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An Open Letter to Ellen Degeneres

Written by: on March 14, 2019

Hello Ellen! My name is Jay Forseth, and I am a Pastor in small town America. I am writing this letter because I think you are kind. In fact, many times on your show your actions appear more Christian than most Christians I know. Your generosity impresses me. You are obviously successful and loads of fun to be around.

Could we talk for a bit? I feel like I could trust you to have a safe conversation about several sensitive but connected topics of our day–same sex marriage, gender identity, our core human nature, and homosexuality. You might believe the issues are settled. I don’t. Change is more than an announcement or even a law. I am trying to work through this, having read 7 applicable books this week alone, and I need some help. Would you mind giving me more of your perspective?

I don’t expect to change your mind, nor do I think you will change mine, and I really don’t want you to think we should have to be argumentative. Some of my friends will be furious that I reached out to you, some of your fans will get angry if you reach back. We are not enemies. I don’t hate you. I am not mean spirited. I am not judging you!

I simply don’t understand…

I support traditional marriage, you support a re-defined union. I get it. But somehow, in an extremely short period of years, I am being called narrow minded, labeled as hateful and on the wrong side of history. I do not believe this issue should be compared to 1960’s civil rights or to inter-racial marriage, but I might be off. Again, I say I could be wrong.

I celebrate the differences in our genders, like estrogen and testosterone. Human anatomy and procreation necessitate both the penis and vagina, although science is overcoming that more every day. 100% of people on planet earth are the result of a sperm and an egg. For thousands of years moms and dads were the norm. Why am I not allowed to support what I believe the Bible teaches? That we were created male and female, that we become one with the marital act, that our anatomy is wonderfully specific and complimentary, which breeds continuous offspring. I am asked to be affirming, even by several church denominations. I certainly affirm you as a human being, in order for me to get a seat in the discussion, must I affirm all behaviors, even if they go against my core values?

How did we get here so lightning fast? As recently as the 1990’s a super majority of states in America defined marriage as being monogamous between a man and a woman. If the states would have banded together, they could have immediately amended the United States Constitution. For some reason I thought state’s rights and the voice of the majority took precedence over un-elected judges. Evidently, I was wrong. I don’t deny you the right to have your union, but I struggle to call it a marriage. I am sorry if I hurt you with that statement. I also want you to know I am very sorry when Christians have used the five prohibition “clobber” passages in the Bible as a hammer to beat you down (I don’t recognize the sixth from Sodom).

I am not denying people can love who they choose. I also readily admit traditional marriages suffer an abysmally high failure rate. Adultery, addiction, abandonment and abuse are far too common. This was once a more sacred institution, but I don’t think gay marriage will solve that. What is the divorce rate of same sex couples since the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision in 2015? I honestly don’t see where this change in the definition of marriage ends. Plural marriages are already testing legal limits. The over-aged will wish to hook up with the under-aged, including young children. Some will want to marry a cousin, or a pet. If love is the only pre-requisite, there is no boundary.

And what about parenting? We don’t have near enough data to test effectiveness of two mommies or three daddy’s. This grand modern experiment has little long-term research, but the consequences are far reaching and complicated. At the rate we are going, it may be difficult to put the brakes on if the experiment fails.

I honestly do not want to make these issues Christian versus non-Christian. They are so much larger than that. I would rather talk about issues of IDENTITY and GRACE and GROWTH and SUPPORT as they relate to our flawed humanity and insatiable basic human need for quality relationships.

With kindness. I am listening. Please help me understand…

Respectfully,

Pastor Jay Forseth
Columbus, Montana

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Sprinkle, Preston. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church. Zondervan, 2016.

Sprinkle, Preston M. People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.

Yuan, Christopher. Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2018.

Berryessa, Drew. Are We There Yet? Sexuality, the Church and the Road to Transformation. Medford, OR: Living Letter Ministries, 2018.

Grant, Jonathan. Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, a Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2015.

Burk, Denny, and Heath Lambert. Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2015.

Coles, Gregory. Single, Gay, Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual Identity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2017.

 

 

About the Author

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Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

22 responses to “An Open Letter to Ellen Degeneres”

  1. Jay, I absolutely loved your creative approach to writing about this topic. Like you, I think Ellen is an amazing person who exemplifies Christian love more than most. I remember having a hard time when she first started her show because I felt like it put her alternative lifestyle right out there for everyone to see. Now that gay in the media is more mainstream it does not seem as big of a deal when I see it. Also, becoming friends with gay people and having them as clients has expanded my understanding of the issue and caused me to find much more compassion and acceptance for their situation. I, like many, are confused how God could create people who are so different than me in this way without giving them a way to have communion with Him and participate fully in His body. I guess that is where God’s grace comes in, as you indicated in your last paragraph, which is where we might focus. Great post my friend.

    • Jay says:

      Jake!

      Thanks for your kind words once again. I appreciated your quote, “…how God could create people who are so different than me in this way without giving them a way to have communion with Him and participate fully in His body.”

      Who is saying they cannot have communion with God and participate in the church? If not homosexuals, then also not anyone else for that matter…but I do feel there is a higher standard for leaders in the church.

      I am trying to work through the Timothy verses about Elders/Overseers, and Deacon/Deaconesses. A very difficult list of criteria to live up to…

  2. mm Mike says:

    Jay,
    As I started reading your post, I envisioned you sitting on the chair across from Ms. DeGeneres and wondering when she would covertly signal the hidden terror in the oversized end table to “jump out and scream at you!”
    Great letter that would be a great talk show topic if she would invite you. Please, ensure you are wearing your full armor of God when you go. Make sure your shield is ready to extinguish the flaming darts from the audience.
    Ellen needs Christ in her for starters. If she does, because only God knows the heart, then she needs to be plugged into the Christ vine as a Christian branch, so she can bear the spiritual fruit produced by Christ. Oh…. I think I went all theological on you and your post…sorry.
    These are exciting times for sure. I love it when we get to see how everyone reacts to these evil schemes. These discussions add to my dissertation body of research and observation at the ministry leader level.
    Stand firm,
    Mike

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Mike!

      I would be very interested to know what would happen to a chaplain in the military who was not affirming, and held to a man/woman marriage. Would he be able to keep his job?

  3. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Jay,
    You have eloquently and gently said what I feel. I greatly admire a person who is able to do this and still be strong in their position. I really appreciate your post brother.

    Jason

  4. Super creative post, Jay!

    Thank you for seeking to approach this topic from such a standpoint of grace and learning. Your quest to bridge the divide is vivid in your writing and your heartbeat for people.

    I’d be curious to read Ellen’s response. One of the greatest words of wisdom that I ever received was from a good friend of mine who was gay. He was getting ready to meet his boyfriend’s parents who were strict Catholics. My friend was fearful of stepping into the church because he feared being seen as a label instead of a person. He said, “Being gay is only one part of me.” So, many times we only see people one-dimensionally. We see Bob the banker and automatically ascribe him with wealth or Susie the chef and automatically ascribe her with delicious food. However, what if Bob was promoted in his job and Susie decided to form a strike against cooking? Bob would still be a banker and Susie would still be a chef; however, we would have to see these individuals from a new standpoint because our association changed. The same is true with those in the LGBTQIA community. Being gay, transgender, queer or bisexual is only one part of them.

    How do we create church communities that see people as more than sexual beings? How do we offer a real community of diversity?

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Great questions Colleen!

      If I might propose a different word than diversity–“representative”. I can wish for all the diversity in the world in my neck of the woods, but it is not going to happen. No muslims, very few minorities, etc. However, if we are “representative” then we will have at least 7% Native American population, 4% LGBT+, 50% male/female, etc.

      What do you think about this word?

  5. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Jay, your letter is brilliant, and I earnestly hope you actually send it off to her. You see, your heart is golden, pure, loving, and seeking and it’s so OBVIOUS in how you treat people…you love well. It’s ok to struggle with this issue and God is pleased that you are prayerfully and lovingly navigating this. You are willing to ask the questions, read 7 books to write a blog, and sit and stare at your computer for two hours before you respond to a post (just to be sure you are in the right head space to write your thoughts). While we may have different thoughts on this topic, we are seeking in the same way. You have your convictions and I have mine, but ultimately I value your thoughts and beliefs because I need to always be sharpening and understanding why I believe what I do. You raise interesting points about the future of the family…and I don’t have time to research it fully at this point but I would love to return to it in discussion at some point.

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Jean!

      You are so kind!

      I had a breakthrough this week when I kept reminding myself “No need to argue, simply seek to understand!”

      You are a blessing…

  6. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jay,

    That is a fantastic letter full of grace, humility, openness and sincerity. It expresses things in a way that I have seen in you since we first met. You continue to be someone who has a firm foundation in scripture yet has not stopped learning and growing. I think if you actually sent this letter that Ellen would respond with as much grace and humility as like you, she comes across as a very gracious and kind person.

    I am still growing too brother. I am far from settled with this issue and honestly am very thankful that this has not yet been an issue for my own children, though it has impacted some others who are very near and dear to me.

    I also do not think that either of us should be excluded from the discussion though I think many in the LGBTQ community feel like they need to bring things back into balance as they have been excluded for so long. Hang in there brother. Continue to demonstrate grace and love. I believe that is the only way forward for any of us.

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Dan,

      Did I tell you that I grew up in a Presbyterian Church in Denver. Had female Pastors at a young age, saw early the affirming of LGB community at the time (Q and others not known much at that time). To be honest, I was working through things fine, until two of the Pastors got divorced, married each other, and the rest of the church was fine with it. Kinda pushed me to the conservative end…

  7. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean and I don’t always agree, but we agree on this one…mail that letter! I don’t know if you will get a response, but I would love to watch that episode for sure.

    There is a purity in the way you addressed this topic this week Jay…a purity you have in your heart in many matters. To be honest, I am more of a “cut to the chase” kind of guy; though I try to do it in love and gentleness, sometimes I am not as patient as you came across in this letter.
    Perhaps, that is because I usually see everything in only a “Christian and non-Christian” light; it is either about God or it isn’t. I figure if its not about God, then it is worldly, and it is not the priority of which I was called. That may make me callous at times; I am working on it.

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Shawn,

      I love that you keep returning to the Word! Please keep doing that.

      This is why I hold the position I do–I cannot see any way around the Scripture, especially in Romans on “homosexual behavior” in the list of sins…I don’t see Scripture affirming the behavior, no matter what society says….

  8. Hi Jay,

    Thanks for your creative letter/blog post. You can always give your letter to Ellen to our cohort member Chris who lives in the same town, and who saw her walking to the beach with Portia the other day. LOL. Seriously, ask him!

    It might also surprise and shock you to know that in the mid-2000s I was on the board of Focus on the Family Canada. I heard all the arguments for/against same-sex marriage at the time (as a board member this was a frequent topic), and Canada adopted same-sex marriage in 2005, so we were right in the thick of it.

    What distressed me and what I found so incompatible with who I knew God to be was the fear that seemed to prevail behind every argument by people of faith. There were always scary examples such as marrying one’s pet as fear-inducing examples of how we would spiral downward if we loosened the definition of marriage. Anyway living through those battles was only one of the (many) reasons I eventually changed my mind on the issue. I’m a lover not a fighter, and I found fear, not love, to be predominant in the traditional camp.

    But I have high regard and love for all who have opposing perspectives and know how sincerely those positions are held. So keep on loving, as you do so well!!

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Thanks Mark!

      Recently, one of my children’s pastors came out as same sex attracted during his sermon. Celibate, recently addicted to porn, pursuing holiness. What would your counsel be for me in this situation?

      • Pastoral counsel from me? When I saw your request, the first Scripture that unexpectedly fell into my mind was Paul’s counsel: if you’re celibate, stay that way and be faithful. If you’re married, stay that way and be faithful.

        The pastor who came out should be loved by you and surrounded by his community. I’m sure it was a hard thing to say, and he needs support.

        Regarding addictions of any kind: today author Brad Jerzak spoke at the Vineyard, and he said the opposite of addiction is not sobriety (or no porn), but rather the connectedness of community.

  9. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Jay, thank you so much for your candid response to the text. I really appreciate your willingness to be honest and humble in your perspective. I’m curious about your reasoning for an open letter to Ellen. Are you hoping she or others in the gay community will respond? I realize others mentioned you should send it. I wonder if there are people you know close by that you could have conversations with in an effort to really engage the topic with them? Don’t get me wrong, I love the creativity. I just hope for more real dialogue, and am uncertain as to whether Ellen will have the opportunity to respond.

  10. Chris Pritchett says:

    This is so creative, Jay, and you draw lots of comments to your posts! I loved your tone of this note. Ellen is actually a neighbor of mine. She lives in a wealthy neighborhood on the other side of the tracks. I have seen her and Porsche walking their doggies. I like her, too, and it turns out that people who are gay can be really good people. I don’t think you’re narrow-minded or bigoted, and I think it’s a travesty for you to be labeled as such because of your position.

  11. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Jay, this was incredible. May I share pieces of this in other contexts?

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