Some biblical scholars are warning against a new guide published by a prominent gay rights organization geared toward evangelicals who identify as LGBT, saying it amounts to "false teaching."
Last week, the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign released "Coming Home to Evangelicalism and to Self," a 32-page guide containing resources, advice, and testimonials for evangelical Christians who are "on the journey toward living fully in their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and in their faith and its traditions," according to its website.
The guide features personal stories and practical suggestions from what they call a "wide variety of evangelical voices" in order "to spark new ideas, new dialogue and new courage," citing recent surveys and polling data showing rising support for same-sex marriage among younger generations.
The voices featured all favor more liberal LGBT iterations of the Christian faith, among them Brandan Robertson, Mercer University ethicist David Gushee, and author Matthew Vines.
The booklet features the words of Shae Washington, who is in a lesbian marriage and reportedly attends the evangelical National Community Church in Washington, D.C., which has Assemblies of God roots and has several locations across the region. The HRC guide describes the congregation as a place that "considers itself non-affirming of LGBTQ people but is in a process of conversation and discernment to change." Washington explains that the NCC "leaves room for people to decide that they are affirming and still participate in the church."
The Christian Post reached out to National Community Church to ask what they made of the HRC's characterization of their ministry.
"We don't have all the answers; instead, we continue to take time to listen and learn," said Dave Schmidgall in an email to CP Monday afternoon. Schmidgall pastors at NCC's Lincoln Theatre Campus.
He continued, stressing: "NCC remains orthodox in belief and we're guided by the Jesus way of love and compassion."
"Within our community, there are many LGBTQ+ people seeking to follow Jesus. Many have shared their experiences of being wronged by friends and family and being targeted for violence and mistreatment in society. In response, we remain committed to providing a safe space for all to follow Jesus, and to building bridges in the way He modeled."
Other theologians who've long contended for the biblical definition of marriage being between one man and one woman and accompanying sexual ethics, are urging Christians to discern and resist the ideas set forth in the booklet.
Denny Burk, professor of theology at Boyce College, opined on Twitter Thursday that it's important for Christians and other observers to recognize that those in the HRC guide and group itself are "false teachers who are leading people away from Jesus."
"These teachers 'have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ," he added, referencing Jude 1:4.
Love demands that Christians expose and oppose this "grave error," Burk continued.
"The revisionists and false teachers are leading sinners away from this grace and leaving them to languish in that from which they need to be delivered. If we love these dear people as Christ does, we must oppose the wolves and make clear the path to life."
"We would also do well to pray for the wolves, that 'perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will," he said, citing 2 Timothy 2.
The HRC booklet also refers to specific scriptures that condemn homosexuality as "clobber passages," but does not delve much into the interpretation of those contested verses, and argues that those "same passages appear to clash with the all-important, big-picture values that run throughout the Bible."
Gushee is quoted in the guide as saying that many read the Bible today without any historical context and do not realize how much interpretation happens all the time.
Regarding the Old Testament passages pertaining to homosexuality, the Mercer professor said: "We don't observe kosher laws. We don't support holy wars and genocide. It's a selective literalism."
"When you engage those passages [that condemn homosexuality] with a heartbeat for the suffering of LGBTQ people you start asking different questions," he says in the HRC guide.
"Are they really about what we think they're about? And are these the only passages that are relevant to how a marginalized group of people are to be treated?"
Robert Gagnon, a former professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice, challenged the HRC to host a debate in which he will defend the Orthodox view.
"Let the 'Human Rights Campaign' set up a national dialogue or debate between me and their favorite 'exegetes' of Scripture, advertise it widely, and subsequently market the video of the event," he wrote on his Facebook page Friday, calling the HRC's guide "pathetic."
"I ask only for time equal to all the people whom they designate to present the 'pro-LGBTQ' case from Scripture. We will start with Jesus, go to the Genesis texts he cites, then treat Paul, then the Levitical prohibitions, and round off with the Sodom narrative, among other texts (Levite at Gibeah; treatment of Sodom in Ezekiel, Jude, and 2 Peter; the homosexual cult figures in Deuteronomy, Deuteronomistic History [Joshua — 2 Kings], and Revelation); then deal with analogical arguments and the case from philosophical (nature) and scientific reasoning.
Gagnon believes, however, that the HRC will never take him up on his proposal as the experts they cite are too scared to debate him.
"Of course, they won't do that because they really don't care two shakes about Scripture or Jesus and they know that at such an event their fraudulent view would be exposed for the self-serving attempt that it is," he said.
"If 'Coming Home to Evangelicalism and Self' means denying Jesus' teaching on a marital binary and destroying what Scripture treats everywhere as the foundation of God's standard for sexual ethics, then, yes, 'come home' Evangelicals to a world and self-made in your own image rather than God's."