Over the past several years I’ve looked into the issue of the relationship between sexuality and Christianity more deeply. Through my research, conversations, prayer, and study I’m convinced that the traditional, orthodox, Biblical, and historical understandings of marriage and sexuality are sound and unchanging.
But through my study I’ve encountered a number of incredibly courageous men and women who are same sex attracted and identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in their attractions – but they still hold to the Biblical and historical teachings of the church throughout the years. I was profoundly moved by Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waiting, and have appreciated the writings of Eve Tushnet and David Bennet among others. They openly share that they’ve had strong attractions for the same sex (despite intense struggle and prayer) and the dial hasn’t moved. Through it all – they are still deeply rooted in Christ and maintain the Biblical and church teachings on sexuality and marriage. In many ways these are some of my greatest heroes of the faith today. They receive intense pressure from both the LGBTQ+ community and the Christian community. But they’ve maintained their trust in Christ and their submission to the teachings of the church through the years. I fully support these brothers and sisters.
Along the way I’ve also encountered a number of friends and writers who are ex-gay, ex-lesbian, and ex-bi. I know that to our wider modern society this position seems like an impossibility – but that conviction is demonstrably false. There are people who change their sexual orientation (as there are those who find it quite immovable). Sexuality is complex. But it definitely doesn’t fall neatly into the “everyone can change” vs. “no one can change” dualism. The author Rosaria Butterfield is an example of changing. I have several close friends who also fit into this camp. And then there are several ex-gay Christians who don’t identify as gay or lesbian but still would say they have same sex attractions that remain. Sam Alberry and Christopher Yuan would fit into this camp. I fully support these brothers and sisters as well.
There are also a number of my friends who identify as LGBTQ+ who don’t fit into either of these categories above. They either reject the Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality – or have found a way to support their choices through their interpretation of scripture and theology. For those brothers and sisters – I love you all dearly – but I’ve chosen to politely disagree on the issue. You guys are still my friends though.
The main reason I’m writing this is because there is a conference this summer called Revoice. It is a gathering for LGBT Christians who desire friendship, support, and community – as they hold on to the Biblical teachings regarding marriage and sexuality. I’m so proud of this team. I really wish I could attend and support their efforts!
Sadly, there are a number of prominent Christian theologians who are speaking out against this conference. Mostly I feel that they are tripped up by the complexities of the conversations and language and are misinformed about the issues.
(Supported by Al Mohler)
I understand and read these articles – but they just seem to be missing the point and talking past the issues. The Revoice team contains brothers and sisters in the faith who hold to the same doctrines as the historical church. They have gathered under a label because it is the language of our culture and it signifies a common bond. I don’t doubt that any of them would say their number one piece of identity is in Christ – they are Christians. (See the recent Revoice press release here) Taking on the LGBT label is not implying that they are acting on sin. It is implying a common story, a common struggle, and a common community. It is similar to saying – “I’m an African American Christian”, or “I’m a Pastor’s Kid who’s a Christian”, or “I’m a Christian who is a recovering alcoholic”, or “I’m a widowed Christian.” There are lots of labels to help identify a common struggle or common story. This doesn’t mean that any of those labels imply condoning sin.
In the New Testament there were similar labels. There were Zealots, Gentiles, Samaritans, Romans, God-fearers, Ethiopian Eunuchs, Scythians, men, women, and so on. In Christ all were made one! The defining characteristic was that all were one in Christ! But it was still helpful in some situations to retain those definitions. Jesus and the disciples didn’t hold up the woman at the well and say “First, let’s get rid of that ‘Samaritan’ label!” What they were interested in was heart change and a relationship to the Savior who alone provides a spring of water that wells up to eternal life.
My encouragement to the church today is to fully support these amazing brothers and sisters. Go out and read their books. Get to know them. Be inspired by their faith. We desperately need their faith and witness in the church! Let’s cheer them on in the faith! Let us together unite under the common experience and knowledge that “we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)