Generous space is a posture intended to be lived out in real relationship and in the formation of authentic faith community. Full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, eagerly welcoming their participation and contribution of their spiritual gifts, is one of the catalysts for intentionally growing in generous space. The vision of such community is one of healthy diversity, mature discipleship, vibrant worship, justice-oriented service, and a deep experience of incarnational ministry. This vision is light years away from the taut exegetical debates regarding same-sex sexual behavior. And I would submit, that before you expend your energy and passion in debate, that you be energized and revitalized by not just the vision, but the experience of such community.
A woman married to a woman emailed me today. She had listened to a seminary professor’s presentation and said, “This past weekend we eagerly attended [the professor’s] talk expecting an intelligent interactive meeting of dialogue with other church members. We were appalled at the statements [the professor] was making as he described that there was not a single statement in the bible supporting same sex loving relationships. Needless to say we left the meeting deflated and angered that such a man is teaching pastors to be…. He spreads justification for hatred among church abiding individuals and has lost touch with the love of God.” This professor, in other writings, acknowledges that the scriptures don’t address the question of same-sex loving relationships – but actually only speak to sexual behavior. What this woman heard, however, was a blanket condemnation of her relationship. This disconnect, between the personhood and relationships of LGBTQ+ people and exegetical convictions regarding sex acts, has huge ramifications in the church.
Questions of faithful LGBTQ+ discipleship must consider more than just sexual activity.
Generous space views the journey of discipleship as an integrative endeavour. For those who insist there is only one biblical response of celibacy for those not heterosexually oriented, there is a common reductionism in theological and exegetical focus on sexual activity divorced from the covenantal, kinship, and relational contexts in which such sexual intimacy is embodied. In the lives of LGBTQ+ Christians committed to living in the way of Jesus, sexual activity cannot be disconnected from the covenantal vows and commitment to self-emptying and faithful love that shape their relational lives and sexual ethics.
This is not to say that LGBTQ+ Christians have no choices or decisions to make about how to express or manage their sexual behaviour. Nor is it to say that abstaining from sexual activity is inherently oppressive. Rather, this insight recalls the first thing God identifies as not being good in a sinless creation was that the human being was alone. To imply that the biblical witness for same-sex oriented people is primarily or only about desire for genitalized sexual fulfillment suggests an unwillingness to listen to the relational longing for intimate companionship and family. Christians rightly preach a subversive message to a sex-saturated culture that sexual intimacy is rightly embodied in the context of covenant faithfulness and mutual self-emptying love. These are the very things that LGBTQ+ Christians seek to express.
The woman who emailed me said it this way, “[I] fell in love with a person of my own gender and married her in [an affirming church]. I felt no shame in this and accepted my spouse as a prayed for gift of God.”