The Church and LGBT Community
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.
I John 2:9
"We must pray for Gays"
Pastor Heritage Munyakuri,
Yesterday, at the church where I have the privilege to pastor (www.newhopefree.org), one of my assistant pastors delivered the message. The topic of the sermon was "The Power of Prayer". In that sermon, Pastor Munyakuri encouraged the congregation to pray for others as prayer is effective means to blessing others. As an example, Pastor Munyakuri, who is from Congo, discussed the controversial initiative in Uganda, where it has been proposed that people found in homosexual realtionships should be put to death. Pastor Munyakuri denounced this policy and went on the encourage the congregation to pray for all people, including gays.
Interestingly, because of the highly sensitive nature of sexuality in the church, many listeners understood the message to be about homosexuality as opposed to prayer as a means of demonstrating God's love.
While I understand how it could be understood in this way, I continue to be amazed at the confusion and fear regarding issues regarding issues of sexuality, particularly anything involving same sex relationships. Last summer, I wrote a 10 part series called "Jesus and Sexuality" on this blogsite, seeking to encourage discussion and thoughtfulness in regards to a complex issue.
What has not been well articulated by most Christian communities has been its approach towards members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community. I think there are several reasons for this:
1. Sexual Identity is different from sexual attraction and sexual orientation. As Dr. Janelle Williams notes in her excellent book, "The End of Sexual Idenitity" it is a recent phenomena to connect sexual desire with identity. While same sex sexual activity has been around since earliest antiquity, it was regarded as something someone did, as opposed to something someone was. This is significant, as Biblical imperatives prohibited certain behaviors as opposed to condemning a group of people.
2. The Bible clearly speaks against same sex activity, as it also speaks against all sex outside of marriage. The concept of a same sex marriage was not considered in the Bible as the purpose of marriage in ancient paradigms was not companionship, but legacy (children).
3. Attempts by sincere Christian Psychologists and Pastors to "convert" LGBT members towards "heterosexuality" has largely failed, with conversions being less than 15% among willing participants. As opposed to behaviors such as stealing, or gossiping, where Christ-centered therapy has had significant success. In fact, no one has described the expectation for a disciple of Jesus who is involved in same sex relationships. Should there be loss of attraction, or a change in orientation and identity? If so, why has there been such inability to see real change? Part of the problem is that same sex relationships have been described in a medical model, where it is a disease to be cured as opposed to people who need to be cared for. In the former, the goal is eliminating the disease, as opposed to caring for the person and coming along side them as they reach wholeness in Jesus.
4. The most common paradigms from evangelical churches look at people with same sex attractions and relationships as "them" as opposed to "us". The Bible denounces adultery, pre-marital sex, drug use, lying, stealing, those with frequent anger, violent behavior, etc. Yet, we rarely see this behaviors in a way that prevents them from becoming part of our communities, even as they (we) struggle with besetting sins.
5. Most churches, as made clear in Dallas Willard's "Divine Conspiracy", do not have a strategy for discipleship (strategy to help people become fully devoted followers of Jesus). Without this kind of approach, churches are ill equipped connect people deeply with God and allow the spiritual formation that makes wholeness possible.
In my next entry, I will share some thoughts on ministering among members of LGBT community, but prior to that, I pray that you and your Church community will prayerfully ask God for a spirit of love and compassion as we move from demonization to discipleship and from cure to care.
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor