Archives For Gay & Lesbian

Yesterday we visited an American Baptist/United Church of Christ/Alliance of Baptists/Emergent church that’s meeting in a Presbyterian church building in North Oak Cliff. It’s obviously quite a diverse community of faith.

I really enjoyed the service. It’s hard to describe it—kind of a contemporary-high church hybrid. In the pastor’s words, the church has one foot in Mainline Protestant churches (high church) and one foot in Emergent churches (contemporary). We listened to a jazz solo, sang an a cappella African song and followed a liturgy. The sermon was an actual conversation between the pastor and church members. Claudia Porche guessed that it might have been the most significant church experience we’ve had yet in our eight weeks of participant-observation.

At the heart of this experience’s significance for me was dealing with the tension of acceptance and transformation. This little eclectic church majored in the gospel value of acceptance. Everyone is welcomed and embraced, regardless of background, race, or even sexual orientation. We experienced this welcome and acceptance ourselves from church members after the service.

The church’s stance on sexual orientation got us talking at brunch afterwards. Though we hold different theological convictions on the subject of sexual orientation, we found ourselves drawn to the culture of acceptance there. We found ourselves asking: How do foster a culture of acceptance and at the same time value life transformation that results when the gospel is appropriated? How can we avoid judging people without loosening our grip on our theological convictions?

It’s a delicate balance. I recently read a book by John Burke addressing these questions called No Perfect People Allowed: Creating a Come as You Are Culture in the Church. Burke said a couple things that stuck out to me. First, unbelievers can’t be expected to fall in line with the transformative values of the gospel until they make a commitment to Jesus. Second, unbelievers don’t make a commitment to Jesus and experience life change without the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. Ministers can’t engineer conviction and transformation.

On a practical level I think Burke’s observations mean that we love people unconditionally and leave conversion and life change to the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the only one, after all, who can convict the human heart and bring about transformation. Unbelievers see the values of the gospel as they are lived out in the Christian community and the Holy Spirit uses that modeling as fodder for change.

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten. I’m curious for your feedback on this matter.

How do you / your church community live in the tension between acceptance and transformation?

CenterPeace

Charles Kiser —  November 5, 2007 — 7 Comments

Jesus cared about people on the fringes. He hung with people at the bottom of the barrel. In fact, Jesus spent time with people who had such shady reputations that rumors spread that he was a sinner and a glutton. Just think about his friends: the Samaritan woman (the wrong race), the lepers (the wrong condition), the woman caught in adultery (the wrong sin), tax collectors (the wrong occupation)—the list goes on.

If Jesus were still in the flesh today one place we’d find him would be among gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians are marginalized people. The government struggles with what to do with them; the church struggles even more.

One of the reasons I’m so excited about starting a church in the heart of Dallas is because there’s a significant gay and lesbian population in the area. We first discovered it when we were driving down a major thoroughfare in Oaklawn (just north of Uptown). Gay pride flags hung from the exteriors of bars and restaurants. I thought to myself: Jesus would start a church here.

God is already providing mentors and resources for us as we prepare to be good neighbors to those of the gay and lesbian community. Earlier this month at the Zoe Worship Conference in Nashville, we met Sally Gary, Executive Director of CenterPeace. CenterPeace is a new organization committed to help churches better understand and respond to those with same-sex attraction. We listened as Sally shared her own same-sex struggles and how God had healed her. She spoke of how CenterPeace would equip people to move into gay and lesbian communities as agents of the kingdom. Needless to say, Sally was enthralled to hear of our plans.

I anticipate future conversations with Sally and the ways that she’ll equip and mentor us as we love those who live with same-sex attraction. I know there are so many questions concerning this subject to which I don’t have answers; and there are so many questions I haven’t even begun asking.

But God is already there, already at work. The most important question we can ask is, How can we join you, God?