Last week I listened in on the speech given by Alan Chambers, leader of Exodus International as they closed their doors and publicly apologised to those around them for some of their practices over the last 35 years, particularly their method of reparative therapy – ie trying to make a gay person straight. It seems the apology generated a fair amount of cynicism – which seems sad to me as I’d like to always give someone the benefit of the doubt.
That said, it is a statement with significant implications. It seems that ‘people in the know’ are saying that it doesn’t work to try and straighten someone out – in fact more than that, the apology indicates that it is destructive to try and do so. I am inclined to listen to those who have spent 35 years in the trenches.
If I read between the lines correctly, it seems that Chambers continues to hold what would be considered biblically conservative views on the subject of homosexuality. So while he sees wrong done to people in their attempts to ‘re-orient’ them he still would not affirm gay sexual practice.
I find the whole subject quite a conundrum and much easier to discuss in the absence of real people who are in the midst of varying degrees of struggle. Theories are much easier to work with than human beings… But theories are useless if they can’t hold up in real life.
I have long had a conservative view on this issue – formed both by scripture and my evangelical culture. I find it very hard to read scripture as affirming of gay relationships. I don’t find it at all difficult to imagine gay people in relationship with Jesus though.
I do often wonder if this is another issue we have been wrong on not unlike our views on women. At this stage I can’t say my views have shifted although they have been shaken. That said I am listening more carefully and trying to revisit my reasons for where I sit because I think this will be one of the pivotal issues of our time in regards to the church and I could be wrong.
One of my biggest struggles is with our own internal inconsistencies – allowing divorced people in leadership (the Bible is much clearer on divorce than homosexuality) or even porn addicts – but not gay people… We seem to be much more lenient on the sexual sins we struggle with and tougher on the ones that we can attribute to a less powerful minority.
Another struggle is that I think we (as evangelicals) have been largely responsible for the emergence of gay churches or the like because we have been so vehement in our response to gay people. We have denied any possibility of real faith while a person is gay. So now expecting them to find a place in any of churches would be like asking them to enter what is perceived as a lions den. I know there are some exceptions to this.
I was discussing the issue with a friend this week and the difficulty we have in speaking of it. Even to raise the issue is to hold up a ‘hit me’ sign to the group you don’t side with. It seems the options in front of us so often appear to be either ‘condemning’ (albeit ‘nicely’ at times) or ‘affirming’ and neither sit well with me.
Is there a different path that we can take that avoids either affirming or condemning and simply points people to Christ and allows him to do whatever work he wants to in their lives? Because he is the one who is best placed to make any judgements and offer direction.
I’m guessing there may come a time when we can speak more freely on the topic and when the heat will have gone out of it. Now isn’t that time. We are always treading carefully – partly because it is hot and partly because we are actively trying to re-think and re-assess – a process that is not easy when your views are so entrenched and your culture so polarised.
What I liked in Alan chambers speech was his comment that God would ‘rather have messy kids than no kids’. If his gay kids are ‘messy’ albeit in a different way to ‘straight kids’ then he would rather have them close to him than far away. It was a statement that rang true and carried the vibe of Jesus who never seemed at all bothered by the ‘messy kids’. And they liked him too – not something we can easily say of the church and the gay community.
So as I consider my own response at this point in time – and perhaps permanently – it will be to point people to Jesus and help them really encounter him. Because he seems better at helping people find life than I am and he is well used to ‘messy kids’. (And yes – I understand that this is simple discipleship for everyone – but I don’t think it has ever been seen as this simple.)
I have never written a post on this subject before as I haven’t wanted to deal with the barrage of hate mail that inevitably goes with the territory. That said – my views are now out there and you can do what you like with them…