Friday, September 20, 2013

A Few Things I Know About the LGBTQ and Christianity Issue

I want to start off saying this post is my own opinion. These thoughts are something I feel I need to get out there and off my chest. As a pastor of a congregation that tries to welcome everyone who came I feel like I've been thrown into the whole LGBTQ arena. It has caused me both pain and joy. As a trans-local leader and theologian I am struck repeatedly at how this is an issue many leaders and congregants are wrestling with, often with a lot of their own pain and joy. (I want to thank those who have taken the time to be vulnerable with me over the years, I hope this post helps in some small way.)
Personally I've tried to keep out of the debate of what is the right way to approach this issue - I have my views and I'm not convinced that trying to make others agree with me is that fruitful. In fact the more time I spend wrestling with this issue the more I'm convinced that there is no one solution, but that we need to pursue God with boldness and see where we end up. Mistakes are inevitable, but humility must triumph over fear. What I want to do in this post is identify a few issues that I think get in the way of having a fruitful conversation around this important issue.


This is a term that gets thrown around too easily and also disregarded too readily. Much as I try to avoid this term if we are going to use it then it might be helpful if we found some precision for what homophobia actually is. For those who disregard it, it might be helpful to reflect on the fact that homophobia is not just being afraid of queer people or a so-called 'gay agenda'. Homophobia is also being afraid of the effect that your response to queer people will have on your ministry or relationships. Fears play out in the arena of speculation, so when we imagine the worst outcome we are being homophobic (and also allowing the fear of other people's opinions cloud our ability to hear and obey God.) Just because welcoming or accepting a queer person might strain other relationships is never a good reason to not do what you know to be the right thing. We are always accountable for our response to those whom God brings to us and not for how that might make it hard (or easy) to fit in with everyone else.

On the other side, when we just name as homophobia every possible objection raised against including and/or affirming (these are two distinct things) LGBTQ persons and concerns, we are refusing to hear what underlies the objections of others. This is a difficult tension. It is worth hearing the objections of others and actually having the conversation. And not just to find faults in these objections - the underlying foundation for these objections is often rooted in concerns we can all share (such as the concern over faithfully following God). Sharing concerns does not mean we need to always share conclusions, but it is important to not let an issue like this lead us away from the deeper issues. As a result, my queer friends don't get to label everything homophobia. In particular they do not get to discredit arguments based on a blanket statement that might not name what is the real concern. By the same token my queer hesitant friends cannot dismiss their own possible homophobia. Homophobia, if we insist on using the term needs to be used carefully.

Foundations are Painful to Uproot

Which leads to the second thing I know which is basically that there are hard liners on all sides of this issue. Unfortunately hard liners usually just cloud the issues. You can tell them because they refuse to hear and acknowledge the legitimacy of the other side. Hearing the other side does not mean you have to give up your own views. I was talking with a guy I really respect yesterday and he reminded me to the term "mutually transformative" relationships. This should be our goal when engaging in this conversation, we must go into it with the humility that says there is probably good reasons for the views of the others and understanding those reasons might even shift my own views, but also have confidence that we too have good reasons for our own views. When we lose sight of that goal we risk becoming unhelpful in the conversation. I think it is really important for us to have a voice, to speak our minds and hearts. I think it is also just as important for us to hear one another.

The Issues are Complicated

The reality is that you can still be an ally of LGBTQ folk and hold a complicated or even unsettled view of the issue. Jesus really calls us to be an advocate of people. We can affirm people and walk with people as they move towards wholeness, even if their understanding of wholeness differs from our own. Church leaders in particular need to learn to do this better, and I'm encouraged when I encounter those who are trying to do just that. I actually consider myself an LGBTQ ally not because I'm in favour of marriage equity but because I want to be Christ to the people God sends my way and want to see them through God's eyes not through my own biases. I'd be lying if I say that I'm completely settled on the issues. Some of it just puzzles the heck out of me. Where I am settled is that I want to treat every person with dignity and respect, and am willing to walk and pray with them as they follow after God. One size really does not fit all. I will do my best to obey God as I see God leading in every situation trusting in God's leading and faithfulness.

Language is the Problem

Unfortunately, we as a species do not like complications. Over and over I hear language used in this conversation that is meant to frame the debate in ways that are easy to dismiss. One that I really dislike is the appeal to 'same sex attraction'. Nice language if you want to imply sexual orientation is a choice and that being queer is ultimately something you can cure. While this may be an important view in the conversation, it is not helpful to make it sound like 'the answer' because we've claimed that homosexuality is just attraction to the same gender. Human sexuality has never been this simple. Sexual orientation is more than just being attracted to someone of the same gender, and when we frame it that way we deny the identity component. Worse, it allows us to belittle the struggles of those who don't fit into the heteronormativity of our society.

Terms like traditional, orthodox, etc., always make appeals to norms that are constructed and highly contextual. I'm grateful that some of the conversations are reflecting a hesitation with these terms that gives me hope. (BTW I moved to the term queer because my queer friends tell me that is the term they prefer to use.) Maybe we should let the others have an equal say in the language we use? That said, I'm just as bad at this as the rest of you - so really just recognizing that language is a problem is helpful.

Love is the Bottom Line

So here is where I end up - ultimately I know I will be judged not on how well I fit in, but on how well I loved. I'm not always the best at this, I think of myself as a learner of love. But my heart is to love because I was loved. What overwhelms me most about God is that even in full understanding of all I've done, do, and will do - God chooses to love me. I'm so grateful for this. So I've made it a mission to try and emulate that love to all who come my way. It is hard. But it is also worth it. I get that some of my queer hesitant friends think the most loving response to my queer friends is to tell them they need to get right with God. In fact I think that if this is your conviction then you should voice it - but at the same time you should listen to God and not expect that their getting right with God will look like you expect. Heck, the reality is that all of us could use some getting right with God. But if all your expression of love is telling people you dislike who they are (and are convinced God also does not like who they are) then you might want to think about that. There has to be more to love than dismissing a person.

I remember my friend James who came out to me (I was a new Pentecostal convert at the time). I remember telling him that I thought God had a problem with him being gay, but I didn't. At the time that was my honest view on the issue. James became a great friend of mine and a genuinely enjoyed hanging out with him. The point is that love is so much more than a warning (no matter how well intentioned) can ever be. Love involved me being there when James was going through hard times, not judging but listening and caring. Love is what we are called to do as Christians, more than anything else love forms and informs our way of being in this world. If we have not love, then we really have nothing.


I'm sure that this will continue to be a complicated issue. I'm sure it will be painful too. I don't have a lot of answers, but these few things are what I do know about the LGBTQ issue. We need to listen more. Find places to be vulnerable (and as leaders create places where people are safe in this vulnerability). We need to be careful about our language. And most of all we need to let love take the lead in all we say and do.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


OK so the blogging on the tablet experiment didn't work. The reality is that I've just too much else on the go. Plus my mouse and keyboard are dying, grrrrrrr. It is a hassle to work on the computer until I get them replaced. But with all the renovations, I'm never here long enough to tackle that problem.

On the plus side, I've really developed some good skills this summer. I've installed my first built in cabinet, refinished my first stair railing, done my second wood floor install, improved my woodworking (especially table saw) skills, finally mastered caulking, developed some better painting skills, and basically made our old house beautiful (with a little help from some friends).

I'm needing to spend some time Monday working with some web publishing tools for a contract I secured at the beginning of the summer. So perhaps I'll post something then.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

blogging on the run

not had a lot of time to blog lately. we are in the process of moving from one house to another, just down the street actually. i am doing a lot of the renovations on the old house myself. I'm actually looking forward to the challenges. my thesis is almost done, just need to carve out the time to write. i just finished teaching a course on eschatology and politics in North America. the exams come in Monday which is also the day we take possession of the new house.

as I'm less stuck behind a desk for a while just trying out blogging via tablet. going to see how difficult Autocorrect makes my life.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Think on This

Jesus’ ethics do not stand apart from the kingdom, rather they inhabit the kingdom bringing about the redemptive work of God in history, even if they do so presently only in a provisional way.


Thursday, February 28, 2013


What is faith?

I have been avoiding this word in the thesis because it is too often used as a bit of a catch-all phrase. It could mean a set of believes or doctrinal affirmations, it could mean some sort of commitment to God or to the Church, it would mean some quality of spirituality that is not readily measurable, it could mean a combination of these things and more.

Sometimes we like to talk about "the faith" as being this monolithic ideal that we can simply appeal to without qualification. Such as when we talk about someone being a "hero of the faith". It could mean that they were a hero within the Christian religion, but more likely we name them a hero because they seem to embody something of our ideologies and desires. The term faith seems simply too loose to use in academic writing.

Yet, I find myself writing down this word all the time when I do my initial drafts. Mostly I just figure out what use I mean in that instance and pick a different word. But why is it such a go to word? Why can't I shake it? I do think that the term itself is useful.

I've spent some time in the past defining faith in particular ways. Appealing to the Bible and making a case for a particular understanding. I think this tactic would work except that every time I read the word in other contexts I realize that there is a whole package of meaning behind it just as particular as the one I want to imply. I'm not sure I'll give up the practice, but it is a good reminder that words are funny creatures.

So as a thought experiment I put the question to you: what is faith?

Maybe we'll spark a lively debate, but I think the real insight will be how varied and yet specific our ideas a faith are.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Some evangelicals have a funny relationship with history. Recently I heard the old trope, "we know what happens at the end of the book." It is a saying that means the person believes that the book of Revelation has summed up what the end will look like so we do not really need to be that concerned about the present. Ahistoricism is a lack of concern for history, tradition, and temporality. It is not anti-historical, some evangelicals are quite certain the time and history exists - despite the abusive re-readings they often do. But they just don't think that what happens here and now is the point. This kind of thinking is both a recent development within Christian eschatology and it is one of the big reasons that evangelicals suck at social amelioration.

Yeah I said suck.

I wish it were not the case because I actually believe that the gospel is supposed to be good news for all of creation. That the gospel has something to say to injustice and evil as it is experienced in the here and now. I actually believe that Jesus is the answer - I'm just not so convinced that enough evangelicals have been asking the right question to which Jesus has the answer.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What Are America’s Most Bible-Minded Cities? | American Bible Society

What does it mean to be biblical? Or even Bible-minded? It is interesting that the graph the American Bible Society puts forward argues that it is consensus that establishes truth. Actually it is arguing from a set of preconceptions about the nature of the Bible - namely that it merely needs to be read a lot and believed to be accurate for one to be "Bible-minded". But the term "Bible-minded" has a lot more weight than just those presuppositions. It implies, at least in the evangelical world, that something is more desirable or more correct. We do this with our theologies when we claim they are "biblical" regardless of how many other theological propositions contradict ours yet also claim to be "biblical".

A mentor of mine once wisely told me that just because the majority of people believe something does not make it true. He urged me to think for myself. And my theology has grown a lot from that little piece of advice (I would never have a theology of an open table if it were not for him.) So when I see an appeal to consensus like this I get a bit concerned that someone is offering an easy way out - and easy ways often impoverish our faith.

Perhaps I wouldn't enjoy being in the most "Bible-minded" of American cities. But I do enjoy being around people who take the Bible seriously by wrestling with its words and not simply buying what other people have to say about it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

There is Still Time!

Call for Papers:

Canadian Evangelical Theological Association Annual Meeting
University of Victoria, Victoria, BC
June 2, 2013

The Executive of the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association (CETA) welcomes proposals for papers to be presented at the June 2, 2013 Annual Meeting to be held in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Victoria, in Victoria, BC.

CETA encourages submission of high quality papers on any topic of theological relevance to Canadian Evangelicalism. The theme for this year's Congress is @ the Edge and papers which address this theme in relation to Canadian Evangelicalism are encouraged.

Papers should be scholarly but not highly specialized presentations of about 25 minutes, aimed at an audience of scholars from across the spectrum of theological disciplines, including biblical studies; theological readings of Scripture; historical, systematic, moral, and pastoral theology; theology that engages culture, the church, other academic disciplines, etc. Proposals from graduate students are welcome.

Proposed titles, along with an abstract of no more than 250 words, should be accompanied by a short CV. To facilitate anonymous review of proposals, please include your name, paper title, institutional affiliation, and contact information on a separate page from your paper proposal. All proposals should be submitted electronically to the address below in Word, ODT, or RTF format by January 31, 2013. Please entitle your email “CETA 2013 Paper Proposal.” 

Papers chosen for participation will be notified by March 1, 2013.

Please email all conference paper proposals to Dr. J. Richard Middleton, President, Canadian Evangelical Theological Association.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Pastoral Concern

This is too important not to engage with. UK evangelical Steve Chalke has come out in favour of same-sex marriage. What I feel is so important about his stance is that he articulates the very real pastoral concerns that I know many pastors are struggling with. How do we love like Jesus loved?

All through the gospels I see Jesus challenging the established norms about inclusion. Even with the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7 (a passage I struggle a lot with) the key was how Jesus' challenged how the disciples were growing increasingly exclusivist and as a result the miraculous power of God seemed to be decreasing (read the context, before and after and ask what changes). History has also born this out, when we focus on keeping tight reigns on the church we see God begin to move outside of our expectations and even our comfort. As my charismatic friends would say, you can't put God in a box.

Tony Campolo declares that this could well be a watershed moment. Campolo is not willing to go as far as Chalke, but he does represent the engagement with this issue that is going on throughout evangelicalism. Chalke is not going to be as easy for evangelicals to dismiss as Brian McLaren who also recently endorsed the blessing of same-sex marriages through participating in the wedding of his son.

These are interesting times.

(edited: is back up so I linked the reference to Campolo's response, also worth reading.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Yeah, sounds impressive doesn't it. Actually I have a paper down - waiting for feedback. Now it is finally time to put everything else aside and finish my thesis! This week is getting my head back into the game, rewriting the intro to include a slight change as well as make my background research chapters count. Next week it is time to reboot my physical fitness work. By the end of these two weeks I want to establish a work routine and a workout routine. If I'm good I'll reward myself with some gaming, if not I'll tie myself to my chair until I am good! At least that is the plan.