DMINLGP

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

Full Circle

Written by: on March 15, 2019

I feel like this topic is coming full circle.  Remember that night, not quite two years ago, in the hotel lobby in Cape Town?  A group of LGP8’s, new to each other and travel weary, stayed up late in the evening to earnestly and respectfully discuss homosexuality and the church.  We were vulnerable, we were seeking, and we were listening and sharing.  Fast forward to today – and I don’t know how many books later – we are back on the topic of homosexuality and the Biblical directives to the church.  I’m so curious to read and discuss the LGP8’s thoughts, emotions, and spiritual growth on this topic. My heart desires to write a quality, well researched blog…but my time is truly limited this week.  So please listen (through my words) for my desire to exhibit love and openness to ALL.

If you’ve been reading my blogs regularly you may already anticipate my perspective on our text this week, Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church, Sprinkle et al.  I appreciate the challenging and controversial topics we’ve tackled this semester and this week is no exception.  Sprinkle, as editor, delivered a brilliant manuscript which literally captures two (well actually four – two “affirming” and two “traditional”) views on homosexuality.  “Each of these scholars sets forth his or her own understanding and their reasons for that understanding–rooted significantly in biblical, cultural, and contemporary research as well as pastoral concerns.”[1] Even though you may perceive me as solidly liberal, I actually appreciate hearing both sides of every controversial argument.  I want to draw my own conclusion – informed by education, consciousness raising, prayer, and impact on marginalized and oppressed populations.

You’ve heard me openly admit I’m not a theologian, so please understand my thoughts, feelings, and spiritual conclusions regarding homosexuality are based on my own Biblical study, direction from the Holy Spirit, relationships with LGBTQ family and friends, and affirming arguments as well as counter arguments.  “Read all the essays with an open mind and an open Bible. Have the courage to go where the text leads and explore how it applies to the twenty-first-century church”.[2] And if we don’t share the same conclusions about homosexuality, the Bible, and the church, please know that’s ok with me.  I respect you, so please respect me.

Megan DeFranza, a contributor to this book and researcher on intersex, argues that although “Adam and Eve may be the majority story, but they are not the exclusive model for what it means to be human. By extension, heterosexual marriage can be seen as the majority story, not the exclusive model.”[3]  I appreciate DeFranza’s perspective because it’s similar to how I approach the teaching of sexuality orientation to my social work students and to my clients.  I often provide the analogy that sexuality is on a spectrum…with very concrete attraction to the opposite sex on one end of the spectrum to concrete attraction to the same sex on the other end of the spectrum.  And then there’s a lot of space in between (where someone might identify as bisexual, or have some feelings of attraction to the same sex or opposite sex).

Heterosexual ——————————————————————————–Homosexual

“The Sexuality Spectrum is a proposed theory of human sexuality that posits there is a continuum that accounts for every variation of human sexuality/identity without necessarily labeling or defining all of them.”[4]  It is naïve to believe that a “typical heterosexual” experiences sexuality in the same way as every other heterosexual.  Just look around your family, your church, your community, your state, your country, your world.  Heterosexuals are choosing to express and act on sexuality in very different dimensions – i.e. Porn, S & M, adultery, swinging, abstinence, polygamy, etc.

While the “biology” case is often presented by the Christian Traditional Framework as humans are made physiologically to engage in sexuality via opposite sex attraction (and I too believe this was the case when God created Adam and Eve), I often counter that discussion with our human “fall”.  As soon as Adam and Eve fell from grace, we (meaning humans) were no longer perfect.  We are born with disabilities, we are born without limbs, sometimes our brain doesn’t develop in utero, our DNA may carry genetic mutations which make us prone to cancer or Alzheimers, our heart may have a congenital defect, we may be missing an organ…we have a predisposition to addiction or mental health.  I can go on and on and on with human physical limitations. But the truth is that although God may have originally designed us to have a perfect, heterosexual body, it is no longer the case.  I, for example, carry the BRCA 1 mutation which makes me 72% likely to develop a breast cancer, 44% likely to develop an ovarian cancer, and puts me at risk for fallopian tube, peritoneal, and pancreatic cancer. There are also some studies that link melanoma to the BRCA 1 mutation.  And whose fault is this mutation?  No one’s…it’s pure genetics.  It’s not the fault of the individual or the fault of the parent.  But it is our family reality.  I’m not being blamed or shamed for who I am.  So why is it ok to do so with homosexuals?  My personal belief (and that of mounting research) is that homosexuality is biological.  It may not make sense to the heterosexual who has never experienced same sex attraction, but the research is showing genetic/chemical/brain differences.

To my LGBTQ friends and family, and to the LGBTQ community, I am sorry for the targeted persecution from the religious right.  You are a child of God and a person of worth and I stand with you as an ally and advocate.  I earnestly call on Christians around the world to embrace you with love and understanding and to welcome you as a valued member of the church.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “’As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.  Romans 14: 10-14

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29491972-two-views-on-homosexuality-the-bible-and-the-church

[2] http://servantsofgrace.org/two-views-homosexuality-bible-church-editors-preston-sprinkle-stanley-n-gundry/

[3]         Preston Sprinkle, and Stanley H. Gundry, eds., Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), Zondervan.

[4] https://www.usd.edu/diversity-and-inclusiveness/office-for-diversity/safe-zone-training/spectrum-model

About the Author

mm

Jean Ollis

16 responses to “Full Circle”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jean!

    I must have went to bed early on that night two years ago. I am bummed that I missed it!

    I am so cautious this week about responding to the Blogs. I have found myself staring at the computer for two hours, frozen in thought, because I do not want to be part of the group you described who has “targeted persecution from the religious right”.

    Thank you for your research on orientation and the biological component. My own anecdotal experience of counseling many LGBT, is that a full two-thirds have a severe abuse or trauma in their background. One third do not, and remember the proclivity for as long as their memories hold.

    Does this match your research?

    Thank you for your perspective, and always, for your heart.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Jay! I love that you are so intentional to respond well. Thank you for that. In my work with the LGBTQ population, I actually find that most feel that their earliest memory of attraction is to the same sex. There are some who have had a very traumatic experience but sometimes I wonder if that is more of a social construct (that sexual orientation changed based on sexual assault) rather than reality.

  2. Love your honest, authentic reflections in your post Jean. Obviously we are on the same page when it comes to equally loving and accepting gay people alongside heterosexuals. I also agree with you that people appear to be on a sexual spectrum and most would prefer to be like the norm (less persecution) but they can’t deny they have not normal feelings or attractions. I don’t think it is their fault or choice but a result of us living in a fallen world with all kinds of things that are outside of God’s perfect design (loved your genetics analogy). Blessings to you as you love those in your path.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Jake,
      Back at you! I know there isn’t much to respond to except to say except thank you for your open mind and open heart. You love people well!

  3. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean…from the professed conservative to the professed liberal, I already knew we would differ in our opinion on this topic. However, before I say anything else, I completely respect the woman that you are striving to be; you clearly have a heart to serve people, to look out for the mistreated, and the ability to show great compassion for others…all admirable qualities.

    Now, to the issue at hand though; I believe one of the biggest reasons you, Sprinkle, and I, see this topic differently is because of the direction we view it from. As a Christian that truly holds the Bible as my highest source of direction in all things, I do not tend to bring the human element into my study…I believe it deflects from the message. The challenge of such a statement is that we all know that Christianity is largely about the human element; however, I believe it is secondary only to the “God” element. I do not believe that loving our brother takes precedence over the commands given by God; for this reason, regardless of our desires to please those in sin, we must first obey the Word of God. On the very first page, Sprinkle mentioned all of his research for his study, but it was not until he came to “love gay and lesbian” people that he truly understood the issue. From my perspective, it seems that his relationships allowed him to pervert the biblical message.

    Second, you made this comment; which truthfully, I find offensive; “I am sorry for the targeted persecution from the religious right.” First, though I am almost as conservative as they come (at least in appearance to some), “persecution” is far different than “preaching against sin;” something I believe we are all supposed to do as Christians and ministers of the gospel. When I preach against the sinfulness of homosexuality, it is part of a plethora of sins that I preach against. Here are a few others: lust, greed, hate, adultery, fornication, gossip, murder, stealing, and abuse. There are no personal attacks, but rather, a war against sin…ALL SIN!

    Lastly, I have heard your last statement many times; the suggestion that we are not to “judge” our fellow Christians. The reality of Christian brotherhood is that we judge sin; we do not judge eternity. If I see you walking in sin, it is my obligation to try and help you out of it. Paul addresses the difference in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. I would be curious how you interpret that passage.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Shawn,
      I’m sorry you found my statement offensive. Have you considered, though, if preaching towards the sin of homosexuality differs from the preaching of other sin? For example, if blatant sin is a reason to prevent leadership and preaching in a church, I should be barred because I’m overweight. I engage in gluttony and that is clearly a sin. The lines are drawn differently with this particular sin and that’s my concern with the persecution…let’s keep processing!

  4. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Jean
    I found your statement on genetics starting to show a predisposition to LGBT+ interesting. In everything I have read that is one of the places that I have not seen as proven, that being said, I do agree with your ida that our perfectness is affected by the fall and we are all the worse for it, genetically none of us are as we are supposed to be.

    The only thing I would say other than this is not to lump all who are conservative with a vocal few who hate the LGBTQ+ community. I know many who love this community and serve it faithfully that you would consider the religious right, just as I should not judge someone for color difference nor should I judge for orientation difference. God is the only judge and he calls us to love him and love our fellow man.

    Thanks so much.

    Jason

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Jason! Thank you for your thoughts and thank you for your courageous blog. I will work on compiling journal articles which discuss the genetic connection to homosexuality. It’s complex for sure and I appreciate your strong conviction, even if it’s different than mine 🙂

  5. I can only imagine what occurred on that night two years ago. There’s a part of me that’s glad that I came on board later on. Lol I would love to know, has your position changed since that night? Has your experienced and research helped you draw deeper conviction or dismantled some of your thoughts?

    I thought it was interesting that you address the elephant in the room right away – tolerance and engagement. I’ve seen too many churches ask their congregations to adhere to all forms of theological concepts within deviation. This creates a community of silent and disengaged believers who fear using their minds and their heart within the church. I currently attend a non-affirming church; however, I’m quite affirming. This has been an interesting dynamic. I’ve always loved diversity, but that’s not always the same case for many pastors. Many see any type of difference as divisive and threatening to the unity of the church and they encourage those who view the Bible differently to either confirm or find community elsewhere.

    How have you been able to bridge the gap between conservatives and liberals? How do we create a church that is unified with Jesus at the center?

  6. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Colleen! The talk in Cape Town was great – respectful, thought provoking, deep. It set the tone for the 8’s early on. You may be finding out that I’m the one in the group who likes to go THERE. Whatever there may be lol. I bridge the gap in conversations by relationship – still loving, still respecting, and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective. I have dear friends and family who are conservative and we enjoy spirited conversation frequently!

  7. Hi Jean,

    Thanks for your leadership in “going there”!! 🙂

    My own evolution in understanding this topic was so helped by learning about sexuality being on a spectrum. I bring this up all the time when conversing with others on this topic.

    I believe that God values and calls us to be a loving community, and that our relationships should reflect the Trinity by being committed and monogamous, in other words, “married”. We’re not perfect, but that’s where we’re heading. Since sexual orientation isn’t a choice, what options do faithful gay folks have? It is more a reflection of God’s heart that a gay couple become married and reflect self-sacrificial love to each other, reflecting God’s kingdom.

    Coincidentally, we watched this video this morning at our Vineyard church:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i19ANGi7VZ4

  8. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jean,

    I believe that you, like me, want to hold onto a high view of scripture but also are very reticent to use it as a hammer to hurt others. I don’t think it’s an issue of being either ‘liberal/progressive’ or ‘conservative’. I just don’t believe it’s that simple. I also am not suggesting that those who are non-affirming or conservative don’t care for others or feel any form of animosity toward LGBTQ individuals. That is what makes it so challenging. I think particularly in this age of polarizing rhetoric it is difficult to have any civil discourse on personal subjects without someone feeling hurt or agitated. Fortunately, I think we have developed sufficient understanding with one another in this cohort that we can discuss and debate from a position of love and genuine interest in hearing others.

  9. Greg says:

    Jean. I felt the same way about the blog this week. My heart wanted to take a topic like this and process it over several weeks allowing each of us to flush out our journeys, our thoughts, our experiences with others….but alas I wrote a blog with not much depth this week because of time.
    Thank you for taking the time to share what you have been learning and the journey you have been on. I too have a hard time with those that use scriptures as a blunt instrument. How we love and how we share Christ is so important. I have said over and over that this cohort has the ability to openly discuss some of the most sensitive topics with love.

  10. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Jean, I do remember that night in Cape Town and I was just thinking about it the other day and how we all dialogued with one another around sensitive issues including this. I appreciate your spectrum approach and can see how this is true for friends of mine. Also, thank you for your love and kindness in your approach to both the LGBT+ community and the conservative Christian community (not that these are even always exclusive). The love you show to marginalized people groups is so needed and so Wesleyan.

    Could you share any studies you know of on the biology of sexual identity? I think that’s a more recent finding and one that nuances the conversation. I tend to think biology, personal history/experience, socialization, faith or feelings (or some combination of them all) that can make up ones sexual identity. I’d like to be more informed on the research on biology.

  11. Dave Watermulder says:

    Jean,
    Thank you for your blog and for your willingness to engage with so many around issues like this one, that can be hard to actually step into. I really enjoyed reading other people’s responses to your blog as well– it shows the kind of thinking that your writing stirs up. Keep it up!

  12. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Thanks Jean good post. I liked hearing your perspective about the true form we were created in and that that doesnt exist today. very good point.

    I echo your apology made to the gay community.

    :(. Its a shame the church was only known for condemning for so long.

    Great post.

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