Ashley Madison. Two words that are continually floating around the evangelical world this week. Two words that are causing unimaginable anxiety and fear to rise in the hearts of so many evangelical leaders and laypeople alike. Two words that are highlighting all of our propensity to stumble and fall in our moments of greatest stress and greatest weakness.
In the past few weeks, we have heard the confessions of some of the pastors, political leaders, and theologians that have shaped the faith of hundreds of thousands of people. Confessing to unfaithfulness. Confessing to weakness. Confessing to being human. For many in the evangelical world, the response, borne out of pain and confusion, will be one of swift judgment and condemnation. Others, in an attempt to try to defend and protect those leaders who have fallen into sin, will call for unmerited grace and forgiveness, highlighting the common sinfulness of us all and how even leaders deserve a second chance.
As an queer evangelical, I find myself conflicted in moments like these. On one hand, I am a relentless advocate for grace and restoration for all people- laypeople and leaders alike. How could I claim to follow Jesus and not be willing to speak his words, “Neither do I condemn you…” I am far too aware of my own flaws, weaknesses, and failures to use this moment to boast in the sin and failures of others. Yet, at the same time, I find myself feeling a profound sense of confusion.
As you might imagine, many of those whose sin is being brought to light are the very same people who have most actively condemned those of us who identify as LGBTQ and actively work to keep us from entering in to the covenant of marriage. They are the same ones who have said same-sex relationships are “gross and heinous sin” and who have suggested that same-sex marriages are so wicked that they pose a deep threat to “women, children, free speech, and even the economy.” They are the ones who have claimed to defend the “sanctity of marriage” against LGBTQ couples who are desperately seeking to participate in this holy ordinance, while they themselves were the ones violating their covenant to their spouse and to God.Let’s be clear. LGBTQ Christians are arguing for the right to enter into the sacrament of marriage, the sacred covenant before God to commit ourselves to one spouse, to love them and give ourselves for them, just as Christ gave himself for the Church. We are fighting for fidelity. For commitment. For the right, both in society and in the Church, to be faithfully committed to the one we love and to demonstrate Christ’s love through our relationship to the world. We are fighting to create families where our children will be nurtured and raised up in faithfulness and love.
Yet despite all of this, we are being denied access to this holy right. And the very leaders who are most actively working to keep us from this sacrament are the same ones who are being revealed as those who themselves have struggled to maintain the integrity of their own marital vows.
This reality is one that pains me at the deepest level of my being. I find these revelations of infidelity deeply troubling and I mourn for the individuals, their spouses, their families, and their ministries. I do not rejoice in the failings of those who have harmed me. It is my sincerest hope that they will find complete healing and restoration out of this period of great darkness.
But it is also my hope that in the midst of this period of revelation, that the eyes of the Church would be open to the blatant hypocrisy of denying LGBTQ people access to holy matrimony, while the staunchest defenders of the sanctity of marriage are themselves the ones who are degrading it’s integrity. How can anyone, in good conscience, continue to deny the right to covenant and commitment to LGBTQ Christians while covenant and commitment are constantly being chipped away at in evangelical heterosexual families?
As the Apostle Peter said, judgment does indeed begin with the house of God. This period of judgment is not to bring about our condemnation, but to lead us to repentance and restoration. It is my deepest prayer that in this period of sifting and sanctifying that God’s people would wake up to our own hypocrisy and open our hearts to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Now is the time that we must cease barring our LGBTQ brothers and sisters from holy matrimony. Now is the time that we must humble ourselves in a posture of learning and repentance. Now is the time that we must open our eyes to see what God is doing through our LGBTQ siblings. For the sake of the institution of marriage. For the sake of the Gospel. And for the sake of the Church.