Gay Students at Fuller Seminary

Fuller Seminary is both my alma mater (M.Div.) and a part-time employer (I teach a cohort in the D.Min. program). As far as I know, I am one of two faculty members at Fuller who publicly supports gay marriage and the full inclusion of GLBT persons in ordained ministry. As such, I’ve had many conversation about the issue of gays in the church with alumni, faculty, and administrators. I have the most conversations with prospective students, many of them gay and wondering if they will find Fuller a hospitable place.

Over the weekend, the USA Today ran an AP story on a newly-formed and recognized student group on campus, OneTable, that exists to support and explore the issues of GLBT students at Fuller:

PASADENA, California (AP) — Nick Palacios struggled to get his conservative Pentecostal parents to accept him as a gay evangelical Christian for nearly a decade before his family found a common ground through faith.

Now, as an openly gay seminarian, the 29-year-old hopes to carve out a similar acceptance for other gays in the broader evangelical community through his role as president of the nation’s first LGBT student club sanctioned by a major evangelical seminary. The group, called OneTable, formed last fall at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, one of the world’s largest multi-denominational seminaries, and has attracted about three dozen students.

“It quickly became apparent to me that I was going to be OK and that I wasn’t going to have to forsake my faith for my sexuality,” Palacios said of his struggle for acceptance.

“I really hope that people will see Fuller and OneTable as a model of what the body of the church is supposed to do in this situation.” (Read the rest: LGBT group finds acceptance at evangelical college [sic].)

Yesterday, newly installed president (and friend of mine), Mark Labberton, issued a statement. Here it is, in full:

Fuller has received comments about the Associated Press news article that ran over the weekend about OneTable and the seminary. We here at Fuller have long welcomed the opportunity to engage over vigorous issues of debate within the church and within culture. We understand that this leaves us vulnerable to critique from a broad spectrum.

We want to provide some clarity about the following points and questions that have been raised in response to the article: What is Fuller’s position regarding same-sex marriage? What is the OneTable student group and its purpose? What are Fuller’s hopes in discussing issues of sexuality?

Fuller’s position on same-sex marriage and behavior, reflective of our evangelical tradition’s reliance on the scriptures, affirms that every student, faculty member, administrator, and staff person at Fuller is expected to abide by the Community Standards that “premarital, extramarital, and homosexual forms of explicit sexual conduct (are) inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture.” This position is clear.

OneTable at Fuller is one among 24 student-led groups, which can be formed when a number of students express interest in developing a discussion group on campus, such as the current Student Stewardship Group, G3 (Environmental) Initiative, and Students Serving Veterans.

OneTable provides a safe place to discuss issues related to sexuality and gender—issues that are vitally important, personal, and fraught with debate that is frequently divisive and contentious, not least in an evangelical context. OneTable at Fuller is not an advocacy group to alter seminary policy nor to direct any efforts in that direction. No student-led group “defines” Fuller’s position, nor does it represent or encompass the many resources that Fuller has to offer. In terms of the topics of sexuality, marriage, and family, Fuller has been and will continue to teach about these issues in many ways both in the classroom and in campuswide workshops.

Fuller hopes to be a context in which many of the significant issues of our day can be discussed in relation to the Bible’s teaching for the life and witness of the church. As we are all aware, many evangelical and other churches are being asked questions related to sexuality by their congregations. As our students at Fuller train to become pastors and church leaders and for other vocations, issues about sexuality will likely be asked and discussed with some regularity. Our goal at Fuller Seminary is to help prepare our students to be able to minister lovingly, biblically, and faithfully on this and many other issues as well.

Finally, I would like to note how much we appreciate your questions and your prayers as we seek, in a spirit of humility, to be faithful witnesses—in word and in deed—to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world.

Mark Labberton, President
Fuller Seminary 

I’ve talked to Mark in the past about how Fuller will take up the pressing issues of sexuality, gender, and GLBT persons in the church in his tenure. He didn’t shy away from my question. Instead, he said that Fuller needs to have this conversation, and it will be had within the context of Fuller history as an evangelical institution and its present as a seminary that serves 4,000 students — many of whom come from the Global South, where even talking about GLBT issues is taboo.

Fuller is a strong place, with strong leadership. Many will watch how Mark and OneTable and others faithfully navigate these waters.

  • RollieB

    While I think it’s great that OneTable is at Fuller, I also think it’s appalling that their mere presence is even slightly controversial. Unconditional love and acceptance may be an impossible goal but if we can’t even talk about human sexuality within the walls of a religious institution then religious institutionality is rightly doomed.

    This may be seen as a small step of progress toward true equality for LGBTQ folks, I see it as Fuller (perhaps) emerging from the long shadow of the third century.

    • Jamie Rehmel

      I am a school of psychology and theology student at Fuller. From my perspective, OneTable is not at all controversial. I think Dr. Labberton’s remarks were mostly for the public.

  • Ann

    I wonder does Fuller hire professors who are openly gay and in relationships?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Definitely not.

  • Mike Young

    I appreciate Labberton’s statement and also the difficult waters he has to negotiate in terms of this issue. There are few forums today in evangelical institutions that seem substantial enough to have these conversations. In an ideal world, I would hope that open and honest inquiry from a theological, sociological, psychological, and every other “*ogical” perspective could take place at an institution of higher learning and training for ministry like Fuller. I know that often that’s just an idealistic pipe dream. I was privileged to attend “A [Baptist] conference on Sexuality and Covenant (http://www.thefellowship.info/conference) in April of 2012. It was a wonderful experience whose goal was to facilitate conversation in covenant…not to determine who was right and who was wrong. I left that event with renewed confidence in the power of true Christian community. I think allowing an organization like One Table to exist at Fuller is a great start. I’ll be praying for Labberton, as well as the students and faculty as you negotiate these difficult waters. May all of you be an example for the church in “preparing [the Church] to be able to minister lovingly, biblically, and faithfully on this and many other issues as well.”

  • http://ashleighfhill.tumblr.com Ashleigh

    This is great news for Fuller and anyone concerned with the HUGE disparity between gender/sexuality issues within church communities and how they’re addressed in seminaries (a 2008 Religious Institute study found that only 97% of seminaries offer a semester-long course on sexuality)! (Also, the acronym is LGBTQ)

    • Jamie Rehmel

      97% is a really high percentage. I don’t think I had a sexuality course in college until I came to seminary.

  • The_B_C

    I’m stuck on this issue (homosexuality and following Christ), and I want to get unstuck. I’m currently reading a former Fuller professor’s book, “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality” by Jack Rogers. I hope that gives me some more perspective…
    Here’s where I’m stuck:
    The article quotes the student, Nick, saying “It quickly became apparent to me that I was going to be OK and that I wasn’t going to have to forsake my faith for my sexuality.”
    In my Christian experience, to me, that thinking is backwards. I should be willing to forsake anything and everything for my faith, including my sexuality. My idea of following Christ is a process of sanctification that involves submitting my will unto God’s. I don’t understand what makes sexuality any different from any of the other numerous things I have to sacrifice and give up as I follow Christ. The student seems to be saying that my sexuality is more important than God.
    That’s where I am stuck.
    Now, to focus this on me, when has God asked me to give up my sexuality? Possibly every time I’m attracted to someone who’s not my wife, or every time I’m tempted into sexual acts outside of the relationship with my wife.

    I don’t really know where I stand on this, but I’m trying to figure it out. I know that I support equal rights for all human beings. So the government can give the same treatment and benefits to same-sex couples (in a committed, monogamous relationship) as married heterosexual couples.

    I know God accepts all people. And there is no pre-requisite to change in order to receive God’s grace. BUT, that grace changes me. The Spirit changes me. There is a process of sanctification. God is revealing to us what that looks like through scripture.

    So, pray for my discernment process.

    • Ric Shewell

      I’m becoming unstuck on this issue because we as a religion are becoming unstuck from sola scriptura which evolved into inerrancy. When we started declaring freedom to slaves, equality to women, and that divorce is justifiable — we started to chip away at the notion of Scripture as the sole authority. I’m only now coming to grips with the fact that Scripture alone cannot be our sole authority. I hold Scripture in the highest esteem. Scripture is life-giving, beautiful, and a gift and a revelation. It is the church’s book. But we all have an understanding that a woman who divorces an abusive husband is not a sinner, even though divorce is expressly condemned by Jesus himself, according to our Scriptures. Why do we all think this way?? Is it because there is something else, another source of authority that interacts with Scripture and the Church in order to better pull the Church and the world into God’s future? I know this is dangerous, but that’s the world we’re being called into.

      • The_B_C

        Thank you for your thoughts. I like what you say.
        Personally, I’ve never been a “Sola Scriptura” or “inerrancy” type as I was raised on the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” for sources of theological reflection.
        It is a matter of what the Holy Spirit reveals, and what the example of Jesus Christ shows us. Jesus Christ prayed to God the Father, “not my will, but yours be done.” That’s an example of submission that I think we need to follow. It’s fairly core to who Jesus is. (or maybe i’m wrong about that).
        Why is sexuality exempt from submission to God’s will?
        Now, maybe, the Holy Spirit could reveal to some one that homosexuality is within God’s will. That, has not been revealed to me through scripture, or church tradition (orthodoxy).
        I just don’t know…thanks again for the conversation on this.

        • RollieB

          This is only speculation, but perhaps you are stuck because you are relying on “church tradition (orthodoxy)” instead of your own God given urges that tell you that the church’s teaching on this issue is flawed. Is it possible what the church has told you is wrong?

          “Rely on the Christ within…”

          • The_B_C

            I left out my experience because I didn’t want to be attacked, but I guess I’ll share. I have experienced testimonies from people who were healed from sexual brokenness including homosexuality. I’m not saying they no longer experience same-sex attraction and face temptation. We all do. But those attractions and temptations did not have power over them. Their identity is in Christ, not sexuality.
            I know that sounds harmful because a lot of people believe you can’t be “healed” or “turned straight,” but I’m just sharing what I’ve experienced people share with me. They don’t feel they’re living a lie. They believe they’re walking in the truth of how God intended humans to be.
            Now, I also have homosexual friends who have different experiences. And I do believe it’s wrong to pressure or force them to change. And, I know God’s grace has no prerequisites (no conditions). God welcomes people into God’s family all the time, sin and all. I’m not sure I see a reason to deny full participation in the church as long as there’s a commitment to surrender everything including sexuality unto God.
            If a person reads the scripture in the power of The Spirit and are inspired, motivated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently, then who am I to question how The Spirit moves?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

              Go find those people today. I bet none of them still argues that they’ve been “cured” or “healed.” Ex-gay ministries and therapies have been totally debunked. Not only do they not work, they have been proven to do harm.

              • brad

                Tony, I immensely respect your thought leadership and am warm towards the inclusion of GLTBQ folks in the church. But, I think you over-reach in these comments. It’s true that ex-gay ministries overstated their promise of what “healing”
                could look like. Nevertheless, the reality is that there are plenty of people out there who report substantive transformation in their sexual desires. In my experience, they’re not that hard to find.

                Twenty years ago, evangelicals didn’t think there were any “true” Christians who were gay and they/we were wrong. Today, more people are quick to say that there aren’t any gay folks who experience transformation . . . and I’d argue that that’s just as wrong. It’s also problematic. To make that case, you have to tear down people’s testimonies, essentially calling them liars or fools. I think it’s a time for listening to and respecting people’s stories. The reality is that peoples’ stories vary greatly. That’s messier than all of us would like . . . apparently, life (even in the kingdom of God) is that way.

              • The_B_C

                Tony, I know what you’re saying. That’s what I had thought and mostly still think (about ex-gay ministries and therapies). These folks were very sincere. There was no type of exorcism or casting out of demons or anything like that. They were not forced by someone else.
                It is simply, “with God all things are possible.” Which, it sounds like you’re saying God can’t do something.
                Now, maybe these folks weren’t really gay to begin with, and they were set free from a sexual addiction.
                I greatly appreciate this dialogue. It is very helpful to be challenged to keep learning.

                • Jamie Rehmel

                  Assuming they were sincere, I think its important to realize this is the exception rather than the rule and their sexuality may have been better characterized as bisexual than distinctly gay or lesbian. Dr. Daniel Seigal talks about sexuality as being on a spectrum in terms of attraction to same vs. opposite sex. Also, in general, women tend to have more fluidity than men in their sexual attraction. Thus, it is much more common to hear of a woman switching from straight and gay sexual relationships than men.

              • Paul Pettit

                Not true. Many have been helped… Paul wrote, “And such were some of you…”

                • Jamie Rehmel

                  Even if, for the sake of argument, I was able to change someones sexual orientation, in what sense is that being helped? If I choose, I can condition someone to fear a rabbit. Is that helpful? I suppose it depends on your perspective but it seems like an arbitrary change.

                  Nevertheless, some of these organizations that claimed to “cure” people of gay and lesbian desires have actually come out and publicly apologized. In fact, Fuller’s director of clinical training for the school of psychology posted an article on facebook a while back and has ridiculed such practices.

            • RollieB

              “God welcomes people into God’s family all the time…”

              That’s a conditional statement. We are made in the image of God, we are all already in God’s family by our existence. How we respond to our creator is our decision, not our creators.

              With all due respect, I believe you are stuck in the depths of your dogma. Climbing out of that deep rut took me several years but I’m thrilled I escaped from it’s confinements.

              • The_B_C

                I greatly appreciate the dialogue and your invitation to continue this journey of learning.
                As far as the statement you’re quoting me on, I totally agree with you. We are all made in God’s image and in God’s family. So I would modify my statement “God welcomes people back into God’s family all the time.” Meaning God never left that person or cut that person out, but when a person turns to God, God graciously receives and accepts them without any prerequisites or conditions because that person has always been God’s child.

                • http://www.ryanpeterwrites.com/ Ryan Peter

                  I find it interesting that no one has really addressed The_B_C’s concern over the young man’s quote that says, “It quickly became apparent to me that I was going to be OK
                  and that I wasn’t going to have to forsake my faith for my sexuality.”

                  The_B_C has a point – this seems backwards. It would have made more sense if the guy said, “… I wasn’t going to have to forsake my sexuality for my faith.”

                  That makes me honestly wonder about what’s going on here. Why does sexual identity seem more important than an identity in Christ?

                  • RollieB

                    It seems to me, Ryan, that the person we are, made by God in God’s image, trumps what some religious person told you to believe. The misguided church continues to do harm to many LGBTQ folk with their dogma. I rely on the Christ within me to provide guidance on my spiritual life rather than some unseen churchy person with an opinion on who is inside their coral and who is outside the fence.

                    • http://www.ryanpeterwrites.com/ Ryan Peter

                      RollieB, I still don’t see how that answers the original concern? The young man still seems to have it backwards. His quote implies that his sexuality is more important than his faith. I can’t see how that has anything to do with what some religious person says about anything. I can’t understand why anyone, homosexual or heterosexual or bisexual or whatever, would place that of first importance.

                      To put it another way, if we were talking about him being a musician and he said, “It quickly became apparent to me that … I wasn’t going to have to forsake my faith for my music,” wouldn’t we all say, “Wait a minute. Why is music more important to you than your faith?” Wouldn’t we ask if that thing had become some kind of idol in the man’s life? Or substitute anything else. “I wasn’t going to have to forsake my faith for my pineapple-on-a-stick fetish.” ?

                    • RollieB

                      Ryan, who you are as a human being is far more important than what some religious person says you are. Again, the harm done by religious institutions in the name of God is appalling to me. No one, NO ONE, should be told they are less than because of the sexual identity. Those who rail against “the gays” in the name of their god are despicable in my view. God is love, about building people up, god is not about tearing people down and demeaning individuals because of what another individual believes.

                    • http://www.ryanpeterwrites.com/ Ryan Peter

                      But Rollie, then – if you’re consistent – it’s fair to say that who a religious person is, is more important than what anyone, you included, says they are. Who they are trumps what anyone, including you, says they should believe. They are religious and demeaning because that’s who they are. And by calling them despicable, you’ve gone and just demeaned them, and by your own count gone completely against your own values.

                      It still doesn’t address the original concern, either. It appears you are automatically assuming that people are as they are because they’ve been made that way. Well, that’s pretty fatalistic. Our identity in Christ is a concept that says, “Look, in Christ you’re righteous. That’s who you are. How you were born has nothing to do with who you are in Christ.” That, after all, is what a healthy soteriology addresses. Remember, people are born with mental illnesses and all sorts of things. Was that God’s intention? By what I’m reading here, you’re saying, “Yes.” Well, then, should there be no effort to bring healing to anyone? From what I’m reading here, you’re saying, “No.” Because that would be demeaning as it goes against “Who they are.” I won’t accept such a fatalistic and, quite frankly, possibly nihilistic outlook.

                      You keep going on about how the church has been so bad to LGBQT people and so on. That doesn’t address the question at all – why does the young man seem to place his sexuality as more important than his faith? Or, to put it another way, why is his sexuality more important than who is in Christ? If he believes he is “Gay in Christ” (meaning, gay is his identity in Christ) his language implies that he doesn’t believe that either. He is FIRST gay then he is a Christian, if that quote is correct. That immediately makes me think that the young man doesn’t have “faith”, he only has a religion. His quote certainly implies that. And then, of course, I have to question the movement in Fuller in the first place.

                    • Jamie Rehmel

                      Ryan,

                      Saying that someone is gay or lesbian and accepting them on those grounds is not at all fatalistic unless you consider that fatal. In that sense, your presuppositions are the problem and not the behavior of the other person. If,
                      as you suggest, Christ accepts humans as righteous because they are “in Christ”, it would follow that this entails the sexual identity that has been bestowed on all of us.

                      You attempt to use an example of mental illness, juxtaposed with gay and lesbian preferences, to posit that this was not God’s intention. Yet, that, at best, seems like a weak argument. I’m not sure anyone is in a position to say what was and was not God’s intentions. Many people have tried to argue that death was not part of God’s original intentions but that is silly when you realize that you cannot have growth without death. What is more, mental illness is illness to the extent to which it interferes with being a social being. If we change certain parameters of social norms, we ipso facto change mental illness. Thus, if we change our conceptualization of what is normal sexual activity we change the need to perceive gay and lesbian relations as “mental illness”.

                      Lastly, your obsession with what comes first, faith or sex, seems misguided and only makes sense if we engage in reductionism to the extent to which I can differentiate myself from my sexuality. This is arbitrary. It’s not unlike
                      attempting to differentiate myself from my body. These are quite dated thought experiments and likely unhelpful in this discussion as it really turns our attention away from more salient issues.

                    • http://www.ryanpeterwrites.com/ Ryan Peter

                      Thanks for the response Jamie. I disagree that you cannot have growth without death. If there was a world where endless creating was going on, there would certainly be growth. Think about a constantly expanding universe – well, God is big enough to make things grow without the need for death. I am quite sure our character could grow without death and God is fully capable of creating a universe where that’s possible. I would even say this is a more scriptural view and part of the great hope for the next life.

                      Your views of mental illness don’t make sense to me. Perhaps you’ve never suffered from depression or known someone who has? Depression has run in my family for years and I have suffered with it in my own way. Social factors may contribute, but regardless of anything happening externally, you still feel broken and heart-sore inside. It doesn’t matter what you change in terms of social norms, depression is depression, and you could have given me every sunset and every sunrise in all the world and all the best friends in all of history when I suffered and it would have made zero difference.

                      I don’t believe that God ever intended for human life to be lived like that, hence I believe that healing can happen, to some degree or another, and we ought to be less fatalistic about mental illness and any of our struggles, in fact.

                      If we change the conceptualization of anything we’re going to obviously arrive at different conclusions. This is a rather circular argument in my opinion and I don’t see it as convincing. I still see no reason to change the conceptualization of normal sexual activity, logically, scripturally, psychologically or emotionally. There’s only one reason why I should change these views and that is because society demands that I do. But if I changed my views because of that, that would simply be dishonest.

                      This has less to do with sexual activity and more to do with gender, which is why it’s become an identity issue. But I still can’t see any reason to accept genders outside of what has been the established genders since the dawn of time. We’re obviously not the first society to put these limits under question, but we’re also not the first society to suggest that the limits should remain where they are. That tells me that the human condition can’t be repaired by philosophy or acceptance of our struggles but requires something greater.

                      Anyway, to go down to your point of reductionism, I have to ask: does my body rule me or do I rule my body? This is a very serious question, regardless of whether it’s out-dated. I take my cue from Christian history where many Christians have shown that we are to rule our bodies as much as we possibly can; that we are to look to keep our minds and bodies healthy; and that we are live in healthy relationships. If my body rules me, as a man who has suffered depression… well, I need not explain what would happen.

                      This is why I can’t see how your philosophy – or the current pervading philosophy of progressive society – would ever lead me to a place of better mental, spiritual and emotional health, and therefore see no way in which it can lead anyone to a better place. I am to rule my body despite my chemical make-up, and indeed doing so (with the Spirit of God) has brought healing in many degrees. Why would encouraging others to do the same suddenly be seen as outdated or unloving?

                    • Jamie Rehmel

                      Hi Ryan,

                      You say:

                      “Thanks for the response Jamie. I disagree that you cannot have growth without death. If there was a world where endless creating was going on, there would certainly be growth. Think about a constantly expanding universe – well, God is big enough to make things grow without the need for death. I am quite sure our character could grow without death and God is fully capable of
                      creating a universe where that’s possible. I would even say this is a more scriptural view and part of the great hope for the next life”.

                      This is just false; I don’t really have much to say in response. Growth entails death of what once was. In order for a plant to grow, as if in a garden, things must die. In order for “Adam’s” flesh to heal once a rib was removed from this archetypal figure, cells must repair what was killed. Roughly every 7 years the cells that make up our body are completely replaced. I would agree that eschatologically, our “hope” is for a future with no death but I’m not sure a fully redeemed cosmos needs change. That seems to defeat the purpose.

                      You say:

                      “Your views of mental illness don’t make sense to me. Perhaps you’ve never suffered from depression or known someone who has? Depression has run in my family for years and I have suffered with it in my own way. Social factors may contribute, but regardless of anything happening externally, you still feel broken and heart-sore inside. It doesn’t matter what you change in terms of
                      social norms, depression is depression, and you could have given me every sunset and every sunrise in all the world and all the best friends in all of history when I suffered and it would have made zero difference.”

                      This also is false. It’s not so much my view of mental health, its actually the APAs (American Psychological Association & American Psychiatric Assocation), as I am a 5th year PhD student in clinical psychology. Indeed, in psychology we often talk about the 4 Ds of abnormality: Distress, dysfunction, danger, deviant. In other words, that which is considered abnormal is contextual.

                      I empathize with your history of depression. Nevertheless, I think you are wrong that contextual factors would have made no difference and, in fact, the research literature on depression suggests otherwise. Indeed, it is widely
                      accepted that the best form of treatment for depression is psychotherapy; although, psychotherapy in conjunction with antidepressants can be quite useful as well. Other things that have been empirically shown to facilitate regulation of mood are: exercise, nutrition, spending time in nature and ergo experiencing sunlight, close relationships with others, recreation, relaxation, attending a church (see Walsh, 2011 regarding therapeutic lifestyle changes). In other words, contextual factors have a
                      significant impact on mood.

                      You say:

                      “I don’t believe that God ever intended for human life to be lived like that, hence I believe that healing can happen, to some degree or another, and we ought to be less fatalistic about mental illness and any of our struggles,
                      in fact. If we change the conceptualization of anything we’re going to obviously arrive at different conclusions. This is a rather circular argument in my opinion and I don’t see it as convincing. I still see no reason to change
                      the conceptualization of normal sexual activity, logically, scripturally, psychologically or emotionally. There’s only one reason why I should change these views and that is because society demands that I do. But if I changed my
                      views because of that, that would simply be dishonest.”

                      Er… in what sense is what I said circular? It’s not even clear what exactly you are talking about. You are making a claim with no backing.

                      You say:

                      “This has less to do with sexual activity and more to do with gender, which is why it’s become an identity issue. But I still can’t see any reason to accept genders outside of what has been the established genders since the dawn
                      of time. We’re obviously not the first society to put these limits under question, but we’re also not the first society to suggest that the limits should remain where they are. That tells me that the human condition can’t be repaired by philosophy or acceptance of our struggles but requires something greater.”

                      It’s not clear what you’re talking about here either.

                      You say:

                      “Anyway, to go down to your point of reductionism, I have to ask: does my body rule me or do I rule my body? This is a very serious question, regardless of whether it’s out-dated. I take my cue from Christian history where many Christians have shown that we are to rule our bodies as much as we possibly can; that we are to look to keep our minds and bodies healthy; and that we are
                      live in healthy relationships. If my body rules me, as a man who has suffered depression… well, I need not explain what would happen.”

                      You are your body; traditionally Christianity is dualistic and dualism is inaccurate and unhelpful.

                      You say:

                      “This is why I can’t see how your philosophy – or the current pervading philosophy of progressive society – would ever lead me to a place of better mental, spiritual and emotional health, and therefore see no way in which it
                      can lead anyone to a better place. I am to rule my body despite my chemical make-up, and indeed doing so (with the Spirit of God) has brought healing in many degrees. Why would encouraging others to do the same suddenly be seen as outdated or unloving?”

                      Sexuality and depression are apples and oranges; sexuality is based on neurological organization which largely occurs during prenatal development and again around puberty. Ethnicity is the better analogy.

                      I do not have anything else to say in response, I feel like
                      all of what I said initially still stands.

                    • http://www.ryanpeterwrites.com/ Ryan Peter

                      Thanks Jamie, but I tend to feel that all of your studying makes it difficult to have an open conversation, as it feels as if I’m being bulldozed into believing something just because some hotshots at a university say it’s true, and have all the apparent research to back it up. (Yet history shows that in ten years they’ll all change their minds anyway and claim all that previous research was flawed.)

                      This is why I tend to place more weight on church tradition, church fathers, theologians; the Bible and the Spirit above all; as there are general themes that run through all the best writing within the church and it’s those themes which bring healing and peace to my soul, and I believe can (and I’ve seen it does) bring to the souls of others.

                      And that’s why we’re missing each other here. We’re coming from two different foundations. I place less stock in modern education and philosophy as it does tend to change like the wind. I’m choosing 2,000 years of tradition that has proven true for generations upon generations, over 10 / 20 / (30?) years (one generation’s) sensibilities, trends and so-called “revelation”. I kind of think it arrogant that, in our day and age, we really think we’re smarter and better than generations of the past who all had the same problems. It’s not like we really have any different problems today! I guess I’m just not very chronocentric.

                      Thanks for the conversation, but as I’m not here to convince anyone of anything, but just to point out a few things that I think are important to consider, and also (admittedly) to point out what I believe to be some major hypocritical attitudes within the Christian progressive movement, I don’t see how this conversation really will be fruitful.

                      Appreciate it nevertheless! All the best with your studies, I’m sure I’ll see you around.

                    • Jamie Rehmel

                      You say:

                      “Thanks Jamie, but I tend to feel that all of your studying makes it difficult to have an open conversation, as it feels as if I’m being bulldozed into believing something just because some hotshots at a university say it’s true, and have all the apparent research to back it up. (Yet history shows that in ten years they’ll all change their minds anyway and claim all that previous research was flawed.)”

                      This is an ad hominem argument and not at all accurate. What you may mean is that periodically, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out, science has a paradigm shift which entails rewriting history books of science to fit with the new paradigm. This hardly means all the older experiments were wrong or did not contribute to our knowledge. See Quantum mechanics vs. Newtonian Physics.

                      You say:

                      “This is why I tend to place more weight on church tradition, church fathers, theologians; the Bible and the Spirit above all; as there are general themes that run through all the best writing within the church and it’s those themes which bring healing and peace to my soul, and I believe can (and I’ve seen it does) bring to the souls of others.”

                      You are, apparently, not at all familiar with Christian history. Church history is remarkable for how the surrounding culture has unequivocally influenced the faith and her manifestations such that there is no point where you can make any real differentiations. Indeed, I do not know what it would mean to write something that is cultureless… but I digress.

                      At any rate, this theological integration throughout history often included obvious borrowing from the surrounding “sciences” and philosophies. We see this in how the texts of the bible were constructed (e.g., Genesis creation stories; gospel of John) and the debates that shaped our theologies (e.g., Gnosticism vs. Ebionitism vs. what became orthodox, Nicene and Chalcedonian Christology, theology of Augustine and Aquinas borrowing from Aristotle and Plato). Phyllis Tickle also points out that these changes come to a head every 500 years or so and we see a revolution in the global church.

                      What is more, if you want a theologian to opine on these issues of science and theology: See Joel Green, Nancey Murphy, Warren Brown, etc.

                      You say:

                      “And that’s why we’re missing each other here. We’re coming from two different foundations. I place less stock in modern education and philosophy as it does tend to change like the wind. I’m choosing 2,000 years of tradition that has proven true for generations upon generations, over 10 / 20 / (30?) years (one generation’s) sensibilities, trends and so-called “revelation”. I kind of think it arrogant that, in our day and age, we really think we’re smarter and better than generations of the past who all had the same problems. It’s not like we really have any different problems today! I guess I’m just not very chronocentric.”

                      This is so outlandishly false that it’s hard to take it seriously. It appears you have a hang-up with scientific inquiry and are attempting to simply construct a straw-man to attack. It seems analogous to the straw-men created by creationists and creation museum types.

                      The illusion that your epistemology is grounded on 2000 years of seamless knowledge is delusional. The bible is a composite of texts that disagree on a litany of points but have been interpreted and reinterpreted over the years to facilitate theologies that are disputed on virtually every point.

                      Nevertheless, It seems to me you’re not basing your epistemology on the bible or “tradition” but on what you want to believe. I value the bible and Christian history very much, which is why I also have a masters degree in theology and I think that compliments what I do in the sciences.

                      You close with:

                      “Thanks for the conversation, but as I’m not here to convince anyone of anything, but just to point out a few things that I think are important to consider, and also (admittedly) to point out what I believe to be some major hypocritical attitudes within the Christian progressive movement, I don’t see how this conversation really will be fruitful.”

                      This is passive aggressive and tacky. Once again, you offer no examples or arguments for anything you claim.

    • Jamie Rehmel

      It may be helpful to approach the issue more holistically. It’s not so much,
      it seems to me, choosing my sexuality over Christ, but am I compatible with Christianity. “Sanctification” is a process whereby you work to become more inline with your “God image”. Assuming there is a God, this entails, at the very least, a combination of God and your imagination. Yet, this image seems “good” to you and worthwhile to follow. Imagine if it was unclear whether or not your God image and your ethnicity were compatible. That, it seems to me, is analogous to this issue.

      Now, you may argue that it’s not the same thing as ethnicity because we do not choose our ethnic heritage. But, sexuality seems to be about 50% genetic such that identical twins are concordant for homosexuality about 50% of the time. This is almost identical to the rates of concordance for Schizophrenia among identical twins. Yet you may also argue that “my sexuality” (used in this post rhetorically) is having sex. But, I would argue that sexuality entails much more than that and is actually intertwined with who I am and how I understand myself in relation to the world. I cannot, in any real sense, divorce myself from my sexuality anymore than I can divorce myself from being white.

      It seems to me, the primary issue is whether or not homosexual sex is compatible with Christian theology. This seems like a more precise issue. In order to engage in this inquiry, I think you need to include more than the bible to construct your epistemology. In fact, this is the model established by theologians throughout Christian history. Nancey Murphy argues that classic theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas pulled from the pagan philosophies of Aristotle and Plato in an effort to better conceptualize the self and understand eschatology. At any rate, you mentioned elsewhere on this feed that your tradition is Wesleyan so this shouldn’t be much of an issue. If you are willing to include more than the bible as sources of authority, then it seems to me that homosexual sex can be compatible whether or not that is the conclusion you draw.

      For me, I think about the human fundamental desire to attach to others. Indeed, attachment is such a basic need that to deprive someone of this, or interfere with its quality, has disastrous consequences in terms of the ability to learn, self-regulate emotionally, experience the world as safe, explore the world with competence, develop healthy relationships, etc. Many have argued that as we have become more individualistic and isolated in the U.S., emotional disorders have also risen (see Philip Cushman, Constructing American, Constructing the Self; or http://www.salon.com/2013/08/26/how_our_society_breeds_anxiety_depression_and_dysfunction_partner/).

      Assuming that attachment is a basic need, I also think about what it means for me to be attached to someone in the sense of friends and attached to someone in the sense of romantic partnership, regardless of whether or not that entails sexual activity. Those, I think we can all agree, are dramatically different experiences in terms of the level of emotional intimacy, support, and trust involved. Thus, it seems inconceivable to me to interfere with anyones ability to attach to another romantically whether or not that person is of the same sex or not. Remembering, as I pointed out earlier, this desire to romantically attach to someone of the same or opposite sex is not something that we choose.

      Now, if we agree that attachment is a fundamental need, sexual attraction is not something we can manipulate to the extent that we can convince ourselves to be attracted to male or female persons, and we do not feel it is right to arbitrarily block someone from that experience, we may do well to ask how then can we conceptualize this activity within a Christian framework. Well, the Christian tradition, the bible, and most Christian philosophers, be they professional or lay, agree that sex outside of marriage falls short of our understanding of God’s “way” of life in community. Therefore, it seems to me, that if we legalize same-sex marriage this issue will be largely ameliorated. Indeed, same sex marriage should unquestionably be legalized regardless of the church’s stance because of all the rights and privileges afforded to married couples and to deny that for same sex couples is nothing short of discrimination.

  • carrdexter3

    Something is not right in here. If you want to pledge your full service to God, it must start with our own selves in other words make a “Change”. How can a servant be a servant if He doesn’t create a homo . Only two kind of people was created, a man and a woman and gays are not acceptable to be part of the ministry perhaps if they make a change. http://frankviolaauthor.com/

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Carrdexter3, I’ve been blogging since 2004, and most of my readers have been here for years. Small-minded people like you used to comment here a lot. Not so much anymore.

      If you use the word “homo” again, you will be banned from commenting here. I’m leaving it in this comment as a public record of your idiocy.

    • Jamie Rehmel

      I don’t understand. You argue that “only two kind of people was created” men and women; therefore “gays are not acceptable to be a part of the ministry”. Yet gay and lesbian individuals are males and females. Therefore, by your logic, they are indeed acceptable “to be a part of the ministry”. Problem solved!

  • Todd

    Do you tell gay prospective students that Fuller is welcoming? Based on the press release you quoted above, it sounds like gay and lesbian students are not free to be (openly) in a relationship while they’re at Fuller. Baby steps I guess…

    • Jamie Rehmel

      I have friends who are gay and in relationships at Fuller. I’m not sure how it would ever really become an issue to be addressed; I suppose if there were public displays of affection on campus that someone complained about. None of us. that I know of, are usually kissing on campus.

  • zipi38

    as someone who has experienced life as a fundamentalist evangelical Christian and was involved in full time missions for 10 years let me remark upon the idea of submitting ones sexuality to Christ. I suppose the issue for most LGBT Christians is the the idea and practice of struggle with who we are inherently. That is: our bodies and minds are sacred as we were created-just as heterosexuality can be sacred. Most of us have struggled long and hard with trying to change ourselves into something we are not (hetero) and only by accepting the fact that we are different (ie LGBT) and accepting the fact that God loves us as we are can we reconcile faith and sexuality. This does not take away from responsibilities of Christian LGBT people to conduct themselves in a way that is loving in relationships, that is just because we are LGBT it does not mean we can go out and exploit others, or be uncommitted in relationships. Hence the desire for marriage equality.
    What would you say to someone who asked for years to be changed by God in one area, to truly and genuinely ‘sacrifice’ that area of life to God only to find him or herself in the depths of depression, anger, bitterness and despair for YEARS. Many people have taken their lives over this issue.

  • zipi38

    @The_B_C:disqus I understand your ‘stuckness’. I was once there too. But you realize that you are asking people to do that which you yourself have not done? You are asking why LGBT people can’t give up the possibility of a lifelong loving commitment with a partner that they value and adore when you have the luxury of being in a partnership that is highly esteemed by the church and society.

    LGBT christians realise that the sanctification of their sexuality that you described (giving up your attraction to other women or betraying your wife’s trust) is necessary and desirable for their lives- but it has been shown that trying to change a person from LGBT to ‘straight’ has ended many times in disaster. Maybe some people that you know have identified as LGBT falsely and when they come to God they are set free from that falsity, perhaps they were not LGBT in the first place.

    What if the person that you fell in love with and wanted to spend the rest of your life with was of the same sex or what if they had an intersex condition that you both didn’t know about…for example they have thought themselves to be female and they appear to be female but genetically they would be considered ‘male’ (it happens!). Would you forsake them because you believed it was impossible to reconcile with your faith?

    I think its good that you are asking questions btw. I hope you really think about the ones I proposed.

  • Jamie Rehmel

    JR Daniel Kirk supports Gay marriage. I beleive Dr. Dufault-Hunter does as well. I believe in class one day, during my first year, she mentioned that her church was moving/had moved toward full acceptance. My guess is the school of psych. has several welcoming professors; but, the issue doesn’t regularly come up.

    • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

      Re: Dr. Kirk, I can’t presume to speak for him, but my understanding of his position is that he would still hold a “traditional” position in regards to whether or not homosexuality is sinful, while supporting full civil benefits (including gay marriage) in the secular sphere.

      His position is highly nuanced, and more can be found here: http://www.jrdkirk.com/tag/homosexuality/

      • Jamie Rehmel

        Possibly. I never made a claim as to what he considers sinful; I simply said he supports gay & lesbian marriage.

        • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

          Understood. Your comment was simply a place where I felt the need to post a qualifier for those who might come here later and misunderstand. It wasn’t really for you, explicitly. I imagine Dr. Dufault-Hunter’s position might possibly be similar, as well (although she might well be “full acceptance” as you suggest she’s said her church is moving), but I can’t point to places she’s made her opinion public to demonstrate one way or the other.