I received a couple of emails yesterday that reinforce to me why the conversation around reorientation continues to be needed – even if only to once and for all “pull the barn down”. I don’t think these emails were in response to my recent blogs – they seem to have just come from people who looked at the New Direction website.
In the first, an individual says,
“I have done Living Waters 15 week program, I have had deliverance ministry, I have been prayed for and over, I have done courses and read homosexual books & case studies and after all this what does my journey look like now? All I know is that I love the Lord, He is blessing my diligence in many respects, I have learned not to think so much about my feelings or attractions even though I know suppressing is not the answer. All I know is that I am trusting the Lord with my future and my feelings and hoping for COMPLETE change. Calling those things that be not as though they were….I am straight.”
It is so important that we honour one another’s truest convictions that have emerged from scriptural and prayerful engagement and that are energized by love and grace rather than fear or shame. So if someone is deeply convicted that they are not to be involved with anything same-sex related, I honour those convictions.
I also believe that people need to own their own journey. So my posture in ministry is non-directive but rather I come alongside people to listen to God together. Sometimes that means people make choices that are very different than the ones I would make. Sometimes that means people have a mindset that I might feel is unhelpful. If I have a relationship with that person and have established trust and rapport, I will share my concerns – but at the end of the day, it is always their decision. Sometimes this means a lot of tension or sadness for me when I see people making choices that I feel may be hurtful to them.
But in my writings here on the blog and my speaking engagements, I try to raise awareness and help to educate those in the Christian community who might benefit from hearing about the accumulated wisdom of so many people’s stories and journeys. In particular, I believe the stories of ex-gay survivors are important to pay attention to. The significance of these stories, from my perspective, is not about arguing whether same-sex relationships are or are not consistent with the biblical witness. Rather the power of these stories is the impact on people’s spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical health of the paradigm that insists on living in the pursuit of heterosexuality. I believe, of course, that God can do anything. But that doesn’t mean He does do everything we think He ought to do. And if I had a dollar for every person who has told me that they prayed every day for God to take away their experience of same-sex attraction – and he did not do that in their life ….. I would be in good shape to pay for the bathroom renovations that are underway in my home.
In the second email, an individual wrote to say,
“You all need to repent and start walking the narrow road that leads to life! Wide is the gate that leads to destruction and many will find it. I don’t care if every study on earth suggests that homosexuality isn’t curable, God’s word says it’s a sin, and all sin is curable by repenting and trusting in Jesus Christ! Each one of us must pick up our cross and deny ourselves, and face temptation with those areas of our sin nature, but we must never relent to the sin and say it isn’t sinful against God. The true Church will always love sinners, because the true Church is made up of sinners, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ! To love sinners is to warn them of the second death and tell them where life can be found! Tell the thirsty where water that quenches every sinful thirst can be drawn! Your apostasy will be answerable to God!”
I can only imagine that this brother believes he is doing his duty to try to snatch me from the fire as the apostle James suggests. But what seems clear is that he hasn’t done much homework to better understand the realities of experiencing same-sex attraction.
It can be challenging to uphold the value of unity when it means I need to extend love and grace to someone who thinks I’m apostate. But that is why the postures of generous spaciousness are so important.
The posture of humility ~ I could be wrong because I recognize that I do not have a perfect pipeline to God and therefore am not a perfect interpreter of scripture.
The posture of hospitality ~ All are welcome unconditionally to conversation, friendship and community in the trust that in such environments people will have every opportunity to encounter the love of Christ.
The posture of grace ~ Each human being is deeply loved by God and at the same time deeply needs God’s grace. We can prayerfully entrust one another to God’s care in the confidence that he is more than able to lead each one where they need to be.
I know that there will always be people who misunderstand the ministry and postures of New Direction. I know there will always be people who believe they have to try to be straight to please God. But at the same time, we will seek to be faithful to the calling God has given us – to extend love, grace and hospitality in a humble and generous spirit. And it is our prayer that our diligence in sharing the stories of those who have walked this journey will bring hope and encouragement to others. That we will be used to bring much needed awareness and education to the Christian community. And that in the midst of this mess that we, as human beings, have made of the church …. that somehow those who need to glimpse Jesus as he really is will see him in us.