Opening the Closet Doors

I have good friends.  Friends that I might not get a chance to talk to face to face that often, but when we do, we enrich and enlighten one another.  I had the opportunity to get together with one such friend this afternoon and we talked about lots of stuff related to church, non-violence, ethics, etc.  But we landed on an issue that is very important and weighty for the church.

We talked about how our church is talking through how to engage, empower, and encourage the gay and lesbian people who attend our church regularly.  Yes, there are homosexuals who come to our church, are “out”, and feel welcome.  That’s a good start.  Actually, that’s way ahead of the curve in many respects.  I had a conversation with a friend from Austin this summer who was appalled when I said that I was excited to hear there was a church in Austin that welcomed gay people to attend.  I was equally appalled that he was appalled.  But I still love him and respect where he is coming from.

The question for the church today is two-fold:  Will we accept gay people into our congregations, and will we involve them in the life of the church?  The first question, when answered in the affirmative, leads to the second question.  In what ways can gay people be involved in serving the church?

Many people believe that there is a slippery slope when it comes to allowing gay people to worship in the church.  Like, if you let “them” in, they will try to take over and convince you that they are not sinful and force you to marry them and accept their lifestyle as normal and normalize it for the rest of the congregation.  I don’t believe that this fear is justified (fully), but I understand where it is coming from based upon the vocal gay community and their desire for equal rights in our country.

But, how can we keep gay people from worshiping in the church?

Would Jesus want gay people to follow him or has he already determined they are hopeless without changing their ways?

And, isn’t the church’s closed door policy towards the gay community just pushing gay people away from God and deeper into their “sin”?

The Bible certainly seems clear that homosexual acts are sinful, in the same way that heterosexual acts are sinful when they are done outside of the marriage covenant.  But we still let fornicators, adulterers, divorced people, pornography lookers, and any other type of sinners to worship with us.  In fact, in most churches, including ours, there are divorced people serving in leadership positions.  Has God pulled us forward in all of these areas, but has written off the entire gay community?

Is it a slippery slope?  Are gay people just completely terrible and unable to be redeemed?  Can a gay person love God and follow Jesus?  And if so, is there any reason that they should not be given the opportunity to use their spiritual gifts within the body of Christ?

I think these are all very important questions for the church to be interacting with.  I believe that gay people should not only be welcome to worship in church, but also to actively participate in the life of the church.  To do the first without allowing for the second is to treat them as second-class citizens, who are welcome but are not really valuable.

I also think that the leadership of the church has the right to be uncomfortable with marrying a gay couple.  My friend said he read something in a book by Ruth Haley Barton that gave him pause, especially as a pastor.  She noted that in the creation story, God created male and female in His image.  Meaning, that men and women are both equally image bearers of God, and that in a homosexual relationship there is only one half of the image of God present.  That the church, in marrying a gay couple, would be doing a disservice to them according to the created order that God has set in place.  I have to think about that.  I think it makes sense.

So, maybe there is a slippery slope, but only for leaders who are unwilling to wrestle with the whole issue, and are unable to set limits on what they will and will not accommodate when it comes to what they believe to be true about creation.

Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MITXZ0OyZAg

It seems that there is some positive movement here.  I hope that we can all wrestle together with how to love everyone, no matter their baggage, and to welcome everyone in to the life-giving, good news of Jesus moving forward.

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6 thoughts on “Opening the Closet Doors

  1. These are certainly tough questions, but regardless of where you stand on the sinfulness of homosexual acts- the only slippery slope is only going uphill.

    We act like “traditional marriage” is an immutable constant within Judeo-Christian tradition but while it’s easy to wax poetic about 1950’s american marriage as the initiation rite into the american dream that’s not really biblical either.

    When you look at marriage in the bible it’s hard to see the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ tv family with twin beds and 2.3 kids. What you are more likely to see is one man with a multitude of wives, or one man paying a price to marry a 12 year old girl. Most of the references to marriage in the old testament are basically no more than property law.

    Is that the ideal we are striving for? I have never seen anybody hold up a sign that said “It’s not Adam and Steve; it’s David and Abigail and Maacah and Eglah and Ahinoam and Abital and Bathsheba and Haggith and Michal.” Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

    When you look at in this way we have not expanded the definition of marriage, but narrowed it considerably. We have moved from, at best, arranged marriage and at worst polygamy and paedophilia; to only committed and consenting relationships with two (currently heterosexual and opposite gendered) adults who love each other. Call me heretical, but it’s hard to look at that and see the world going to hell in a handbasket.

  2. Every time Paul talks about homosexuality, he’s talking about sex that we would consider sinful even if it was taking place between a man and a woman–not sex between two married men, for instance.

    Homosexuality in Paul’s day looked like pedophilia, or prostitution, or at best, an affair outside of marriage. It was thought not to “count” as cheating, so a married (to a woman) man could have something on the side with another man and it would be acceptable (in Roman circles…not Jewish). It’s no wonder Paul spoke so strongly against homosexuality in that context.

    Gay marriage is a different issue. I think that homosexuality in marriage falls under God’s blessing.

    I have heard Ruth Haley Barton’s idea before about man and woman both being image bearers of God, thus a marriage between a man and a woman “completes” the image of God in them. But I don’t put any stock in it, even though it’s a nice, lofty idea. It puts too much theological symbolism on marriage, which seems at odds with instances of both Jesus and Paul recommending that their followers not marry. If men and women each hold “half” (or something like that) of the image of God, then wouldn’t Jesus and Paul encourage marriage? Paul seems to only encourage marriage if you “burn”–i.e. are too distracted by sexual attraction to focus on Kingdom work.

    Genesis says that God created male and female in his image, but it doesn’t say that they represent different parts of his image. That’s an assumption Ruth Haley Barton makes, and one I disagree with. There are too many “manly” women and “womanly” men and transgender or ambiguous gendered people in the world for me to put any stock in complementarian ideas.

    Man and woman are equally image bearers of God, not two different kinds of image bearers of God.

    All that said, I don’t know for sure what is right. I have settled where I am because of my understanding of God and the Bible, but there are a lot of God-loving people who I respect who have landed somewhere else on this issue. I could be wrong, as usual.

  3. As I read this (and I agree with you on most everything) it still feels almost offensive the way we talk about gay people. Like we are trying to be nice and on their side but we’re still sort of hesitant. If I were gay and reading this I’d probably think,
    ‘wow I really appreciate the support here but I still feel as though I’m not really accepted as ok that I’m sinful in my desire for a monogamous relationship with another man…and that it’s always going to be hanging over my head.” I’m divorced, clearly a sin in the Bible. People don’t talk about divorced people this way. I don’t feel like people are wrestling with accepting me I don’t have that hanging over my head. I’m simply moving on with life and still following after Jesus to the best of my ability and although I have sinned or do sin no one makes me feel like I can’t keep seeking God and living to bring his kingdom here. Or let’s make it a bit more personal…pride or greediness (something we all wrestle with DAILY). Clear sins according to Scripture. But we don’t talk about those issues this way. And we clearly live in those “sins” every day just as we assume gay people are living in that “sin” each day.

    I don’t have the right answer, but I feel we need to be careful even on how we talk about supporting LGBT’s so we don’t just continue to be condemning and hypocritical.

    1. Not shooting for the moon here. Just trying to stir conversation that hasn’t been had. I think baby steps are necessary, and I think it’s okay for someone who is gay to feel like the church is moving in a direction but is trying to bring everyone along with, instead of “Guess what, you’re wrong if you don’t accept gay people.” To marginalize either the close minded or the homosexual is not the goal. The goal is co-mmunity.

      1. Hi my name is jack and i am a 26 year old gay man and would like your help. If you know which churches in Barton are a welcoming church as I’m struggling with this. If you could email me at jack_dawson2011@hotmail.co.uk
        I would appreciate it. Thankyou

      2. Jack, if you exist (because I have no way of knowing anymore if comments are actual people or just bots), I apologize that I have no connections to churches in the UK whatsoever. I did a cursory search for churches in Barton, in hopes that I would recognize one, but that turned out to be a failed endeavor. I want you to find that place where you can be treated as a true follower of Jesus in community with others. I pray that this happens for you.

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