Despite being the current ‘hot topic’ in the media, many churches consider the topic of homosexuality to be taboo. The subject of homosexuality and the Church however is more than just a ‘hot topic’. It is a very real and personal part of many people’s journeys within the Church.
Through Love Regardless, I have met many Christians for whom this is more than just a debate; it’s their daily lives. Often these people feel unable to vocalise their struggles, feelings or journeys for fear of rejection or condemnation.
It is therefore refreshing to see a prominent Christian publication, like Christianity magazine addressing the issue of homosexuality and the Church in their latest issue. Although there is a danger that, in the words of Christianity magazine’s editor, the subject will be “hijacked by people talking about Steve Chalke’s change of view, or about gay marriage”, it is great to see space made for mature discussion upon the topic. I would strongly agree with the magazine when they encourage those reading to “give this issue the respect and sensitivity it deserves, take time in prayer and with the Bible to reflect on where we stand, and then seek to graciously engage with others”.
In the magazine, Steve Chalke voices a pro-monogamous-homosexual-relationship view. I’m a student at the London School of Theology, so am unsurprisingly on the ‘orthodox’ side of the spectrum in my own personal views and lifestyle choices. But I am not going to discuss the theology of homosexuality (you can check out the two views on the Christianity magazine website here). I do want to stress the importance of engaging with the topic in a mature way and pick up on the theme of inclusivity.
When I started attending a Baptist church in my mid-teens, I probably stuck out like a sore thumb. I had some church experience as a child but had long since strayed.
When I hit puberty, I began to realise that I was different to many of my peers, and by 11 I concluded that I was gay. By the time that I had started to attend a church, I had invested much of my identity into my sexuality. I was under-age clubbing in the gay scene and sexually-active. In spite of this I was welcomed into the church and youth group and patiently discipled. I have since met many who have not been as fortunate. Many who have been turned away or forced to leave. The struggle to reconcile faith with same-sex attraction is an intensely difficult one for many and I find it heartbreaking that so often this struggle must happen in silence.
My prayer is that the articles in Christianity magazine stimulate conversation and reflection. But I pray that, in doing this, we do not lose sight of the seriousness of this subject and its personal relevance to many Christians’ lives. When a church closes its doors to someone in order to avoid the ‘mess’ or the ‘complications’ of facing up to the issue of homosexuality, it can have eternal consequences.
But if our churches open their doors, welcome all in and love in the way Jesus loved, then there is the potential for incredible disciples. This does not necessarily require you to compromise what you have thoughtfully and prayerfully come to understand theologically about homosexuality and the Church. Over-arching our theology of homosexuality is our calling. Regardless of your theological stance on the issue, we are called to love and to be inclusive. We are called to make disciples of all people.
Steve Clifford, the general director of the Evangelical Alliance, wrote in his response to Steve Chalke: “We believe we can – in fact Jesus commands us to – disagree without being disagreeable. So, we must listen carefully to one another, being courteous and generous, seeking in all things to acquire the mind of Christ.”
My prayer is that Christians, in their eagerness to prove or vocalise their orthodoxy, do not fail to listen to and identify the many good things that can be drawn from Steve Chalke’s article as theologian Steve Holmes has done here, despite disagreeing with the Oasis church leader’s conclusions. It takes immense bravery to speak up against the vast weight of evangelical tradition and whether you agree with his theology on homosexuality or not, it would be a mistake to dismiss all that he has to say.
I would urge you to read the articles and to listen and engage with the topic in a respectful and edifying way. I strongly believe that as followers of Christ we must be united. That does not necessarily mean we will all agree on everything but we are all part of one body, and we should all be earnestly seeking the will of God, individually and communally.
You can read more of Luke’s thoughts on situation on the Love Regardless blog.
In what ways can we practically love and accept LGBT people within our church communities?
How able would you feel to share your faith with a non-Christian LGBT person or to welcome them into your church?
What parts of the opposing argument to your own do you find most challenging?