The Windy City Times recently report on a meeting between members of SoulForce and Bill Hybels and others from Willow Creek Church. For those of you who may not be familiar with SoulForce, they are a national civil-rights and social-justice organization seeking freedom for LGBT people from religious and political oppression. SoulForce, in an initiative called “American Family Outing”, have been visiting mega-churches in the U.S. including: Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church in Houston, The Potter’s House (Bishop T.D. Jakes – Senior Pastor) in Dallas, Bishop Harry Jackson and Hope Christian Church outside Washington, D.C., Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta, Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, and Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. The purpose of these visits is to share “the power of love, commitment and dedication” of lgbt families with these influential church communities.
Of their visit to Willow Creek, SoulForce Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, said, “This was about making connections—person-to-person and family-to-family—and I think we did that. I respect Willow Creek for having the courage and the willingness to really have a meaningful conversation about this. You can’t really have honest, healthy conversation with somebody that you don’t know or trust or you might fear just because they’re unknown.”
The power of conversations. The power of personal connection. The power of relational engagement. I couldn’t agree more.
Lutes went on to say that he asked Bill Hybels if he would take up the challenge of speaking out more clearly on behalf of lgbt people. He said, “Even though there’s still distance between that position and our totally gay-affirming position, there’s still a lot he could do in terms of leadership on things that would create a lot more safety and protection for our community.”
That reminded me of an exchange Michael Bussee, a gay Christian, and I had on Throckmorton’s blog:
Michael: Here’s my point. Although we may disgree on the science and endlessly debate other aspects of the “gay issue”, at the very heart of this entire discussion is the basic theological question — “will unrepentant gays inheriit the kingdom of God”? Some say yes and some say no. This is the great divide. How can we “build bridges” over such a gap? Perhaps we can agree that God loves us all. Pehaps we can agree that only God makes the final judgement. Perhaps we can agree that gays should not be mistreated, beaten or killed. But that may be all.
Wendy: In some corners of the Christian community this would be a huge leap forward don’t you think? It may be only a ’start’…. but if we bridged that gap just maybe hearts would be softened and much more open to the ongoing whisper of the Spirit as we engage in authentic friendships. That is my prayer.
Michael: Wendy; You asked: “In some corners of the Christian community this would be a huge leap forward don’t you think?” Yup, it would be.
In the Windy Times article, both Jay Bakker and another SoulForce member refer to their hope that the gap between Willow Creek (calling same-gender attracted people to live chaste lives) and SoulForce (fully affirming of gay marriage) would eventually disappear.
It begs the question, “Is that the only option to have any Christ-like impact on the reality of same-gender attracted people?”
At New Direction we’re trying to forge a new way forward.
We do hope to be part of dismantling the sense of enmity that so often resides between lgbt people and the church.
We do hope to be part of dismantling attitudes and actions that demean and hurt and alienate lgbt people.
We hope to challenge the church to be a safer place for those who wrestle, question, or embrace diverse sexual identities.
We hope the church will become much more courageous and innovative in honouring single people, in creating space for intimate community and relationships, and in nurturing a sense of family and belonging for all people.
And we hope that Christ-followers, like Bill Hybels, will enter the conversation, to take the time to listen and relate with their gay neighbours.
That means taking risks. Risking challenging the status quo. Risking being misunderstood, judged and/or written off.
But real people are worth it – more than worth it.
Lutes expressed that he “respected Willow Creek for having the courage and the willingness to really have a meaningful conversation”
I do too.
Since SoulForce expressed some concern over some of the ministry resources that Willow Creek had on their website for those dealing with same-gender attraction, I’d like to offer New Direction’s resources to Willow Creek.
I know we’re not where SoulForce would like us to be – we don’t fully affirm gay marriage. Rather, it seems that Willow Creek and New Direction are at a similar place theologically as we continue to look to the creation account in Genesis and see in the complementarity of male and female that God created an ongoing imperative for boundaries in sexual relationships.
But I do hope that we are embodying a fresh courage, relational perspective, open willingness to engage and commitment to justice that will “create more safety and protection” for lgbt people.
In that safe place, might same-gender attracted people know that they are deeply loved by God and invited to experience fullness of life in relationship with Him.
(hat tip: www.exgaywatch.com)