Tag Archives: gays and Christianity

Gay Christians

For decades public opinion assumed that if you were gay you could not be Christian, and if you were Christian you could not be gay. The two were mutually exclusive. Theologians, authors, psychotherapists, and religious advocacy groups have challenged that assumption in recent years. In prior blog posts, I have cited several authors and written reviews of their books telling their personal stories of how they reconciled their sexual orientation with their faith.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources in 2009 and again in 2013 published “Building an Inclusive Church: A Welcoming Toolkit 2.0” with the support of eleven different denominational organizations. It provided an outline for Protestant Churches to provide a more open and receptive relationship with their LGBT members, and in some case to make a formal statement to that effect in their policies and publications.

This past fall, the Reformation Project, headed by Matthew Vines in Salt Lake City, hosted a conference at the National City Christian Church in Washington, DC that drew a star group of speakers and leaders and several hundred in attendance. Just this week in Portland, OR, Justin Lee with the Gay Christian Network, headquartered here in Raleigh, led several hundred evangelical leaders in a conference titled “Together at the Table.” Most of the denominational organizations cited above also host periodical national and/or regional conferences. The Reconciling United Methodists of North Carolina hosted one in Winston-Salem in 2013 and another in Greensboro in 2014. They are affiliates of the Reconciling Ministries Network that is headquartered in Chicago.

For several years the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, has had a full-time staff member for faith partnerships for reaching out to churches and faith communities. Many Reformed Jewish congregations and some individual Catholic Churches have organized connections with the LGBT community, and the new Pope has taken a much less judgmental view of LGBT people. So the gap between the two is closing both from the approach of gay activities and from the religious leaders. The radical right wing of the Republican Party and the Southern Baptist Convention are the two remaining holdouts that still use homophobia as both a political weapon and a judgment against all homosexuals.

The media seems to have been focused exclusively on same-sex marriage and the controversy that has risen in the past five years and the rapid reversal of state laws regarding the issue. The number of cases that have reached federal appellate courts has with only a few exceptions struck down state laws banning same-sex marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to finally consider the issue even though it has declined to the review the decisions of appellate courts in recent years.

In the United Methodist Church, the media has focused on the church trials of ministers who have conducted same-sex marriage in violation of official church policy and how the regional administrators, who in this church are called bishops, have conducted those trials. There has been less publicity about the wave of congregations across the country that have openly stated their willingness to welcome LGBT people as members in full standing. The international legislative body of the United

Methodist Church, known at the General Conference, has debated the issue of the role of homosexuals in the church every four years since 1972 without any movement. This is in contrast with the other mainline Protestant Denominations who not only welcome LGBT people as members but also have ordained them as clergy.

For too long the debate centered on the interpretation of seven verses in the Bible that supposedly address the Christian theology about the practice of homosexuality. Some people have even said that it is OK to be homosexual as long as you do not act on that orientation and remain celibate, so that splits the hairs even further. Fortunately, the discussion seems to have moved more to whether or not LGBT people are to be accepted rather than condemned and not to focus so much on church dogma and the literal interpretation of a few scriptures. More LGBT advocacy groups are becoming less anti-religious, and more faith communities are becoming less hung-up on gay sex so the breech is narrowing.

 

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Hounded by God

I don’t know if there is any interest in yet another book review, but I’ve been surprised that since I wrote my memoir this spring I’ve come across several books about being gay and Christian. Each author wrote from a different perspective and so gives a different view of reconciliation.  I also found a variety of writing styles that reflected their different personalities and objectives.  One simply summarized the interviews with a variety of people with different opinions on the issue and then commented on his own perspective.  I recently finished Hounded by God by Joseph Gentilini that is an edited excerpt of his journals.

He is the only author I’ve read who wrote from the perspective of a practicing Catholic.  His journal entries are organized by subject and then by chronology, but I found several repetitive in that they kept dealing with the same issue over and over without any resolution. Adminittedly, he took on a strong opponent in challenging the church hierarchy, but I think the clash between organized religion and the LGBTQ community is more universal just the Catholic church.

I struggled with his assertion that his relationship with Christ is partially revealed through the loving relationship with his partner.  I agree that their relationship is not sinful, but I believe that we first experience our love from Christ and then share it with others. He first loved us, and when we learn finally to accept and love ourselves, then we can share that love.

I have been involved for several years with the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), which is one of several organizations trying to reconcile the established denominations with the fact that many of their members are gay and have been discriminated against. By continuing to preach the dogma that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful, they are directly damaging the lives of millions of people that unfortunately end in suicide because they cannot reconcile those teachings with their own experience. Joseph has been active in Dignity, which is an organization of Catholics similar to the RMN that is active politically in the United Methodist Church.  Change is going to come only when we enjoy the support of our “straight” allies.

If I could summarize the theme of the books I’ve read recently is the fact that each of the authors has struggled with the doctrines of his church and has come to more or less overlook them (or in spite of them) in developing his relationship with God and Jesus.  Sorry, but I’ve not read anything from Jews or Muslims on this issue, but I think it would present an even more difficult conflict.  The churches are 30 years behind corporations in coming to terms with the diversity of life in America.  We all grow when we embrace each other rather than continue to haggle with rancor on what are essentially minor theological issues.  This issue has been co-opted by the politicians for their advantage, but they are increasing discovering that homophobia is not only unpopular but also damaging to their careers.  We must stop them using us as their “bogey-man.”

 

 

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