Why Every Christian Leader Needs to Have a Good Relationship with a Homosexual

Why Every Christian Leader Needs to Have a Good Relationship with a Homosexual June 7, 2013

In his post, “Why Every Christian Leader Needs To Have a Good Answer about Homosexuality“, Tony Jones asserts directly, concisely and correctly that “…LGBT issues are a wave crashing across American culture right now, and you don’t get to not have an opinion about it.”    It truly is a fantastic post and could not be more spot on.  It raises a critical concept and responds in no uncertain terms (which we all know Tony is pretty good at anyway).

In his post he responding to both a specific conversation and a wider cultural concept among some Christian leaders.  He and Doug Pagitt were having lunch with an unnamed prominent Christian leader “When the subject of marriage equality came up, he pushed back on me a bit: “Tony, it’s just not my issue. My issue is ______. Why do you insist on pulling me into the issue that you think is most important?”

Yeah, I totally get it that there are people the world over who are in desperate need of a compassionate word from and decisive action by people of faith who live their faith as a call to action.  I agree 100% that as people of faith we need to be directing our energy to addressing the deep pains of a world groaning under the oppressions we ourselves have wrought. But I also know that the church has lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children of God aching to be seen and heard, really seen and heard – and loved.

So here is my invitation to Tony and other bloggers who are having these conversations.  Whenever you can, please go one step further and explicitly remind your readers and leaders you have lunch with that we are not an issue.  We are not politics and we are not a lifestyle. I know that Tony believes and lives this. Indeed, in his recent post he states “It’s also because GLBT persons have rightly asked the church for a response.”  But it truly can not be said too many times; we are not debating the issue of hymns verses praise bands nor are we asking about an abstract concepts like transubstantiation or theodicy.  When asking the church, a congregation, a leader or a friend about “where one stands on marriage equality” what we are really asking is, ‘Do you regard me as a sacred child of God?’ or ‘Do you believe that I am equally free in Christ to live and love another child of God?”   What we are also asking is ‘do you regard me as an equal citizen of this country where we claim that we believe in and pledge uphold liberty and justice for all?’

The only way I see forward is to continuously invite people into what Christian educator Carol Lakey Hess has termed “an invitation to ‘hard dialogue and deep connections’: (a) with one another, (b) with Scripture and tradition, and (c ) with God.”  People’s real lives and the questions we raise rarely have easy answers. These sorts of conversations require: 1) honest questioning and conversations, 2) hard dialogue and deep connections and 3) searching for an understanding of God’s will through theological and biblical study prayer, and discussion, which in turn leads to action.  I implore everyone, everyone, everyone to do the really hard work of moving toward one another into that space where the Holy Spirit dwells.  That means I need to be open to the chance of being deeply hurt and disappointed and others need to be open to the chance of being radically changed.

Change does not begin with a well thought out answer to a complex issue but in the messy and grace-filled relationship with beautiful and broken people.

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115 responses to “Why Every Christian Leader Needs to Have a Good Relationship with a Homosexual”

  1. Oh my. My first thought on reading the headline of this post was “So that they can claim to have a gay friend while explaining how they don’t like the thought of gay rights/gay marriage?” Definitely glad to have been so wrong. 🙂

  2. With you in concept, but not 100% in procedure:

    “That means I need to be open to the chance of being deeply hurt and disappointed and others need to be open to the chance of being radically changed.”

    …and vice-versa, right? Because in a conversation EVERYBODY has to be open the the fact that they might be wrong and have something to learn. This phrasing (and much of the rest in the article) suggests a double-standard for that conversation, in which one of the hypothetical parties are presumed to be humbly correct, and the other humbly corrected. That’s not discourse, that’s pageantry at best, hubris at worst. It certainly doesn’t sound like a recipe for a sincere, even footed conversation.

    As someone who is very much in favor of marriage equality, I still hope I can treat people who disagree with me with the respect that their opinions may also be of some value, so both of us might move to a deeper understanding together. Surely that’s better than assuming they are only useful as a mind to be changed?

    Anyway, I’m hoping this is what you mean – so much of the process you outline is refreshingly humble and suggests this openness, but all of that feels undercut by this particular language at the end.

    • Yes, most definitely visa versa, well up to a point of course. I have been listening to the personally directed vitriol of others for a very, very long time. I have tried my best to engage folks in deep dialog only to realize that I was supposed to simply agree to their lecture and change from who God made me to be into some perverted half-self. I have been the object of the pageantry and hubris – well, in fact am on a daily basis because I put myself out here in the way that I do. And I keep on opening myself up. Thankfully I have a soul that is both prepared for and surprised by every such encounter. I have listened and listened, I remain ever hopeful and open but there does come a time when I simply want to be heard – really heard and seen.

      That being said, I can treat people with whom I disagree with respect only if I am afforded the same in return. The problem is that the relationship is already tilted if the person with whom I am in conversation does not regard my personhood as equal to their own and equally deserving of the same civil rights they enjoy with little to no effort of their part.

      So yes, I do mean a true dialog, true discourse with equal humility and openness but I really do need to see that posture in the other (after decades of abusive encounters) before I can honestly and 100% let my guard down.

      With prayers for my own growth in Grace,

  3. kimberly, i love your posts, and have been following you ever since RHE first linked to your blog. i’m christian (quaker), and bisexual. it’s fantastic to have as many lgbtq++ christian blogs out there telling stories/building theology from a queer perspective. thank you!

    i really, really don’t want to sound petty here, but i just have to tweak the title of this article. i TOTALLY agree with its main points, and even it’s not so main points. yet, as a bisexual, i often feel as if the language of ‘gayness’ often either disregards bi and trans voices (simply due to the focus on the words/concepts ‘gay’, or homosexual), or ignores our unique place in this crazy quilt. i recognise that gay is the easiest way of bringing all of the voices together under one word: it’s a simple, very portable word that everyone knows, and seems to cover a wide variety of different sexual orientations under its very wide conceptual umbrella. in the debate about lgbtq inclusion in the church, there are enough confusions without adding nomenclature.

    yet, i wonder if there’s a way of satisfying the need for an easy catch-all word while also not silencing those under this umbrella who don’t identify as ‘homosexual’, per se. what do you think? again, thank you very much!

    • Dan,

      Thank you so much for being a reader and voice at this wonky little table ober here. I totally hear your concern and as you know I most often use the LGBT letters or am very specific in each post as it pertains to the specific people with whom I am in conversation. In this case the title was chosen to specifically repsond to a post title and content (referenced in the first sentence) by Tony Jones.

      I am sorry though if you feel this post does not include you but in all truth not everything a writer will create can be all encompassing for all audiences. Such writing can become watered down, banal and pointless. I do hope you can see yourself in the overarching theme of rejecting the impulse to talk about us as issues rather than people.

      That said, I am sometimes quite weary of all the labels we give ourselves or others give us. I know we need to differentiate at times but the ever-growing alphabet soup might actually work against the effort to just be regarded and treated as equally blessed children of God.


      • Kimberly, please don’t mistake me: i did feel included in the post, under that very same overarching theme that you mentioned! that’s one of the reasons why i read every post: i love that you make a point of trying to hold many issues/people/perspectives together in tension. that’s the beauty, and challenge, of this whole lgbtq coalition: the one thing that really brings us all together is that we don’t fit into the heteronormative box, and we’re all striving for equality in this country of ours.

        so please accept my apology. i’ve noticed this shift, as the same-sex marriage debate has taken centre stage in recent years, towards discussing issues from the perspective of ‘homo’ sexuality, almost as the main hermeneutic. that makes sense if you’re trying to explain something complicated in terms that can be translated to many different people and situations. and we’ve seen some incredible strides in recent years! i, along w/many other bi/pan people, have noticed that the focus on monosexuality can leave our voices quiet. it makes many of us a bit sensitive at times, especially in queer-friendly spaces. i’ve also noticed that much of the church/theology talk about queer issues focuses on ‘gay’ issues. i know that i fit in there, and that i belong…but i wonder if bi issues/voices will be lost.

        so i apologise for giving you the impression that i was criticising your post for painting all queer issues as ‘gay’ issues. i’m not. i really was trying to see what your thoughts on the slide towards ‘gay’ meant for the conversation, and if you think that ‘gay’ is becoming the catch-all for all queerness, or if the energy in the church for awareness and work really will only be focused on the L and G. there are spaces that feel that way to me, even in the church, and i have a passion for cracking open the conversation. what do you think?


        • The word gay just might be sliding toward the one word stand in for all queer as much at LGBT tends to be used even in our own community with an understanding that there are really more letters than those 4. I admit it may be because of a place of privilege as one of the recognized letters and one of the two main folks most often named in conversations, but I have to admit I get a little weary of conversations within our community that devolve into semantics that seem (to me) to divert energy from moving the larger conversation forward.

          That being said, I think that yes, at times the conversation does solely focus on the L and G especially when it comes to conversations in the church about marriage because the other two letters are still growing in people’s awareness and understanding. Maybe it is laziness, maybe it is still a dawning comprehension of the vast and shifting scale of sexuality – though likely a little of both and other things too.

          As for my own blog, I write in a very personal manner. I write from my own experiences and do not try to speak for everyone because I cant. I can no more speak for you than I could speak on behalf of a South Korean lesbian or a transgender man from Peru or a 75 year old straight woman. I can only speak from my own lived experience which by its very nature is limited and filtered.

  4. I like that you asked general-banal questions, that anyone would easily answer yes to. The better question to ask would have been: Does God approve of the way I live my life? what do you think?

    • I can hardly presume to know the mind of God and to say so would be pert near heresy as I understand it. What I hear you asking is do Christians who believe they know the mind of God approve of the way I live my life. What I can say is that I live my life according to principles of love, generosity, accountability, intentionality, integrity and most of all faith in a God of radical grace and extravagant welcome. I am secure in my relationship with our holy parent, our blessed brother and the spirit that permeates and binds us all.

      • I am not asking that you seek the approval of other men and women; I couldn’t care less about how others view me, nor should you or anyone. Of course that is not to say that i don’t respect others! I do, and I love everyone, no hate in my heart!!! What I am asking is, for you, me and everyone to seek God’s point of view. If you don’t know the mind of God how do you know that he is “a God of radical grace and extravagant welcome?” Furthermore, what does He say about homosexuality?

        • David,

          Your comment is rather telling in a few ways so I will keep you in my prayers. This particular post of mine is not about biblical debate nor will I go there. Please take the time to read a few more of my posts and you will learn a great deal about how I respond to questions like you are posing.

          • Oh come on… how is this a biblical debate. I did not mention one verse. “telling in a few ways,” Are you calling me a racist?!

            I am doing what you suggest in the article: 1) honest questioning and conversations, 2) hard dialogue and deep connections and 3) searching for an understanding of GOD’S WILL through theological and biblical study prayer, and discussion, which in turn leads to action.

            • David,

              A.Since this is not a conversation about race I would hardly use the term racist in this context.

              B. If you were in fact using the intentionally ignorant language of a racist I would delete and ban. Promise

              C. If you are truly interested in dialoge and connection then you will take the time to read more than this post, learn how I have come to understand the presence of God’s love in my life, and hopefully satiate your desire for deeper understanding. If, after you have made that investment of time and energy you can return with gentle and humble questions I would be more than happy to engage you in further dialog.

              D. After you have done so, and after you have read the Comment Covenant, I will respond to your comments. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/comment-covenant/)

              • I feel that you don’t really want to talk to me. You just want me to go away! if so tell me directly. I may be wrong, but I have not written anything that “disregards the tenets” of the “comment Covenant.” You want me to read other articles, direct me to those that deal with our conversation. You have at least 80 article you want to read all of them? sounds like busy work to me. I think you are in violation of the comment covenant, because you are evading and not engaging.

                • I did not say you were in breach of anything nor have I even whispered of asking you to go away. I just pointed you to the covenant as a reminder as I do other readers who may need a little encouragement to broaden their exposure to what this blog and I am about. I am glad to see you took the time to read them.

                  And no, bot busy work, just asking you to make a little investment, make a little effort since I have already answered questions like yours in posts before.

                  I will give you one answer to what seems to be your question – what does God think of my life right? As a reading, praying, church going Christian who seeks God in all that I do and in every face I meet I am in a secure relationship with God who has blessed me with a wonderful life, a beautiful family, a gift to share and a community with which to share it. I believe that everything comes from God, including my sexuality, and everything shall be returned to God with gratitude by loving my neighbor as myself. That is what I know in my heart as one who has personally and tangibly experienced the presence of God.

                  Is that the answer you were looking for? Beyond that there are no definitive answers.

                  Now, please take some time to get to know me through my other writing, pick a few according to your own interests (and the subsequent comments are good reading too), before continuing to ardently and obsessively pursing this line of questioning.

                • You are still evading. People live their lives how they want, and then try to rationalize their actions to make them feel better. The way I see it, you have to own it! God gave us free will, and it is an individual gift, use it how you see fit. For example, I am a fornicator, I love women. I don’t rationalize my actions by saying I am loving God’s children so it is okay for me to continue to be a fornicator. I do not seek God, because I don’t have any intention of changing. If God disapproves, oh well. God clearly disagrees with homosexuality why try to be Godly when you go against his word?

                • I gave you a direct answer to what I think God thinks of my life. How on earth is that evading. I am sorry you are so limited in your understanding of God’s endless love. I will no longer address any of your comments and if they escalate to any level of aggression they will be deleted and you will be banned.

  5. KImberly: I believe you know me well enough by now to know that I intend this only as a push back to what you have said. You say that you are inviting all of us into the space where the Holy Spirit dwells and that this will mean ” I need to be open to the chance of being deeply hurt and others need to be open to the chance of being radically changed.” I don’t know what it feels like to have been hurt deeply as a gay person by some of us out here in christian church that I’m part of. I know what its like to come alongside a member of my own family whio is gay and try to encourage and comfort him. I know what it feels like to sit with friends who are gay and ask for their forgiveness on behalf of people calling themselves “the Christian Church.” But, admittedly, I don’t “know” what the hurt feels like. However, after reading your statement which I quoted above, I am once again feeling put off by the notion that only those that oppose some of the foundational beliefs in the gay community are the ones who are going to undergo “radical change” in the space where the Holy Spirit dwells. The rest of you in the gay community are going to be those who are going to be “hurt”. I don’t get that. Your statement is exactly what I have heard from a very close gay friend and it is exactly what a gay person in my family says on occassion. I feel that is very condescending and frankly naive. Isn’t it possible that “all” of us are broken and that all of us could and will be radically changed if we gather and remain in the space where the Holy Spirit dwells?

    • Ron,

      I do hear you and agree to a point. If you’ve read my post A Lesbian Changed Thrpugh Jesus then maybe you’ll see he ways I have been changed in relationship with other Christians.

        • I am sorry, replying on my phone limited my words for some reason.

          What I hope you know about me is that I believe that all people can be changed in relationship. What I hope for the LGBT folk who enter relationship with Christians is the blessed assurance that they are beloved by God. What I have had the incredible honor to experience is reintroducing people to a Jesus that loves them unconditionally. The change that I have seen occur in queer friends is a belief in God that becomes realized by living into a life of commitment to love God, neighbor and self.

          What I will NEVER accept is a changing that requiers that I revile myself or my gay sisters and brothers. What I will never change into is a Christian that rejects a holy created part of myself. My sexuality is NOT up for changing but of faith I hope will always get a revision that plunges me deeper in connection to others and closer to God.

          • Thanks for adding that. And you must know that in no way or at no time would I expect or desire you to change into someone who is required to revile your gay sisters and brothers. I also just quickly read the article you referred to and some of the comments. I appreciated your article, and as I’ve said before, you certainly challege my thinking and I do admire the way you respond to some of the hateful venom that people direct toward you. I very saddened by it all though because while I continue to disagree with you where our disaggreements are, I think so highly of you. Keep on writin, sister.

  6. Kimberly, thank you for this reminder. Being the brother of one who is gay, the cousin of one who is gay, and pastor and friends with gay persons, we need to remember that our friends and family aren’t an issue but people created in the image of God, whom God loves completely.

    • Indeed Robert. Let us keep lifting those with no LGBT friends in prayer that they might form relationships that open their hearts and minds so much that they are compelled to open their mouths.