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Does the Church have Multiple Personality Disorder?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013


mpd three facesThis last week was an internet frenzy of thoughts and opinions. I the wake of John Paulks apology for harm through his involvement in the ExGay movement I saw the reality of what we call the Christian Faith.


The reality being, the Christian faith is like a person with Multiple Personality Disorder. One person (faith) with distinctive and unique personalities (diverse positions and beliefs) that seem to not only be different from each other, but in some cases wildly contradict one another. I’ve been told more times than I can count that I have lost the TRUTH and at times I’ve been called a false teacher. What TRUTH have I lost? In what way am I a false teacher. Frankly, the answers to those questions cannot be found in one place, or one denomination. Actually they would be false in some, and true in others.


Coming from a background of faith and homosexuality I’ve searched for over 30 years for truth. I’ve been involved in numerous religious affiliations. I was raised Catholic, then moved into the Assembly of God, Charismatic, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, Non-Denominational and House Church movements. I’ve certainly been exposed to many of the different Christian personalities. I’ve seen some wonderful things and learned many very helpful truths. But I’ve also been wildly confused along my search.


liturgical churchI’ve been in quiet reflective prayer meetings, and also in those that were so loud and boisterous that I couldn’t hear myself think. Church worship has been handclapping, pew jumping celebration, and solemn liturgical practice with traditional hymns. Of course, many of have seen church spits and arguments over these matters. So much so that you’d think Jesus was specific about hymns vs. contemporary himself when addressing the Pharisees!


Are we “saved” at some point in our life when we’ve made a decision to come to Christ? If we make that decision, can we lose it through a willful choice? Or, does God choose us, pick us out of the crowd to be saved and in that we cannot do anything that might cause us to lose our eternal destiny?  Even something as basic and fundamental as baptism has diverse understanding and practice. When I experienced a deeper walk in my own faith a man I worked with vehemently charged me to get baptized or my faith had no way of saving me even though I was baptized as an infant. Some denominations believe that one must be baptized in order to have “eternal life.” While others say it is done in infancy, and yet others sprinkle as young people or adults.

But, are the Ten Commandments are the truth to life? Do we have an obligation to live by their standards? Really? Thou shalt not murder, unless it’s in a war led by the United States. In war, we ignore that commandment because we believe it is for the better good. Some churches celebrate the veterans for their admirable efforts to protect the countries boundaries, while others feel deeply convicted that war is sinful and when someone dies in war, it is murder. Which commandments do we pick as truth, and under what circumstances? Unless we have a different interpretation and application of that commandment.


women in pulpitDo women have to remain silent from teaching men who are over the age of twelve? Or can women be a lead teaching pastor of a church? Can there be orchestras and bands in a church celebration or are all musical instruments banned from a gathering of the Christian hopeful? Some large churches pay good money for professional cellists each Sunday because there aren’t any in their congregations. Will I be in called our for living a sinful life if I partake of wine or a beer with supper? Or, can a relaxing glass of Chardonnay be shared at the monthly vestry meeting of the local Episcopal church?





eldersAll of these and so many more coexist within the culture of those who call themselves Christian. Some are frankly quite humorous. But for others they have caused divisions fraught with anger and insane congregational meetings that have never been forgotten. The bitterness of separation has at times caused people to leave their religion for life. Others have spent thousands of their hard earned dollars to start new church plants that involve their own personal preferences. I actually was a member of a church where the discussion of elders brought a newsworthy debacle that sent most of the senior staff members and 4500 church members into the streets without a church home after the vote to deny the elder led form of church leadership. What does the bible say about elders? Do all churches agree on this?


So, today, the gay issue is at the front line of church discussion. Much like so many other church personalities, there are certainly differing personas surrounding sexual orientation and actions. What is the final truth? What does God say about homosexuality and what isn’t found within the book called the Holy Bible?


There are lives at stake. Some have been found to take their own lives stemming from the shame and discouragement that has come from some church doctrines and judgment. Others have bullied, and beaten gay people due to some of the more extreme beliefs surrounding Christian thought on these matters.


Entire denominations have been formed to support gay people of faith while others have split and separated due to differing opinions on gay marriage. Mainline churches have spent countless hours in committee meetings studying the matter so that some form of statement can be made at the next year’s convocation meetings. In the end, largely, no decision has been made and the issue has been tabled for another year.


On line conversations have been supportive, loving, and kind, while others have been full of wrath and judgment. My message box has had some interesting statements.


These are a few that have come through:


I believe that John Paulk, like others who have made such decisions like John Smid and Michael Bussee, has cast aside his inheritance in Christ for a ‘bowl of soup’ (Heb 12:16-17)- a watery meal that doesn’t meet the famished hunger of the spiritual stomach. He may not have done this casually but the outcome is not positive. His decision represents a disregard for his inheritance in Christ and the blessings of his family and ministry. He is, in fact, suppressing that which he knows to be true (Rom 1:18) rather than realizing an actual truth and doing that wars against himself as much as anybody else.


Will this decision to be honest about his sexuality and finally share openly what has been true for him all of his life cause God to move far away from him? Does right doctrine teach that John cast aside his inheritance?


What I choose to do is walk out my faith the best I can in front of those who aren’t perfect. That would be me too. Thank God for his Grace and his mercies! (can I get an Amen? lol) Most homosexuals know what a born-again Christian stands for and how they feel about homosexuality. By loving them anyway, you are speaking volumes. You don’t have to endorse, support or otherwise give them carte blanche to do whatever they want. But love them. Like a child who steals or lies. You let them know what they did was wrong, but you love them anyway.


Are homosexuals by nature not capable of being a “born again Christian?” Is there an intrinsic separation between gay people and church inclusion or belief? Some church doctrines teach this to be true. Others have spent inordinate energy trying to share a message of grace and inclusion for gay folks.


The prince of the air is pushing for this agenda. He is getting ready to take control for his short time. It’s all prophecy. We need to show LOVE to one another so that people will know we are HIS.


Is Satan the architect of the plan? Is it his agenda to destroy culture and the Christian family through the gay community? Is it bible prophesy of destruction that we are seeing today as gay marriage is coming to be a standard in this country? What does your church pastor teach on this matter? Likely you will all have different answers on this. Which one is right? Is there one way of thinking that is more correct than another?


I don’t understand. If God says something even once….it’s enough. Homosexuality is sin. It is clear. We are all born sinners. It is no excuse.


Is it that simple? Is there a definitive answer to all of our questions of homosexuality and faith? Is the bible that clear? If the bible were that clear, then why would we have such diverse answers from bible scholars? Teachers? Pastors? Is there no “excuse” for someone living in a gay relationship? Is there no excuse for selfishness?


Actually, the main distinction that tends to get blurred in this biblical interpretation, is the homosexual person verses the homosexual act..(whether it applies to boy sex slaves of that culture..etc.). The ACT is still condemned no matter what the cultural context.


Are all acts covered under one statement? Are all heterosexual ACTS the same? Are they all sanctioned by scripture? I can find diverse personalities on this matter as well. Is there one, only one, doctrine on heterosexual relationship? Should wives be blindly submissive to their husbands, or is it permissible for them to be equals in partnership within a marriage? Churches have split over this one too! Denominations have formed their basic doctrines on their belief on the position of a woman in a home, in her dress and makeup routines.


You all know the old saying…..hate the sin….love the sinner…I am thankful there are people who have always loved me even when I was disobedient and rebellious. I have gay friends and to be honest, they are some of the sweetest people I know, possibly because they have been so mistreated that they truly understand the meaning and value of friendship. But that does not mean that I agree with the sexual sin in their lives. Again, we are all sinners. I’m not condoning the gluttony in my own life or my tendency to gossip…..and I will not agree with, nor condone, male with male or female with female sex. When you have to go to such great lengths to try and explain away what is CLEARLY spelled out in scripture as sin, then something is obviously wrong. It is not an act of love to blindly condone sin in any form. Quite the contrary.


Does a church or Christian have the position of condoning anything other people do? Condoning to me means, give permission to or allow. Well, there are churches that believe in shepherding their flock and others that live completely void of confronting or controlling other’s lives. Does the scripture teach that we should correct, condone, or control others? Or, does it teach that Christ is the head of the church and we are all accountable to Him. That’s another study with different outcomes. The personalities are varied when it comes to who is on control.


Good grief….are you really going there??? What do you do with Romans 1?…..men leaving the natural use of the woman burned in their lust one toward another. Read the rest of the chapter….it is so clear that it absolutely astounds me that anyone could be so blind as to argue about it! I’m not rejecting or condemning any person…..just speaking my heart on behavior that I truly believe will end in judgment.


Oh, yes, the one about what is considered natural vs. what is not. Natural to biology? Natural to culture? Natural to original nature? Yes, all of the above are taught in diverse denominational standards and ethics. Will all gay people end up in “judgment?” What kind of judgment do you mean?


I am so sad and disappointed you have given up on the Lord.


Really, is it true that a person who is living in a gay identity or relationship has given up on the Lord? Does an outward decision or action always mean the same thing for everyone? I’ve been involved with churches where this was clearly the teaching. Gossip and judgment was ascribed to anyone who’s life was deemed immoral or lacked ethical character according to our standards.


Then there are whole gay Christian communities who celebrate with amazing worship abandon. Who has given up on the Lord? The one who lacks trust in Him for those who are different, or the one who wrestles to find the life in God that is truly representative of the gospel that Jesus came to give us?


Is there one TRUTH? Is there one way to believe? Are all Christians alike and do they agree on such important matters as life, love, and relationship? It’s very easy for me to say a resounding NO!!!! WE do not agree. There isn’t one answer. Not one TRUTH, other than I believe that Jesus came, He lived, He died, and He rose again. He paid the price for my imperfect life so that I will live eternally with God in the place He has prepared for me.


I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:22-23


What does it take for us to be as one? Certainly we disagree on some very important matters. We do not agree on what to do with homosexuality. We do not agree with whether a gay relationship is something that God can bless. We are a diverse community. Can we agree with that?


Do we have Multiple Personality Disorder? Well, yes, frankly, we do. But we are one whether we like it or not. Those of us who recognize Jesus offer of forgiveness and God’s redemption of our soul have one TRUTH. And yet, in the freedom that Jesus gave us, we are also free to differ while living underneath His marvelous grace.


Think about it.

 

Friends, Brothers, and Apologies

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013


John-PaulkJanuary of 1988 I met a man that I had no idea would become such a long time friend. John Paulk entered the Love In Action men’s residential program and I was the House Leader of the home he came to. During our year together walking as brothers John and I sat for many hours talking, crying, and sharing our hearts together. I was his “Ole Leader” and held a nick name of BJ. He was John-Tom.


In 1992 John asked me to be the best man at his wedding to Anne. I was intimidated to hold such a position because John was such a deeply talented young man and wanted everything to be top notch. I co-hosted his bachelor party that stands today as one of the most creative (thank you Ross Hayduk) bachelor parties I have ever seen. It was a momentous occasion.


The ExGay world always heavily celebrated one of our own getting married. We held out that marriage was a sign that God was blessing our obedience to Him and put a lot of our hope in the future of being as close to normal of a man as possible. So, John’s marriage and future was looking bright.


In the middle nineties John was hired at Focus on the Family to head up a conference model called “Love Won Out” and was focused on helping parents better understand their gay loved ones. Love In Action made the decision to be an exhibitor and go to each conference that we were able to. So, I had the experience of attending 35 Love Won Out conferences and saw John’s incredible talent and heart for people at work in many cities across the country.


Then one day I heard some very disconcerting news. John had been photographed in a gay bar in Washington DC called Mr. P’s. In 2000. I was really troubled about what I had heard, but I contacted John and told him I was his friend and that I was standing beside him without judgment.


I resigned from Love In Action in 2008 and didn’t see or talk to John for some time. After I established Grace Rivers Ministry, we reconnected and it seemed John was supportive of my new endeavor in walking with the gay community in God’s grace and love.


I became more accepting of gay people and gay relationships and John struggled with what I was saying. We had a few words that were difficult and kept some distance while each of us began to sort out what we were feeling.


In 2012 John contacted me and said he was sorry for the challenging reactions he had with my position shift. He explained that as someone he looked up to so much all through the years, he just couldn’t grasp that I had changed my position so much. But in the same conversation, he admitted that he too was rethinking some things and he began to understand more what I was going through.


Then one day, my phone rang, and it was John. He told me “John, isn’t this strange, that today, over twenty years later we were in the same place.” He further explained that he believed his marriage was about to end and that he had been overwhelmed with the discouragement of his struggle with homosexuality. He was coming to grips with his innate homosexuality and what this meant for his life and family.


I said, “John, I stood with you then, when you got married, and I’ll continue standing with you through all of this. I love you my friend.” I explained that my standing by him at his marriage ceremony wasn’t a conditional position, rather is was a sign of a brother walking alongside another brother.


I continued along my own path of self disclosure and public apologies for where I had been in ministry with Love In Action and Exodus International. Then this spring, I received a phone call from a mutual friend. She said, “John Paulk is going to make a public apology about his involvement through the years with the ExGay movement. Will you help us? John needs support and friends right now.” She told me that it began with a story that was published in a magazine called the PQ Monthly. (click here for the article.)


Of course I will stand with John Paulk. He’s my friend. We’ve walked through thick and thin for 25 years! I got involved in helping develop a draft of an apology for John to share. We all wanted him to have the freedom to write something that was his very own heart. So as friends and supporters of John, we now stand with him as he reveals an amends to people within his sphere of influence.


This is what john has written:


Paulk BW


~ A Formal Public Apology by John Paulk ~

For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the “ex-gay movement,” where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not.

So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman for the “ex-gay movement.” I began a new journey. In the decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay” and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.


I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.


From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.


Today, I see LGBT people for who they are–beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.


I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take this initial step of transparency. Even while promoting “ex-gay” programs, there were those who called me on my own words and actions. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but they have helped me to realize this truth about who I am.


This is a life transition that has been and will continue to be, challenging. Sadly, my marriage of 20 years is in the process of ending. I want to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of truth and authenticity. Therefore, I’m drastically limiting my public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly anticipate giving back to the community.



Finally, I know there are still accounts of my “ex-gay” testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote about my journey. I don’t get any royalties from these publications, and haven’t since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my “ex-gay” story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.


John Paulk


Go in the peace of the Lord, my brother. May God richly bless you. Living out our truth is the way we live out the freedom found in God’s Truth. I stand with you, side by side as we walk this side of our eternity, friends, brothers. I love you, Friend.


 

Apologies Abound!

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013


statue with head in his handsIt seems that the world is finally coming to the realization that gay people have been wrongly judged and treated with disdain primarily by church communities. I am thankful that apologies are coming forth from all the ends of the earth!


I wrote an initial apology back in 2010 that was my first stab at making some kind of statement about how sorry I was that people had been wounded by things I had done and said. I felt deeply convicted that I had made many mistakes but in 2010 I really didn’t know how to make it more specific. (My first apology click here.)


A couple of years later, I published my book Ex’d Out. In this book, I wrote several chapters outlining in much greater detail the ways I had offended men and women through teaching and ministry approach that I believe was harmful. (You can obtain the book here.)


I am finding many other apologies that have been published. Here is one that is powerful and I believe you should read. Its  a blog post by a man named John Shore.  Here is what John Shore says about himself:


JShore_pg1

Hi. I’m John. I’m married, 54 years old, and live in San Diego, CA. I’ve been writing this blog since April 2007.


I’m a Christian who believes that a great deal about how Christianity is practiced and perceived needs to change. (I wasn’t always a Christian; at 38, out of freakin’ nowhere, I had a sudden conversion experience.)



I don’t believe, for instance, that homosexuality is in and of itself an offense against God, so I’ve done a fair amount of writing about that.


(My work on that particular matter has been featured / excerpted on Savage Love (Dan Savage’s blog), Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, Advocate, GLAAD, Joe. By. God, LGBTQ Nation, Believe Out Loud, Truth Wins Out, The New Civil Rights Movement, Good As You, Towleroad, Box Turtle Bulletin, The Center for Progressive Christianity, The Progressive Christian Alliance, The Christian Left, Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, The Christian Post and others.)


He recently wrote musings on a general apology from the Christian community to those who are gay.


I think it is a great read and is something we might all consider looking through.


Click here to read it


BusseeIn 2007, there was a gathering of people surrounding  apologies from former Exodus International leaders. A profound beginning to a growing movement of reality and honesty.   I had known of Michael Bussee for many years but what I knew came from negative comments from others about his choice to abandon his ExGay status and come out as a gay man. Michael was heavily involved in the founding of Exodus International. He was very involved in a ministry in Southern California that attempted to help men and women leave homosexuality.  His story includes his own struggle and attempt to find some kind of solace with being gay and at the same time an Evangelical Christian.


I met Michael for the first time in person over a phone call in 2009. I found him to be an amazing, humble, and honest man. I was stuck by his candor and willingness to speak with me with such authenticity.  I have continued to get to know him and I love his heart for people and his sensitive connection with God at a deep and reflective level.


I’d like you to read his apology for what he believes was an error of understanding and counsel to people to seek a heterosexual identity, quite different than their true feelings and attractions.


Click here to read Michael’s story and apology.


marksJeremy Marks has been a good friend of mine since 1987. We met while I was working with Love In Action. We were both new to the ExGay scene and attempting to learn how to help LGBT people. Our experiences were very different but something we had in common was a deep desire to do what God wanted us to do.  Jeremy soaked up what he could from Love In Action and began a ministry in London that was a direct result of his experiences with Love In Action. We remained close and I went to London to see Jeremy and experience his ministry first hand.  Later on, in 1999 Jeremy had a revelation that he had not seen anyone from Courage Trust (his ministry) that had experienced any sort of change from gay to straight. He began to do a thorough and honest evaluation of the many years of ministry and within his own heart and life.


I thought Jeremy had lost his mind when I found out he had changed his perspective.  I believed it had some from an emotional lapse leading him into a codependent reaction. But one thing I always knew about Jeremy was that he loved God with his whole heart and he was one of the most gracious people I had ever known. I reconnected with Jeremy in 2011 making my own apology to him for abandoning him as a friend. He was willing to continue our friendship and we are once again together on our journey’s with one another and with God.


This apology reflects his heart and evaluation. Please take a look.


Jeremy Marks Apology (click here)


bogleDarlene Bogle and I go back many years. I was a regional board member for Exodus International and therefore was responsible to facilitate gatherings and retreats for the local Northern California leaders. Darlene was committed to the deepest, and best ministry she could have. She loved people and was a prolific writer and student of God’s heart and word. One year at a national Exodus Conference I heard that Darlene had “gone back to the gay life” and had “abandoned her ministry”. I thought surely she had done so from some sort of wounding, or rebellion. Certainly it wasn’t to pursue God’s truth!


I saw Darlene in January 2013 at a conference with Gay Christian Network. We hugged and within our embrace, we both knew something deep. We had been on a path seeking God’s reality for our lives way back in 1987 and yet our journey led us to this day where we had found another part of God’s heart for us. His marvelous grace and love for us as we are.


Darlene also wrote an apology to those within the gay community. Click here to read her heart and story.


From what I am hearing through the grapevine, there are more apologies coming. It seems that a deep evaluation of the heart and soul is bringing forth truth. God seems to be leading us to a new impartation of His love and grace for the LBGT community.

After all of these years, it seems He has led us through a journey that has been kind, but also mysterious. Stay tuned, I plan on publishing more apologies as they come through.



 

Beliefs Are Changing?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013


Crop-Shadowmanbyriver

I was thinking about a friend from thirty years ago. This is a man that I spent hours and hours talking with during a foundational time in my faith journey. He was always a listener, but also a person who had his own thoughts on things and was not easily dissuaded in his convictions and spiritual beliefs.


I decided to write him an email to try to reconnect with him. The last time I saw him was in 1994.




Glenn,

It has been many, many years since we last spoke – too many to think about. I know you have been following my blog writing and such, so I am curious as to what you think, or feel about the blogs I’ve been writing lately? I would like to know what’s going on in your mind about them.



Many of us have changed through the years about how we process our faith, and religious practice. Of course, my process has changed dramatically. So considering changes that have obviously occurred, I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Wow, it has been almost twenty years, my friend.


John


John!! Wow!


Yes, I has been too long since we last visited. It is also really good to hear from you.



You caught me by surprise my old friend. I keep thinking we should reconnect. In fact I owe you a phone call. Anyway, regarding your email. I am currently re-evaluating my thoughts and viewpoints about this weighty issue of the church and homosexuality, especially after reading your recent blogs and now the email you just sent. Thankfully, you are challenging me to re-explore and examine what the Bible really says about homosexuality and not just accept what I have been taught to believe over the years.



However, from what I know about God’s character and how He is working in my life, I know homosexuality does not separate us from His love or from using us according to His purpose. God loves us just the same and works through us whether we are gay or not. I don’t believe it is not a core issue with regard to faith. But it is a core issue in living a life the way Christ intended. I feel that the attitude of many individual Christians, and most evangelical churches, is doing more to isolate and alienate gay individuals than to bring anyone to relationship with God. That must change.



If homosexuality is a sin like drunkenness, lying, cheating, greed, or other things that God mentions in 1Corinthians 6:9-10, why is it being treated so differently? If it is a sin, then why is it so extremely difficult, if not impossible, to change about someone’s life? I’ve never heard of anyone who has changed their sexual orientation. Sadly, we who call ourselves followers of Christ, have injured and piled guilt on people who happen to be gay in such a disproportional manner. I wish more was being done to build bridges of influence and authentic communication….as you are effectively doing.



I do not think being gay is a choice. I really can’t imagine anyone choosing such a painful and isolating journey. I use to think being gay resulted from early childhood factors, I am increasingly doubtful of that too. So, now I am wondering where that leaves me. I have always believed we were all uniquely created for a reason, so could people be created differently in this regard as well? If so, wow…that really shakes things up! I just don’t know for sure yet.



John, your life experiences speaks volumes to me. I have indirectly followed your writings over the years. I also think I know your heart and how much commitment, love, and effort you pour into seeking Christ and honoring Him. Therefore, your story commands my attention and respect.



questions-manAs you can tell, my thoughts are changing (and I think for the best). Hopefully, I will be able to give you a more in-depth and thoughtful answer sometime soon.



Take care my friend! Your adventure with God is taking you forward, not full circle, rest confidently in His presence.


Glenn



Glenn,

It is always good to reconnect with friends from years ago. I remember so many wonderful lengthy talks with you way back all those many years ago. I’ve missed those talks.



I really appreciate what you have shared with me in your letter. I am so encouraged to read things from people who are actually willing to look at things “again” rather than to just go on with what has been told to them throughout the years. This is intelligent, it is full of God’s spirit of freedom, and sanctification.



Honestly, I think people are afraid to think outside the comfortable box and therefore, they don’t. When they see that others are willing to do so, it can release some people to begin to ask new questions.


John



John,

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind you are having a huge and positive impact in many lives people. Sharing your life willingly and transparently with so many people is making a significant impact in this world. Now you are challenging us (me in particular) to revisit and reevaluate our long held beliefs and opinions on homosexuality. Good for you!



I really enjoyed our FaceTime call and being reconnected after all these years.


Glenn






 

Follow Up to: Returning to Vomit

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013


Wow!   I received this message from my friend Ray as a follow up to our previous dialogue a week ago.


John,

I must ask your forgiveness for the manner in which I approached you. I realize that I could have challenged you in a far more sensitive manner which would have been more befitting the admiration that I have for you. Regardless, please accept my apology and forgive me


I ‘came out’ last week as being in support of same-sex marriage. My decision was based, in part, our on conversation, other live and on-line debates, interviewing some of my real-life friends (gay), my interpretation of civil liberties and a fair amount of prayer. While I stand by my duty of challenging others when I feel a challenge is warranted (;))


Know that when I made my pronouncement, I was greeted with fire and brimstone from the Christian faith community. I was appalled at the vitriol and hatefulness that was directed towards me. I lost friends in the ensuing melee. I have been labeled a blasphemer, a heretic, a pawn of Satan, a weak Christian and more.


I can only imagine that it was a mere fraction of a fraction of the hate and pain and loss that you have endured. While my faith is not shaken and my conviction concerning same-sex marriage is still in its infancy, I was not dissuaded. I am sorry for having been one to ‘cast stones’ when I am clearly no different. May God’s peace reign in your life John.


Your friend,

Ray.


My response back to him:


Ray,

I really appreciate you writing to apologize. Although certainly not necessary because I felt we were at peace through our conversation.


Yes, I’ve endured, as so many have, the vitriol and complete judgment from many people who call themselves Christians.


There is a lot of fire around the gay issue. Many people have brought up to me the “other” actions and choices that are more common to mankind but somehow they’re not such an issue to the church folks like homosexuality is.


I’m so sorry you’ve received such animosity from friends who call themselves Christians. I’ve lost virtually all of my former conservative friends. they’ve either slid away quietly, or challenged me up front and personal and subsequently cut me off.


I was dis-fellowshipped from the small home group I was a part of. I had been with that group every Saturday evening for 8 years. Behind my back, a meeting was planned to confront me. After I was blindsided one Saturday evening with an ambushing of opinions, two men met with me to call me out that I was far from God, unrepentant, and certainly a false teacher. Mind you this was last year before I separated from Vileen.


A man who was a co-leader, and a very good friend through the years, passed away just a few weeks after I was dis-fellowshipped. One of the other men sent me a text message the week of his passing that told me due to my sin, I had missed out on the last days of our friend’s life. Little did he know that I had some contact with him prior to his death where he affirmed his love for me and that he considered me one of his very best friends. I felt I had closure with this loving man in my life. But the coldness with which I was cut off by the rest of the group and the subsequent comments were deeply disheartening and uncaring for me as a person.


I then got this message from this same negative  man a few weeks later:


John, you are so very wrong! You have turned you’re back on God and He has disowned you, and you will spend eternity without Him.


May God have pity on your soul. Now I am removing you forever from my contacts and my life! I am on the right path.


I’ve had no contact with the group members since then. (except some condolences due to my mother’s passing last week.) They just hit me, hit me again,  and ran.


Frankly, I’m okay. God’s good, and I am strongly with Him. This has not shaken my faith, it has deepened it. But it saddens my heart to see how many have been wounded and left bleeding over the way many religious folks have treated them. Maybe some day soon, this will change. I sure hope so.


Your friend,
John


 

Returning to Vomit

Monday, April 1st, 2013


With all of the dialogue concerning marriage equality, I’ve been very busy with lots of conversations. This recent messaging exchange with a long time friend occurred over several days. I want to share it as an example of communication that began with dramatic differences of opinions and even some raw emotional sharing.


This communication changes drastically through the interaction. So much so that after much disagreement, there is a supportive and peace filled ending.


Hello John.


It all makes sense to me now. I was sitting at lunch contemplating and wondering just how you could have so radically changed. The Spirit whispered in my ear that I did not have all the pertinent information.


So, I skimmed through some of your more recent posts, then it dawned on me. You have returned to your vomit. You have decided to interpret scripture so as to support what your flesh desires. I’m going to give you the chance to tell me that I’m wrong. To tell me that you haven’t returned to your past life. To tell me that you have not committed adultery, that you have not slept with men in your new life. I am certain this has brought great harm to your wife and your marriage.


I’m afraid that the thing that bound us together will have been destroyed. John, I don’t care if you’re gay, that’s nothing new. But I do care about whether you are a false teacher leading others astray. If I don’t hear from you soon, I will lock out our connections.


Tell me where I’m wrong.


Ray (name changed)


Dear Ray,

It’s not my place to tell you where you’re wrong. But actually it seems you aren’t really wanting me to tell you where you’re wrong. Rather, it appears you are really asking me to prove you wrong. It is also clear that you are making a point that you believe all homosexuality to be sinful and wretched. You have collected all homosexuality into promiscuity and adultery. Without any information or evidence, you have accused me of adultery and rampant sex.


Ray, I differ in my perspective on these matters. There are theologians from all denominations, and backgrounds who differ in their interpretation and application of Scripture regarding the matter of homosexuality. More and more, well studied, educated, and seasoned Christian leaders are coming to other conclusions about the biblical understanding than we have culturally understood it for many years. Many now believe that the typical passages that have been used to condemn same sex romantic relationships have been interpreted and in some cases even translated wrongly.


Needless to say, it is very apparent to me that whether or not a same sex relationship is acceptable for Christian life is matter up for discussion, much like women in ministry teaching positions. This too has been hugely condemned by many Christian leaders and denominations and still is today. This point has caused many to divide and has held women hostage from their gifts and talents. It has kept Christendom from the many blessings that could have been by received from godly female input and leadership within those communities teaching restriction for women. I believe the same to be true for gay men and women. We have missed many blessings and opportunities due to the barriers that have been in place.


By your phrasing choices, it seems that you feel that challenging a “false teacher” is from the exhortations in 1st and 2nd Timothy about false teachers. From my reading of those passages, Paul frames false teaching in the context of challenging those who are teaching a works oriented gospel. Paul is clearly condemning teaching that is connected to a performance based platform to receive God’s grace, therefore a “false gospel” that keeps people bound to the law.


My perspective, and that which I share with homosexual men and women, is that God’s grace covers completely and that through this grace we can find a sweet and pleasant place within a relationship with God. Through that kind of grace, it opens the door to dramatic transformation throughout our lifetime. Far too many gay men and women have believed that God would have no room for them within the Christian faith. Therefore many have felt abandoned and rejected by this condemned false teaching. This is exactly one of the many reasons why Paul condemned it.


I do not teach, nor lead people into license. I do not lead others into a permissive relationship with God. I do however, allow room for God to be the One who moves within each life to do as He wishes. Therefore, I do not in any way see myself as a false teacher in these matters. Rather, I believe I am addressing homosexuality through God’s amazing gift of grace and therefore a reflection of the real gospel.


From my studies I have personally come to believe that a wholesome gay relationship is acceptable within Christian life. We obviously differ on that point. But, I don’t believe this point is one that calls for separation as it is secondary to the gospel. There are far more significant matters that need attention, such matters that Jesus spoke clearly about. His greatest challenges were to the religious right of His day, the Pharisees.


Today, we have modern day Pharisees that through their legalism they are falsely representing the grace of God in the lives of many people. Some, who feel condemned by the performance based religious perspective, often hide within the church pews in the bondage of shame. Then there are the throngs who remain rejected and lost outside Christian fellowship.


Those within the gay community are often the rejected lost souls who believe they could never please what they’ve been taught to be a wrathful God who determines them to be unfit for His house. The real false teachers have wrongly interpreted the grace of God to only apply to those who are perceived to be good enough, or clean enough for a relationship with Him. This is exactly why Paul’s condemnation was so heavy against the false teachers. It was a gospel issue, not an issue of challenging behavior.


I’ve known many gay people who have received the grace of God whose lives have dramatically changed, transformed from license, to wholesome living. A healthier life of either celibacy, or faithful same sex relationship has developed. The power of the gospel of grace to transform is miraculous, as it should be.


Grace is dangerous, it is scary, and it flies in the face of traditional religion that can be based on pleasing God through performance. Grace is scary because it falls too close to the line of permissiveness. But Grace is also where faith in God lives powerfully. It calls us to trust God more with those around us. It breaks the addictive tie to codependency. It allows for amazing spaciousness and freedom that Christ died to bring to us. He is said to have died to give us freedom. Freedom from what? I believe it to be freedom from the law, and performance based relationship with God into His marvelous grace.


Regarding my relationship with my wife, and my marriage, this my friend, is a highly personal matter. It is so personal that I don’t expect you might understand. I’m not sure that I feel safe enough to share any of that with you. You’re crouched brow of wanting to divide right from wrong does not provide a safe place for the sensitive nature of where my heart is at right now. This is what I am referring to when I’ve said many have been overly critical, with little interest in hearing my heart.


When I was at Love In Action, I was the legalist. I was the one that was more interested in right from wrong than the condition of the heart. I had limited experience with the grace of God personally, therefore I had limited resources to be a minister of grace. I was long affirmed for being the prophetic voice, the challenger of behavior and actions. I was good at it! But, in the end, I realize I should have been better at listening, and caring for the tenderness of the hearts that were placed within my life.


And it seems you are inferring that I might be living as a slut, a whore. This is clearly not where I am, nor want to be. I wonder how many people immediately think of a whore when they think of homosexuality? Is there no difference between the sexual playboy and the loving, faithful relationship? Is homosexuality always so filthy that not one relationship can be anything but a vile stench in the sinus of life?


I thought that was true many years ago. I believed all homosexuality to be an abomination to God and therefore a threat to Christian life and community. That is until I have discovered otherwise. I have known, and experienced some amazing, faithful homosexual men and women. I’ve known homosexual couples that have relationships and life blessings that far surpass many heterosexual couples’ experiences. Honestly, and sadly, I was not open to see such things many years ago. Due to my eyes being closed to such things, I missed the reality, and the testimony.


I am thinking I’ve probably lost you by now. But, frankly I’m thankful to write this out. It is encouraging for me to do so. It is affirming once again, what I believe about God, grace, and transformation. It is a challenge to me to continue to love God, to love people, and to love myself more each day.


The faith life with God is often confusing, always difficult to fully grasp, and honestly, the journey is ongoing. We will never fully understand it all on this side of knowing God fully. For we do see in the mirror dimly.


Thank you for writing me with your thoughts. This is very difficult for us both. My hope is that you will remain connected as we may both have a lot to learn from living in the tension.


John


A day later:


John,

Thank you for your thoughtful, thorough and well-written response. Thank you. I read the entire thing, you did not lose me and by now you have realized that I am keeping the connection open.


We differ in our interpretation. Yet as you rightly point out, that is no cause for separation. I’ve been tasked with the ministry of reconciliation, not the ministry of destruction.


While I am inclined to respond on a point-by-point basis, because I’m just that way, I think I’ll refrain from that. I’m not looking for an argument; just an explanation. Though we do not see eye-to-eye on many things, we serve the same God in the best way that we can. Sometimes that service takes the voice of challenge, other times of raucous laughter.


We do agree that Grace covers completely and we both desire for all believers to ‘find a sweet and pleasant place within a relationship with God.’ A laudable goal and completely in concert with the ministry of reconciliation.


And if a gay person isn’t ‘good enough’ or ‘clean enough’ then none of us are. My stains were all-covering, could not be removed by any ‘action’ other than the cleansing covering of Christ’s blood.


One thing I do want to respond to though is your query “freedom from what?” I think you are being a bit disingenuous there! We both know it is the curse of sin from which we are freed. The eternal death. It is not freedom from ‘the law’, it is freedom from the punishment. Perhaps a minor point up for debate.


I look forward to learning more from you.


Your Friend, Ray



I’ve known Ray for a long time and his open candor in responding to my message back to him gave me the sense that I could share more vulnerably with him. I compiled a letter for Ray that was very personal in  describing my marriage and recent separation from my wife.


After he read my letter he sent me this response.



John,

Thank you for sharing your heart with me and being so vulnerable. I will hold this in strict confidence except that I will be praying for you. I know that the process of separation is painful and my own recent separation and subsequent divorce was equally painful. I can see that continuing the live in a marriage that is so disheartening is the greater of two difficult paths since it would have no end. Rest assured that the pain will hopefully end and you will move on to better places. After that, healing and then relief. You have a good ways yet to walk in uncomfortable shoes but the end is in sight. In light of what you have shared, I must confess that I believe you are doing the best thing. A false marriage does not honor God and serves only to mislead spectators and of course, to break hearts. “Fake it till you make it” is terrible advice.


I understand how you feel having lived a lie for so long and I also understand that our experiences in this respect are different. I agree with you that God’s love is big enough, His grace is sufficient for all things. And as you point out how the issues of homosexuality are misconstrued for the purpose of men, I believe it is the same for divorce. Both bring challenges to the community of faith and relationships.


I will pray for you John; you pray for me. If you need an ear or a shoulder, I will stand for you. If you’re ever nearby and in need of a place to stay, my door is open to you.


Keep the faith brother.


Still Your Friend, Ray


I was stunned to see how this correspondence ended. I was angry, and deeply frustrated with Ray’s first message to me. I felt unheard, judged, and separated from him. I began to write the response to him believing I was writing to deaf ears. I had full expectation that he would cut me off, and a long term relationship would fall into disrepair.


But, as I’ve seen so many times in the past, when friends are honest, and respectful, amazing things can happen. When we share our hearts rather than pointing our fingers, it seems God moves powerfully.


God’s heart is in relationship. His desire is to repair, reconcile, and restore. Can we all agree on that?


I received a follow up message from Ray.


Go to this link to read it: Follow Up