We had a great discussion/thread going earlier today here about what it should like for a church to support GLBT folks seeking celibacy.
The starting point of the discussion is that if a church is going to say that the only viable option for LGBT’s is celibacy or change, then the church needs to pro-actively create an environment that supports celibacy in its fullness.
So what does that look like? Here are some of the collective thoughts that came up during the discussion:
– Churches need to look at their whole ministries to singles, not just LGBT’s. In one sense, LGBT’s are no different than other singles, but in other senses the issues and challenges are very different. This is a balance.
– Accountability and discipleship are essential. (Still need to tease out what this actually looks like… I think Mike got closest to some good specific wisdom on accountability).
– Leaders/teachers need to address these issues from up front, supporting the LGBT’s in the church, dispelling myths, etc.
– The focus should not primarily be on sex, but on the Gospel, following Jesus, discipleship, and the spiritual practice of celibacy as a way to serve in ministry (with an understanding that not all LGBT’s are serving in ministry or are even allowed to).
– You cannot have a healthy “celibacy culture” when people are in the closet and hiding. There needs to be a safe culture to say you are gay without shame. There is no such thing as a “healthy closeted celibate”.
– A culture of real grace needs to underly and undergird all of this.
– Additional resources, counselors, small groups, etc, are all important parts of the puzzle. (Personal note: being in a small group that all knows that I am gay and we talk about sexual purity/chastity issues has been the single best thing for me in my own process. My Monday Night Men’s Group has been a huge blessing and source of accountability, discipleship, grace and love.)
– There needs to be a better understanding of the differences between chastity and celibacy.
Those are some of the common ideas and themes that emerged from that conversation. I hope we can continue it and I hope others (including church leaders and pastors) weigh in. I think we have just started to scratch the surface of the issues — but hopefully people can see it is a slightly more complicated issue than most people make it out to be.
Other complications for traditionalist churches is how do you deal with LGBT folks within your congregation who do not share the traditionalist view?
Other questions for traditionalist churches include: may celibate LGBT’s be members? Leaders? Work with kids/youth? What happens if they fail? Is their grace/forgiveness or are they thrown out of their ministry/leadership/membership role?
These are the practical and real questions for traditionalist churches. And in my personal opinion, traditionalist churches unwilling to really work through these issues need to stop all their rhetoric about “hating the sin, loving the sinner”, etc — because you can’t call people to mandatory celibacy and then do nothing to help them achieve that.
Tomorrow we will start a different conversation about the affirming church… I am expecting an equally good and fruitful conversation there.