November 25, 2020

First, Second and Third Thoughts on the CStone 09 “Gay Rights and Wrongs” Panel

090On Friday, July 3, I moderated a panel at Cornerstone 09 on the topic of “Gay Rights and Wrongs.” Here is the blurb from the CStone web site:

Gays, Rights & Wrongs (Moderator: Michael Spencer, w/Andrew Marin, Richard Amesbury, Tony Jones, Christine Sneeringer & Frank Carrasco ) “Is homosexualty still a sin – or a sin somehow worse than all the rest? Can gays really change? Should the church change the way it engages with gay culture? What are Christians to think about gay marriage? This formidable panel will address these formidable issues.”

Audio for this panel should be available at some point in the future.

1. As I’ve said earlier, it was an honor to moderate this panel. All of these folks have far more to say to this issue than a blogger like myself. My own ministry journey has rarely put me in contact with adult gays and lesbians. Most of my experience with this subject comes in the context of student ministry. As moderator, my original goal was to keep the focus on ministry to the gay community. I did not want to moderate a debate on subjects that evangelicals debate endlessly and for which there are hundreds of resources available. I wish I’d been more successful with that goal.

2. Christine Sneeringer and Frank Carrasco are ex-gays working in the Exodus discipleship ministry. Their position on these matters was clear. It was also clear early on that while both were well-spoken and authentic representatives of their journey and experience, they were not going to give the same kind of responses as the other panelists. Amesbury is a professor of Ethics at Claremont School of Theology. Jones is finishing a Ph.d at Princeton. Marin has just written what is arguably the most provocative and ground-breaking book on bridge-building between gays and evangelicals to be published to this point. Amesbury and Jones were strong, vocal advocates of a “normalizing” approach to gay sexuality. Marin is a strong, intense advocate of a third way that does not confront the major issues with predictable answers, but moves to the place of earning credibility through friendship.

3. What was missing? A strong, academic advocate of the conservative, traditional position. I felt many in the audience, while glad that these issues were raised and discussed by a diverse panel, were, like me, feeling that certain subjects were left with an abbreviated response from the traditional side. For example, the “six passages” in scripture that deal with homosexuality were mentioned with the assumption that the exegesis put forward by the scholarly advocates of the gay community was accepted and there was no real debate on, for example, about what Paul is referring to in condemning homosexual behavior in Romans 1. I could have offered an alternative perspective, but that was not my role as moderator. Sneeringer and Carrasco simply weren’t in the league with the academic members of the panel on this subject. I would have liked to have seen someone like Robert Gagnon from Pittsburg Seminary make a contribution.

4. I was deeply moved by the persons in the audience who spoke openly about their journey and experience regarding sexual identity issues. These were some of the most memorable moments on the panel. Though we had deep disagreements on the panel, it was wonderful to see every member of the panel unite around the support that every person deserves as they seek to genuinely live out the truth as an individual and in community.

5. I appreciated Christine Sneeringer making it clear that Exodus is a discipleship ministry and is not recruiting gays to come out of their lifestyle. Christine’s description of the approach of her ministry to disciple those who want to make changes was very helpful.

6. I have serious reservations about putting forward ideas like the need to abandon “heteronormativity” into the evangelical conversation without serious interaction with Biblical, theological and pastoral implications of this idea. Nothing I heard at Cornerstone this year or last year did anything to cause me to worry less about what happens when the victimization and oppression of any group becomes the arbiter of hermeneutical and interpretative discussion. The mistreatment and oppression of various groups is part of the Biblical story and part of how God reveals himself in scripture, but when we come to the Gospel itself, there is a deep challenge to any idea of empowerment that is based on violence or being the victim of violence. The centrality of Christ and the cross signal a shift- for all of us, and for every group- away from our own victimization to embracing Christ as the ultimate victim through whom all of us are set free. We do not emerge from the New Testament as victimized groups. We come away as a new people, a new race, a holy nation, the body of Christ.

7. The Gospel calls all of us to recognize our sexual sins. It calls on all of us to repent. It calls all of us to receive the righteousness of Christ. It calls all of us to a life of discipleship, summarized in Hebrews 13:4. It calls all of us to chastity. It not not call us to reject “heteronormativity” for anything other than the centrality of Christ, the imago dei, the Kingdom of God and defining nature of the Gospel. Jesus and Jesus alone possesses the shape of Christian sexual identity. I fully recognize that genuine Christians will agree with all of the above and come to various, differing conclusions on issues of sexuality. Nonetheless, had I been able to contribute to the discussion, it would have been my goal to emphasize that what Christ calls us to is different from all the options offered by various political and advocacy constituencies. The Gospel is the highest standard of sexual conformity to the person and purpose of God, while at the same time offering the highest expressions of amazing grace.

8. Our actions toward one another and toward the GLBT community must be radically, distinctively Jesus shaped, i.e. recognizably faithful to who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing in scripture and through the Spirit. I simply will never stop insisting that to look at Jesus as the most sexually healthy person that ever lived is a completely radicalizing journey, far more so than the options I hear around me.

Comments

  1. Michael, I’m interested in your statement that Jesus is the most sexually healthy person that ever lived. I agree, and I think you meant to say that he is the ONLY sexually healthy person. As God incarnate he is by definition perfect and this would include sexuality by default. The problem with calling him sexually healthy, however, is in our own definition. If we believe that Jesus was celibate, and if we believe that he was without sin and therefore never looked lustfully at a woman (or man, since we’re on the subject), then how do we define Jesus as sexual at all? Is this a problem with our definition of sexuality, or is this another biblical paradox? What do you think?

  2. Anna A may have shed some insight into my previous question: “Jesus appreciated the beauty of women, and enjoyed their company.” If we can include this in our definition of sexuality, I’ll settle for that. Still interested in your opinion, Michael.

  3. To Martha:

    You seem to be of the opinion that homosexual BEHAVIOR is not a sin so long as the consenting parties are married.

    Why stop there? Why is not all sex ok so long as it is within the context of a loving relationship?

    And once we have gone that far, let’s really take off the gloves and say it is all good so long as the parties are consenting?

    And heck, having gone that far let’s really open the floodgates and take out the adult requirement?

    There are serious people who hold every one of those positions and I could go further – much further.

    Either the Bible is our standard of conduct or it is not. Which is it?

  4. I’m deleting a lot of comments, and will be going to comment moderation before I go to bed.

  5. Jon Trouten says

    Afred’s response really shows why the most gay people won’t touch the church with a ten-foot pole. It also demonstrates why the church’s current approach towards gay people places every single behavior and relationship on equal footing.

    Any sexual expression is morally equivalent. The church has told us this over and over and over and, lo and behold, the larger gay community has listened for decades. My marriage and family life is morally equivalent to some guy seeking teenaged prostitutes, which is morally equivalent to bareback orgies, which is morally equivalent to men who hook up with other guys with no sense of commitment, etc., etc., etc.

    The church and the majority of its followers have gone out of their way to punish and demonize gay couples who’ve sought out and practice marital relationships, not only in the church settings but in the secular sphere, as well. Our families are shown no respect. Our partnerships are spat on. Our parenting skills are held suspect. Our presence in church communities is monitored and limited by those around us.

    And yet people seem shocked and surprised at anger towards the Christian community by the vast majority of gay people.

  6. Thank you Alfred. Your voice is much needed in this conversation.

  7. Jon Trouten says

    Seriously, what was the purpose of the panel discussion? I wasn’t there. Who was it geared towards? What was the desired results?

  8. ..Why don’t we get a dozen or so prominent “men of God” to come together before the nations (old testament style) and have them openly beseech God for the unequivocal conclusive final word on this so we can lay it to rest once and for all…??

  9. I can’t speak for Cornerstone. I think the purpose was to allow Andrew Marin, Tony Jones and Richard Amesbury the opportunity to voice a different point of view, not as authoritative, but as an alternative. As I said, the Exodus folks did a good job, but the rhetorical artillery was pretty strong on the left.

    Cornerstone sees itself as somewhat of an evangelical bellweather, and they may be seeking to send signals to the gay community that the rhetorical style is going to be gentler and more diverse. But as I said, I can speak for them. CStone isn’t a church or even a conference. It’s a free for all.

  10. I have had promiscuous relationships. I have been addicted to narcotics. I smoke and I drink. I have fathered a child out of wedlock. I am prone to anger and pride. I have cheated by brother. I have taken what was not rightfully mine. I have judged, mistreated and forsaken my fellow man. I have lusted after women. I struggle with my sin more often in vain than not.

    All of this was done while I attended church. I was raised in the church. If the doors were open I was there. My father went to seminary only to leave due to his pending divorce, caused in part by infidelity.

    I was instructed in the discipline of righteous judgement. I could help you get right with God. I could also turn my back on you for not heeding the call of the righteous.

    My gay cousin was a youth pastor and engaged to a lovely Christian women. He gave all this up because he could not live in his own mind.

    Jesus has died for me, Jesus has forgiven me. Jesus has offered me life where there was none. I no longer judge my gay cousin. We talk of life, of God and our hopes for this world. We thank God for loving us as wretched as we are. My gay cousin does not look at my sins and faults. I am not sure if what he did was all he could do. I am sure that my life of wrong choices could have been otherwise. Ironically and selfishly I now thank God for my choices and my sin. I am thankful that I do not have to carry my cousins burden.

  11. ……Wow..

  12. sue kephart says

    I think we are to be examing our own sin and not someone elses. But of course that is not any fun.

    What is GLBT anywany?

  13. Jon Trouten says:

    “Afred’s response really shows why the [sic] most gay people won’t touch the church with a ten-foot pole. It also demonstrates why the church’s current approach towards gay people places every single behavior and relationship on equal footing….Any sexual expression is morally equivalent.”

    Jon, please don’t misunderstand my comment. There is a mile-wide gulf between what I said and what you accuse me of saying. I will explain.

    Not all sexual behaviour is equivilent. For example, I find rape morally reprehensible. Incidently, not everyone does. On the other hand I find absolutely nothing offensive about homosexuality (even though it is a sin).

    However, may seem to think that we can judge the Bible on our own terms. I disagree. If I decide to toss out the objectionable teachings of the Bible (ie. homosexuality is wrong) then who’s to stop a NAMBLA member to come along and say “hey I think pediphelia is ok too.” That was the point I was making.

    If there are homosexuals who refuse to adopt Christianity because they refuse to accept the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality then that is their decision to make.

    But Christianity isn’t a political party and its not a consumer good. And the Church is not a marketing department which looks at polling data and market research to determine how we should tailor our message to expand our reach.

    I am amazed at how Christians respond when they and the Church are rejected and hated. It is true that it would be foolish of us not to look inward to check ourselves to make sure we are walking in Christ’s path. But make no mistake, walking Christ’s path will most assuredly result in the Church being hated and condemned. Jesus, mades that very clear.

    In this postmodern world, where all morals are consider to be nothing more than a social construct, we should not be surprised by this culture’s response to our “judgementalism” when we say “that is wrong.” In this culture the words “you are forgiven” is considered to be judgemental. After all, who but a sinner needs forgiveness. Be not conformed by this world…especially not this postmodern one.

  14. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transexual.

    I believe all were present at the seminar, by the way, though only the first and last identified themselves.

  15. Man…this issue has to be one of the most convoluted, nuanced, and complicated topic in contemporary Christianity…

    My position on this matter is till very imprecise and amorphous (kind of like my position on predestination), but I would have to disagree with some commentators who said the Bible is an anachronistic tome. As NT Wright said, Paul, being a well-educated, Jew/Roman citizen, was well aware of there being the possibility of two homosexuals loving each other as two monogamous adults do in a committed relationship. I’m sure Paul was aware of Plato’s Symposium and what it says about love between two individuals, especially those of the same sex.

    (For those who don’t know, Plato made homosexual love and heterosexual love equal, a position much of the Greco-Roman world adopted, something Paul would have definitely been aware of when he wrote the first couple chapters of Romans)

  16. Jon Trouten, one last word:

    Oh how I wish I could in good conscience look you in eyes and say, homosexuality is a not a sin. I would love to be able to say to the homosexual community, not only are you welcome into the Church but so to is your homosexual lifestyle … but I cannot.

    I cannot because my belief in the moral teachings of the Bible are every bit as important to me as I believe your homosexual lifestyle is to you (if I may be so presumpuous).

    If someone could convince me that the scripures are ok with homosexuality than I am onboard.

    What I can say right now is this: you are welcome into the church of Christ and if you repent you will be forgiven.

  17. Alfred,

    I hope that every Christian who says what you’ve said- and it was eloquently and compassionately said- is asking all couples living/sleeping together outside of/before marriage to leave the church.

    That just might be a whole lot of someone’s children.

    peace

    ms

  18. imonk,

    Perhaps if we did there would be less of it.

    peace to you too brother…I enjoy your blog.

  19. I know this discussion is part of the process of many of the church finally coming to terms with reality. As I read through the comments I just kept repeating to myself, “progress, this is somehow progress.”

    It is also proof that folks like Andrew have a lot more work to do in elevating the conversation for the conservative church. If only my conservative brethren could forget about the sex part long enough to see this is about loving people and bridging cultures, then we could really get somewhere.

    iMonk- brilliant job of moderating this thread of comments.

  20. Chad Rushing says

    IMonk said, “I hope that every Christian who says what you’ve said- and it was eloquently and compassionately said- is asking all couples living/sleeping together outside of/before marriage to leave the church.”

    Personally, I think this would be a laudable act of congregational discipline, but there is about a 0.00% chance of it happening in most congregations in our modern culture. It is my guess that such a move would eliminate nearly all of the teenagers and most of the college-aged or post-college dating couples. So many churches today wink at heterosexual adultery or fornication although God considered those acts to be just worthy of capital punishment in the Law of ancient Israel as He did homosexual acts. Note well that I am proposing that those acts all still merit serious church discipline and NOT capital punishment.

    For example, the pastor at my old church once told a choir member (privately, not in a service) that he could not participate in the choir or in the men’s quartet as long as he was continuing a public, adulterous affair. The guy quit coming to church, and people in the congregation actually got mad at the pastor for taking a moral stand like that.

    And don’t even think about touching the divorce issue with a ten foot pole …

  21. Chad Rushing says

    Panel blurb: “Is homosexualty still a sin – or a sin somehow worse than all the rest? Can gays really change?”

    I think one has to nail down some extremely vague terms before one can even begin to address these issues.

    What is “homosexuality?” Is it a person of a particular sex being sexually attracted to others of the same sex but never acting on it? Or is it a person actually acting on those impulses? Personally, I prefer the latter definition and consider the former to fall into the category of just involuntary “temptation,” something every single person alive (Christian or not) faces in one form or another. No one should be chastised or ostracized for just being tempted.

    Now, if a man was attracted to his neighbor’s wife (who is off-limits as far as God is concerned), but he neither fantasized about her (i.e., succumbed to the temptation mentally) nor actually had an affair with her, then he is not an adulterer in God’s eyes. Sure, he may be tempted with adultery (or covetousness) in a major way, but being tempted is not a sin; otherwise, Jesus Christ Himself, who was tempted in every way that we are, would be considered a sinner.

    As for “change,” it may be that someone who is attracted to others of the same sex but does not act on it will never have that temptation go away in their lifetime. It may be something that always challenges them until the day they die, so I do not think we should expect people to “change” by eliminating their temptations altogether.

    However, if someone is actively engaging in same-sex acts, they can “change” their behavior. How? The same way the Bible commands every Christian to turn away from all habitual sins no matter what they may be: confess it to the Lord and stop doing it. Just stop. Then, fill oneself with the Word and the Spirit until there is no “space” for that habitual sin to sneak back into. I think the church should be there to give all the love and support (plus accountability, if requested) they can to someone who is attempting to overcome any habitual sin in his/her life, especially one as contentious as homosexual behaviors.

    Does that mean that someone might alienate or lose a person they care about by giving up same-sex acts? Of course, but the same is true for the person who breaks off a relationship characterized by heterosexual fornication or adultery. Jesus never said that being an obedient follower would be easy. In fact, I believe He warned that there was certainly to be a cost associated with obedience and that said obedience would even be a divisive “sword” in some instances. However, we should never forget His promise regarding relationships lost for His sake in LUKE 18:29-30.

    If Christ can free compulsive gamblers, adulterers, fornicators, drunkards, liars, thieves, idolators, gluttons, narcissists, and every other type of sinner out there, I am sure He can free practicing homosexuals, too. They are not some special class of sinner requiring “super-grace” or anything like that.

  22. Those interested in the scientific perspective might look up this article though it’s not open access:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/t18t2213605303j7/

    …And an excellent book for lay people interested in the natural diversity of gender and sexuality is “Evolution’s Rainbow” by Joan Roughgarden.

    The common acronym LGBT is also, these days frequently extended to “LGBTI” where the “I” stands for “Intersexed”. With a growing trend to postpone surgical or medical intervention until after puberty, Christians are more likely to find themselves dealing with this rare condition where a baby is born with sexual characteristics of both sexes, or with concealed testes which will “turn her into a boy” at puberty. On the subject of political correctness: “gay men” is preferred to “gays”, but “lesbian” still seems acceptable as a noun.

    Of course, the ability to demonstrate that sexual and gender diversity is common throughout the animal kingdom sheds no light on human morality and gives us no guidance, except perhaps to force us to admit that these variations are not unnatural (“Adam and Steve”) but are God-given and like all other human attributes, God’s intention is for us to seek understanding and ways to conform these attributes within the love of Christ and the community of faith.

    Monk: Thanks for the clarification. Much appreciated.

  23. Donalbain says

    He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.
    And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

    How strictly is this message from Jesus adhered to your churches? Is a second wife shunned and denied membership of your church? Or do you have remarried members of your church who are wholly embraced by the congregation?

    Now, as an outsider, I am not overly concerned about what Christians do inside their churches. It is, as far as I am concerned, a private members club and they are just as entitled to have their rules on membership as the Augusta Golf Club are. I happen to think both sets of membership rules are wrong headed and rather silly, but that is not the point as I am not a member. The issue is when they try to use their own private membership rules as a way we should govern society as a whole, even for those who are not in their club. That makes me angry, and it, I believe, downright immoral, even evil.

    And as for the comment about victimisation, the best way to prevent people feeling victimised is to stop victimising them. When a group of society has to deal with the physical, verbal and legal abuse that gay people deal with, they will feel like victims!

  24. Jon Trouten says

    Homosexuality isn’t a sin. Anymore than heterosexuality. It’s a sexual orientation. We all have one. Our sexual and relational behaviors can be sinful. Gay people can be equally sinful as straight people. But I disagree with the notion that gay relationships are universally condemned in the Bible.

    My “homosexual lifestyle” is my family. My husband and our sons. I’m appalled that I would be expected to give up my family to walk in Christ with the lot of you. Would any of you seriously ask any straight person (or yourself) to give up your husband, your wife, and/or your kids so that you could participate in the life of the church?

    Seems to me that people love Marin’s book about bridge-building with the GLBT community and write impassioned reviews and recommendations for it. But they don’t want to actually listen to the anger, frustration, and pain that comes with his type of missionary ministry.

  25. I don’t think Protestantism can resolve this issue. That is the major reason I left.

    There seems to be a Patristic teaching (I haven’t looked into it much yet) that says that all human sexual activity is basically disordered, and not part of the original imago Dei. Thus celibacy is to be preferred to marriage, even if it is not possible for everyone. Marriage is a positive good, not because it allows you to have sex legally, but because it is an icon of Christ and His Church.

    How much of this is “undigested Hellenism” in the Patristic teaching as opposed to “Hebraic” Bible-fidelity I don’t know. I know the Fathers were also no great fans of the Jews.

  26. Michael,

    Let me take issue with one aspect of your post. I don’t know about Richard, but I know that both Andrew and I would have and could have talked with great thoroughness about the passages in the Bible that reference homosexuality, both explicitly and implicitly. I was the one who mentioned the 6 passages, and I have studied them. So has Andrew. Plus, there are the “arguments from Creation,” etc.

    But, honestly, if the panel discussion would have gone down that road, nothing would have been accomplished. Most probably, Richard, Andrew, and I were far better prepared to talk at length about the hermeneutical issues with all of these passages than were Frank and Christine.

    The reason that it’s good that a conservative scholar wasn’t on the panel, is that he (and, surely, it would have been a he) would have unswervingly talked about biblical passages. I’ve been on panels like that. It doesn’t help anyone. We all know that the ways we read scripture don’t jibe, and that makes all the difference.

    Finally, you indicate that by mentioning the 6 passages, I was implying that everyone agrees with my interpretation of them. Actually, it’s just the opposite. As I tried to say on the panel, and as I have written about this issue, I’ve made it clear that, unlike many liberals, I do not want to simply ignore passages in scripture that seem to contradict my own theological position. I want to wrestle with them and take them seriously.

    In any case, you did a noble job moderating the panel and keeping your own opinion in check, which could not have been easy.

  27. And one more thing: the fact that a gay man and a hermaphrodite both felt comfortable identifying themselves in a tent full of people they didn’t know (most of whom were surely evangelicals) is a testament to your moderation of the panel, to all of us on the panel, and mostly to Mike Hertenstein, Cornerstone, and JPUSA.

    At how many of our churches would that happen?

  28. Marin’s 3rd way intrigues me. I found his site through your Twitter feed last week. I’d love if you’d post more on it, sometime.

    I suspect the traditional side didn’t get an airing because everyone knows it, already.

  29. Tony,

    Thanks for the comments.

    I’d simply note that I did not intend to imply that you or anyone had announced there were no alternative views of these passages, but that a person in the audience informed about theological discussion would not have known that there is an on-going discussion on those passages, with scholars like Gagnon and Wright, to name two, having important things to say about the nature of homosexuality in the ancient world quite different from the exegetical conclusions that are commonly announced.

    peace,

    ms

  30. I really wish I could have been there. I’m looking forward to the audio. And to all the commenters, thanks for keeping the discussion productive, its enjoyable.

    And Joe, I’ve expressed my opinion and have no need to belabor my points. Its a comment on a blog meant to foster positive discussion, not a hardened theological argument.

  31. What I’m about to say will appear to venture off the path, and I beg everyone’s indulgence while I present my case.

    My heart just breaks because people have been, and continue to be, attacked. To those who have been hurt by anyone claiming to be Christian, or if those who claim to know God have painted Him in any other brushstrokes than those of tremendous love and grace, please allow me to apologize for their words and their behavior. That is not what our God, who is the embodiment of love, would have us do.

    Does that mean I agree with certain lifestyles? Well, really, what difference does it make if I do or don’t? It is the opinion of our Creator that matters the most.

    Now, if you don’t agree with the Bible, then what I’m about to say may not be believed or accepted. Still, I must try.

    The Bible says God is love. Not that He feels love; He IS love, meaning He cannot do anything that is in anyway unloving. It also says He has rules that He insists we follow or we’ll suffer the consequences, some of them quite dire. Then it states that God is holy and He cannot abide sin.

    How do we reconcile those seemingly disparate qualities? By understanding that God does not vengefully strike out against sinners. Rather, because He is holy, He is unable to come close. That is why He asked for a perfect sacrifice, one that would bridge the gap between His holiness and our sinfulness. It is also why Jesus agreed to it. Our Heavenly Father deeply loves us all, and He desperately longs for a personal relationship with every single one of us. But He cannot come close without going through the “door” of Jesus’ death; otherwise His pure holiness would obliterate us. So, you see, what Jesus did on Calvary enables us to have a relationship with the One who loves us most.

    Those who have said “yes” to a relationship with God are mindful that, without Jesus, we have nothing, are nothing, and are doomed to destruction. We also know that, while we’re now able to have a relationship with the Father, we’re still imperfect. To quote a pastor of mine, “When we get to Heaven, God’s going to straighten out all our theologies, because we all got it wrong somewhere.”

    We know that, try as we might, we are poor representatives of the One who died for us all. (He did, you know. Died for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived or will ever live. Even those who don’t accept Him. Because that’s how many of us His Father loves: every single one of us.) We are also aware that we’ll be held accountable for everything we’ve said and done, because we don’t know whether anyone seeing or hearing us will then make a decision to turn away from the Author of Life. And that would break the heart of the Father.

    We know there is only one judge: God. We have learned that we are to discern between right and wrong. We also believe the Scriptures, which tell us that mercy triumphs over judgment. And we bear in mind that only God knows the heart, and knows who really has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus in their lives.

    So, in light of all of the above, if any of my fellow Christians have said or done anything harmful or hateful, whether by omission or commission, please allow me to apologize for them. That is the furthest thing from the heart of God.

    For all of you, I pray all of Heaven’s best to you and yours,
    Margret

  32. I have never comment on your blog before. I’ve just watched from afar. I have no doubt that Tony did a wonderful job and have felt very encouraged by him in the past. However….

    What does bother me is that in these conversations it is rare to have someone on the panel that is LGBT christian. As an LGBT I do get frustrated watching these conversations and we are talked about in third person. As if we are some strange thing that lives in an odd corner of the earth. I think it is important to see those of us who act out our faith. Who also can speak from experience. I do not doubt someone’s voice like Andrew’s to the conversation, but he is not LGBT. I admire what Andrew is trying to do, but who can better speak to their faith and their understanding of scripture. Someone like Candace Chellew-Hodge who wrote “Bulletproof Faith: Survival Guide to Gay and Lesbian Christians” does a wonderful job. Its something I (and others) really want to see in a conversation like this. I do understand there were people in the audience who identified themselves, but to have someone who speaks on our behalf is more powerful than you may know.

    On those who spoke from Exodus. I know over the years they have “softened” their message. I have no doubt they painted a very nice picture. There are just too many in the LGBT community that have left far too damaged from their “ministry”. Too many that have left their faith and have chosen a life that was as far away from God as possible. I don’t say this to mud sling and I do understand how many can read this will read it in that light. It is another bag of worms when you have talked with these people.

    Overall, a platform needs to be given to those of us in the LGBT faith community. Especially when it is going to a spot light seminar, ect.

    Blessings!

    PS: I own a bible. I own Streams In The Desert and have other daily devotions I read. I don’t remember who said that, but I wanted to address that.

  33. Alfred, indeed that is completely not what I was saying. It is okay to engage in same-gender sex as long as you’re married? No, no more than it’s okay to engage in opposite-gender sex as long as you’ve divorced your first wife and married your mistress.

    What I was trying to say is that being same-sex attracted is not, in itself, a sin. Being in love with someone is not, in itself, a sin. As long as you recognise the temptation, recognise where it can lead, and transmute that desire into a different love, where you love for the good and not for the gratification.

    We really need a better view of chastity. We’ve reduced chastity to abstinence, and made abstinence a matter of “you can’t do this.” Then, when we tell gay people their only recourse is to be chaste, of course that sounds about as appealing as telling them they can only eat cold porridge for the rest of their lives.

    Chastity is a positive, not a negative.

    And we are all called to be chaste – gay or straight, single or married. Marriage is not a licence to fornicate legally; neither “I can’t wait to get married to someone, anyone, just so I can have sex” (which is how some of the ‘True Love Waits’ stuff can sound) nor “Now that the magic words have been said, we can do any and every thing to gratify our sexual appetites.” It is just as possible to make your spouse an object of lust in order to satisfy your desires; to revisit what got me into trouble with the Driscoll posts, if someone is nagging his wife into having oral sex, that’s not married chastity, that’s lust – putting what tickles your sexual fancy over your spouse’s discomfort. And using Scripture to back it up with ‘a good wife wishes to please her husband and be subject to him’ is abuse of Scripture.

  34. My apologies to all for not catching Brandon E’s comment. Too busy. I’m reluctant to go to moderation today as I’m traveling later.

    Again, my apologies.

    Brandon E: A person who wants to have a discussion and allows anyone to say anything is 1) a fool who 2) is not going to have any real discussion. I’m not that guy. The entire rest of the internet is that guy. Have a good time.

  35. Andrew Marin, I don’t know much about the “Bible doesn’t speak to homosexuality as we know it today” approach.

    I wouldn’t mind the “When it condemns this behaviour, what the writer really meant was…” argument, if it were a little more Scripturally literate; if, for instance, the prohibitions in Leviticus were linked with “We no longer observe the punishment of stoning for adultery” instead of the slick “We eat shellfish and wear polycotton blend shirts, even though those are prohibited also” because that’s just stupid – yeah, it gets a cheap laugh, but it’s about as rigorous as saying ‘Because the same volume of law contains the penalty for jaywalking and murder, murder is no more serious than jaywalking’.

    Oh, and as regards pederasty? Didn’t you know that the Centurion’s Servant was an example of a good pederastic relationship, and because Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant, this shows He approves of same-sex relationships? No? Read the article on “Pederasty in Ancient and Early Christian History” here:

    http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/GESUND/ARCHIV/SEN/CH20.HTM

    I can respect, if disagree with, the argument that prohibitions on homosexuality should be changed as the prohibitions on divorce have been changed. I have no respect for arguments that attempt to convince me that left is right, up is down, and no is really yes.

  36. I’m with Jules. Thanks, Jules.

  37. Jules: I agree with you that such forums should exist, and I would hope many churches would create such forums, just to LISTEN and ask Questions without debate.

    This was a big step for CStone, though. I salute them.

  38. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. It’s an obsession with Christians.

    From the “missionary” position, to abstinence education, to shunning gays because it disgusts us to picture a man having sex with another man, to the notion that God gave us marriage so we could have sinless sex – it’s absurd to tie ourselves in knots over something that is a basic human drive right there with food and shelter.

    Gays have always had sex, and they’ll always have sex. Teenagers have always had sex, and they’ll always have sex. Divorced people have always had sex, and they’ll always have sex.

    So why the obsession?

    Here’s my take, beginning with an example.

    We live in a society where everything from health to education to justice to political representation is based on the size of a person’s income, in direct contradiction to Scripture, but do we worry about that sin?

    No, because it might mean WE have to change. It’s far easier to find someone else’s sin and rail biblically against it.

    I hypothesize our obsession with the sex other people are having is simply a defensive mechanism to distract ourselves from our own sins.

    Condemn gay people from the pulpit, and hear the Amens. Condemn rich people from the pulpit, and hear the elders firing you.

  39. Donalbain

    Matthew 19:9 is ignored by the church. As is the whole of 1 Corinthians 7.

    How are you going to fill a church if you bash divorcees or the friends/family of divorcees?

    Gays are (and always will be) a tiny minority – so hating them will never hurt your finances.

  40. “Condemn gay people from the pulpit, and hear the Amens. Condemn rich people from the pulpit, and hear the elders firing you.”

    Condemning rich people for being rich is wrong.

    How they got rich and what they are doing with their wealth is a valid topic for discussion.

    Just as it’s valid to discuss if poor people should spend money on lottery tickets or getting drunk, rich people should also be held accountable to how they spend their wealth.

    At least rich people claiming to be Christians.

    As to the elders firing you, if the discussion is valid and the elders do fire you, maybe the church needs some new elders or you need a new church.

  41. Chad Rushing says

    Martha, I agree wholeheartedly with your 12:07pm post.

    And, as for Jules’ comment on “sex, sex, sex,” the reason why sexual immorality is such an “obsession” in Christian circles is because:

    a) The Bible makes a very big deal about sexual purity vs. immorality, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Quite a number of biblical “giants” of the faith were brought low by sexual immorality, their own (David) or another’s (John the Baptist), or was confronted by it as a major temptation (Joseph). If the Bible makes a big deal about sexual conduct, then we Christians should, too.

    b) Sexual immorality is one of the easiest sins for individuals to fall into because it is a normal, natural impulse (i.e., sexual desire) turned awry. The fact that the impulse is often accompanied by genuine love for its object makes it particularly seductive to those who might be able to easily shrug off other temptations. The perversion of said impulse is similar to how natural, healthy hunger can become sinful gluttony. God intended sexual desire to be an impetus for the formation of biological families as the primary societal unit, for exclusive spousal bonding, and for the necessary continuation of the human race. Sexual immorality twists that godly impulse into a source of personal gratification, usually decoupling it from familial propagation altogether in the process.

    c) Other than outright murder, there is probably no other single sinful act that can thoroughly discredit one’s Christian ministry for the rest of his/her life, especially in the eyes of unbelievers, like an act of blatant sexual immorality. I would not be surprised if it was Satan’s axe of choice for felling vibrant, influential Christians based on the number of well-known pastors (or even Christian politicians) who have been brought low by it.

    d) Marital love accompanied by sexual bonding (“the two become one”) is an earthly representation of the special, spiritual relationship God has with His chosen people (ancient Israel or the Church, idolatry = spiritual “adultery”). As such, it is to be held in the highest esteem by those who love God and treated like the treasure it is rather than contorted to suit our own purposes. As Christians, our marriages and resulting sexual activities should be an earthly reflection of the hallowed nature of the eternal, spiritual bond between Christ and the Church.

    When discussing sex (rather frankly) with my teenage nieces, I use the analogy of sex being like driving a car. Driving a car can be a highly rewarding and productive experience as long as you drive a car as it was meant to be driven. That is, one should obey the traffic lights and signage; use their blinkers and lights when appropriate; not drive without a license; stay on the road and off the sidewalk or front yards; stay on the correct side of the road; not drive while under the influence of alcohol, medication, drugs, or lack of sleep; and treat other drivers on the road with courtesy and respect, even those who do not reciprocate. Violating any of those restrictions can be a whole lot of “fun” in the short term (as anyone who has ever joyrided can tell you), but it ultimately courts disaster.

    That all being said, I am convinced that most of the Christian world today is really in no position to shake a finger at practicing homosexuals (inside or outside the Church) as adultery, fornication, divorces, and deviant sexual practices are all rampant among American Christian heterosexuals, both married and unmarried. Rather than endlessly lecturing practicing homosexuals about sexual purity, we Christian heterosexuals should get the “beams” out of our own eyes and then lead by example through our own obediently chaste lives or God-honoring marriages.

  42. The problem i have with many responses here is with how much certainty people express their interpretations of scripture. We ALL bring our cultural, familial, and personal biases to interpretation. Much of scripture is taken out of its historical and cultural contexts. When people communicate, they need to say, ‘i think the scripture says this about X’ RATHER THAN, ‘The Scripture is clear about X.”

    We are limited beings who cannot claim full knowledge of what G-D intends. There is disagreement over how to interpret those clobber passages used to condemn homosexuality. Those in favor of saying homosexuality is not a sin are told they are very wrong. Those who say that, i wish to ask, ‘How do you know they are wrong and you are right?’

    Homosexuality is NOT a lifestyle anymore than heterosexuality. NEITHER are a lifestyle. No one chooses to be heterosexual or homosexual.

    i am a married queer woman and both my wife and i are Christ-followers. Could we be wrong in our interpretation of Scripture? Sure. Yet, those wo speak against homosexuality, i find, can’t admit they could be wrong on their interpretations. Just because something is viewed as Biblical tradition does not make it right. That is making an idol out of traditions. Slavery and subjugation of women ran rampant because the Bible spoke to them. Look at how we have evolved and changed!

    G-D does not live in a vacuum nor any particular epoch. Times and cultures do change and evolve and i do not believe we can extrapolate passages of scripture out of their historical and cultural contexts and use the Bible as a rule book or ‘Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth’!

    Us queers have hear all the arguments for why people think the Bible condemns homosexuality. i think if those people want to be loving Christians, they could listen and read the other side and have enough humility to get that maybe they are wrong.

    i could be wrong but i am trying to live my life as authentically as i can. i have always lived my Christian life as seeking G-D and trusting that if i get off course G-d will nudge and guide me back since i am open to G-D’s leading.

    i think people are too focused on seeing homosexuality as a sin. They are concerned too much with the speck in the eyes of others when instead they should be concerned with the planks in their own eyes.

    Warmest Regards,
    EP

  43. Chad-“And, as for Jules’ comment on “sex, sex, sex,” the reason why sexual immorality is such an “obsession” in Christian circles is because:”

    that wasn’t me. 🙂

    Thom: “I’m with Jules. Thanks, Jules.”

    You are very welcome!

    iMonk: “Jules: I agree with you that such forums should exist, and I would hope many churches would create such forums, just to LISTEN and ask Questions without debate.

    This was a big step for CStone, though. I salute them.”

    I’m sure it was and I don’t wish to make what they did minor. I was just stating that frustration as a Christian, who happens to be gay.

    EP: “i think people are too focused on seeing homosexuality as a sin. They are concerned too much with the speck in the eyes of others when instead they should be concerned with the planks in their own eyes.”

    Amen friend! 🙂

  44. To Joe:
    My wife’s friend struggled for many years as a lesbian. She prayed to be changed and had counselling and every other strategy that is out there. Eventually, not seeing a way out she tried to commit suicide 3 times.

    To make a long story short, she couldn’t become hetero and couldn’t remain single and now is in a same-sex union.

    What should we tell this person? A person who felt that the only way to remain a Christian was to commit suicide?

    I consider myself conservative, I don’t think the church should officially bless same-sex unions/marriages; but I also can’t go to my wife’s friend and say “you’re going to hell because you are not repenting of your sin”.

    Is this a contradiction? I guess so, but I just don’t see any other way out of this because homosexual unions (the desire to love and be loved) are not analogous to being a drunk or being a serial thief.

  45. Thank you Michael. This post has opened a can of worms that needed to be opened. Keep turning the world upside down. I will print this thread for friends to read. God bless you!

  46. People choose to be rich, but no one chooses to be gay.

    Jesus didn’t say it’s how the rich spend their wealth or how they got it, he simply stated it’s hard for them to gain salvation.

    American Christians should be far more worried about living in the richest, most powerful nation on earth — one in which everything from health care to education to justice to political representation is based on how rich one is — than they should be about the influence of gay people on our culture.

  47. JA:”She prayed to be changed and had counselling and every other strategy that is out there. Eventually, not seeing a way out she tried to commit suicide 3 times.”

    too many of us go through that. I know I did. For me it mostly stemmed from who could I tell? I knew what my Christian community would say and I even felt I knew what the LGBT community would say to me. What I wanted most was to find a place where it was just God and I. I went through a lot of hell to get there, but I did it. I found a therapist that although was gay himself did not promote a certain agenda. I think people find it shocking was that he and I never really talked about sexuality. It wasn’t until I had my moment with God on this that I we did talk about it. My heart is that no woman or man has to go through what I did or your wife’s friend did. No one should see themselves as so horrible or so lost that suicide is the a thought. I feel that those who are questioning their sexuality need a safe place, as I did, to struggle with it and to know with out a doubt that Abba LOVES them, but he LIKES them more than we can begin to imagine. Because what the Christian community offer those of us in the LGBT choice is this, “God loves you, but he doesn’t like you because you are…..” And don’t say that isn’t true. “Love sinner, but hate the sin” That IS what the Christian community is saying to the LGBT. How is this safe? And how is this showing the beauty of the gospel? It doesn’t. It forgets the sinful woman. What Zacchaeus? He loved them and I dare to say he even liked them. He didn’t come to condemn and to say,”I love you, BUT…” He came to save and to show His Father’s great love for us all!

    I think what rings through my head in this thread was the gentlemen that said that if we were LGBT and a Christian we didn’t own a bible. I just couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around it and what it said to those who chase after Abba with their full heart. I wanted to jump his case, but what I would rather do is show him the love my Abba has shown me and to demonstrate my faith. However, you want to shut the door to conversation and want to growth, those statements do that. We may hold as others for us may hold, lessons and glimpse of our Father!

    I think I’ll leave it at that. I’m just passionate about those of us who have thought about suicide and those who have made that a choice. It should NEVER happen, never. That isn’t my gospel and I would think it isn’t anyone’s.

    Blessings

  48. I think everyone learned something from the homosexuality panel. As one of the JPUSA folk who try to present the festival as a place where “big tent” Christianity is represented, I nonetheless winced at the lack of a more theologically rooted context for the discussion to take place in. No one, by the way, is to blame for that (unless it be us the organizers).

    Most of us are interested in escaping the old paradigms of the Christian Right. But as we do that, I hope we hold onto the biblical narrative, which is the narrative we are part of as believers in Christ.

    I will likely try to blog in the next few days on differences I saw between biblical feminists at the fest (with their robust approach to hermeneutics, as seen in Mimi Haddad’s and Sharon Gallagher’s seminars) and the — to me — very thin biblical narrative offered by any proponents of a Christian pro-gay position.

    I’m out at Bushnell still right now, and am typing this in their public library. So I’m internet hampered! But thank you everyone who participated in the seminars, the fest, and this discussion. I know you all want to honor and love Christ.

    Jon Trott / JPUSA

  49. Jon Trouten says

    This is the Christian message that gay families hear.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRFR7R_58PI&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Egoodasyou%2Eorg%2Fgood%5Fas%5Fyou%2F2009%2F07%2Fvideo%2Dthis%2Dis%2Dwhat%2Dhatred%2Dlooks%2Dlike%2Ehtml&feature=player_embedded

    You can watch other videos at this site: http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2009/07/video-this-is-what-hatred-looks-like.html.

    This Youtuber is promoting the traditional Biblical view on homosexuality and mocking gay families. They also deny the Christian faith of gay Christians and our place in the Kingdom. The message isn’t different than many posted in this thread of comment. It’s just done using spoken words and video images instead of written words.

    So once again I ask, how would your more conservative Christian churches and leaders treat someone like myself who asserts himself to be a Christian, who is married to another man, and who has adopted children with that other dad?