Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Controversy of Homosexuality

I'd spoken with several pastors prior to teaching this past Sunday on homosexuality. Amongst 'emergent' pastors, I didn't find any who were willing to teach on the subject. I wonder why this is?

As of July 5th, the notes from this sermon, along with the download, will be available on the Bethany website.

Part of the purpose for this teaching series on ethics is to begin conversation on these important issues. So please post your thoughts and responses to Sunday's teaching, along with questions for the community to consider.

Here are some of my questions -

Why has homosexuality been declared as the 'watershed issue' of western civilization, when marriages are disolving, families are sinking in debt, and our nation continues to amass debt to sustain our interests and lifestyle? These issues and many others, seem more ominous - so why aren't we more intent on investing our energies in strengthening covenant relationships and teaching contentment, generosity, care for the poort, and showing hospitality to all peoples?

How can we be a community that allows God to continue to do a transforming work in all of us, without insisting that everyone conform, on the front end, to some proscribed lifestyle?

Other thoughts you have about how this issue has affected you?

45 Comments:

At 4/7/05 20:52, Anonymous Katie Meyer said...

First of all, thanks so much for preaching on this topic. I have never heard a whole sermon devoted to homosexuality and I thought your approach was very clear, honest and humble. My one bit of confusion happened during your explanation of the verses in Romans. You seemed to start out by saying that Paul was talking about the promiscuous homosexuality that was popular at the time (like your Caesar example) but then you came to the conclusion that he meant homosexual acts in general were forbidden. I couldn't quite follow the logic of how you got there. I did follow your next point that God's best for us sexually is described in Genesis. I don't disagree but I guess my question is this: if my gay Christian friends who have an amazing dating relationship and are striving to live a life pleasing to God and doing it better than most people I know (including waiting until "marriage" to have sex) ask me what I truly think about their relationship, does Romans have anything to say about it? Of course, my instinct is no, that only a legalistic interpretation of that passage would condemn people whose relationship is one of the most loving and lovely that I've ever seen. Of course, they aren't perfect people and I would feel comfortable discussing a whole range of vices with them and feel confident about the biblical authority behind it. I just don't feel confident about the biblical authority surrounding committed and loving homosexual relationships.

 
At 5/7/05 20:42, Anonymous lee said...

I think the emergent Church has taken a wait-and-see attitude about the homosexuality issue, in many ways because there is still a lack of real consensus even in small groups of Christians.

Unfortunately this means that the Christian message is largely being driven by those who are convinced they have it completely figured out as opposed to those who are still wrestling with the issue. One of the major advantages of taking an anti-homsexuality stance is that you get a strong cultural bias for free. In issues such as poverty, consumerism, and heterosexual purity, you do not have this same cultural trend towards discrimination. The Church that preaches against homosexuality as if it were the worst sin of the day is ironically the one most mired in the culture of the day.

My personal suspicion is that eventually liberalism will win out in large segments of the Church and you will see homosexuality recognized and accepted. I expect there were a great many sermons in the past two millenia that preached as sin allowing women to speak in in the Church, but now we find discussion on female ordination even amongst the Roman Catholics!

Of course what the Church chooses to do is not necessarily indicative of Christ's will on earth - our actions hopefully reflect His heart, not define it. I think what will show the watching world is our love and compassion for God and one another - that means from Christians to the homosexual community and from one Christian community to another.

 
At 6/7/05 10:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm amazed that there are not more comments yet! This sermon stirred many deep emotions in me, and I strongly suspect I am not alone in that. I have to admit that I walked into Sunday night's service in the middle of a "spiritual slump." Situations in my own life have left me hurting, questioning, feeling far from God. As a backdrop, I have many gay friends. They are marrying, having children, moving on in their careers. My whole life in the church I was told it was "wrong," but my friends are such wonderful people, their children well adjusted, their marriages stronger than my own, their beliefs more solid than mine. I struggled with God, wanting to know the truth, not understanding why this could not be "his will." I left church Sunday night, after hearing the sermon, deeply touched. I am so thankful and so blessed to be part of a community who is being charged to love, make relationships, reach out, accept. It was the first time I heard an evangelical pastor speak out against hate, and I was ashamed that I have not done more to speak out against the awful things sometimes done in Christ's name. I was so glad to hear that there are questions to be asked, scriptures to be re-considered, credible arguments on both "sides" of the story. To hear you say, Richard, that you hold your convictions with open hands, so humbled me. It reminded me that his ways are in fact higher than ours, that sometimes we do misunderstand, that it's not about propoganda or politics but about sharing Christ's light and love in our world. I left Sunday night feeling the clouds of my slump lifting, as I knew what I wanted to do. I was eager to blow the dust off my bible and my prayer corner and open my heart and mind to what God wanted to say to me about this. I was so encouraged and inspired by the way the sermon prodded more discussion, a safe place to talk and share and struggle, and ultimately pointed me back to my God. Thank you so much for having the courage to bring this issue to the pulpit, for challenging us to be open to what God wants to reveal, and for speaking so boldly against hate.

 
At 6/7/05 15:58, Anonymous Lisa said...

I am so pleased to see that a respectful discussion has begun. All too often the Christian community functions from a place of definitive assumption on this issue and it's just not that cut and dry.

As a partnered lesbian I feel so blessed to have a pastor like Richard who will speak from a place of conviction but hold his hands open to me. I am safe at Bethany, to worship and to be myself.

I hope that this is only the beginning and that out of our community will come an effort to reach the gay and lesbian community that has, for far too long, been alientated and oppressed by the church. The message of a loving savior is for all people!

 
At 6/7/05 23:10, Anonymous Tiffany said...

Richard:

Your question of why homosexuality is such a big issue “when marriages are dissolving, families are sinking in debt, and our nation continues to amass debt to sustain our interests and lifestyle?” (I can think of a few more too) is a good one - I’ve often wondered that myself and I can think of at least two reasons. First, I think it has something to do with the fact that homosexuality is an easy “sin” to point your finger at because a majority of people don’t struggle with it. It is very easy to vilify those who are different from ourselves, especially when we manipulate scripture to justify our prejudices. It can be seen as a black-and-white issue – no further discussion needed. The other issues (infidelity, debt, consumerism, etc.) are so systemic within our lives that it would be way too disruptive to actually face those issues, let alone deal with them.

Secondly, homosexuality is one of three main issues that can mobilize the Christian base (the other two are abortion and terrorism – also easy sins to vilify.) Many political leaders know Christians’ “hot buttons” and have successfully pushed them in recent years. Have we heard about the constitutional ban on homosexual marriage since the election? Of course not. So why is homosexuality a “hot button” for Christians? I guess that would bring me back to my first point ;-)

One question I have is how do we wrestle with these issues and practice the love and acceptance that Christ requires of us and not have it judged as “moral relativism”? Whenever I try to discuss some of these issues I get that term thrown in my face. Recently, someone I know was defending her pastor who preached that the women’s movement was the “worst thing to happen to us” because now men and women don’t know their respective God-given roles. When I disagreed with the basis of this argument, I was told that I was in denial of my sin and didn’t want to take a submissive role because of my own selfishness. How can we discuss these issues with a progressive, open mind without other Christians accusing us of simply manipulating scripture to support our predisposed opinions?

Richard – Would you ever consider teaching an ethics class or open-discussion forum? I’m so glad you have the courage to discuss these issues – I wish we could do it more often (as evidenced by the fact that I respond to your blogs all the time!)

 
At 7/7/05 08:53, Anonymous Trina Himmelman said...

I loved the sermon. I can hardly wait to recruit people to listen to it.

It's interesting to consider where Jesus would spend his time if he were here today. The Bible makes it pretty clear that he'd be with the outcasts -- in America, that would be homosexuals, the homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes, alchoholics, etc. Then why aren't these people in churches? Why don't these people feel loved by Christians?

Perhaps because we aren't loving them. It's not exactly profound.

(On a side note, I'm not sure he would be spending alot of his time here in the states. I think we are often more like the Pharisees than the disciples.)

I loved that Richard focused on the underlying LOVE that is often unexistant. I was certainly blessed to hear his words.

 
At 7/7/05 10:13, Anonymous lee said...

One question I have is how do we wrestle with these issues and practice the love and acceptance that Christ requires of us and not have it judged as “moral relativism”?

Practicing the love of Christ for people isn't moral relativism. It's an absolute commandment. In fact, being called out as a moral relativist on an issue like this sounds like weak sauce. As far as I can tell, the Christian can take three stances on homosexuality (or really most any 'cultural' issue):

1) Homosexuality is sin, it is wrong, and I have to love homosexual people as myself.

2) Homosexuality is not sin, it is not wrong, and I have to love homosexual people as myself.

3) I'm not sure if God sees it as sin or not, but I have to love homosexual people as myself.

Taking any of those positions is not moral relativism. Your conclusion as to the law comes from the bible, your personal relationship with Christ, and the community of believers, but it's not just your opinion. You're not strictly a moral relativist in any situation if you acknowledge that God has a clear stance on the issue, whether you know what it is or not. It is then up to us to follow the commandments we know (love!) while continually pursuing after a greater understanding of God's will for us.

 
At 7/7/05 10:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...first of all, the fact that this church is having this conversation is extraordinary. I have attended a couple of times in the past and heard about this discussion via a friend and thought I'd chime in. Big kudos to Pastor Richard for having the courage and conviction to go where most evangelical Christian churches fear to tread.

I believe that Jesus' message is so simple (Matt. 22:36-40): Love God and Love your neighbor. Verse 40 states that all the laws and prophets are dependent upon these two commandments. If that's true, then why do fundamentalists focus so much on the old testament? I believe Jesus uses these two commandments as a litmus test, i.e., can a person simultaneously love God and neighbor while lying, cheating, stealing, etc. No. But can a person love God and neighbor AND eat shellfish? (Leviticus 11:10) And can a person simultaneously love God and neighbor AND be in a consenting same-sex relationship. I believe the answer is a resounding YES!

It is easy to watch a pride parade and see the excesses of "gay lifestyle" and conclude that homosexuals are sex-obsessed sinners and judge according to what you see on TV. It is much more difficult to discount long-held beliefs and cultural biases and actually befriend a GLBT person. What you find is that the pride parade represents only a small percentage of GLBT folks. Most of us live a rather mundane existence doing what our straight counterparts do: Work, play, repeat.

If we are to call ourselves Christians, then I believe our highest calling is to strive to love one another unconditionally. Of course, most of us, including myself, fail miserably because to love unconditionally is so incredibly difficult. And to love our gay and straight neighbors unconditionally means that we love each other regardless of bias. If there's any judgement issues, rest assured that God will take care of it.

The quest for truth should always be at the forefront of any church's agenda. Truth is rarely found in the open, and, instead, generally requires research and a lot of prayer. I encourage your church to continue this discussion. My prayers are with you as you journey down this road.

 
At 7/7/05 10:34, Anonymous Lisa said...

I wouldn't so easily dismiss Tiffany's concerns of being labled as "morally relativistic". Having had this conversations many times myself I understand what she is saying. Not that you aren't correct Lee, it's just that the conversation isn't that easy.

Often times people discuss this matter from what I call a position of definitive assumption, meaning that they've never really looked into it themselves but believe decidedly that God has condemned homosexuality (which is not what I believe). It's extremely difficult to engage someone who comes from a perspective that sees the issue in black and white. From where they stand if you begin to question their assumptions regarding homosexuality you question the very framework of Christianity. To the point where they may not even consider you a Christian. This would be true of any "moral" issue that the bible addresses.

Moreover, and I almost hesitate to say this, but many do not regard love to be the primary calling of Christianity. Therefore Lee's argument is lost on them. Many people are more focused on sin than on love.

I agree that this is a conversation that shouldn't end here. As I said before, I hope this is only the beginning. A discussion forum would be wonderful.

 
At 7/7/05 14:40, Anonymous lee said...

Excellent point Lisa, I didn't mean to simplify the actual interaction that occurs between individuals in this sort of issue. Richard's latest blog post gets at what I was hoping to say a bit better - the philosophical argument against that label.

As far as really conversing with folks who hold strongly to opposing beliefs; that's always much messier. I've been in them myself and it really does call for an additional measure of faith, love, and grace on our parts.

 
At 9/7/05 10:10, Anonymous Dan Tegman said...

A quandary I find in this discussion is the juxtaposition of a loving, but also a wrathful God who is absolutely intolerant of sin. God in three persons reveals to us a lot of the characteristics of God, including His anger against our iniquities. This anger manifested itself in the requirement that His own Son be killed to cover our sins. But in the death and resurrection of Christ, and the abolishment of our sins, the wrathful God was not done away with. He (the Father) still hates our sin, whether our sin is homosexuality or greed. Our only hope and salvation is that the Father is looking at us through the eyes of the Son...a sort of voluntary set of blinders God has put on. I guess a hesitancy I have is that the church would move toward loving people so much (which I know we are called to do), that we would mistakenly turn toward acceptance of things we aren’t to accept as children of Holy God. I do believe we are to love, as Jesus taught, and leave the wrath to God…but at what point does our “love, love, love” start to look like approval or endorsement of all that people do? I guess my question is, how do we love people and go with them to the table with Christ, but also show them that God the Father really does hate their/our sin, and is NOT tolerant of wickedness of any kind? I think, when I came to Christ, I was asked to accept God’s ultimate gift, but I was also called to change, and turn from iniquity. Yes, I still fail, but I think God’s best for me, and His requirement is that I don’t sin, and that I don’t “accept” my failures in light of His holiness. Maybe that’s the answer. “Think Globally, Act Locally”. Live out what the Lord asks of me, and let others and their personal sins be a conversation and a transformation between them and Christ.

 
At 9/7/05 16:32, Blogger Scott said...

Years ago, I heard a Christian speaker (James Dobson, actually) tell of something his father had shared with him when he was an adolescent. His father told him, when speaking to him of sexual purity, that in regards to masturbation, he didn’t know what to say about it, and to not worry about it too much. He didn’t say it was okay, he didn’t say it wasn’t. He simply knew that there was no way he wanted his son to live under the condemnation and guilt of failing to overcome desires that were, practically speaking, impossible for him to overcome.
I’ve thought about that over the years, about what a paradox it is, that thoughts and actions, apparently so obviously sinful, lustful and associated with indulgence in forbidden sexual thoughts (considering Christ’s declaration that any man who looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery with her), are the very ones James Dobson’s father recognized we don’t have all the answers for.
Romans makes it somewhere between pretty difficult and impossible for me to say sexual orientation is a morally neutral subject, but beyond that, I don’t know what else to say, in terms of what we’re clearly supposed to do about it.
Is it possible for a gay or lesbian person to experience acceptance and Christian fellowship with someone who has thoughts on this subject as ambiguous as mine? If you are gay or lesbian, how do you feel about what I’ve just said?

 
At 12/7/05 11:22, Anonymous Lisa said...

Scott,
You asked how I feel. As a lesbian I feel as though it's pretty easy for you to stand on the outside and declare that this isn't a morally neutral issue.
Were you to witness the relationship that I share with my partner, your sense of clarity about what is obviously sinful would change to confusion at least.
I would challenge you to read Romans again, and wonder anew how it relates to a loving, committed relationship between two people who acknowledge and honor God.
My interpretation of Romans is that Paul refers to a ritual that includes homosexual orgies and deliberate gender reassingment (including self mutiliation) in the practice of worshipping idols. I don't believe that Paul is describing the type of homosexuality that we are considering, if he even knew it exsisted.
I appreciate your willingness to ask. I pray that this dialog will not stop with this blog but continue and grow. It's just far too important to set aside. Thank you.

 
At 12/7/05 13:57, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading the last few comments, I'm compelled to write the following: gay & lesbian Christians are not of the opinion that homosexuality or being in a homosexual relationship are sins. Nor are we delusional.

I was raised with the assumption that there was no way around the "fact" that homosexuality = sin. So, despite my own sincere post-adolescent prayers to be freed of my "sinful" desires, I continued to struggle with my homosexuality until my early 20's when I finally gave into the truth. I'm Gay. It wasn't until my early 30's when I finally gave into the larger truth. I'm Gay, and Jesus loves me just the way I am. But it took a lot of convincing, reading, and praying to get to that point. Part of the process included questioning many assumptions I held from my very conservative literal interpretation of the Bible. The evangelicals will say that I entered a slippery slope once I started even looking at opposing views. It's interesting though...once a person starts questioning one thing, Pandora's Box opens and many things begin to be questioned. How many other long-held assumptions should we question?


I state that I am open to the Truth and that no person can fully comprehend the will of God as mortals--but we must forever pursue a greater understanding of God's love while on Earth. But in order to do this, we must look at each question from all angles in order to fully comprehend the truth. To only look at one side of a question and claim to understand the truth is pure foolishness and, at the very least, ignorant. However, my perception of most evangelical Christians is that they refuse to even consider a different opinion than their own. Why would they, since they already have the "truth."

The Christian church does not have a very good track record on Truth. From the earth vs. sun being the center of the universe, to Catholics fighting Protestants over "truth", to "witch" hunts, to rationalizing slavery, to women's rights, to race relations. My own father, who attends an Assy of God church in Oregon, states that killing all the Muslims is the answer to solving problems in the world. Really? WWJD? I think that Trina Himmelman's comment about Pharisees is accurate: many of the evangelical Christian leaders are today's Phariees. And as we all know by reading the gospels, Jesus has the worst things to say about them. Jesus came to replace the law with grace and mercy. But attacking gays and lesbians, or anyone with an opposing view, is simply the latest and greatest foe for these modern- day Pharisees.

Even if a person disagrees with my assertion that homosexuality is condoned by Jesus (check out www.ars-rhetorica.net/David/Eunuchs.pdf), Christ's greatest commandments are such that a person needs only to concern themselves with loving their neighbors, including gays and lesbians--without condition. Dan Tegman asks the question "...how do we love people and go with them to the table with Christ, but also show them that God the Father really does hate their/our sin, and is NOT tolerant of wickedness of any kind?" My question in response is, does Christ require Christians to "show them" their sins and correct them? I dare say I am unable to find any such edict. The song from my childhood says, "They will know we are Christians by our love." Are we to compel others to be Christians by preaching about their sins or simply loving them? Do we frighten them from hell and brimstone, or compel them toward heaven and spending eternity with our Creator? I think Dan answers his own question, though by his last sentence: "Live out what the Lord asks of me, and let others and their personal sins be a conversation and a transformation between them and Christ." Micah 6:8 reads: "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

 
At 16/7/05 12:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To continue with some of the newer posts from the "Absolutely" blog of July 14...

One post mentioned Genesis...We do need to go back to our foundation, Genesis, and remember why humans were created to begin with. One man, one woman...replenish the earth...etc. Homosexuality would be the slow suicide of the human race.

Some people have a genetic tendancy to do many things they shouldn't. I'm sure you can think of all kinds of things. But that doesn't mean it's ok to do them...just because we have that desire.

The scripture which comes to mind is Revelation 3:16 "So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth."

I'm afraid the concept of sin is almost gone from this world. All it takes is one generation...

Revelation 14:6,7: 6Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."

What do you think it means to "give God glory?" (The Greek word is "doxa." Vines says this word means "good opinion, praise, honor, glory, an appearance commanding respect, magnificence, excellence, manifestation of glory.")

Romans 12:1,2: 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Let all we do and say give Glory to the One who created Heaven and Earth.

 
At 17/7/05 07:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...and remember why humans were created to begin with. One man, one woman...replenish the earth...etc. Homosexuality would be the slow suicide of the human race..."

But homosexuality does exists, AND the population of the world keeps increasing. I'm thankful for heterosexuals who created me, my partner, my gay friends, my straight friends, my siblings, in-laws, etc. Keep up the good work!

"Some people have a genetic tendancy to do many things they shouldn't. I'm sure you can think of all kinds of things."

Let me get this straight...you are acknowledging the possibility of genetics being related to homosexuality, but you don't believe that God made me the way I am? That's really odd.

Also, I can't think of one single thing that people shouldn't do because of genetics. At a stretch, scientists claim a connection between genetics and a pre-disposition towards alcoholism. But that doesn't make drinking alcohol in moderation a sin, just the abuse of it.

"I'm afraid the concept of sin is almost gone from this world. All it takes is one generation..."

I doubt that the "concept of sin" is anywhere close to being forgotten. I believe in sin...we just seem to differ on our opinion of what constitutes sin. I define sin as hurting God, myself, or others. I don't believe that being in a loving, committed, and monogamous relationship with my partner is sinful.

I know there are many folks who insist that I'm sinning by being in a loving, committed, and monogamous relationship with my partner, and that's okay. My point throughout the blogs is simple: even if you think that homosexuality = sin, you are commanded by Christ, above all other commandments (except for loving God), to love me, my partner, Lisa, gay people everywhere, Muslims, blacks, Jews, Greeks, intersexed people, etc., AND you have to do it WITHOUT CONDITION. Leave the judging to God. Leave the wrath to God.

As far as "giving God glory" and defining what it means and all that, frankly, I don't get the point, nor do I understand it's relevance to this conversation. I'm not arguing whether to give glory to God. I give all praise and glory to my Creator who I belive created me just the way I am--all my genetics included.

Imagine a world where everyone chooses unconditional love...it will be heavenly, don't you think?

 
At 17/7/05 14:44, Anonymous dan tegman said...

First, let me say that I am not ranking “sins” here. Sin is sin. Period. And again, God the Father is not tolerant of it. His only tolerance is shown in His Son, and the fact that He lets this fallen world keep on going at all. He destroyed the world a few times, because he couldn’t look upon man’s sin. God’s love is revealed in Jesus. My sins are dirty and cannot stand before the all Holy God. But JESUS makes my sins white as snow. And I still sin. That is our unfortunate nature. Our calling is that we make effort to turn from sin, not to give in to it and make it our treasured possession.

Now on to an assessment of anonymous #1’s situation…
“I continued to struggle with my homosexuality until my early 20's when I finally gave into the truth. I'm Gay.”

I gave into the truth a long time ago too. I’m strait. Along with my “strait-ness” came all the desires. Women were beautiful all of a sudden. Not yucky anymore. So now I had a whole new set of “struggles” to deal with. And they aren’t simply gone because I’m older, or because I’m married, or because I’m a follower of Christ. They are there, and I must fight them. The Bible instructs me to fight them. (Ever heard of the book “Every Man’s Battle”?) But, according to your thoughts, I should embrace them; because they aren’t really “sinful” desires…they are simply “who I am”. They are in the genes, and therefore God surely wants me to experience them.

Pre-marital sex is against God’s design. Most of us want to engage in sex as a natural desire. No one is denying that we have fleshly desires. But the Bible does tell us to deny our flesh, and take up our cross daily. This is one of the key elements that separate us from the animals. We do have morality, they do not.

I have a friend who has struggled with rheumatoid arthritis since he was a very little boy. Obviously, he was “born that way”. His mind is perfectly normal, so in addition to having a crippling disease, he also has a crippling struggle against his own mind and body. He used to visit prostitutes, massage parlors, and strip clubs. He became a Christian a few years ago. He stopped going to these places. He has “failed” and gone back to these places at times…and he has told me that at times it isn’t even the sex that he wants. It’s just the touch of another person. I can understand that, and grieve for what he has to go through. But because of his “disposition” he is not free, by God’s design, to give in to and embrace everything that will satisfy his flesh. He is (and we are) called to certain elements of suffering for the glory of God. My friend, because of his physical disability, glorifies God when he turns from his desires, and “sacrifices” what he and his flesh want, in favor of what God wants.

It’s not comfortable to think of God as a jealous God that wants our devotion and worship. He can start to seem like a dictator. Nobody likes those. But I think that is the way God is. “Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess...” God likes obedience and worship. My friend, when he turns from his carnal desires toward God, glorifies God. It’s like the ring in The Lord of the Rings. If Frodo would have given in to the ring (the flesh) it would have destroyed him. If we are talking about Richard’s sermon on this topic, I would listen to it again. Richard is teaching not that the text in Romans is talking about a “certain type” of homosexuality or infidelity in general. Paul, in Romans, is talking specifically about homosexuality. And, as Richard said,

“if the problem were infidelity, he would have addressed homosexual AND heterosexual infidelity. And infidelity was a huge problem in the Roman state. But if the issue Paul was concerned about was infidelity in general, he would have chosen a different word, “porneia”. Instead, the word he chooses addresses ONLY homosexuality. THUS—I take this to mean that Paul is talking about all homosexuality, not just infidelity”.

All people of the world I am called to love, unconditionally, and I try to. And yes, that makes for a beautiful world, if we all act out the Greatest Commandment. But just because you or I don’t believe something is a sin, that doesn’t make it a virtue, or what God wants. And in the end I’ll let Him be the judge, and we can continue to discuss. I’ll struggle with my stuff, you struggle with yours…and hopefully you and I can walk side-by side in our journey to the truth. In the end God has the whole truth, and the whole wide world in His hands.

 
At 17/7/05 23:20, Blogger Scott said...

Lisa,
Thanks for responding. I don’t think I asked my question very well, so I’d like to ask it more clearly. I actually don’t think homosexuality is obviously sinful, and I am confused about this issue as it relates to the church. What I’m really interested in is, could you (and your partner) feel honored, accepted and loved by Christians, at Bethany, in a fellowship group or gathering, knowing that while not everyone is necessarily willing to categorically say there is no moral element to this issue (even including your relationship with your partner) they are willing to accept you and not judge you.
I have considered different arguments and scriptural interpretations regarding homosexuality, including thoughts similar to yours of Romans One, and my opinion is, you may very well be right. The trouble for me is, I have this nagging thought that you could also be wrong, so I have trouble, at this point, freely endorsing the sacrament of marriage, ordination, etc for homosexuals. (I don’t feel good about this theological uncertainty, because these issues deeply affect many people, including yourself.) Would this ambiguous position leave enough room for you to be able to fellowship with someone like me?

 
At 17/7/05 23:21, Blogger Scott said...

Lisa,
Thanks for responding. I don’t think I asked my question very well, so I’d like to ask it more clearly. I actually don’t think homosexuality is obviously sinful, and I am confused about this issue as it relates to the church. What I’m really interested in is, could you (and your partner) feel honored, accepted and loved by Christians, at Bethany, in a fellowship group or gathering, knowing that while not everyone is necessarily willing to categorically say there is no moral element to this issue (even including your relationship with your partner) they are willing to accept you and not judge you.
I have considered different arguments and scriptural interpretations regarding homosexuality, including thoughts similar to yours of Romans One, and my opinion is, you may very well be right. The trouble for me is, I have this nagging thought that you could also be wrong, so I have trouble, at this point, freely endorsing the sacrament of marriage, ordination, etc for homosexuals. (I don’t feel good about this theological uncertainty, because these issues deeply affect many people, including yourself.) Would this ambiguous position leave enough room for you to be able to fellowship with someone like me?

 
At 18/7/05 08:24, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott,
You said: "I actually don’t think homosexuality is obviously sinful, and I am confused...."

And I'M comfused that you don't think homosexuality is obviously sinful. Where do you get that idea? Certainly not the Bible.

Perhaps the confusion comes in having to deal with the fact that we are commanded to love others even in the midst of their/our sins. But we are also asked to confront people on their sin. Living the Christian life is not easy. Jesus can tell you that.

 
At 18/7/05 10:22, Anonymous Lisa said...

Scott,
Thank you for your willingness to engage and sorry for missing your question the first time. I'm easily distracted when it comes to this discussion.
I can and do feel welcome as part of the community of our church. The one barrier for me is service. I would love nothing more than to serve as a Sunday school teacher. I've nannied and taught school. However, I realize that many parents may not be comfortable with an out lesbian teaching their children. My sexual orientation has no relevance in that classroom but they cannot see past that lable. That cuts me to my core.
But back to your question. I think that reasonable people can disagree on this issue. There are no proof texts to help us decide in one way or another. Thank you for acknowledging that, and being honest about your apprehension to fall on either side of the question. I think it's extrememly important for straight Christians to understand that gay/lesbian Christians don't discount what the bible says. The bible is my authority. But in light of the fact that we have no proof text, and that the scriptures can have multiple interpretations I believe it's appropriate to listen to the Holy Spirit on this matter (doesn't it serve to convict and console us, even in the absence of scripture?). I also believe that the Holy Spirit impressed on me a conviction to embrace the life that God had created for me (read Psalm 139). That doesn't mean that the journey ends there. I was furthermore instructed to live my life with integrity. (To anonymous, just because we embrace our orientation doesn't mean we embrace all forms of sex or activity with another person of the same sex. We are still called to committed, monogamous relationships!! How distorted your view of gay/lesbian people must be. Have you ever even known one?!)
So, yes, I believe that we can worship as one congregation, so long as there is a spirit of respect. It's also important that we get to know each other. It's far too easy to see a whole group of people in the abstract and paint them with the brush of sterotypes if you don't actually know any of them. I believe this dialog is a huge step in the right direction. It's extremely important to me to know where the congregation stands on this issue and to be present to offer my perspective. It's clear that we are all over the board and that this conversation is needed. Let's not let this stop here. I'm avaialable to answer any question you pose, so long as it's in the spirit of respect. Thank you. For even more detail you can read my story (and the story of others) at this site, http://www.lovewelcomesall-wa.org/, click on the "our stories link on the left, mine is labled "tansformed", (I think there might be another by that name but you can see that Lisa Page wrote mine). Thank you.

 
At 18/7/05 12:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Dan's latest blog, I offer the following:

If our quest for truth is core to this discussion, let's make sure we use apples to apples when offering an analogy. If I understand your blog correctly, you content that I should forego a relationship with my ONE partner (i.e. be celibate) because you forego straight extra-marital sex (even though you want to?). Does this sound like apples to apples to you? You might try to take the high road, though, by saying "I'm married, and you're not..." as an argument or to rationalize that any gay sex = extra-marital sex, so therefore the same. It's not a true analogy and therefore a false premise; you won't get to the core truth by that route. And using your disabled friend's carnal outlet by strippers and prostitutes is not analogous to my loving and monogomous relationship with my partner. Frankly, it's an insult and a low-blow. I wonder if your friend agrees with your conclusion. I'm sure that he would love nothing more than a partner who would love him, touch him, and satisfy his carnal desires (and vice versa). I pray that he will find such a person. And your conclusion that God wants us to suffer for His glory is mind-boggling. That's the kind of God I was raised with. My Creator that I have learned to love during my journey reveals Himself to be so loving that all of the suffering was done for me by my savior, Jesus Christ. But if you think that additional suffering is needed, please go ahead and do so, but please don't encourage others to do likewise.

As far as your interpretation of "Lord of the Rings", we'll have to disagree on that as well. Tolkein wrote this series during WWII (see www.nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/rings/influences.html). I think that the ring represents money and power (which is a subset of "fleshly desires" I suppose). It's just that money and power (which usually go hand-in-hand) can seduce a person like nothing else because it's about control. And it was power and control that the world wars were about.

And if this isn't already clear, then I'll say that I disagree with Pastor Richard's conclusions about Paul's references to homosexuality. I don't believe that Paul necessarily got the big picture that Jesus taught throughout his ministry. Paul is human and subject to influences from his culture, beliefs, experiences, etc. Paul never even met Jesus. I also don't believe that Paul's writings are divinely inspired. If they are, then only one of the following two things can be true: 1) slavery should be endorsed by Christians (Eph 6:5), or 2) the writings are not divinely inspired. Paul also had major issues with sexuality in general, offering that men are better off to not get married (1 Cor 7:6-8). He apparently did not see enough benefit of marriage & sex to outweigh the negatives.

And to the other anonymous blogger, all of us understand your position: homosexuality=sin and nothing is ever going to change your mind. That idea has been around for quite awhile and it's how most, if not all, of us were raised. Dan stated, "But just because you or I don’t believe something is a sin, that doesn’t make it a virtue, or what God wants." But the opposite is also true: Just because you think it's a sin, doesn't mean that God considers it a sin. Throughout history, people have considered many types of things to be sin, and in many cases, those items are no longer considered sins. We'll simply have to disagree, but that should never end our quest for truth.

Yesterday, the sermon at St. Therese Catholic Church was on the parable of the wheat/weeds (Matt 13:24-30). When the servants wanted to gather the weeds to remove them from the field, in verse 29, the "householder" (God) says, "...'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.' The reapers (angels in Verse 39) will take care of it at harvest time. Basically, who are we to distinguish between wheat and weeds? Leave it to God. Love one another. And if you believe that Christianity is a great thing, then it should sell itself without scaring people into it. Attract them to Christianity by incorporting loving acts into your daily routine, not by preaching TO them. Get to know some gay people on a personal level. Visit an AIDS hospice. Put a face on your stereotypes. Do something besides tell people they are sinning. As gay people, we know the prevailing opinion.

 
At 18/7/05 12:50, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing...can someone please tell me where Jesus asks us to confront sin? Read John 8. This includes the text about casting the first stone.

 
At 18/7/05 14:05, Anonymous Penny said...

First, I am honored to be a part of a church that honestly engages these issues, even (and perhaps especially) though they are really difficult. I am so glad to see people of different convictions coming together and treating one another as brothers and sisters, children of God.

I am jumping into a conversation that is well established with simply a few thoughts. I hope to be around for more on this unbelievably important topic (that has thankfully been broadened).

So, my thoughts....In many things, particularly divisive issues, many (most) of us try to prove to those who disagree that our positions are right. I understand this tendency perfectly. I feel my beliefs and convictions so passionately that I often lose sight of the real goal of dialogue -- to know others, to hear them, really listen and hear what is behind their words.

I didn't realize this until I became a Christian. To talk with someone is not to convert them to your own point of view - but to be challenged and stretched by the relationship so that you take your questions to God who is the ultimate judge and mediator. By doing so we have a better chance of knowing the intimacy of relationship that God calls us to with all creation, rather than the rupture in relationship that God abhors.

It is for the sake of dialogue, then, that I propose (and in so doing compel myself to listen to my own words) that we do our best to reserve our judgments of the one another and try to listen to the people behind the convictions. That said, we cannot divorce people of their convictions, but God did not simply create us as a bundle of beliefs. We are more than that. We are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, neighbors and friends, people who are people destined to love, support, uplift, and strenghthen one another with God's love and through His Spirit.

I am encouraged that God's Spirit is beginning to take root here. It is so much more important than who is "right."

Forgive me if this seems trite or simplisitic...Sometimes I think we make things too complicated, and lose sight of God in the meantime.

 
At 18/7/05 14:19, Anonymous Penny said...

Scott, In the spirit of knowing people primarily for who they are rather than for their convicitions, I wanted to say thank you for being willing to be in relationship. I hope this will carry further than isolated people sitting in front of computers, spilling their guts alone.

Lisa, thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable when you have been so deeply hurt in the past. Your courage amazes and inspires me.

 
At 18/7/05 16:06, Anonymous dan said...

Can't say these verses are comfortable for me. I truly would rather live and let live...and I, like Paul, am the greatest of sinners. I stake no claim on holiness...I break God's law daily. But the following verses are in the Word. I don't think we're supposed to ignore them. And if I needed to be "confronted" by a brother or sister about anything in my life that they saw as opposed to God's design, I would hope they would do it, as these verses encourage.

Luke 17:3
So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

Galatians 6
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

James 5:19-20
19My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

 
At 18/7/05 16:24, Anonymous CJ said...

Also: Matt. 18:15-17
15"If your brother sins against you,[a]go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

[a]'against you' is not in some texts.

 
At 18/7/05 16:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let us not forget the example of the Pharisees.

 
At 18/7/05 16:35, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Pharisee's knew the law, one might say, word by word, but they missed the point entirely. Let us never use the bible as a weapon.

 
At 18/7/05 16:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem I find in the last verse, in relation to this discussion, is that it is referring to someone who has done something against me as a person. Someone who has wronged me. I don't feel that a person who is gay has done anything "wrong" to me.

 
At 18/7/05 17:27, Anonymous Lisa said...

This conversation is beginning to make me very sad. I know that this forum isn't exactly condusive to understanding. It's very easy to point fingers when all you do is type words into the abyss. This issue and this discussion is EXTREMELY important to me. Please help each other remember that there are people with real emotions on the other end of your postings. Some whose lives have been impacted in tremendous ways by the topic of coversation. Myself included. I urge you to ask questions instead of pretending to have all of the answers. This issue is far too complex for anyone to wrap their minds around. Trust me, I've searched and searched and searched and searched. There just are no easy answers. I honestly wish there were, in either direction! To include or exclude definitively homosexuality as a practice consistent with Christian living. I think I've found that the truth is somewhere between black and white and the rainbow. I think that Truth can be definitive, yet at the same time different for each of us. I believe, for the record, that the bible is devinely inspired, and as such, can inspire each of us as God sees fit. Don't we all know from experience that two people can read the same passage and clearly see two very different messages?! Empathize for a moment, consider the frightening notion, that we can't all concieve so easily of everything in the world. That we weren't even intended to. Don't pretent to know my truth, and I won't pretend to know yours. Don't pretend to know what's best for me, that's for my Creator to decide, and I'll never force you into my interpretation of what is best for you. I urge you to seek out someone whose perspective is different than your own, develop a relationship with someone who has struggled with this first hand. You may go into it thinking that your presence will transform them, but you might just walk away transformed yourself. Lastly, maybe we should all agree to pray for a moment or two before we post our thoughts. Thank you for your continued willingness to engage.

 
At 18/7/05 17:54, Anonymous dan said...

believe me, I don't intend to use the Bible as a weapon, just to answer a question (this question: "One more thing...can someone please tell me where Jesus asks us to confront sin? Read John 8. This includes the text about casting the first stone").

At the end of the day, the Bible must be the final authority.

I'm sorry if I sound like a Pharisee to anyone. I am just a beggar on the same road trying to figure out the truth. Some things I have found to be true that you do not, and vice versa. But I don't think truth is relative. And as long as we disagree, we won't convince the other through arguments. My goal is to love and treat my neighbor as myself, regardless of their or my "sin". And believe me, I have a hard time with the quandry of confronting and simultaneously loving, and grasping on to what I believe the truth is. I know I don't have all the answers. I'm sorry if you feel I'm pointing and singling out THIS "sin". And where my "answers" stop (the ones I've come to believe in my mind), the only option Jesus gives me is to love. Probably because there will always be a convincing argument on each side of an issue.

Also, I do have some gay friends...and another friend died of AIDS. It is tragic.

Lisa, you're right. In trying to express our truth that we have come to, we can hear in our head a certain tone while we type. But what comes through on the page can sound very different. Thanks for reining it in.

Maybe I and all of us should remember the following verse:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 
At 18/7/05 18:16, Anonymous cj said...

Lisa, I'm really sorry this is making you sad. I'm new to the area and have truthfully not been around the homosexual community much. Of course I have my beliefs based on how I interpret the Bible, but the Lord put a lesbian couple in front of me on Saturday to further stretch me.

I was at a park with a 3 yr old. They were at the park with a 4 yr old. We started talking. The mom told me the little boy had two mommies and didn't know his dad because the dad was a sperm donor. I explained my 'inexperience' in this area and they were very kind and so was I. We talked for quite a while about the situation. They met in the service and have been together 16 years. Their parents were both shocked when they found out, but quickly accepted the news. Depending on parts of the country they happen to visit, they get different reactions. I didn't throw scripture at them, I didn't condemn them. I tried to see them thru Jesus' eyes. What would He do? Say it's ok? I was sad, I know that. Because I know without any doubt God's purpose and intent in marriage is that is to be between a man and a woman. How do we get around this? I realize that many things we do as humans are not His highest and best. Divorce, adultry, all the 'things that happen in life.'

I'm just praying He will 'create in me a new heart', to truly see with His eyes, and give me a clear understanding. And praying not only for myself, but for all the other bloggers on here, no matter their position on this.

And Lisa - I do love you.

 
At 18/7/05 18:30, Anonymous Lisa said...

Dan, thank you for responding so thoughtfully. I think we might be having a discussion about the same issue soon if we keep this up! :) Let me reiterate that I don't believe that Truth is relative. I do believe that God has a unique journey and purpose for each of us. I also believe that it is He who breathes life into the bible, and if we seek honestly to know His intention for our lives when we consult the bible, that He will reveal His purpose for us in whatever way He chooses. Does that make any sense? In this way I've come to believe that there are some for whom it would be sin to engage in same-sex relationships and there are some for whom is would be sin to engage in opposite-sex relationships. I know the spirit of conviction, it has spoken loud and clear in my life many times. I was convicted about my relationships with men prior to coming out. I've been convicted about many things since coming out. And these days, I'm often convicted about not treating my partner with the utmost respect, or hurting her with a flippant comment, or mis-using my money, etc. I've given this (homosexuality) part of my life over to God time after time, and each time I was met with the same response... something along the lines of, "I created you, my work is perfect, embrace your identity with the integrity that I've asked of you". I teeter between the feeling that I need to change peoples minds on this issue and simply moving forward as a community with differences. I'd like to see the former, am more inclined to believe in the latter, but never want to underestimate God.

 
At 18/7/05 20:03, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding CJ's latest blog...I do believe the Lord put this lesbian couple in front of you to stretch you, and I commend you for being kind and maintaining a non-judgmental attitude towards them, although I'm sorry that you were sad about witnessing this family having a fun day at the park.

It also concerns me that you "without a doubt" know God's intentions. That's pretty amazing since the rest of us don't generally have that ability. I've heard some people argue that God's perfect plan is for pro-creation (thus man & woman). What about the infertile couple? Or the couple that doesn't want to have children. Are they something less than God's perfect plan?

Additionally, I'm saddened over the comparison of committed, loving, and monogomous same-sex relationships with divorce and adultery. I've also heard it compared by others to murder, larceny, and so on. How can taking the life or property from someone (not to mention all of the collateral damage that results from these sins) even compare to two consenting adults deciding that they love each other? Likewise, how can hurting a spouse via divorce or adultery compare to a loving relationship?

I pray, too, that God will create in all of us 'a new heart, to truly see with His eyes, and give [us] a clear understanding.' I believe that in order to do so, we have to open our minds, educate ourselves, and re-think things that we know 'without a doubt'. Meditation is another great tool to utilize when listening for God's wisdom.

Again, thank you to all who are continuing this dialogue. I believe we are all wiser, and therefore blessed as a result.

 
At 19/7/05 08:57, Anonymous Lisa said...

CJ, thank you for your sentiments but what the above anonymous said resounds with me. Your proclamation of love feels hollow when in virtually the same breath you have compared my covenented, precious relationship with my partner to adultery and divorce. I'm sure that that was not your intention but everything about this topic is personal. Personal to me, others in our congregation, and certainly others in our community. If we are to try to work together as a congregation, worship together as one people, then we must think about how our words are affecting those around us. I wouldn't dare compare your relationship with your girlfriend, fiance, or spouse to gossip, greed, or murder. Why would you be inclined to do that to me? Well, it's because of socialization. We all come from a perspective that condems homosexuality, wrongfully in my opinion, and we need to learn to at least respect people who are different from us. Listening to what the words that come out of our own mouths is a good place to start. But listening to each other might be even better. Thank you, again, for your willingness to engage. I know that this is a difficult topic and I will continue to pray for all of us. I don't want my words to you to sounds cold, I'm only trying to relay the effect that your words have on me and to point out how powerful they can be. Thank you.

 
At 19/7/05 12:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won't be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
1 Corinthians 1:10

There are many references like the one above throughout the bible that address divisions and disagreements in the church. In our discussion right now, it is homosexuality. In Corinth and other churches Paul writes to, it is baptism, eating food sacrified to idols, circumcision, to name a few! This is nothing new, to debate what it is that God means, how to carry out the law, what is salvation, who can be a Christian?

Over and over again I find The Church challenged to lay aside petty disputes and remember our true and highest calling - to love our neighbors. Also, as we see above, we are encouraged to be united in what we do know for sure. What do we know for sure? What can we agree upon?

But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we exist for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.
1 Corinthians 8:6

As Christians, we suscribe to a belief in a creator who is wiser than we could ever be, who loves more than we could ever love. We are told to love others and trust God.

You think that everyone should agree with your perfect knowledge. While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn't really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one God knows and cares for.
1 Corinthians 8:1

What we know for sure is love and grace and salvation for all who believe. Beyond that, I charge you today to speak in love, to remember to keep this topic and important discussion framed in respect and humility.

 
At 19/7/05 14:45, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Believe" in Greek = "to act upon; obey".

 
At 19/7/05 15:52, Anonymous dan said...

Lisa--I have gone to your website and read your story. This is just really hard for me. Not to treat you well, and love you as Christ asks me to...but to "accept" your lifestyle. But I have a hard time "explaining" it any more than I already have, from the way I have always understood the Bible. I haven't changed on what I believe, but I have changed in the fact that my eyes have been opened to the fact that people in the church (including me) are ignoring a lot of huge things we need to be caring about. Richard is right, homosexuality is treated like the "watershed issue of our time", and I think that is a tactic Satan uses to get our minds on "other" things, so he can have his victories elsewhere. Just look at how many posts there are on this particular section, but the section on poverty is comparitively empty. I do believe we are distracted, in a sense, and while people are perishing that need us, we are sitting here, typing away about us, us, us...(what we think about this issue) when Jesus call is "them, them, them". We're wasting time.

 
At 19/7/05 16:33, Anonymous Lisa said...

In many ways I agree. This issue is a distraction, but that doesn't mean that this coversation should end. This issue is also extremely powerful. The misunderstanding, fear, and sometimes even hatred that the church has towards gay and lesbian people has served as it's very own evil. An entire group of people have been alienated by the church. Recall the story that Richard read at the end of his sermon on the subject. Gay and lesbian people feel hated by Christianity, and fear Christians because they have reason to. We must acknowledge the damage we are doing and then begin to correct it. Not to neglect other issues, they are also vitally important. What I envision is diverse congregations of people working together to fight poverty and in the process learning to love each other despite differences and disagreements. In this way, both needs will begin to be filled. One small thing that you can do as an "outsider" to begin engaging gay and lesbian people is to remove the word "lifestyle" from your vocabulary. No one likes being labled soley by their sexuality and lumped into a group that they may or may not even identify with. For me it's like fingers down the chalk board. Plus it's rhetoric that comes from a hateful history of gay bashing. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for being open to getting to know someone. To considering another perspective, and challenging long held stereotypes. It goes a very long way toward reconciliation on a devisive and emotional subject. I hope that we, as a congregation, can begin to pursue the hearts of people who have been alienated by hurtful deeds and words, because the message of a loving savior is for ALL people.

 
At 19/7/05 16:35, Anonymous Lisa said...

Oh, and CJ, welcome to Seattle! Perhaps I'll have the chance to be in front of you too sometime.

 
At 19/7/05 16:55, Anonymous dan said...

Mainly I meant, we're talking about an issue while the world is perishing. It is an important issue, and (obviously) we all care deeply about it from deeply held convictions. But I also believe you are to stand side-by-side with me, and I with you, doing the work we're called to do, as we understand it, in our mutual commitment to Christ and His calling. I'm too confused to do anything else. :)

 
At 27/7/05 13:37, Anonymous Lisa said...

To Dan, and all who engaged in this conversation, thank you for being honest and open to dialogue. I felt so worn out that I took a week away and it appears as though everyone else has moved on. I knew it would happen but I hope that our conversation about this issue doesn't end here. It's true we are sitting around blogging while people are dying of starvation. It's simple and easy, and right, to point to those in poverty and say that we should help. It's far more difficult to begin to engage a community that we don't understand. The gay and lesbian community may not be dying of starvation, but they/we are suffering from hunger. They hunger for the community of their childhood's faith, hunger for communion, hunger to hear that they are loved by God, and they/we/I am hungry to not be hated.

I think it may be a far greater challenge to satisfy the hunger of my community than to feed all of the starving in this world. But, if we are going to claim to be followers of Christ, it is no less our calling, even our duty, to do so.

 
At 12/2/06 22:33, Blogger rickolis said...

I used to attend Bethany on a regular basis a few years ago when I was a student at SPU. I suppose it's been >4 years since; man do I feel old.

Anyhow, I know I'm late in responding to this thread, and I'm not even sure if anyone will see this, but I'm going to chime in:

My time at SPU has taught me many things, perhaps the most important is how I reconciled my faith with my sexuality. (I'm gay). I have been raised in conservative evangelical churches my entire life, so of course that reconciliation was very difficult. For as long as I can remember, I sat silent in the pews while others, not knowingly, persecuted me. As graduation came closer, I found myself drifting further from God. At Bethany, the topic of homosexuality was never addressed, so far as I could remember, but it was discussed at another church I sometimes went to. I assumed that Bethany, like the other church, held a conservative stance on homosexuality, and I didn't return to either churches.

For the next few years, until 2006, I bounced from church to church looking for one that felt as right as Bethany did. I searched for this ideal church to have the same atmosphere as Bethany, but with the love and acceptance of open and affirming churches. I had no luck, and soon my visits to church services went from weekly to not even more than a few times a year.

In that time of dropping off from going to church, I found a community of gay Christians online, at GayChristian.net. People there were JUST LIKE ME, and it was really a gift from God that I found this place. Through the website, there were local gatherings and I had the opportunity to meet so many other gay Christians. Yay! It wasn't until recently that my relationship with God is starting to become real again to me.

I was very happy to find Pastor Richard's message on homosexuality. I have heard similar messages before, namely Tony and Peggy Campolo's talk on the subject matter. Peggy is truly an inspiration, and my personal hero aside from Christ. Anyhow, the point I'm wanting to make is that I am so glad that Bethany has started discussion about the topic of homosexuality, and that it's from a stance of openess and love in practice.

After all of these years, I'm considering coming back to Bethany, to see if this is the place where I will feel welcome and able to fellowship in the worship of my God with other Christians. I really really hope it is, because it's such an amazing community.

-Rick

 
At 14/2/06 17:54, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

For Rick - Thanks so much for posting. I'd be honored if we could chat sometime - If you're interested, send an e-mail to Bethany Community Church and we'll set something up. I appreciate your perspective and would want to hear more.

In Him

richard dahlstrom

 

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