Chris Broussard, sports analyst for ESPN, recently commented on NBA player Jason Collins' announcement that he was a homosexual. Broussard, and many other evangelicals, believe people who engage in same-sex relationships are living in "an open rebellion to God." Now, theologian John Piper has also taken Broussard's side, claiming his statements were "solid steel."
Many of us faith pastors are and should be proud of Jason's bravery and commend him for his courage. Broussard's and Piper's statements, and the like, are wreaking havoc in our churches' pews, destroying families, and ultimately placing a banner of hate and hypocrisy over the front doors of our conservative faith churches.
Why hypocrisy? Because I believe we allow every other form of unchangeable human circumstance to be welcome in our pews, just not gay couples. We welcome divorced and remarried people, who are a far larger membership than gay people. We extend an arm of love and grace to every imperfect life, singing praise songs about the deep, deep love of Jesus. We welcome everyone but those who cannot change their sexual orientation and who may not be gifted by God to live a celibate life.
What many people don't realize is that Broussard's and Piper's opinions are not the opinions of faith pastors, many who call themselves "conservative." In my own conversations with other faith pastors about my book, Over Coffee, I have found a very different attitude prevailing. A greater majority of conservative faith pastors are welcoming gay couples in the Kingdom of God alongside all of the other unchangeable human circumstances in our churches.
A case in point, I recently received a review of Over Coffee from Assemblies of God Pastor Russell Smith at Midtown Church in Missoula, MT,
"Over Coffee" is the most brilliant book I have read on the [gay] topic. After reading this book, my thoughts and philosophy were seriously challenged, sadly they needed to be. Dave has approached this topic with grace, humility and the ability to begin bridging the gap between the conservative Christian community and the gay community. This book has had so much influence that the entire staff of my church have read it and we are so excited to have this fresh understanding and eagerness to reach out to the gay community in our city. By the way...I have been in ministry 27 years and am a "born again, evangelical, charismatic, conservative, Republican Christian" and I encourage you to take the journey I did with Dave."
The reality is that some of us faith pastors are finding ourselves more and more at odds with Broussard's and Piper's opinions. We have listened to theologians, politicians and our leadership makes blanket statements over the years regarding homosexuality. But in the pews, our world is a very different place. In the pews we are faced with the actual people who are gay and strive to follow Christ, their family, their friends and others who are part of the community at large.
My interpretation of Genesis shows me that God's very first moral rule is that "man should not be alone." (Gen 2:18) In my opinion, when we force gay people to be alone, we are in fact encouraging a life of sin for gay people who may not be gifted with celibacy. God himself created us to need relationship. I believe gay couples can best meet God's intention for them by coupling with another gay person in the same or similar circumstance. In the end, many gay couples live with the same godly challenges as any other couple: monogamy, commitment, long-suffering, financial stewardship, deciding who will take the garbage out.
I feel you cannot bottle up the God-created human need for relationship and intimacy. Those of us in the pastorate actually know this. Just like trying to dam up a river, the pressure will continue to build until the water finds a crack and finally wreaks utter devastation. Instead, providing gay people with the ability to live in an open relationship with another person in the same context will provide the relationship of commitment, love, and intimacy they need. We take the same approach for divorced people, even though technically they will be living in adultery (Matt 19). In the end, we can still uphold God's intention of marriage while allowing gay and divorced couples to live in God's intention to the best of their abilities.
It's time for our denominational leadership, our theologians and our teachers to consider how we have denied the grace of Christ for gay couples. It's time for us faith pastors to stand up and tell others what we know, that this life is not about asking people to live the perfect Garden state ideal. This life is about coupling God's best intentions for us with our best abilities. The good news, our Christian faith, the message of the Scriptures is that we are free from the obligation of perfection to the law. Instead, we are released in the grace of Christ to live within our best abilities to love God and each other as ourselves.