTQ+ people and especially of those who are young people still living with their Christian parents. In this piece, Susan shares practical advice and points out relevant considerations for young people who may well have to ‘come out’ some time in the near future. Click the graphic below to go to the article.

If you are a LGBTQ+ person who is considering ‘coming out’, then I would definitely suggest you read that article – it’s brilliant. Susan has a huge amount of experience in helping and standing alongside people in danger of rejection, either by parents or churches, for either ‘being gay’ or for affirming those who are. Personally, I don’t give two hoots what people think of me as an affirmer, but then I am not in a position where such people’s opinions make the slightest bit of difference to me. But I understand that for some people, the stakes are much higher, and this is why I have done this mini-series.

Be blessed. Grace and peace to you.

10

Did Your Child Just Come Out to You?

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Coming Out

In this, the second part of my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for young people of Christian parents, I want to share with you the wisdom of Susan Cottrell, of ‘Freedhearts‘.

In this piece, Susan gives sound advice to Christian parents whose child has just ‘come out’.

You think it might never happen to you? Well, how would you know? Because if your child is an LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) person, they might not feel able to tell you, because they know your views on the subject!

I would recommend all Christian parents read this article – not only ‘just in case’ your child does ‘come out’, but also to give you a better understanding of how Christian parents of LGBTQ+ young people can continue to affirm and support their child once they ‘come out’ despite what they think ‘the Bible says’.

Click the graphic below to go to the article:

This is a real issue affecting real people, and we need to examine this, as a Church, in a Chrstlike manner.

I know a Godly couple whose daughter recently ‘came out’ and which caused much soul-searching in their congregation…and those people in that church have essentially been forced – by their circumstances – to learn how to continue in their acceptance of that precious young life. And, so far, they have done very well…they knew that child from a baby and nothing has changed, except that now they know something that God has known about all along.

So, I recommend you read the article – it will stand you in good stead should you need it!

10

Traditional Christian Parents Reveal Changed Views on LGBT

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Coming Out

Like many other people close to the Father Heart of God, some years ago I ‘came out’ as a strong affirmer of LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people and their relationships. I’m writing this mini-series in order to help people whose children are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and to give you what I believe is a Christian perspective on the subject.

When the child of an Evangelical Christian ‘comes out’ as an LGBTQ+ person, all kinds of things could happen, from total acceptance right up to total rejection, and all shades in between. Personally, I don’t understand how a parent can ever reject their child, but tragically there are those who do. And the result of this rejection, for the LGBTQ+ child, can result in ruined lives – I won’t go into detail here but sometimes we are talking homelessness, suicide, severe emotional trauma – you get the idea. And that’s just with the parents – the person coming out has other social links too that could also bring suffering: church; school; friends; colleagues. It’s not easy by any means.

But today we’re looking at parents. In this short video from Facebook page ‘Christians Talk’, various Christian parents describe how they came to terms with their child’s sexuality, from the point of view of people who formerly had believed that LGBTQ+ was ‘wrong’. Also in this video are Rob and Susan Cottrell, whose work I have featured before in my blog, and will feature again over the course of this mini-series.

There we go. Meditate on that and hear what the Spirit is saying to you!

11

Kirk Leavens on the ‘Nashville Statement’

In a superb response to the notorious and insensitive ‘Nashville Statement‘, released upon a hurting world by out-of-touch-with-reality Evangelical leaders at the end of August this year, other Christians – “…some of the queer, trans, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, gender-queer, asexual, straight, single, married image-bearing Christians at House for All Sinners & Saints (Denver, Co)” – wrote the ‘Denver Statement’; a point-by-point rebuttal of the Nashville Statement.

The Denver Statement was posted on the Patheos blog – and it is quite simply a breath of fresh air.

One of the replies to the blog post particularly caught my eye, from Kirk Leavens, a man of wisdom and compassion whose contributions to the Patheos blog are always well worth reading. Here is the quote; I think you will like it:

“The Nashville Statement on human sexuality is the latest attempt by the Religious Right to position male-female complementarianism, patriarchy and gender stereotypes as the Biblical norm for today, thousands of years from the culture in which male dominance and female subservience was the norm. One of the main problems with the belief that the Bible gives us a clear picture of “one man, one woman,” is…that it does not. The truth is conservatives must carefully pick and choose their verses to support their thesis, conveniently overlooking the much more numerous passages that portray the ugly side of complementarianism and submission.

“Contrary to most evangelical thinking, while the NT gives us excellent advice on loving our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves, the Bible, as a whole is a mixed bag on the issue of “Biblical Marriage.” With Biblical marriages involving polygamy, concubines, maid servants, spoils of war, sisters-in-law, rape victims, etc., conservatives must do a lot of cherry picking to come up with a definitive view of marriage.

“I am sure most of this is coming from the hard right of evangelicalism, the Southern Baptist fringe that grew into the dominant voice in conservative evangelicalism in the 80s and 90s during the takeover of SBC [Southern Baptist Convention]. What most evangelicals don’t know is that during this time period the moderates along with female teachers at Baptist universities were all forced out by the fundamentalist wing of the SBC. Evangelicalism has never recovered.

“This shift among the majority voice in Evangelicalism does not just condemn “homosexuality,” but would push a strong, hyper-Calvinism as the only “truly biblical” understanding of atonement, would severely limit divergent views such as Arminianism and Pentecostalism and has forced out moderates and postconservatives from teaching at their seminaries, as well as severely limiting women from teaching or using their spiritual gifts. This is not a group of people open to the work of the Holy Spirit. They are fundamentalists, period.

“The tragedy of the Nashville Statement is that it closes the door to dialogue about human sexuality, and attempts to rigidly compartmentalize gender stereotypes, ignoring the realities of gender and sexuality. It also closes the door to further understanding and reform amongst evangelicals. The door has been shut on careful consideration of the Biblical passages themselves, preferring a inerrant, literal hermeneutic that does not take into consideration a great many things: culturally bound materials, story as opposed to historical facts, and a general inability to differentiate Kingdom principals from cultural mores.

“In all of this we are to be schooled on marriage by a group of people whose heterosexual marriages end in divorce 50% of the time, differing little from the culture they pride themselves as being superior to. It has sadly become all too apparent that fundamentalists favor law over Grace, continuing over a century of vigorously defending indefensible attitudes towards race, women, violence and sexual minorities. This needs to stop.”

And I couldn’t agree more with what he said. Quite often you hear the phrase, ‘What is the world coming to’, and I often think the same thing about Christianity. It’s high time people professing Jesus as Lord began to confront the really serious issues of our time instead of wanting to install video cameras in other people’s bedrooms! Seriously, these people seem to think that the number-one big problem of our time is that some people have a ‘different’ sexuality. It’s not poverty, not North Korea’s nuclear program, not Donald Trump’s divisive presidency, not global warming; no, it’s what people do in the privacy of their own homes that is the number-one issue.

How twisted is that?

Anyway, enough of my ranting 😉 I’d like to also point my readers to Kirk’s complete article in which he expands on the points he makes in the quotation I have given above. Although you will recognise some of the paragraphs from above, there are some new and interesting points that he makes as well. Here’s the link.

Finally, a word of explanation. My blog purports to be, on the whole, me doing what I see the Father doing; me saying what I believe the Father is saying. That’s what my header is all about and it’s the mission statement, if you like, for my blog. In these times, I see the Father doing a great work amongst and through the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex ‘community’. These people are going to play a major part in the next Revival; indeed, they are already doing so.

To quote Rabbi Gamaliel, in Acts 5:38-39, “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Yep. Please consider this post prayerfully and hear what the Voice of the Spirit is saying to you 🙂

 

 

 

 

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The Tyranny of Article Ten

On August 29th 2017, the grandiosely titled ‘Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’ * released a document called the ‘Nashville Statement’ **, a declaration of the position of over 150 American conservative church leaders on matters of human sexuality, including statements on morality, sex outside of marriage, and of course homosexuality.***

Rather than recite it for you, here is a link to a PDF file of the Statement (it should open in a new browser tab): Nashville Statement PDF

I respect some of those leaders (well, actually, just two whom I know of and have heard speak). I agree, would you believe, with some of what’s in the Statement, and I can understand (if not personally accept) their stance on homosexuality.

But Article 10 in the Statement came as a surprise to me. Here indeed is Article 10, screen-shot directly from the Nashville Statement referenced above:

I actually find this Article to be troubling, pretentious and arrogant. Troubling in that it places yet another burden on simple Christians trying to live out their life for Christ, and now that’s another legalistic straw placed on their proverbial camel’s back. Pretentious and arrogant in that, well, who do they think they are telling other believers that they cannot agree to differ?

According to this Article, you’re not allowed to be ‘undecided’, (whether you’ve studied all the arguments or not), you’re not allowed to sit on the fence, and you’re not allowed to agree to differ. ‘Otherwise faithful Christians’ implies ‘unfaithfulness’ but to whom or what? Jesus? Christianity in general? Fundagelicalism in particular? The Bible? Surely this is just another point of doctrine, and the freedom to agree or disagree is just as valid here as it is for such doctrines as Communion or baptism, whose practices vary widely within Christendom?

Essentially they are declaring this belief [in homosexuality being ‘wrong’] as a central tenet of the faith, without which you are an ‘unfaithful’ Christian, whatever that means and whatever threat that is supposed to convey. I would suggest, then, that Article 10 is saying that unless you believe the Bible the way in which we [the authors of the Nashville Statement; those 150+ leaders] say you have to believe it, then you’re not a ‘proper Christian’. That’s what I find troubling – but unsurprising. I suppose actually seeing it written down in black and white was what I found most troubling; they have always believed it, but maybe never actually written it down.

At its core, the Article reveals plainly the bibliolatry (worship of the Bible) of their position, in that they have essentially elevated a book – an inspired book, to be sure, but still a book – to a place above the position of the One Whom it reveals. Once again, the Bible has been given primacy over Jesus, Who alone is the Word of God. Once again, these people present a non-negotiable interpretation of a book that is neither inerrant nor infallible. The Bible is so vast and complex in its layers, meanings and teachings that I think it is true to say that none of us knows enough to say categorically that another brother’s beliefs are ‘wrong’. And so they attempt to ‘forbid’ the holding of an opinion that they don’t like, even if it’s Jesus Himself who given us that opinion. But, of course, we need to remember that these men are not the Gatekeepers of the Kingdom, no matter how much they might believe that they are! These people do not hold a monopoly of the Truth, nor of Jesus.

I think in some ways it’s also a matter of ‘Scriptural authority’. You see, some believers hold that a Christian has to believe (and enact/build into his life) all of the Bible, and that all of the Bible carries identical weight and authority. But that’s not how anyone actually lives it. You see, every Christian cherry-picks certain verses and decides that they apply, and that other verses don’t. It’s inevitable that this will happen, especially since the Bible is written by different people who all had different views.

For these people to say that affirming of LGBTQ+ people is ‘sinful’, well, I and my own conscience can be the only arbiter of that for me personally. (And it’s time they stopped their preoccupation with ‘sin’!) Paul is quite clear that what is beneficial for some is not so for others (1Cor 10:23, 1Cor 6:12). I can choose within my freedom as a Christ-follower what to consider is ‘sin’ as instructed by Holy Spirit. But I think that, deep down, and in their admirable zeal to keep their flocks ‘safe’, a lot of these leaders have a great difficulty with trusting a) God to speak to their people, and b) their people to hear God accurately for themselves. I understand that. But part of our freedom a believers is that we have been released into this freedom partly in order to learn how to hear the voice of God for ourselves. Sure, we will make mistakes, but God is gentle and patient with us in our learning curve, and He supports us all the way. In any case, the more they legislate, the more powerful ‘sin’ becomes. More Law is not the answer, because the power of sin is the Law (1Cor 15:56)!

I would also suggest that in agreeing to the latter part of Article 10, a person would be submitting his/her own conscience to the control, approval and permissions of men. And what human has that right or that privilege? And where do you draw the line? What would happen if they (or any other leaders) decided to forbid your conscience’s participation on opinions that you really do care deeply about? Sadly, I know from personal experience that such leadership does in fact exist in the church, and that sort of behaviour is part of what is known as the ‘cultic mindset’ – a mindset which is a million miles from the ‘glorious freedom of the Children of God’ (Rom 8:21), which is what Christ actually intends for us.

And there’s more to the troubling nature of that Statement. Wendy Francisco describes it as, “…a heartbreaking and terrible call to organized rejection and scapegoating”. And I have to admit that I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you know what, she’s right. It’s both heartbreaking and terrible, and saddening too.

You have probably gathered by now that I consider the Nashville Statement, and in particular Article 10, to be just so much hot air. They are saying nothing new. I also think that the Statement will soon be forgotten as yet another irrelevant Church proclamation. It’s so ‘behind the times’; it’s certainly not going to stop anyone from doing or believing what they are already doing or believing, or change their minds. But the Article 10 ‘call to organized rejection and scapegoating’ is indeed worrying. As always with these proclamations, all it’s going to achieve is to hurt and alienate people.

And the timing of the Statement’s release could not have been worse: it has been released at a time when the southern seaboard of the United States is a disaster area in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and forest fires continue to rage unchecked in northern Montana. Talk about blinkered vision…

No, this is a presumptious piece of pompous church bureaucracy that will not help anyone. All they have done is to codify what they already believe – which is fair enough, but unnecessary – and also tried to overreach what little authority they have in producing the dangerous Article 10. My friend Ken Nichols put it like this:

My greatest push back on this though is not about the homosexuality itself, but about their insistence that if you do not believe as they do on this issue, you are NOT a Christian. That should be pointed out, not to shame them or call them “sinners”, but to tell people watching on the outside that not ALL Christians believe like this.”

Well said, Ken 🙂

I would like to conclude this post by sharing a more positive outlook. My friend Julie Ferwerda (authoress of the book ‘Raising Hell‘) has made this counter-statement to the Nashville Statement:

Julie Ferwerda’s Nashville Un-Statement:

I affirm that marriage appears to be a plan of the Universe/God/Spirit to be a visible image of a loving, intimate experience of oneness. This relationship, when fashioned after genuine, Godly Love shall aim toward a physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually healthy union between people in a consentual, empowering, supportive partnership, intended to pattern the covenant love between a truly loving, non-biased God and his creation.

“I deny that God has limited such a relationship to be controlled or determined or dictated by legalistic, misguided religious affiliation based on sexual orientation, gender, nationality, ethnicity, or any other innate factor that is used as a divisive measuring stick. I also affirm that there is no such thing as “mere human” as separate from divine form. We are all expressions of God living out a unique role we have been perfectly made for, so long as we are striving toward genuine love and oneness.”

That’s a great place at which to finish, I think. For more reading on the Nashville Statement, may I recommend the following blog posts:

Susan Cottrell’s post on FreedHearts, a support site for parents of LGBTQ+ kids
John Pavlovitz’s semi-humorous ‘translation’ of the Statement into English 😉
Another excellent article by Jim Wallis of ‘Soujourners’
The ‘Denver Statement’; a ‘counter-statement’ to the Nashville Statement
Is modern Christianity ‘all about sex’? Sometimes it seems that way…
And finally, another piece on Article 10, which is very thoughtfuly written.

*I mean it’s not as if they are anything as monumental as the the ‘Council of Nicea‘ or the ‘Council of Jerusalem‘, lol. Or maybe they think they are… 😉


**Although it was called the ‘Nashville Statement’, this name was given it because the people who wrote the document finalised a draft of it in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Nashville’s mayor very quickly moved to disassociate her city from the naming, saying it was ‘poorly named’ and that it “…does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville”. Nashville is known as being an ‘island’ or ‘oasis’ of, shall we say, ‘free-thinking’ in the midst of the American ‘Bible Belt’. I wonder if that location for the conference was chosen with this in mind? 😉


*** Although they only mentioned homosexuality (so, Lesbian and Gay) and Transgenderism, I am assuming that all ‘different’ sexualities (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/questioning and other sexualities) are also intended to be encompassed by their declarations. It wouldn’t surprise me.

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