Why I should have spoken up for LGBT rights in the church.

This week, some blog comments have been getting to me.

I have been reading too many comment sections on blogs, Facebook and too many tweets. In fact, this article about blog comments by Popular Science, and why they aren’t doing them anymore has been one of my most retweeted shares.

I have an internet rule:  “Don’t read the comments.” I regularly break it. But when you run your own blog, you have to moderate, even when random people get into arguments over things unrelated to your writing, like on this post.  However, this week I spent some time over at Micah J. Murray’s post, “Why I can’t love the sinner/hate the sin anymore.” and Rachel Held Evan’s post “When Evangelicals Support Phil Robertson.” The comments on those posts bother me too, but not because they are bad, but because they say out loud what I have not.

Image source -http://confessionsofadevoted.blogspot.ca
Image source -http://confessionsofadevoted.blogspot.ca

Until now, I have never really have said much publicly about my position on LGBT issues and rights in the church. Maybe it is time that I should. Maybe I should have a long time ago. Maybe I am partly bothered by my own sitting on the sidelines as brothers and sisters in Christ fight to be seen and heard as equals in the body.

It occurs to me, that I really have no reason to say nothing or to be afraid of saying something.

I live in a country where any two people can be married, regardless of gender, and it is has been the law of the land for nearly a decade.

I serve in a denomination that recognizes the diversity of human relationships, sexual orientations and gender identity. Since 2011 we have allowed anyone to be a candidate for ministry regardless of sexual orientation or gender, and pastors are permitted to marry according to the laws of province in which they serve (which means same-sex blessings are permissible).

These policies and social statement have been in place for nearly 3 years, and still I haven’t spoken up. 

And there are more reasons why I should speak up. I also understand the biblical witness full well. I know the scripture passages that refer to marriage, sex and homosexuality, and I understand their context. I understand the hermeneutical methods, the greek, the historical situation. I know that biblical marriage is a messy idea based in chattel contracts, polygamy and incest.

I know that Abraham married his half-sister and consistently gave her up, to Kings and their royal harems, to save his own skin. I know Tamar pretended to be a prostitute so that Judah would impregnate her, as was his duty. I know the only scandal was her pregnancy, not his paying for sex.

I know that in Mark, Jesus’ prohibition of divorce was for the protection for women, so they would not be cast off like damaged property at the whim of their husbands. I know that Matthew was uncomfortable with this and added the unchastity clause.

And I definitely know that homosexuality in the bible is even murkier. I know that homosexuality was more about conquering armies raping their enemies, about older Greek and Roman men “mentoring” young boys, about teaching foreigners a lesson or two for wandering too far from home. I know that sex in the bible is far more about power and pleasure, about the god-like power to create life, and not so much about love, respect and commitment.

I know that the bible has little to say about gender identities, sexual orientation and homosexuality as we understand then today. I know that the bible also has little to say about romantic love and marriage either.

I know all this stuff, I have two university degrees in it after all.

And yet I still haven’t spoken out in favour of LGBT rights in the church. 

I grew up in a congregation full of wonderful people that loved me and I them, but who made a point of “standing up for the biblical definition of marriage.” They left my denomination shortly after I became a pastor. It was messy, it was painful, it was ugly. I have lost colleagues and friends because they simply couldn’t go along with what our denomination was doing.

And I knew they were wrong. I knew my colleagues understood the hermeneutics enough to be okay with women’s ordination, which is the same hermeneutical step to understanding that the bible is talking about a different homosexuality than we mean today. You can’t accept one and not the other.

It made me angry that pastors were leading churches out of fellowship, and into sketchy situations with little denominational support. I ranted and complained to friends about these colleagues.

And still I didn’t speak out. 

In my first parish, as the decisions regarding same-sex blessing and LGBT candidates for ministry were coming to our national church, we discussed what it would mean for our congregation. My church council had the most beautiful discussion of the issue that I have ever witnessed.

They were a generations-old farming community. Salt of earth, practical, hard-working people. They started out the conversation saying things like,

“That’s not the way I grew up.”

“I am just not comfortable with it.”

“My parents and grandparents would not want to see two grooms in our church.”

“That’s not what our community believes in.”

But without any prompting from me, they worked through the issue out loud,

“We wouldn’t want strangers coming to get married here, but what if one of our kids or grandkids came? What would say to them?”

“Would we really tell some of our children that it is okay for them to marry here, but not all of them?”

And then, as I still sat and listened, they agreed,

“Well, when the time comes, we know we will have to change our minds.”

They didn’t know that they already had changed their hearts.

That was 3 years ago, and still I haven’t spoken up for LGBT rights in the church. 

And yes, all along the way I have had questions. Questions more to do with evolutionary biology, and with the deep brokenness, alienation, estrangement and distortion of this condition we call sin and the impact it has in our lives, including our very genetic and biological makeup.

But I know the question don’t really matter in real life, and especially not to God.

And so it is better late than never right?

Maybe now is the time to speak up. 

And maybe now is still the time because there are Phil Robertson’s, Mark Driscoll’s and dudes on Facebook making idiotic comments.

And maybe now is the time because I am an ordained pastor and theologian of the church who has been called to say things about people, about the gospel, about the bible, about God.

And maybe now is the time because in a few months, my wife will have our baby and I will be a father. I will be a father who wants my child to know that I love him or her no matter what, no matter who they are. I want my child to know that his or her father believes strongly that all people – regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity, or race, or class, or gender – are loved by God.

I want my child to know that there is no sin too great for God to forgive, especially the sin of “being different” that human beings loudly condemn, but also the more quiet sins of being bigoted, or failing to speak up.

So let me speak put now:  I support LGBT rights and equality in the church.   

Have more to say on this issue? Share in the comments, on Twitter: @ParkerErik or on The Millennial Pastor Facebook Page

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17 thoughts on “Why I should have spoken up for LGBT rights in the church.”

  1. Erik, this is great. Thank you. Just wondering though, at the end, are you still calling homosexuality a sin at the very end, when you say there is no sin God can’t forgive such as “being different”?

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    1. Much of North American Christianity makes a sin of being anything but a straight white middle class male. And I think it is important for people to hear that God forgives and loves their being different.

      However, I do not think it is a sin to be different, nor do I think God does. And it is just as important for people to know that.

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  2. So, either the ELCA (I haven’t researched, but I’m relatively certain that you are an ELCA pastor.) has somehow taken over the blogging world and Facebook, or God, in His infinite power and love, is infiltrating my heart with confirmation of that love. (No doubt, the later.) 🙂
    Via Facebook, I read one of your blog posts. I proceeded to read more of your posts. (I ran across the blog of Pastor Tim Brown, in the same way.)
    I grew up Lutheran. I spent much of my adult life as a very active member of a Lutheran church. That being said, I became very disheartened. Grace was always spoken of as central, BUT the judgement, the self-righteousness, and the overall “I know God’s will” attitude caused my spirit great unrest. One of the particularly disturbing actions of the church, is their stance on homosexuality. Their claims, “Those people aren’t repentant! They are living in sin! God will judge them!”, have always been clearly contrary to the ministry of Christ.
    Well, I was always a member of an LCMS congregation. (Oh, on another subject, I read your post about “becoming a Lutheran”. You may want to note the HUGE synodical differences. Based on your post, one might walk in to an LCMS congregation and be quite unpleasantly surprised with the theology. Sorry, I should have just gone to that post and commented.) Anyway, I’ve studied Martin Luther, rather extensively, and always knew that he had great wisdom and a very Spirit-filled heart. (Well, he did write some things, not theological writings, that I choose to “ignore”, but that’s another subject.) I never found the same “basis” in any other denomination. I just couldn’t be a part of the hypocrisy that I saw in the “Lutheran church”. (We are ALL hypocrites, to some extent. That’s why we must shy away from judgement and strive to learn how to love.) The idea that we must “rebuke” (make them repent) the brother/ sister that “sins” and that we need to “save” their soul from such obomination, has no basis in the message of “grace”.
    Thank you for clarifying some of the common Biblical references that are used to defend some of the love-lacking theology that is perpetuated! Thank you for your ministry!
    God’s blessings and His peace,
    Beth

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    1. Thank you very much Beth. You are very close about my denominational affiliation. I am a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), which is the Canadian sister church to the ELCA (so I would become ELCA if I moved to the US, and ELCA pastors who move here become ELCIC).

      I am deeply aware that many Lutherans are not so grace centred. I know that the LC-MS has a very different view on these things than the ELCIC and ELCA. But even within our church, many congregations including my home congregation left the ELCIC over the issue if LGBT rights in the church and it was very sad and very harmful.

      I probably should clarify in my other post on Lutherans, but I don’t want to paint each Lutheran body with a large brush, so I simply said, “Lutheran theology and preaching at its best.” Hopefully, that covers some of the differences, but you are right, not all Lutheran churches are grace oriented.

      Thank you for the comment and I hope to continue seeing you around the blog!

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  3. Thank you, Pastor! (Do you go by “pastor” in Canada?)
    I’m just particularly disheartened with the LCMS. (AND extremely happy to learn more about the “other side” of Lutheranism!) You are certainly wise not to point out particular synods or congregations. My comment, on that matter, was emotionally driven. I just struggle with the “message” of grace being claimed as central, when the attitudes and actions are quite contrary.
    I look forward to reading more of your posts!
    God’s blessings and His peace,
    Beth

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  4. You talk about Gods grace, yes he can forgive homosexuality. Dont forget it is a sin. We cannot and must not advocate “continuing in sin”, repentance is necessary….how did you miss that ? Do you not know that ?

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