How can we heal the disconnect between the Evangelical Church and the Gay Community?

One of the things that keeps the Church and the gay community from reconciling is a lack of listening. Hands down, the question I get asked most often by people who think homosexuality is a sin is, “How can you accuse the church of not loving gay people? Plenty of churches love gay people—they just do not accept their behavior. Wouldn’t it be less loving to allow them to behave however they want, in contradiction to the Bible?” This is a deep black hole of a question, but in my humble opinion it demonstrates a lack of listening to the majority of the gay community. The church is continuing to look at homosexuality as a behavior—and a behavior that goes against several (very debatable) passages in the Bible. The old adage to “love the sinner, hate the sin” comes to mind. It suggests that the Church is fully capable of loving a person completely while we acknowledge and root out the “sin” in her or his life (This is not even getting into the question of whether their sin is the Church’s business to root out in the first place). The problem with all of this is that it lacks the other half of dialogue.

The majority of the gay community insists again and again that their sexual orientation is not simply a behavior—that is a part of their identity in the same way that being straight is a part of someone’s identity. If sin is something that separates a person from God, which is a whole separate black hole of a debate in itself, than isn’t testimony from the gay community valuable? Why is the church dismissing it in their insistence that homosexuality is a behavior and that it is sinful? If the gay Christian community says, “We are gay—it is a part of our identity and not simply a behavior—it is not separating us from God or alienating us from other people, and we could not fight it without lying to ourselves,” what should the Church’s reaction be?

Before I was let go from camp, my friend Jeremy was let go from the same camp for being gay. He had been working at camp for several years in successful leadership, but that fall he had come out, and camp’s reaction was to inform him that he was very welcome to visit but was not welcome to work there. I sat in on a meeting as Jeremy tried to explain to the administration that he is the same person doing the same ministry—that he has actually grown closer to God as he has become more honest about his true identity—and that he felt embraced by God rather than convicted. The administration’s response was to shrug with sympathetic eyes as they quoted Scripture. I’d be willing to bet this sort of interaction happens a lot.

Scripture is a mystery, and a few times every century people come to the consensus that they were interpreting it incorrectly all along, and that the policy of say, not allowing women to be teachers, is actually just some bad theology that could be interpreted in a different way to keep the Church from becoming the oppressor. I dare the Church to throw away your easy answers and take a little risk when you converse with someone who is gay. Open your mind to the possibility that they could be telling the whole, complete truth about their identity and their orientation. Right now, the common interpretation of Scripture does not match the testimonies of thousands of intelligent, spiritual individuals. This is something that’s only going to be solved with both parties listening with real open hearts and empathy. Are we strong enough to listen?

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How can we heal the disconnect between the Evangelical Church and the Gay Community?