Last week I introduced a new series of posts, on the ‘topic’ of LGBT and faith, and shared some brief thoughts on the issue, and some boundaries/ground rules for this series.
In the next two weeks I’ll sharing guest posts from a gay Christian in a same-sex relationship, and a bi-sexual Christian woman, happily married to a man.
But before we get to those, I felt it would be helpful to share my own journey with you, and explain how I arrived at the position I now hold, as a Christian straight ally.
As I mentioned last week, a straight ally is someone who whilst straight themselves, takes a stand for LGBT rights, to advocate for them, and work with them to grow awareness. In the Christian church, this would be someone who advocates for a more welcoming, Christ-like approach to the LGBT community from the church, building bridges between the church and the LGBT community, and speaking love to this community.
I mentioned last week one of my reasons for being so passionate about this, is because of my heart for the outsiders, the minority groups, the ones others forget. But as someone who is straight, with no immediate family in the LGBT community, I accept it still could appear confusing to some why I’m so passionate about this subject and where the interest came from.
So let me explain.
For me, this has been a slow burn. For a long time I held a view of homosexuality I call ‘non-affirming’ – believing it wasn’t scriptural, and the Bible was against same-sex relationships and equal marriage.
For several years now though, I’ve held the opposite view – I’m affirming of monogamous same-sex relationships, equal (or gay) marriage, and believe that this is affirmed, not condemned, in scripture.
So how and why did I make this shift?
Even when I held what’s called the traditional, non-affirming view, I never felt comfortable about it. I never had a peace in my heart about what I believed. In hindsight, believed it because I figured I ‘had’ to as a Christian and there was no other way. But a few years ago I began to notice the terrible treatment of the LGBT community by much of the evangelical church, even the ‘good people’ in the church allegedly acting in love, but ultimately causing such damage to people.
Mental illness. Suicides. And people leaving the church, permanently damaged mentally and psychologically.
And if the fruit of a particular theology is mental illness, self-harming and suicide, we must question whether this theology is divinely inspired. So I began seriously reflecting on this subject and on the position I had previously thought unquestionable.
As I did, it dawned on me I’d never properly studied the Bible on the subject. So I proceeded to look at the few verses of scripture which address this, looking at context, history, themes and language. I read excellent books and blog posts on the subject by respected authors and scholars, and listened to talks. And during and after all of this, had periods of reflection and prayer.
All of which ultimately led me to changing my view.
And once I did, I felt a peace, an affirmation from God on this subject I’d not had before.
I felt I was finally in tune with God’s perspective on the issue, for the first time.
Several years later I completed a course on how Christians and churches can build bridges with the LGBT community, hearing stories from real people struggling with their sexuality, the church, and their faith, and reconciling them. In the last few months in particular I have been building relationships with members of the LGBT community, both in the London area and online through social media.
And here I am.
Despite being a major force for good in the world in many ways, in this area much of Christian church has been, frankly, abysmal – both in how we’ve built relationships with and interacted with the LGBT community.
Far from being welcoming, loving, accepting and full of grace, the vast majority of experiences I’ve heard about from LGBT people I know, has been rejection, ignorance, exclusion and condemnation. Even hatred.
This has to stop.
But whichever way people interpret scripture – whether they are affirming or non-affirming of LGBT relationships and marriage – there’s never an excuse for not loving your neighbour, or treating people with disrespect, bad language, insults, mistrust and exclusion.
The LGBT community are part of God’s family, and they are no different, no less worthy, no less loved, no less significant or valuable, than any other.
Two Steps Forward
This isn’t a post about theology though. People have different interpretations of scripture – and it’s important we respect one other’s views. There are two steps which all of us, both affirming and non-affirming, can take to move this issue forward constructively.
1) Having healthy dialogue as a church, accept we are dealing with this issue badly, and begin exploring how we can do things in more Christ-like way.
2) Be engaging and reaching out to members of the LGBT community in the places we live and work, and welcoming them unconditionally into our churches.
I’m unashamedly LGBT-affirming, and I believe Jesus is too. What I share about this subject will always come from that perspective.
As I’ve said, I won’t try to change anyone’s mind on this subject, I respect others right to a different opinion. Arguing and debating theology isn’t constructive or helpful.
That said, I do believe the most radical change will come when the church as a whole re-examines their assumptions and traditional standpoints about this subject, and shifts to a more affirming position.
I’m fast becoming convinced how the church and we as Christians approach this issue can tell us a lot about our relationship with God, how we engage with Christian discipleship, how we read the Bible, and who we think God is – both as individuals and as a church.
However, as I promised, I’m not going to debate theology. I will not engage with that and have no interest in it.
Instead, let all of us – LGBT affirming and non-affirming – begin building bridges with the LGBT community. And do a better job of letting them know God loves them. (you can tweet that)
And to the LGBT community, I say again, you are welcome at God’s table. As you are, right now, today. You are as accepted, loved and welcomed by Jesus as anyone else, as you are.
Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
So let us all, God’s people, come together in love. And walk this life together.
I hope you’re with me.
Question for Reflection:
How do believe the church can practically become a place where the LGBT community feel welcome?
Let me know in the comments below.
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(Picture Source: straightforequality.org)
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