Let’s get practical about homosexuality and the church…
A little while back I posted a paper by Tim Otto suggesting that it is time for a third approach to homosexuality and the church — beyond the traditionalist position and beyond the affirming position. I thought it was a really thought-provoking paper that I hope you will take the time to read (click here).
In the midst of his broader argument, Tim makes this observation:
“If you are espousing either homosexual celibacy [that is, the traditionalist position] or marriage [that is, the affirming position], but the church you are part of does not deeply support such people, then I wonder if you might be like those Pharisees that Jesus denounces, people who tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but are themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.”
In other words, for churches that espouse a lifelong-celibacy-or-change position (which is the dominant position of conservative evangelical churches), what are they doing to create a healthy and welcoming culture within the church for LGBT people — both seekers and believers — who are trying to live celibatly? What does that look like for a church?
And secondly, in affirming churches… what does it look like to help LGBT folks value marriage, date in healthy ways, have relational accountability, etc, within the church?
These are real questions that I am hoping you will weigh in on… feel free to weigh in specifically based on the position you hold, or on both positions. This is not a debate about the validity about one position or the other, but a practical discussion of how each position should actually be lived out in the church.
I am in the process of developing my own thoughts on this issue and will post some of those soon. But I really want to hear your thoughts on this.
Now let me be perfectly honest and lay my cards on the table…
I have never seen nor experienced a traditionalist church that does this well. The very churches that advocate mandatory life-long celibacy for LGBT folks who cannot change do little, if anything, to create an environment that values and celebrates celibacy, singleness, etc. Maybe there are examples of churches that do this well… I have just never seen them (with the possible exception of Gateway Church in Texas).
I have seen, heard of and experienced affirming churches that are doing a really good job creating healthy environments for LGBT folks in terms of relationships, marriage, etc. But, I have also seen many (if not most) affirming churches that do a lousy job at this. They see it more as an issue of advocacy then of discipleship — and many of these churches have taken an “anything goes” approach — which is really not very helpful to anyone.
So all of that said, I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions for what good, healthy traditionalist churches should look like on this issue; and what good, healthy affirming churches should look like on this issue.
Looking forward to the discussion… tomorrow I will post about the traditionalist church… then Thursday about the affirming church… so you can post your thoughts there.