I expect more pushback – of the kind, kind of course – on this post than most. I hope not, but I might even lose some regular readers over it. The debate about how God feels about gays and how the Church must relate to them is a firestorm for sure. As we speak the Supreme Court is debating the issue of gay marriage and whatever ruling to which they arrive will undoubtedly give politicians and talk show hosts from both sides of the aisle, as well as preachers from a variety of theological persuasions, plenty of fodder for pontification. I pose no opinion on that particular matter here; I just wanted to recommend a book and a free video for your consideration.
Ever since I moved to San Francisco I’ve been intrigued, if not puzzled, not just about the gay community, but about what some might consider an oxymoronic concept, the “Gay Christian.” Though it may sound to you like I’m going backwards, I have to admit that I used to know more than I now know about a number of things.
“Knowledge puffs up but love builds up,” said Paul. “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 On the issue of gays in the Church I’ve relocated from the city of “Certainty” to a neighborhood called, “Agnostic” (lit. “not knowing”). Though I’ve always believed in and tried to practice an all inclusive love and respect for people of all faiths, ideologies, and lifestyles, I’m being challenged by the Spirit to prioritize understanding others over being understood by them.
To anyone who wants to have what you “know,” challenged (or possibly affirmed) I have a book and/or a video that I’d like to recommend. I can’t say that I agree with every conclusion of either of these, but they both make some very insightful observations and propose some biblically mandated character qualities for all followers of Jesus and their communities. The first is a book called…
Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict Over Gay Relationships by Tim Otto
If you’re gay or part of a “Gay Affirming Church” you might not think this book goes far enough. On the other hand, if you’re straight and part of a “Traditionalist Church” (for lack of a better term) you’re likely to think that it goes way too far. Because of that, plus other Christ-like qualities that he possesses, Tim, who is an acquaintance of mine, displays the courage of his convictions even though he is liable to be heckled by people on both “sides” of the issue.
Tim tells you straight up that he’s not straight, but a “celibate gay Christian.” He’s one of the pastors in the Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco and, for good reason, a well-respected member of the community. Even if you aren’t inclined to read the book out of a personal interest in the gay issue, his compelling presentation of what “Church,” should look like is extraordinary, and worth the price of the book and the time to read it. I’ve attended a few services in his house church and have a couple close friendships with its members. The way they roll in terms of their commitment to relationships in Christ is extraordinary. In fact, a huge contributing factor in Tim’s decision to be celibate is the empowering (and not the least bit dictatorial) role that the church plays in his life. He calls the Church, “a community of blessing” – an apt description of their church in particular.
That said, though Tim’s brief and humble expositions of the key biblical texts on homosexuality have intellectual integrity, they may or may not convince you to change your view of them. Although, his love and respect for the Bible is as intense as my own, at least to date, he and I come to different conclusions about God’s view of homosexuality. But like I said, I don’t claim to already know with certainty more than I know that I know.
I’m particularly fond of his statement about how Christians view gays in the Body of Christ: “It’s not a battle to be won but an opportunity to grow.” If we brought that approach into all those things about which we have divergent opinions – faith, politics, and other moral issues – we might be the sort of compelling community that we’re supposed to be.
Speaking of “compelling,” that’s part of the title of the video that I want to recommend… But before I do, I can’t resist one quote of Tim’s: “Homosexuality is not in a special category of “badness” all its own. When I was attending Bible college, I sometimes saw graffiti on bathroom walls that said, “Bob is a fag!” I was tempted to write underneath it, “Bill is greedy!” But I wasn’t sure anyone would get the joke.”
The “Compelling Love & Sexual Identity” Video
I won’t go into detail about this free downloadable 90 minute documentary about Gays and the Church. It includes interviews from gays, gay haters, gay lovers (you know what I mean), pastors, and theologians. It poses neither theories nor pat answers, but does challenge people who claim to follow Jesus to display a love that compels instead of repels anyone and everyone to Jesus.
One more sample from Tim’s book:
“The question, ‘Is it okay to cross a street on a green light?’ is useful because the answer may help us avoid terrible accidents. But just because we can cross the street safely does not mean we know where we are going. Obeying all the rules won’t get us home. Asking, ‘how is God working for the good?’ does not focus on a single piece of knowledge, but on our overall direction: ‘Which way is home, and what will it look like when we get there?’ If we only focus on understanding the rules of the road, we will miss out on significant landmarks and obstacles and possibly never make it home.”
I’d love to hear what you think.
11 Replies to “A book and video about gays and the Church”
THANK you for posting this. I am a celibate thief, a celibate liar, a celibate murderer… you name it, I am it… Those who feel they are already “perfect” (and not yet in heaven!) should be cautious about throwing the first stone. After all, God does have a wicked sense of humor.
I appreciate your posting of this subject matter. I believe we, the church, need to work out our faith with fear and trembling around the subject. I believe we need to engage in conversation among ourselves in a safe place. Learn how to communicate to those we care about by practicing with each other. Make our mistakes in our communication on this subject among ourselves so that others are not hurt by things we might say. Invite the Holy Spirit into those conversations. But the first step is to really talk about it, honestly and vulnerably. I know He will help us to get to where we need to be.
What an amazing concept of hashing out our controversies among ourselves instead of in front of a world that needs to see a unified church (which isn’t the same as a uniform one)! Our problem is we’re not very good at this sort of interaction in the church. We tend to see kind but clear disagreement among ourselves as someone is less spiritual than the other. Though we don’t practice formal “shaming” it can often feel like that in our ranks. I have to admit that when I was pastoring my heart rate increased when someone told me they didn’t agree with me on a certain point. We have to learn how to agree to disagree agreeably and love those who disagree with us. There’s also the benefit of honest conversation about controversial issues that we might even find ourselves learning something from our brothers and sisters! We could even change our position on things after kind-hearted debate among ourselves. I wonder if the kind of love that Jesus promised would convince pre-christians was more like this… where we disagree but love anyway, rather than a group of people who all just parrot what they’ve been told to believe? Anyway, thanks bro!
I’m delighted. I know what the Bible says. I know what my mind thinks, I know what my heart has in it. I haven’t read the book or seen the video yet but your words bring me peace. Thank You.
This is an important subject for the church. Thank you for posting it. I look forward to looking at the material you posted, with an open mind and heart and I pray for humbleness of my spirit to receive the truth and live the truth in love.
The link to the video didn’t work for me. I will do a web search.
I’m told that the link to the Compelling Love video doesn’t work. Sorry about that. Here’s the URL: http://www.compellinglovefilm.com/ I hope you’ll watch it. it’s very “compelling”!
I watched most of the video and it was life changing! This is something I have been praying about and personally struggling with: how to unconditionally love someone who is living in opposition to my core values. As I watched, with tears in my eyes, I realized this not only applied to gays but also to others. The depth and breadth of God’s love on my own life should be my standard for ALL others, no matter their sexual choices, religion, ideology, political beliefs, etc. It is ALL covered under the cross of Jesus who died for all, unconditionally. I was deeply convicted of my sin, missing the mark, and saw people in my life I need to reconcile with. Please pray for me to walk the walk. I can see I hurt people with my hypocrisy. Please pray I can make full restitution. God is Mighty to save! I know He can rescue me out of this mindset and do miracles of restoration! Thank you for sharing this. I am going to share it with others and pray for many opportunities to share the video.
Because of watching this video, I want to reconcile with some people and ask forgiveness, please pray for me.
Sure will, Joann! He loves to answer these kind of prayers.