Another Denomination and Gay Ordination

ecla

In the wake of renown evangelical theologian John Piper’s haughty rant about a tornado being God’s judgement on the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s (ELCA) pending vote to ordinate gay clergy, an hour ago the ELCA voted to officially affirm partnered gay ministers. This makes the third denomination to do so, following the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ. Here is a quick overview of tonight’s ruling by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The ELCA’s affirmation is the most “surprising” of the three thus far, but it is still a far cry from any conservative denomination to make such a move. Do you think (like it seems with gay marriage throughout the country) that this movement will continue past the traditionally ‘liberal’ denominations and States; moving also to traditionally conservative ones as well?

As is part of my message to conservatives with gay marriage as well:

Is this about the fight in convincing the other side you’re right, or is it about learning how to peacefully and productively live in a culture where gay marriage and ordination are (at least in 3 denominations) an accepted piece of the puzzle that is faith, sexuality and culture?

What do you think, and how should each side of the bridge move forward? Are you in an ELCA church? What are your thoughts?

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Jeff S.

    With six states now having legalized same-sex marriage, and more expected to follow, it is no longer just a discussion of supporting or opposing same-sex marriage. It is a reality in this country, and Christians of all stripes will have to accept its reality within society, in the workplace, in the newspaper wedding announcements. Some church denominations will continue in the direction of the ELCA, and so people may be attending weddings or funeral officiated by married gay clergy. It is a new society for Christians. We can choose which church to belong to which aligns with our own beliefs, but as bridge-builders and Christians we are still called to love and respect. And we can support equal rights in society, which is difficult for some Christians to distinguish from biblical belief and practice within their own church.

  • Andrew

    I am torn. I am depressed. I really don't know what to say.

    Last night, a friend posted a status update on Facebook commenting on John Piper's blog post. The update peeked my interest so I checked out his website. I read the article. I am filled with so many emotions.

    I am a Christian (or at least I think I am and the only reason I question my faith is because of Piper's post.) I am gay. I have tried everything to get rid of my attractions for men – groups, counseling, prayer, support of friends, everything. I am still attracted to men. I am currently dating a man. Honestly, I am more healthy now than I was before I started dating.

    In Piper's first point he states, "The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God." I don't know if I agree with this statement or not. I don't even know why it was necessary to specifically name one sin. I think I causes devisiveness in the church community as seen by all of the comments to his post. It also again shuns the GLBT community. My question is this: If a person follows Christ but somehow develops greed or envy in his personal life and never addresses it will he too then not inherit the kingdom? And this can also be a silly question in that both gay and straight people deal with evny and greed but only gay people deal with attractions to the same sex.

    Again, I am not too sure what I believe anymore. I am honestly tired of thinking about it. I do know that statements like the one that Piper made do not help in the bridge building process.

  • Keith Johnston

    I have three questions to ask in light of this article: is there anything that our present society would condemn? and is there anything that those three mentioned denominations would condemn? I only ask those questions to say that 'tolerance' is not necessarily the same as an attitude of 'whatever'.

  • Erika Baker

    Keith

    You ask is there anything our society would condemn.

    I think your problem stems from the fact that you equate homosexuality with behaviour.

    A better way of looking at the moral issue is to see it as an state of being, as intrinsic to people as heterosexuality.

    In itself, both are neutral.

    Underneath that layer of being you have the layer of behaviour.

    And there, the same rules apply for straight and gay.

    Life long, faithful and monogamous relationships are good.

    Rape, child abuse, bigamism or any other abusive and unequal relationship is bad.

    Looked at like this, society continues to condemn the kind of immoral behavious it has always condemned, but it supports strong, loving and stable relationships.

    I can see that this is not how you are seeing things. But maybe you can at least see that this is how society and increasingly Christians too, are seeing it. And that it does not mean we are abdicating morals. We just try to look at the effects of relationships on their participants/victims and base our moral assessment on that. We are not trying to undermine everything you believe in and that you value.

    Our family values and morals are the same as yours, our way of judging what that means for our lives is different.

  • leesa

    Homosexuality is spirit driven. It is a spirit but is comes in under another spirit which is a doorkeeper so to speak.

  • Keith Johnston

    I said three questions in my previous comment and then only listed two. Duh! (and my favorite theologian is Homer Simpson) Number three: is it more serious when a particular denomination (or congregation) makes some ethical or doctrinal pronouncement as opposed to a given individual making the same pronouncement?
    By the way, I do not mean to pick on those three denominations. I think some conservative denominations have gone to far in their pronouncements as well.

  • Keith Johnston

    (What an idiot, he cannot put all of his thoughts into one comment!)
    I did not mean to give a knee-jerk conservative reaction to this news about Lutheran ordination. I have compassion for Andrew — I struggle with all sorts of problems, most of which I seem to have made no progress on. Does that mean God does not continue to offer grace to me? I do not think so. If salvation by grace means anything, it means that God loves me and accepts me whether I achieve ‘victory’ or suffer ‘defeat’ in any of the ‘character improvement projects’ I may undertake.

  • http://contemplativelife.wordpress.com/ Adrienne

    I’m honored to follow Jeff S., above. While my theology of same-sex attraction is traditional, I feel my role is to seek unity with my fellow believers in Christ, regardless of how they land on this issue.
    Andrew, I pray you can find support as you continue to seek God. Nothing SHOULD separate us from that, but it seems like so much of our broken world does.

  • Frank B

    Andrew (Marin), you mentioned that this was the third denomination to do so, but what about PCUSA? They did not make specific legislation regarding the issue, but rather left all theological issues up to the individual churches within their denomination, a large portion of which were pushing for gay ordination.

    And Andrew (not Marin), being ex-gay I can sympathize with your situation very well. I encourage you to continue wrestling with the issue; not because I necessarily believe you must deny your sexuality, but because it is a way in which to take a litmus test of your heart. I understand the temptation to put sexuality before God (i.e. living to prove “I can be gay AND a Christain”), but tests like this help to keep our hearts in check. The real question becomes, “Would I be willing to give this up for the sake of Christ?” Arriving at a “yes” does not mean that you must give it up immediately, but rather it determines what is most really going on in your heart. So, continue to wrestle; continue to pray; and never cease to be honest with yourself, with God, and with your brothers in Christ. Who knows where God’s Spirit will lead you? You will be in my prayers today, Andrew.
    -Frank

  • http://www.wordsbyoen.com Chad Boersema

    First, thanks Andrew for all you do to bridge the gap!

    To answer some of your posed questions, yes, I think the movement will continue. Slowly, but it will continue. As more and more people are exposed to the GLBT community and come to the realization that they are people too, I think they will come to their sences and not be fearful of something different anymore.

    Yes, I think it is currently a fight with both sides trying to convince the other, which is unforrtunate and will produce no winner. Though I do tend to think there are more bullying aspects on the conservative side due to a perceived position of strength and security (yes, I’m making many generalizations and asumptions).

    How should each side move forward? Personally I think it’s up to the evangelicals to move forward first in seeking to understand the GLBT narrative that they live with that could not have been better expressed than by Andrew above (which breaks my heart). And to apologize for our anti Christ like behaivor. For the GLBT side to move forward then would require an incredible amount of courage to trust they would not be hurt yet again.

    Ultimately though I think the bridge is to be built by coming together and embracing a new narrative that is the love of Christ which accepts anyone moving towards him, without building boxes of who can be in and who is out.

  • http://friends-of-jake.blogspot.com IT

    Andrew (not Marin), you may also find it worth considering that many faithful Christians have come to different conclusions from those who criticize you. Their theology is no less impressive. Perhaps you might visit the site of the Episcopal priest and scholar Tobias Haller, who has written a book called Reasonable and Holy, that addresses scripture and theology on this topic from the non-condemning viewpoint.

    As science and medicine have come to realize that homosexuality is a normal variant, not unlike being left handed, the challenge for any gay person is exactly the same as the challenge for any straight person: to live a moral and integrity-filled life. My wife and I are welcomed by an Episcopal community that expects the same high standards for us and for our children as for any other family in the church.

    I also know that I as a married gay person am a far better human being than I was as a cold and miserable celibate.

    The recent moves by the Episcopalians and the Lutherans, joining the UUC, the Quakers, and the UUs, show that “Christianity” is not of one mind on this topic. Perhaps you need to find a form of Christianity that accepts you as you were made and expects nothing less–or more–from you than from any straight man.

  • http://friends-of-jake.blogspot.com IT

    Sorry I meant UCC!

  • Seth

    More than 30 years ago, the Evangelical Covenant Church made a groundbreaking decision to ordain women as clergy; as part of that decision, they published an excellent booklet in 1976 that thoroughly explained their conclusion, and addressed as many concerns about it as they could anticipate. It's still an applicable, inspiring, and timeless document. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that the same theology and the same rationale apply to the ordination of gay clergy; the call to ministry transcends both gender and orientation.

  • Jon Trouten

    "Homosexuality is spirit driven. It is a spirit but is comes in under another spirit which is a doorkeeper so to speak."

    I don't understand this statement. Could you Leesa or someone else please elaborate for me?

  • Jon Trouten

    I’m not in an ELCA church, though many of my extended family members are. My guess is that some are excited about this development, others are angered and will leave the ELCA for more conservative waters, and still others are cautiously uncomfortable but unwilling to leave their church communities b/c this issue doesn’t directly touch them. It’ll be interesting to see where this leads the denomination.

    Personally, I’m happy that gay ministers within the ELCA will have the same oportunity that their straight counterparts have: the possibility to bond with a compatible spouse and maintain their calling within the church.

    I grew up in the United Methodist Church and left it because of it’s unwillingness to welcome gay families. I ended up joining the UCC about 12 years ago, which wedded me to my husband, nurtured our relationship with each other and with Christ, and which welcomed & affirmed our eventual kids.

    This past week, my father died and we all returned home to my hometown in rural Minnesota. I was pleasantly surprised that my husband Mark was included with the rest of the family and he was listed as my partner during the funeral service by the minister. The community is small enough that several eyebrows were raised at his inclusion, but it was encouraging to me that the UMC — which is still not officially welcoming of gay ministers or households — was affirming on the local level.

    Maybe such personal interactions will be how bridges will be built within the ELCA during the course of this advancement.

  • http://alifeofunlearning.blogspot.com/ Anthony Venn-Brown

    Its wonderful when Christians and the church treat us as human beings like themselves instead of seeing us an issue.

    In the end sanity will prevail and it’s inevitable that the church will finally understand the homosexuality is an orientation; not an abomination.

    Across the Christian church we have seen some denominations handle this sensitively and with wisdom….for others it has polarised and caused division. We need to analyse what works and what doesn’t. There in lies the key.

    Love your work Andrew M.

  • Derek

    Andrew,
    I appreciate much of what you have to say, but I think it is off base to call Piper’s message a “haughty rant”. Perhaps a knee-jerk, reactionary might think it is a rant (as evidenced by much of the hate that Piper is receiving on his blog entries).
    He is not referring to homosexuality alone – that is clearly spelled out and explained. No, he is saying that to deliberately enter into and continue in clear violation of God’s Word is what will send a person to hell – not the actual act of homosexuality or greed or any number of sins we are all guilty of (see I John 1:8).
    Suppose a woman is terminally ill and two pills are recommended to her. You quickly identify one as being cyanide, the other being the cure to her illness. Common sense dictates that they must be informed clearly, even if the woman has been assured by many people that either pill will end her illness. To not do so is not tolerant, nor is it loving. It might be cowardice, it might be apathy, it might be fear – or maybe it is just conflict avoidance. But it is not the right thing to do.
    I don’t believe for one minute that John Piper has an ounce of hatred or haughtiness towards homosexuals. He is grieved that people are being provided with spiritual cyanide, and that by religious caregivers. And for the record, the cyanide, as he has described, is not homosexuality, per se – but the assurance that we are free to live by whatever ethic, sexual or otherwise, we think is best. That is an idea that will send people to hell and to say this is tragic is an understatement.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Andrew Marin, I am surprised that you chose only to link to the GLAD summary of the ELCA's decision, with its self-serving ending statement about all it did to engage the media and provide biased spokespeople. Why not add another view for balance?

    I also am surprised to see you call John Piper's original blog entry (have you read his second one yet?) a "haughty rant." If Anthony Venn Brown liked my work, I would closely examine it to see whether or not God is pleased. Have you seen anything in Brown's writings that might be properly referred to as haughty?

    Are some of us not allowing our personal entanglements — our genuine and loving relationships with our gay brothers and sisters — to take us too far away from the truth? Is this not similar to the way many hate the Church because of her imperfect and sinful people rather than love her because she is supposed to be the Bride of Christ? Both entities are in need of correction.

    This gap we are seeking to bridge can only be bridged by Christ, himself. He demands our honesty and full allegiance to him, and not to his people, regardless of who they are. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." Christ is that friend, first and foremost. How grateful I am for his wounds to me. And his wounds for me.

    Andrew, you have have been called to a very hard road to travel. You are in my prayers. May you choose to faithfully follow the path God intends for you to follow and have no fear to speak the truth in love. May I do the same.

  • Former Lutheran

    1) as to the Evangelical Covenant Church : In 1996 they determined that Marriage was a Holy union of a male and Female. ref: http://www.covchurch.org/resolutions/1996-sexuali

    2) This is the solution from Billy Graham!

    Q: I struggle with homosexual feelings and temptations. Does God hate me? What can I do?

    A: You are not alone. Many people struggle just as you do. It is important to realize that God loves you deeply and does not condemn you for your same-sex feelings and temptations. But He is concerned with how you handle them.

    If you engage in homosexual relations or lust (willful fantasizing about such relations) God is deeply grieved and sets about in a variety of ways to turn you from such a destructive course. When homosexual thoughts arise in your mind, you must reject them and turn your mind to wholesome thoughts (Philippians 4:4-8). The Bible says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.

    And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). You must discipline your mind as an athlete disciplines his body.

    God not only wants to protect you from homosexual behavior, but He wants to begin to meet the deep needs at the root of your same-sex desires. Apart from an occasional miracle, this psychological and spiritual healing which leads toward sexual wholeness does not happen quickly.

    Usually, outside help is necessary. For this reason, we would suggest that you contact a Christian ministry which assists men and women who want to deal with homosexual issues in their lives. For information about a ministry which may exist in your general area, you might contact Exodus International, P. O. Box 540119, Orlando, Florida, 32854, telephone: (888) 264-0877; or, Homosexuals Anonymous Fellowship Services, P.O. Box 7881, Reading, Pennsylvania 19603, telephone: (610) 779-2500.

    We would also encourage you to seek additional guidance from a Christian professional counselor who understands this problem. A book which you may find helpful is "Coming Out of Homosexuality" by Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel. It would be available from a Christian bookstore or by writing to Regeneration Books, P.O. Box 9830, Baltimore, Maryland 21284-9830, telephone: (410) 661-0284. Worship, instruction, and fellowship with other believers in a warm and dynamic gospel-proclaiming church will also prove invaluable. Don't despair. God has a solution for you, and He promises, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5)

  • http://andrewulasich.wordpress.com aju

    I haven't waded through all the comments, so I'm not sure if anyone has linked to this. But I would recommend reading Greg Boyd's response to Jon Piper's blog post.

    http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/did-god-send-a-torna

  • Jon Trouten

    Y'know… the same day that the tornado caused some damage in the Twin Cities, there were other tornados throughout northeastern Iowa and southern Minnesota. The storm-cell prevented me from driving to Decorah to shop for clothing. It's summer in the midwest. Just a thought…

  • Robert

    I'm not really here to argue about any of this. To me it's pointless to argue if there is to be any real bridge building of ANY kind, which I believe God calls us to do. I just want to comment on two things:

    1. As a member of an ELCA church, I believe the right decision was made, and I will welcome any pastor the ELCA, or any other denomination, ordains regardless of sexuality. Tornado or not, I believe that God is present at these and all gatherings of Christians and informs them in ways we cannot understand, as He has in all ages. I also believe this issue is above and beyond denominations – indeed beyond conservatives and liberals – and is an issue of love and compassion. I once heard Andrew quote the Bible to answer a question about judgment thus (paraphrased): "We are called to love, not to judge. Therefore I will love, and leave the judging to the eternal judge." I agree wholeheartedly.

    2. The language of physicians intrigues me, however I do not believe that ANY theologian, pastor, priest, professor, and certainly not Piper, is a physician in this sense. CHRIST HIMSELF is THE PHYSICIAN. And Christ told us that he came not for the healthy, but for the sick, and accepted those "sick" outcasts in love. I know many will point out instances in which Christ (or passages elsewhere in the Bible) condemns certain groups – troubling language and translations aside – but Christ consistently calls us not to judge, but to love our neighbor as ourselves and then challenges us to expand the term "neighbor" wider than ever.

    The Lord's Peace be with you.

  • Robert

    To clarify: by "Regardless of sexuality," I mean straight, gay, or celibate.

  • dj murvine

    I think the real issue here is that we are talking about denominations allowing "ordained ministers" to "practice" homosexuality. I think there is a higher standard, which scripture supports, for the lifestyle of ministers. No matter where we fall in the debate of homosexual attraction and where it comes from, we still have to be clear that scripture condemns homosexual sex. It also condemns heterosexual sex outside of marriage, lusting after someone other than your spouse, etc. The point here is that they(the denominations) have made a conscious decision to know that a person is living in a lifestyle contrary to scripture and they are accepting it. I do not think that the church has done the gay community any favors by elevating this sin above all the rest. I think we must put the emotions of the issue aside and look at two things: 1. The life of ministers and what it means to be a Christian leader. (Scripture mentions that there is a greater responsibility on a Pastor who leads people astray) and 2. The difference between living in sin (reaching the point of ignoring the Holy Spirit and accepting your behavior) versus struggling with sin (where one may make mistakes but seeks God for help and repents). If a pastor were to have sex outside of marriage it would not be ignored but rather reprimanded. The issue of accepting/loving people is everyone's responsibility and clearly the debate here is whether or not one believes the Bible speaks to homosexuality or not.

  • mark

    I’m amazed how so many Christians pick the issues of sexual orientation as the measurement of Christianity and spirituality. I’m disgusted by John Piper’s rant over homosexuality. Why doesn’t John have the same conviction about greed, the exploitation of the poor, women, minorities and other disenfranchised people groups? Why doesn’t he speak out against violence and war? As a former evangelical Christian, I feel embarrassed and ashamed of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t think Jesus would have shown much more love and understanding. I used to believe homosexuality was a sin. I’m not so sure anyone. But I do know that we are called to love and accept people no matter where they are at.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    AJU – Thank you so much for the reminder about Greg Boyd’s response! I did read it, but completely forgot about it. Once again for everyone out there, please read this:

    http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/did-god-send-a-torna

    Also, I am not here to win an argument (thank you Robert). After reading all of the very strong opinions about me “stretching Piper’s comments out of context”, I went back and re-read the article three more times.

    I still feel the same way.

    By singling out one specific group of people (in this case gays and lesbians) it just further pushes this disconnected 'us vs. them' mindset wider and wider—tearing us away from each other, and from God. I cannot say that gays and lesbians are the definitive cause of whatever chaos happens in our culture, and far be it for any respected theologian to do so either. With that said, I am officially taking back my usage of “haughty rant.” That language was inapropriate. Instead, I will now use, “Piper’s commentary on the ELCA tornado…”

    In Piper’s commentary on the ELCA tornado he used homosexuality as his main justification for 3/4ths of the article. It wasn’t until the last, and brief, three points that he broadened his scope to include all sin. I strongly stick to my previous comment: “He singled out this topic to use as his example, and in the light of other key Christian figures also singling out homosexuality for natural disasters or terrorist attacks (see Pat Robertson and James Dobson), this was not appropriate on his part.”

    n’Process – You threw out so many accusations I can’t even begin to process them and write a succinct response to each. So all I can say is that there is no watering down of Scripture happening here. I make it very clear in my book to not ‘dodge the tough conversations’ (i.e. your conservative theological interpretations in comparison to a more liberal interpretation), but I do say that we HAVEN'T EARNED the right to even have those sacred conversations in most cases. And even if we have, whether or not the GLBT community agrees or disagrees (and how we intentionally commit ourselves to move forward in relationship regardless) is a completely different topic!

    And here is where I think we differ: I find it funny that when Christians have a beef with me, it’s always the blanket “water down of Scripture” because I’m not reminding GLBT people of sin everytime we’re together – that I’m not an ex-gay ministry – that that I’m not focusing on sexual behavior 24-7 as their only worthwhile characteristic for me to talk about … because that is what a “good theologically sound” Christian would do, right?

    Do you want to know what true bridge building is all about: read the first comment by Jack Harris, a gay man who believes in a pro-gay theology who doesn’t agree with me on a variety of levels:

    http://www.loveisanorientation.com/2009/part-2-th

    That is bridge building, and that is part of what is making a significant impact for the Kingdom regarding this disconnect topic of faith and sexuality.

    I know what I am doing is of God.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    Tony – Great reminder on what is discovering theology.

    DJ Murvine – Another great refocusing of the post back to ordained ministers in the ELCA. Though I feel that topic in light of bridge building, and not just general thoughts about it, deserves its own treatment. I will post on that in the upcoming days! :)

  • David

    Ok, so I did some reading on Piper's blog. He writes a LOT about how different situations and happenings are all ways that God is calling, drawing us unto Himself. He was pointing out that, in his understanding of scripture, the Lutheran community is erring against God's word and as such the tornado is a metaphor for God's warning against such error.

    He also writes how a bridge collapse is God's call to repentance, how his own cancer is God's way of drawing him closer, how good days and bad are all about God's love and desire to have a relationship with us. And really…I think that's a valid way to think about life. If you subscribe to there being a God at all, then He must have us here for a reason, and His Word teaches that He loves us and desires a relationship with us.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jeff – Wow! What you said should be the MAIN focus for all bridge builders to take that mindset and move in it (constructively as you suggested, from both communities!). I have nothing to say, because you said it so perfectly yourself. Thanks!!!

    Andrew – as some others have said, Piper (although a public figure) does not speak for God, His love nor His judgment. I was at the Field Museum in Chicago yesterday checking out the new exhibit on MLK’s freedom walk and the struggle of equality for African-Americans. In one of the photos was a picture of Fannie Lou Hamer giving her famous quote: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Sounds like you are too! So are we…that’s the good news. Here, this blog, this movement, is a group of people trying to learn how to live and love in real time regarding our faith and sexuality, and it’s growing because we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. But that thought isn’t enough to shift paradigms and take back experiences. We can only grab on to them, those things that hurt us, hinder us or disable us, and move forward in a new hope that ushers in the Kingdom of God in a way that truly shows that we are what we believe, instead of showing we can out-intellectualize the competition (from either direction). My prayer is that you garner strength and hope from this forum, knowing that at least us, we’re not giving up on you and we’re here for you no matter what. Thanks for sharing and pouring your heart out!

    Leesa – I don’t think that homosexuality is a spirit driven. I don’t believe that GLBT people choose to have a same-sex attraction. I guess one could argue that all things in life in one way or another are spirit driven. I can see that point. However, I am not in the belief that same-sex attractions are caused by a possession of the devil or his evil spirits.

    Frank B and Erika – Thank you so much for both sharing your perspectives and life experiences, though coming from different places. Each of what you said has its clear place in this discussion, and such differing experiences usually leads to arguments and spew thrown from one side to the next. Each of you has demonstrated how peaceful and productive dialogue happens, and I’m humbled to have read it. Thanks!!!

    Jon – I think Jon brings up a very interesting point (and broader question) when he said: “Maybe such personal interactions will be how bridges will be built within the ELCA during the course of this advancement.” He understands the broader picture of what’s happening: The pressure is on the conservative factions of the ELCA now to seek out these interactions and relationships; and they can be done peacefully or not, which will cause more dissention. Here’s my question: Why does the church have to wait until such a decision is made to bring these potential interactions to the forefront. Tomorrow is always too late! And just so you all know, Jon is a PERFECT example of exactly what he’s talking about. He sought me out when I was going through Iowa, our families got together for dinner and he is someone I trust and respect to death now! Neither he nor I waited and put off this one chance meeting, and look what happened because of it. A definite lesson to learn for all of us.

    Derek and Debbie – Thank you for your reminder of my tongue (or my fingers that type). I just get so frustrated when people (in this case Piper, but could be anyone) who claim to know God’s path of judgment on anyone or anything. That to me is a human’s attempt to supplant God in revelational understanding of life—past, present or future. I don’t know John Piper, so I can’t tell you his heart of what his actual intent was. All I know is what I read from him on his website and it made me cringe. Derek, I understand Piper’s associations, but the key word in your comment is “per-se”. He singled out this topic to use as his example, and in the light of other key Christian figures also singling out homosexuality for natural disasters or terrorist attacks (see Pat Robertson and James Dobson), this was not appropriate on his part. Debbie, thank you for your words, they bring us all back to the core of what this work is for.

  • http://nprocess.blogspot.com/ n’Process

    I have read this blog for a while, listened to Andrew speak, and basically dug around to see what I could see for myself. And after all that…I’m still unconvinced that ‘bridge-building’ is God’s main message. Jesus didn’t come to make sure that no one was poor, even tho he had compassion for them. He didn’t even tell slaves that beleived in Him that they were now free, even tho he must have spoken to and saw hundreds in his ministry years.

    So this comment thread is supposedly about the ELCA decision and Pipers “rant”. But it still turns into a “how dare he say such vile things”. Are we allowed to call our doctor a bigot for telling us that our diet is killing us? So it seems like the comments run along “party lines”…if you are a ‘bridge-builder’ you feel bad that someone issued a harsh statement condemning the open, unrepentant practice of homosexuality. If you are in Pipers camp (or even the outskirts), you say he’s is just supporting a reasoned and accurate interpretation of scripture. After which, all the “bridge-builders” sigh and shake their heads at us unenlightened simpletons who are stuck in the dark-ages and have not achieved this new level of ‘maturity’ regarding such important identity issues as sexual orientation.

    I, for one, am tired of it. Before you write me off…hear me out. I AM a struggler. I have lived with homosexual attractions since I was young. I have experimented, embraced, suppressed, rejected, and/or lamented over them at different times in my life. I have felt the terror of letting anyone in my church know of my secret struggles, I have felt the sting of actual rejection, even when it was only theorized that this might be what I struggle with.

    So what if you build a bridge? So what if you come sit with me in my sack-cloth and ashes and tell me how sorry you are for all those “meanies” out there who don’t understand the issue? Fact is….I still have an issue that I need to work out…either God is or is not for open homosexual relations among His Creation or He is not.

    Does God love me? You darn betcha. Does He forgive me, even if I never stop lusting after every half-attractive, 20-something that walks past me? Again, a resounding YES! Does the Church have a long, long way to go in learning how to deal lovingly with others whom they don’t understand and do not share the exact same set of doctrines? YES! But does God potentially love me so much that He is unwilling to leave me in the same condition he found me? Even if I think I’m pretty comfortable with it?

    But is watering down the issue, by not taking a biblical stand and honestly conveying that, the answer? I don’t think so. Is there no room for approaching the LGBT person (not the Community) with the premise that I can love and relate to you as a person, and we can talk about God loves and relates to us as individuals. And if you ask me, I will honestly tell you that a “gay” lifestyle isn’t God’s ‘best’ for you…but only because I love and care about you as a whole person would I say that. ‘Cause if I just wanted to be popular and loved by lots of people…I’d stick with, “I’m not sure what God really meant, but it’s okay for you to be you and we’ll celebrate that instead!”

    So rip on Piper all you want…he’s just doing his job. Are you sure you are doing yours?

  • Derek

    Andrew,
    I think you have misunderstood Piper, particularly based on your last comment.
    Piper didn’t say it was a judgement. Those are your words. He said it was “a gentle but firm warning”. He was amazed – as am I – at the surgical precision of that tornado strike. No bad weather was expected and this tornado came out of nowhere. No one was hurt in the tornado strike. The church was undamaged, other than a few tiles and the cross on the steeple being turned upside down.

    Don’t you find this amazing?

    It wasn’t really a judgement at all in the classic sense and Piper made this point. One might easily speculate, WITHOUT presuming to know the mind of God, that this was a remarkable event that can barely, but not plausibly, be chalked up as coincidence (even if one believes in coincidences, which I do not).

    And again, yes, homosexuality was the backdrop, but Piper made it clear that the real issue was less about homosexuality than it was about our ultimate accountability before God and His revealed Word. And about His faithfulness to, very often, give us plenty of warnings and time before judgment really does come to our doorstep.

    Peace and grace.

  • Mike Hartman

    I am disappointed with the recent vote. I’ve never understood why an individual is gay. Nor do I condemn they. I have participated in social events and work with gays. I do not, however, want them to lead me in worship.

    In my opinion, way to many of our current clergy do not preach the Bible nor do they have the backbone to take a stand on issues!

    My $.02.

  • Derek

    n’process-
    I really appreciate your honesty, friend. Representing the unapologetically conservative (I believe it is an open and shut case that the Bible has made it very clear what God’s view on homosexuality is) side of the equation, I just want to say, I will pray for you. And please know that the overwhelming majority of conservative Christians that you might share your struggles with will support and love you 100%. 25-50% of them probably won’t know what to say or use the right words, but they would still be with you. 5% might be ashamed of their own sin and might be awkward around you, but they would really understand you and most likely, pray for you.

    I just want to let you know that you are not alone and I hope God puts some loving, Godly, supportive people in your path. Peace and grace to you, my friend.

  • http://dontcallmeveronica.blogspot.com Tony Myles

    This is simply not an emotional issue… it is a spiritual issue.

    Jesus said to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In the next breath – or perhaps the same – He said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

    So much of this issue and the “gay” topic is often through the emotional lens only… as if we are trying to reason out a theology based on loving God with our heart, and our heart alone.

    Yet Jesus said love the Lord your God with all of your heart… and your soul, mind and strength.

    To be fair, others argue the issue with their “heart” and “mind” as well – trying to understand the context of this culture and that culture, research genetics, and so on.

    Yet Jesus said love the Lord your God with all of your mind… and your heart, soul, and strength.

    Then there are the “strength” theologians – if they are theologians. The louder they can make their argument, the better… they think.

    Yet Jesus said love the Lord your God with all of your strength… and your heart, soul, and mind.

    What about the soul, though? Why does that often get the short end of the stick in this conversation?

    The soul.

    Maybe because it’s the part that is the most supernatural, and since we think we’re talking about trying to understand if someone who identifies themselves as gay is making a “natural” or an “unnatural” distinction… we forget to factor in the supernatural.

    The soul… that piece of us that occasionally has an Isaiah 6 moment where we stand before a Holy God and cry out, “WOE IS ME! I AM RUINED! FOR I AM A MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS, AND I LIVE AMONG A PEOPLE OF UNCLEAN LIPS, AND MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE KING, THE LORD ALMIGHTY!”

    You know those moments?

    How often do we enter those moments *before* we have a conversation on this topic?

    Perhaps the problem is we feel so deeply on one side or the other that we forget the heart isn’t the only way we need to approach this topic.

    Or we think so well and have so much study underneath our belt that we have become builders of our own Babel… I mean, babble.

    Maybe we are so strong vocally and have enough James Brown-esque back-up singers behind us saying, “YEAH!” and “YEAH!” and “YEAH!” that we think we’re right, whatever we’re saying.

    I am not saying approaching God through our soul is ever at the expense of those three, but I am saying the other three are never at the expense of standing before a holy God, feeling small, and attempting to understand something so awesome and amazing as who He is and who we are because of who He is.

    Never… never… the other way around.

    Yes, feelers… I know that you feel so strongly about it that “God must have put it in you.”

    Yes, thinkers… I know the Greeks and the Jews viewed the “soul” through a certain lens that is different than we do today,.

    Yes, strengtheners… I know that there are “righteous things” to fight for and fight about.

    May we never, though, create theology (or blindly accept what our denominations have decided without the willingness to have a “lover’s quarrel” about it).

    May we always seek to *discover* theology… on this matter and others… which is only possible when we allow the soul to engage as it is designed.

    Because if we do… I get the sense “loving our neighbor as we love ourselves” will be the very next breath… or perhaps the same.

  • David

    I, like Derek, think that Piper’s words have been stretched out of context.

    At the same time, I once “lambasted” a local pastor (in a letter to the editor and on a blog) for publicly saying that Katrina was God’s judgment on the people of New Orleans and our country at large.

    I do believe God has given us plenty of warnings – both in scripture and in daily life – regarding the consequences of sinful behavior. But I don’t know, nor can even such a man as John Piper fully know, the mind of God or understand how He works. Was the tornado a warning? Maybe. Or maybe it was “simply” an incredible weather phenomenon. I do believe it’s all ultimately under God’s sovereign hand, but I also believe that all negative forces in this world are simply the result of the very sin nature that was wrought since the first sin, and are all a progression toward the end of this world – when everything will be made new. So ultimately, there’s no better time than now to seek the Lord, and to seek His path for each of our lives.

  • Angela

    “1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.
    The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)”

    I do not agree with this. How come adulterers are welcome in church and nothing bad is said about those who divorce and what-not. It’s socially acceptable these days unlike years ago when it was talked about as bad as homosexuality. Full repentance means to turn away from the sin, so for a adulterer to fully repent, wouldn’t that mean to be joined back with their husband/wife again? I believe that when Jesus died on the cross, He took EVERY SIN with Him. We cannot earn our way to heaven. It’s a relationship with Him that gets us there. If sin kept us out of heaven, none of us would be getting there. We all have sin in our lives that we don’t even notice. Maybe we gossip all the time and don’t see anything wrong with it. We all have unrepentant sin. And all of this is coming from a person who is EX-GAY, yet I support going out and loving gay people where they are currently at. I want them to know they can have a relationship with Jesus and go to heaven, that Jesus’ arms are open for them, also. If we don’t reach out to them, they will all go to hell because they will all feel like they can’t be a Christian because of the way Church portrays them.

  • Alayna

    Andrew, I too am suprised by your comments. Piper doesn’t purport to know the mind of God beyond what scripture teaches. And his simple message in his blog entry 8/20 is that God graciously and intentionally uses things of the world to turn us from sin (see also his entry on 8/23). We believers should be renewed with thanksgiving and praise to our gracious God after a message like that. Those who go on sinning without repentance will not enter into eternal life. Remember the anthem of your alma mater, 2 Timothy 2:15.

  • Jack Harris

    Andrew

    Honestly, how is anyone on either side of this debate supposed to take Piper seriously when he hints that the tornado was God's warning. Really? God doesn't operate that way. Read scripture..thanks. ..I think your thoughts on Piper are correct. soo…*snap*..lol

  • http://friends-of-jake.blogspot.com IT

    If people are going to cite the clobber verses against homosexuality generally (which is questionable on a number of grounds; see, for example, Reasonable and Holy, a theological and scriptural perspective) then I expect them to equally cite the quite UNambiguous scriptural statements about divorce.

    Which means that any divorced, remarried couple is living in adultery and will be living in adultery unless they give each other up . If you don’t give a faithfully partnered GBLT person a “bye” then you can’t give the adulterers a “bye” either. You can’t just forgive them and allow them to stay married if you don’t give the GLBT the same benefit. how many church leaders/pastors etc are divorced and remarried? At least the Roman Catholics are consistent in this regard.

    But it’s easy for conservatives to be antigay because its the one thing that the majority do not have to worry about. So much easier to lay a cross on someone else’s shoulders. But then to savage other faithful Christians who happen to disagree in interpretation? When did GLBT issues become core doctrine for anyone? (especially, as I said, in the light of the divorce issue.)

    And that’s without considering the ridiculousness about The Tornado As Sign (as it was pointed out, lots of weather that day, midwest in summer). But even more sinister, there’s the AZ pastor calling for gays to be executed. Really. I’m really waiting for church leaders of any flavor to challenge this loon and his solicitations of violence, his pure HATRED and lies.

    ::crickets::

    Andrew along with others like Michael Spencer and David Kinnaman have their work cut out to reach a GLBT and progressive community that sees, with some reason, that most Evangelicals are cruel, judgmental, hypocritical, and simply ignorant. (tornadoes! really!) And, an Evangelical community that seems largely unwilling to embrace that greatest commandment–the one about love. And ignores the one about judging.

    Andrew asked,
    Is this about the fight in convincing the other side you’re right, or is it about learning how to peacefully and productively live in a culture where gay marriage and ordination are (at least in 3 denominations) an accepted piece of the puzzle that is faith, sexuality and culture?

    What an excellent question.

    I think the comments in response make it clear which way the view is. I pity those who will be sorely injured as collateral damage in this fight, many of whom are deeply suffering GLBT people, who have so much to give their families and communities. Those who love them, or who disagree with the line that has been drawn, will also be deeply hurt. The divisions in the religious communities will deepen as the youth and others reject a religious view founded on exclusion and disapproval.

    I wish we could get past this obsession with sexuality and religion and simply recognize that love, in the context of a integrity-filled faithful relationship between two people, is too precious to ever discard. I wish we could focus on making the world better for all those upon it, but I despair of seeing that happen. Not if religion has anything to do with it.

  • Nalai Hunter

    Note to John Piper:

    I’m a straight, evangelical, conservative Christian who, until reading Andrew’s book and then hearing him speak, was very condemning of gay people, especially those I know (PS n’Process: Andrew’s book is so clear on what bridge building is, what our Kingdom job description is, and his full belief in 2 Tim 3:16, that the only way to not understand those things must have been to read it through eyes of blindness).

    I’m not trying to talk for God, and who knows, that tornado maybe even did hit there at the time of the ELCA’s vote on gay ordination because it was sent by God. But I’ll tell you this, if that is true then that tornado should have started over my head first!!!! And my thought is that any of us “Christians” who don’t think that are TOTALLY missing the point of God’s purpose in judgment! How dare I think I am any more deserving of grace in my life/church/denomination/whatever than anyone else.

    Thanks for your work, and moderating all of these heated discussions!

  • Matt

    I finally admitted to myself that I was homosexual when I was 15, 33 years ago now. The first thing I did was to look to see what the Bible said about it. As a result I realized two things. 1: I could not change my likes and dislikes (believe me I tried). 2: I could not reconcile acting on those desires with what the Bible said about homosexual behavior (believe me, I wanted to those verse to mean something else with every fiber of my being – all the “new” interpretations and explanations simply don’t hold water). So, at 15, I realized that in order to live with integrity, I would have to live alone on many levels. So, obviously, this debate is one I tend to take a bit personally. Though I disagree strongly with the action of the ELCA, I have two questions for the Churches and Christians out there who are so publicly upset by this decision.

    1: Why this one issue? There are many issues which divide the mainline liberal churches from the mainline conservative ones. Most of those issues are much closer to the heart of theology than homosexuality. So why be so quiet about the others major issues and so vocal about this one? Do they really hate homosexuals so badly that they were willing to overlook other, more foundational differences while publicly denouncing this one. And don’t tell me it’s because the Bible is so clear on this one. The Bible is clear on many issues the Churches have chosen to overlook.

    2: Do they really understand what they are asking a “gay” person to do when they call them to celibacy? (yes, I have seen some change but many others, such as myself, will try for years and not be able to be attracted to the other sex) Not only are they asking people to forgo marriage, children and grandchildren, which are very things that make life worth living for most people. They are also asking people to be very much alone in just about every area of their lives. I find it hard to be close to my “gay-affirming” friends because we have some very fundamental political and religious differences. I always have to watch what I say lest I step on their toes. Kinda hard to have a close friendship that way. I am even less close to my straight acquaintances. There is a huge part of me I can’t share with them. Oh, I’ve told many of them about my homosexuality but it is obvious that it embarrasses them and they can’t really understand it so we never talk about it. It’s proverbial elephant in the room. I can’t say I’m close to my family because I’ve never told them about my homosexuality. The one, most difficult and costly achievement of my life, resisting homosexual temptation, would only make them disappointed and ashamed. I just don’t want to face that. OK. I’m being overly negative. There are a lot of good things in life too. It’s just that very few of them are in the area of relationships. Many of the good things people take for granted just aren’t an option for a homosexual person trying to maintain celibacy in the conservative Church today. Do such Churches really understand the cost that is demanded when they call for homosexuals to be celibate?

    So, if a Church or Christian is going to condemn this vote, then I hope and pray they will themselves offer more than lip service to the needs of the homosexuals in their congregations. After, all the Word of God really is the Bread of life. But it’s kind of nice sometimes to have the peanut butter and jelly of real Christians friendship to spread on it.

  • Jules

    Andrew (Marin)-

    I came to see what was being said and to see if anything I could bring to this. (yeah, I saw your tweet) After mucking through a lot of stuff being said on here I almost feel worn.

    The ELCA did something impressive and I applaud them. Although I am not Lutheran, never had any connection to them, I think it is a great move for those who are members of this community. They can have full inclusion with out feeling they are hiding a part of themselves. This is important. As a lesbian, I cannot express how important that is on someone who is LGBT.

    On Piper, he said what he said. I understand his theology and I have given him some slack with that knowledge. I don’t believe he hates LGBT nor do I think he hates Lutherans. I do think he needs to widen his view as well as temper his words. I think his choice of words and explaining HIS concern was wrong.

    To the other Andrew: I just offer you prayers. The worst thing people did when I was dealing with my sexuality was to try and push me one way or the other. I found a therapist that just sat there and listened. He helped me with a lot of things. Mostly some issues I had that were not attached to my sexuality. We both made a commitment that my sexuality was secondary. Anyway, finding a space like that is a big thing when dealing with your sexuality and spirituality. I pray you find it so that you can sort through it all and that our Father will guide you. My other big commitment when figuring out my journey was to put it completely at God’s feet. My verse for years now is Is. 26:8 and it was foundational for me unpacking so much about myself.

    I don’t know if this helps any thing. Sorry I can’t help any further. I’m tired tonight.

    Peace to all!

  • Jack Harris

    Andrew,

    I have read with great interest some of the comments in response to this specific blog post you have written. It still takes my breath away just how large the chasm that exists between GLBT Folks/ GLBT Christians and other Conservative Evangelical Christians. I do not point this out to say that we are somehow morally superior but rather to underscore the fact that in many cases, bridging the gap is gonna take some long arms to reach across the divide.

    Phew..wow..I am tired just reading these comments, I don’t know envy you Andrew with even attempting to respond…humm..ok..i think i will head to bed on that thought! :)

  • Derek

    Matt,
    There are a lot of ways that your first question in particular could be answered. I’ll try to limit myself to 3 fairly straightforward ways to look at this – admittedly, there are dozens or hundreds of dimensions:
    1. This issue is being pushed really, really hard by certain segments. Sometimes I think people forget who is agitating for our churches and culture to change so dramatically.
    2. Ephesians 5:3: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality…because these are improper for God’s holy people”
    3. I don’t think it is true that Christians don’t debate other theological disagreements. Many, many churches and denominations and groups split on issues such as baptism, eschatology and a whole host of other things. It just so happens that these things are covered in a 24/7 news cycle on CNN, etc.

  • http://carleton1958.xanga.com/ Jeff S.

    Matt: My heart goes out to you. The church should be a much more welcoming place for anyone wh struggles with homosexuality. I have been in somewhat the same boat as you in a conservative evangelical church, although I have been married since I was 33. It is not easy to be open about one's dealing with same-sex attraction and seeking support, especially when married, but it is freeing when you do find a network of support, and to be able to support and encourage others who share similar struggles. I have found Andy's efforts to build bridges also supportive in opening up more dialogue within the church and recognizing that it is not an us vs. them issue. Many of " them" are part of "us, or at least we share some common issues.

    If you'd like some support anytime, I'd be happy to communicate with you. I'm also an admin of a private Facebook group of Christian men who struggle with homosexuality. My blog is at http://carleton1958.xanga.com/.

  • Derek

    Andrew,
    Don’t you hate it when people read your book, fully or partially, and then mischaracterize what you’ve said? Doesn’t it drive you nuts?
    That is exactly what you have consistently done by characterizing Piper’s blog entry as being a diatribe against homosexuals. A warning is not the same thing as a judgement and yet you characterize it as such. Secondly, who was Piper addressing? Was he addressing acting homosexuals in this specific entry? No. He was addressing church leaders who were defying Scripture. In doing so, he was consistent with his belief that Christ would always hold leaders, especially religious shepherds to the highest standards. Maybe these seem like insignificant details if you gloss over his points and see that homosexuality is a topic in the blog entry, but it isn’t fair to paint someone with a broad brush, ignoring clarifying statements, even if they do occur 4/5 ths of the way into the entry. Again, this is exactly the thing that I’ve heard you complain about many times.
    Can you acknowledge that this event was remarkable and pretty hard to chalk up to coincidence? This is a totally serious question, not an attack on your person or ministry, which I think is trying to do some really great things. This meeting was understood by ALL involved to be historic and significant. No one came to the meeting thinking that this event would be defined by anything other than how they interpreted Scripture’s teaching on the sacrament of marriage, with respect to homosexual partnerships. If we take your admonition literally, NOT ONE person or leader or pastor representing a Biblically conservative view would be allowed to speak or give voice to their convictions, because they are encroaching on sacred ground? Do you understand how absurd this is?
    Finally: let’s suppose for a moment that just one delegate from ELCA asked God for a sign, regarding how they should vote at this meeting. Can you think of a more gracious and clear sign, that God might have provided? With no one injured? Just the cross carefully turned upside down by a tornodo? I want to hear what that more dramatic, gracious, defining sign would have been. Seriously!

  • Bethany C

    Wow, this is quite a conversation. I will definitely be sitting down to truly read everyone’s thoughts and ideas but I just wanted to quickly drop off a pretty interesting work that was written after Piper’s article was published. http://www.jesusmanifesto.com/2009/08/tornado-baptists-old-people/

    I’m interested in what you all think about it in regard to Piper’s article and how the gay community must feel in reading what Piper has to say.

  • David

    Andrew,

    In your original post, you ask:

    “Do you think (like it seems with gay marriage throughout the country) that this movement will continue past the traditionally ‘liberal’ denominations and States; moving also to traditionally conservative ones as well?”

    No. I do not think this movement will continue into the traditionally conservative denominations, precisely because these denominations hold a conservative interpretation of scripture. Do they tend to make some issues out to be worse than others? Definitely. Is that right? No. Is it inevitable – probably, because we are all fallible. Should we fight against this tendency? Absolutely. Does that mean we should abandon our commitment to traditional values? No. We just need to work toward practicing equal grace, equal love to all while standing firm in living out the beliefs we say we hold. I think that’s just called integrity.

  • David

    Jack Harris –

    God doesn't operate that way? Then how do you explain the books of Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, Hosea, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Revelation (just to name a few)?

  • Derek

    Jon,

    If Piper had said that the tornado in Minneapolis was the judgment of God, I'd be right there with you, nodding my head in agreement.

    But he didn't.

    He brought up the Gospel story of the tower of Siloam. Why? Because when we see natural disasters or calamity or sickness befall others, we should be gratified that God has given us another day to repent of any sin in our lives and to refocus our priorities in such a way that we are ready when our day of ultimate judgment does come. And it does come for all of us.

    When terrifying storms visit us and we are left alive, be grateful for the great patience and mercy of God, which none of us truly deserve.

  • http://nprocess.blogspot.com/ n'Process

    Matt made a comment earlier "Do such Churches really understand the cost that is demanded when they call for homosexuals to be celibate?"

    I think that it is not the Church that asks for such sacrifice…it's Christ that asks those of us who struggle with SSA to make that sacrifice. The Church is just a body made up of individual, human, sinful,, members…hopefully trying to follow what God has said thru His Word.

    God isn't asking us to trust them, He's asking us to trust Him.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Jules, Jack and Jon (lots of J’s!!) – Yes, it does get vary wary trying to keep this peaceful and productive. Jon, thanks for your story … I think it illustrates a great point. With that in mind, Derek (and please read Nalai’s comment again), you are continually trying to convince people of something that you will not be able to convince them of. I call that “working off of a false model of the ideal situation.” Your ideal is to have the other side believe in what you’re saying, dropping what they believe. That will never happen! Just like anyone else isn’t going to convince you that the tornado wasn’t a message by God. These types of conversations are totally lose-lose; once again doing nothing more than entrenching each side in their own camp.

    That is not bridge building!

    Elevating the conversation is finding a common framework to work within. People can disagree and significant things can happen for the Kingdom. In fact, I think disagreement is the path to learning. It’s extremely healthy! (see http://www.loveisanorientation.com/2009/part-1-th…. And there were even people here who tried to refocus the conversation back to its original intent, with no luck. I am not here to chastise/defend Piper’s words, or him as a person—I don’t know the guy personally and am tired of people (including myself) trying to speak for him, and his intent in what he wrote. I officially have a headache.

    I know these types of conversations bring out the most passion in each of us, otherwise we wouldn’t comment. :) But from here on out in this post, if there are to be comments (thanks Jeff S.), let’s look over the scope of what has already been said and speak to advancing the dialogue, not defend or incriminate this one guy. If we can only somehow humbly learn from each other, this world, this conversation, this culture war would be at a better place. Much love.

  • Derek

    Andrew,

    It is more than fair for you to challenge people who characterize you in an unfair way, right? And it has happened to you many times, I'm sure. I am not unfamiliar with you or with the kneejerk reactions you have to deal with, I've heard you speak many times, including once in person. Piper has been around the block a long time. He anticipated all of the kneejerk responses that we've seen here in this forum and over at iMonk, etc, and predictably, they've been ignored by many people.

    All I'm doing is asking for you to show the same courtesy and I've given some specifics. Maybe you're not ready to accept responsibility for this now, but I feel more than comfortable giving this a rest and with letting people review what you've said, what I've said, what Piper has said and let them judge for themselves.

    Blessings, friend. 80-90% of the time, I'm in agreement with you, fwiw. Don't assume that criticism means that people are haters or want to discredit you.

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    Derek, I don't assume you're a hater or want to discredit me. From what I remember you have yet to 'talk' about me in any of your posts – your post are about your understanding of, and defending Piper's comments. My last comment was the realization that in this context for this divide about Piper, you're not going to convince any of the people who don't agree with you that you're right. It's a no-win for either. And, I think I have shown a lot of courtesy and professionalism (doesn't have to mean I agree with you), and I always do take responsibility, including the admission of my original usage of "hauty rant."

    n'Process – Thank you for your peaceful, constructive comment. I think you bring up an intriguing point. From my understanding of what Matt said, he was also referring to celibate in relation to the biblical understanding that humans were made to express sexual intimacy. With that key component gone, celibacy brings up a unique juxtaposition, not necessarily relatable to most other constructs of living out the faith.

  • Jon Trouten

    Maybe the tornado was God’s message that the ELCA shouldn’t waste the ministerial gifts of its leaders, be they gay or straight? Who knows?

    Let me tell you a story. 3-4 years ago, Iowa City was hit by its first tornado in many years. It happened in the evening on Ash Wednesday when many churches, including my own, were holding services. My church is a gay-affirming UCC church who’s had two gay pastors in its recent past, including a partnered lesbian. The building has no basement and its covered wall-to-wall-to-wall-to-wall with big windows. The only rooms without windows are the interior bathrooms. There were 40-45 of us packed in the men’s bathroom. If he’d wanted to make a message, God could’ve taken out our church and most of its membership. Thinking back, there were at least 10 folks there that night who are gay or lesbian — plus we had our kids there. He could’ve taken out two gay families. At the very least, he could’ve permanently closed out our church with a well-placed tree. No damage was made to our church except for some downed tree branches.

    Instead, the community’s most conservative Catholic church took on some major damage and has since been knocked down and its members scattered. What, if anything, was God communicating that night with the target of his tornado?

    Last June, much of Iowa — including Iowa City — was flooded or its highways were blocked by floods. God could’ve affected the flood waters and caused permanent damage to our building. Once again, nothing.

    But the community’s one conservative, non-denomination megachurch took on major flood damage and was closed down for months. What, if anything, was God communicating that summer with the target of his flood?

  • Jon Trouten

    Sorry Derek. I guess I just got confused with his conclusion: “The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and of us: Turn away from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegience to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.”

    No hint of God’s judgement at all in that conclusion or the preceding paragraphs…

  • Jon Trouten

    Exodus might be a great group for some, but it's not effective for everyone and it — and other programs like it — have done their best to chase many far, far away from the church never to return.

  • Matt

    n’Process

    I stand corrected. It is Christ who asks for me to be celibate. Any sacrifice associated with that I will gladly pay considering what He paid for me.

    Now,I do believe that if a Church is going to publicly and actively condemn homosexual behavior then they also need to be demonstrating Christ’s call to demonstrate love and mercy to the person struggling with homosexuality.

    It’s really not that tough to do. It doesn’t take a specialized ministry team to do it. It just takes pastors and church leaders who would be willing to say to their congregation, “if any of you are facing homosexual temptations or are feeling guilt over homosexual behavior, please come talk to me. I will listen. I will pray with you. If you have sinned I will help you to know the forgiveness of Christ. I will respect you for wanting to stand on God’s Word in a difficult circumstance. And I will give you whatever help I can to assist you do that.” (frankly, they should say that about every sin)

    If I ever heard a pastor say that, I would be in his office the next day. But I’ve never actually heard a pastor say anything like that. And I do think it is the duty of every Christian to call the Church to a better reflection of our Lord in how we approach this and every topic.

    Nevertheless, so what if the Church doesn’t respond 100% correctly? I’ve got the Word of God. I know His forgiveness and mercy. Fasting in whatever form, whether abstaining from food or sex, does have the effect of helping us to comprehend the all-sufficiency of God’s grace and forcing one to go deeply into God’s Word. And that is a gift that is worth any price. Sure, Id like a deeper relationship with Christian brothers and sisters. But that is only a want. My needs are met in abundance in the salvation of Christ and that’s all that really matters.

    So, yes, you are right. it is Christ who asks the sacrifice and Christ who supplies the strength to make it. And I stand corrected for not giving Him enough credit and glory in my last post.

  • Derek

    Andrew,
    You said:
    “From what I remember you have yet to ‘talk’ about me in any of your posts”

    I was pretty specific on what my objections were, with regard to the mischaracterizations you made (minor suggestion- I wish the blog comments had numbers, like many blogs do, so I could reference my previous entry). My biggest objection isn’t the haughty rant comment, but your mischaracterization that Piper was proclaiming judgment, in the mode of Robertson. As I told Jon Trouten, if he WERE doing so, I might agree. You might not see a difference between a warning to everyone to repent and a judgment that falls on a specific people, but he DID clarify and anticipate kneejerk reactions before publishing his comments. Again, if you expect people to understand nuance in your own arguments, it is common courtesy to fairly characterize others’.

    When I read all of your comments, I also get a sense that you don’t think Piper or anyone representing the historical (and Biblical) position on this topic has even earned the right to criticize the actions of the ELCA or to note the dangerousness of their actions. Perhaps I’m wrong and I would be happy to hear you correct me on what your true perspective is, but if any kind of carefully crafted criticism is going to be taken out of context and turned into a “message of judgment from God”, I wonder with all seriousness, what Piper or any other critic could have said that would be taken at face value. Please understand: I actually think you have a really good point about earning the right to speak in certain ways on this topic especially, but sometimes I wonder if that can be taken to such an extreme that it pushes folks like Piper or myself to keep our genuine convictions to ourselves, out of the public – and sometimes, private – sphere.

    Peace.

  • http://nprocess.blogspot.com/ n’Process

    Matt,

    I’m right there with you on waiting for a Pastor or Church to announce and follow up with a call to love and care for any strugglers within the group. Which is where groups like Exodus and their local affiliates come in. They have been an absolute Godsend in terms of experiencing worship in a safe place, free from that nagging feeling that “if they only knew what I struggle with, they wouldn’t be the same to me”.

    But we are the Church. What we do wrong, the Church does wrong. So WE are part of the solution, we can help our brothers and sisters in our local church learn to be the Body that we need them to be. It involves risk, it involves making our needs known, but there is great promise when God begins to radically change the face of our local church, and He may actually use you as a catalyst in the process. At least that is what I learned at the Exodus Conference.

    I have found that the more I am willing to share about my struggles, the less guilt and shame I seem to carry around for having them in the first place!

  • Derek

    Wow, those are great words, n’process. I especially appreciated reading what you said because my dad was one of the speakers at Exodus’ conference here in the Chicago area last month. I’m encouraged.

  • Matt

    n’Process

    I absolutely agree!

    I have mostly been pointing out what the church does wrong for two reasons 1: because at the moment church bodies and conservative Christians will be making responses to the ELCA. As they do so it is important that they look at their own sin while formulating their response to another’s. 2: I am in Church work and see very clearly where we “professionals” have missed the boat on this issue. If I critique pastors and churches rather harshly it is not as an outsider looking in but as insider calling myself and my brothers and sisters in church work to a higher standard and a closer image of Christ.

    You are also correct that Exodus is an amazing group. But being in professional church work I also know that the biggest challenge they have comes from pastors. Too many pastors are unwilling to admit that they might have members who struggle with this issue. “We don’t have that problem in my congregation” has almost become a mantra for evangelical pastors.

    Changing that will take time – but right now as churches and denominations prepare their responses to the ELCA decision, time is not a luxury we can afford. So posting on blogs like this as well as several others that I know are read by officials in my denomination is the quickest way I know of to make them aware of needs evangelical churches have failed to address as they in turn address the failing of another.

    Oh, and Derek, I don’t know which speaker your father was but since they were all tremendous I can confidently say he did an excellent job and gave a great witness.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "If people were 100% honest about who they really were as human beings, we’d have a radically “Christ centered world.”

    Audrey, I totally agree with you on this. But not quite in the way you may think. People need to be honest about their struggles, even when they are same-sex ones. But every struggling person is not going to be happier just getting on the gay train. I know. I could have gone that way, but it would never have worked for me.

    "I don’t know what it would be like to be bisexual, and fundamentalist christian."

    I do, or at least I know what it was once like to be a Southern Baptist and struggling with dual sexuality issues.

    "I’m biased, but I think all women who go into the military are lesbians, but hey, what do I know :-) "

    Trust me, there are many women in the military who are as straight and feminine as can be. I served eight years as a Marine, and got to observe lots of women.

    I know I was put off by your feminist rant yesterday, but I must say you have some interesting perspectives. Nice chatting with you.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Audrey, you're a hoot. I am especially laughing at your comment, "“What does she see in that stupid man?” (No offense, men). I am sure many mothers of daughters (we have two) have uttered those words, myself included.

    Yes, our marriage that tottered on the brink of destruction when my same-sex indiscretions came to light is a happy one now. Our 28th anniversary is Saturday. One daughter is happily married and the other is engaged. We love both young men. They chose (and were chosen) well.

    "It would be hard to “struggle” with sexuality. This is something I don’t really know about. The only major struggles I had were simply dealing with a very abusive, or silent or discriminatory straight world. Once I found my people, I was really delighted with lesbian community. I was very lucky to have found the great love of my life early in life, and actually had a far easier time of it than my fundamentalist sisters."

    I can absolutely understand that. Makes sense to me.

    I'm sure we could both preach some good "sermons" if we got fired up enough. :) We came from different backgrounds that informed our worldviews and later experiences differently. It happens. And we can still talk and laugh. Whaddya know?

    "This blog exists, you and I are talking. Straight men SHOCK are actually starting blogs like this. If god can talk to straight men about gay stuff, she can talk to anyone! :-)

    :) :)

  • Audrey

    Since I only discovered this blog recently, I’m a little late on this issue.
    I was happy, naturally, with the ELCA’s– Lutheran for short, decison to simply recognize what already exists. Gay couples where one is a minister is nothing new. Co-clergy where both women are lesbians is nothing new to me. You wouldn’t believe the numbers of retired clergy I’ve met who had been closeted gay men for decades. Once they are retired, a lot of the time, they finally come out. They were fearful closeted men, and then they came out to freedom after their pensions were safe. Some of these guys are still married to women, but have gay affairs on the side, which their wives supposedly approve of. This stuff is more common, and men are more likely to do this than women, because women used to be banned from clergy in most churches when I was born. Remember how everyone screamed when women were ordained in mainstream denominations?

    I’m happy for all the gay and lesbian clergy in the ELCA who will now be able to be open about who they are. That’s great.

    No doubt conservatives are really going to be upset over this, but I’m somehow detached. Church traditionalists are just who they are. They’re nice people, but ignorant largely. Or they are struggling with repressed homosexuality, and that’s a different matter. If people were 100% honest about who they really were as human beings, we’d have a radically “Christ centered world.” I recall how deeply meaningful the infamous Paul’s words were when I first came out and found a church home in MCC.
    We had these words engraved on the altar, “You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” I also found a lot of comfort in reciting First Corinthians, Chapter 13 when my lesbian cousin was dying young.

    Andrew has some interesting ideas about who wants to be right or wrong, or whether we want to be thoughtful. A lot of the fuss over gayness really has to do with people’s internal psychological struggles anyway.

    For those people who are bisexual, they might find a fundamentalist background pushing them to be “straight” and to “resist” same sex attraction. These people tend to be the most fundamentalist in my opinion.
    And those who are in the clergy and feel this way must really feel conflicted. Ted Haggard comes to mind. Mel White was like this too before he founded Soul Force. Malcolm Boyd struggled too. Bishop Paul Moore of New York lived a double life as married to a woman, and having gay male lovers on the side. His daughter writes movingly of this in her autobiography that is quite good, BTW.

    But to me, honesty about who you are is the best policy. Whether you understand straightness or not or opposite sex attraction, as I most certainly do not, you will be stuck with this issue. Sexuality doesn’t go away, and the more the person “represses” a true self, or doesn’t openly admit to having a dual attraction, the more it persists I think.

    I’ve had so many friends who were rejected from Lutheran clergy positions because they were gay or lesbian. They have heresy trials, the whole bit.
    So I was surprised by this decision. I’m happy for them, and I know that one of the amazing traditions of gay and lesbian folk is our deep spirituality.
    We have these spiritual gfts that we have always shared with the world, Only when straight people reject us, they refuse the gifts we offer them.
    Think of the gay uncle who takes your children to art galleries, or the black youth leader at your church. Think of the lesbians who defend battered women, or who shelter them when they are fleeing abusive husbands. Think of the legions of lesbian social workers who rescue abused kids. Think of the legions of lesbian Sunday school teachers, your favorite math teacher, your brilliant history teacher. In an era where jobs were limited to women, lesbians were dominant in nursing and teaching and even the military. Talk to a military woman of a certain era, and she was a lesbian. Thank her for her service to god and country! I’m biased, but I think all women who go into the military are lesbians, but hey, what do I know :-)
    These are our spiritual gifts, and now, when we are honest about the sheer numbers of gay and lesbian clergy everywhere, we’ll have so much more to share!

    No two christians agree on anything these days, and the culture is increasingly polarized.

    For christian traditional gay people, and there are lot of that type out there, this will be an excellent decison. They’ll be able to stay in the church they were raised in, be able to consult with a gay or lesbian clergy person about deeply important issues, and have a gay or lesbian clergy person perform wedding and baptism ceremonies. So I’m happy for all my lesbian Lutheran friends out there.

    Straight conservatives will say all kinds of things that are rather crazy… I just smile at another homophobe talking about god striking down a church tower across from the convention center. Of course if a plane crashes carrying a bunch of straight people, us gay people don’t go around saying it was god’s punishment to them. Honestly, I don’t think god is that petty one way or the other. I don’t think the mother who came to our gay church in the 1980s with a child who had AIDS was saying this sort of thing about us. Her “traditional” church rejected her when they found out her child had AIDS, and she turned to us for help, because our congregation really was in the middle of the epidemic. I still recall all the mothers who came to their son’s funerals at our church. Fathers never came. That was in the 80s.

    I think people need to be fully honest about their sexual orientation, especially if they are in leadership roles. People deal with oppression and social rejection and discomfort all the time. Some of us are very lucky to be happily lesbian or happily straight with no major conflicts. Some of us are happy to have found good church homes where lesbians and gays and straights can be together… heck I’m married to a minister, and down the street from me lives another Episcopal lesbian minister, and the other day I met a gay Episcopal clergyman in the park. So this is just normal for me.

    I don’t know what it would be like to not want to be lesbian, and to try to “change” myself to marry a man and be socially accepted. I don’t know what it would be like to be bisexual, and fundamentalist christian. I certainly think it is odd that so many christians find gays and lesbians so upsetting in clergy leadership positions. But I guess this issue isn’t going away. It will be there until people understand the love of god and Jesus, and really get this. It will be there until people have a better grasp on human sexuality. Until that time, traditionalists of all kinds are going to suffer. Lesbians and gays suffered in the pews when we were banned from clergy jobs, now I suppose a lot of straight conservatives are going to suffer and walk out when they hire some gay guy as their new pastor. Things like this happen.

    Change and honesty about your true self should be celebrated in the body of Christ, but we’re still working on the honesty part. Thanks for this blog, I really like it.

  • Audrey

    Hey Debbie, I had to laugh about “the feminist rant.” I love that good old time religion, the classic lesbian feminist rant :-)

    Have to laugh about women in the military, because the lesbians in the military I know are deeply closeted. They could beoted out (no pun intended) if they came out. Another topic. Other than my love of Amazon warriors, and double headed axes, I assure you, I am not a very military like person.

    It would be hard to “struggle” with sexuality. This is something I don’t really know about. The only major struggles I had were simply dealing with a very abusive, or silent or discriminatory straight world. Once I found my people, I was really delighted with lesbian community. I was very lucky to have found the great love of my life early in life, and actually had a far easier time of it than my fundamentalist sisters.

    Even when I was a kid, I found heterosexuals perplexing. “What does she see in that stupid man?” was often something I thought about. “What’s with these love songs?” None of it made much sense to me, because I have always been a lesbian, so nothing about straight anything made any sense at all to me. I just assumed early in life that I would get my education, that I would hang out with really smart women, and that men were just road blocks in the way of my chosen path to success in a male dominated and sexist world. I was strong intellectually and physically, and also a romantic and a dreamer at heart.

    So what changed? Well, I fel in love with the woman who loved me for being a good catholic girl, I traveled the world, and I came to see churches first as discriminatory towards women. It was the language that drove me nuts. Once you start learning foreign languages, you start to really understand your native English, and just how male centric it is. Long story.

    I never saw all that big a conflict between sexuality or spirituality.

    You’d laugh, but in many ways, I am a very proper stuffed shirt victorian sort of lesbian. Being a christian AND a lesbian AND a feminist can cause a lot of drama in the gay community at large, because most gay people think christians are idiots, oppressors or just plain dumb at worst… The gay hating churches drive more gay people away from Christ than any atheists I know :-) Heck, my atheist straight friends have been incredibly loving and hospitable. It’s kind of funny.
    Your situation may be more common, I’m not sure. But whatever you feel, I hope your marriage is a happy one.

    The reason there may be conflict between lesbians and straight people, is this differing experience with self. If you’ve never felt sexually attracted to men, and were extremely out in the world, well, the world would look different wouldn’t it?

    I’m a pretty basic person. Pretty simple and directed. I want equality, I am persistent is fighting for rights for women, minorities and oppressed peoples. That’s what I do. I also read things for myself, and think for myself.

    I believe strongly in the feminist principle that all people speak for themselves, and that no one group or person has a right to articulate your life or life experience. So I can’t really know about same-sex attraction as a struggle, but if that was or is your struggle, then that’s what it is.

    Either way, god loves all people. When you hear the words “god loves gays” for the first time, it is a striking moving moment. I was lucky, because in my 20s, I got to meet all the great gay and lesbian ministers, priests, preachers and evangelists. We heard this message that god loves us, we felt united and connected as a community, and it was absolutely wonderful. We had found our home. That’s always important for believers I think.

    But what about the people who are conflicted? What about women who might fall in love with women, but really want to marry men? What would happen if you felt this, and then you also got to hear fire and brimestone about how god hates gays? What would that be like?

    So people invented all this “counciling” to “cure” the people in the middle.
    It made no sense to a lot of us, and it was deeply damanging to those lesbians or gays who really were gay. Just imagine a straight person going into therapy to “turn lesbian.” It would be crazy and morally wrong.

    I believe the strongest testiment you can have is to be who you are, and to not let others who are NOT YOU to tell you anything. I think god speaks to people individually. I certainly don’t hear god’s voice the way the pope does. I hear the voice of a lesbian god, who speaks to me in my feminist dialect. This is unique to my spiritual experience.

    A lot of lesbians and gays are still on god 101, or they are still recovering from abusive bible bashings. Fortunately, I wasn’t raised in those fundamentalist homes or churches. I didn’t even really know about them until I was an adult. The christian right and all its campaigns against lesbians and gays really hadn’t geared up when I was younger. And, public schools still had little manger scenes on their front lawns.

    I get a bit nostalgic for those manger scenes, and for the sense of loss right wing christians feel about how the state kicked them out, along with prayer in the schools. I’m not unsympathic to this, I just don’t want to be attacked and denied my civil rights because of some theocracy out there, and that is wrong too in my opinion. I’m convinced that a blog like this can help a lot. I don’t have high expectations, but then again, way back when, I knew NO lesbians at all. I was the only one in the world, and now I now thousands worldwide!!!

    I think it was this tranquil life filled with lesbian feminist intellectual adventure, meeting all the greatest lesbian thinkers, writers, artists and world travelers that was truly life changing for me. The first women ministers I met were lesbians, how lucky is that! And I took the very early women’s studies classes in college, and had incredible professors.

    To see all this progress, and all this explosion of great lesbian and gay culture in your lifetime is amazing. Martin Luther King said he wouldn’t get to the promised land, but we as early 21st century lesbians might get there.

    This blog exists, you and I am alking. Straight men SHOCK are actually starting blogs like this. If god can talk to straight men about gay stuff, she can talk to anyone! :-)

  • Hihopes

    I am new here. I just read the book, Love Is An Orientation and thought I'd check all of this out………Hope to connect often.

    Hope, Christian PFLAG Mom


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