Monthly Archives: August 2011

Like Wings on a Pig

John Shore has written a piece that is full of wisdom, common sense and stating the obvious… which perhaps is why it runs so counter to what many traditionalist Christians believe. This is a must read…

These days, every Christian who is ?against homosexuality? (whatever in the name of Monstro?s blowhole that actually means) presents the same argument. That argument is ? well, this, taken directly from an email sent me this morning:

Would you support a serial adulterer who loves his wife, but is just attracted to other women because that?s who he is and how he was born? How about an alcoholic who just can?t help himself? Would you support him as he leaves his wife for alcohol? A glutton? A man of extreme pride? Why does homosexuality get a pass, and not any other sin? A person with homosexual desires who resists temptation is exactly the same as a married man who resists temptation to carry on affairs with other women ? which is to say, a human being battling the temptation to sin. The most compassionate thing that we could tell someone struggling with homosexuality (or any other sin for that matter) is to keep resisting temptation. Keep battling. Don?t give in. This is your badge as a Christian, that you fight temptation.

Um ? for the record, I do not make this stuff up.

By ?these days,? I mean that the typical Christian argument against homosexuality has changed. It used to be, ?Gays are really only messed-up straight people. They should let Jesus make them straight, so that they can stop acting all gay and not go to hell.?

Nowadays, the Christian refrain isn?t, ?Stop being gay.? Now it?s ?Stop acting gay.? They?ve given up trying to argue that gays can change their sexual orientation: the complete failure of Christian Fix-a-Gay and Homo No? Mo! programs ? not to mention a universe of anecdotal and empirical evidence ? have left them little choice in that.

So they?ve changed their approach. Now their argument is that a homosexual struggling against the temptation to act homosexual is no different from anyone else struggling to resist a sinful temptation.

Christians love this new argument. If I?ve heard it once, I?ve heard it ten thousand times. We all have. You whisper ?gay? into the ear of a sleeping Christian, and there?s an excellent chance they?ll just start saying it in their sleep. ?Just like any other sinful temptation. We?re all sinners. Must resist.?

And putting your brain to sleep before you say that is the very best way to say it, too. Because it could only make sense to a brain-dead person. It?s just too stupid for words.

But lemme try to find some words anyway.

Virtually all sins share a crucial, defining, common quality. Because that quality, which is present in every other imaginable sin, is utterly missing from being or acting gay, insisting on putting homosexuality into the same category as every other sin ? or in the category of sin at all ? is like gluing wings on a pig, and insisting the result belongs in the category of ?bird.? It doesn?t. It can?t. It won?t. Ever.

Here is that Big Difference between homosexuality and all those activities generally understood to be ?sinful?: There is no sin I can commit that, by virtue of committing it, renders me incapable of loving or being loved. I can commit murder. I can steal. I can rob. I can rape. I can drink myself to death. I can do any terrible thing at all ? and no one would ever claim that intrinsic to the condition that gave rise to my doing that terrible thing is that I am, by nature, simply incapable of giving or receiving love.

No one tells the chronic drinker, or glutton, or adulterer, or any other kind of sinner, to stop experiencing love. Yet that?s exactly what so many Christians are insisting that gay people do.

When you tell a gay person to ?resist? being gay, what you are really telling them ? what you really mean ? is for them to be celibate.

What you are truly and actually saying is that you want them to condemn themselves to a life devoid of the kind of enduring, romantic, partner-to-partner love that all people, Christians included, understand as just about the best part of being alive.

Be alone, you?re demanding. Live alone. Don?t hold anyone?s hand. Don?t snuggle on your couch with anyone. Don?t cuddle up with anyone at night before you fall asleep. Don?t have anyone to chat with over coffee in the morning.

Do not bind your life to that of another. Live your whole life without knowing that joy, that sharing, that peace.

Just say ?no? to love.

Be alone. Live alone. Die alone.

The ?sinful temptation? that Christians are forever urging LGBT people to resist is love.

Being, of course, the one thing Jesus was most clear about wanting his followers to extend to others.


1 Comment

Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


Starbucks, Willow Creek, and Christian Homophobia?

Here is a quotation from a gay member at Willow Creek:

In my view, [Hybels’] response reflects the teachings of Jesus Christ—that God is pro people, loves everyone, and everyone is welcome. We are not anti-gay and don’t hate gay people. I felt that was a wonderful way to respond, and exactly how I would have responded. Willow has never tried to make me straight. I’m proud of my church and my pastor.

This quotation appeared in an article by Andrew Marin about the recent controversy at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit.

As always, Marin offers some really good perspective and insight. Also confirming of why I would attend Willow if I lived in Chicagoland.

I am continually thankful for Andrew’s ministry and strategic position.

You can read his whole article here.


1 Comment

Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Uncategorized


Jay Bakker On Homosexuality, Religion & Politics

Great interview! Would love to hear your thoughts…

1 Comment

Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


Oral Roberts’ Grandson Randy Potts On Coming Out

This interview is definitely worth watching… THOUGHTS?

1 Comment

Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Uncategorized



Yesterday, at our monthly men’s fellowship breakfast at my church, we talked about transitions.

One of the guys in the group made the observation that it seems like we are always in transition.  I think there is a lot of truth to this.  

Most of us think about transitions as being the exception and being temporary and filling the brief spaces between more settled times.  

But what if the really exceptional thing is the brief time when we experience a sense of settlement.  Whether it is about relationships, life stage, jobs and careers… we are always in transition.

As we talked about it, one of the things I realized is that this is very true and that there are at least two really important implications:

(1) God is not that interested in are comfort or us feeling settled.

Abraham was called out of Ur.  Moses back from Mideon to lead his people out of Egypt. Jeremiah was given a tough assignment.  Nehemiah sent back to rebuild the city.  Jonah… to Ninevah.  And on and on… God’s people are always in transition.  This is because we are a Tabernacle people… and incarnational people.  We are on the move!  Settling in and getting comfortable isn’t really high on God’s agenda for us.

(2) Significant growth happens in transition — and this just might be God’s real agenda.

Church growth experts — as well as psychologists and pastors — have known for a long time that people grow the most spiritually during times of transition.  Transitions are often what bring people back to faith (or to seek faith for the first time).  While our agenda is often about comfort, planning for eventual retirement, getting ahead and hitting our life goals… God’s agenda is about relationships and character development.  Transitions forge relationships (with God and others) and both reveals and develops our character.

1 Comment

Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


Why I Would Go To Willow

If I lived in the Chicagoland area, I would attend Willow Creek Community Church — and be excited about it. This, despite the fact that I strongly disagree with Willow’s position on homosexuality.  

So, you ask, as a gay Christian, why would I go to Willow?

I will answer that question in a minute.

But first… some more general thoughts.

As a gay and evangelical Christian, finding a church is not that easy.  I can’t attend most conservative, traditional evangelical churches because, frankly, they reject me and the environment they create for gay Christians — and those struggling to figure out their sexual orientation — is emotionally and spiritually unhealthy.  Any church that forces you or encourages you to hide is a church that is practicing a form of spiritual abuse. Any church that says things like “you are welcome here, just as along as you change”, is being disengenous.  What they really mean is “you are not welcome here” and I wish they would just say that upfront.  Any church that makes fighting gays politically a central or important part of their community life and pulpit time (such as gay marriage, basic civil rights for gays, fighting DADT) are places I cannot be involved with. 

Those are all issues that effect me being gay.  But how about evangelical?

You see, most mainline and liberal churches are not welcoming to me as an evangelical.  For me, a church must love and preach God’s word, be committed to Kingdom advancement and mission, focus on living out our core purposes together, and seriously value both evangelism and discipleship.  These, too, are non-negotiables for me.

So it is a rare church that I could call home.  I am incredibly lucky and blessed to be a member of a church that is legitimately evangelical and legitimately socially progressive.  The church loves and preaches God’s Word, affirms the historic and orthodox Christian faith, is fully engaged with missions and evangelism, as well as committed to discipleshiup and spiritual growth.  Plus, the church is unapologetically open and welcoming to LGBT folks.  While we are a small church, we have several gay families in the church (married with kids) — and this is just part of who we are.  It is not a big deal.  And it is beautiful to watch.  I cannot imagine what are church would be like without the gifts, talents and passions of these folks — or how boring the church would be without their beautiful (and sometimes wild) kids!

At my church, it is not about an agenda or issue — it is simply a reflection of what the Body of Christ looks like in all its beauty and diversity.

So I am very lucky to have found this church and to call it my home.  I get to use my gifts, I am never considered a second class citizen, and the fact that I am gay is merely one (and not even the most important or interesting) thing about me there.  And that is true of all the LGBT folks (and the straight folks) who are part of the community.

Anyway, back to Willow Creek…

In a nutshell, as far as I can tell, this is generally Willow’s position on gays: (1) homosexuality is not chosen and cannot be “cured”; (2) gay people are fully created in the image of God and fully welcomed into the Willow community; (3) physical sexual expression is to be reserved for monogamous, committed heterosexual marriage; (4) all others (LGBT, straight singles, widows, divorcees, etc) are to be non-sexually active.

My disagreement with Willow comes in points 3 & 4.  I think that one valid, Biblical option for gay Christians is to express their sexuality within the context of a committed, loving, monogamous same-sex relationship.  I believe that some (though probably not most) gay Christians may be called to a life of celibacy — or for a variety of reasons will remain single.  And I affirm this for people who want and choose it.  But for many gay Christians (and gays generally), the single life is not their calling.  And I think the best option is for the church to sanction, bless and support gay people in these relationships.

So I probably agree with Willow’s position about 90% — but of course, that last 10% is a pretty big deal.

So why would I still attend Willow?

1. I don’t need a church to agree with me 100% of the time in order for me to go there.  If I did, I wouldn’t be able to attend any church.  Willow Creek intentionally creates a “big tent” and there is a lot of theological diversity within their community.

2.  I honestly believe — from the people I know at Willow and from spending some time there — that their community is one that is emotionally and spiritually safe… even for LGBT folks.  I would feel completely safe at Willow (which is not true in many churches).

3.  I believe that Willow recognizes that these issues are complex and that we are all (including the leadership of Willow) on a journey.  I believe they would respect where I am at in my journey.

4.  In every other sense (mission, vision, values, etc) Willow fully resonates with me.  To reject all that is good because we have a theological disagreement about homosexuality, would be sad.

5.  I believe that I would be able to be open about who I am, what I believe, etc, at Willow.  I believe that I could find fellowship and community there.

6.  I respect and trust the leadership of the church… that goes a long way.

7.  I even believe that if I got married and we adopted kids (or he already had kids), we could go to Willow as a family and still feel safe and valued.  I believe our kids could go to Promiseland and be loved and ministered to in a safe environment.  

8.  Finally, eventhough I think Willow is wrong on this issue (both Biblically and pastorally), I choose to extend to them the same grace I hope (and confidently expect) they would extend to me.  Grace goes both ways.

So those are all reasons why I would go to Willow.  Would some things be hard?  Or at times awkward?  Sure.  But I don’t expect Christian community to be easy and always comfortable.

Now let me add a few things…

First, despite what I have said above, I totally respect other gay Christians who feel differently on this issue than I do.  I have not experienced the same kinds of pain, hurt and (often) hatred from the church as they have.  I have no need to convince others, i am just saying what would be right for me.  (Likewise, I am not particularly interested in people trying to argue me out of my position either).

Second, a lot of this has to do with intangibles like trust, heart and a sense of the real DNA of the community and leadership.  I trust Willow and the hearts of its leaders.  But I know other churches — who probably articulate their theology in the same way as Willow — that would not be healthy and safe places for me.  I know churches that are obsessed with “praying the gay away”, getting rid of the “gay demons”, preaching against some made-up and fictitious “gay agenda” or “gay lifestyle” (both code words that virtually guarantee you are talking to someone who is homophobic), etc etc.  These places are destructive and hurtful — both to individuals and the cause of Christ in the world.  But Willow, as far as I can tell, is not one of those places.
1 Comment

Posted by on August 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


Leadership Summit Take-Aways

In past years, I have blogged about each session at Leadership Summit. This year, I decided to tweet through them instead.  To be honest, I didn’t really have the time or energy to blog on all the sessions. But here are my thoughts/take-aways from this year’s Global Leadership Summit…

I have been to Leadership Summit every year for the past decade — except for the past two years.  In 2009, I skipped it.  My life was in turmoil and I had no real plan for moving forward — I decided it was more important to spend time with my family that summer. Last summer, my sister’s wedding was in the same weekend as Leadership Summit.

But otherwise, I consider the Global Leadership Summit a non-negotiable in my annual schedule.  In the past, I considered it essential for my professional development as a pastor and professional church leader.  Now, as a volunteer leader (Board President at MACC Charities; church board member at Riverfront Family Church) and now business leader (Sous Chef/manager), I find it as essential.

For me, Leadership Summit is an annual infusion of energy, encouragement, vision and skill all focused on leadership and ultimately Kingdom advancement.  My top spiritual gift is leadership and for me, leadership summit is better than any other conference I go to, better than any seminary class I ever took, and like being a kid in a candy store.  It feeds my soul, stretches my heart and sharpens my mind.

This year was no different.  Every session I attended delivered big time! (I missed the last two sessions due to work; I am listening to Erwin McManus’s session right now as I right this blog; I will listen to the other one later today).

Here are some observations:

1. This Summit was great!  Top to bottom.  It seemed more focused on inspiration/motivation than past years — less skill oriented. But still great.  That said, the skills stuff was awesome.  Hybel’s opening message was truly Hybels at his best — practical, applicable, full of wisdom and overflowing with passion and vision.

2. There was some serious preaching going on — and I mean that in a good way!  Corey Booker, Steve Furtick, Erwin McManus, Brenda Salter McNeil — all awesome!

3. The over-arching theme this year was definitely around action — do something! Start something! Action is the key!  

4. My respect and admiration for Hybels and Willow goes up every year.

5. I was very much challenged throughout the Summit.  While I am happy working as a chef, Summit reminds me that it is probably inevitable that I will end up back in full time ministry at some point. It is in my blood, it is who God made me. And I am ready for my next assignment — whenever it comes.

6. This Summit was full of grace for me.  I attended at the site in Bloomfield CT — only about 150 people or so were there.  This is also the site that my former church attends.  They had a good-sized group there, as they do every year.  I was a bit anxious going in to see what the dynamic would be like. Several of the people there are folks haven’t spoken to me in two years, since everything blew up.  As it turned out, it was great and grace. No awkwardness and really good to see people and connect.  I even was able to sit with the current pastor at the church in several sessions and we got lunch together.  Leadership Summit used to be the place where we would set the strategic plan for the coming year together — dreaming, praying, bouncing ideas off each other through each session.  It was a blast.  It was fun — and grace — to get a taste of that again.

7. Irony… because of the Howard Schultz controversy, the issue of homosexuality was front–and-center this year.  I knew that before I got there.  I thought this would make things even more awkward.  It didn’t — and Bill handled the issue well.  I actually blogged about it the night before, and someone I know through past ministry, who is now on staff at Willow, reached out to me.  We had a couple of email exchanges about the topic.  It helped confirm for me where Willow is in the process — and while I don’t agree with where they are, I am encouraged by their openness to the discussion and journey.

I don’t know where you will be August 9-10, 2012… but I will be at Leadership Summit.

1 Comment

Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


Bill Hybels Discusses Homosexuality & Howard Schultz’s Decision to Withdraw from Leadership Summit

Here are the full comments from Bill Hybels. Pretty much exactly what I predicted and expected — gracious and a good model.

On the specific issue, I would say I agree with Hybels about 90%. The only major difference between what he believes and I believe is that I believe that a committed, Christ-centered gay relationship is a valid option for gay couples. We agree that both homosexual and heterosexual Christians should be challenged to live their lives with integrity and consistent with NT ethics. (Bill and I just disagree with what the Bible actually says about the issue).

1 Comment

Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


Don’t Blame Howard Schultz

The twitterverse and blogosphere are a buzz (at least within an active subsection) about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's decision to withdraw from Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit this year, apparently under pressure from gay-rights groups. ?You can read my take on the situation here.

I have been told that Bill Hybels will be addressing the controversy this morning during the first session of the conference. I am glad Bill will address it from the main stage, not ignore it. ?The evangelical church needs to be talking about this issue in ways that are constructive, civil and loving — and I know that Bill will do that, even if I disagree with him on some of the issues (though I suspect we agree on more than we disagree on… I will blog more about this later).

Some people have been criticizing Schultz for giving in to pressure and/or not taking this chance to be part of a broader conversation. ?I think it is unfair to blame Schultz or to expect anything else from him.

Here's why:

1. As far as I know, Schultz has no special relationship to the WCA, Willow or Hybels. ?He is simply a speaker at a conference. ?Nor is he an evangelical Christian. In a real sense, he has no dog in this fight. ?If speaking at Willow is a good thing for him and Starbucks, then great. ?And if people learn and are inspired by him (and by his books), then even better. ?But that is probably as invested as Schultz is in the Summit.

2. He is a business guy who has to make decisions that make the most sense for his business. ?Period.

3. It so happens that his business has tons of LGBT employees and customers. ?Offending them is probably a bad business call.

4. Schultz has recently faced some criticism from LGBT employees — any more controversy in this area is probably not what he needs or wants.

5. My guess is that his personal position is a pro-gay one. ?I wouldn't be surprised if he withdrew largely based on personal conviction.

So I don't think it is fair to blame Schultz. ?I will miss hearing him — I am fascinated by his leadership and the company. ?But I don't blame him for skipping out.

I also don't blame Willow or Hybels, as I have explained here.

One thing that is interesting, is I think that conservative evangelical Christians forget how out-of-step their views on LGBT people are in terms of the rest of the world. ?Now some hold this as a badge of honor, while others (I think rightly) are uncomfortable with the discord — even if they themselves hold traditionalist views on homosexuality. ?But this should hopefully be a teaching/learning moment, especially for a movement that claims to want to reach the LGBT population (and already has a lot of us in your pews, whether you want to admit it or not). ?I am hopeful that Bill will model a good approach to the discussion today — and that maybe soon, we will see an actual, public and civil discourse on the issue, within the circles of evangelical Christianity.

Now I am off to Summit… and very excited about it!

I would love to hear your thoughts.
1 Comment

Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


Willow Creek, Gays & Starbucks — Oh My!

Tomorrow I will be attending the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, along with over 100,000 other leaders from the church world, non-profit sector and business. ?One of the speakers I was excited to hear from was Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. ?However, Schultz has apparently withdrawn from the conference (see Christianity Today report here), reportedly under pressure from gay-rights advocates unhappy with Willow Creek's position on gays. (Note: Patrick Lencioni is replacing Schultz — he is awesome! I have heard him a number of times at the Summit).

Apparently, Bill Hybels plans to address the issue at the Summit tomorrow, when it opens. This all comes just a few weeks after Willow Creek publicly?disaffiliated?with Exodus International. ?Among other things, I am sure that Hybels will publicly reaffirm Willows theological position that all homosexuality is sinful, etc. ?(He will do so, I am also confident, with class, compassion and appropriate pastoral care.)

So what do I think about all of this, as a gay evangelical Christian who is no longer leading a Willow Creek Association affiliated church, largely due to being outed as gay? (along with my own sinful behavior).?

Will I still attend the Summit? ?Do I still support Willow Creek and Bill Hybels?

Yes, I am going. Yes, I will listen to Bill say he things I am a sinner. ?Yes, I am disagree with Hybels — on the homosexuality part, not on the part about me — and him — being sinners :-). Yes, I still strongly support Leadership Summit, the Willow Creek Association, Willow Creek Church and Bill Hybels.


So many reasons…

(1) I have a deep respect for Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek ministry.
I have met Bill, spoken to him on a few ocassions (he would probably have no memory of this) and benefited from his teaching, leadership and ministry more than I can articulate. ?He is the real deal. ?He really loves people — including gay Christians like me whom he disagrees with and gay people far from God that he just hopes would encounter Jesus. ?He is a man of integrity and wisdom. ?The fact that disagree with his reading of scripture on the issue of homosexuality does not change any of this. ?And not only is he all these things, he is also my brother in Christ — as I am confident he would say of me… despite our disagreements.

(2) Leadership Summit is precisely the kind of place where we learn from people we may not agree with.
As Bill has pointed out over the years, Leadership Summit is about learning from the best, and applying those teachings in our specific contexts. That is why Summit always includes business leaders, non-believers, seekers, etc. ?We are all stretched and challenged and that is a really healthy dynamic.

(3) Willow Creek is not Anti-Gay People
Listen, I am not naive about these things… I know that their recent?disaffiliation?with Exodus?International?did not mark a radical change or correction for Willow — though it was not insignificant. ?Willow has always had, and will have, ministries that help Christians who don't want to be gay. ?Regardless of how I feel about these ministries, I respect the individuals who choose to seek help that way — seeking integration with their faith. ?Willow also provides ministry support to parents and family members who have gay children, parents, siblings, etc. ?And more than almost any church I know, Willow has addressed the topic from the pulpit many times — always with compassion, love, theological nuance and pastoral care. And every time I have heard them speak on the topic from up front — at Axis, at the main weekend service, at New Community, at the Arts Conference or elsewhere — it always includes a call to dialogue and discussion and an admission that these issues are hard and complex. ?Again, I disagree with where the church has landed at this point on the issue; and I assume they disagree with me. ?But that doesn't make them "anti-gay" anymore than it makes me a heretic or non-believer. ?It just means that faithful Christians can come to different faithful answers. ?And for the record, while I disagree with them, I have never known Willow to gay bash, attack, judge, etc.

So I will be at (a?satellite) location of the Leadership Summit again this year (in Bloomfield, CT). ?I will worship, laugh, probably cry, be challenged, be encouraged, be envisioned and be energized. ?I will learn and I will leave more in love with God's church than I started. ?My vision will be renewed and stretched. ?And while I will miss learning from Howard Schultz — and there may even be some awkward moments that make me uncomfortable — I am deeply thankful from my brother in Christ Bill Hybels and the entire Willow team.

Any thoughts?
1 Comment

Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: