***Prologue: While writing this piece, I read a lot about the closing down of “Exodus International”, one of the largest and most well-known organizations dedicated to “curing” people with “homosexual tendencies” for over 30 years. The president of EI also issued a statement of apology for all those that had been harmed by their practices and the plan is to start over and radically change their approach. It is also in the news that in the next week or two, the Supreme Court of America will decide on what “equality” looks like in reference to homosexual marriage. In Australia the issue of gay marriage is constantly being brought up and one would assume that in the not too distant future, there will be a major vote on the issue by Australian Citizens. Now more than ever, the church needs to decide if they are going to continue responding with apathy or the same rhetoric of “love the sinner, hate the sin…and fight them with fire in the courts”, or if they are going to rise up and truly make a difference to be proud of. History will look back on this time and pass judgement on how those who called themselves “Christians” and “Christ Followers”, dealt with this issue and the millions of people it affected. Most importantly God will pass judgement and I think the question that we need to be asking is “What did we do for the least of these?”***
Once I went off to college, a conservative Bible college no less, I thought that as long as I “loved the sinner but hate the sin”, I was doing pretty well. After all, many Christians were still just downright disdainful of homosexuals and didn’t have a clue about who they were as people. I had a best friend who was gay AND I still loved you! Surely I was “better” than most and deserved a pat on the back for my “open mind”, right?
Then something happened…It was more than few years since I left Bible College, got married and moved to Australia. It was either right before or right after my first child was born and I had reconnected with some old friends from college on Facebook. I began talking to my friend Jeff and somehow I found out that he was gay too. Yep, another friend who went to Bible College with me had “come out”. Jeff and I had been in the same “circle” of friends at college/uni and were always friendly with each other. I remembered him being a bit quieter at times, more careful with his words, a bit more mature than some of the other guys in the group. My personality often spurred on teasing, but Jeff didn’t do that as much, I remember him actually being kind and like he had a bit of empathy for me. Looking back, I wonder if maybe he just understood better than most young, “hetero” men his age, what it was like to be different…to be a target…and so treated people accordingly…how he wanted to be treated, if people knew the truth about him. This is all me looking back and speculation, but I just remember him being different… and I am thankful he was.
Jeff and I began chatting online and with great resolve I told him that I loved him but couldn’t agree with how he lived his life, thinking he would be so grateful to hear me say that. However I remember so clearly what he said back to me (the essence, not necessarily his exact words), he said “Katie, do you know how offensive that is? How would you feel if I said I loved you, but I just couldn’t think it was right that you had married a man? That I couldn’t be okay with such a huge part of who you were?” I remember it well…because I sat there stunned. I’m embarrassed to say now, that THAT thought had never occurred to me. Surely gay people should just be happy to be loved, why would they care if we didn’t like or approve of who they loved? But then when the question was posed to me, very simply, it was the start of a colossal shift in my world view on this matter. I remember feeling confused and confronted at what my friend had said to me and began to question, really question, if I had any idea what the gay community was going through. I realized my empathy was not full because it was ignorant and had been, rather blissfully so.
Not long after that exchange with Jeff, I was online with you. I was starting to wonder about you and where you were at spiritually after all this time. So I asked you if you still held to your Christian faith and I remember predicting that you would probably come back with some answer about being spiritual, etc. but not pointing back to Jesus as your Saviour, because how on earth could you reconcile your “lifestyle” with being a Christ follower and with what the Bible said about homosexuality? You wrote me back and told me that your faith was intact and solid. You told me how you had wrestled with it for a while and it caused you to really search the scriptures and your heart. You then shared with me about The Gay Christian Network (GCN) and gave me the link to “The Great Debate” on their site. (I encourage anyone reading this, to go directly to this link http://www.gaychristian.net/greatdebate.php right after you finish reading my post). I’m so thankful to you Billy, for sharing this with me at that time!
While reading the two men’s essays, who share their views on the Biblical context of homosexuality, I was “introduced” to one of the writers, Justin Lee. Justin is a Christian, a Christ follower, who loves his Saviour, believes the Bible to be the word of God and he is gay. I read with earnest his research, interpretation and conclusion of what he ultimately believes the Bible indicates (not just what it says) when it discusses homosexuality. I couldn’t believe it! He was just like me! He loves Jesus and he calls Him Lord, AND Justin believes the Bible allows him to be in a loving, monogamous relationship with another man…how could this be?
I continued to read, certain he could not totally refute all the scriptures that are used to condemn homosexuality, but he did…he does. If you read his essay, you could not have a more thorough commentary of this topic and all the Biblical passages involved. Justin does not hide from scripture, he addresses it head on. And here’s the thing….he made sense….perfect and complete sense. His arguments and points were as valid as any taught to me throughout my years being brought up as a conservative, “traditional”, Christian. I also read the essay sharing the other side of the debate, by a gay man who believes he is called by God to be celibate. I did not find myself as convicted or convinced by his arguments nor did I find his sharing of that side, very well organized or presented. Someone else might read his “side” and be more convinced, but what Justin had to say really hit my heart.
And here’s the thing in GCN, they have people with beliefs covering both sides of this debate (and everything in between). The Gay Christian Network is there to bring understanding and allow people to really communicate in a safe and respectful place on this issue. They call it “Being on Side A or Side B” and they have resources for both and keep the doors of communication open. For that I applaud the GCN, Justin and the rest of those running it, for being so bold and honest in how this topic is approached.
When I finished reading both essays and when I was all done exploring the GCN website, I was just overwhelmed with conviction. The church (as a generalized, corporate whole, though of course there are specific churches that are indeed being diligent and courageous in how they are dealing with this) was getting it wrong…I had gotten it wrong…for so long! I felt a fire in my soul to stand up on this issue, so I began to speak up. Not loud at first, I was still wrestling with what I felt had been revealed to me by God through you, Jeff and Justin, and what I had been indoctrinated in. I wrestled to reconcile the two. I fought to ride both sides of the fence. Eventually, I couldn’t.
Because here’s the thing, am I 100% sure that you, Justin, Jeff and ALL the other homosexual Christians (and I am referring to them, because they are the ones who would be feeling the need to address scripture on this matter) who believe God blesses their relationships, are right? Nope, not sure if I will ever know for sure. BUT, I am 100% sure that Justin and the GCN are doing what the Church (again, as a whole body) has failed to do. They are opening their arms to all homosexuals, transgenders, etc. and concerning themselves with preaching the gospel and love to them, rather than trying to force change. They are showing Christ’s love to one of the most marginalized and jeopardized groups of people in the world today, without demanding any changes be made first. They love without insinuating fault. They are accepting without pushing a moral agenda. They are reaching out without expecting personal gratification from manipulating someone to alter who they are. They are challenging “the status quo” with respect, care and integrity. They are saying, “Hey, the Church has been wrong about scriptural interpretation before! Please look, see and know that God created us too and therefore we deserve to be able to worship alongside every other sinner in church!”
What I know for sure is this: As a Christian woman, I am called to “love my neighbour as myself” and to “Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind” and I have decided that even if (for the sake of argument) homosexuality is considered a sin before God, how does the Church trying to get a secular government to pass legislation on personal relationships (that may or may not acknowledge God as the head of that relationship), get anyone closer to loving God? How does denying someone the right to marry who they feel called to, who their heart loves, point them towards the cross? No one in the church has yet to answer these questions, adequately anyway, for me. If the Great Commission is our true mission here on earth, should we not filter everything through whether or not it promotes that ultimate cause? I believe we should and I know that the church being the loudest voice opposing gay couples from marrying and having the same rights as every other married heterosexual couple, has not done one thing to uphold Christ’s last instruction to us. How does one make disciples of the One who was sent to abolish the law, by vehemently trying to impose the law on a very specific population of people?
I am so passionate about this dear friend, because I see the harm done. I see the people who are so hurt, so cold, so not interested in even pursuing God or the church because they really do believe they will never be accepted. How can one pursue the throne of God, when they are blocked by His “followers” who demand a price before being allowed access to Him? How can the church look at the history of using the Bible and the Christian faith to justify the Crusades, slavery, the oppression of women, tyranny and national gluttony which lead to nearly driving out whole races of people from many lands and THEN not even entertain the concept that maybe, just maybe the Church has gotten it wrong in its interpretation of scripture on the issue of homosexuality? Because Billy, I like you, am not questioning or denying the authority of scripture. Far from it. I am questioning with my heart, soul and mind the traditional understanding and interpretation of a handful of scriptures that have allowed the church to put so many on the fringes. I am questioning the use of these scriptures to endorse the body of Christ, rallying to deny homosexuals the same rights and freedoms in relationships, that we all long for. I am challenging the Church in its mass obedience to the letter of the law, rather than examining the spirit of the law!
There are smart, intelligent, God-fearing people on both sides of this debate. There are people who are true followers of Christ and interpret the scriptures about homosexuality traditionally (and who I honestly believe do not realize or fully understand the hurt caused by their views) and there are those that have started really questioning the “old” understanding of those verses. I love what Rachel Held Evans once shared on her blog:
“We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.
And when it comes to homosexuality, we no longer think in the black-and-white categories of the generations before ours. We know too many wonderful people from the LGBT community to consider homosexuality a mere “issue.” These are people, and they are our friends. When they tell us that something hurts them, we listen. And Amendment One hurts like hell.
Regardless of whether you identify most with Side A or Side B, (or with one of the many variations within those two broad categories), it should be clear that amendments like these needlessly offend gays and lesbians, damage the reputation of Christians, and further alienate young adults—both Christians and non-Christian—from the Church.
So my question for those evangelicals leading the charge in the culture wars is this: Is it worth it? Is a political “victory” really worth losing millions more young people to cynicism regarding the Church? Is a political “victory” worth further alienating people who identify as LGBT? Is a political “victory” worth perpetuating the idea that evangelical Christians are at war with gays and lesbians? And is a political “victory” worth drowning out that quiet but persistent internal voice that asks—what if we get this wrong?” For the full blog post and additional context check out:
I admire Rachel and consider her a true hero in the progressive, Christian feminist movement. She is smart, she is compassionate and she makes it so simple. Yet as much as she has shared her faith, she has had it challenged simply because of her views on gay marriage and homosexuality. The authenticity of her whole world view has been called into question, because she is willing to ask the tough questions. And I know by writing this there are those that at the very least will question my ”spiritual maturity” or my “understanding of scripture”. I know there are those who will cast judgement on me and possibly my children (or pity them because they will obviously be raised in a home where their Christian parents “don’t quite have it right”) from our local church and Christian school community. I know there are those who will read all this and see the links for the evidence of “the other side” and still refuse to even acknowledge the smallest possibility that an alternative way of thinking needs to be explored within the church on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage. I know all this and still believe with all my heart that I need to be part of the growing number of Christians who are speaking up. I need to raise my voice with others who love Christ and want my gay brothers and sisters in Christ and those looking in on the fringes, too scared to pursue God because of the prolonged failings of His followers, to know that they are loved and valued by the God who created them too!
I truly don’t believe we will ever know for sure what God was trying to relay in the scriptures dealing with homosexuality, until we get to heaven. BUT what I am certain about is that the Bible has a theme running through it and that theme is love, redemption and unconditional grace. To me that means, that what makes sense and what is logical when looking at the big picture of the Bible, is that like it says in Psalm 139 we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that means Billy, that you were made exactly how you were meant to be. And if “a bad tree bears bad fruit and a good tree will bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:16-18); if you are/were “living in sin”, shouldn’t you be bearing some bad fruit by now? Shouldn’t Justin Lee be lashing out at those who oppose and hate him, showing an angry spirit? Shouldn’t you have turned your back on God and the church for what happened in high school, rather than humbly seeking God out and using your life to serve Him and others?
You, Billy are an example of a “good tree bearing good fruit”. You are personal proof to me that what Justin Lee wrote about in “The Great Debate” and the compassion and acceptance that Philip Yancey speaks of http://www.philipyancey.com/q-and-a-topics/homosexuality , is what is right and true. Regardless of what one thinks of homosexuality or any other “sin” mentioned in the Bible, my approach and inspiration has been how Jesus dealt with the woman at the well and the adulterous woman about to be stoned; He loved them first, He rescued them first, He reached out and put Himself on the line first. Jesus made Himself an abomination first for those He set out to love and rescue. And let’s not forget that when Jesus rescued the adulterous woman, He was stopping the religious leaders of the day from fulfilling and following the only spiritual law they had ever known! By Old Testament standards, they were doing the right thing and Christ was now the sinner in their eyes. But today, we know He was showing them/us how to move forward and love as He loved.
Jesus saved and loved before He gave any moral mandates and He was the Son of God. The church should take note of this order of things and ask, “What IS the point of legislating sexual morality?” If the point is not to shine a light on the Cross and bring others to understand that “God so loved the world…” but rather to maintain a sense of power and religious presence within a secular society, then it is wrong…completely.
Is the homosexuality of today a sin and an abomination in God’s eyes? I don’t think so, but I am happy to wait and be sure once I get to heaven. And while I wait to know for sure, I will continue to stand in the gap for my homosexual friends and the Cross…hopefully being a voice of love, reason and true grace, showing them the way home. I will continue to speak up for justice for all and fight for everyone to have the right to love who they feel called to, because I would rather err on the side of grace and trust the Holy Spirit to convict where man should not. I believe the Bible IS the true word of God and I believe that we as fallible human beings have often gotten our understanding of it wrong. Today I stand up and say, “I think I got it wrong…I think the church has got it wrong! Thank you Billy for starting me on this journey and showing ME true grace and love along the way. You have shown me how it’s done. I pray I can follow well in your footsteps!”
With Much Love & Eternal Thanks, Katie xoxoxo
PS – And when you & Troy finally get to be joined in marriage…I WILL be there with bells on!! xoxoxo