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.

A Tale of Two Books

Yesterday was an exciting day!  Two packages came in the mail.  Both from publishers.  I was pretty sure they were both books.  And, I love books.

The first one came from Baker Publishing Group, the parent company for my publisher Brazos.  So, I must admit I opened that package first.  And sure enough – there it was.  Something I’d been dreaming of for a long time – my book in tangible, turn-pageable form.  The title, “Generous Spaciousness” all in lower case (an intentional choice) and my favorite colour green (a happy surprise).  Super cool!

World Vision – A Drama in 5 Acts

In stark public detail where social media blurs geographical boundaries and the world congregates, we have had a drama played out with disappointing, frustrating, and far-reaching consequences.

Act 1:  On Monday, World Vision US made public their decision to honour churches who affirm marriage equality by indicating that committed gay Christians who were married would be welcome to join them in Jesus’ mission to eradicate global poverty.

Level Ground Film Festival

It’s funny sometimes how connections happen.  With the world of social media, a friend of a friend of a friend can become a new contact and sometimes the sense of resonance is powerful and exciting.  This is a gift to celebrate in what has often become a fragmented and individualized reality.  But let me back up…..

Fuller Seminary is in Pasadena, California.  It’s an Evangelical Seminary with a reputation for engagement with matters of culture and the arts with a certain openness.  Richar Mouw, recently retired president, wrote extensively on the need for Christians to engage in a winsome manner in our pluralistic contexts in his book, “Uncommon Decency:  Christian Civility in an Uncivil World.”

Serving Two Communities

Navigating tension is a normal every day aspect of trying to serve well through the ministry of New Direction.  It shows up in all sorts of ways, but I think one of the most significant underlying factors is that we seek to respond to two primary audiences.  In speaking about money, Jesus said you can’t serve two masters.  And on some days, I wonder if our efforts to serve two communities gets us into more trouble than its worth.  Through the years there have been those who have suggested that this is an impossible task.  So maybe I’m dumb, or stubborn, or foolish…… but then I remember the folks who are straddling both communities – and I remember that this is our unique calling, and as challenging as it sometimes is, we’ll do our best to persevere in discerning God’s leading to serve both.