March 29, 2017

June 22, 2013

Helpful piece in the wake of Exodus closing

I am glad that we are getting thoughtful comments from same-sex attracted Christians here at SF. 

It seems to me that contemporary church approaches to same-sex attraction cluster into two unhelpful models.

One model, which some ministries under the Exodus tent seemed to employ, involves trying to turn gay people straight.  Some of the recent comments here on SF point out the way this approach can hurtfully minimize the Gospel content of a ministry and aim more for a perceived therapeutic “normalcy.”  Back in my L.A. days, I had a gay colleague who was being worked on by an ostensibly Christian woman who wanted to “deliver” him.  The more he described their interactions, the less it seemed a Christian effort and more a neurotic effort to prove one’s allure by “changing” someone else.  The whole joke of a Seinfeld episode on getting people to “change teams.”

Jesus told us to go and make disciples.  LGBT&c advocates make a fair critique of efforts to “go and make people normal” as a works-based replacement for that.

The other model is that embodied by TEC.  That approach seeks to “make the Bible gay” by making it say what it doesn’t and not say what it does.  The victorious crowing of lib prots at the closing of Exodus is just as devoid of Christ-content as “reparative” approaches that are all about making gay people straight. 

Jesus told us to teach disciples to obey his commands, the perfect will of the Father.  LGBT&c advocates teach people to flat out ignore and even despise what God has revealed and commanded.

Is there a way between making same-sex attracted people into straights on the one hand and rejecting God’s Word on the other?

Wesley Hill offers some worthy thoughts at First Things,

But what we still need, and what I most want to be involved in myself, is pastoral ministry to those who say, “I experience ongoing, nearly exclusive same-sex attraction, I don’t expect ‘conversion’ to heterosexuality, I don’t expect to be married, but I want to live within the boundaries of the traditional Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, and I want to flourish, not just survive. And I need help to do that.” There are a lot of us in that boat. We do need help. And there’s now a gap to be filled with—what, exactly? an organization? a regular conference? ministry houses? intentional communities? parish small groups? something more, at least, than what Exodus often was—to help meet that need.

There are plenty of straight Christians struggling to “live within the traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality,” and they’ve been wounded and abandoned by the culture and many churches as well.  There’s a need for people seeking Christ to find ways of sincere unity in sincere discipleship, helping one another from the strength of Christ that comes in through our weaknesses.  Same-sex attracted Christians might be in a powerful position to help us navigate between destructive extremes in a promiscuous yet legalistic culture, and the churches infected by it.

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Is there a way between making same-sex attracted people into straights on the one hand and rejecting God’s Word on the other?

I’ve had an intense struggle with my own version of this question since 2003.  And I think you touch on the solution when you write:

<blockquote. There’s a need for people seeking Christ to find ways of sincere unity in sincere discipleship, helping one another from the strength of Christ that comes in through our weaknesses.  Same-sex attracted Christians might be in a powerful position to help us navigate between destructive extremes in a promiscuous yet legalistic culture, and the churches infected by it.  </blogkquote>

We need Jesus, and we need to support each other in our struggle to follow Him.  Christians who have SSA and yet have not “drunk the coolaid” can be powerful witnesses to what God can do for humanity.  The challenge is that this culture reserves an intense kind of Hell for them, which makes them reluctant to speak out.  So how do we support them? Esp. those of us still in TEC?

[1] Posted by m+ on 6-22-2013 at 07:59 PM · [top]

Jesus said that his disciples would “be hated by all” for his sake.  A same-sex attracted Christian in our culture probably comes closer to fulfilling that than many of the rest of us.

Not sure how helpful we can be in TEC as TEC, but as Hill says in his article, we might have to rely on conferences, parachurch groups or other intentional ministries.  The denominational superstructure is a lost cause - other groupings in or out of our congregations will be needed.

A priest friend in another state laments that his worst antagonists are the straight revisionists in his congregation.  He has gay friends in and out of the church, and they can agree to disagree on the one hand or work on Biblical fidelity on the other.  But the straight libs for whom this is a cost-free, holier than thou litmus test issue will brook no response but reprogramming to “the agenda.”

[2] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-22-2013 at 08:15 PM · [top]

Okay, now I’m going to go contrarian on you…  wink

While I like a lot of what Wesley Hill says, I must disagree with his embrace of the term “gay Christian.”  When we go around like wimmicks labeling ourselves with this label or that one, we hinder our relationships with others and with God.  There may be times to be involved with special ministries for a season, but eventually you need to go out into the “real world” of regular church.

If our true identity is in Christ, adopting special label such as “ex-gay”, “gay Christian”, “ex-ex-gay”, “former pornography addict” or what have you, we distort that identity into something it shouldn’t be.  In Leanne Payne’s parlance, we become “bent” (i.e. leaning from being upright towards and centered in the Lord).

I much rather would take the approach of people like Vaughan Roberts or Rosaria Butterfield.  Rosaria’s response to the “born gay question” is that we are all “born this way; what this way is looks different from person to person.”  We are all flawed and are sinners; those flaws just manifest themselves differently.  And all of us should expect some change and some cost when we come to Jesus.

I’ve heard Vaughan use the analogy of man-made ice vs. God-made ice to describe how differently we and God view difference.  When people make ice, they produce cubes which are identical; when God makes ice, he produces snowflakes - each one unique yet a perfect reflection of his creation.  I find it helpful to look at ourselves more like God’s snowflakes rather than the much more common ice cubes which we tend to sort into different shapes and piles.

And one more point I’d quibble about that Wesley Hill mentioned.  While he himself never was in an Exodus ministry, he mentioned others who felt a pressure to conform their stories to the change narrative when involved in a ministry (i.e change = no SSA).  Opponents of Exodus have long pointed towards the mere continuing presence of SSA as evidence that Exodus did not work and was harmful.  However, sexuality is not a binary switch but instead a continuum.  I find that many in the “ex-ex-gay” group also participate in conforming their stories to fit their narrative.  Why is it that the mere presence of SSA proves that one is gay, but the presence of OSA can be overlooked?

Oh yeah, people make ice cubes.

[3] Posted by Reformed Wanderer on 6-23-2013 at 08:19 AM · [top]

I’ve been concerned with some of the statements made by Alan Chambers and the Exodus leadership in recent years. At the same time, I can definitely relate to the first sentence of this post’s final paragraph. As a never-married straight man, I’ve struggled, and sometimes failed, to walk in obedience to the teachings of Scripture. I’ve also faced condemnation from some in the church simply because I’ve never been married. I’ve discussed some of the legalistic teachings and shaming tactics I’ve run into within the church in comments I’ve left in response to other recent Stand Firm posts.

At the same time, marriage is no guarantee of obedience. Over the last year alone I’ve read far too many accounts of pastors resigning or being fired for engaging in sexual affairs outside their respective marriages.

I’m grateful for the comments I’ve read here in the wake of Exodus’ closure. I’m gaming some new perspective on this issue. It’s something for me to reflect on as I get ready to leave for church.

[4] Posted by the virginian on 6-23-2013 at 08:27 AM · [top]

The church has failed its members in many ways through the ages - that is a given.  It is a divine organization that is run by humans, and humans usually don’t get it all the way right.

There are many opportunities for discipleship that are missed - I’ve been a “divorced woman with kids” for a long time, and while I don’t identify myself that way, that is often how I’m seen.  Women at church get nervous when they see me talking to their husbands - more so than with single women.  We have lots of “couples” activities, marriage seminars, family-oriented events, and many of us are…I don’t want to say “left out”, but often ignored.  There could be lots of opportunities to minister to the divorced, the long-time single people, the lonely and struggling - there are needs that are not being met in the place that you would expect them to be met. 

While I’m not whining - I gave that up for Lent - it seems that perhaps the “need of the hour” could be used to make the Church take a look and see ALL of the “special interest” groups, and see where we’ve fallen short.

[5] Posted by GillianC on 6-25-2013 at 07:51 AM · [top]

I’m wondering if we overemphasize niche ministries and would be better off having Bible Study and prayer groups that mix people from very different situations.  I think there would be more “sensitization” generated that way than by ham fisted lectures or specialized ministries, and the good fruit would be people finding common care and guidance in Christ.  People like GillianC wouldn’t be consigned to the sidelines. 

I don’t think I expressed it well above, but the contribution of same-sex attracted Christians, in my view, would be a massive help to straight Christians who suffer in a “justification by sexual expression” culture, too.  That’s not to say that the struggles are note for note the same, or that straights catch the same negative blasts as gays.  But I think both benefit by being together - I’ve found over the years that plenty of gays have an idealized, naive view of straights, assuming that “normal” = “constantly satisfied.”  And believe it or not, there are much older folks who have insight into how physical change transforms the expression of love from the urgencies of youth.  And folks of all kinds who’ve never figured out how to be in love.  Knowing one another better is humbling - our own inflated view of the self shrinks and we can move toward the spiritual progress described in Philippians 2.

Ephesians 2:13-22 comes to mind as well.  I don’t want to draw a trivial application out of a complex passage, but it is about the Gentiles and Jews finding commonality in Christ through life in the apostolic church.

[6] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-25-2013 at 08:25 AM · [top]

Good points, Fr. Tim, thank you.  “Inclusion” doesn’t always mean, “you must meet my specific need”, but it could mean, “don’t forget that I’m here”.

[7] Posted by GillianC on 6-25-2013 at 11:17 AM · [top]

That’s well said, GillianC.  Thank you.  Had that been the working definition of inclusion, TEC would be in a better place today.

[8] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-25-2013 at 11:23 AM · [top]

J. Lee Grady posted a thoughtful response to the Exodus closing in his weekly “Fire In My Bones” column at Charisma Magazine’s website.

[9] Posted by the virginian on 6-26-2013 at 10:07 AM · [top]

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