Back in 2015, I posted an article called “Not A Sin?” on my previous blog site called ‘Subversive1’, after several weeks of showing the post to a handful of people I respected, and especially those who were members of the LGBTQ community. My concerns were two-fold: One, I wanted to be sure that my response was solid from a scriptural standpoint, and Two, I really wanted to be careful not to inadvertently insult or belittle my friends who were not straight.
Edits were made based on those conversations, and literally a few of them were actual phone calls where I was extended immeasurable grace for some of the language I had used without thinking about how it would come across to people outside my frame of reference.
Still, posting that first article on my blog was – for me – a very big deal. In a way, I was “coming out” along with my gay and transgender friends, because I was stepping out of the shadows and standing alongside them, for better or worse.
After that, it got a bit easier to share my thoughts on this subject – and it is one where I am still really processing and learning and growing, to be very honest.
But, even just a few days before I posted that first article, I was not sure where I stood with the topic of gay marriage. My wife Wendy and I would take long walks around the block together and during this time our topic of conversation was very much about this question: Is it ok for gay people to be married?
Now, I know that for some of you, this isn’t even a question. Of course they should be married! [Well, duh.] But, for someone who is honestly wrestling through the question, it is not really that clear or that easy to answer. In other words, it takes some time to logically, and theologically, cross that line in your heart and mind.
So, just the other day, a friend of mine, author and pastor Brian Zahnd, took some heat from yet another friend of mine, Chuck McKnight, for a Tweet he had made about gay people being fully accepted into the Body of Christ, but mentioning that his church does not perform same-sex weddings. [Full disclosure: Brian Zahnd wrote the Foreword to my latest book, “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible.“]
That article, also posted here on Patheos, was gentle, thoughtful, and sincere – as many of Chuck’s articles tend to be. [Full disclosure: Chuck and I are currently co-writing a book together for Quoir publishing]. In the response, Chuck was careful to mention his connection to Brian, and to me. I do understand where he’s coming from, and why he felt the need to write this. However, I was disappointed with the overall post – and mostly with the reaction to the post rather than the post itself.
Reading Chuck’s article made me remember how, early on in my own process and development around this topic, it might have been counterproductive for me to have received a similar rebuke like that one.
But reading the comments and reaction to Chuck’s article gave me even greater pause. I can understand that Brian’s position is hurtful to many people – especially those in the LGBTQ community who have looked to him as someone they believed was on their side. I get that. I can understand the disappointment and the betrayal they must feel (and Chuck’s article does a great job of shedding some light on that).
My concern was mostly with the direction that some of the comments were going and that’s why I felt the need to write this post. Not as a correction to Chuck’s post – which I love – but more as another voice in this same, ongoing conversation.
When I was still in the study and research phase of this whole question about LGBTQ relationships, it wasn’t easy to navigate. Honestly, it was the kindness, and the grace that was extended to me by my very patient and loving LGBTQ friends that helped me change my way of thinking on this issue. If I had been blasted for not being all the way across the finish line, I may have decided to give up completely.
In our house church family, we developed a mantra of sorts that says “everyone is in process” and by that we mean that not everyone is on the same page, or in the same place, theologically. So, we have learned to have extreme grace for one another – especially if we encounter someone who believes something today that we once believed ourselves only a few years (or months) ago.
As for me, I’m mostly very proud of Brian Zahnd for taking the stand that he takes on this issue, because I know that it’s not easy or comfortable to stand where he’s standing. So, he affirms and loves the gay Christians in his own church, and he allows them to participate fully. However, he does not [yet] perform same-sex weddings.
Is that full inclusion? No. But, it’s also not “anti-inclusion” either. It’s an uncomfortable spot in the middle ground, but – I would argue – it’s a point along the curve that is bending towards full inclusion.
Now, I do hope and pray that one day very soon he may continue to process and progress and eventually he may turn the corner on this issue – as most of us are hopeful that he will – but, until that day, I’d rather show support for Brian’s progressive momentum in the right direction, even if he’s not all the way home, yet.
Please understand: I’m not saying I agree with Brian’s decision not to perform same-sex marriages. That’s not what I’m saying. Not at all.
What I’m saying is: Let’s affirm the steps that Brian has made so far, and let’s encourage him to continue to think – and rethink – this issue in light of Christ and the radical inclusiveness of the Gospel.
However, if you feel the need to demonize and scapegoat Brian for his failure to have arrived at the same spot in the road where you happen to be, then please remember that there may be areas of your own theology that are as equally underdeveloped and lacking.
Think about the grace you would like to receive from the rest of us as you make your way down that path, and then try to extend some of that same wonderful grace to Brian Zahnd, and other pastors and teachers just like him, who have made positive steps towards full inclusion, and one day – with your love and grace – may soon arrive at the place where you’ve been standing for a while now.
That day will be so much sweeter for all of us if we’ve modelled a spirit of love and grace to one another along the path.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.
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