To the gay community in Seattle,
For quite some time now, I've felt I owe you an apology. It's both personal and on behalf of the faith community I belong to - the Church. As a whole, we have not loved you. In fact, we have failed miserably. We have too often been offensively in your face about moral behavior, or we have uncomfortably and with cowardice hidden or skirted from the topic of sexuality. We have not admitted our own sexual brokenness or confusion, or our own imperfections and inconsistencies. We have targeted you as a special group of sinners, forgetting to acknowledge the truth: that we all have sin that leaves us broken and at the mercy of a gracious and compassionate God; that no sin is greater than another in God's estimation; that only He can redeem us and make us whole. In doing so, I know we have caused a rift known as "us" and "you," and sadly, perhaps between you and your perception of Jesus. We have caused many in your community great pain in our exclusion and judgment.
Please forgive me, forgive us, dear community of people that God loves, for our failure to love you fully. For all our actions that have alienated, berated, humiliated, disrespected, and in some awful cases, actually hated you, please forgive us. I believe our actions toward you have also deeply pained the heart of Christ, for they have misrepresented his heart to you.
I do believe, however, that in order for our love toward you to be sincere, we as followers of Christ must begin with a foundation of honesty and humility. We can't affirm what you hold to be a central part of your identity - your sexuality. As far as we can tell, the Bible introduces us to one kind of sexual union, between a man and a woman. So we do believe that this is the course that leads to the fullest life, the life intended for us by the Creator. But we also want you to know, not only with our words but largely with our actions, that we believe God loves every person deeply and equally - homosexual, bisexual, transgender, heterosexual. It would be dishonest for us to pretend that we agree with or understand the path you believe is right, but we accept that you are free to choose your own life course. We believe this because of God's outrageous generosity and charity, not our own.
From this place of honesty, we want you to feel that you are valued and respected by us, as the precious human beings that you are. This is what you deserve from us. We want to learn how to have real conversations, real relationships, real partnerships with you. We want to serve you. Over time, we hope to, in turn, earn your trust and respect. We understand we will have to work for this, that we need to be willing to hang in there for the long haul. We know we don't deserve it, but we really need your patience and grace with us, too, because we aren't perfect and we're still going to make mistakes along the way. But we want you to see a true expression of God's heart and of the life of faith He envisioned us to live as followers of Christ. This will take time, but I pray we'll be committed to the path of love.
Thank you for being willing to read this.
The fracture in our soul
During the Alexandrian plague (third Century), Christians risked their lives in caring for the sick, taking a posture of grace that said, "I am here for you. I may die, but you will not be alone." The church embodied the gospel and its message was not forgotten.
In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic hit the gay community. Otherwise healthy men were dying and nobody knew why. The only link seemed to be their sexuality. The church had opportunity to again speak grace and instead spewed venom. Rather than showing compassion, we self-righteously proclaimed God's judgment. The message came through loud and clear.
It was the wrong message.
And it has not been forgotten.
When Greg, who is gay, discovered I was a pastor, his demeanor changed. His wounds had history. After a few minutes of hyperbolic invective, I stopped him. "Tell you what, you don't assume I'm a gay-hating bigot, and I won't assume you're a pedophile. Deal? If we buy into stereotypes, we'll never be able to love one another."
Tears streamed down his face. He asked, "Are you sure you're a Christian?"
Now there were tears of my own.
Christians may say, "Love the sinner; hate the sin," but Greg and many other homosexuals hear, "God hates fags." Its's unfortunate. It's wrong. It's our fault.
It may look different from person to person, but sin has fractured every human soul (see Rom. 3:23; 5:12; 1 John 1:10). Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn said, "The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." It is time we lived and loved as though we really believed that.
At our church we regularly say, "As Christians, none of us have the freedom to live however we want. Man or woman, young or old, gay or straight - we are all under God's authority and called to conform our lives to Christ."
The Bible is clear: homosexual practice is inconsistent with Christian discipleship. But there is not special judgment for homosexuals, and there is not special righteousness for heterosexuals. For all of us, our only hope for the fracture of our soul is the cross of Christ.
~ Shane Wheeler (taken from unChristian)
Let us learn to walk truly in the way of Christ's love.