Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wisdom Needed?

Here's a hypothetical for discussion: a single (never married) woman in your church (and here we allow as wide a definition of the term as you like) who understands herself to be gay wants to adopt a child. Let's posit that she (a) has made a clear, orthodox profession of faith, (b) is living that out consistently as an active member of your "church", and (c) currently committed to chastity (although has not closed the door on entering into a same-sex relationship "at some point"). She desires her church to support her in undertaking to adopt. How should/might you and the congregation respond? By the way, there are no legal barriers to a single person adopting.

61 comments:

steve H said...

Where is Solomon when you need him?

Randy R. said...

Wow! Brian, you get the prize for asking the most difficult question to date! I am sure the answers will be slow coming, as I can almost "hear" the wheels turning in everyone's minds, so don't be discouraged if the train moves a little slower this time! I agree with Steve!

smokin joe said...

Looks like no one really wants to commit themselves first, so I will be the guinea pig. Before you tear me up, at least give me points for courage.

We did face a situation similar that about 15 years ago in our bi-lingual church, and it was resolved through love and careful counseling.

However, now, although the question is a good one for a hypothetical, it has a false premise in our case. We have structured our “family of faith” in such a way that no one can “join” our “church” …unless they have already been joined to someone in our relational network. Our community does not work like a civic or religious association with membership and meetings. Since we have no meetings, or only irregular meetings as the need arises … people do not “join” … the only way they can become part of us is by becoming a close friend or meeting with someone for mentoring.

Scenario #1
So… if a gay single woman were part of our group, she would likely be a) one of my daughters, or b) one of our long-term friends. In either case, we would be working through the issues of gay orientation and adoption over a long time in a highly relational, family style context rather than having to face it as a “church.” If she were a member of one of our house churches, we would probably have already encouraged her into some therapy to deal with any issues of emotional trauma, especially regarding men. If she insisted that having a gay partner was a viable option for her as a believer, she would have probably already left either of the house groups because of being uncomfortable (not that I agree with that). In that case, Debbie and I would reach out to her and work to maintain a loving and committed relationship, and if possible, help her find another church where she would be able to “fit in” (there are several on Miami Beach – one is a United Methodist church Don). We would encourage her whatever she decides about adoption or a future partner, to continue to seek intimacy with Jesus as the only one fully able to meet her inner cravings for acceptance and companionship, but we would not relate to her in a disapproving way, although we would be honest with her about scriptural truth on a foundation of unconditional relational love.

Because of the length of this, I will post scenario #2 separately.

John M. said...

Thanks Brian. We have danced around the "gay" issue long enough. I have some thoughts (is anyone surprised?), but they'll have to wait for now. Too tired. Too much to do before tomorrow morning.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks for #1, Joseph, and looking forward to #2. What if our hypothetical woman has become part of your house church and requests the prayers and support of that group? "I need your help, not therapy!"

And just so I understand: one of your daughters is gay (see (a) under your scenario 1)?

smokin joe said...

Scenario #2
If this gay single woman were one of the young people at the Sports bar in Homestead where I am outreaching, or if she were one of my grad student friends at FIU, and she came to a clear profession of faith and a situation matching that of your hypothetical (but minus the church membership), I would begin meeting with her to study the teachings of Jesus (commands of Christ) if she were interested. My next question would be, “who are the people you are closest to? Are they also interested in discussing the teachings of Jesus?” and I would look for an opportunity to meet them and become their friend also. Chances are, if she is settled on the appropriateness of a gay lifestyle, most of her friends would either be gay or at least supportive of the gay perspective.

I would befriend the whole group, and work to win their trust and confidence by being a good and sincere friend, with the hope of encouraging the young woman and her primary group to begin to reflect together on the life and teachings of Christ, and I would encourage them to begin to study the scriptures and discuss them. As they engaged in serious dialogue about the teachings and life of Jesus, I would defer to the issue of what she should do in terms of adoption to their group. I would pray, ask God to touch the entire group with the power of the Spirit … and take it a step at a time trusting the Holy Spirit to have an answer. I would also try to be content with a lot of human imperfection along the way.

When the “Church” functions like a civil or religious organization, with membership and regular meetings open to the public, it becomes a whole different ballgame. Perhaps someone else can address that.

Good question however, if one has not faced it yet, one probably will in the next 20 years, unless one is isolated in a christian ghetto.

In summary: I think we greatly overestimate the power of “social control” of the "church" (peer pressure), and we greatly underestimate the power of Jesus to intervene in people’s lives through the scriptures, prayer, loving kindness, friendship and dialogue. We don’t trust the Holy Spirit to actually do the work.

smokin joe said...

hi Brian,

to answer your question, that would not be likely to happen for the simple reason that our house churches are not seeking to grow through addition. The relationships are long standing and stable.

if someone new came along asking for fellowship, that would be scenario #2.

No, my daughters do not have a gay orientation (although some of their friends do). My poorly made point is that the members of our house churches are either my family members (daughters or sons-in-law) or young people that grew up in the youth group that I used to pastor. Long-term, 15-year plus relationships I hope I am expressing this clearly.

smokin joe said...

okay.... I guess no one else has an opinion or this boring stuff...now that I have gotten drawn out to put myself out there on a hypothetical situation and left slowly twisting in the wind... I guess it it tiime to move on to a new topic Brian....

steve H said...

I really haven't been able to come up with something better. It's difficult for me to think about such a matter in a hypothetical situation. I would end up writing according to "principals," of which (hopefully we all agree) good ones are certainly necessary. However, "principals" must be applied according to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

steve H said...

Excuse me -- "principals" can be good and necessary; however, in this case I meant "principles" which also have an important place.

Randy R. said...

I can move it from the hypothetical to the real: We had a situation two years ago that was pretty daunting! A married woman in our church was having an affair with another woman in our church (single), and there was a third single woman involved too (also part of our church). Kind of sounds like the Corinthian Letters, doesn't it? I won't say how we handled it, as this real-life situation might provide some flesh and bones to Brian's question. Any takers?

John M. said...

Randy, yours is a real situation, but it is quite different than Brian's. Brian's hypothetical single woman, although considering herself a lesbian, is living a believing, celibate life, and wanting the church's blessing and support to adopt.

Your real-life situation involved actual sexual sin. In your case there are clear guidelines in the N.T. on how to deal with immoral sexual activity between two (or as in your case, three) believers in the church. It seems that at that point, the issue is not a "gay" or "straight" issue, but one of sexual immorality, which is clearly sin.

It seems to me that for a gay person to be striving to be sexually clean while struggling with gender/same-sex issues is not different than an alcoholic who is in recovery and living dry a day at a time, or a sexual addict who is dealing with his/her issues each day in a repentant, accountable and clean life-style -- or a food addict who is trying to stay on weight watchers.

Brian's question seems to infer that his hypothetical person is a member in good standing in the church, and fitting into the above paragraph.

The knotty question here is the adoption issue -- which I'm still processing.

Brian, am I understanding your original post correctly?

Brian Emmet said...

Yes, John. I don't want to make this into a conversation about the "nature of the church", so maybe I can adjust my hypothetical a bit by setting it in the context of your house church, home group, cell church or whatever we call that regular gathering of 6-12 folks; it could be the whole of that particular "church," or just one such group out of dozens within a larger "church."

So my hypothetical woman is a "member in good standing" of that group (unless the language of 'membership' muddies the waters--then let's just say she's a committed, regular attender). She has shared about her understanding of her sexual identity, but in a manner that is primarily "informing" rather than asking for counsel about it. It is not a regular feature of conversation, and let's say it's fair to say that the group has taken something of a "don't ask-don't tell" policy (and I'm not saying that that has been a good or wise decision).

But now that the adoption possibility has arisen, our hypothetical woman is excited, nervous, looking for prayer and support... and has also indicated that she may well be open to a committed lesbian relationship if the right person should come along...in fact, she says that "children really do need two parents."

If all this is too conceptual or hypothetical to be of any value, just say so and we'll move on.

smokin joe said...

hi Brian.

When you say "committed, regular attender" ... I have to ask "attender" of what? obviously meetings. We don't have regular public meetings for anyone to attend, so the hypothetical breaks down for me. I really can't separate this from the nature of the church, but I will shut up about it.

I think there is a whole theological discussion that needs to happen about gender and sexuality, once we deal with our social prejudice and our assumptions. What if homosexuality does have a genetic component and is not strictly a choice?

Brian Emmet said...

While we're on this subject, a couple of ground rules: we may well have participants, either "active" or "just listening," for whom the matter of same-sex orientation is deeply personal. We welcome them to the conversation and will treat them with courtesy and respect.

We can disagree with ideas without attacking or denigrating the people who hold those ideas.

This is a complexicult ("complex" and "difficult") subject. As Joseph mentioned, what if it proves true that same-sex orientation is innate/genetic, something akin to handedness or eye color?

The purpose of the conversation is not that we all agree what the "right answer" is, and to chime in, you do not need to feel that you know what "the right answer" is. I don't merely want to generate endless questions without attempting to at least attempt to answer, but also want to welcome whatever questions the subject raises for us.

steve H said...

Does it really matter whether or not homosexuality has a genetic component? (My own opinion is that it may well prove to have one; if it does, however, that would seem to me to be only one more evidence of how much the fall damaged the original image of God in man.) Whether it does or not, acting out on that desire is clearly forbidden by God, just as all other sexual immorality is forbidden. A man is forbidden to lay with a man (Lev 18 etc.)-- Romans 1 makes clear that this applies to woman with woman as well -- just as clearly as adultery, incest, and bestiality are forbidden. There is no question that perverse behaviors must stop. The question then becomes how do we deal with and get victory over perverse desires?

In addition, what about the child? How could we approve or even go along with behavior that goes against God's order for raising children? Even honest secular psychologists will say that a functioning father and mother are important to the healthy development of a child. How much more should we to whom God has revealed his purpose in establishing the family (i.e. to fill the earth with "seed" who are trained in godliness), stand firm on the definition of family and of marriage and on God's order for them?

To say all this, does not mean that we do not need the love and compassion of Jesus and also the wisdom and leadership of the Holy Spirit in dealing with specific people and specific situations.

smokin joe said...

thanks Steve, I'm still thinking. I know it is always uncomfortable to be the last one who makes a comment and then to kind of dangle in a vacuum for several days. Despite the fact that there are only about 4 of us contributing to this conversation, there have been 20 some people visiting this blog each day for the past several days. I'll be back later.

by-the-way, I figured out the answer to harmonizing all the major world religions...I posted the rubric on my humor blog:

http://www.kickbutthumor.blogspot.com/

chris hyatt said...

I hope y'all will excuse my silence over the course of this discussion. Please remember that silence isn't always a bad thing - when you touch such a "deep subject" you can't always expect expedient answers. I tread very lightly in the subject for lots of reasons. I also refuse to place myself in a situation where I become a poster child for anything (I used to crave such attention, and it didn't prove healthy, despite the fact that the poster was for a far more noble cause). I will refrain from trying to answer the more ecclesiastical questions posed in the hypothetical and leave that to those with more leadership skill and biblical understanding. I would like to insert a few comments, as one "for whom the matter of same-sex orientation is deeply personal." And I know you'll realize that any such thoughts are not comprehensive – they are just things that have stuck out to me as I've read and re-read everyone's entries.
First I appreciate everyone's strong sensitivity for loving as Christ loves, leaning on the Spirit for wisdom and direction, and participation in community where grace and mercy, not judgment, are the central themes. All of that has to be anchored in the truth of God's word of course. It's a given to me, especially with those of us having such a heritage, that the Bible clearly calls homosexual behavior sin and that God doesn't like sin –He won't tolerate it, that's why He dealt with it so effectively through the cross – but also that God is love, and He patiently loves the unlovely. (the whole "cast the first stone" story comes to mind, and what Christ told the adulteress "go and sin no more.")
But having said that, it's my opinion that those struggling with same sex attraction find it difficult to hear "go and sin no more" from those who are sinners themselves … at least until they find a "safe house" of compassion (not pity) and identification. I know we can't simply mute the things that people don't want to hear – but the truth is, they often don't need to hear what the sin is – you can’t seek after God and not know the truth deep down. Additionally, there are plenty of voices screaming at them, "stone him … stone her" already. On the other hand, if there hasn't been time for them to seek out some answers while walking with us, then something must be lacking. To flip back to the "scenario" – I have to give a hearty amen to Joseph's approach of community, relationship, family and dialogue that allows honesty without shame and the all-to-often sliding-scale of sin that many Christians use (where certain sins seem to rank greater punishment than others). If the woman hasn't come to a place of asking some questions regarding what others, the Bible and God thinks about her orientation, then maybe we haven't spent enough of the right kind of time with her. Or maybe we've been influenced too much into being "seeker sensitive," that all there is time for is our showing interest and trying to meet them where they are without pushing them away – and not enough time to let them do the same of us.
As too the genetic component question … Whether it's nature or "lack" of nurture, or a combination of both, or the result of abuse, or as a good friend of mine described as "what a person does with appetites once whetted for the exotic and darker side," what we're all looking for is to belong in a manner that only Christ can meet. Getting one to recognize the destructive patterns of any selfish behavior is a long and difficult road, but without a non-judgmental, loving full court press of "I'm with you no matter what," most gay men and women won't hear us or will refuse to believe it. (and even then, it will take Holy Spirit to break such strongholds of thinking).
It’s already been documented in our comments that scripture calls homosexual behavior sin, but that is also the same for adultery, pedophilia, fornication, etc. I agree. Could I say this however, that most who struggle with homosexuality do not like hearing from heterosexual individuals that there's one set who must refrain from acting on their sexual impulse, and another set that get to enjoy it. I realize we're talking about a huge difference – that is sex between a husband and wife in a loving, Christ centered marriage can't be compared to the other – but can you understand the apparent injustice in such a demand. I know that Christ is the one who set the rules – he's God and I'm not, but it’s also going to take Christ in all His fullness and power to bring revelation and break behavior that is so wired into humans (that being sex, regardless of who you have it with). The answer for any of us struggling with a sinful behavior or attitude is to give ourselves so fully to Christ, immersing ourselves in His pleasure and fulfillment that whatever we must leave behind, pales in comparison. I can’t just say NO to something, I must be saying YES to something (or rather SOMEONE) far greater. I’m just mentioning this because I think we should realize how our instruction to those in this situation can come across if we’re not careful. Maybe we should all try giving up sex for a while so we can better relate. I hope you get the spirit in which I’m sharing this – I don’t know if I can be any clearer with my limited grasp of the English language.
Lastly, I remember when I would have couples come to me who wanted me to perform their wedding, yet they were living together. You all have probably had similar situations. I always saw this as an opportunity to compassionately speak into their lives – and with reasonable adjustments to their behavior, I would normally officiate for their union. Sometimes I was disappointed with the result, sometimes it led to their further discipleship and fellowship with believers. The bottom line??? is this potential adoption by our hypothetical lady any different? I’m sure it poses different complexities – but it also gives great opportunity. Ok I’m way over the 500 word limit. Thank you for your indulgence (no pun intended).

steve H said...

Thanks, Chris. Your words are worth weighing carefully.

Randy R. said...

WOW, Chris, POWERFUL! I have been doing far more listening than talking. However, your expose' has made the "listening" more than worth it! Thank you!

I think that the next generation is going to handle this challenge far better than we can/have; although, I believe that our generation has handled it better than the previous two (our parents and grandparents).

Although there have been some challenges with sending four of my five children to public high school. Overall, I am grateful. My two youngest, especially, the last of whom is about to graduate, have both faced this subject in ways that were totally foreign to me when I was in high school. I hardly knew what the word meant! Personally, I feel that they have learned to be very loving, compasionate, tolerate, accepting, etc. in ways that I believe that God can use in the future, redemptively.

I believe that part of the challenge that we are facing in the church in the West is that a generation ago, preachers would wail against sin (of every type and variety) and that folks would be convicted and repent (at least some would). This approach has been an effective means of presenting the Gospel for more than 200 years and still is effective in many parts of the world.

However, it is not the most effective means today (in the West). Relational evangelism wins the day, and that means getting close to people (vs. standing on a platform in front of an audience, whom you don't even know). Getting close to situations and circumstances that take you out of our comfort zone. Taking the long haul approach vs. the short term "microwave" instant "success" approach. Obviously, Joseph wins the prize for doing the best job in this area of our little circle.

As you have so clearly articulated, the Gospel hasn't changed; yet, perhaps like modern medicine, our understanding of man's condition has grown in such a way that perhaps we can apply the "cure" more affectively and redemptively?

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks to all--meaty, substantive, thoughtful, honest, with some real transparency and vulnerability thrown in! Wherever our conversations go, may these qualities accompany them!

I've found some help and resourcing from Bill Henson and his ministry FOTOS ("Fish on the Other Side"). You can check it at www.fishontheotherside.org. In his latest newsletter, he does a wonderful job with the question, "Do homosexuals need to repent?" He suggests it's the wrong question; a better one is "Do I need to repent?" Most of us take a please-be-patient-with-me-God-isn't-fnished-with-me-yet approach to our own longstanding and seemingly intractable sins, but refuse to extend the same gracious pattence to those wrestling with homosexuality, transgenderism, etc.

smokin joe said...

I think it would do us all some good to prayerfully and intentionally form some friendships with people who have a homosexual orientation. Don't try to convert them or change them, leave that up to the H.S. if he so chooses, just be a good neighbor and a good model of a Christ-likeness. Learn how the world looks from their perspective. And then review the scriptures with weeping and compassion.

Same goes for people of the opposite political party, or the other politico-idelogical persuasion. Perhaps even a few illegal Mexican workers. Not to mention Muslims, right Gary? Isaiah 58. Things like genocide or the holocaust only happen when people are treated as abstractions rather than individuals.

John M. said...

I just spent an hour composing a serious post which was just erased by a Google server error. Ah, the joys of the digital world.

Can't recreate it now. Thanks Chris for your courage and helpful comments. Yes Randy! Brian, I agree that repentance on our part is where we need to start. Joseph, I'm with you. Thanks Steve for continuing to hold up the mirror of scriptures for us to look into, as we grapple with the culture that we live in.

People are our priority and our mission, as we hold to principles according to our understanding, is to remember that mercy triumphs over justice and God's Love must prevail over all.

Brian Emmet said...

At the same time--and not to take us far afield--mercy triumphing over judgment does not necessarily entail universalism: "mercy triumphs over judgment" does not mean that everything and everyone is OK (and I am not saying that this was what you meant, John). Mercy can only be triumphant when the truth revealed by judgment is fully acknowledged and embraced. It may not be our job to determine exactly how this happens in people's lives, but failing to share truth with our neighbors, in appropriate, timely and sensitive ways, is a failure to love.

But back to the main-er (i.e., more main) idea!

chris hyatt said...

Brian Thank you for pointing us to the FOTOS resource. I've spent the last day reviewing all that's published there and appreciate, for the most part, the focus of ministry and heart in which it's offered. I also appreciate the words of encouragement from each of you. It speaks volumes that i would have enough confidence in this forum to share my thoughts - obviously I feel its a safe place.

Most of all, I appreciate Joseph and his encouragement and dialogue. Thank you.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, Chris; glad for your review and assessment of the FOTOS material.

Does this make any sense: I wonder if we should begin these kinds of conversations with folks who understand themselves to be gay, bi, trans, etc by asking, "What do you mean by that? What does it mean to you that you're GBLTT...?" I think straight folk assume it's all one thing--"I'm hot for the same gender" or whatever, but I think it's likely more multi-layered than that. Just a thought...

And John, our sympathies for having been briliiant and then having google simply erase the brilliance... I'm not sure I've ever been brilliant, but I have had google disappear my words of wisdom!

smokin joe said...

I think where the conversation must start, in my experience, is "hi, I'm your neighbor. I would like to be your friend...how can I serve you?"

It takes time to build sufficient trust to even have the conversation. And don't forget Richard McAfee's 5 levels of fellowship. In order to talk with someone who is gay about these deeply personal issues where many of them have been hurt before, it is necessary to go down to the 4th level--the level of feelings. Of course the goal is to get to level 5 ... the level of Truth.

John, remember "Jesus saves", although I don't know if he uses MS WORD.

Brian, my son was thinking about re-engaging the blog, and he has a conversation topic in mind. I might encourage him to email you. He just finished reading Gordon McDonald's "Ordering Your Private World" and is now reading Mumford's "Agape Road". both books have sparked some thoughts that he would like to process with others.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, we'd be happy to hear from your son again!

Brian Emmet said...

So friends--we feel like it's probably OK to support my hypothetical woman's adoption decision? She has sought our support and prayers...

smokin joe said...

it depends... will it piss off any big tithers in your church?

It is probably not a good idea to get a group of theologians together to actually implement any action items. We don't want to actuallyr resolve this, hypothetically speaking, we just want to talk about it ;-)

John M. said...

Brian, I didn't say "brilliant", I said, "serious".

Joseph, you're right about saving and being saved. I saw in a men's restroom in the '70's that "Jesus saves Green Stamps", but I never believed it.

I copy my post if I'm navigating away from the site and not ready to publish, but I've never had it "swallow" a preview. Oh well!

Let me take a shot at our hypothetical young woman. Part of what we're dealing with is "ideal" and "real".

Steve stated the ideal several posts back that children should be raised by two parents, a father and a mother. I'm not sure any of us would want to argue with that.

But we live in a reality that is quite different. I won't guess at the percentages, but there are single parents raising children everywhere, most of them women.

So, a question that arises is how would we counsel any single woman who wants to adopt?

Are the men in the community of believers willing to step up and fill some of the male influence and help the single Mom's, including one adopting? Or would we automatically counsel any single not to consider adopting?

Obviously, the emotional, spiritual health and maturity of the adult would be very important.

Would we counsel our gay gal the same as we would any other single woman? Or differently? Again, we are dealing with less than ideal from the beginning, but is there a different standard for counseling the gay and the straight person?

My impression is that children of gays (even biological children) do not necessarily have a propensity to have a same-sex orientation when they are adults. Is anyone familiar with any research on this?

Granted, there might be confusion on the part of an adolescent raised by a single gay person (or two same-sex partners).

But I have had students in 7th grade in the "Christian" school, who's Dad's, while still claiming to be Christians, are sleeping with their girlfriend and bringing her to church, sitting a few rows back from them and their Mom, and then bragging to their adolescent sons about it. Talk about confusion...

I know two wrongs don't make a right, and I obviously have more questions than answers. But if the gal has embraced Christ, and is desiring to live in the context of the Christian community and with their blessings, wouldn't there be a greater possibility of influencing that child for the Kingdom, than if he/she lived in foster homes or in a home where Christ had no place?

Thinking out loud...

steve H said...

I have been hesitant about this conversation -- not because it's unimportant, but because it is. I have a young friend who (for now at least) has chosen to live the homosexual lifestyle. I love this young fellow, but that does not mean I have the option to "endorse" his choice or "sanctify" it by allowing him to participate in the "church" any more than I could the man in 1 Cor 6 who was living with his father's wife. In fact, to do so might well "protect him" from the disciplines of the Father -- not to speak of inviting Father's disciplines upon Christ's community.

John's illustration of the Dads who bring their mistresses to church and sit behind their wives and children only points out our misconception of what the church is. Should people such as these be allowed into an "evangelistic" setting? Yes, I would encourage them to be there. But that's not the church in a Biblical sense.

This discussion reminds me of the dilemma faced by the church at least by the 2nd and 3rd generation after the apostles. Once converts were coming primarily from paganism rather than from Jews and God-fearing Greeks, baptism was delayed for two years or so in order for seekers to be given instruction and to receive prayers for deliverance. These seekers came to the liturgy of the Word, but were dismissed before the "church reassembled" for the liturgy of the Eucharist.

We do need ways to lovingly reach out, to encourage, to instruct, and to guide people along their journey into (and in) Christ and "the way of the Lord." And we need to be faithful to the Scriptural "way of the Lord" as we do so.

smokin joe said...

Steve, I agree with you for the most part. You said in reference to John's illustration about Christian dads with their girlfriends: ... "only points out our misconception of what the church is."

This is what I have been saying. I respect Brian’s desire to discuss this hypothetical scenario in a vacuum without linking it to the nature of the church, but it is ultimately impossible to separate them. I would not consider the scenario that John is describing to "be the church" in a biblical sense. And I don't think I am being a purist here. For me, where there is no mutual accountability, no gathering where everyone contributes something (ICor.14) no sense of discipline, there is no local church. I'm sure some of you would add some additional qualifiers.

This is why I feel that Nee's distinction between the local church and the work (which no one seems interested in discussing) is so vitally important. My approach to this issue of gay orientation (or dads with mistresses, or guys hooked on porn) comes at it from the angle of the work, not so much the local church. That changes everything initially. I would expect the possibility that a local church (perhaps in Brian’s scenario) to chart a very different course with the young single women in the hypothetical situation than I would as an evangelist in the work. And it might vary greatly depending upon the particular composition and ethos of the specific local church. There will be no “one size fits all” despite our common adherence to the scriptures.

Someday with some group, there needs to be a thorough and profound discussion about our paradigms of the church, of apostles and of the apostolic work. Even if we never agree, coming out of it with a better understanding of one another's definitions and assumptions will help us communicate. Among our circles, we do not agree, but we prefer to skirt the issues and leave them in a cloud of ambiguity. And if two are not agreed, how can they walk together?

And John, I think you are right when you say “Part of what we're dealing with is ‘ideal’ and ‘real’.” The more I think about it, the more amazed I am about how much idealism resides in our generation, and also in our former movement.

Brian Emmet said...

Perhaps responding somewaht defenisvely, I do wish to point out that the way I posed the question left lots of room for respondents to answer from whatever context or perspective they may hold about the nature/definition of "church" (which would include "the work"). I don't think there's anything vacuous (related to vaccuum) about posing the question this way.

smokin joe said...

sorry Brian, I didn't say "vacuous" (thats sound much more negative than "in a vacuum" to me).

Its just by leaving it as a hyothetical and not placing it in an ecclesiatical context, we may come up with totally differing results based on widely differing assumptions as Steve pointed out (I think).

Most of us here would adhere to some kind of "covenant community" type paradigm based on our background. Don might be an exception with his Methodist connection. At the risk of offending some of my dear friends here in Miami, I know that my Vineyard buddies of the 'seeker frinedly' persuasion would basically follow a "don't ask, don't tell" policy and leave it up to her as long as she kept attending services and was not in leadership. They certainly consider what they are doing to be "church" although I think Steve and I would politely disagree.

Steve already shared how he would handle it in his intimate convenant community with a high value on relationships and accountability. I basically agree with him (in his context) but I would approach from the 'evangelistic' work context.

Thats the problem with hypotheticals. However, it was certainly not my aim to make you defensive. This has been a valuable conversation so far.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, Joseph. I think my original question had expected and invited a variety of responses, based in part on just the sorts of things you brought up. I appreciate the clarification that we need to make our context and resulting "operating assumptions" clear.

John, I would approach a homosexual woman differently from a straight in this situation, in a fashion perhaps parallel to two single men desiring to adopt, one of whom is promiscuous, the other of whom is chaste, because other factors being equal, the chaste man will do far better by his adoptive child than the promiscuous man. Even if it's determined that homosexuality is "100% genetically determined" (and I put that in quotes because I question how much of any of us is 100% genetic), a child raised in a homosexual environment will tend to be positively disposed towards homosexuality, which I believe to be harmful. (I think we can be positively disposed towards homosexuals, without being so disposed towards homosexuality.) While we absolutely live in the real world (but as defined by whom? And do we live in "the real world" or do we live in God's good Creation?) rather than an ideal one, I don't think we serve God or neighbor well by adding additional layers to the sexual confusion and immorality of our age.

John M. said...

I agree Brian. I was raising questions, not giving answers. I also agree with Steve, that discipline needs to be given when there is public, unrepentant sin in an individual's or couple's life.

I based my response on your hypothetical scenario. Your young woman had not eliminated the possibility of a committed lesbian relationship at some point -- which in itself could be a disqualifier.

But you also stated in the post, that she was a believer, part of the hypothetical church, and was, at this point at least, attempting to live celibate and follow Jesus.

I was asking if that would be a healthier environment to raise a child than perhaps other environments to which he/she might otherwise be raised.

I agree with Steve and Joseph that it is very difficult to separate this discussion from the "nature of the Church" discussion.

I would submit that seeker sensitive public services are part of the work (evangelism), not the church. At least some of those churches understand that and provide believers meetings and small groups for their core membership. It would be interesting to know if they would distiguish between attendance and involvement for your young woman between those two levels of meetings. I'm sure it would vary from church to church.

For me, I would be perfectly willing to receive a sincere believer into the body -- even if they were dealing with same-sex attraction, as long as they were committed to celibacy. I don't believe that the orientation is sin. Sin comes through how the orientation is handled by the individual.

Most pastors and pastoral teams that I'm aware of extend much grace to heterosexual singles who struggle with temptation to sin sexually and even who lapse but are repentant. Why would we treat the homosexual person differently if they were involved in the same struggle from a homosexual rather than heterosexual experience?

I would want to agree with God's sanctification process in both people's lives, not put them out of the church for failure. I imagine that if sinlessness was a requirement for membership in the church, that we would all have been disfellowshipped by now.

I know that is certainly true for me -- even in regard to sexual sin. Although I have not had intercourse with anyone but my wife, I have certainly acted on my impulses to look at pornography, to sexualize and objectify other women, and to secretly look for overt opportunities to fulfill those desires and fantasies.

I am recovering from those things, and have sought counsel and accountability from several other brothers, and I have opened my problem to my wife. By God's grace I didn't self-destruct (although I easily could have), and I'm still on the journey with Jesus and my brothers and sisters.

My own experience has made me very reticent to be judgmental toward others who are struggling with gender identity and sexual issues. I have never struggled with same-sex attraction, nor with feeling "trapped" in the "wrong" body, but I have struggled with heterosexual temptation since puberty.

By God's grace I'm living in much more freedom and wholeness, but it has taken a long time, and it involved deep personal issues that needed the Lord's healing touch. I had always believed that it was simply a matter of self-control, just saying "No", and making the right choices. Consequently I vacillated between feeling incredibly guilty, and telling myself that it was no big deal, because this was "normal for a man". I have learned that compulsive, addictive behavior is much more complex than just saying "No". What works for some people does not work for others. Some of us are more deeply broken and need to be more deeply touched in terms of our sexuality.

I know how difficult it was for me to talk to other brothers about my struggles and failure. Since the church generally conveys the attitude that homosexual sexual sin is more serious and offensive than heterosexual sin, and many inuendos and even overt jokes and statements communicate that even the orientation is perverted and sinful, how much more difficult is it for the person sturggling with these issues to even remain in fellowship, much less share their struggles with others in the church.

Many times we drive them into the arms of the homosexual community by our negative, even bigoted attitudes, spoken both by individual members and publicly from the front. I know that this happens in our churches because I have done it myself -- until now.

smokin joe said...

I'm a heterosexual "head-light" guy myself ... you can imagine my need for God's grace on a university campus in Miami now that it is summer (wicked smile). My motto is “admire but do not desire.”

John, you said: "For me, I would be perfectly willing to receive a sincere believer into the body -- even if they were dealing with same-sex attraction, as long as they were committed to celibacy." I think most of us would agree with you but...

Here is a possible incongruence in our views on this subject. If we advise Christians with a homosexual orientation to stay single and embrace celibacy (for a lifetime), why do we not give the same counsel to divorced heterosexual Christians?

I know the theological arguments pro and con for divorce and remarriage. One might construct a fairly narrow scenario in which one partner might have a biblically justified divorce, but most Christian divorces are simply train wreaks and there are no "innocent parties.”

I can tell why I don’t advise divorcee’s to embrace a life of celibacy: because I know it won’t work. If I don’t allow the person to remarry, they will fall into fornication or worse. “Better to marry than to burn” and “it is not good for a man to be alone” and all that jazz.

So – why would we tell Christian gays to embrace lifelong celibacy but not Christian heterosexual divorcees who have divorced simply because they are selfish and emotionally immature? Let me repeat – Jesus made it pretty clear that remarriage after divorce equals adultery with one caveat (fornication – pornea) that is actually a pretty narrow criteria. I would submit that it is due to expediency … if we refused to recognize second marriages except under extraordinary circumstances, we would lose too many people. Since most of us do not have gays in our congregations, it is easier to maintain a “purist” or rigid standard with them without it getting messy.

John M. said...

Good question Joseph. What if the traditional conservative translations and interpretations of the "homosexual" passages in the Bible are not accurate?

What if some of the more liberal/progressive interpretations that allow for committed sexual relationships between same-sex couples are actually permitted by the scriptures?

There are certainly those who purposely distort to further their agenda, but could conservatives not be guilty of the same?

Along with the distorters, there are those who are sincerely looking for truth; who are questioning the traditional translations and interpretations by going back to the original Hebrew and GK and re-looking at how they have historically been translated in the English versions and how they have traditionally been interpretated by modern conservatives. They are raising valid questions -- especially from the Rabbinical, and Talmudic interpretations and translations.

Interesting that you should mention divorce. I have recently been talking with a brother who was previously divorced who is a member of a church who is now questioning his present marriage of nearly 30 years because he was previously married.

He has been researching the remarriage issue in the same manner as I mentioned above, and has found some very interesting data supporting remarriage based on the Rabbinical understanding and the original intent and understanding of the biblical authors. If you get that one right, it is, of course,. the context that Jesus is coming from when he makes the statements in the N.T.

I find my self strongly supportive of the "reinterpretation" of the hard, legalistic conservative, traditional interpretations on the subject of remarriage.

Why would I not be willing to consider the same in relationship to homosexuality? Is it because my conservative background and teaching has made me so rigid and prejudiced as to not even consider other view-points -- to just dismiss them out-of-hand? Is it because I am afraid of the potential consequences and ramifications of opening my nice comfortable closed system of interpretation to the chaos of a new set of glasses?

Hmmm...

Brian Emmet said...

Basic questions: what is sex for/about, from God's perspective and purpose?

Paul says marriage mirrors the union of Christ and his church. When two men marry, does that relationship mirror wht Paul seems to be after?

Celibacy is certainly challenging! Does the often unremarked reality that tens of thousand of believers have lived faithful, fulfilled, happy, celibate lives mean anything to our conversation, or are they mainly irrelevant weirdos?

Are we confusing grace and mercy? I think we are all for mercy for all who struggle with sexual temptations of whatever stripe, and for all who sin in this regard (as in any others). Yes to mercy, yes to compassion, yes to patience! But isn't there something about the operation of grace in our lives that lifts us up to God, rather than telling us that it's OK to be where we are? God loves us where we are, as we are--but because he loves us, he won't leave us there! Grace and truth come through Jesus Christ (Jn 1:18)--don't we fail to love our neighbor, gay, straight, divorced, remarried, greedy, proud, etc. if we separate God's grace from God's truth?

And yes, being as discerning as we possibly can about where a person might be in this process is essential. I think the Good News is first and last GOOD...but there is some bad news to be dealt with somewhere between the good and the GOOD!

smokin joe said...

very good, Brian -- I believe I agree with you. But you didn't respond to my question about divorce and remarriage. Do you believe that people have the freedom from the biblical point of view to remarry after the failure of a marriage, irregardless of who was at fault? Once, twice, three times?

I often tell recent divorcees to take a "fast" from relationships and to embrace a year or so of not dating in order to get some perspective and healing. I would find it very hard to tell someone that they must embrace a life-time of celibacy. Gothard's extreme view of marriage covenant leads to this logical end.

Most of us will accept remarriages, even multiple remarriage despite the words of Jesus on the subject. We know that telling someone that they must obligatorily commit to life-time celibacy falls into the category of placing heavy burdens on people that they are unlikely to be able to bear, at least in our culture.

Those who do embrace celibacy, do it out of love for Christ, and perhaps a sense of calling or vocation. There is some evidence for a "gift of celibacy." Even then, many of them fail to keep their vows.

And then there is the teaching of chastity to our teens in churches ... a youth pastor in Miami recently came to me to ask for counsel. He wanted to encourage the teens in his church to give priority to chastity, but if they were weak, to use condoms. His pastor and the parents would not let him. Within six months, his top youth leader got the other female youth leader pregnant. He says this has happened more than once.

As we have already discussed in this forum, graduating High School seniors are leaving the church in droves ... and atheism is on a sharp increase among young people. Isn't it time to re-examine these issues from a faith perspective? and perhaps adopt a more pragmatic and realist perspective within broad biblical limits?
Is there ever a scenario where you would counsel a recently divorced person to embrace life time celibacy?

steve H said...

The divorce remarriage issue is tough. Is the matter of "hardness of heart" still a factor? Gary North published a book (by George Grant, I think) titled "Second Chance" -- which you can read on freebooks.com -- which makes a "Biblical" case for there being times when divorce/remarriage are perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, I know of one church torn apart (meaning people were torn apart) because they took the position that there is no such thing as remarriage since "divorce can never happen as far as God is concern; therefore, all remarried people are living in adultery and must leave that relationship and go back to the original or be celibate.

I have prayerfully, carefully, fearfully remarried some people. I have also counseled some not to remarry but to remain celibate. I have thought through and hopefully prayed through "my position" on these matters so that I have some guidelines that I go by. However, I sure wish it were possible to know God's mind fully in unity with the whole body on them.

Joseph, I think the distinction between the church and the work is a helpful one and the way you have applied it in this discussions demonstrates its value.

Brian Emmet said...

Yes, I should have responded to the question of divorce/remarriage. I'm where I think Steve is--a good deal of fear and trembling. I'm not a Gothardian absolutist, and would understand "except for marital unfaithfulness" more broadly than physical adultery. Otherwise, I think we complicitly encourage people toward adultery, just so they can get the terrible marriage over with. I think a husband who beats his wife is guilty of marital unfaithfulness/adultery.

I like your idea of a relationship fast for those coming off failed/broken marriages or relationships. I don't think my starting point would ever be, "OK, your only option moving forward is lifetime celibacy." Like you, I would want to do all I could to help them search Scripture, seek God, receive healing ministry, discipleship, etc. and make their choice before God. I'm well aware that, whatever I may say, they can go across the street to get whatever advice they want. Maybe that's the real point: "Who does God want you to be and become? What do you think you-in-Christ looks like?"

smokin joe said...

thanks Steve, the distinction has certainly been helpful to me. It frees me up to pursue lost and hurting people without having to worry about some of these 'pastoral' issues, although, if I am successful in gathering them around Christ, they will have to process these issues in the light of the scriptures themselves at some point.

thanks Brian, for your response. Like Steve, at one point I devoted myself to a careful study of divorce and remarriage "with fear and trembling." I agree with you about issues such physical abuse, or heavy involvement in pornography.

However, if we take the words of Jesus seriously, there MUST be some situations where a drug user, or an adulterer is the guilty party in a messy divorce, and then they repent and end up in our churches wanting to remarry (or already remarried) in such a way that their second marriages reflect adultery from the perspective of Jesus’ plain words. It sounds like Steve might counsel such a person to remain single, if not married, but that is a tough sell that most of us would not attempt. Are we being influenced by our culture here rather than the scriptures? Why would we apply a strict standard of life-time celibacy to a homosexual but not a heterosexual in such situations? Is it because there is a scriptural difference between homosexual and heterosexual sin in such cases or is it really because homosexuality is more repulsive to us? In other words, we don’t like homosexuals so we can love and extend mercy more easily to the heterosexual sinner?

I don’t mean to keep pressing the point, but I really do think that beyond our theology, or underpinning our theology there is lurking raw prejudice that must be expunged in order to truly ‘do theology’ in this context (I’m not pointing that at anyone other than myself).

I’m not trying to get us to change our theology…I’m trying get us to deconstruct it to separate our prejudice from true scriptural conviction. By all means we should retain scriptural conviction (after a thorough re-examination) but throw out the judgment and prejudice.

steve H said...

There clearly is a subjective element in my counseling someone in regards to remarriage.

There are three primary principles that I try to use as a starting point. 1) If the marriage / divorce happened before conversion then I think that I cannot hold them to the same standard as someone who breaks covenant when in covenant with Christ. 2)If there was clearly adultery (and possibly other covenant breaking behavior) on the part of one person, then I would be more open to remarrying the other person. 3) If an unbeliever has chosen to leave a believer then as I understand 1 Cor. 7, the believer is not bound, i.e. free to remarry.

If one partner has remarried, then as I understand it from the Old Testament law, the other partner may not remarry the person from whom he/she has bee divorced.

If there is any discernible hope for reconciliation, then I would strongly discourage remarriage.

If there is discernible emotional baggage, then I would strongly discourage remarriage.

If a person has clearly not dealt with factors in his/her own life which may have contributed to divorce, then I would strongly discourage remarriage -- even if that person was not technically "at fault."

steve H said...

Concerning the original topic:

A person who has engaged in the homosexual life almost certainly has emotional scars that were contributing factors. I am no expert in these matters, but I have not yet dealt with a homosexual person who has not been damaged in some clear way which contributed to the orientation. Even if homosexual unions were legit (and not against the nature of God's creation), how could I contribute to such a union rather than to prayerfully and lovingly work toward the healing of the damage leading to it?

In this discussion, no one has suggested searching out what we can learn from our brothers and sisters in Exodus International and other such ministries. Most of these ministries are led by and/or have developed from the insights of those with a homosexual orientation, most of whom engaged in homosexual activity priviously. Don't they have something to say to this?

John M. said...

I would agree with Joseph that we need to examine our interpretations of scripture in light of our prejudices. Those who interpret Jesus statements on divorce broadly, do so based on Rabbinical interpretations of OT scriptures, along with how certain Hebrew words are translated. Those who have a more inclusive interpretation of homosexuality do the same. Have we created a double standard?

It seems to come down to how we interpret same-sex attraction. Is it Genetic or is it a life-style choice. Obviously it's not that cut and dried, but the way we approach that issue will shape our outcomes.

Brian has raised the issue of original creation. I totally agree that it was not a part of original creation. God created humankind male and female.

Before the fall there was no adultery, no fornication, no divorce. So, as I said earlier, that is the ideal, but we are not dealing with an ideal, unfallen world. Consequently, we have to deal with these issues, homosexuality included.

The fourth person named in scripture murdered his brother. Prostitution, polygamy, mistresses, fornication and divorce seemed to arise rather early in history -- and male on male sex was there by the time of Lot. Have we created a hierarchy of sins?

So does God, through the natural processes of procreation and genetic combinations allow (cause, depending on your theology) some people to be born with a propensity toward same-sex attraction? He does allow some to be born with two sets of sexual organs. Could it be possible that he allows some to be born with the "wrong" set of genitals? ie, those who feel that they are actually the opposite sex of their physical characteristics?

It seems that our perception and interpretation have not allowed us to ask these questions. But our society seems to be forcing us to ask these questions about same-sex, trans-gender issues, in the same way that it has forced us to reexamine the divorce/remarriage issue.

John M. said...

Good point, Steve, about drawing from some of the resources of Exodus International, and others who minister to homosexuals. I do know that they have a pretty significant relapse rate even among some of their leaders, but so do many drug programs, so I'm not suggesting that invalidates what they are doing.

If we listen to those who deal with these issues, I think we will find that there is a continuum of sexual identity and attraction. Some will desire to change and be able to do so, with counsel and ministry. Others may never totally be without some same sex attraction but still chose to live heterosexually.

Then there are those, whom I assume that you all have talked to who, because of their cultural influences and their Christian values have tried mightily to be "free" from same-sex attraction, even to the point of being married and having a family, but have seen no change.

I had one man who, when I suggested to him that he had made a choice (he had left the Christian community to live openly gay), told me this: "I cannot remember ever not being attracted to other men. I tried everything to deny it by acting like I was interested in girls in Jr. High and High school -- even dating. But I never felt any sexual attraction to women, only men. Finally, as an adult I spent many nights laying on the floor in the early hours of the morning and crying out to God to 'take it away', He never did."

When I told him that his only option was to live with the attraction but maintain a celibate life-style, he raised the same question that Joseph has. He said to me, "Yes, you have to chose not to sin heterosexually, but you have a legitimate outlet for your sexuality with your wife.

He had finally decided that he was "made this way", and that God would not condemn him for having a same-sex partner. I had no more to say to him at that point. As I write this, I can't imagine actually saying anything else and condoning his decision, and yet...

One other issue that we haven't raised is the issue of celibacy among heterosexual singles. The Bible is clear about fornication, and the church has interpreted this to also pertain to premarital sex between engaged couples before marriage. I think we all believe that the scriptures speak clearly on this.

Joseph mentioned the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of some churches in regard to homosexuality. How many of you have found yourselves taking this hands-off approach when doing premarriage counseling/mentoring?

It's really easy to just by-pass the issue and avoid the potential discomfort. Again, are we creating a double standard?

John M. said...

Oops sorry. I didn't intend to post back-to-back. When published the other post, Steve's had come in before it, and I just started responding to him.

Brian Emmet said...

Not trying to get us off-topic here, but--oughtn't we also to make an argument parallel to John's concerning other religions? In a fallen world, there are many--billions!--who do not find Christianity attractive or true. Some have sincerely tried, but find themselves unable to sustain a meaningful Christian life. They have felt this way their whole lives, never feeling any "pull" from Christian things, but experiencing deep and profound desire to live as a Buddhist... Doesn't the double standard argument work here as well?

smokin joe said...

Brian … Buddhism! Discussing this in the context of the major World Religion requires another post and another 50 to 100 comments, does it not? I’m not denying the validity of your point, but at least in discussing heterosexual and homosexual ethics, we are talking about two different kinds of apples – with Buddhism aren’t you jumping over to Oranges? I can think of a host of new and complex issues that raises.

Steve and John: I would agree with Steve’s view of how to counsel people to handle the marriage covenant. However, interestingly, it has been a long time since I have had to confront that issue. In dealing with secular, unchurched 20-somethings… almost none of them have been married even once, precisely because they don’t want to get divorced. So, for the most part, they just “hook-up” with someone until the relation breaks down, and then move on to the next partner. No covenant-breaking for them, at least not in the legal sense. So … I have a whole different set of issues to consider.

John, I have not had time to read through the paper you sent yet. I’ll try to get to it this weekend. I repeat to all: my desire is not to revisit ethical or moral standards, but rather examine our own hearts about our attitudes toward various kinds of sinners, of which I am undoubtedly the worst offender. Why do we find it easier to be a ‘friend’ to the one who has failed in marriage, than the one who struggles with a same sex orientation? Or be a friend to a Muslim, Buddhist or new age agnostic for that matter? Jesus was criticized for being a 'friend of sinners.' if we are not criticized for the same thing, are we truly following him?

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, I don't think the two issues are quite as distinct or separable as perhaps you do, but am happy not to push in that direction. I was responding to John's suggestion that the church has been guilty of a double standard with regard to sexual sin, and wondered if, based on what I understood to be the reasons behind John's position (John, you there? Time to correct my misinterpretation), we are not likewise guilty of a double standard with respect to people's faith commitments (as opposed to their sexual commitments). So I'm not sure I totally buy the apples-oranges idea...anyone else up for the admittedly daunting task of straightening me out?

I have pressed my position a bit because I wanted to see if we buy it/think it's Biblical. I think it is also vitally important to maintain latitude and flexibility in our encounters with real people in real life situations. Of course, if my position is wrong, that would be helpful to know!

If we "now know" that sexuality is a continuum, with many fully appropriate sexual orientations,as opposed to my understanding that Scripture views sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage as contrary to God's design/purpose, then I am prepared to belong the long and difficult process of repentance. Many sincere believers were wrong on slavery, wrong on women (although this is still contested), and wrong on other matters, it is hardly outside the realm of possibility that I am wrong on sexuality.

I fully accept Joseph's (and others') points about missional outreach, the need to meet and engage people where they are, not where we are, on their turf not ours, to be patient, long-suffering, winsome, gentle, compassionate, etc.

Brian Emmet said...

I am prepared to BEGIN (not "belong) the long and difficult process of repentance...

John M. said...

Brian, I am not advocating that behaviors on the "sexual continuum" are supported or even allowed by scripture. I was saying that this is what people experience psycologically. How we act out our propensities, desires, orientation, whatever you want to call it, is another matter.

Your point about "religious orientation" (Buddhism) is interesting. I think it would be a good discussion for a future thread.

But I would agree with Joseph that we're talking apples and oranges (fruits and nuts?) -- oops, some of my remaining prejudice just popped out didn't it?

Our sexuality is such an intrinsic part of us. It involves our identity, our relationships, and, as you have mentioned, the image of God. And it is affected by so many complex synergistic factors: environment, the actions of others toward us, role-models, and that mysterious inner drive that comes from genetics or...?

Our religious preference seems to be very deeply affected by our culture, family, and geography. Obviously it also involves God's sovereignty in some mysterious way. At this point, I think that trying to have both conversations would be difficult. I would recommend saving this one 'till later. Perhaps next?

I think we are all in agreement that we need to figure out how to reach out to those with same-sex orientation in regards to evangelism. There are obviously a lot of barriers -- our own prejudices, and the prejudices that gay people have toward conservative Christians.

I have to be honest, I think I have pressed my arguments beyond my own personal comfort zone. I saw the report tonight about the Calif. Supreme Court over-turning the ban there on same-sex marriage. On one level, whatever others do or how they define "marriage" legally, it won't destroy traditional marriage between one man and one woman, so I don't see any reason to become hysterical about the issue. On the other hand, I am not comfortable calling it "marriage".

I ran an errand with my wife after dinner. In the dept. store with lots of people, I tried to imagine what it would be like if I were surrounded by same-sex couples holding hands, kissing and publicly demonstrating affection toward one another. I was not comfortable with that scenario either. So, in spite of how I have been arguing, I am still conflicted about the whole issue. But I still have compassion for individual people caught up in the "issue".

I feel emotionally spent with the whole discussion at the moment, so I'm going to sign off.

smokin joe said...

emotionally spent?! Come on John, cowboy up... this has been thoroughly invigorating.

I met with an old friend tonight ... who has a relative who is gay, has integrity, is a person of faith, and has faithfully been in the same relationship for over 15 years. My friend finds it impoossible to turn his back on his loved one, and call him a "bad person." I understand... and yet, I am not settled on the issue. Maybe we just don't understand how far we have fallen, and how great and awesome is his grace...

This sort of discussion is academic until it hits close to home and you can pull up faces to represent those we are talking about.

...and obviously the issue is not going away anytime soon, so a dry-run at rehersing our hermaneutics is not a bad thing.

Brian, don't repent yet...just be open to being a friend to sinners of all kinds (God is no respecter of persons-he sends the rain on the just and the unjust) ... let's let faith working through love lead the way ... Moses allowed divorce because of the 'hardness of our hearts' ... and 2000 years after Jesus, our hearts are still pretty hard....

so...as we conclude another discussion thread inconclusively, what do we talk about next? Divorce and remmariage? or Buddhism? or something else?

I just love 'doing' theology

j

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, doesn't hanging with you guys give me any cred as a friend of sinners?

So as we wave a fond farewell to my hypothetical gay gal--not sure how much help we were to her, but perhaps we were of some help to each other--we turn towards the brand new post that looms just over the next rise...

chris hyatt said...

Brian, hanging with me certainly makes you a friend to this sinner. =) Thank you for posting this in scenario in the first place.

I will make one additional comment regarding the probable trauma or injury that leads one into homosexual behavior that Steve eluded to - and i speak from personal experience. I can't find one episode of trauma, abuse, warped fatherhood, or any other supposed cause in my own life (and believe me, i've looked). I can see my own sinful nature, my own transgression, etc ... but I have never been raped, abused by an older relative, traumatized by exploitation ... and I have an amazing, Godly father. Its not to say that Steve doesn't speak rightly for many in my shoes - but there are some (me included) that can't point to such an event.

Brian Emmet said...

Chris, I have been very grateful to reconnect with you after many years... actually feel like I'm getting to know you better now than the more passing contact we had in the past. So let's be fellow sinners and fellow friends! I appreciate the lack-of-trauma-as-causal-factor perspective you offered; I understand that to be true for others also.

There is a new post up, but that does not require us to abandon the conversation here.

smokin joe said...

please include me in the fellow friends and sinners category ... thanks Chris for bringing an important voice to this discussion ...

Brian Emmet said...

Amen! To both all that Chris brings, and to the fellowship of sinners (who are also becoming better friends)!

steve H said...

I've been out of town a few days. Thanks, Chris, for bringing your experience to the table in this conversation.