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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Bridging the Gay/ Church divide

Written by: on May 29, 2014

This will be my second blog on David Thompson. I have met him twice for conversations about gay couples and the church’s response. Since then, I have read his short book called Over Coffee in which he has a conversation on this subject. He converses with a pastoral character composed of many conversations he has had with other pastors. David does not take a polemic posture toward people he is trying to convince or get frustrated with those who do not agree with him. He is open to respectful conversations on reconciling Christian belief and gay marriage. He is a great bridge builder.

Three things surfaced for me, three bridges that can be crossed, as the book unfolded. One, is that the “issue” of gay orientation is a human one. The book reveals a pastor who talks with a member of his congregation who reveals his gay orientation. The care of the pastor for this man and his struggle with how to respond is typical in many conservative churches. In this conversation David shows the very human side of people. We all long to love and be loved. For me, love is the first response to people who we may not share ideologies. Speaking with David and reading his book stirred again my revulsion to those who express anger and hatred to those with which they do not agree. I grieve with people who struggle with their Christianity and their sexual orientation. Though the solutions will not be simple, the attitude should be one of concern for human beings. Concern for people is a good bridge to cross concerning being gay and the church.

Secondly, David attempts to unravel arguments about gay marriage. He asks why grace is extended to those in the church that violate scripture such as honoring the Sabbath and divorce and remarriage. These are allowed to be members of the church, but gay people are not. What David is doing is arguing from contradiction. While arguing from contradiction is not a strong argument (Contradictions do not mean that one thing makes the other acceptable) he has a good point. It can point out hypocrisy.  What it does show is that Christian leaders confront some violations of scripture and grace is extended, but not to others. This is an important understanding. How are we to respond to anyone who falls short? Grace. For those struggle with gay marriage as a permissible Christian option, grace is an important bridge to form. The first step of grace would listening well and hearing a person’s story in light of God’s grace.

The last thing that surfaced is David’s weakest argument, but gets to the heart of the issue. He states that the original design was for men and women to marry the opposite sex and reproduce. This is true to the book of Genesis. Then he goes on to state, “it is not good for people to be alone” is also a command from God. While the statement is true that people are better together and being alone is not good, this is not a command. It’s a condition. People are meant to be together. David argues that this is one reason for gay marriage. It’s a weak one. Loneliness is not a healthy state, but sexual expression of one’s being is not the only way to bring people together. Christians believe God created humans to be in relationship with him. That relationship is to be expressed together in the church. We are created for communion with God and each other. Communion is not based on human need alone, but by God’s design. We are not to be alone for what reason? Because it does not express well the triune God. While sexual expression is a part of that communion. It is not the primary one. In conversation with me, David said that originally God created man and women to be united. But because we are broken by sin, the ideal has fallen short.  Sin has broken our relationship with God and each other. This is a significant statement. What this leads to is the importance that we are all broken by sin and need healing. While not many gay people would agree with David’s point here, Christians should understand brokenness and healing. The church can do this by the message of reconciliation and the act of hospitality. Could this not be the beginning of a new bridge to walk over? I think so.

What David does do well is show how the church has shunned gay Christians so they have no place to go. This should not be. Even if we have strong conviction about being gay, that should not make us, the church, exclude them from fellowship. I admire that David sticks to his conservative views while making effort to build bridges that hopefully people of gay orientation can walk over and be part of the church. What David does well is help the church to see the human face of this issue. People need to be loved, accepted and included in the church. Even though I did not agree with David’s logic, I agree with his sentiment. We the church cannot be dismissive and reactionary. We need to be inclusive and thoughtful.

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Fred Fay

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