Spiritual Friendship writer Matt Jones recently contributed to a series on sexuality and the church over at OnFaith, focusing on ways his current church community is modeling a traditional sexual ethic that avoids much of the hypocrisy found in more conservative churches. Some excerpts:
When I joined, I simply became a part of that redemptive movement. This is an enormous blessing, because — believe it or not — I really want to proclaim the gospel through ministry and advocacy. (And, as a white dude brimming with privilege, learning how to do this in a way that doesn’t reinforce inequality can be a challenge!) I want to be a Christian, and I want my church to urge the congregants on in our shared vocation of pursuing justice for the marginalized (which includes a sizable portion of the church population itself).
Often lgbt+ Christians are treated as if we have one job this side of Jesus’ return: don’t have gay sex. But, as Eve Tushnet so quotably stated, “You can’t have a vocation of no,” of only avoiding something. We need something to live for, and let me say that Christianity never makes more sense to me than when I am witnessing or participating in a Christian community that is unified toward imitating and proclaiming Jesus’ liberative gospel.
It continues to amaze me how hard celibate lgbt+ people have to work to find space in churches that claim a more traditional sexual ethic. The social burdens experienced by sexual minorities in these communities vary widely, but usually include increased scrutiny and suspicion, painful comments from congregants who may or may not know about one’s sexuality, reduced ministry possibilities (e.g. I was once stripped of an internship and prevented from helping with a youth group because I wasn’t trying hard enough to be straight), insanely exhausting language policing,**** and at times, the general ache of being single in a culture that over-valorizes marriage and romance to the detriment of thechurch’s calling to be family.
I’m not sure how churches decided that the best ‘defense’ of the traditional sexual ethic is to place excessive burdens on those trying to abide by it and then fail to provide the support structures that would make such an ethic intelligible and healthy . . . but, well, here we are.
I believe the traditional sexual ethic is beautiful and good — I try to live according to it for a reason! — but I also believe that the way churches have approached the topic of human sexuality has largely failed to do any justice to the scope and nuance of the doctrine and has, in fact, done injustice to countless people who should have found a home and family within the church, and this requires sincere repentance.
Read the Whole Article at FaithStreet.
I appreciate your validation of the experiences some LGBT Christians have had with traditional churches. It seems the traditional church ( I use that as an umbrella term) is at different places in various regions or denominations, some are like yours who support and embrace openly gay Christian, I guess, who are holding to a traditional sexual ethic while others are still fearful of everything gay! So perhaps there is place for each of us eventually which will be a fulfilling experience where we experience unreserved hospitality. But beyond that, I wonder why is it that we predominantly, if not always, talk about defining and categorizing the sin of our sexuality ie: the behaviour, the desire, the orientation when it comes to this issue and not how grace is working in our lives after conversion. I ask this because despite what the traditional church teaches about sin with regards to sexuality (and I find much of it unhelpful because expounding law and marriage seems rather redundant, we know- we know- we know and if we disagree-we disagree- we disagree- we disagree) so what about Grace and how all that works. Despite what we know and what we disagree on, grace is flowing into our lives as believers at every level of our belief, understanding, perspective, culture, ethnicity and relationships- within and without the formal church and…especially our behaviour. Despite attending church LGBT people are being lead to Jesus and by Jesus whether the church provides nurturing, teaching, hospitality or not. In the more liberal churches I have discovered after adjusting my own attitude, they are are not soft on sin at all, rather grace abounds there. Grace is the redeeming power of the cross which works within us independent of the church. I think the benefit of the church is to support us and make us strong and provide avenue to service and vocation, I guess, but I don’t find the church is an active agent in my personal relationship with Christ. Because I am still in relationship with him and he continues to shape me and transform my heart and desires despite my church attendance, what I am into to or where I am at in life. Even though I am not a member of any formal church and my attendance is spotty, at my local church, I still feel that I am part of the church and still have a relationship with Christ which is being nurtured and fed and shaped in non-traditional ways. I think there are many Christians who experience a relationship with Christ outside a regular formal church setting only because, at this time in their life, unfortunately it is the safest place for them to be. I would like to see that change someday. I know my perspective is not perfect on this but it is what I am experiencing in my life at this time.