JUSTIFIED: My Transformation on LGBTQ Theology

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(Featured Pic: I am with my good friend, Erika, who is a transgender woman, activist and pastor)

I. Breaking “Black & White Thinking”

Years ago a conservative Christian minister and mentor of mine, who I deeply respect, said to me, “If it were scientifically proven that homosexuality is not a choice, I would be the first to affirm lgbtq marriage, but there is no such scientific evidence.”

What I think he meant by this is that there is not enough hardcore scientific proof to his personal satisfaction that homosexuality is indeed the result of “nature” (one being born lgbtq) and not the result of how one was “nurtured” by their environmental upbringing to convince my mentor to change his theological position at that time.

I now see this as a form of “black and white thinking” which I have always found appealing due to my personality; but as I grow older and hopefully wiser, I have realized that my tendency to think it’s only one way or another has not been my best thinking and has certainly caused me and others some serious damage.

Trust me, I understand the appeal. This type of thinking makes many of us feel in control in a world that feels chaotic and totally out-of-control. Thinking in these sorts of absolutes can feel honest when we are feeling as if this world we live in is so dishonest; but I have been down this road of “black and white thinking” time and time again and believe me when I say that it’s usually a mind-trap.

As one who was born into a conservative evangelical family (in which my father is a minister) and also was trained by the conservative evangelical institution (my churches, colleges & seminary), I completely agreed with my mentor and believed that the Bible clearly condemns all types of homosexuality. Period.

That may sound harsh to an outsider, but what an outsider may not realize is that both my mentor and I were indoctrinated with “black and white thinking” in many areas of life.

Things were either “biblical” or they were “not biblical;” which was another way of saying that things are either wrong or right, true or false, good or bad. And in the conservative evangelical institution as a whole, traditional marriage is considered “biblical,” thus absolutely right, true and good (which is equated with eternal Heaven) and anything that’s been said to oppose that is considered “unbiblical,” thus absolutely wrong, false and bad (which is equated with eternal Hell).

Are you beginning to see why a Christian who was brought up and/or trained in this movement might struggle with this conversation? In fact, when I first started publicly writing almost four years ago, I was frustrated with how many egalitarians and Christian feminists affirmed what I thought to be “the lgbtq lifestyle.”

I was convinced that “affirming-lgbtq-Christians” and their theological allies were clearly misinterpreting scripture, thus making all egalitarians and Christian feminists seem as if we don’t take the Bible seriously (something we are accused of quite often by those who oppose us theologically). I even turned down a job interview at an lgbtq affirming church due to my conviction; something I now regret to be honest.

What I did not realize then was that my passion for gender equality in the Church was blinding me from truly seeing a seriously marginalized and hurting community of people – lgbtq people, their families, their friends and their allies.

I wanted to brush them aside as a “secondary issue” just as some Christians want to brush “women’s full inclusion in church leadership” aside as a secondary issue. I was doing to them what I wanted people in the Church to stop doing to me and to people like me. I knew it was hypocritical, but I could not find a “black and white” scriptural argument to convince the way my mind was trained to think to support the affirming side.

Ultimately, I had to deconstruct the way that my mind was trained to think before I could even begin the work on transforming what (beliefs) my mind was trained to be convicted about. I am so grateful to those who have been patient with me, as this process has taken quite a while.

~~~

II. A Call to Listen

After almost two years of public advocacy for women in church leadership, I was invited by my friend, Jackie Roese to attend one of her summits near Austin, Texas, known as “The Marcella Project.” These summits are geared towards helping the “conservative evangelical church” move forward in what Jackie and other likeminded colleagues call, “The Blessed Alliance” (a phrase and teaching founded by author and activist for women and girls, Carolyn Custis James).

At the 2016 Marcella Summit, I had the great privilege of meeting and learning under Carolyn, who I now consider a friend. She and her husband, Frank, spoke as a team or as they would put it; as a “blessed alliance.” Both Carolyn and Frank are theology professors, authors and traveling speakers. I look up to them tremendously and so do many other Christian men and women; especially in the egalitarian-conservative-evangelical church.

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(Pic: Here I am with Carolyn Custis James at The Marcella Summit in 2016)

This is significant to me because they were the first Christian couple who are highly respected elders and theologians in the conservative evangelical church at large (at least in American egalitarianism) who gave me permission to even listen to the stories of lgbtq people with an open mind and heart without feeling any shame or anxiety. 

During that summit, an attendee raised her hand during Carolyn & Frank’s session and asked the following question: “As egalitarians, how should we engage with the oftentimes heated and controversial conversation surrounding lgbtq theology?”

The two responded almost in unison with a gracious tone and a simple suggestion that I took to heart as one who also felt torn about how to handle this conversation, “It’s time for us in the Church to listen to the stories of lgbtq people.” So, from that day forward, that’s exactly what I committed myself to doing. For the most part, I would stop sharing my views in this specific conversation.

Instead, I started listening; and I mean, really listening.

I befriended many affirming lgbtq Christians and they befriended me, even knowing that I struggled to see the affirming position as “biblical.” I read many books and articles written by lgbtq Christians and their allies. I listened to many podcasts and watched many YouTube Videos on this subject.

I skyped with affirming lgbtq people and their theological allies; such as progressive Christian leader, podcaster and author, “Science Mike.” Mike graciously explained to me that there actually is an overwhelming amount of science suggesting that lgbtq people were born this way (even if environment can sometimes play a role as well).

I private messaged with various affirming lgbtq Christian leaders and laypeople alike, and asked them hard questions. Most of them answered with kindness and grace, even when my questions could have easily insulted them and my intentions easily misunderstood.

I wrestled with this theological subject more than I have ever wrestled with any theological subject before because I have tended to be a “black and white” thinker and this whole topic exists somewhere in the gray.

The gray is mysterious and often difficult to process logically. I was trained to think mostly logically when practicing theology; systematically even, but affirming lgbtq people’s marriages and equality of opportunities in the Church is founded upon what I used to see as “shaky ground.”

I now see that “shaky ground” (or call it a “slippery slope” if you will) as grace; and while the concept of grace does feel a bit unstable and uncertain when relating it to humanity’s best attempts at offering it, grace is the most solid ground we can stand on when relating it to God’s best attempt at offering it.

I found myself begging God for answers; “God, all I want to do is speak the truth. All I want to do is please you. Help me to know what the truth is. Please help me not teach anything that would lead people away from you. God, please don’t let me be deceived. I need to hear from you on this” became my constant prayers concerning lgbtq people and relevant theology for literally years.

I also closely followed non-affirming-lgbtq-Christians who have chosen to live a life of celibacy dedicated to God; as well as non-affirming-gay-Christians who have chosen to marry someone of the opposite sex in faith.

As I would watch these people, my heart would break for them, as I thought about the possible implications of living a life without a partner or with a partner who they may not be physically attracted to or in love with. I also worried for their futures (as well as their spouses and children’s futures) as I have seen this ‘dynamic of family’ fall apart time and time again after oftentimes decades of the gay or transgender partner trying everything to live traditionally; but ultimately, cannot change who they have felt they are often since childhood or puberty.

I also respected these people deeply for following their convictions, no matter how difficult the sacrifice. I could not help but think; however, that if these non-affirming-lgbtq-Christians are telling us that their sexuality was never a choice for them as far as they can remember, then what sort of God of love would require them to live a life of loneliness? This seems to go against the very nature of our God who declared from the very beginning that “it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).”

Isolation is not good for humans.

It leads to unspeakable pain and life-shattering coping mechanisms such as addiction. Humans were not designed to do life without other humans. We need each other to survive, despite popular belief that we can do all things independently.

As we grow older, we tend to rely even more heavily on our life-partner to avoid isolation and loneliness since we are no longer in school surrounded by people to do life with (and more and more people are working from home or independently these days). Therefore, to deny lgbtq people marriage and equality of opportunities within our faith communities seems a cross too heavy for anyone to carry (unless they were given a highly unique desire and calling to remain celibate for the sake of their higher purpose).

~~~

III. Coffee Tour Stop on “Gay Street”

Some Christians believe that lgbtq inclinations are born out of the “fall of humankind,” but even if that were true, we as human beings (of faith or not) do not generally require people to continually suffer if there are solutions at hand.

While I tend to believe that “pain in childbirth” is a symptom of the fall, I don’t believe that God requires me to suffer through this pain when an epidural is available to me. Likewise, I believe that sickness is a symptom of the fall, but I don’t believe that people who are sick should simply suffer when medication, therapy and surgery are viable options.

Even if one believes that lgbtq people’s sexual orientations and/or identities are rooted in the fall, that does not mean that all lgbtq people or their desires are sinful and beyond redemption.

This past year, my husband (Luke) and I hosted a “coffee tour” around the United States, which was dedicated to stopping in various cities to have coffee and theological conversation with my online community.  I made it clear that anyone and everyone was invited, and that the main point of this coffee tour was to simply show people that we love them just as they are and cared to meet them in the flesh and hear their stories in person.

coffee on gay street

(Pic: Here my husband and I met two gay friends in person for the first time at a coffee shop on “gay street” in Auburn, Alabama that I randomly selected and had no clue the name of the street or who would even show up until later on)

On this coffee tour, a few affirming lgbtq people and more than a few affirming parents of lgbtq children (mostly grown-up-children) showed up. This is where my non-affirming theology was most challenged: this notion of the unconditional love of a father or a mother kept swirling around in my heart and mind. I believe that this was the moment that I began to get a clearer answer to all of my burning questions from Holy Spirit; but I continued to doubt these developing thoughts because I was afraid of being wrong, failing others and failing God. 

I can’t trust my feelings; I need to understand this logically and scripturally, before I become affirming, was how I was brought up to think in my evangelical family, churches, universities and communities. It was time to dig even deeper which meant digging up some of the past in order to understand what I was sensing in my spirit more logically and scripturally.

IV. A Parent’s Unconditional Love: 

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13 NLT).

Just a couple of years ago a loved one of mine went through a public and painful divorce after years of trying to make it work privately. In some social circles, divorce is not that big of a deal, but that is not at all the case in the conservative evangelical community that this loved one and I belong to.

She was quite aware that her choice to leave her husband, after being married for almost 15 years, would come with harsh judgments; and even worse, this decision would come with disappointing her Christian parents. Yet, even with such immense pressure and risk on all sides, my loved one could no longer pretend that everything was OK just to appease people’s “biblical convictions.”

She was taught that divorce was against the Bible unless in cases of infidelity, abandonment and/or abuse, but she did not necessarily have any of these excuses to cling to. The truth is that the marriage had just become so dysfunctional over the years that no number of counselors could fix their problems and no number of numbing agents could take away the pain and isolation she felt on the inside.

She tried to make her marriage work; boy did she try to do what she was taught was right, but in the end, she simply could not go on with this marriage without allowing deep depression, ongoing conflict, and intense anxiety destroy her inner-peace and life.

Watching her parents make peace with her decision was difficult, but within time they grew to accept her decision. Her conservative father hit the theology books, of course, and found in his studies that divorce is more acceptable in the Bible than he thought after diving into the context of Jesus’ and His disciple’s words more deeply.

In other words, this father’s love for his daughter was so fierce that he went looking for a biblical way to justify her divorce so he and their family could move forward in their Christian faith in peace.

Now, remember all of those Christian mothers and fathers of grown-up lgbtq children who attended my coffee tour that I was telling you about? All of them did the same exact thing my loved one’s father did after her divorce when their children “came out of the closet.” They hit the Bible and theology books, hoping and praying for a way to justify their children’s sexual orientation and gender identity that stood in sharp contrast to what they always believed to be “biblical.”

Not surprisingly, they all found what they were looking for, and quite frankly needed, in order to move forward in their Christian hope for both themselves and their children.

Even in my doubt, things finally began to click when I was confronted with the unconditional love of a parent and saw the great lengths one will go to in order to justify their own. So if these human parents were able to give their children the good gift of unconditional love and acceptance, how much more will our Heavenly Father give unto lgtbq people who ask to be given God’s Holy Spirit?

~~~

V. The Cost of the Evangelical “Purity Culture”

Those who grew up within evangelicalism are likely well aware of how serious evangelicals used to take sex (before the Trump era, that is). If you grew up in this movement, you were likely deeply impacted by the “purity culture” in ways you are probably still waking up to.

Even Josh Harris, the writer of the book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” (sort of the purity’s culture’s blueprint) has decided to discontinue publications of this book that he wrote as a teenager (you can read his full statement on his website: https://joshharris.com/statement/).

Like most evangelicals in my age-bracket, I was raised to “be pure” and save sex for marriage and although it was difficult for me to wait until marriage to “go all the way,” I did. As I struggled to maintain perfect sexual purity throughout my teen and young adult years, I dealt with immense shame each and every time I “went too far” physically with a boyfriend before marriage.

This guilt and shame led to chronic stress and that chronic stress led to chronic migraines and a host of emotional problems and unhealthy ways of dealing with those emotional problems (many ways I am still healing from and trying to overcome today).

This is why to some degree I can relate to lgbtq Christians who are trying (or have tried) their best to submit to traditional teachings on sex by suppressing their human sexuality. I can completely understand how this can eventually lead to wanting to die and even committing suicide. The fear of failing others and displeasing God and even spending an eternity in hell are very real fears when that’s what one has been taught their entire life.

As a teen, I would kneel and sob at the alter week after week “repenting” for my “sexual impurity” with my long-term boyfriend just about every Sunday. The inner-turmoil was unbearable at times. I would try to do better each time I “repented,” but it turned out that I was a hormonal teenager who felt like she was in love. Looking back, I realize that what I was doing was completely natural and human; yet, I never dealt with any of the emotional baggage.

Instead, at 18-years-old I made a “promise to God” that I would not date anyone seriously again until I found whoever I would marry. During that time, I thought that God had healed me of my “impurity” and the shame that went with it; but when I fell in love with Luke (my now husband), all of those terrible feelings were triggered immediately and rose back up to the surface of my soul, as we too struggled to maintain perfect sexual purity.

Due to what I saw as ongoing (thus unrepentant) hypocrisy and failure in this area of “sexual purity,” all of my suppressed shame from my teen years came rushing back in like a tidal wave. By the time Luke and I were engaged, I experienced my first clinical emotional breakdown. I dropped out of seminary that year, quit my part-time youth pastor job, got married and got my life back in order enough to go back to seminary one year later and finish.

I thought that marriage would totally fix the problem; but in truth, even after marriage having sex sometimes came with a shameful feeling leading to many tears afterwards.

I don’t blame my parents or church for this as they were simply teaching me what seemed to be clear and good in the Scriptures. I am also grateful that my husband and I have only been with each other because there is a special bond between us as each other’s “firsts”; but, how I wish I would have known as a teenager and young woman that as a Child of God everything I did or did not do was already justified by my faith in Jesus Christ.

How I wish I would have better understood the depths that my Heavenly Father will go to justify me. How I wish I would have known that God’s love for me is unconditional and that when I accepted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross at 13-years-old, He completely accepted me as I was and covered me with His blood (making me as pure as I was ever going to get no matter what I did or did not do from my moment of salvation forward).

~~~

VI. What About the Bible Though?

I am finally starting to understand the depths of God’s love to a greater degree throughout the Bible; not just for me, but for lgbtq people as well. One major reason that I have been slow in affirming lgbtq people’s full inclusion in the Church is because I know that Bible teachers are held to a higher standard according the scriptures and the last thing any genuine Bible teacher wants to do is lead people towards a life and/or eternity of spiritual bondage.

I read this verse over and over again these past couple of years: “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10 NLT).”

Seems pretty clear, right? But, do you know what else seems pretty clear? Each and every Christian I know also makes this list of wrong-doers (including myself). Does this mean none of us will inherit the Kingdom of God?

I know, I know, “We are repentant though.” But, are we?

In the very next chapter, the Apostle Paul writes: “But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife (1 Cor. 7:10-11 NLT).”

The Apostle Paul is not the only biblical voice that condemns divorce and remarriage. Interestingly enough Jesus Himself never condemns homosexuality in the New Testament, but Jesus does condemn divorce and remarriage except in the case of adultery. It’s important to understand that Jesus was speaking to men when he condemned divorce because women did not have the right to divorce a man in Jewish culture at this time.

Here is what was happening: religious men were marrying women so they could justify having sex with them and taking their virginity, divorcing them soon after, and then leaving them destitute and unwanted (since women were completely dependent on their husbands in most cases).

Jesus was telling Jewish men in His era that they were sinning to divorce their wives unless there was just cause to do so; and as far as Jesus was concerned, the only just cause for a man to divorce his wife was if she slept with another man.

Later when the Apostle Paul was dealing with a situation that Jesus did not address in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul took the liberty of making a second exception for one to get a divorce and remarry “without sinning;” and this was if an unbelieving spouse abandoned the marriage by divorcing them first, then the believing spouse was free to remarry.

“Divorce and remarriage” is considered sinful in most circumstances according to the Bible; and yet, who among us does not know many Christians who have been divorced and remarried without the scriptural justifications of their spouse committing adultery or their unbelieving spouse divorcing them?

This is when the good “Bible believing” Christians comes in and says, “yes, but someone who gets divorced and remarried without having a biblical exemption to do so can simply repent, not do it again and God will give them grace and forgive them of their sin.” Perhaps, but I think we have to be honest that the “divorced & remarried person” will always be a divorced and remarried person. Therefore, he or she will live the “lifestyle” of a “divorced and remarried person” until they die.

If we believe that Jesus is correct that a person who remarries without just cause commits adultery, then we have to conclude that all divorced people who have been remarried without just cause are adulterers until they die, and Paul tells us in First Corinthians 7:10-11 that adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But before you let yourself off the hook because you have never been divorced and remarried, let me ask you some questions. Have you ever lusted sexually after someone you were not married to? Jesus said that if one even looks at another lustfully, they have already committed adultery in their hearts. And so, those who struggle with pornography would also “burn in hell” according to the way Paul’s words have been traditionally interpreted surrounding homosexuality.

And how about those of us who tell white lies every single day or act continuously nasty to our spouses or use foul language constantly or drink too much alcohol just about every weekend or are overweight because of a struggle with overeating (known as gluttony in the Bible)? Are these not all unrepentant “lifestyles” that the New Testament forbids right next to homosexuality?

Now let’s get really honest, how many of us “fooled around” sexually or even lived with our partner before marriage, or justified our own heterosexual grown-children who are vacationing and living with their boyfriend or girlfriend? Oh, you don’t do any of these things? Well, how about those of us who live a “lifestyle” of pride, self-righteousness and legalism? Does the New Testament not clearly condemn every single one of our “lifestyles” in one way or another?

Who among us does not have unrepentant sin in our hearts and in our lives (much of which we are likely unaware of or unable to admit yet for one reason or another)? Who among us can honestly say that they do not make the list of “wrongdoers” in one way or another who are “destined for hell?Jesus said that if we hate our brother or sister, we are the same as murderers. I don’t know about you, but I have certainly hated people before in heated moments.

The standard is set so ridiculously high by Jesus Christ (who is God in the flesh) that not one of us could ever earn God’s favor or eternal life without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. 

And there are even more questions…

When the Apostle Paul condemned homosexuality was he aware that some people don’t seem to choose their same-sex attraction? Since “same-sex marriage” was unheard of in Paul’s time, we can know for sure that what he is condemning is sex outside of marriage.

Would Paul make an exception if he were among us today (like he did for the Gentiles who he didn’t require to keep the Sabbath, avoid “unclean” meat or be circumcised like the Jews were in order to be “saved.”) if he saw good spiritual fruit coming out of the lives of lgbtq people, their marriages, their children, their ministries and their overall lives?

Sin leads to death; not just spiritual death, but metaphorical “death” (misery and destruction) while living on this this earth too. God tells us not to sin because God knows that sin will eventually destroy our lives in one way or another.

God is like any good parent, but a million times better than the best parent we know!

God’s love for us is unmeasurable and the boundaries that God gives us are not “just because God said so.” We can see why God would condemn homosexuality of a promiscuous nature because this can lead to pain and destruction eventually; but in other cases, it is difficult to understand why God would condemn same-sex marriages that seem to bring forth joy, peace, love, and all of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

In that same light, it has become abundantly clear that attempts to suppress same-sex attraction and gender identity brings immense pain to lgbtq people. It is not difficult to find story after story online of lgbtq people who grew up in religious homes and agreed to things like “conversion therapy” or “praying the gay away” to appease their parents or religious communities, only to find themselves deeply troubled and suicidal.

Though we may not have a clear consensus among scientists that people are in fact born lgbtq, social sciences makes it obvious that lgbtq people (especially lgbtq people who grew up in religious homes) would not choose to endure a lifetime of painful rejection from their families, friends, churches, communities and governments. It simply does not make sense, which is why I don’t believe that being lgbtq is a choice anymore than I believe that being straight is a choice.

Think about how fearful you might be simply as a Christian ally of lgbtq people? Will everyone I love reject me if I affirm lgbtq people? Will I lose my job? Will no one buy my books? Will I never be respected again as a Bible teacher? Will my friends from college judge me as a heretic? Will people stop supporting my ministry? Will Lifeway stop selling my books? Am I going to go to hell if I affirm lgbtq people? Will I be sending lgbtq people to hell if I affirm their lives and their full inclusion in the Church? Will God be displeased with me? Am I being deceived by Satan? Has the lgbtq movement fooled me into going along with culture? Will this be the end of me?

Those fears are real, especially in the evangelical church, because we have watched our most “famous” and influential national leaders join together to just “crucify” every Christian leader who has openly  affirmed lgbtq people. It is not uncommon for “affirming Christian leaders” to be compared to Satan by “non-affirming Christian leaders.”

But, if we have these very real fears simply as “allies,” just imagine how much risk it takes for an lgbtq Christian to tell people the truth about themselves? The inner-turmoil must be unbearable at times; yet despite the very high cost, lgbtq people are beginning to tell us the truth. Why would they do that if it were not their honest reality? 

Several months ago one of my dear transgender friends wrote on her Facebook wall that she would be ending her life that night by mixing pills with alcohol. Though she didn’t get into details, I knew that Christians had been quoting Bible verses at her and giving her a hard time about transitioning. Thankfully she did not go through with it; but sadly, many lgbtq people do (the suicide rate is particularly high among transgender people).

There are no simple answers to these heart wrenching stories. There are family members involved who truly want to “straighten out” their loved ones because they love them, want them to be what they believe to be “normal,” and they are deeply afraid that they will go to hell if they don’t repent. Perhaps more than anything, they simply want the person back that they thought they had; but what we must realize is that most lgbtq people are trying to tell us who they have always been and would have always been if society would have accepted them as they were (like we do with straight people).

While repentance is supposed to lead us to death of our “old selves,” we are supposed to resurrect with more peace, hope, life, and freedom. Salvation and freedom in Christ are supposed to lead us away from thoughts of hopelessness and suicide, not towards it.

Scripture is meant to be a book of life after death, not a book of death after life.

My friend is far from alone. The suicide rate among LGBTQ people are disturbingly high and unfortunately we as the Church have not had many good solutions to offer.

~~~

VII. If Only There Were A Way

While some lgtbq Christians claim that Holy Spirit “straightened them out,” this is most certainly the extremely rare exception to the rule.

In fact, Alan Chambers, the previous president of Exodus International Ministries founded in 1976 was instrumental in shutting the ministry down in 2013 because he found that the “conversion therapy” they offered was mostly ineffective and even cruel.

At the peak of this popular organization (which was closely associated with Evangelical denominations), it included 250 local ministries in the USA and Canada, as well as 150 ministries in 17 other countries (source).

Part of Chamber’s apology stated,

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse.

I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God (http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2013/june/alan-chambers-apologizes-to-gay-community-exodus.html)

Chambers also stated that, “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exodus_International).”

Thousands upon thousands of lgbtq people have cooperated with their desperate parents and church leaders, praying to God to be “fixed.” but God has saw it fit not to “fix” most lgbtq Christians into more “traditional” people. Perhaps this is because God does not think that they need to be fixed.

Perhaps it is our traditional understanding of Scripture surrounding lgbtq matters that needs to be fixed. Perhaps God’s parental love has already gone above and beyond to justify each and every soul who puts their faith in Christ. Could it be that we have misunderstood the radial grace of Jesus and have turned even the New Testament into a “law book” we can never fully live up to?

“Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them (Luke 11:46 NIV)?”

Could it be that we have unknowingly and unintentionally (or perhaps even knowingly and intentionally) burdened the Christian lgbtq community with laws that are way too heavy for them to carry or for anyone to carry without crushing one’s very spirit; such as cruel “conversion therapies,” unspeakable shame, a lifetime of marginalization, and exclusion from the joys of both marriage and serving in the Church?

Are we heterosexual Christians somehow more holy than lgbtq Christians because we have fooled ourselves into thinking that we are the “more repentant ones?”

~~~

VIII. JUSTIFIED 

If only there were a way to be loved and accepted by God in all of our humanity? If only there were a way to be relieved of eternal damnation and theology that is too heavy for anyone to carry? If only there was someone of great power who loved us enough to justify us and see us as perfectly holy even in our flawed humanity?

Oh, but there is.

His name is Jesus Christ and He has taken every ounce of these burdensome laws upon Himself on the Cross. He has fulfilled every requirement that every single law demanded of us so that we could be in relationship with Him just as we are.

We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone; there is no other way to be saved. It is time to take Jesus at His Word, because He alone is the Word of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is but one way to the Father, and it is through faith in the atonement of Christ alone.

Of course, we don’t want to live in any sin that is going to bring destruction to our lives, such as going from one sexual partner to the next, whether gay or straight. This is an example of where “the law” was and is good and we should love it and live by it as best as we can by God’s grace. But, “the law” fell short and continues to fall short; thus becoming harmful in some situations.

Exclusion of lgbtq people and the hypocritical inequities that the Church has generally offered them is an example of where “the law” fell short and became harmful because it separated God’s children instead of bringing us together. It also separated many people from God.

After almost four years of intensely wrestling with this subject, studying the scriptures, listening to every relevant theological viewpoint out there, closely observing the lives and words of lgbtq Christians (single, married, affirming and non-affirming), and praying non-stop that Holy Spirit would show me the truth and that I would not lead anyone astray, I have come to affirm lgbtq people’s full inclusion in the Church as well as their marriages.

To be clear, I have come to believe that lgbtq people should be able to pursue the same opportunities both inside the Church and outside of Church as straight people do, I would attend a gay wedding and if I performed weddings as minister, I would marry a gay couple because I now see marriage as the most redemptive solution to this ongoing religious feud. I would also bake them a cake, attend their reception and dance the night away beside them as friends and family.

Lgbtq friends of faith, you have my full support and although some of you have known that for a while now (even if it took my head a while to catch up with my heart), it is important to me that you watch me publicly declare it.

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus told us to test spirits, teachings, and people who claim our faith by the spiritual fruit they produce so that we will not be deceived (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).

It is obvious to me now that affirming theology brings life, joy, peace, hope, love and redemption to lgbtq people; while unaffirming theology brings shame, confusion, depression, hopelessness, and even suicide to lgbtq people.

I am washing my “bloody hands” of unaffiming theology and offering a sincere apology to any lgbtq person and to anyone who loves an lgbtq person that I may have hurt with my past beliefs and words. I am truly sorry and I look forward to making up for it as best as I can by becoming a better ally.

I am taking a step of faith with Alan Chambers and the many other Christians who have publicly repented of believing myself to be “more repentant” in my “lifestyle” than my lgbtq Christian brothers and sisters.

Most of all though, I am finally choosing to take Jesus at His word despite my social fears and religious doubts, which always feels like a risk, doesn’t it? 

When Jesus was questioned by a self-righteous “expert on the Bible” (the Old Testament and “Law of Moses”), who intended to trap him, what the most important law was, Jesus replied,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT).”

I can tell you by experience, I never felt loved when people in the Church denied me certain opportunities to serve because of my gender (something I did not choose), so I don’t believe it is love to deny lgtbq (something they did not choose) Christians certain opportunities to serve in the Church either.

Further, I would not feel loved if marriage was denied to me and I was required to live my life alone, so why would it be loving to deny it to lgbtq Christians? As one who has always been obsessed with finding the truth of “God’s Word,” I have come to understand that this is the truth according to Jesus – “God’s Word in the Flesh.”

I know that some of my supporters and loved ones will be disappointed with my conclusions and I completely understand as I too have been disappointed with those who have arrived at these same conclusions in the past. Remember, it took me four years of wresting, praying, and studying non-stop before I arrived here.

I also understand what it is like to grow up in the thick of the evangelical purity culture and how these deeply ingrained philosophies bring great impact, shame, and fear to any conversation surrounding God and human sexuality. But, think of it this way, in the past God permitted different sexual situations among people of faith that make most of us very uncomfortable today (ex:// polygamy & concubines).

I am jumping into this river of radical grace because this is the type of grace that Christ has bestowed upon me. 

Yes, I am a bit afraid, but I must go where I think Jesus has already gone. Whatever opportunities I may lose or rejection I may have to endure for this stand, I must take up my cross and follow Him.

As my husband, Luke Peterson has said, “at the end of my life I would rather be held accountable to God for being too inclusive rather than too exclusive.”

 

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35 Comments

  • Beautifully written!! I love your explanation of “grace”. Having grown up in the Catholic Church, I am so aware of the “no sex before marriage ” calamity, which inadvertently led to my getting pregnant the summer after my sophomore year of college!

  • Beautifully written!! I love your explanation of “grace”. Having grown up in the Catholic Church, I am so aware of the “no sex before marriage ” calamity, which inadvertently led to my getting pregnant the summer after my sophomore year of college!
    Thanks for your explanation of Christian acceptance of the LBTQ community. I have a difficult time explaining my acceptance as as Christian sometimes…

  • As a Christian mother of a 14 yr old girl who identifies as lesbian, thank you for being brave enough to not only to change your belief, but also proclaim it. Our God is a wonderful and loving God who has the capacity to love all his creation.

  • On the whole, well done! We have no righteousness in ourselves, and therefore no right to exclude others from the Kingdom of Heaven on the basis of their perceived sin.

  • Jory – Thank you. I am overwhelmed by your post.

    I spent much of my life in the Evangelical world, even pursuing full time ministry in an attempt to “overcome the sin” that I was struggling with so much in my own life. I honestly believed that I needed more of God to help me erase the femininity and struggles I felt with that from my life.

    As a transgender woman, I’ve worked to rebuild my faith, and trying to do so while navigating my own background in Fundamentalism has been hard, not to mention trying to find a church home. I’ve had church leadership tell me directly that I am not welcome unless I am willing to repent. I have had others who have told me that though I am welcome, they won’t recognize me as a woman. On the flip side, I’ve found affirming churches, but many times they hold such a loose interpretation of Scripture that it feels foreign to me as well. Your words, and your affirmation…. your struggle resonates so much with me.

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for publicly affirming me. And thank you for your faith. It helps to know that I’m not alone.

    Ellie

    • Thank you very much for your words, Ellie. I know the struggle of finding a church home and I pray that God would lead you to a community in which you are loved and seen and respected just as you are. For now though, you are welcome to hang out with me online. Love to you, sister!

  • Thank You Jory for this incredible piece. I fully support your stance and think its incredibly brave and well thought out. I am forwarding this piece to people who are starting to question their own closed or more traditional beliefs around the subject.
    I can identify with much of what you wrote, including the pathway to how I read the Bible. Fortunately, there are enough well spoken scholars who make that kind of deconstruction easier for us than in the past.
    I have just resigned from being an elder and leading a department in our church as they are taking a traditional, and what they would call “biblical stance” on the subject of LGBTQ inclusion. I was told my gay affirming beliefs disqualified me from leadership. Since then I resigned both posts.
    The cost is high, but well worth it. The world is actually waiting for us. I am so thankful for you and your platform.
    all the best
    Valerie

    • Thank you, Valerie and wow, you are very brave too. I am inspired by your sacrifice to truly love your lgbtq neighbor as you yourself would want to be loved. God bless your journey. May you find a new place of leadership somewhere where everyone is included and loved! Xo

  • Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful
    Notice from the above that they persisted at ungodly behaviour so God gave them up to their own desires. It seems to me that some people because of the fall have such desires but God is both holy and Gracious and we should not presume on his grace. He is also holy and just. I know people who have such desires but love the lord and know full well that giving in to those desires is the sin. It is not the temptation that is the sin. I think that the mistake many make is to brand people beyond the pale because of their temptation. The idea of curing them of it is nonsense and damaging, but it is something they have to live with. We on the other hand have to be understanding.

    However if we in out desire to love allow people to go on sinning, we are not loving them at all. What is so loving about not warning people about Gods judgement? There are many people who are homosexual in orientation but who are also great lovers of God who seek to live Godly lives. WE are told that if our eye offends us, cut it off. That is what they do, they cut off the things that lead to sin. This also applies to sin in general

    The western church is going down the route of tolerating sin and God will hold us accountable to is and yes I have listened to Gay Christians and support them in what they are doing to be godly and they would not support gay marriage or any other sinful behaviour

    • You should not presume God grace everytine you sin! People like you subject “Your conclusions” based on your limitations. God loves us more than “Your God” judges!

    • Your not scaring anyone with your judgemental attitude. You focus on homosexual behavior but leave out your own behavior that separates you from God.

    • The Bible says the Wages of Sin is death. The Bible doesn’t say the Wages of Homosexual Sin is death. But Gods Grace & forgiveness includes all. What Sin condemns You to death?

      • So, where does repentance fit in to your theology? That is what living a Christian life is. It is asking for forgiveness and TURNING AWAY from your sin. It is not knowingly expecting that you are going to decide to keep on sinning, and going to God and saying “Oops! I did it again! But, ya love me so we are all good!”. We should want to turn away from our sin cause we should want to be holy like Jesus. Where I think Christians see homosexuality as such a large sin is due to it being so visible. Gossip, lying, cheating, etc. are all sins that can easily be swept under the rug cause we can hide them better. We should pray for people and extend love to all, but accepting the sin is not acceptable, no matter what the sin is. You can love someone but not agree with their choices, especially if their choices are contrary to the way God wants people to live.

  • To add to my comment, we seem to think that being homosexual is the sin and that it can be cured like a disease. However the we never seek a cure for the thief. Instead we tell him not to steal when he is tempted. likewise those with this besetting sin have to find ways of overcoming the temptation. They should also not be treated like persona non crata in the church

      • I am a sinner and I could name them, and the bible tells me to put my sin to death, not encourage it or to support others in their sin and I may add that some of the people closest to me are gay christians who seek to live according to what God has revealed not what western mankind now deems popular.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 New International Version (NIV)

    9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    note the above, “that is what some of you were” It was in the past, they did not go on deliberately sinning and they were in the church seeking to glorify God. Approving of same sex marriage is encouraging sinful behaviour

    • But you are a wrongdoer who is forgiven by grace, same as the gay person! You sin daily, conscious or unconscious! Shoukd we ostracize you!

  • Amazingly brave and very well put.

    Remember for those living in the darkness the light will blind them unless they choose to stay in the light. No matter their decision we are still commanded to love them and pray for them.

    • Gods forgiveness brings about a change of mind and behavour. Jesus did not say to the woman caught in adultery “I forgive you girl, go and commit it again. He said said Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more” and that is just as true now. You do not know me, nor do you know my life experience, yet you presume to condemn for me expounding Gods truth as it is in the bible, not Jory’s opinion which is only following that which the world has been promoting for years in the media very effectively. It is not brave it is following the crowd to be popular.

      Many of us, including myself have a besetting sin and we have to deal with and go back to God. Paul had his thorn in the flesh that drove him to God. I have always been grateful that we do not know what the thorn in the flesh was because I can apply it to my thorn in the flesh as can millions of other people and indeed it is painful. I indentify with all that and I may add this is not going to descend into a battle of words. this is the last I shall say on the subject.

  • Wow, that’s quite a heartfelt piece. So so much to engage on.
    Quick question for now: I’m quite intrigued by what you discuss under the subheading of purity culture. How do you think your parents etc should have handled your teenage struggle with hormones? In trying to undo the damage of this culture, how should we approach the sexuality of our children in a wholesome, non-shaming way? I ask as a mom of a pre-teen.

  • I’ve been following you for a while and am heartened to see this, Jory. As mom to an adult child in the LGBTQ community, I spent 3+ years digging into the Scriptures like never before as well as listening – really, really listening – to my son and others like him and praying for spiritual insight. I’m grateful that God provided me with some journey mates in the the form of blogs, books, and bodies. 🙂

    Thank you for the courage and integrity it took for you to do the hard work, especially since you don’t have the same kind of skin in the game that we parents of gay kids do. It means so much!

  • You wrote:

    After almost two years of public advocacy for women in church leadership, I was invited by my friend, Jackie Roese to attend one of her summits near Austin, Texas, known as “The Marcella Project.”

    Here is my Jackie Roese experience 🙂

    http://theoblogoumena.blogspot.com/2008/08/woman-in-pulpit-lions-and-tigers-and.html

    http://theoblogoumena.blogspot.com/2008/08/woman-in-pulpit-part-2.html

    (Note: Some of the links in my blog posts no longer work.)

  • This really put into words a lot of my own journey. This is very encouraging Jory, and I appreciate you putting so much thought into this post. ❤

  • Jory, thank you.
    I read this blog Weds morning last week. Weds night my son told me he was gay.

    I believe God has been preparing me for that moment and your blog was the final preparation point. Yes, I wondered and suspected and I am fine with him being gay, but this is a significant thing for me too. I have many very conservative family members and friends and it will be interesting for both my son and me as the news gets out. I truly have no problem with this, but much of the world still does, it’s definitely a harder path to take. I’d appreciate any books, blogs etc that you or readers may be aware of that may help guide me as a parent (not just as a Christian parent) through this time.

    Thank you

    • Wow, what a testimony, Julia. Thank you for sharing and God bless your son in this time! I recommend Matthew Vines & Justin Lee. Just google them both and you will find their books and YouTube videos. 🙂

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