“Where I stand on LGBTQ…
As you read this and consider responding, please also remember that this is not a private conversation between us. There are many who are reading this who do not hold your view on God, religion, politics, or your view on LGBTQ. Please be respectful and kind in your comments. There is a real human on the other end of every Facebook post and tweet that God loves just as much as He loves you.
While there have been many who have responded with personal attacks and unfair generalizations, I want to thank everyone who has privately and publically encouraged us (even those who disagree) with the love of Christ. You know our hearts. You know our commitment to God’s Word. You know our commitment to Jesus and to loving people. Thank you for fighting for the Kingdom. God is able. He is still in control.
To be clear…
Jen and I are 100% on the same page regarding her recent interview about our love and hope for the LGBTQ community. This is a journey we have been on together. We both believe a same-sex marriage, as a life-long monogamous commitment, can be holy before God.
While this is not meant to be a complete and final explanation, let me share with you a little about our journey and how we got here:
The last 10 years of our ministry we’ve tried our best to learn what it means to “love mercy and seek justice”. In order to do this, we’ve learned we must first identify pain and suffering that we might normally miss. We’ve seen it among the poor, among the orphan, among those affected by unexplainable natural disasters, and among the sick. We’ve seen it in everyday people like you who have faced a personal crisis, experienced oppression, depression, racism, sexism, have loved ones dying, teenagers off the rails, marriages in shambles, and private struggles no one else knows about.
We’ve seen so much pain among the LGBTQ community: Suicidal teenagers. Divided families. Split churches. So. Much. Pain.
That said, Jen and I have attempted in the past several years simply to lead the church to a better posture towards the LGBTQ community. Although we held a traditional view at the time, we have always felt convicted to lead with a concern for those on the outside who might feel hopeless, more than we have with a concern for our inside critics.
Because of this, we have been consistently criticized, challenged, pressed, bullied, and pushed to make a clear stance on where we land on the topic. As the criticism grew louder, more demanding, and more confusing to those we partner with, serve with, represent, and love, we felt obligated to take a new and hard look inward to be able to explain our position with love.
In doing so, we realized that while we had heard sermons listing homosexuality as a clear sin, and we had read all the verses referenced, that we had personally neglected to do the hard work of faithfully studying the scriptures as we typically would.
So we committed to a season of study and prayer.
We started with scripture (Again, please assume a ton of prayer). For more than a year we studied every version of every verse in the Bible that appeared to discuss “homosexuality”. We studied the Greek. We studied the Hebrew. We read every commentary we could find related specifically to the related passages.
As we would for any topic seeking truth, we did our best to look at each verse with fresh eyes. We applied all the rules to faithfully and ethically interpret scripture: We considered the type of literature, the context in which each was written, what other scriptures say about it giving clues to God’s intent, and viewed each through the lens of the Gospel.
The historical view is that scripture is clear on homosexuality. What we found is that it’s not as simple as traditionally taught.
I have a journal completely full of notes where I can walk through each passage and reference that could explain our shift, but the most relevant and critical common thread we found in scripture was this:
Every verse in the Bible that is used to condemn a “homosexual” act is written in the context of rape, prostitution, idolatry, pederasty, military dominance, an affair, or adultery. It was always a destructive act. It was always a sin committed against a person. And each type of sexual interaction listed was an abuse of God’s gift of sex and completely against His dream for marriage to be a lifelong commitment of two individuals increasingly and completely giving themselves to one another as Christ did for the church.
But not one of these scriptures was written in the context of marriage or civil union (which simply did not exist at this time). Each act mentioned in the Bible was sin, no doubt. In context, we believe the same today. Just like heterosexual sex outside of marriage is sin for obvious reasons, whether consensual or not, we still believe homosexual sex outside of marriage is a sin.
Take heart, our shift is not a departure from our everlasting love, dependency, and belief in the authority and infallibility of scripture. In fact, this is the exact opposite to a departure. We’ve always believed that the Bible holds up. No matter our question, fear, concern, or confusion, we can press into the Bible and we will find the truth. It has held for thousand of years without blemish. Still does today.
In the same way, we then studied what the Bible says about marriage. Every verse. We studied what scripture describes as God’s original design, God’s gift of sex and procreation, and God’s intent for the relationship. We considered it through the lens of God’s redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation. We viewed it as the most disciple-making relationship ever dreamed where two individuals learn to increasingly give themselves wholly to each other as Christ did the church. We dug deep into considering which of the Bible’s teaching on marriage was a description of whatever the current state of marriage was at the time each book was written and which of the Bible’s teaching was a prescription for how marriage should be.
Bottom line, we don’t believe a committed life-long monogamous same-sex marriage violates anything seen in scripture about God’s hopes for the marriage relationship.
The conversation about God’s dream for marriage is so incredibly nuanced. I’m not trying to define it in one quick post, There’s more to say about this, only to give you an insight to the many facets of our journey.
From there we began to prayerfully meet with people to discuss what we were learning. We engaged in hours of conversations with theologians, bishops, pastors, authors, and church leaders individually and through community on both sides of the argument.
While some people have certainly shifted their view of scripture, we’ve found that the majority of affirming Christians have not “abandoned” the Bible in order to shift their thinking, as many accuse. In fact, there are many brilliant theologians and authors like, David Gushee, who was known for decades as one of America’s leading evangelical ethicists, who have shifted their view on this after years of holding a traditional view.
We found that there are a ton of people asking questions privately, praying, and studying but are fearful to ask questions publically for fear of being judged or ostracized. So many of you are on this journey as well.
We read numerous books from both affirming and non-affirming authors (Specifically those who hold scripture as their starting point). Can You Be Gay and Christian by Michael Brown (Non-affirming), People to be Loved by Preston Sprinkle (Non-affirming), Space at the Table by Brad & Drew Harper (Non-affirming but sympathetic), Changing our Mind by David Gushee (Affirming), The Bible’s Yes to Same Sex Marriage by Mark Achtemeier (Affirming), Unclobber by Colby Martin (Affirming), among others. Every chapter in each book has pages underlined, was cross referenced, noted, and read over and over again.
We even studied some historical texts that give cultural context to scripture. We reviewed biological research and findings. We researched the claims behind the Kinsey Scale which gives insight to our sexuality (Which if you haven’t researched you should, It makes sense of why one person’s journey does not match another person’s journey or to speak authoritatively as a one-size fits all solution).
We did some heavy lifting. But we didn’t do it and I didn’t write this to try and change YOUR mind. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
But I did write this to challenge each of you who have neglected the hard work of study, reading, discussion, and prayer to invite the Spirit to lead you. Don’t study to be right, study to find the truth. You have nothing to fear, trust that God will lead you. But wherever you land, don’t be ignorant and uninformed about it.
Being informed invites the Spirit to lead, reduces our defensiveness, and gives us the confidence to love better.
Listen, regardless of what we think, many of our churches are not safe places for LGBTQ. Every Sunday, people searching for hope and community sit in confusion, condemnation, private pain, and the fear of being singled out, publicly humiliated, and being rejected. The exact opposite of what we all hope for.
Regardless of where you stand or eventually land, our belief is that the church can do so much better in handling this conversation and that we can do so much better in how we treat one another along the way.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35”