Why I’m not put off by the gay-affirming church movement
Last week I had the privilege of speaking to over a thousand students at Bethel’s ministry school. I gave an uncharacteristically bold message that touched on the convergence of lesbianism with feminism, the incidence of sexual assault and lesbianism, and the necessity of extending God’s power-filled gospel to the LGBTQ community. Hopefully soon I will be able to publish it on my website.
In my circles, considerable time is spent outraged by the audacity of some Christians to reframe, reinterpret and even rewrite scripture. I’m a reluctant partner in those conversations because I was raised in a Christian movement that values taking intellectual risks with scripture. My theological training (in the reformed tradition) has exposed aspects of scripture that most of my charismatic counterparts do not address, such as pagan cultural influences upon ancient Jewish thought. To be clear, I believe homosexual behavior is sin. Those who promote and encourage the identity are deceived (as I once was.) Nevertheless, I know the gay-affirming church is reaching to open doors to the LGBTQ community so they may receive the gospel. Their position is compassion, yet I know they do not have a revelation of the full truth. God is restoring sexuality in alignment with His Kingdom's values. My testimony is one of thousands of witnesses to that truth.
Ancient Judaism and eventually Christianity have always grappled with, or struggled against, popular culture. For example, a very simple review of Old Testament scripture reveals a constant thread of tension highlighting Israel’s tendency toward idolatry. Even Solomon’s temple, in Solomon’s lifetime, succumbed to blending Canaanite idolatrous rituals with worship of Yahweh.
We don’t have, and there has never been, a single-minded Christian movement since Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles began. Yet, Jesus’ kingship continues to be announced and revival continues. The gospel is unthwarted.
In fact, God is constrained by our own perspectives and life experiences in the way He engages us.
When I first left the Presbyterian Church I was convinced that many things I had learned in seminary were wrong. I was willing to accept (and aligned to) subservient and submissive roles for women that included never preaching or teaching. Doug and I were married in a church that NEVER allowed women behind the pulpit. In fact, I gained a great deal in applying my spiritual life to that posture for several years. I still find fulfillment in elevating my husband above myself. Throughout my life, extreme disciplines of fasting, submission, yielding and serving brought great healing to my soul as a woman. I believe my journey was uniquely tailored for me by Jesus. He worked out wrong beliefs, arrogance and pride, idolatry and self-hate through those exercises. God used these unpopular doctrinal ideas to shape my heart and conform my life to that of Christ’s. Along the way, He revealed Himself as well as transformationally exposed my heart.
You see, God’s righteousness remains constant, while all of history (all of humanity) changes. Shockingly, doctrine is not an indicator of truth.
Today I can look at scripture with a much more open and pure heart that is growing in the knowledge of God. Looking at scripture through a lens that knows (experientially) God’s compassion, sovereignty, mercy, justice and cross-centered love makes a huge difference. It allows me to acknowledge difficulty in scripture without fear. I may ask questions such as, how was Moses’ (or Isaiah’s, or Jeremiah’s, or even David’s) interpretation of God’s voice obscured by his own life-dominating issues? I ask because I observe how people interpret His voice today. I have no reason to believe God spoke more clearly 2000 years ago than He does today, so I can compare His dialogues with Jeremiah to what Kris Vallotton describes when he explains conversations with Jesus from his bathtub. They don’t seem the same because God speaks to us through our own voice in ways we can understand and receive. God has never spoken to me with the same tone He takes with Kris.
With all these things in mind, getting back to the gay-affirming church movement. History reveals God’s unlikely missionary journey to humanity, which has used uncommon means and even wrong human ideas to make His name known. He uses popular culture to take stands and introduce conflict that inspires humanity to question itself and turn to His love. With the Cross at the center of our interpretations, we know that He relentlessly addresses our wrong ideas, going to great extremes to show Himself sovereign.
In the end, only one thing seems essential, that He be exalted. Ultimately, our doctrines will fall away to changes in history, but God remains faithful. The essential question we must ask amidst our cultural disputes, is whether we are seeking Him and His Kingdom first.
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3
“O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17: 25-26
© 2018 Kathryn Elizabeth Woning. All rights reserved.