We can do better…

From CNN.com:

Bobby Johnson’s daughter Kelby came out of the closet at age 14. The reaction from their church, he says, was immediate. “The pastor’s response was, ‘you can come here but you can no longer teach, you can no longer hold any position of authority or power within the church because that’s a part of our bylaws,” says Johnson, adding, “since that day … we have not been back.”

It was a defining moment for a man raised in a deeply religious household, and was the beginning of a journey of introspection of his faith.

“As I began to see the hate, the anger, the intolerance that came out in the community with Kelby, that really made me reflect on what I was taught,” he said.

“One of the things that is always driven into your head growing up in Christianity is that God, being the personification of love, there is no greater love than God. So now as a parent, I look at my child and I think of my unconditional love for my child … I could never sentence my child to an eternity to what Christianity calls Hell,” said Johnson, adding, “I no longer believe in the concept of Hell as it’s taught in modern Christianity.”…

The treatment from their church was compounded by the reaction to Kelby from their small Oklahoma town, as a whole.

“The gay lifestyle in this area in the country … it’s so frowned upon, and so shunned, and so disliked,” said Johnson, adding, “It’s not an exaggeration to say we lost all of our friends, I mean it’s literal – we have no friends left in the community.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • phil_style

    It’s all very tragic how those who are considered “unclean” are treated.

  • EricW

    After reading reviews, as well as the excerpt online at Amazon (warning – some graphic language), I ordered this book from an apparently well-known Christian celebrity/TV producer:

    Gay Conversations With God by James Alexander Langteaux
    http://www.amazon.com/Gay-Conversations-God-Straight-Fanatics/dp/1844095827

    He is the author of the books:
    God.com: Extreme Intimacy with an Interactive God
    God.net: The Journey Beyond Belief

    I’ve previously mentioned the Website of Kathy Baldock, a straight Evangelical Christian who is a staunch ally for LGBTQAI Christians:

    h t t p : / / canyonwalkerconnections DOT com

  • http://twitter.com/tonymyles Tony Myles (@tonymyles)

    So to sum up – what is it we can do better:

    1) Not allow a church to be consistent with its understanding of the Scriptures?
    2) Make sure anyone, including someone desiring to live out a homosexual lifestyle, can teach about the authority of the Word of God?
    3) Try to find ways to do #1 with more compassion?
    4) Try to find ways to do #2 with more holiness?

  • http://www.classicalarminian.com/ William Birch

    That is tragic.

    When my homosexuality was publicly exposed last year (due to my sinning against my dorm mate), my very conservative Southern Baptist church back home embraced me with open arms, hugs, and many prayers. Though they do not approve of homosexual sexual practices, they know how to genuinely love a person without identifying and/or judging him or her through a sexual orientation lens.

    I feel so sorry for people who have endured condemnation instead of the gospel of grace and hope in Christ.

  • Pat Pope

    I was part of a church that wouldn’t even consider someone for membership because she said she could not affirm that homosexuality is a sin. One of the arguments raised was “what if she wants to teach the children?” She did not and I assured them of that but because it was in the church’s doctrinal statement, they would not even have a conversation with the woman. She was deeply hurt and it was a painful time for me being in the middle of all of this trying to mediate. And she wasn’t even gay! Just a married heterosexual that could not personally affirm it as sin. Now, whereas I recognize the right of a church to have it’s doctrine and enforce it, it made me call into question the inability or unwillingness of a church to even dialogue about the issue.

  • Joe Canner

    I am currently (but probably temporarily) banned from teaching at my church because I posted on Facebook in support of same-sex marriage. Fortunately, this episode has resulted in increased discussion on how we can show love to the LGBT community, as well as increased recognition that a homosexual orientation is not in and of itself sinful. We still have a long ways to go in this area, but based on the story posted above it seems like a lot of churches have an even longer road ahead of them.

  • http://stephencswan.wordpress.com/ Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    I’m dismayed by the story but greatly encouraged by William Birch’s comment above.

    In my congregation we hold to the ‘traditional’ position on human sexuality. We aren’t shy about it either. I have been amazed in the past couple of years at the gentle grace that has been shown to some (regulars & newcomers) who struggle (or don’t struggle) with issues sexual/gender identity.

    Open hearts and lives for people even while not affirming homosexual practice. I sometimes feel that those are underrepresented stories. The normal narrative seems to be either unloving traditionalists (like above) or affirming liberalists.

  • Aaron

    We can do better than what?

    One’s sexual proclivity (“orientation” is such stupid word for this) is not one’s identity. We are not defined by our sexual preferences any more than we are defined by our driving habits, sicknesses, vocations, etc. If I am a boy who likes boys or a girl who likes girls, so what? Same sex attraction or confusion is not sinful in and of themselves. It’s what we do with these preferences of confusion that can give birth to sin. (An aside: Whoa, here’s taboo for you. What about people who are sexually attracted to animals? Just saying. Maybe we should talk about this.).

    Many churches will not deal with the homosexuality issue is in a mature and loving manner because they seem unwilling or incapable. I don’t think it’s necessary to weigh in on the same-sex marriage thing but you can if you want. But we need to figure out why we favor it or don’t favor it and demonstrate how the love of God matters to the issue.

  • http://thesometimespreacher.com Bree

    Here I found a fantastic description on how God views marriage…
    http://thesometimespreacher.com/?p=2354

  • TJJ

    I think there is a lot left out of this CNN story. I would have liked to have heard the Churches’ side of things. Guess CNN did not bother to talk with them about it. I withold judgement without knowing more.

  • http://chosenrebel.wordpress.com Marty Schoenleber, Jr

    We can indeed do much, much better. And we can do much better without jettisoning either sound doctrine on hell or sound practice on homosexuality. Sad story.

  • http://chosenrebel.wordpress.com Marty Schoenleber, Jr

    Both Aaron (#7) and TJJ (#8) make good points.

  • EricW

    I agree with TJJ, and would also go further. In my experience it is a rare reporter or copy editor who sticks with the facts and quotes people fully and in context. So I suspect that not only aren’t we getting the church’s story, but we’re not necessarily getting the whole Johnson family story, either. Maybe we are, but call me #burnedbyreporters

  • Jeremy

    I’m not that skeptical because I’ve seen something like this happen before. It’s an application, albeit a poor one, of 1 Timothy 13:4. Kids living in sin? Yeah, disqualified.

  • Jeremy

    errr…that’s supposed to be 1 Timothy 3:4

  • Andrew

    I’ve never understood the allusion of homosexuality to bestiality; ignoring the huge difference that one is consensual and the other is not.

    Also, if you think being gay is a choice . . .you might be gay!

  • Nathan

    Really?
    This is about faithfulness to Scripture?
    Really?
    Engagement, not marginalizing is the posture we should take. That’s what I see inJesus.

    Time to read Luke 15 again, the sheep and coin is a lesson for our posture.
    To do better means to stop justifying a snotty sanctimony that covers our inability to identify with Father of the prodigal.
    And to cover over our similarity to “the older brother”.

    Retaining your commitment to a traditional view on this issue isn’t mutually exclusive with a commitment to love, care and shepherd a family in turmoil.

    All I see in this thread is more failure…

  • Nathan

    I wonder if his kid revealed an addiction and had to go to rehab if they would be shunned?

  • A Medrano

    Welcoming yet not affirming. I’m trying find the BIG problem here. The bigger problem is the fathers offense. Now, that changes his beliefs based on Scripture. Now, the church should always welcome and accept all people, yet it must also declare its beliefs and positions it holds.

    Put the whole gay thing aside. A sinner attends a church because a church welcomes sinners. But, the hope and mission is to help the sinner mature, going through a process of sanctification – turning from sinful practices and to godly practices. If that individual then chooses to identify oneself with a behavior that is considered to be sinful, what is the obligation of the church?

  • Josh T.

    I think a few people may be missing the point that the father of the 14yo daughter was told that *he* can’t teach or be in authority due to his daughter’s sin (that’s my impression by the wording quoted above). Basically, the family had their legs cut out from under them because of the daughter’s “coming out.” There may be more to the story, but so far it sounds like guilt by association.

  • Marshall

    I don’t believe we should hold 14-year-olds accountable for life-defining statements they might make. “I want to play pro basketball!!” “I hate you!” …. age of consent, and all that. They might stick to it, but they should have the freedom to not.

    Josh #20, I think the are thinking about 1 Timothy 3:4-5, and it’s a point: if you can’t instruct your own children, why should I trust you with mine? … although I certainly don’t believe that having a gay child (or being gay) marks one as a failed parent. The quote doesn’t say they kicked him out of fellowship, just out of leadership. I might not stay either, but that could be seen as a my failure of submission, and indeed I don’t submit well, mea culpa.

  • Janet

    I am very disappointed with the way the church, in general handles this issue. Also, I always wonder about people who get really angry and what I would call legalistic about “dealing” with this issue in the local church. What I wonder about them is if they are afraid to look their own sexuality and what they might find there.

  • sg

    Quick question for some of the commenters above: even if one does not affirm same-sex sexual activity in any context, why assume the girl was “sinning” simply because she “came out?” Being gay does not mean one is necessarily lusting or engaging in sexual activity any more than being straight does. Unless you’re saying involuntary attraction is inherently sinful …

  • Barb

    No one has mentioned it yet–the last time this topic was discussed many people suggested reading the book “Torn” so I got a copy and I’m almost through it. Can we have a discussion of that book here? Many of the comments above allude to the things talked about in the book. Particularly the response of the church and the issue of “not telling” because of the response of the church.

  • Josh T.

    sg #23, good point. We don’t have the info to know what the girl is doing beyond admitting her orientation.


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