Part 6: Sermonic Exhortations

After 5 posts responding to four theological propositions presented in an evangelical sermon on homosexuality, I now turn to the three exhortations given in the same sermon to sexual minority folks.  If you need to catch up, check here.

The preacher’s first exhortation was to “accept our apology for treating this as a super sin.”  And certainly a false hierarchy of sin has caused tremendous pain and alienation over the years.  But I can’t help but wonder if this simply sounds like “love the sinner, hate the sin” with a little bit of lace trim for LGBTQ+ folks. I wonder if the preacher, a white, heterosexual, married, well-educated, man is aware of the position of privilege he holds as he offers this exhortation.  I wonder if intentionally divesting one’s power and redistributing power might bear different fruit?  Do you think this apology might set a different tone: “Please accept our apology for not listening more carefully and with open hearts to the particularities of your experience and journey.  Will you give us a second chance and share your story?”

Part 5: What about repentance?

This blog series is going through a particular, yet typical, evangelical sermon on homosexuality.  If you haven’t read the other parts, you may want to begin here.  This post responds to the last of four theological propositions that the preacher beings his sermon with.  These propositions may well be things that you have heard in church contexts – and they are propositions that I think many evangelicals simply don’t question.  My purpose is to raise questions from the perspective of generous spaciousness in the hopes that it will catalyze more conversation within our churches.

The first of the preacher’s theological propositions stated that because the Bible contains the exact words of God, the Bible has the same authority as God.  The second theological proposition was that the Bible is clear on sexual ethics.  The third theological proposition declared that “We’re all born that way.” And the fourth theological proposition proclaims that repentance is the mark of a true follower of Christ.

In this fourth proposition, the assumption in the sermon seems to be that such repentance for sexual minority persons is the relinquishment of same-sex sexual behaviour and ongoing commitment to sexual chastity.

Part 4: Responding to Evangelical Sermons on Homosexuality

I’m in a multi-part series responding to a very familiar series of points and sub-points consistent in many evangelical sermons.  If you haven’t read the early posts – going and doing so will probably make today’s post make a lot more sense.

At the beginning of the sermon, the preacher indicated that he would offer four theological propositions.  Here in part 4 we’ll look at the third of these propositions.

The third proposition declared that “We’re all born that way” which I took to be a nod to both Lady Gaga and Calvin’s notion of total depravity.  It is a long held Christian belief that humans are conceived and born into the reality of a broken and sinful world.  “No one is righteous, no not one.”

Part 3: Evangelical Sermons on Homosexuality

Welcome to a series in which I give my responses, from the perspective of generous spaciousness, to a sermon given in an evangelical mega-church.  Another pastor in the area asked me to respond to this particular sermon – and because it seemed like so many typical evangelical sermons that I hear seeking to address homosexuality, I thought it might be helpful to make these thoughts more widely available through the blog.  I would encourage you to read part 1 and part 2 before diving into this piece.

The preacher stated that he wanted to make four theological propositions, offer three exhortations to same-sex attracted people (his language), and two exhortations for family members and friends.  In this post we look at the second theological proposition.  It is one that we hear so often.  The bible is clear.  Period the end.  No conversation.  No questions.  No historical or cultural context to consider in any weighty manner.  No matter that the concept of homosexuality was completely foreign to any of the authors of Scripture at the time of writing.  Never mind that the idea of sexual orientation would not have been comprehended in the cultures and by the people that the Scriptures were originally intended for.  And yes, of course these things were not surprises or unknown to God.  But God spoke through particular people in particular times and in particular places.

Part 2: Responding to Evangelical Sermons on Homosexuality

Just like the insanely popular podcast “Serial”, this post is part of a series.  If you haven’t read the first post – this one will probably make a whole lot more sense if you take a few minutes to read Part 1.

The first theological proposition stated that because the Bible contains the exact words of God, the Bible has the same authority as God. This proposition presumes a dictatorial (ie. dictated by God) view of Scripture.  This is certainly one of the ways that some Christians understand how Scripture is God-breathed and inspired.  The question it raises for me is, “How then do we view Christians in other parts of the Body who do not hold to a dictatorial position?”  If the position of this preacher is based on this being the absolute, only way to understand Scripture and authority – which is how it seemed to be presented – then is every other follower of Jesus wrong? In error? Not submitting to God’s authority?  Let’s remember that the articulation of some of these ideas really only gained momentum in the 1970’s and 80’s by those who feared that historical criticism would unravel the faith. My question, “Is God so remote that only a dictated bible can connect us to his will?”  “Is Jesus not continuing to reveal God?”  “Where is the Holy Spirit?”  “And what do we do with the reality that there are such diverse perspectives on so many theological questions within the church?”

In Response: Evangelical Sermons on Homosexuality ~ part 1

A pastor emailed me the other day.  A sermon had been preached in his home town by the influential preacher at the mega-church in the area.  It seems the online recording was making its rounds by the word of mouth encouragement to listen.  When this pastor listened, explaining that he had recently read “Torn” by Justin Lee and was currently reading my book, he was unsettled by the sermon.  It seemed too simplistic to him.  And he wondered if someone with my experience and expertise might listen to it and offer some sort of response.

Yesterday was a snow day, one of those cozy-up-in-a-quilt kind of days.  A perfect day to listen to a sermon – all 58 minutes of it.  The sermon began with the preacher reading an excerpt from Matthew Vine’s recently published book, “God and the Gay Christian.”  He read Matthew’s account of his friend Stephen and his experience of profound depression and heartbreak in the aftermath of falling in love with a friend, seeking to remain committed to celibacy, and the eventual break-up of the relationship.  And while the preacher read the piece with a somewhat detached tone, I immediately recognized the story of my friend, someone I know, someone who I’ve been connected with and journeyed with for a few years.  And I had the sinking feeling that this was going to be a tough one to listen to.

Why Arguing Isn’t Enough

The ministry of New Direction has positioned itself in the midst of the unenviable reality of differing Scriptural interpretations on the question of what faithful discipleship ought to look like for LGBTQ+ followers of Jesus.  The truth is, of course, that no one can be neutral in these conversations at the intersection of faith and sexuality.  A particular individual will hold one of three positions:  holding the belief that Christian marriage may only be between one man and one woman; or holding the belief that the grace of Christ and the Christian church may affirm marriage between two consenting same-sex oriented individuals; or being uncertain of which of the first two is most faithful to the Scriptures.  Now I realize that a lot of different experiences could be described other than these three categories – but I have used them for simplicity’s sake.  A community, because it is made up of many members, might find itself at a fourth position:  The response to the question is a disputable matter.  In this case, the community recognizes that in light of our limitations in the interpretive task, there may be more than one faithful way to interpret Scripture on a given controversial question.  Entire denominations have recognized this option in relation to topics like women in ministry.

#EpicRoadTripND – some reflections

team fuzzy selfieOn November 1st, my colleagues and I loaded into my family’s van and began the adventure of a 21 day road trip, visiting 15 cities, and speaking at 24 events. My colleague Wes made a short video, something he would try to do most mornings of the trip. I think we were all a mixture of excitement and trepidation. A lot of unknowns lay in front of us.

Our first event was that cold Saturday night at Sudbury First Baptist. I think only 4 or 5 people had rsvp’d and so we were a little unsure how the night would go. To our surprise, 25+ people showed up. Baptist, United, Lutheran, Mennonite and maybe a few others that I can’t remember. It seems our emails to churches in the area had actually borne some good fruit. An older woman disclosed that as a lesbian she felt hurt and alienated by the church. An aunt expressed concern for her niece’s friend who’d come out and was now couch surfing at various friends’ places due to a poor reaction by her parents. And the goal of encouraging unity in our diversity, prioritizing our public witness over polarizing debate, was demonstrated in small group conversations where people listened and shared and discovered common ground.

A Letter to the Church

Dear Church,

I have loved you and served you for a long time.  Like any love relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs.  Along the way, I’ve gotten to know you pretty well.  And truth be told, you’re complicated.  I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to see and engage so many different sides of you.  Although sometimes I’ve got to wonder if you’ve got dissociative identity disorder because of the many, many personalities I encounter.

I keep reminding myself that each part has a purpose.  I keep thinking of that metaphor of a body and how Paul said that one part cannot say to another part, “I have no need of you.”  It helps me when I want to ignore or complain about some of your parts.

One of the key reasons that we are still in a love relationship is because of Jesus’ prayer.  You remember right?  Where he prayed that all the parts of the church would be one – would be unified.  Jesus said that would impact what the world would see.  The unity of the church is directly tied to the witness of the church.  Now clearly, Jesus realized that with so many different and complicated parts, such unity wouldn’t be sameness.  I’m quite sure that he wasn’t praying for uniformity.  It seems that Jesus, in his Jewish tradition, was quite comfortable with questioning and grappling and struggle to seek truth as a vital part of faith.

I Beg to Differ: With the Right and the Left

Yesterday brought out some strong opinions about whether or not the church can forge a third way.  This idea of third way is a way of acknowledging that Christians differ in their conclusions about particular matters and seeks to move forward together despite the tensions that arise from such disagreement. Ken Wilson, a Vineyard pastor in Ann Arbor, Michigan, speaks about a third way in his recent book, “A Letter to My Congregation: an evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian, and transgender in the company of Jesus.”  In our neck of the woods, The Meeting House speaks of embracing a third way on the matter of same-sex relationships.