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Being More Christian: Loving the LGBT Community

I’ve been a member of a church my whole life.  My grandfather was a pastor, his brother was a pastor, and there were others before them.  And now I’m a pastor.  I serve a fairly large church in Grand Island, Nebraska.  The good life.  On a stick.

I’m also a United Methodist.  My grandfather & great-uncle were Methodist.  My parents chose United Methodist churches when I was growing up.  I attended the same United Methodist Church for more than 20 years before heading off to seminary at Claremont School of Theology.

I resonated early on with the idea that God is one who expresses love rather than anger or hatred or contempt, and God calls all of humanity to do the same.  I was most moved by Jesus’ final teaching in the Gospel of John when he gave that new commandment:  love each other, and that’s how people will know who you are.

Like a good Methodist, I think that the ancient and sacred Christian texts have everything I need to figure out God’s message for the world.  As a pastor and a preacher, I am a student of the Bible and continue to read and study.

And it’s hard.  It’s really hard to figure out what’s written there because it challenges me and it makes me think and it forces me out of my comfort zone and it transforms me.  God transforms me.  And I can’t help but keep working at it, because the more I do the more I become a better person.  That’s the way I think about it.  That’s the way I experience it.

I recently read a blog that made me see that I’ve been somewhat of a hypocrite, though.  I haven’t been doing all I can – as informed by sacred Christian texts – to show the love that Jesus teaches and that God calls me to give.  I haven’t been open to God’s transforming work as completely as I could be.  I haven’t been showing the world who I am because of the way I show love for all of humanity.

I have been silent in the face of exclusion and condemnation.  I’ve been afraid of offending people.  I’ve been afraid of pissing people off.  And this stops now.

The blog was from Dan Pearce’s Single Dad Laughing site titled I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay.  It’s an excellent read.  Please check it out.

He writes of judgement, hatred, and bullying for any reason and how it’s completely against the tenet found in a number of religious traditions to express love to one another.  He specifically discusses the Christian (and I see it from other religious and non-religious traditions) abuse of gays and lesbians.  And he’s right.  I see it.  All the time.

And I’ve been silent.  I’ve been afraid to say something.  And this stops now.

I’m a Christian pastor who loves the LGBT community.  I’m a Christian pastor who doesn’t believe that homosexuality is a sin.  I’m a Christian pastor who thinks that gays and lesbians and bisexuals and queers and transgendered persons are not only invited by God into faith communities, but who are essential to the meaning of true community.

Gay Christian Flag

And I would be remiss not to note that the United Methodist Church disagrees with me, and instead notes that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Even so, I refuse to be silent.  I refuse to give in to my fear of the response.  I refuse to give in to the fear of consequences.  I refuse to exclude these persons from the Christian community.  Because that’s not love.  That’s not life-giving.  That doesn’t show who I am by the way that I love the world.

Many of my friends will disagree with me.  Many will cite scripture to me.

They’ll reference the creation story in Genesis and tell me that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.  Even though that story is about creation and procreation, about addressing human origin.  It’s not about faithful same-gender relationships.

They’ll reference the Levitical laws, forgetting that we already ignore most of those laws based on Paul’s writing in Galatians that the law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ or his writing in Romans that we are no longer under the law.  And even so, careful reading of the specific Levitical text seems to show that it upholds patriarchy instead of condemning faithful same-gender relationships.

They’ll reference the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is about gang-rape and fear.  It’s not about faithful same-gender relationships.

They’ll reference 1 Corinthians and Romans, two letters from Paul – who by the way was a very gifted writer and whose Greek is well known for its form and poetry.  But they won’t mention that there’s debate on the meaning of the Greek words used (and that weren’t even translated to “homosexual” until the 1940s).  Careful analysis reflects a likelihood that these texts are likely to reference pederasty (the ancient practice of enslaving young boys who would be sexually exploited).  It’s not about faithful same-gender relationships.

And yet I would still be a hypocrite if I were to say that I have the exclusive (capital-T) Truth of God’s will for the world.  If I exclude persons who disagree with me, I’m doing the same thing as those who exclude persons based on their sexual identity.

My particular passion is about exclusion of the LGBT community, and I won’t be silent.  And I don’t intend to silence anyone else.

Instead, let’s talk.  Let’s have a conversation.  Let’s be respectful.  Let’s show love to one another, because that’s how the world will know who we are.

I’m a Christian pastor who doesn’t think homosexuality is a sin.  Let’s talk.

19 thoughts on “Being More Christian: Loving the LGBT Community

  1. Hi Bob,

    Thank you. Let’s stop trying to avoid those few passages of scripture that are referred to when individuals wish to condemn others through misapplication of the Word (thereby, by the way, taking the Lord’s name in vain). Let us instead be moved by the totality of the Word.

    The story that has jumped out to me again and again is Acts 10, where Peter, tempted to stick with old prejudices in a new era, is given the vision freeing him from those prejudices. In the vision he is offered a meal which includes food which would be unclean. Eating this would be against the Levitical holiness code. When Peter points this out, God says “Do not call anything impure that God has made. (Acts 10:15 NIV)

    This story isn’t just about being freed from old restrictions and prejudices, or some simple updating of a long-forgotten set of rules. Associating with the unclean made one unclean (I guess in the same way that some folk think that one can catch “the gay” or that homosexuals actively recruit). It was a very real bigotry which was practiced. People could point to the Law and say “I don’t have a problem with gentiles, God does! If I tell them they are evil I am only doing what God tells me to do!” This story is a repudiation of that bigotry hiding behind piety.

    The story is a positive message that the Good News is for all people, as they have been made and where they are at. Cornelius the centurion does not have to “stop being a gentile” in order to have Peter enter his house, although by tradition he was thus unclean. There is no requirement that he “change his lifestyle” going forward.

    “Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.'” (Acts 10:47).

  2. Really uplifting Bob! I’m so glad you had the courage to take this stand… as a gay man I know that God loves me, that God made me this way… I can remember these feelings since I first walked the halls of our church as a 5 year old. Love is so powerful and thanks for reminding all of us : )

  3. God bless you and your ministry, Bob. This one issue has ALMOST been enough to drive me away from the Methodist church, which I love. That’s how discouraged I have been about this for many years. And I have repented over my own narrow mindedness years ago, when I felt like I needed a security blanket and identified with the Methodist Good News movement. God forgive me. I will never forget the day a good friend told me he was gay, and I felt like God had smacked me upside the head and challenged me…do you really love this person? Or not? That was over 20 years ago, and I have grown a lot from that place. And I really, really admire your courage. You have brought a tear to my eye, and inspired me!

  4. I am proud of you for taking this stand. You join a great many other United Methodist ministers who have risk the wrath of the church to take a stand in support of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Some day we will pull the church into the 20th century!!!

  5. Thanks for your honesty, Bob, it calls all of us to be honest too. It calls us to be honest about our fears and presuppositions, the things we take so for granted that we’re sure they HAVE to be in the Bible! Just like the way ‘In God We Trust’ has ALWAYS been on our money. 🙂

    Great conversation starter…

    Scott

  6. “I’m a Christian pastor who doesn’t believe that homosexuality is a sin.”

    That’s not the position of a Christian pastor; the Bible is crystal clear it is a sin of sexual immorality.

    If you truly love LGBT people, for whom Christ died, then you’ll tell them the truth and preach the Gospel to them.

  7. Bob,
    You say it very well. I, too, am a United Methodist pastor who believes that GLBTQ folks bring a depth and richness to the faith.

    For me, the gospel in a nutshell is that I am called to learn to love as God loves. In my experience, that love is truly unconditional.

    What’s more, science has proven over and over that GLBTQ people are truly born that way. What God has created, God isn’t going to then reject!

    Blessings!
    Melanie

  8. I love the exegetical tapdancing that’s required to hold this position. It’s fascinating to watch the convulsions a person will twist themselves into in order to attempt to conform their beliefs to a modern cultural standard. But let me be charitable and set that aside. Even more amusing part is that you don’t deal with the central text, Jesus’ own words, which condemn all extramarital sex (same or opposite sex), as well as every lustful _thought_ as sinful, Matt. 5:28. Marriage was between a man and a woman then, hence all homosexual lust (to say nothing of acts) is sin, and we can arrive at this conclusion without even consulting Leviticus.

    Also, this piece rather shamelessly conflates two separate issues: 1) being loving toward gay people, which virtually all Christians agree we should do and 2) whether homosexuality is a sin, as though those who think it is are therefore incapable of #1. The logic of the piece, such as it is, seems to suggest that thinking homosexuality isn’t a sin and loving the homosexual community are inextricably linked. How so? I can love a liar without loving lying, can I not?

    We are to speak the truth in love. You admirably desire the latter; you seem confused about the former.

  9. Bob you have forgot the Gospel and are preaching friendship with the world and its sins which our Lord Jesus Christ called us out of. If you truly loved LGBT people you would tell them about the sin they are commmitting. It does not matter what you believe but what the Gospel says. The Gospel is not polically correct and it is not a social Gospel or a “community” with non believers so you cannot compromise with the world or compromise the Gospel to fit in with worldly agendas of socially conditioning people to tolerate sin as nornmal behaviour. While jesus says we will be persecuted for our “politically incorrect” Christian stance, you seem to more interested in acceptance of the world that the Lord called us out of.

  10. Thank you! This is a message that needs to be heard and not just from the likes of me, a gay Christian. Why are people afraid to look at the scholarship that has been done instead just accepting Scripture literally? Why are they still wearing their poly-cotton blends? It makes me feel juvenile to say that.

    My heart breaks that people think that I am outside of God’s love because I’m a woman who loves a woman. I’ve waited my whole life for God to convict my heart that this is wrong- and yet, I hear nothing. And believe me, it would be so much easier to be accepted in society if I were straight. But God is bigger than all of that- God is bigger than all of our interpretations, God is bigger than my human foibles and inconsistencies and sins, God is bigger than our lack of love and understanding.

    I am so very thankful that you were willing to make a statement and stand up to the ususal “Love the sinner, hate the sin” commenters. I wonder what people are afraid of- why are they so scared to open their eyes and hearts and see that God’s love is for all people? Criminals and Muslims and GLBT and divorced people and poor folks and rich folks and literalists and so on… Why are they afraid to look at the studies that have been done about the clobber scriptures? What took them so long to oppose slavery and rights for women? For those opposed to sharing God’s love with me, a member of the LGBT community, I can only hope one day you will be ready for an honest conversation like Bob has obviously had.

  11. “Marriage was between a man and a woman then, hence all homosexual lust (to say nothing of acts) is sin, and we can arrive at this conclusion without even consulting Leviticus.”

    I think every good scriptural interpretation requires both good exegesis AND theological sensitivity.

    Theologically speaking… Marriage is a social contract that’s been defined by those of power in society. So, your quote does not address systemic oppression.

    Exegetically speaking… I don’t recall Jesus explicitly stating anything about homosexuality. I know Paul mentioned it, but that was really to challenge celebrated Greco-Roman culture, rather than singling out gay community.

    God bless your ministry in Nebraska Bob!!!

  12. Bob, thank you for your well-thought writing. From another Christian who happens to be gay, it’s refreshing to hear more and more Christian pastors speak of how God is forming their theology, rather than just falling back on “that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it” practices. Having been raised in another Weslyan-based evangelical denomination, I was pretty convinced that I was a hopeless sinner when I finally came to terms with my own sexual orientation. The church that I’d called home refuses to let me be a member because of who I am. I miss those roots, that familiar feel of spiritual home. The United Methodist Church is my adopted faith family, and I feel welcomed regularly, even affirmed, by my pastor and fellow church members. Should we ever lose our pastor (God-forbid!), I hope and pray we are blessed with someone like you. Blessings on your ministry and your family!

  13. Bob, I congratulate you for following your conscience, and for resisting the blatant peer pressure of your clergy colleagues. I know that compromising out of fear of offending conservative “political correctness” is emotionally draining. I’m sure that your congregation will benefit, now that you are no longer compromising and your conscience is clear.

    I suspect you are now intimately familiar with the meaning of Paul’s exhortation, “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind from within.” Clergy (both liberal and conservative) are so very blind to how thoroughly worldly the church is. “If thine eye be dark, how great is that darkness.”

    Regarding your critics, I think Paul’s attitude is a good one to adopt:

    “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.”

    “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority.”

    On a different site, Nathan quoted an Evangel lyric: “Cause the end of our lives we will answer to God.” I, too, glad that we answer to God.

  14. Ron,

    I wasn’t going to reply to your post as there’s nothing there (taken in the abstract, as you’ve presented it) that I really disagree with or found worthy of comment. But I found it ironic that you chose to quote *that* Evangel lyric because the song that it comes from also includes these lyrics:

    “They go on technicality
    There are choirs with men in it, effeminate, sinning with their
    homosexuality
    But the Savior ain’t having it, He won’t play averages
    Or pragmatist, nor okay gay marriages
    God’s blood purchased us with a purpose
    It hurts us when they lead in worship at churches
    Which is probably confusing
    They could view sin as okay as a logical conclusion
    1 Corinthians 5:12 shows in this verse
    That we’re to judge those in the church
    Put him out, not so that we got him on the run
    But so he comes to his senses like the prodigal son” – Evangel (on the song ‘Hilltop Housing’)

    Which is a pretty amazing coincidence because I quote Evangel fairly frequently and I’ve only ever heard him speak on this particular subject at length in the very same song that you chose to quote (while, I’m sure, being unaware that the rest of the song contained such lyricism).

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