LGBTQ & The Issue of Celibacy

LGBTQ & The Issue of Celibacy July 15, 2015

Julie Rodgers, Susan Cottrell, Liz Dyer
Julie Rodgers, Susan Cottrell, Liz Dyer

I am proud of Julie Rodgers.  She was on staff at Wheaton College and committed to life-long celibacy for LGBTQ. I’m so proud that she has changed her mind, changed her heart and that she has just come out as “supportive of same-sex relationships.”

In her courageous shift, Julie has dealt honestly with her own heart, and she’s dealt authentically with people’s lived experience and the consequences of the unlove that denies the gay reality.

I found Julie’s talks early on in my journey of advocacy, while she was a gay Christian who believed she should be celibate. I was deeply moved by Julie’s commitment to hear the voice of Jesus. Not to a particular perspective, or doctrine, but to seek out Jesus personally and follow.

When gay Christians came to her, she told them, “Just follow Jesus.” What more could anyone want?

The first time I met Julie was in Dallas when I had lunch with her and my friend Liz Dyer. I found her delightful—every bit as buoyant and full of life as I’d expected, having watched her talks online. As I listened to her, I thought: This woman loves Jesus with everything in her. She has a heart of gold, she is joyful and kind, and she is committed to discerning and doing what is right as she abides in Christ.

She overflowed with life abundant in the richness of Christ.

How is someone so loving and relational going to make it the rest of her life with NO CHANCE of a significant relationship? I wondered. How could this possibly be the best thing for this young woman, and so many in her position who desperately want to do the right thing?

It’s clear from her posts that Julie is all about vibrant community, the very thing the Bible calls us to, and she has worked hard to cultivate those tightknit friendships to sustain her in her celibacy. I considered her future. How will she make it in five, ten, twenty years, as friends pair off and she is left much more alone? Even the best-intentioned “band of sisters and brothers” do not always last through the ups and downs, the goods and bads, like that one special relationship does. Not even close. How would life go for Julie in her 40s… and 50s… and beyond?

I admit that I did not think her celibacy commitment would last. Because I’m a genius? No. Because a celibate life is untenable. Except for those specifically called, which are few and far-between, celibacy is not going to happen. I’m not talking about the sex. I’m talking about the intimate sharing between committed couples, the being there through thick and thin, the sharing of life’s rituals with a partner who loves and supports you.

Rob and I have been married 28 years next week. We have inside jokes and favorite lines. We prepare dinner together and go on trips together. We play backgammon every morning over breakfast! We talk about our kids, whom we love to the ends of the earth, together. Imagine a whole segment of the population forced to face their entire lives without that intimacy. Talk about unnatural! It is supremely unnatural to live life with no hope of that kind of life-sharing with someone you deeply love.

Yet, that is what some box-Christians want. They may say the bible gives them no choice, but I believe they take this stand so that they don’t have to face this thing (gayness) that makes them so uncomfortable. If they experienced the marginalization that has been forced on LGTBQ people, they would see things differently.

If they simply listened to others’ lived experience, they would see things differently.

They would see that forced celibacy is a harder road than they can imagine, and they should be a lot more humble regarding the entire subject.

Julie Rodgers is one of the most committed Jesus-followers I know. If you have even a tiny opening in your certainly that this whole same-sex relationship or gay marriage thing is wrong, whether you are gay or straight, take Julie’s advice from those who ask her. “I’ve just told them to follow Jesus—to seek to honor Him with their sexuality and love others well.”

That’s advice we would all do well to follow.

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