Being gay, Steve Chalke and where the church has got it wrong

Back in the summer of last year I was given the chance to attend a seminar on supporting LGBT students in the educational environment.  Most years as a teacher I will have one or two students who are openly gay, so it made sense to go along and see if there was anything useful to learn.  The group attending mainly consisted of people I know to be gay or pro-active supporters of gay rights.  The speaker was from a local gay support network and did a good job of explaining some of the issues gay students face.  It was when he got on to talking about those who oppose homosexual practice that things started to get uncomfortable.  Whilst not using the ‘bigot’ label it was clear he had very little respect for traditional Christian views and the Bible in particular.  He described the Bible as an ancient irrelevant book that had no place in modern culture and that Christians basically needed to ‘get with the programme’ as David Cameron might have put it, and start living in the 21st century.  The general consensus from others who spoke was agreement with him, and as the seminar went on I became more frustrated feeling that I needed to say something to show that most Christians don’t hate gay people, and I for one certainly don’t.

Finally I got the chance to speak at an appropriate point and came out as a Christian doing my best to give my point of view and correct some of the inaccuracies that had been given about Christians and the Bible.  It wasn’t easy and I’m not sure how seriously I was taken, but as I was speaking at the back of my mind I was thinking maybe this is what it’s like for a gay people when they come into contact with the Church or hear Christians talk about them.  It wasn’t enjoyable.

—–

Steve Chalke, The well-known founder of Oasis ministries and Stop the Traffik really put the cat among the pigeons last week when he announced that he was in favour of monogamous gay relationships and had blessed a civil partnership between two men in his congregation. In the article he has written for Christianity Magazine,  Chalke argues that as he has continued to  study the Bible, he has come to the conclusion that nowhere does it condemn the sort of gay relationships he supports.  His tone is one of compassion, but as you read his piece you get the distinct impression that he is trying to fit the Bible to his experiences, rather than the other way round.  For someone as knowledgeable as Chalke, his comparison of gay relationships with slavery and women in the church is tenuous in places.

The backlash from the evangelical community has been as strong as you would expect and these flaws in his argument have been picked up by a number of evangelical commentators, who have gone over interpretations and basically rubbished them.  It’s all been very predictable.  As those on both sides fight over the exegesis and hermeneutics (i.e. the correct interpretation) of the Biblical texts that mention homosexuality, we end up digging over old ground.  There’s nothing new here that hasn’t already been brought to the table and once again we’re reminded of the strength of feeling that surrounds the liberal versus evangelical dichotomies that are an unending source of tension within the church.

I have to make my stance on this issue clear at this point and say that I am firmly in the evangelical camp in that when I approach a moral issue I always turn to the Bible first.   As I read the biblical passages, I find nothing in them that supports practising gay relationships, however, and this is a big sticking point for me, I’m disappointed in the way many evangelical critiques of Chalke’s shift to a more liberal viewpoint get bogged down in the theology of it all and only provide a superficial pastoral response to gay people who are brave enough to want to be part of a church fellowship. Explaining whether Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of brazen homosexuality or extreme lack of hospitality doesn’t provide any answers for someone who wants to live a life pleasing to God but struggles with same-sex attraction.

It’s very hard for the traditional evangelical stance on homosexuality not to sound judgemental both to liberals and those outside the church.  The message comes across as, ‘We say we welcome everyone into our churches, but if you are gay, please leave any gay thoughts or behaviours you might have at the door before you come in.’  I don’t actually think this is the case most of the time, but other messages often get drowned out. The apparent choices available are to be celibate or become straight.

I’ve read two evangelical articles in response to Steve Chalke that have finished by giving a story of a Christian who has previously been attracted to members of their own sex, but now are happily married with children.  This is fabulous for them, but gives a false picture of the realities for many gay Christians.  Most studies of people who want to change their orientation from gay to straight, show that for the vast majority, they will not fully leave their same-sex attraction behind. The Evangelical Alliance’s excellent resource, Biblical and pastoral responses to homosexuality (p. 83) gives an example of a study that followed 73 ‘highly motivated’ individuals seeking change who were asked to classify themselves after at least three or four years of reparative (ex-gay) therapy through a Christian ministry in the US.  Of these, only 11 (15 per cent) reported ‘considerable resolution of homosexual orientation issues and substantial conversion to heterosexual attraction’.  The rest were unsuccessful.  If you look at the Rev. Peter Ould who on his website describes himself as post-gay, or take a look round the True Freedom Trust’s website you’ll see that for many Christians with same-sex attraction there is no complete ‘cure’ to their unwanted feelings.

Alternatively, telling someone they need to have to remain celibate for the rest of their life, isn’t going to be any easier for them to take whether they are gay or straight.  I know how hard a message that would be for me if I was told I had to.  It’s not surprising that many gay Christians are drawn to liberal churches where they can be accepted for who they are much more easily.  When I was a church youth worker we had this mantra of ‘belong before you believe before you behave’.  It was an acknowledgement that we couldn’t expect young people from outside the church to follow biblical teaching until they had discovered Jesus.  And the chances of that happening were much more likely if they felt the church was a place they could be made welcome and be appreciated for who they were.  Evangelicals might insist that liberals are too flexible on the behaviour side of things, but evangelical churches are not going to find gay people showing up if they feel they’ve been judged already and are unlikely to be welcomed.

In Romans 1:26,27 Paul says, ‘Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.’

Evangelicals are quite happy to use this passage as a key text on their views on homosexuality, but how often is the start of Chapter 2, which follows straight on from it, quoted alongside of it?:

‘You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?’

When Paul is talking about doing the same things, he’s not talking about being gay, he’s talking about sinning, which none of us can escape from.  Jesus loved to hang out with tax collectors, prostitutes and other ‘sinners’.  He made them feel at ease in his company and constantly demonstrated God’s grace to them.  If evangelical churches want gay people to follow their tough message, then they should be making a concerted effort to give them the support and encouragement they need whatever stage they are on their journey with God.

Steve Chalke has risked a huge amount by revealing his beliefs on gay relationships.  I can imagine that he is now totally discredited in many evangelical circles, despite all the good he has done in his various ministries.  I struggle to agree with all of his theology but I admire his willingness to reach out to the gay community.  It’s far from easy trying to cross these barriers and the stakes are high.  Jesus paid a high price for taking the good news to those who supposedly were far from God.  If the Church (and by this I mean the evangelical church in particular) is serious about showing God’s love to all people, we need to be putting ourselves in situations where we’re able to have honest dialogue with gay people, where we listen carefully first before we even start thinking about preaching.  Often this will be challenging and uncomfortable for us as I inadvertently found out during that seminar, but if we fail to move on from discussing homosexuality primarily at a theological level, we’re letting down the Church, God and in particular gay people.



Categories: Bible, Church, Homosexuality, Theology

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145 replies

  1. If we address the issues at a primarily theological level we are not letting down the church – we are being the church. Evangelicals can not lay down their believe in an authoritative text ans stay Evangelical. And if that text is the primary self-revelation of God how on earth can making the issues primarily theological be ‘letting God down?’ Where else would we be informed on how God feels on the gay issue? From Pastors, counsellors, politicians, clinicians?? Come on now… This really is the heart of the matter… Whether or not we believe the text to be authoritative or not. If we make the Pastoral issues primary and the theological secondary, then we have ceased to be Evangelicals. If that is someone’s choice, then choose… But do not pretend that you can do so and remain an Evangelical who is committed to the authority of Scripture!

    • The danger from an evangelical point of view is that we can think that our interpretation of scripture is the right one. Look at the Pharisees. They believed they were the guardians of the law, but Jesus ripped them to shreds. There has to be an element of grace in this and accept that we may not have all of the right answers.

      We also can’t detach pastoral issues from theological ones. If we want to follow scripture closely then most of that involves living it out and not just talking about it.

      • Gillan, you cannot compare a Christian who is seeking to follow the bible with the Pharisees, as they are portrayed as unsaved people, seeking their own righteousness, & wisdom, not that of Christ. A true Christian looks to the bible as the only source of God’s opinion on any/all matters. Of course there are issues of interpretation, but Rom 1 and 1 Cor 6:9-10 make it clear that homosexuality is a sin.

      • Helen, you’re wrong on the Pharisees. They were trying to do the right thing and to protect Judaism from the multiple false prophets and fake messiahs that had come. Admittedly they missed the point quite badly with Jesus. But we never do that, obviously!!

        Here’s a snippet of the bible:

        “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
        As a nation that has done righteousness
        And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
        They ask Me for just decisions,
        They delight in the nearness of God.”

        This is a people group that are genuinely seeking God day by day and delight to know his ways. They delight in God’s nearness and ask him for just decisions. So, they’re pretty good as far as people groups go? Committed Evangelicals seeking to follow the bible? Sounds like it to me.

        Here’s the verse that comes before it (Isaiah 58:1)

        Cry loudly, do not hold back;
        Raise your voice like a trumpet,
        And declare to My people their transgression
        And to the house of Jacob their sins.

        And verse 3:

        Why have we fasted and You do not see?
        Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
        Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
        And drive hard all your workers.

        It goes on, you’ve almost certainly seen it before. These are people who’d read their bibles, and were trying to get close to God. Just as you’re (hopefully) reading your bible and trying to get close to God. But something was stopping God from noticing them humbling themselves and fasting. Their actions.

        To paraphrase Jesus from Matthew 23:23, “You [Pharisees] tithe your garden herbs, but forget the weightier things of the law – justice and mercy and faithfulness! You are correct to tithe your garden herbs, but also you should remember justice, mercy and faithfulness!”

        Check out Luke 10:26 onwards. We are to love each other. This is echoed throughout the entire NT- LOVE each other. It’s not limited to believers loving believers, either! If you’re not loving others, then how are you any different from those in Isaiah 58?

        I’m not disputing that being actively engaged in homosexuality isn’t sinful. But is it worse than drunkenness, orgies, fits of rage, or anything else from Gal 5:19-21 and 1 Peter 4:3 and numerous other lists? Should we be condemning sinners and making them think Christians are judgemental, close minded people? Or should others know us by our love? What did Jesus do??!!

        Not saying I’ve got this sorted at all. But hopefully this will encourage you to pick up your bible and find out for yourself!

      • Jarlly, You are wrong!
        The bible makes it clear that the pharisees were not saved cos they trusted their OWN righteousness (good works), not Christ’s righteousness inputed to them.
        Anyone who claims to be a gay Christian is not saved, as you cannot be saved without repentance, and if you have repented you will not engage in willfull sin. Yes we all slip up from time to time, through ignorance, weakness & our own deliberate fault, BUT gay relationships ARE different, cos to live permanently in one is telling God and the world that you’ve no intention of repenting and giving up your sin of sex outside biblical marriage, i.e. one man & one woman!

      • Whoops, typo, meant IMPUTED righteousness!

      • I notice a pattern there – always involves 2 genders. [hides behind sofa preparing for onslaught]

      • Didn’t God say something like,’ My thought are not your thoughts etc’ so it doesn’t matter what interpretation we put on the individual proscribed practices.
        We have to accept what God says is sin.

        ‘Woe to you who call good evil and evil good.’ That comes to me but I don’t know Bible chapter and verse, sorry.

        And where does it say we should encourage gays into the faith?
        We don’t encourage child molesters or thieves to come into the church if they do not repent of their behaviour do we?

      • Acts 20:27; For I have not shunned to declare to you all the counsel of God.

  2. I suspect that many churches, including Evangelical fellowships, do very much better pastorally than might be expected in offering love and acceptance to real people. The Scriptural fact is that there is simply not enough material about gayness in the Bible to justify erecting it in to the Great Shibboleth. What Evangelical Christians could try to do is read the small number of texts there are about this in a more careful and disciplined way, (e.g. in Romans 1 the same sex behaviour is the punishment as much as the crime, ask why does Paul coin a new word rather than using the 17 available to him in Greek, ask where this leaves people who are not giving up a heterosexual attraction they have never experienced, etc) before going all tribal about this. That in itself, as well as advancing scriptural understanding, would help mitigate the feeling many gay people have that for Evangelicals they are, in themselves, the problem. Evangelicals are most Evangelical when they are good news,

  3. Gillan, I think the real sticking point is that you are still judgemental, you are just trying to bury the judgement kernel underneath a lot of pastoral care. Which is very much appreciated! But ultimately, you are not accepting gays and straights on the same terms. People can sense this and gay people have a very keen sense for “we love you but we don’t actually accept you”. You either find a way of accepting gay people fully and on equal terms or you don’t.
    My own favourite argument comes from the Roman Catholic theologian James Alison who argues that we have made an anthropological discovery about humanity in the last 50 years or so and that we now know that they are not dis-ordered, faulty or sinful heterosexuals but that they are actually a category of their own. But if you no longer can say that being straight is the ordered way of being then you can no longer say that being gay is disordered. And then you have to accept that Scripture doesn’t really have anything at all to say about homosexuality. It simply speaks of perverted sexual behaviour and about unnatural sexual behaviour. And that is wrong for both gay and straight alike. Only that for straights it would be unnatural to have gay sex whereas for gays it would be unnatural to have straight sex.
    And I firmly believe that until evangelicals can get their heads round the fact that those killer bible passages do not speak about me and my wife happily raising children and looking after our grandchildren but that they speak about casual gay sex in dingy toilets, they will not ever become welcoming places for gay people.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to ask Gillan to “accept gay people fully and on equal terms” if his reading of scripture and conscience leads him to conclude homosexual practise is not something God has ordained. In other words, it’s not his decision. He’s following God, not what he’d like to do in himself.

      This isn’t a bunch of evangelicals deliberately being harsh or unloving. Most of the time they are very loving and perhaps even frustrated that they can’t twist scripture to say what they’d like it to say! But as evangelicals, we have to place the Bible above any other authority – including the ‘authority’ of our own minds.

      Jesus found a way of being welcoming toward tax collectors while totally disagreeing with what they did. There’s no reason why Christians today can’t welcome gay people while believing homosexual practise is wrong. You are right that many gay people won’t like this and will reject Christians and the Church for it, but evangelical Christians have to do “their bit” and leave the rest up to God. We can’t be blamed if people don’t like what we believe. The Bible calls us to truth and love, not to being a people pleaser and changing our minds to fit the culture around us.

      • Thank you Sam. That summarises things very well. The problem is that if I ignore the bits of the Bible that I find challenging or uncomfortable, I degrade it and my faith. Jesus was totally uncompromising, but drew people to him at the same time from all backgrounds. Even so there were things he said that some people couldn’t cope with and deserted him as a result (John 6). Dealing with tension and paradox is part of the Christian faith. It’s a challenge for all Christians to deal with.

      • The problem with this view is not that it’s un-Christian or judgemental but that it will ultimately not be accepted by gay people. And I thought the aim was to make them feel welcome in your churches.
        If you equate us to tax collectors you are still not seeing the reality of who we know we are. I accept that I am like a tax collector if I sleep around and have casual relationships. But I do not accept that I am like a tax collector when I and my wife work hard at the reality of being married and bringing up a stable Christian family. What you are saying about us just simply does not connect with our reality.
        I’m not dismissing your views. I’m trying to explain that you cannot truly speak to us and be welcoming while you hold them. We know that we will be welcome on different terms than straight people and that really is no welcome at all.

      • Hi Erika,

        I think that’s a common misunderstanding of the position being discussed.

        You say “The problem with this view is not that it’s un-Christian or judgemental but that it will ultimately not be accepted by gay people.”

        What’s more important, staying true to historic Christianity and the teachings of Jesus, or forming a doctrine that gay people will like? For me, it’s the former. And this isn’t me singling out gay people. It’s saying that no matter what group of people dislike the doctrine I hold, the doctrine comes first and my faith comes first. I don’t pick a doctrine that people will like, I choose to believe what I believe to be true.

        “And I thought the aim was to make them feel welcome in your churches.”

        Yes that is the aim but it’s not the primary aim. As I say above the number one aim is to accurately represent my beliefs and speak the truth that I believe I’ve come to understand. Now, I do believe that one consequence of this will be that people of all backgrounds, beliefs etc would feel comfortable in a church. But making people feel comfortable isn’t the number one aim. Because making people comfortable doesn’t result in salvation. Hearing and believing the truth results in salvation.

        I don’t believe a welcome is on different terms depending on who walks in. I believe that everyone, Christian or not, gay or straight has fallen short of God’s best. Everyone is a sinner. Even after accepting Jesus, you will sin. We sin in different ways. The whole point of going to church is recognising that you have messed up and need forgiveness. You then receive that forgiveness and live a life which seeks to repent and turn from previous sinful activity.

        So it’s a level playing field as far as I’m concerned – we all walk into church as sinners. Hopefully we walk out more determined to live for God than before. But I am in total agreement that gay people should not be singled out as being sinful. And I accept this has happened in the past and is wrong.

        The answer to this above problem is not to say “being gay isn’t sin” but to say “lots of things are sinful, and we all need forgiveness. We shouldn’t single out gay people but accept we’re all a work in progress”. That way we are welcoming to everyone (which is very important) and also (more importantly) we’re staying true to the Bible and to the faith we all hold.

      • Erika, how welcome would I be in a church that affirmed your marriage? I lived a normal gay life until I converted and simultaneously became aware (much to my surprise) that something wasn’t quite right about doing what, up until that point, felt entirely natural to me. I came to this conclusion before I started reading any Christian literature (including the Bible) and only subsequently discovered that Christian teaching aligned with my new convictions. Would I be accepted but only as a person who had a fundamentally flawed understanding of himself – someone who suffered from some kind of “internalised homophobia”?

      • Joe, one of our Lay Readers shares your views and he is welcome by everyone to preach in our church and is a valued member of our community. Once our church had an open evening to discuss homosexuality and he and I spoke on different sides. That’s the extent to which this is an issue. And we don’t socialise outside church, but I think that;s more because of the age difference between us. We always chat over coffee after the Service. We kneel side by side at the altar, when my daughter was ill he prayed for her every day for 3 years, I am welcome to prayer breakfasts at his house. My church is very affirming of me and my family just as it is fully accepting of our Reader. I am Secretary of our PCC. My sexuality is not an issue for anyone. The only thing that stops me from being a Lay Reader next to my brother in Christ is the official stance of the big church. You would be extremely welcome and accepted 100% at all levels.

      • To be honest I don’t think I would feel comfortable in church that affirmed someone in a gay marriage – not because I am uncomfortable around other gay people but because I would feel that your church had failed to be a church to me by encouraging all of it’s members (regardless of how difficult it can be at times) to pursue holiness. To me, such a church would not be a God honouring church – so I guess we are back to disagreeing about the primacy of theology.

      • Thank you Joe. That’s a really helpful comment. We all change when we become Christians as the Holy Spirit begins to work in us. We all have to be prepared to be challenged. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening. I think it’s really important that all these stories are told. It helps us learn so much better than just theorising about it.

      • Joe, the difference is that you would be making that choice. In my church you would be truly welcome without any reservations. And that, too, is a matter of theology.

      • Erika, again there are deeper divisions below the surface of our conversation. I do not think of my faith as a choice. I felt awakened to a Truth I most certainly wouldn’t have chosen without that initial calling. I’m not looking for a church that meets my personal needs. Christianity still challenges me everyday to turn away from myself in ways that I consider ‘vital’ but does not necessarily give me things I would ask for if I was granted three wishes.

      • Sam – see my comment below for a link to Accepting Evangelicals. It’s not a question of twisting scripture: it’s a question of wrestling with it, of having sufficient trust in God and sufficient personal integrity to dare to ask the questions Steve Chalke has asked and allowing God to remove any blinkers that might be there. For Paul, it involved a lightning strike from heaven or whatever it was that knocked him off his donkey on the Damascus road; for Peter, it involved praying and fasting and bizarre visions, impossible challenges and eventually seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the very people that everything in Peter, in his upbringing and traditions, told him God could not be at work in without certain preconditions being met.

        Dare you — and dare you, Gillan — wrestle with scripture as Steve has done? Dare you ask those questions? Dare you challenge the traditions of your forefathers? As someone far wiser than me has said, faith is spelt R-I-S-K. Take a risk. Ask God whether the Bible means what you’ve been taught it means or whether that reading of scripture is actually blinding you to a deeper, more radical truth, that God accepts all people irrespective of gender or orientation?

      • Phil – it is not only liberals and thinking anglicans that wrestle with scripture on this issue. Many of us have looked time and again at the passages, have read the websites (changing attitudes and accepting evangelicals), read the articles. We have tried to wrestle and understand and pray through our own feelings on this, and see, even hope that we are wrong. Nobody likes to stick out in contemporary culture, and we would love the opportunity to be co-cultural on with this. I have dared, and will continue to dare, but remain unpersuaded.

        I think Gillan has articulated very well the orthodox position as have other bloggers (notably Rev. Peter Ould). There are now testimonies of christians who have commited themselves to celibacy (I recently read the article by Sam Allberry who was the first person to invite me to church #hundredfold), or even occasionally have experienced a change of feeling. On that topic there is a fascinating book by Rosaria Butterfield of her own quite incredible journey that is well worth a read – perhaps especially for you as she comes from very much the politicial and ideological left.

        She speaks candidly of the damage and hypocrisy of the church and yet the change that conversion gave to her own life (she was a tenured professor teaching on feminism and lesbian acitivism – now married to presbyterian minister). Speaking for myself I will continue to be challenged.

      • Sam, thank you for your reply.
        You see, the difficulty is that we absolutely know ourselves to be loved and accepted by God on the same terms as you. You may not know it yet because of your different reading of Scripture, but we know it in the depth of our souls.
        A doctrine that is based on an outdated understanding of homosexuality does not speak the truth about us and will therefore be rejected, however sincerely held.

        There IS good evangelical theology that points the way, we know we are not simply justifying our wantonly chosen lifestyles.
        And we will continue to attend those churches that do understand this and not those that insist on a reading of who we are that conflicts with the truth of who we know we are.

        To say that you treat us like you would treat any other sinner shows us that you clearly have not understood us. If the married straight couple in your street is not sinning by virtue of being married, then the married gay couple isn’t either.
        If you continue to believe that there a material difference, then you are, indeed, treating us like a different class of sinner to yourselves. And we know that we are not welcome in your churches and that you truly and deeply do not understand who we are yet talk about us with supposed God given authority. It will not work.

      • Phil – I totally accept that Steve Chalke is wrestling with scripture and doesn’t believe he’s twisting it.

        It’s not that I’m not asking the questions or reading the arguments. I am. I just don’t find the arguments convincing. And that’s why Steve’s view is in the minority within evangelicalism – NOT because people aren’t reading him properly, but precisely because they ARE reading him properly and they disagree with his interpretations.

      • You say that, Sam, and yet at the end of your reply to Erika, you say, “we’re staying true to the Bible and to the faith we all hold.” What you’re staying true to is your reading of the Bible; and that’s the problem: you equate that reading of the Bible with the Bible itself. Steve is right: it’s a matter of integrity; and in denying the possibility of other readings of the Bible, you implicitly deny the integrity of those who accept those readings. Can you — can evangelicals as a whole — dare to acknowledge those other readings?

      • Hi Phil, you’re quite right to pull me up there. But I’d also say I wrote that in quite a different way than you read it. I was talking about evangelicals who believe homosexual practise is a sin and the way they are both inclusive and stay true to their reading of scripture.

        I don’t mean to equate the Bible with my reading of it. Sorry for giving that impression. I’m pleased you pulled me up on it so I can clarify as I’ve often used your argument with other people in other debates!

        So yes I accept there are other ways of reading the Bible, I just don’t find the arguments convincing so choose not to take the same interpretation as Steve Chalke.

      • Thanks Sam: good to know we’re on the same wavelength on this point! Also encouraged by your observation that “Steve’s view is in the minority within evangelicalism” — far too many people seem to be asserting that Steve has placed himself outside the evangelical fold, as if evangelicalism is more about holding to a particular interpretation of scripture than it is about holding to scripture.

        To all evangelicals reading, a couple of simple (or perhaps not so simple!) questions:

        1. What is it that constitutes being an evangelical: is it holding to the authority of scripture, or is it holding to a particular interpretation of scripture?
        2. If it is holding to a particular interpretation, why make this specific issue the benchmark?

      • I’m running out of reply buttons, now, Sam, so sorry if this in the wrong place.
        You see, I think Phil has the right idea here. Instead of having to say that one of us is right and the other wrong, might you be able to acknowledge that there are different ways of interpreting Scripture and that they all have their integrity?
        Because then you could at least live side by side with people like me without forever having to try and get back to telling me that I’m not following Christ’s rules if I live differently. It’s that arrogance that gets to us more than your theology.
        If you can do enough reading (and the reason I don’t want to debate theology with you is that this is not the right forum and also because there is already so much of it out there that I’d expect you to do a bit of homework first before we have that particular conversation) you could come to a place where you could say that it is possible to come to a different conclusion, even while you stick with your own.
        That would at least be a starting point that would enable people like me to feel welcome in your churches.

      • It’s perfectly possible to say 1) one of us is right and one of us is wrong and 2) there are different opinions.

        As I said above, I believe both of these things to be true, and I think you would too.

        Neither of us are being arrogant, we both have different views and we’re both stating those views.

        Of course it’s possible to come to a different conclusion! Isn’t that why we’re having this conversation in the first place? Because we’ve both some to different conclusions?

      • So can we worship together? Erika and her partner, and you, both with different conclusions, both in the same church, or would you in that case want her to accept your view? Would you feel constrained to tell her your view? Would you feel that her being open about her coupledom was somehow “in your face” so you needed to make a stand?

        Could you accept her as a teacher in your church, leading a study or fellowship group?

      • As a Protestant I’m quite sure I would be welcome as a guest in a Catholic church to worship alongside Catholic members of that church. But if I continued attend that church and sought out a leading/teaching role in the church, I’m also sure I would be asked to clarify my position regarding a number of issues that Protestants and Catholics are known to disagree on. I don’t think I would feel “unwelcome” if I was not accepted as a teacher in a Catholic church when it was clear that I remained a Protestant.

      • Once again there seems to be no reply button under Joe’s last comment above so I’m using the next available one.
        Joe, I think the deepest divide I can detect in your answer is that I truly respect your views and your interpretation of Christ’s Truth, whereas you seem to consider me as having chosen a church because it happens to fulfill my (entirely unreasonable and naturally anti-Christian) wishes.
        Until you and those like you get your heads round the fact that we experience faith and God’s truths in our lives exactly like you but that we do, after careful study of Scripture, to different conclusions, there truly is no basis for a conversation. And there truly is no welcome for us in your churches.

        I have to say, all in all I have been astonished by the poor understanding of theology on this blog and by how many seem to think that grappling with an ancient text written in now dead languages and in different cultures can not only be dispensed with but must be dismissed as “exegetical gymnastics” etc..
        I respect those who, after careful study of Scripture and appreciating its linguistic complexity come to a conclusion that is different to mine. These people usually also know that neither conclusion is obvious and that it is indeed a matter of careful interpretation. We can truly respect each other and not doubt each other’s faith if we come to different conclusions.
        But the level of “plain meaning” talk here has been astonishing and even more so the refusal to see any deeper engagement as anything other than an avoidance tactic.

        If this is indeed standard, we have a long long way to go before people like me will dare step inside your churches.

      • Erika, I think the “exegetical gymnastics” quip was/is a (admittedly flippant) reaction to the extreme weakness of the revisionist arguments. But I’ll leave that one to the theologians to argue over.

        I clearly disagree with you on what (for me) is a very important matter – so whether or not you would feel welcome in the same churches as me is not a deal breaker. My view (with no ill will intended) is that you don’t have to agree with me or anyone else – but if you did respect my views, you would respect the consequences of those views – which is to say I would seek out the kind of church that you would not ‘dare’ step inside.

      • I see two problems here:
        (1) “I don’t make the rules” is a viable point of view for those who say it, but rarely convincing to those it is aimed at, who are bound to go on and want to engage with those who do…
        (2) Imagine you encountered the Bible for the first time as someone from another culture, that did not assume homosexuals were objectively disordered exceptions to a norm. Congratulations! You are now reading it as many people in our culture do. Seen this way, there is very little material in there relating to homosexual practice, and much of that tiny amount is both ambiguous and flaky. For example Leviticus 18:22 which, on a soundbite level seems clear and simple, contains the strange phrase about “the Lyings of a woman” [מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה] What are those? Why are they there? what is actually being proscribed? On what grounds? How does this “abomination” relate to the others in the chapter?
        What I would hope to see is not Evangelicals defocussing from scripture, but rather studying it more carefully as it is, not as a collection of soundbites selectively quarried for nuggets that can be strung together and used against people who disgust them. That’s all. Why don’t we do it?

      • Erika- you said “We absolutely know ourselves to be loved and accepted by God on the same terms as you. You may not know it yet because of your different reading of Scripture, but we know it in the depth of our souls.”

        I totally agree you are loved and accepted by God the same as anyone else. I never said otherwise.

        “A doctrine that is based on an outdated understanding of homosexuality does not speak the truth about us and will therefore be rejected, however sincerely held.”

        When did the bible become “outdated”? I know that sounds like a confrontational question, it’s not meant to be. I’m just pointing out that for thousands of years there has been a consensus on this that the Bible teaches X. Now, if that is true then X does not and cannot become “outdated”. So instead you need to argue that the Bible teaches Y. Not that X is “outdated”.

        “If the married straight couple in your street is not sinning by virtue of being married, then the married gay couple isn’t either.”

        Sorry but that’s not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught that a MAN would leave his mother and father and be joined to his WIFE. There’s a clear male/female emphasis here that goes all the way back to how God created us. You won’t find a single verse in the Bible that justifies homosexual practise. Instead you’ll find a lot of verses which speak very negatively of homosexual practise. It’s these verses that some want to say “don’t really mean that”. But I don’t see how anyone from a plain reading of scripture could come to the position that God approves of homosexual practise.

        “If you continue to believe that there a material difference, then you are, indeed, treating us like a different class of sinner to yourselves. And we know that we are not welcome in your churches and that you truly and deeply do not understand who we are yet talk about us with supposed God given authority. It will not work.”

        I dispute the claim I’m treating you as a different class of sinner. All have sinned. It’s just we sin in different ways. The Bible lists many things as sin and homosexual practise is one of them. It’s not my fault that God said marriage was between a man and a woman. If you want to believe that God has ordained marriage between men and men and women and women then that is your choice, but I’d ask you to please prove that to me from scripture…

      • Sam,
        I have no interest in discussing same sex theology with you. That is not what this blog post is about, at least I didn’t think it was.
        And as we said, there is good theology around and you are free to wrestle with that or not. Phil has posted some links here, there are others that you should be able to find easily.

        But I think it is instructive that a post about how the church should treat gay people very quickly gets down to straight people telling gays where we go wrong and that they know more about us that we do. My wife and I have brought up children who are about your age now and my wife and I have 5 grandchildren from her family. You know absolutely nothing about us and our lives. If you did you would simply not be able to persist with your reading of Scripture. You have no conception just how obvious that is to us.

        That is precisely why we will not be attracted by evangelical churches as they are. The acceptance is only ever a cloak for the underlying rigid core of “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
        And that’s really all I had been saying right from the outset.
        It will not work because we know it’s not actually acceptance.

      • Alan – one thing to throw into the mix is the idea and presumption (I admit!) that God has designed the Bible to be read with ease. Everything I know about Jesus suggests to me that his message was for everyone. Not just those who were scholars. Now, I have to be careful how far I take this argument, but I think I would say that a “plain reading” of scripture is often the best place to start. I love studying and going deeper so I’m not saying that’s not important. But I am saying that most of the time, we know what God says because he says is plainly and clearly.

        So I would counter your argument by saying, imagine someone came to the Bible wanting to know what it said about homosexual practise and read every verse in the Bible that mentions it. What conclusion would they come to? I can tell you they wouldn’t find a single verse that even hints at homosexual practice being Godly. For me God has spoken really clearly on this. We may not like it, but that doesn’t change the truth.

      • Hang on a minute Erika, let’s be fair here. I never once said I knew more about you than you do.

        You also suggest that if I knew about your life I wouldn’t persist with my reading of scripture. I’m sorry but you’ve got it the wrong way around again.

        I keep trying to make the point – scripture is number one. It comes first. It’s where the authority is. So I’m sure you have a great life and are very happy, but for me that doesn’t change what the Bible teaches.

        That’s fine you don’t want to argue theology. But for me that’s where this whole debate starts and finishes so we’ll have to leave it there for now. I don’t see how we can debate this issue without talking about the Bible?

        It’s not a case of who is right and who is wrong. We both agree that someone is right and someone is wrong – we just disagree who that person is! haha. So I’m not going to apologise for having an opinion and you shouldn’t either. :)

      • May I suggest that Jesus is number one? He comes first, he is the head, he is where the authority lives; and when he sends his Spirit to bestow the self-same blessings upon gay couples as he does upon straight couples, upon what basis do we withhold ours?

        Peter had all the reservations about gentiles that you hold about gays; but when the Spirit came all those reservations were swept away. Let the Spirit flow!

      • I think you’re making a massive jump here. When exactly did he send his Spirit to bless gay couples?

      • OK Sam, let me put that another way: when have you seen God withholding the Spirit from Christian gay couples? Think about all the Christian gay couples you know: has God withheld the Holy Spirit from their lives, or do you see the same fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, humility and self-control that you expect to see in heterosexual couples?

      • To butt in here, yes, I have seen those things in gay couples, but to set the cat amongst the pigeons, I’ve also seen the same thing in polygamous marriages. The confusing thing about people who do things you’ve been told are awful is that they often turn out to be much better people than you. How do we respond?

      • Some reflections from a couple of others who are on this journey:
        1. An Evangelical Apology

      • 2. Plucking Blackberries (you have to read it to make sense of the title)

      • 2. … alas, appears to have gone into the moderation queue…

      • Fixed! Thanks for the book suggestion on Facebook. I’ve been reading a preview copy of Unconditional by Justin Lee, who is an gay evangelical Christian in the US. It’s very good and hopefully I’ll have a review up in about a week or so.

      • Thanks Gillan; look forward to seeing your review :)

      • I’m all for simple meanings, Sam. Love is love and known by its fruits perfect love drives out fear, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them. There is no “yes, but” about grace.

        That said, our new person would have to wade through over 32,000 verses to find six that can have any bearing at all on gay sex. Reading Leviticus, they might well assume this text meant what it says not what it has often been taken to say. They would also be intrigued as to what bits of this code we apply literally and what bits we don’t, and how these have changed down the years.

        If Evangelical churches allow themselves to become the last ditches for people who are disgusted by gay people, the chances of our newbie ever reading the Bible become dramatically lower. I am sad about this, because I believe the Bible contains the words of life.

        As to the texts used to exclude gay people from Church, of course they should be taken seriously. It’s crazy to say on the one hand, the problem with non-Conservatives is that they don’t take the Bible seriously and then, when someone does, that this is all too complicated and you’re not going to bother to have the text challenge your prejudices about it. It rather gives the game away, really.

      • Yes I take your point about there not being much in the Bible about it. But what IS there is unanimous on a plain reading. Can we agree on that? That it’s very difficult to come to the conclusion that God approves of gay sex after reading those 6 verses? That’s my point.

        I really don’t think any rational, sensible person can read those verses any other way, no matter what era/culture they come from UNLESS they do lots of extra digging and engage in what some see as “exegetical gymnastics” or to put it more kindly…digging deeper behind the plain reading of the text.

        I also don’t think it’s fair to use language like evangelicals being “disgusted by gay behaviour” as this is not what’s being debated. We need to make the distinction between homophobia and loving gay people while believing homosexual activity is sinful. Those things are NOT the same and evangelicals quite rightly get very angry when people portray them as being the same thing.

      • As keen as we may be on having a nice simple Bible, we’ve got the one we’ve got. Not all its texts are perfectly simple. The ones we’re talking about here raise all kinds of questions. Why, when he had 17 Greek words to choose from that would have meant different aspects of homosexual practice, did Paul coin a new word in I Corinthians that sometimes, as others used it in future referred to heterosexual couples? We read “against nature” and the next person described as acting in this way in the book is, er, God in Chapter 11. So is this simple condemnation? Steve Chalke’s point is that our present reading, arising from a profoundly prejudiced society in the past, causes lying, blackmail, depression, alcoholism, and the occasional suicide. By its fruits you know it. The results should send us back to the text in humility, not to ignore its subtleties. As SC points out, Christians do all kinds of exegetical gymnastics to wiggle out of other commands in the Bible; so why do we treat these as we do?

      • Thank you Alan for all your helpful contributions today. It’s nice to see a church leader contributing! It’s very good of you to give your time to this and you’ve been very gracious in your words. They do provide plenty of food for thought.

      • Thanks, Gillian, for graciously hosting the kind of discussion we really need to be having so that we can move on.What this discussion has done is send me back t the Scriptures, and I’m becoming convinced there is far more resource locked up in the actual text than we see at first sight — possibly the result of studying alongside rabbinical students who didn’t have the option of ditching the text (I’m not sure we do!) but had to work their halakha out of it.

      • Hi Alan, What sort of exegetical gymnastics do you have in mind for other bits that christians wriggle out of? Does that also mean we should be going back and being firmer / more consistent within church about these wriggle issues? That aside, surely part of the discussion is also on what God does affirm and hold up as undeniably good. That would seem to be singleness for the sake of the gospel (e.g. Paul & Jesus) and also marriage as traditionally understood. Maybe we should have stronger and more explicit single ministry’s to go along with the family ministry’s that most churches run? Perhaps part of the current problem is that singleness within church is sometimes (mostly) seen as a second class way of life rather than valuable and God glorifying in its own right? Would be good to know what you think.

  4. Thanks for this, Gillan. Whilst I disagree with your stance against homosexual practice, I admire the candour with which you’ve outline your viewpoint here; and you’re right about the importance of the pastoral issue: our God is above all a God of love; and those who wish to turn the conversation into a theological debate do both the church and, I think, God a major disservice.

    What I find most disturbing is the speed at which so many — entirely predictably, as you’ve noted — have rushed in to denounce Steve. Rather than attempt to engage, they simply condemn, throwing out lines about denying the authority of scripture and equating their long-cherished views about what the Bible teaches with what the biblical writers do, in fact, teach. Wrestling with scripture is not a denial of biblical authority and coming to a new understanding of scripture is part of our growth in Christ. But however we interpret scripture, whatever we choose to believe, is only relevant insofar as it affects the way we behave. It’s Jesus himself who said, “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” who went on to say, “By their fruit shall you know them.” That’s where our pastoral practice kicks in, and that’s the basis upon which we shall be judged: not on our biblical interpretation or on our theology but on how that interpretation and theology works out in practice.

    This quote from the ‘Blog of Kevin’ hits the nail of the head:

    Where I see genuine love, commitment, and a desire for a covenant relationship, I see God. Where I see people who love God, who serve God, who God speaks to and through as much as the next person, I see God. And to deny them equal status, to keep them at the edge like women at the synagogue, is wrong. If God does not withhold his Holy Spirit from gay Christians, how can we withhold anything?

    It’s the self-same dilemma faced by Peter when it came to the question of admitting Gentiles to the church. Scripture and tradition were clear: the Gentiles could not be part of God’s Covenant People, could they?

    While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

  5. Or, alternatively, you could recognise the value of the liberal churches. (I am “liberal-liberal”). We have a ministry to people whom the Evangelical churches drive out.

    It does seem to be the great sibboleth, over which you tear yourselves apart. “Post-gay” sounds a more nuanced description than “ex-gay”. I disagree with the man believing he has to be celibate, but he has the choice, it is his way of following God. I loathe the straight man who tells the gay man he has to be celibate, especially if that straight man is on his second marriage.

    • We still have the habit of being more tolerant of some behaviours than others. Do we make the same fuss over a straight couple who are living together, but not married, or a single mother who was never married? The danger of writing this sort of thing is that I come across as judgemental, maybe even more so than others. The idea is to make us think rather than give a definitive answer.

  6. I found this to be a really considered, sensitive post – thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I have to say that I have read Steve’s piece, and the responses, and looked again to the Bible and cannot come to any other conclusion than the traditional evangelical one. But I do feel out of my depth pastorally, as I long to show God’s love to everyone regardless of their sex, race, orientation etc etc, and would really appreciate it if you have further thoughts/good practise suggestions etc that you would be willing to share from your own experience or training. Perhaps we could connect via our websites? I know we’ve been in touch via christian.co.uk before but I no longer have that email address… Thanks so much

    • Thanks Claire. I’m happy to link up if you want. Certainly this is not the end of the conversation. I’m not claiming to be an expert by any means and there are plenty of people who will happily tell me I don’t know what I am talking about. There’s much more to be said and I’m sure I’ll come back to it again.

  7. I guess you’ve come across Accepting Evangelicals, Gillan? More and more evangelicals are calling for parity in recognition of LGBT and straight relationships. Their Resources section is well worth a look: get your theology sorted and your pastoral practice will follow, hopefully, and once you’ve eliminated that veneer of judgementalism, LGBT people will be able to feel at home. It seems to be working at Oasis and I’m sure it can work at your church too.

    • The Gay Christian Network in the US offers support both for gay Christians in gay relationships and those who chose to stay celibate. They work on the basis that Biblical teaching is not clear cut and that it is legitimately possible to reach different conclusions based on interpretation of the Bible. They acknowledge those coming from both sides of the debate recognising that belonging to God and following Him is the most important thing. I find that approach refreshing as it allows space for people to be welcome irrespective of the conclusions they’ve come to. I’m trying to learn to do the same.

      • Gillan, I am finding this response really encouraging. Could you say a little bit more about what that means to you in practice? If I and my family came to your church, would you welcome and accept us? Would that mean you would not make our sexuality an issue at all, no more than our skin colour would be an issue? What limits, if any, to our involvement in your church would there be?

      • I would hope that I would willingly welcome and accept you and I would hope most people at my church would too. As far as ministry within the church goes, that’s an issue for the church leadership. I think there would need to be some discussions with you first. I’m not denying that there would be some challenges, but if you weren’t able to be feel welcomed then there’s something wrong with my church.

      • Thank you, that does indeed sound encouraging.

  8. .
    The problem with this post is that completely shot. You simply do not have a clue. God does not love everyone and the Church is not called to love everyone. We are called to proclaim the good news, but until the sinner accepts the bad news, that they are a sinner under the condemnation of an angry God they cannot understand the good news. Jesus came to die for His people, not primarily to take “the good news to those who supposedly were far from God” for all are far from God.

    Steve Chalke hasn’t risked anything, he is in the business of being notorious. He clearly left Evangelicalism with his comments on the penal substitution and the evidence seems to be that he is not and never has been a Christian. That isn’t being judgemental, it is assessing the evidence.

    As for ‘being gay’, the fact is that there is no third ‘orientation’, it is just a matter of sexual sin, like adultery and fornication. When a person comes int a church building they come in one of two states, saved or unsaved. The way their sin is dealt with differs depending on their state. A saved person who is in a state of public sin is required to repent of and leave that sin and it is a matter the elders should deal with in a loving but firm manner. An unsaved person, primarily, needs to be given the gospel, to be pointed to the Saviour so that they may be saved. Their sin needs to be pointed out to them so that they might be able to understand their need of salvation.

    There are plenty of people who have had to remain celibate in the Church, many because they have been unable to find a partner. It is only our age that seems to be so obsessed with sex that really seems to have a problem with these homosexual sinners leaving their sin. Maybe that is because we are so far down the spiral of wickedness Paul describes in Romans 1.

    Martin

    • If that isn’t a “black and white” view of the world, I don’t know what is!?

      • Sam

        So what is wrong with a ‘black and white view’? Show me where I am wrong from the Bible, not from the opinions of men, because men have a corrupted view of what is right.

      • I don’t necessarily disagree with you’re saying. And in many ways I admire your certainty :) Are you so sure about everything else in life or just this issue? I guess I’m just saying there’s grey areas in most things…

      • Sam

        How sure we are is dependant upon how close we are to God.

      • Well then, I bow to your superior spiritual insight(!)

      • What’s wrong with “a black and white view” is simply this: we do not have a monochromatic God; and we do not live in a monochromatic world. What God offers us is a rainbow, a spectrum that both begins and ends beyond our limited vision. Even night and day are not separated by sharp dividing lines but by the glory of sunset and sunrise. Open your eyes, Martin: it can be somewhat dazzling at first, but it’s worth it. Prepare to be amazed at the extravagance of God’s grace!

    • Martin has nailed it! Best reply yet.

    • Amen!!
      Martin has nailed it! Best reply yet!

    • Dear oh dear. Who on earth is Martin to judge whether another person is or isn’t a Christian? He can certainly judge whether someone is Christian according to his own definition, but who are any of us to proclaim judgement on God’s behalf. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Martin beware!

      • I suspect Martin is not judging whether someone is a Christian, but evaluating the evidence. If someone is willfully sinning, eg homosexual behaviour, he/she will appear not to have repented of their sin (turned from it), therefore has not experienced Christ’s transforming power, in making them a new creation. Your ‘Lord, Lord’ quote SUPPORTS Martin’s premise that wrong behavior, disobeying God, suggests the person was never saved, & is not a Christian.

      • Helen, Do you remember Paul talks about whether it is right to eat meat sacrificed to idols? It’s ok for those who don’t consider it sinful, for whom it does not change their love of God. But it’s not ok if the person knows in their heart to be a sin. We cannot judge others even if their actions seem sinful to us – only God and that individual can. The two commandments are ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart strength mind and soul’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. I’ve not counted how many times we are told not to judge others, not enough fingers. GB Phil

      • “Judge not” – The most misused & misquoted verse in the bible (I have heard many expert -Reformed- bible teachers say this, not just little amateur old me!)

        Examining the evidence is NOT judging!

      • Whether you consider homosexuality to be sinful or not, the bible says it is, so the individual’s opinion does not count! It’s not the same as trivial things like what to eat, which is a grey area.

      • Helen, Your interpretation of the bible, and your understanding of the bible say that it is, and so for you, in your personal relationship with God homosexuality is a sin. You would be deliberately choosing to sin if you practiced it. however, someone else who interprets the Bible differently or views it in a different way to you, and honestly doesn’t consider homosexuality a sin would not be deliberately sinning against God. I don’t think God would count that a sin, but if he did then I know and trust that his grace would prevail with that individual. GB Phil

      • Does sin have to be deliberate to be sin?

      • Joe, “Does sin have to be deliberate to be sin?” In effect yes. In the Genesis story, the writer comments that Adam and Eve were naked and didn’t know that it was sinful, and so God was quite happy to walk and talk with them. Is a cat being sinful when it catches a mouse? I trust and believe that what matters more than our action is our heart – do we want to do God’s will or do we deliberately choose to do wrong.

        Applying that to the discussion on gay people, I would presume that some are sinning and others are not.

      • Minimalist Christian, are you saying that if I change my mind and (now as a Christian) I decide it is OK to start dating guys again that I would not be sinning? Does the definition of sin depend on my feelings? Where is God’s perspective in all this? You mentioned his will – are you saying our hearts (if we are sincere, loving and kind people) can override that?

      • Joe, I need to be careful with language here, since I would not say something is ok because if feels ok. Emotion and feelings are fickle and not completely within our control. What I am talking about is discerning with integrity, thinking carefully, exercising will, honestly seeking to understand what God wants for us personally.

        Our objective is to discern God’s will using all the tools we have, and then follow it. If after examining the Bible, praying, thinking and with deep introspection you were to conclude that it is fine to date guys then I think that God would respect that – you would not be deliberately choosing to go against his will. If at the end of your life he tells you that you had discerned wrong then I’m certain that he would graciously forgive you (assuming that you were honestly repentant).

        But we have to be careful not to deliberately try to delude ourselves into saying that something that we know deep down is wrong is in fact right (I’m talking in general here, I am not making any judgement on homosexuality). A friend used to smoke and say that God hadn’t told him to stop. But when he felt God did tell him, he indeed did stop. I suspect he deals with us according to our needs!

        I feel it’s always worth revisiting why God might have gone to the trouble of creating the universe and life. It can help in discerning what he might think about different things.

      • Minimalist, I do have trouble following your argument. Are you saying we have a right to express any of the “acts of the flesh” if after praying, thinking and with deep introspection we still conclude they are God’s will for us?

        I live in a wealthy and peaceful nation. All of my material needs are met. I do not fear that anyone will attack or persecute me for being a Christian. I can imagine less fortunate circumstances, situations that many Christians (unwittingly) find themselves in today, places like Syria and Mali, where I would be strongly tempted to hate my neighbour. I cannot say I would be all love, joy, peace and kindness if I lived in a war zone. I know I would be worst of men in such places – but God forbid that I would start believing it was God’s will that I acted on those feelings.

      • Joe, That’s why we can’t rely on feelings! We need to love when we don’t feel like it. We have to apply our will, and recognise that all of us are God’s children. Our feelings would tell us to hate our opponents, but they are equally loved by God. And that’s why we mustn’t judge or condemn. I don’t know how I would respond in such a situation, but there have been amazing examples of grace in such circumstances by Christians who through will follow the teaching of Christ.

        I’m not sure we have any rights as far as God is concerned. Rights are a human legal construct. I suspect we give up our rights when we become a slave to Christ.

      • Amen to that, MC: all our supposed rights are surrendered in Christ, replaced, it seems to me, with responsibilities. It’s all part of crucifixion/resurrection: dead to the law, alive to love.

      • …also, as you look at the behaviour of those in warzones you can understand it, and you are (I presume) not judging them as you can see that in the same circumstances you might behave the same way. I think that is a good representation of God’s grace. When they looked on their behaviour, away from the influence of their emotions, and when they they felt the way you do about their behaviour and were sorry for it, then God would forgive them.

      • …but true repentance depends on the realisation there is an absolute definition of sin. We all still all agree that an external objective standard has been violated when people express hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions etc – but we recoil at the possibility there might be an absolute standard by which to measure “sexual immorality”.

        I know affirming Christians will say the absolute standard is love/consent. I just think it’s a bit of coincidence this new perspective was only discovered after the secular gay rights revolution of the 1960/70s. Did any Christian communities, commentators or theologians endorse or celebrate “permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships” before the 20th century?

      • I think it helps understand with the realisation of how destructive sin is for each of us as individuals and as society. With regard to ‘sexual sin’, I am determined never to cheat on my wife, and never to use pornography – I know both to be extremely damaging. I would be devastated if I fail. I accept these traditional christian values because I believe that they are what is best for us, and God wants what is best for us. But I am not going to judge someone who ‘falls’. Rather, I try to bring them to healing, and a big part of the healing is forgiving the other person.

        Christs standards are incredibly high; we are to be ‘perfect as our father in heaven is perfect’ – so all of us fail. That shouldn’t stop us striving, and continuing to strive. But my point is that each of our journeys are personal. I cannot and will not judge you or others by their behaviour. But I will try all I can to lead you to a healthy and pure life.

        Does that help?

      • Does that help?

        I would phrase it differently and say what God wants is what is best for us.

      • Helen, the arrogance of your comments here is truly breathtaking: you appear to have appointed yourself judge, jury and executioner, boldly holding forth on the status of other people’s faith and relationship with God based solely upon your own personal interpretation of scripture. You seem to have no idea of the vastness of God’s grace or the immensity of God’s love but see only an angry deity determined to excise sin from the universe.

        … and what a splendid example you give of how not to read the Bible in that little statement referring to “trivial things like what to eat” — if you had the faintest glimmer of understanding of the culture in which Jesus lived, within which Christianity was born, you would know how important the holiness code was: concerns about what to eat were as far from trivial as it is possible to get.

        Please, Helen, I urge you: do some background reading; and if you take note of nothing else I’ve said here or elsewhere in this conversation, please take note of this: it is attitudes like yours that drive people away from the Christian faith, from the church and even from God. Let God be the judge and learn to trust in God’s mercy, for mercy triumphs over judgement.

      • No, it’s people like you and most commentators on this post that drive people away from Christ, by tickling their ears (2Tim4:3-4) and deceiving them with a false gospel, that God loves UNREPENTANT sinners which is not true.
        Acts 26:20 quotes the apostle Paul saying: “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
        If someone is committing unrepentant sin as a lifestyle choice eg sexual sin -homo or hetero- then that is EVIDENCE that they have not repented. (This is not judging; I know a church minister who says he makes judgements about peoples spiritual state all the time – he has to, in order to pitch his conversation at the appropriate level.)
        Where someone suspects people are deceiving themselves that they are saved, when they are not, it is loving to point this out, in the hope that the sinner will repent.
        Yes I know even genuine Christians still sin,after Christ has graciously rescued & redeemed them, but genuine Christians have sorrow for sin & wrestle with it, asking Christ to help them. If someone is living in a sexual relationship other than marriage between one man & one woman, that is evidence that they are committed to this as a lifestyle choice & have no intention of repenting & turning to Christ.

        Back to the issue of driving people away, God has chosen back in eternity past whom he will save, and he will make sure they hear the gospel from somebody.

        Judging – thought the Mat 7:1 quote referred to HYPOCRITIAL judging, ie specific sin which you stil do yourself (removing log from eye.)??

      • Helen, I ‘judge’ (discern) that you have a good heart, but when you use a phrase like “deceiving them with a false gospel, that God loves UNREPENTANT sinners which is not true.” you belittle God’s love. God loves each of us – sinner or not, repentant or not. Nothing can change that. However, we spoil our relationship with him by deliberately disobeying him (knowingly choosing to sin).

        It is indeed loving to speak with someone on those terms, “are you deliberately disobeying God, because if you are it will spoil your relationship with him”. But it is not loving to ‘judge’ (condemn) another person and say “because you look like you are doing something that I personally interpret the bible to say is sinful you are going to burn in hell for eternity”

        No sin is worse than any other, they all have the same consequence – sin cannot get into heaven, and so we will have to willingly choose to give up our sin at some time. I’m sure we will all be told that this or that behaviour is sinful and we will have to choose whether to renounce it – and trust God’s grace to forgive us.

        It is so important to communicate a truth in a way that the person listening will hear. Maybe I’ve failed here, but it is in my view part of communicating the love of God is to have humility to realise that our personal journey is not that of everyone else.

      • Hi Phil. Assuming you’re referring to Romans 14? Check out verse 15b and verse 17 in that case- Don’t destroy the kingdom of God for food and drink. Righteousness, peace and joy in the holy spirit? Yes. Food and drink? No. Paul makes it very clear that judgement is OK by his actions. My favourite example of this is 1 Corinthians 5:13.

        That said, stating that someone isn’t saved is bold. After all, with the same measure you judge with, you will be judged!

      • Hi Jarlly, Perhaps that is the reason that there are so many different denominations. Individuals become offended by each other and so choose to gather with like minded people. (see my reply to Helen) Unfortunately there is then a tendency to lob rocks at the other group…. Your last sentence says much … “Forgive our sins as we forgive others”

    • “that they are a sinner under the condemnation of an angry God” Reference please. Seems odd that the God that desires all come to know him is angry with those he wants to come to know him. Thought experiment: If you were angry with people you’d hardly send your son to die for them, and you certainly wouldn’t WANT to be in relationship with them.

      • Try the fameous 18th century sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. (The “last Puritan”, not the triple-jumper!!) – Google it!

      • Thought experiment: why is grace amazing?

      • One reason Grace is amazing because it is what frees you from sin without punishment. See my other comment – if you are doing something wrong without knowing it, grace means that you don’t have to pay the price once you’ve found out that you are doing something wrong. Rather than the secular ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’.

    • Martin

      Go away and read some Jane Austen. Lifetime singleness used to be considered a terrible providence – especially for women. In a reversal of fortunes, today’s secular culture is much more accepting of singleness than the church.

      In my experience, all single women should expect from today’s church are glib demands for celibacy – much like LGBT people, I’d imagine. The message is: “Go home to your empty house and be happy”. No compassion, no support, no practical help, no mercy, no grace.

      Gillan has stated that he holds conservative views on sexual ethics. He is being criticized because he is daring to show some common humanity with LGBT people. Did you know that studies have shown that loneliness can kill and is a major contributor to ill health? What is your church doing about this? More to the point, what are YOU doing about it? And, yes I am talking as much about single heterosexuals as single homosexuals.

      Or are you going to be like the Levite and the Pharisee and walk by on the other side, safe in the knowledge that you hold the *correct* view of LGBT ethics?

  9. We need to read the times in spiritual terms, to understand what is beneath all that is happening in today’s society, of which the gay issue is but a part. There is a massive drift away from God of absolute truth, who is our creator, the definer of right from wrong and the seer of all that we do (and even think!) in our own private lives. This is nothing new.

    Broadly, the thrust to escape from the implications of Biblical morality comes from two fronts: those who insist there is no God at all and those who insist that God should “get with it” and conform to what mankind wants to do. The tragedy is that both sides of the God debate, including those who defend him, fall way wide of the mark of biblical morality.

    When Jesus was gathered around by sinners, no doubt these included publicans, prostitutes, homosexuals, fornicators, thieves and fraudsters – all black sheep in the eyes of the Pharisees. I am sure there was nobody at the door asking personal details of those coming in. Those who came, did so voluntarily, in spite of (or because of) their own personal shortcomings against the laws of God. They came because Jesus had time for them and, no doubt, something inherent in them recognised that this man spoke the truth and yet offered hope from a new direction.

    We do not know today what it was like sitting in the presence of Jesus. His Holiness must have been awesome, not in any religious sense, but in His purity of heart and the simple clarity with which he spoke the truth. This he did in such a way that people discovered a great want for it, and for Him, in their own hearts. If they found a prayer inside them, it would have been one like the tax collector in the temple (Luke 18:10-14) “God have mercy on me – a sinner”. If we are honest, this should be the prayer of all of us. They did not come to hear Jesus bend the laws of God and say that they were all ok as they were, because in His presence, and inside themselves, they knew they weren’t. But many of them inwardly found themselves hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and the promise of being “made new” must have sounded too wonderful to be true.

    Jesus came that the Law might be fulfilled in our daily lives, not modified. His ministry was one of setting people genuinely free from afflictions of all kinds. Crucially, this reality and the expectation of it have been largely lost within our churches today. This goes hand in hand with mankind’s attempts to escape from God’s laws in favour of his own preferences, to which the church at large has tried to accommodate, to its own loss and the loss of many. A half-gospel is no gospel at all.

    But the hand of God is not shortened! Revival waits to be rediscovered. However dire the crisis, however anguished our personal predicament, God’s ear stays finely tuned to the cry of any heart for true forgiveness and healing.

    • I have to agree, being in Jesus presence would have been challenging, to put it mildly. Perhaps that is seen in contrast between the Pharisees and Zacchaeus.

    • Amen Richard.
      At long last, one of only a few getting to the heart of the matter instead of verbiage or self-delusion! Yet may I correct you on a point please?

      Today hundreds do, in fact, know the awesome holiness of being in His presence and His Spirit convicting us of sin. Let’s stop deluding ourselves, repentance is essential before a holy God. Eg in a Bible seminary in Dallas (CFAN?) last year most students were compelled to get on their knees upon hearing the uncompromised Gospel and to receive Jesus afresh before signs and wonders supernaturally followed.

      For myself, His unsought appearance made me tremble in fear for I suddenly knew myself to be a sinner on a trapdoor into hell itself – but His gracious mercy saved me! Even 23 yrs later that encounter is vividly etched within.

      • Amen to that Richard! My reference was directed at the church at large, as Christians lose sight of what our ancestors once saw in true revival. But praise God, there is a real awakening by the Holy Spirit among many individuals and some churches too, and we believe with all our hearts for another revival, which our nation so desperately needs.

        His impact on us sounds the same as with you. Both Rachel and I were walking away from Christianity in disappointment at the time. We both prayed separately to God in desperation, without hope, and He sent Jesus. Having seen Him, that was the end of me. He saw straight into all the rubbish that was inside me, yet still came towards me. I didn’t know what was happening and soaked the carpet with my tears of gut repentance. I knew I could never disbelieve God again. His holiness was amazing. “Born again” quickly took on real meaning as we both discovered we had been given entirely new hearts, which we never knew was possible. Of course this miracle has been challenged through all the storms of life, but Jesus has never let us down. Like you, how could I ever forget it? It is the heart transplant prophesied by Ezekiel (11:19 & 36:26). Nothing less, and it goes on growing too……

      • Terrific! Slap, bang on target Richard, and let’s pray that all our fellow correspondents on this thread may be similarly blessed – and that His Spirit moves freely and rapidly across our nation (as prophesied recently by several leaders).

  10. So does everyone on here that has a hard time accepting/giving pastoral care to homosexuals have the same problem with re-married divorcees?

    Jesus said in Mark 10:10-12, ‘When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.’

    Paul seemingly condemns adulterers in the same verse that he does homosexuals 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

  11. I think we can all get better at pastoral care but sometimes we just don’t know how to react or respond to something which is unusual to us. This may be a drunk person in the street, a beggar or a homosexual. We should not deny how we honestly feel and this is often an area where we should repent and ask for more of Gods love. If we are divorced and re marry this does not bar us from acceptance by God so long as we truly repent , we accept our behaviour as sin and vow to change. The limitations of the law are expressed well in Romans 7& 8. Where the homosexuality debate differs is that many homosexual Christians do not believe Gay sex to be sinful. Gods love and Grace (because they are in a relationship of love themselves) somehow overrides the ”sin”. In one sense it appears that sexuality is more important than what God has ordained but in another it calls us to extend love and grace as something more important, within and for a group of people who feel marginalised and different .The core issue is about 1) How do we define sin from our reading of scripture ? In this i would like to know more about the 17 Greek words that Alan Wilson spoke of. 2) Does love and grace negate unrepentant sin.? We are asked not to judge ( condemn ) others but we are also told to resist sin. As humans the first question is. Are we making scripture fit our own situation/ prejudice whether we are hetero or homosexual ? Are we truly searching Gods will or more interested in a cultural or theological battle which we can win. I tend to think that the holy spirit affirms what is good before God and that we should trust in that person of the spirit.(1 Corinthians 6-11 ) My hope is that we can all do what is required by God to commune with him and through him to show love and grace to ALL people in our everyday lives. The discussion here has been conducted with a lot of respect and willingness to listen which is very encouraging.

    • So Graham, do you think that remarried divorcees should get divorced again so they are not living in sin? Or at the very least abstain from sex? Because that is what people are suggesting the gay people should do, that is to remain celibate. Surely otherwise the remarried divorcees, even if they repent (as you suggest), if they stay remarried they are committing adultery and therefore living in sin.

      I would also like to know the answer to your question #2!

      • Many would argue the bible permits divorce if an unbelieving spouse leaves the believing spouse 1 Cor 7:15, saying the victim is “not bound in such circumstances.” Matt 5:32 suggests divorce is permitted in the case of adultery. Many ministers, including those who seek to act biblically interpret this as allowing remarriage, ie treating the innocent party as if they had never been married. Thus, this is a very different situation from gay marriage.

      • What if both were Christians and neither had committed adultery, rather that they just grew apart or one wanted children and the other didn’t, leading to a divorce and then remarriage?

      • Then I think the bible says this is wrong, (victim of) adultery & desertion being only way divorce is not sinning.

      • Thank you for replying, and yes I agree, that does seem to be the only case in which remarriage is acceptable.

  12. Mia The Samarian woman at the well had been married five times,Jesus does not condemn her (not least because she told the truth) but he explains instead how to gain salvation by worshipping in spirit and truth ( living water ). Then through her many more of her village accepted Jesus as their saviour.Its what is in the heart that matters. That includes identifying our own sin and repenting which means really to turn and change. The samarian woman accepted Jesus as her messiah. When the heart truly changes by the holy spirit so do we. This shows that nobody is beyond redemption and Gods grace, regardless of marital history or sexuality

    • I agree, and I wish more Christians would remember that story. Thank you for replying.

    • There’s a difference between the sin of a Christian & a non-Christian, in that a non-Christian eg Samaritan woman has not yet been born again, so can’t do anything else but sin. S/he needs the offer of the gospel and grace. However, once converted, the repentant sinner should not continue to move from spouse to spouse, again & again,except if unfortunate to be a frequent victim of adultery/desertion. That Jesus was gracious & merciful to the Samaritan woman does not give us licence to sin by spouse changing on a whim without biblical mandate. Note Jesus said to the newly saved woman “Go and sin no more!”
      Our past is never a barrier to Christ’s grace, but our present, if we continue to sin,without repentance, may suggest we were never saved in the first place.

  13. Helen Thats how i would read it too

  14. I hope that all of us who try to follow Christ want to encourage others to explore our faith. Perhaps we should read the blog and various replies as if they were written by (say) Moslems, and see whether the tone and language would attract us to explore being a Moslem or put us off.

    Is there an element of decorating the inside of the lifeboat whilst others are drowning around us?

    • If we attract people to our faith by watering down the truth, we may get false converts.

      Paul said: 2 Cor 4:2 We have renounced secret & shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

      Jesus said: John 6:44: No-one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him..
      John 8:47: He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you
      do not hear is that you do not belong to God.

      The Bible tells us we will be hated for speaking the truth (Luke 6:22)

      1 Cor 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing….

      • Tough, Helen. The battle is lost. Most CofE churches will accept gay people. Baptists, Methodists, everybody. The Catholic priests who are accepting have to keep quiet about it because of Maledict, but the Quakers are absolutely delighted, what with the Bill now introduced and all. So, we are all damned. Gosh that lake of fire will be full!

        But, er, adultery. Matthew quotes Jesus as giving a get-out clause, Matthew often takes some of the sharpness from Mark’s phrasing, but he still says divorce is only OK for adultery. So. Do you have any adulterers in your church, or not?

        My loathing, contempt and disgust for you is coming to the surface. Sorry, Helen, but, well, you make gay people miserable, and I don’t think that is godly of you.

      • Dear Clare, Whilst I disagree with a lot of Helen’s point of view, it reflects what I was taught and so adopted in my early Christian life. I have changed my view having had more time to digest what Jesus taught, and think for myself. Jesus spoke very strongly about not judging, and forgiveness, and about loving those who hate you. It is challenging but necessary. Our evangelical vicar once caused me such ‘grief’ that I was becoming bitter and angry with him, but was shown my behaviour one night and realised that I didn’t want to be a bitter and angry person – so in fact I was able to thank God for the way I was being treated. I now try to remember to see what God is teaching me about myself when I have negative feelings. It can be a great way to grow… So I urge you not to feel anger with Helen, but to recognise that she is on a different path to you. God bless, Phil

      • Clare, how can you feel hatred (loathing ,contempt & disgust) for me when almost everything I said above was a direct quote from the Bible? You must hate the Bible? (which is the only way we can know God & His son Jesus.)

        I DO NOT HATE ANYONE; DISAGREEMENT DOES NOT EQUAL HATRED! I do not hate you for disagreeing with me, I do not hate gays, I once had a gay flatmate who was a sweet & lovely boy of 17, and later a lesbian colleague, who I got on well with. I realise that non-Christian gays, without the benefit of the Bible, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to convict them of the Bible’s truth, do not understand that what they are doing is wrong.
        My only concern re sexually active GLBT people is that if they think they are Christians, they are deceiving themselves, as the bible teaches the need for repentance. Living in a gay relationship is a long -term commitment, so is telling God, the person has no intention of obeying God’s decree that sex is to be enjoyed only within marriage to a person of the opposite sex. The mark of a genuine convert is OBEDIENCE:

        Jesus said:
        Luke 7:15-23: especially v19-23: Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down & thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit will you recognise them. Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day (judgement day) ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evil-doers.’

        I DON’T HATE GAYS; I LOVE THEM ENOUGH TO WARN THEM THAT THEIR LIFESTYLE SUGGESTS THEY HAVE NOT REPENTED & THEREFORE ARE NOT SAVED.
        You say I make gay people miserable; Jesus came to make us holy, not happy.

        Matt 1:21 He will save his people from their sins.

        1 Thess 1:9-10 They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living & true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven,whom he raised from the dead- Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

  15. “When I was a church youth worker we had this mantra of ‘belong before you believe before you behave’. It was an acknowledgement that we couldn’t expect young people from outside the church to follow biblical teaching until they had discovered Jesus. And the chances of that happening were much more likely if they felt the church was a place they could be made welcome and be appreciated for who they were.”

    Youth is really key, isn’t it? When I was a teenager Christian camps and youth programmes had workshops on drugs, sex and dating, alcoholism where young people could talk openly and ask questions. That’s how the Church retained young people despite the pressures of the increasingly anti-Christian culture around them. They gained trust by discussing everything openly and providing alternative answers. Everything, that is, except homosexuality. There was no workshop on that.

    The patt answer to ‘What about our friends who are gay?’ was ‘Homosexuality is no worse than any other sin. It’s wrong to hate or judge people.’ That’s no answer. What we meant was, ‘What about our friends who are gay? What are they supposed to do with those feelings?’ If the Church hasn’t got an answer for that, then they can’t very well criticize organisations like THT that say ‘OK, you have these feelings. Here’s how to be consensual and safe.’

    • @ Liz, “If the church hasn’t got an answer for (gay feelings?)” –

      Telling gay friends homosexual acts are wrong is not hating or judging, if done compassionately with a desire to guide them into truth. THEIR SALVATION IS AT STAKE!

      1 Cor 6:9-10 Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders….will inherit the kingdom of God.

      That’s the bad news, the good news comes in the next verse:

      1 Cor 6:11 That is what some of you WERE. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

      So these verses give the bad news of the disease, and the good news of the cure, that there can be salvation for those who repent of their sin & trust in Christ’s death to pay the penalty that we deserve to pay for our sins.

      Jesus said: Luke 13:3 & 5: Unless you repent, you too will all perish.

      Paul said: Acts 26:20: I preached that they should repent and PROVE THEIR REPENTANCE BY THEIR DEEDS.
      i.e make every attempt to stop sinning, all sin, including homosexuality.

      • Helen, does your church have any remarried divorcees in it? Jesus in Mark has strong things to say about adultery. Now, I welcome remarried divorcees, because I am a Liberal, but do you?

      • I know of one remarried divorcee in my church. Her husband left her for another woman. She met husband no.2 many years later. The bible says divorce is permitted if the unbelieving spouse leaves /deserts (1 Cor 7:15) and in the case of adultery (Matt 5:32).

        I’ve discussed this above, with Mia & Graham!

      • It probably does but do you want Helen to compassionately guide them back to repentance – or do you want her to accept “the battle is lost” and accommodate other forms of sinful relationships?

      • That’s the theory, Helen. But if you show a young person trying to come to terms with their sexuality that verse they’ll probably just be traumatised.

    • Quote: “The patt answer to ‘What about our friends who are gay?’ was ‘Homosexuality is no worse than any other sin. It’s wrong to hate or judge people.’ That’s no answer. What we meant was, ‘What about our friends who are gay? What are they supposed to do with those feelings?’ If the Church hasn’t got an answer for that, then they can’t very well criticize organisations like THT that say ‘OK, you have these feelings. Here’s how to be consensual and safe.’”

      Liz, the key words you mention are “consensual and safe”. Consent and safety (physical and psychological health) are the foundation of a humanistic sexual ethic but not necessarily a Biblical one. The church does have an answer but it’s not the answer that anyone wants to hear in a culture that now lives by the humanistic standard…

      Because the expression of a homosexuality can be both consensual (between adults) and safe, most people now scoff at the possibility that homosexuality itself is some form of “disorder”.

      In contrast, paedophilia can never be expressed consensually (paedophilic acts are always a form of abuse) and we all still consider the attractions to be the product of a ‘disordered’ mind. The same is true of rape fantasies (although technically speaking there is no rape orientation). There is a sizeable market for “rough sex” porn – which is legal as long as all parties consent to act out rape scenes. As common as rape fantasises are, they are not generally considered “healthy” because any expression of them can never be consensual. Men who do have those feelings are expected to seek out therapy and remain “in the closet”.

      The humanistic system of moral values works backward – if the expressions are legitimate, the state of being that gave rise to them must also be OK. Attractions that lead to any consensual sex act can only be statistically abnormal – they can never be morally abnormal.

      The church’s ethic runs in the other direction. Some forms of consensual sex remain sinful – gay sex, adultery, prostitution etc – and the (rebellious) state of mind that gives rise to those behaviours also requires repentance. For your gay friends, a ‘Christian lifestyle’ would be more attractive if Christians went with the flow of the surrounding pro-gay culture. On the other hand, being gay is not all about sex and conservative Christians can often be genuinely homophobic – expressing fear, loathing and contempt for people they know or perceive to be gay.

      There are no easy answers – but you are right about the need to “gain trust by discussing everything openly”.

      • I’m not arguing with the Christian view in theory, I’m saying in practice something’s gone wrong. At first I was shocked when I read the THT stuff that they give to young people (I’d never thought of most of that stuff before), but I’ve come to understand where they’re coming from. If we sweep this stuff under the carpet, young people will do it anyway and be more at risk because they haven’t been taught the safest way, so the thinking goes. We say to young people ‘true love waits’, but what do we say to gay young people?

      • By THT do you mean Terence Higgins Trust?

        They are a sexual health advisory group. I would hope that Christians could make that kind of information available on request. If we are talking about the same THT I guess what shocked you was not the sexual heath information but the graphic illustrations on how to do and enjoy sex?

        Would I hand a THT leaflet to a young Christian who said he was gay? Probably not – but there might be occasions when it was appropriate to refer them to the THT or similar websites for info on medical matters.

        I know some evangelical Christians are apprehensive about referring young people to organisations like True Freedom Trust (TFT) – because introducing them to other people who identify as gay (or same-sex attracted) is seen as a risk. A fair number of young people who contact TFT do use it as a stepping stone to the secular gay scene. On the other hand organisations like TFT can provide valuable “insider information” on how to remain true to the moral teachings of their faith.

        It’s a tough one – and evangelicals don’t appear to be particularly concerned about providing credible answers for Christians who have one foot in both worlds – which is probably why Steve Chalke has taken the risk of saying he supports “committed monogamous same-sex relationships”

      • Yes. I did mean the Terrence Higgins Trust. I understand it’s a health group. I’m just a bit lacking in knowledge so I’d never thought of doing some of that stuff in the first place! I think what I was a bit concerned by, and would bother a lot of Chrisitans was the ‘well, this is all the same thing really’ message. No sense that some sexual acts might have different kinds of health risks (not least the risk of getting pregnant even with contraception when having straight sex). The emphasis was all on what feels right and the gender of the partner was seen as largely irrelevant. That’s my problem with all sexual health advice given to young people – it leaves out any health information that might make young people reconsider the weightiness of entering into a sexual relationship with someone in the first place. The whole truth is sacrificed to trying to win over their trust in order to encourage them to be ‘safe’, when they actually mean ‘safer’.

  16. The health issue for gay people is vitally important, really a matter of life and death and not just about HIV AIDS. I was unaware until i went on pink news recently that the incidence of HIV AIDS is on the increase amongst homosexual men which is remarkable when one considers the information out there and the consequences of that illness. The T.H.T were being criticised by many posters for putting resources into treatment rather than preventative education. I wondered if this was because negative publicity might hamper the equality agenda or whether this was a decision based purely on limited resources. The teachings of Jesus are about healing and life in the spirit and we need to pray about anything that works against that.

  17. God poured out all his anger on Jesus on the cross for our sins so he isn’t angry anymore. He isn’t angry anymore as sins has been paid in full. This dosnt eliminate sin or the effects of it. God said the love of most will grow cold and it does on a daily basis. To love God is to do his will. We make decisions on a daily basis either to do right or to do wrong, this is a judgement for us just as is not copying someone who is doing contrary to what god says. God said in the last days groups will gather together, and from this its made easier for us to see,( tares of wheat). Work with the Holy Spirit as he is our guide. God cannot bless sin as its against his nature. To this so called days of wisdom and enlightenment we are still made in Gods image and not He in ours.

  18. I recommend the lectures of Pastor Sy Rogers to all brethren across the globe who struggle with sexuality (not just homosexuality, though I should point out he is a former homosexual, so his experiences were influential in the forming of his ministry).

    The Lord wants us to take our problems directly to Him. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of asking Him through earnest prayer whether or not our life choices are pleasing to HIM, or if we indulge in these activities to satisfy our flesh. If a Christian believes same sex relationships are not a sin in the eyes of the Lord, and believes the Bible justifies their viewpoint, then that’s their belief. At the end of the day, it is a matter between the individual and God. The Bible also tells us:

    “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)”

    This goes for all areas pertaining to our faith and for all Christians of differing individual beliefs. As has been pointed out many times on this topic, the Bible should be the foundation of every Christian’s world view. Neither add nor subtract from His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2). Also keep in mind that the Lord is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8). While societal practices and acceptances change, what the Lord views as right and wrong never have and never will. It’s all about the Christian’s struggle to conform into the image of Christ – it’s not easy, and we struggle and fail everyday. But as we continue our walk with Him, studying His Word and spending time with Him in prayer (fasting helps if you can handle it), we draw closer to Him and learn more about His nature. We also cultivate a desire to please Him first. Often times, it means rejecting the things that satisfy us. Jesus did caution those who wanted to follow Him must deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

    The Holy Spirit is sent to lead and guide us in all truth (John 16:13). If you earnestly make your request known unto Him (Philippians 4:6), and you are prepared for the answer He gives you, then you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free (John 8:36)…once you’ve put it into practice…

  19. I’d like to address this issue about nothing in the Bible supporting gay relationships. Read the story of David and Jonathan, especially the bit where they strip off, swear a covenant of eternal love and then kiss until David “exceeded” or “grew great”. What would be a “plain reading” of that? At the least we can conclude that the author didn’t mind if readers thought they were gay.

  20. I’d like to add another comment addressed to my own side. Stop saying that the Greco-Roman world possessed no examples of loving committed gay relationships. It had a very famous example of such a relationship, that between Alexander and Hephaistion. It wasn’t monogamous as Alexander had to marry to produce heirs but Hephaistion was his first love and significant other.
    That relationship closely parallels that of David and Jonathan. Returning to that case Saul clearly saw it as sexual saying it was to his son’s own shame and the shame of his mother’s nakedness.

    • I think you are a romantic. Sex was invented for the procreation of children and for the mutual support of the man and woman. Sodomy is strictly forbidden in the Bible, despite what feelings the two men have for each other. David was a sinner like all of us. He had many concubines and pinched at least one other man’s wifeand put her husband in the front lines of battle which led to his death. God punished David for that. Where does God say ‘ but your feelings for Jonathan were ok to act on.’ ?
      For Steve Chalke to use David and Jonathan as a salve to his conscience is a red herring.

    • This is interesting because I think you may be exactly right. If by sodomy (a misnomer as the bible clearly says Sodom was destroyed for injustice to the poor and the sojourner – including the angels) you mean anal penetration, I think that’s precisely what was forbidden when it says don’t lie with a man “as with a woman”. Note that when it says don’t lie with an animal it doesn’t add “as with a woman”. However egalitarian gay relationships such as that of Alexander and Hephaistion (and David and Jonathan) didn’t involve penetration. It’s not the only form of gay sex. I’m straight by the way and not a Church member so I have no axe to grind. I applaud you for recognises the homoerotic subtext, instead of taking the usual route of saying “they were just good friends”.

  21. I’m going to qualify my last comment. In addition to the OT passage saying Sodom was destroyed for injustice there’s the NT comment about going after “strange flesh” which means men trying to have sex with angels, a point made clear by the comparison with the angels in Genesis who had sex with the daughters of men.

  22. To elaborate my take I would point out that the words Paul uses to talk of homosexuality approximately mean “givers” and “takers”. Meanwhile in the Romans passage the context is an attack on the “Judaizers”. Paul offers a deliberately hyperbolic caricature of Pagan sexuality. No one actually exchanged heterosexuality for homosexuality. Even those who practiced homosexuality also married. It’s a trap to get the Judaizers applauding. He springs that trap when he says “you therefore have no excuse, making clear the Judaizers are no better than the pagans. If its a caricature it’s not normative. If its not then Paul simply misrepresented and the Bible’s not infallible.

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