Evangelical Christians Who Disagree on What the Bible Says About Human Sexuality Need to Coexist for the Sake of the Queer Community
SpokaneFāVS columnist Kurt Queller wrote the compelling piece “Acceptance of Community in Christianity” on receiving openly queer Christians in the church by using a similar Bible interpretation methodology queer non-affirming Christians claim to use for their convictions: comparing Scripture with Scripture. He did so masterfully, and I encourage you to read it.
I want to add something to the conversation though.
The queer Christian community, whether they identify as queer or not, is diverse. Many hold to various interpretations of Scripture and what they believe God asks of them. Queller used his voice to stand for those in this community who find their sexual orientations part of God’s beautiful design and creativity and something to be celebrated. I would like to use mine for those in the queer Christian community who believe God calls them to a different path.
Mark Yarhouse, who is “a clinical psychologist who specializes in conflicts tied to religious identity and sexual and gender identity,” according to his Wheaton College Faculty profile, runs the Sexual & Gender Identity Institute. He would define Queller’s view as one that comes through a “diversity” lens. In other words, God created them just as he intended and their sexuality should be honored.
The other lenses he defines are “integrity,” which sees God’s sacred design for marriage as between a man and a woman, and “disability,” which views sexual orientation outside of heterosexuality as products of the fall, essentially a corruption of God’s original intent. (You can read more about how these lenses work in relation to gender non-conformity and the Christian faith here.)
For full disclosure, I view this topic through the latter two lenses, yet respect those who see through the diversity one.
My point with relaying all that is there are so many different ways Christians—who are affirming or non-affirming, whether in part or in whole—read and interpret sexual ethics in Scripture. This is important to note because too often this topic forces folks into unnuanced and binary “camps” that really don’t express the full community and limit what could be profitable conversation.
Another resource I’ve found helpful, albeit imperfect, is the one-page handout “Differing Views on Christian Doctrine, Identity and Homosexuality,” created by Jason Thompson, executive director of Portland Fellowship. He created a chart that breaks down the differences between Christians on this topic into four categories, admitting there may be overlap between them.
He goes beyond the Side A and Side B nomenclature, which was popularized by Justin Lee, the founder of Gay Christian Network (now known as Q Christian Fellowship). Queer Christians who affirm their sexuality and believe God calls them to live it out in monogamous, marital relationships would be defined as Side A, and Side B Christians would identify as gay but believe God is asking them to remain celibate.
Thompson’s definitions go further. They are Revel (gay partnership), Resist (gay identified but celibate), Renounce (no longer identify with being gay and are celibate or in mixed orientation marriages), and Rebuild (God can heal your queer sexual orientation into a heterosexual one). He identifies with the Rebuild position.
In case you don’t want to go to the chart, according to Thompson, queer or, as some would identify, same-sex attracted, proponents in each category include: (1) Revel—Mel White author of “Stranger at the Gate,” and Justin Lee, who authored “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate”; (2) Resist—Wesley Hill, author of “Washed and Waiting,” and Gregory Coles, author of “Single Gay Christian”; (3) Renounce—Rosaria Butterfield, author of “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,” and Sam Allberry, author of “Is God anti-gay?”; and finally, (4) Rebuild—Restored Hope Network (formerly Exodus International) and Joe Dallas, author of “Desires in Conflict: Hope for Men Who Struggle with Sexual Identity,” a book banned from Amazon.
While some people may quibble at this categorizing, I think the main point is in reading this list you can see the diversity of opinion, many of whom would say they are being as faithful as they know how to be to the biblical texts. Personally, I reside mainly at Resist, for several reasons that I, too, think are faithful to my understanding of the biblical text.
All this to say is that I agree with Queller when he encouraged Christians, who may disagree with his interpretation of Scripture, to see that most affirming Christians (also known as Side A or Revel Christians who see through a Diversity lens) arrive at their convictions not because they are accommodating “to currently fashionable liberal norms, but [instead to] a responsibly held, biblically grounded evangelical perspective.”
One example locally is New Community, an evangelical Christian fellowship. They did a series of teachings on this topic, which I have yet to explore completely, and believe God is calling them to be a church that invites LGBTQ+ persons and families to full participation into their faith family, no matter where they are in their convictions about how to live out their sexual orientation before God.
While I think most non-affirming evangelical churches have done a terrible job of loving and understanding this community and desperately need to repent of their judgmental hostility toward them, I still argue there is room at the table for churches and ministries with Resist, Renounce, and Rebuild biblical convictions in addition to the Revel one. There is a broad diversity of interpretations toward Scripture even within the queer Christian community.
Christian faith is a journey, not a destination, at least this side of eternity, and God can and does use a variety of churches to meet the needs of his children where they are in their faith. For the queer community, he can use both affirming and non-affirming churches to grow and love on his children—to heal, guide, and direct them uniquely and perfectly toward his desired haven.
Evangelical Christians with various interpretations in this area can coexist with one another, and I think they must for God’s glory and for the good of the queer individuals he loves.
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Cassandra Benefield mostly goes by Cassy (pronounced like Cassie but spelled with a ‘y’). She is a wife and mommy, who married at the age of 37 and had her baby girl just shy of 39. She has moved around all her life, first as an Army brat. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer to Romania where she taught Conversational English, Modern Literature, Creative Writing, U.S. Culture, U.S. Geography, and U.S. History (the last two subjects she was so not qualified to teach!). She is a Journalism major from Cal Poly Technical University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. She finds much comfort in her Savior, Jesus Christ, and considers herself a Bible nerd who is prone to buy more theology books than she is ever able to read. Morro Bay, California, is her favorite place on earth … with the exception of being in the center of God’s will. From time to time, you will find her writing devotions on her blog underhisshadow.blogspot.com.