Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

No Longer Closed-ended

Written by: on March 22, 2017

In my last semester of full academic work and the last blog posting for the semester, it seems appropriate for another controversial interpretation of sexuality. Frankly, it’s ingenious of Dr. Jason Clark to have the cohort read about the secular age and then back to back readings on how the church interprets human sexuality. Homosexuality is directly related to a moral behavior in oppose to a spiritual behavior, which means it’s possible for the people to change. The challenge is not the possibility of change, rather, it’s how Christians engage sinful, moral behaviors while we wait for people to change.

It’s commonly been Dr. Clark’s practice to have us read books that will challenge us theologically and culturally, in our preparation for our Fall Semester Advance. In February 2016, we read a book by James Hunter titled, To Change the World. He suggested that our dominant ways of thinking about culture change are flawed because of specious science and problematic theology. Hunter continued by offering seven propositions concerning culture, and I’ll use a few of them to help guide the understanding of Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation.

The reality is that sexual perversion is a sin based on biblical conviction. However, even biblical convictions (and an understanding that culture is resistant change), we need an alternative perspective. Let’s dialogue with Hunter and Marin for a few moments:

  • Proposition one: Hunter tells us that while some cultures base their moral values on their beliefs or adages, Christians view their culture as a truth claim and obligation. Sexual perversion is not a product of culture, it’s a product of sin. Marin is convinced about that fact because he calls himself “a straight, white, conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical male” (p.16). He then tells us his stomach churned until his head hurt when he found out his three best friends were part of the GLBT community (p. 18). Even with this churning of the stomach, Marin tells us not to cram people into our behavioral ideas but lovingly help reconnect the GLBT community with God.
  • Proposition two: Hunter tells us that history help to shape culture. Marin said, “Three best friends in three consecutive months. I started to ask God why he would give me three friends in the one community that I had purposefully spoken against all these years.” (p.18) This is a clear indication that “Bible-believing” evangelicals are traditionally conditioned to alienate some cultures based on the sin, in oppose to embracing all. The author believes that “The Christian community has only ever known one way to handle same-sex behavior: take a stand and keep a distance” (p. 37).
  • Proposition three: Hunter tells us that culture is dialectical and that if we want to move people towards biblical values, our cultural infrastructure should also move towards those values. Marin took a bold approach to “immerse” himself in the GLBT community by going to gay bars (or clubs) and wait for people to strike a conversation as he sat in a corner (p. 19). This is not my recommendation for several reasons, but I like his other thought of using the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis 19 in his “Mind-Frame Shift Principle.” Marin challenges both “straight” and GLBT to shift our mind-frame from human issues so that all can experience a personal relationship with Jesus (p. 121). If the GLBT can embrace the idea of a sinful lifestyle with the need for salvation, I’m willing to be patient with their human process for an eternal transformation.
  • Proposition six: Hunter tells us that culture is not clear but rather unique. Marin’s Bible discussion group grew “to over a hundred people who were either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and me” (p. 21). When I read that statement, it was challenging to formulate an opinion. At what point do the Bible convicts the heart of the GLBT community to change their sinful behavior? Marin believes his mission is to build bridges “between evangelicals and the GLBT community” and asks us to put ourselves “into the cloudy circumstances and daily life of what it is to live attracted to people of the same sex” (p. 23). I don’t believe the church at large believe the GLBT community is “already condemned to hell for their same-sex feelings” (p. 26). What we believe is that at some point we should see some evidence of life-change because of God’s Word.

“How can Christian pick this one sin and make it greater than all the rest?” (p. 46-47). We have a tendency to make any sexual perversion greater, and I’m not sure I have the correct answer, but sexuality seems like a sin we often try to justify. If someone commits a murder, we automatically judge them without reservation, but we always justify sexual perversion. Marin stated that he “unapologetically focused on how to have a better, more intimate relationship with God apart from GLBT issues… I started to realize that the gay and lesbian community was more than a sexual behavior” (pp. 105-106). The author wants us to see the GLBT people as people with unique stories and not just a “dysfunctional set of sexual attractions.” I believe they will have even a greater story once Christ completes their biblical transformation. This book was a great book that offered some daring perspectives and a challenge for us as Biblical Christians to embrace sexuality in an open dialogue.

I leave you to answer these nine questions that Marin believes the GLBT community is asking the traditional Christian community. One (if not all) of the following questions (pp. 31-32) are inevitable.

  1. How can I possibly relate to Christians in a church environment?
  2. Will Christians always look at me as just gay?
  3. Will I be able to be like everyone else in church activities and groups?
  4. Do they think that homosexuality is a special sin?
  5. Do they believe that I chose to be like this?
  6. Do they think that I’m going to hit on them?
  7. Do they think I’m going to abuse their children?
  8. Are they scared that I’m going to infect them with an STD or HIV/AIDS?
  9. When will I be rejected and kicked out?

About the Author

Garfield Harvey

Garfield O. Harvey devotes himself to studies in cultural intelligence (CQ), global leadership and cultural anthropology. During his doctoral studies at George Fox University, he developed CQ Worship to help ministry leaders manage the tension of leading corporate worship with cultural intelligence. His research on worship brings a fresh perspective that suggests corporate worship begins the moment a church engages a community.

8 responses to “No Longer Closed-ended”

  1. Hi Garfield.
    “Homosexuality is directly related to a moral behavior in oppose to a spiritual behavior, which means it’s possible for the people to change.”
    I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying one’s behavior can be separated from one’s spirituality?
    “I believe they will have even a greater story once Christ completes their biblical transformation.” I agree, but is complete transformation possible in this life? I’m looking forward to complete transformation in heaven.
    How does your line of thinking get worked out with the issue of divorce? What would Hunter & Marin say?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      One’s behavior can be separated from their spirituality. For example, I don’t drink alcohol and it has nothing to do with my spirituality. However, I don’t smoke or commit adultery because of my spirituality. In Jamaica, moderate drinking was a cultural behavior for me so I would drink an occasional glass of wine and never liked beer (although I’d use it when I’m on the grill). My wife doesn’t like alcohol so I haven’t drank anything since I’ve been married, my tribe doesn’t subscribe to drinking which could be viewed as a spiritual behavior. The bottom line is that, I could change my behavior in either setting whether morally or spiritually. Homosexuality is a sin preference in terms of sexual orientation, just like fornication or adultery. However, when Christ redeems us from sin, we choose to change the behavior. Think about this: when you drive 37mph in a 35mph zone, is it culturally acceptable, morally wrong or sinful for you as a Christian to break the law? However, that doesn’t stop you from driving a few miles over the speed limit every week but when we break the law, it is a spiritual transgression. The things that are not listed in the Bible as sin becomes a matter of human interpretation, which may be moral or spiritual.

  2. Garfield,

    Thanks for your insightful thoughts. I love having you in our cohort because you bring a different perspective each time. The balance that you have brought in your interaction was great and I to found the questions that were raised for the church as being fair.

    You stated “If the GLBT can embrace the idea of a sinful lifestyle with the need for salvation, I’m willing to be patient with their human process for an eternal transformation” and that is where I had a disconnect with the author. He didn’t have that as part of his context. He wanted acceptance for the person without addressing this subject. The issue is this issue. Thanks for pointing it out.

    God Bless


    • Garfield Harvey says:

      I always draw from your experiences leading youth as I write my dissertation on cultural intelligence. While my argument is a little broader, it is clear that you’ve seen the evolution of cultural practices that are applicable in our changing world.

  3. Phil Goldsberry says:

    Again, another great post. I do agree that Jason Clark wisely led us through the last few books. “Secular Age” caused me to realize the shift that has taken place since 1500. When we started reading on sexuality, I knew that we were getting ready to visit a needed subject.

    In light of “secularization”, do you feel that the church has become “light” on sexuality? In the process, did we become combative and judgmental?


    • Garfield Harvey says:

      I think we have become light on sexuality. You’ve been pastoring in cultural settings for years and as a musician, you’ve also seen changes with our worship leaders. When I moved to the south, I noticed the compromise when I saw the people leading worship on God’s stage. There were days when I knew people were in sin and the pastors would give a blind eyes because they love the talent. I’ve personally told people they couldn’t lead worship with their sinful lifestyle but I offered support during and after their restoration. However, when we’re not in a position to offer support, we automatically become judgmental and that’s where we often see the disconnect. To be honest, we don’t mean to be judgmental but since we’re not willing or able to offer support, we are perceived as the judge of the behaviors.

  4. Pablo Morales says:

    I enjoyed your connection with Hunter’s book. I appreciate Marin’s call for the church to start approaching the GLBT community as people who need to know Christ before they can experience a life transformation. However, in moments I felt that he was too lenient, as if accountability was not a part of his strategy. I see a difference in our approach when our audience is the world and when our audience is God’s people. When our audience is the world, we need to show them God’s love through grace. However, when our audience is God’s people, there is accountability in this relationship, consequently loving in this context has a new confrontational dimension that seeks to speak truth in love. This second dimension is the one I found missing in the book. I would like to ask Marin, at what point is our responsibility to move from overlooking a person’s sin to confronting a person’s sin?
    Thanks for a good blog.

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      I believe one of the problems is that we stop training the church to confront sin because we spend so much time trying to caution them from living in sin. If we were to hold each other accountable, that would allow us to confront sin but we teach accountable about church attaendance and finances, but rarely sin practices. Ministry leaders need to more intentional in teaching people the Bible and then teach people to hold each other accountable for upholding those biblical principles.

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