I am going to be away on vacation for the next two weeks… so no blogging!
Monthly Archives: July 2011
The other day, I got this encouraging note from an old friend from high school via Facebook:
Hey Ben,So glad you “found” me on Facebook. After accepting your request, I checked out your blog, and after checking out the first page and reading about the changes in your life, I went back to the beginning of the blog and read forward. I have to say, I’ve always had so much respect for you, having known you when we were both young and stumbling through high school, and seeing you ultimately follow your faith to where it led you. Having read about what you’ve gone through more recently, and seeing the grace and humility you’ve maintained in the face of what must have been the gut-wretching ordeal of losing both your ministry and, no doubt, a number of people whom you must have counted as some of your closest friends – its truly inspiring. Anyway, I don’t make it to Hartford very often, but next time I do, I’m definitely going to stop in at your restaurant. Take Care.
This was very encouraging — and affirming of the story this blog tells.
Here is the first thing I want to say about the matter of homosexuality:As a follower of Christ, a pastor and Christian leader, I ask the homosexual community for forgiveness for the way individual Christians and Christian organizations have often treated you.In other words, I begin with repentance.I’ve seen anger – even hatred – among Christians toward gays and lesbians that is nothing less than horrifying to me. There’s an “us-versus-them” mentality as if war has been declared; a spirit manifest that shows nothing but contempt.Even to the point of an irrational fear.From those who went public after such events as 9/11, or Hurricane Katrina, and said it was God’s judgment on homosexuals.From those who lead movements to try and get gays fired from public office, or to keep them away from fair housing or employment opportunities.From those who use terms like “fags” or “faggots”, or hold up signs at funerals that say “God hates fags.”Little wonder that hostility toward gays – not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors, but utter disdain for gay individuals – is what 91% of all Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 who are outside of the church think most marks those inside the church.So let me publicly apologize to those of you within the homosexual community for the hate you have felt and may have even experienced from the Christian community. That has been our sin against you, and I ask for your forgiveness.
Pace-setting mega-church Willow Creek, led by Bill Hybels, has publicly and fully disaffiliated themselves from any partnership or support for Exodus International, the leading “ex gay” ministry in the world.
Christianity Today reports on the development here. Apparently, this has been in the works for a long time but now it is official and public.
Exodus International’s missional emphasis has been around advocating for and practicing reparative therapy. The primary goal of reparative therapy is change of orientation; when orientation change is not possible, the focus becomes more on behaviors.
As Willow Creek has made clear, this decision comes not as a move to isolate the LGBT community — both within the church and within the community — but rather to more effectively engage them.
I don’t think this necessarily represents a theological shift by Willow Creek, but rather a rejection of the one-size-fits-all answer that Exodus International offers. Additionally, I think this brings Willow in line with the vast majority who view reparative therapy (not to be confused with SORT therapy or other models) as ineffective and possibly harmful.
I don’t know where this will lead, but if anyone was asking me for advice (no one is) I would argue that the goal for churches should be to help people integrate their sexuality with the rest of their lives, including their spirituality and religious conviction. Integration comes from the root integer and means “whole”. The goal should be to help people be “whole”. A first critical step to wholeness is openness and honesty — which means that people need to be “out” within their church community in order to seek wholeness.
I have argued before that I think that both Side A and Side B are valid answers for LGBT Christians. My conviction is that each individual needs to come to their own conclusion in the context of their relationship with Jesus… but no matter which answer, integration of faith and sexuality is critical. (It is also critical for heterosexuals too, by the way.)
So what are your thoughts on either Willow Creeks decision or the idea of integration? Let me know…
Here is part #2 of the series I am currently preaching at Riverfront Family Church. We are exploring the topic of GRACE: what is it, what difference does it make, and what does it reveal about our Heavenly Father?
This message comes out of Luke 14.
After listening, I would love to hear your thoughts.
This Sunday I will be continuing the series with a message called “Block Party” out of Luke 15.
During the summers, Riverfront Family Church meets for worship at Wickham Park in Manchester, CT at 10:30 AM.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Post your honest thoughts here in the comments…
Here is the audio from my sermon last week at Riverfront Family Church. Tomorrow, is part #2 of the series. During the summer, the church meets at Wickham Park in Manchester, CT at 10:30 AM. (info here).
In case you are curious, you can read about how I wrote this sermon here.
After you listen, I would love your feedback…