Christian Faithfulness and Same-Sex Attraction Part 1

Several months ago I was with a retired pastor and one of our parishioners. The retired pastor, who lives out of state, asked the parishioner why she came to Christ Church, and her answer absolutely floored me.

She responded quickly, “There is no fear here.” Honestly, this is probably one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever heard given to Christ Church. 1 John 4:18 says, “perfect love casts out fear,” and above all else, I would hope that Christ Church is marked by the love we experience in the Father sending the Son for the salvation of the world (John 3:16), the Son offering himself for the sins of the world (John 15:9), and, finally, the gift of the Holy Spirit, by whom, to use Paul’s words, “the love of God has been poured into our hearts” (Romans 5:5).

One of the marks of a group that lives without fear is the ability to engage difficult questions and challenging issues with an open posture, trusting that as we pray, listen, and learn, God, through the Spirit, will, as Jesus promised, “lead us into all truth” (John 16:13).

One of the most vexing issues facing the church in America today is our posture toward individuals who experience same-sex attraction, most of whom would describe themselves as gay or lesbian. The growing acceptance of same-sex relationships in our society is clear, and it is quite possible that the Supreme Court will establish same-sex marriage as a legal right this summer. As identifying oneself as gay or lesbian has become more socially acceptable, many within the church who experience same-sex attraction have felt more confident in sharing their feelings as well.

Many Christians have simply embraced same-sex relationships as potential vehicles of God’s grace, but others, myself included, continue to believe that Scripture clearly teaches that sexual intimacy is reserved for a life-long, committed relationship between a man and a woman, and, as we prayerfully engage with this (or any) issue, opening ourselves to be led by the Spirit, I don’t believe that the Spirit will lead us to a place outside of boundaries set by Scripture. In that light, then, how do we minister to those in our midst who are gay?

On Saturday, May 2, we have an opportunity to engage this issue with three Christians who are same-sex attracted yet committed to celibacy. Wesley Hill is a professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., which likely produces more ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) clergy than any other seminary. Several years ago Wes published a book called Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality in which he describes his own journey as a gay Christian. His new book, Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate, Gay Christian further develops his thinking on this issue. Wes also frequently writes for First Things and Christianity Today.

Wes will be joined by Tim Otto, a pastor of the Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, and Julie Rodgers, a chaplain at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. All three will share their stories of growing up in the church, wrestling with their sexuality, and, finally, making a commitment to life-long celibacy. They will also share thoughts on how we as a congregation can best minister to those in our midst who experience same-sex attraction. While there may be passing references to our witness to the world on this issue, the focus won’t be on political engagement on the public definition of marriage (although there is a place for that), but rather on the congregation’s posture toward those Christians who experience themselves as gay or lesbian.

The event will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 2, and go through 2:30 p.m. There is no charge for the event, but registration is required. You can register here. Lunch will be available through Eventbrite for $10 (really good street taco plates), and childcare will be provided, free of charge, for children ages 1-12. Please feel free to invite friends and neighbors.

To help us prepare, copies of both of Wes’ books will be available for purchase over the next three Sundays. Also, here is a link to a recent article Wes wrote for Christianity Today, and another written by Corey Widmer, a pastor in Richmond, Va., for The Gospel Coalition, that may be helpful as well.

This is an incredibly difficult issue, but it is, I believe, an issue that we must discuss. As we pray, listen, and learn, we need not be afraid. In fact, we might even be excited, expecting that God will speak to us as we seek to be faithful to him on this challenging issue. “There is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18).

Image sourced from Flickr and used under a Creative Commons License.