(This is reposted from a blog, “The Ecumenicals“, for which I wrote as a guest this week”)
Jesus, the One around whom the Christian faith is built, instructed his disciples to love one another. After loving God, this was the second greatest commandment. Unfortunately, people who claim to follow the teachings of this subversive revolutionary fail to follow this equally revolutionary command. This is made evident in mainstream Christianity’s history of oppression, hatred, and violence towards the LGBTQ+ community.
A message that started as loving, compassionate, and inclusive is tragically warped into a hateful, spiteful, and exclusive message. Much of the church has adopted an “us vs. them” mentality that goes against the very fabric of the kingdom which Jesus came to establish. People like Westboro Baptist Church (using both the term “baptist” and “church” loosely”) are among these hate groups which twist the message of Christ to perpetuate their own prejudices, hates, and fears.
So, when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, in the midst of all of this hatred and mishandling of the gospel, the question arises, “What is the role of LGBTQ+ individuals within the church?” I take the same position as homosexual Christian, Wesley Hill. His view is that the Church should openly welcome admittedly gay men and women (and others in the LGBTQ+ community). And I wholeheartedly agree with him. The Church has turned away these beautiful humans created in God’s image for too long.
However, Wesley Hill, being homosexual in orientation himself, believes that homosexuality is a deviation from God’s original design. Thus, he believes that all sexual activity should be between a biological man and a biological woman. He describes himself more accurately as a “gay celibate Christian”. While I think members of the LGBTQ+ community should be generously welcomed, Hill and I both share the conviction that sex was created to be fulfilled between one man and one woman.
This does not, however, mean that homosexual men and woman should aim to be straight or “pray the gay away”. Just like heterosexual celibate men and woman, Hill makes the point that all people are made for community and fellowship. Much of the American church has made marriage so important that they see all celibate people as second class Christians. This simply is not so. Paul even spends a good amount of time in 1 Corinthians 7 explaining how being single is something he wished more people would pursue. We all need love, and this is especially true for celibate brothers and sisters, both heterosexual and homosexual.
Thus, the Church should not only be welcoming and accepting of members of the LGBTQ+ community, but also make extra provisions to provide community, fellowship, and a loving environment in which the fellow members can do life together as they walk in celibacy. As someone who is not married and does not see getting a spouse as something happening anytime in the near future, celibacy may be a real option for me. I would love to be able to embrace someone of the LGBTQ+ community who shares my convictions and walk that path together.
For too long, the Church has been no place for the LGBTQ+ community. But, if the Church wants to take seriously the commands of Christ, they need to refigure their approach to these individuals.
For additional reading, check out Wesley Hill’s book, “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality”