At the Intersection of Ethics and Ecclesiology

Over at the Gospel Coalition, Corey Widmer has a post that reads like it could have appeared here at Spiritual Friendship. There are at least two points he makes that are especially relevant to our discussions here.

The first has to do with the church as an alternative plausibility structure:

I believe one of the most serious callings of the church in our age is to create new, countercultural plausibility structures that make the demands of the gospel plausible, practical, and attractive. If a gay friend is going to embrace a life of chastity for Jesus Christ, she must be able to look into the future and see not only the loss and pain but also the possibility that a real fulfilling life can be lived. If we don’t work at this task, if we don’t create the kinds of communities in which the countercultural lifestyle we’re advocating is supported and upheld, we’ll continue to see people choose plausibility structures that make more sense and have greater support from the culture.

Similar sentiments have been voiced by our own Matt Jones in his discussion of the plausibility of the church as community for LGBT people:

This imaginative failure is also a moral failure, with churches leaving their gay members with little to no ability to actually live – or god forbid thrive – within the rich tradition of church teaching.

While I have commented previously on what makes the church a safe place for same-sex attracted people, I think Widmer goes beyond this to discuss churches that are not just safe, but indeed communities that encourage and cultivate flourishing for LGBT people.

Finally, Widmer’s conclusion regarding the connection between ethics and ecclesiology is worth noting:

I realize what I’m proposing here leaves many unanswered questions. The church’s social arrangements aren’t the only factor that will enable us to live faithful sexual lives, for even the best Christian community will utterly fail without the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit at the center. I’m simply trying to make the case that we cannot espouse the historically Christian view of sexuality without also embracing a radical view of community that makes the biblical ethic viable, practical, and plausible. Self-denying sexuality needs robust ecclesiology. To do one without the other is to continue to inflict pain on the LGBTQ friends we’re inviting to follow Jesus.

Check out the whole article if you have a chance.

Kyle KeatingKyle Keating received his M.Div. at Covenant Theological Seminary and teaches theology and history at a small Christian school in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives with his wonderful wife Christy. He can be followed on Twitter: @KyleAKeating.

8 thoughts on “At the Intersection of Ethics and Ecclesiology

    • To begin the journey from point A to point B, it is a prerequisite that people be at point A. Where I am, it’s still a common belief that LGBT people can easily get “straightened out” by ex-gay programs and subsequently ushered right into marriage, which is viewed as the default destination for everyone. If someone thinks that all LGBT people can enter and thrive in straight marriages with the right therapy, why would they have any motivation to be concerned about the loneliness of said LGBT people?

      I know that I can’t sit back and wait for someone else to step up and kickstart change. I’m still struggling with how I should communicate, by words and by example, the need for the church to extend its loving community beyond the bounds of married couples with children to also include all people in non-nuclear family situations. But I know that somehow, there’s an opportunity for me to put my singleness to good use, and this may be an opportunity to do something beneficial with it.

  1. What I liked about the article is that it challenges us to think beyond any particular group. It is not about gay ir straight, married or singled. Although the article does recognize that gay people have it harder than straight people it challenges us to be vulnerable. To stop pretending we have a perfect life. Are we ready to acknowledge our brokenness to the community? What about our sins? Or are we still going to pretend we live the perfect life. Every married couple also requires the support of the community. Once we start acknowledging our brokenness we will be able to practice true mercy toward others…. We need to be vulnerable. It is very important.
    Also for the récord I’m one that doesn’t believe that gay people can be changed…

    • Amen!

      If I were straight and single, I’d need this just as much. I’m certainly not prepared to speak for them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some married couples would find benefit in such a community as well.

      • I would and I’m married. We could do with lots of help, Luis and I… We did get some I have to admit… After seeking we did get some but not nearly enough. And we could give more too. I think we dontinov give and i admit it id wrong

      • “If I were straight and single, I’d need this just as much.” Exactly. I’ve been HUGELY blessed and encouraged (and sanctified!) by this narrative as a straight single person.

        “I wouldn’t be surprised if some married couples would find benefit in such a community as well.” Absolutely true for my married friends as well. It gives us ALL a way to come out, so to speak — to be transparent about our struggles and humble in our victories.

  2. A truly amazing article. This is the secreat of a thriving Christian life: the comunity, the unity in the (local) church. ….But, we failed..As an Evangelical Estern European, I don’t see something like that happening soon: homosexuality remains a taboo and when it’s mentioned, it’s reffered as the most gross sin imaginable. Because we are preoccupied with the length of our clothes and not to drink alchohol… So many souls are missing Christ because we fail to reflet his image and love..

  3. Thanks, Kyle, for pointing us to the GC article.

    One line from the article stood out to me: “In many ways, I was asking him to live as a misfit in a community that couldn’t yet provide the social support to make such a decision tenable, much less desirable.”

    When I came out of the closet in a conservative Presbyterian (PCA) context, it was clear to me that I was expected to “live as a misfit.” Thriving within my church context just wasn’t going to be an available option. Even though I was celibate, people wanted me to trudge around the church with my head bowed in shame. Suddenly, I was reduced to a single dimension, “that gay guy.” It was as though I was walking around the church with an active ebola infection.

    There was a fair bit of compassion from the pastors, but it came with a condition. I needed to admit that I was a misfit (“inherently unnatural” in their terminology) as a condition of receiving it.

    In my view, we’re never going to succeed at making church a welcoming community for gay Christians until we accept that the “nuclear family” represents a radical departure from the picture of family life that the New Testament commends. Peter Leithart rightly refers to today’s prevailing practice of opposite-sex marriage as “pornographic marriage,” an inwardly-focused institution that is often little more than a safe harbor for satisfying one’s sexual desires.

    Once we accept the legitimacy of pornographic marriage–and the evangelical church overwhelmingly has–it’s awfully hard to build faith communities in which LGBT people can thrive. Further, once we accept the legitimacy of pornographic marriage, it becomes awfully difficult to mount any robust theological argument against same-sex marriage that doesn’t come off as arbitrary and bigoted. In fact, I’d suggest that the redefinition of marriage that moved us from traditional marriage to pornographic marriage is a much more significant theological shift than merely expanding pornographic marriage to include same-sex relationships. After all, why should gay people be left to uphold traditional marriage decades after heterosexual Christians have abandoned it?

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