Book Review: God and the Gay Christian

1-86571b1c94In 1992, Pope John Paul II apologized to Galileo. 359 years earlier, Galileo and those who listened to his teachings were condemned by the church. The church said the bible clearly taught that the sun revolves around the earth. The invention of the telescope, however, and Galileo’s findings, demonstrated the opposite: the earth revolves around the sun. The centuries old teaching by the church was wrong. I think someday the church will also apologize to Matthew Vines, who steps into the epicenter of the LGBT-Christian debate with his new book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

Matthew’s Purpose

This book was written to directly address one question: How does the bible applly to same-sex relationships? The book is dedicated to “To all those who have suffered in silence for so long.” The premise is clear from the first chapter: The bible cannot be set aside in the discussion about same-sex relationships, based on John 10:35.

Matthew’s Case

With brilliant calmness, Matthew synthesizes every debate, discussion and argument I’ve heard in regard to LGBT people. Matthew exposes and examines arguments from both sides, and shows how some of the arguments from each side fall short of the biblical mandate. Here is an overview of the case he makes.

Good fruit/bad fruit

The foundational argument made in this book is a sort of end-game. What is the fruit of how LGBT people have been treated? Is such fruit good or bad?

“First is the harmful impact on gay Christians. Based on Jesus’s teaching that good trees bear good fruit, we need to take a new look at the traditional interpretation of biblical passages that refer to same-sex behavior.” Loc. 998-1004

Historical Examples

Next Matthew takes us on a journey of some examples from history where long-standing, multi-century teachings of the Christian church have been wrong, and re-adjusted based on new discoveries. Matthew shows how each time, the authority of Scripture was not compromised by the new scientific discoveries, but rather, enhanced. Matthew cites recent history too, such as the 2013 closure and apology of the ex-gay ministry, Exodus International.

Celibacy as a gift

One of the contradictions expressed by the church has been to re-define celibacy from being a gift for some to a mandatory lifestyle choice for many in their attempt to “save marriage”. Matthew expounds on the gift of celibacy amazingly well, and shows proper, but not undue, respect for the gift of celibacy.

The traditional clobber verses

About half of the book is devoted to painstakingly examining the passages of Genesis 19, Leviticus, Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 1. Matthew does this with many questions, references to multiple interpretations and excellent logic– all without coming across as a bully. Nowhere does Matthew forcefully exhort the reader to adopt his logic. Instead, Matthew gently and methodically presents his case, inviting the reader to journey along side him.

“Of the thirteen references to Sodom in the Old Testament following Genesis 19, Ezekiel 16:49–50 offers the most detailed description of the city’s sins. In that passage, God stated, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen.” Sexuality goes unmentioned, both in the Ezekiel passage and in every other Old Testament reference to Sodom following Genesis 19. If Sodom’s sin had indeed been same-sex behavior, it’s highly unlikely that every written discussion of the city for centuries following its destruction would fail to mention that.” Loc. 1188-90

Matthew makes a real attempt to move the gay-Christian debate beyond the typical conundrum.

“Sad to say, though, that’s been the extent of many debates about the Bible and homosexuality in recent years. One side starts by quoting Leviticus 18:22 (or 20:13, which prescribes the death penalty for males who engage in same-sex relations), and the other side counters with verses about dietary laws and bans on certain combinations of clothing. We really do need to go deeper.” Loc. 1194-97

Brilliant Gospel Exposition

As with any book, I care deeply about how the gospel is presented. Matthew’s book shines brightly with the explicit gospel messages and was a joy to read.

“First, I’d like us to consider the reason why Christians don’t follow all the laws we see in the Old Testament, from its restrictions on food to its rules about clothing—and many more, including the death sentence for rebellious children. And then I’d like to look at the Old Testament prohibitions of male same-sex intercourse, as we seek to discern whether and why Christians should follow them today.” Loc. 1210-16

“Our freedom from the law, I should be clear, is about much more than one decision made by one church council nearly two thousand years ago. It is rooted in the saving, reconciling work of Jesus Christ. The New Testament teaches that Christ fulfilled the law. Colossians 2:13–14 says that God “forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Christ’s death made it possible for us to be permanently reconciled to God. Before then, only temporary atonement was possible through the sacrifices of the Jewish priests. But as Hebrews 8:6 explains, “The ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.” Loc. 1231-34

“I am far from the only gay Christian who has heard the claim that gay people will not inherit the kingdom of God. That message is plastered on protest signs at gay-pride parades. It’s shouted by roaming street preachers at busy intersections and on college campuses. The result is that, for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, all they’ve heard about the kingdom of God is that they won’t be in it.” Loc. 1955-58

Same-sex Marriage

Matthew concludes with a humble examination of marriage. He admits that since he is single and young, he has little to offer and cannot teach about marriage. But he shares some incredible insight nonetheless. Matthew continues to ask profoundly good questions, as he does throughout the book.

“Granted, the Bible’s silence on committed same-sex relationships doesn’t necessarily mean those relationships are blessed. Even if you agree with my analysis so far, you may still wonder: Can loving, committed same-sex unions fulfill the Bible’s understanding of marriage?” Loc. 1982-86

“Perhaps the dominant message about marriage in modern society is that it’s primarily about being happy, being in love, and being fulfilled. Nearly everyone desires these things, of course. But what happens to the marriage bond if one spouse stops feeling fulfilled? What if one partner falls out of love, or they both do? For many in our society, the answer seems obvious: The couple should seek a divorce. Why should two people who no longer love each other stay together? But that is not the Christian message. For Christians, marriage is not just about us. It’s also about Christ. If Christ had kept open the option to leave us behind when he grew frustrated with us or felt like we were not living up to his standards, he may have abandoned us long ago. But the story of the gospel is that, although we don’t deserve it, God lavishes his sacrificial love upon us anyway.” Loc. 2132-38

Conclusion: Hope and joy

This book left me with tremendous hope and joy, and also with a somber and deep commitment to be a straight, Christian ally to all LGBT people. The three concluding personal narratives are beyond amazing and simply must be read for yourself. I conclude with one of Matthew’s concluding statements.

“Tragically, I hear from many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians whose churches also are convinced that they cannot take an affirming approach to same-sex relationships while remaining faithful to Scripture. I wrote this book to show that there is a third way. The message of Scripture for gay Christians is not what non-affirming Christians assume it to be.” Loc. 2415

64 comments

  1. This is totally an aside, but given the way that the supposed “Galileo Scandal” is used to bolster arguments, I’m fairly certain that many people have no idea about the details of the true story and thus err when attempting to use it to gain a rhetorical edge:

    “In his efforts to cram Copernicanism down the throats of his fellow scientists, Galileo managed only to squander the goodwill he had established within the Church. He was attempting to force them to accept a theory that, at the time, was still unproven. The Church graciously offered to consider Copernicanism a reasonable hypothesis, albeit a superior one to the Ptolemaic system, until further proof could be gathered. Galileo, however, never came up with more evidence to support the theory. Instead, he continued to pick fights with his fellow scientists even though many of his conclusions were being proven wrong (i.e., that the planets orbit the sun in perfect circles).” – http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/09/the-myth-of-galileo-a-story-with-a-mostly-valuable-lesson-for-today/

  2. Joe Schafer

    Brian, thanks for this review. I would love to be able to discuss these issues in the context of the church. But there are so many obstacles that make it virtually impossible to do so.

    Christians do not reject me for being homosexual, because I am not homosexual. Christians do not reject me for proclaiming that homosexual behavior is fine, because I have never proclaimed that homosexual behavior is fine. Christians do not reject me for saying “we need to be more welcoming to people who don’t think that homosexual behavior is wrong” because I haven’t really said that either.

    Rather, at times, my wife and I have mildly suggested, “Maybe we should have an open-minded discussion about whether we should be more welcoming to people who don’t think that homosexual behavior is wrong.” For that, we’ve been branded by some as dangerous. What’s up with that?

    • That’s what I first discovered Joe. The church, for the most part, is not a safe place to even ask these questions. I was even told this week that I can’t ask the question “Is there anything good about same-sex marriage?”

      Matthew Vine’s main point is to open the dialogue and debate. Gay people have always existed and will continue to be born (even if we do round them all up in a fenced area to die like on North Carolina preacher preached from the pulpit.)

      And that’s my point also. I have a celebrate, all-inclusive, full equality stance in this arena. But my main point is merely to spark discussion in a safe way. What better place than ubfriends?

      Already I have received feedback from my two book reviews from ubf people who contacted me privately. I won’t reveal anything they shared, but ubf leaders need to stop playing KOPHN games and pay attention to the gay people among their community as well as paying attention to all kinds of marginalized people in ubf.

      There is much goodness to come out of these discussions, but for now it will likely be ugly, messy and horribly painful.

  3. Such a discussion would be beneficial to the church. Rather than sweeping this under the rug we need to have healthy dialogue concerning this issue. One thing that I would put forth in a hypothetical discussion on the topic you posed is, if we say we are going to be more accepting of Christians who are sympathetic to the homosexeual lifestyle, then should we allow them to be teachers or hold positions of authority within the church? All Christians are part of the priesthood of believers, so how does that practically play out with us accepting those who have no qualms with homosexuality?

    • Joe Schafer

      Absolutely. A discussion that needs to be had. What sort of litmus tests are appropriate for people to teach? And what is the role of a teacher within a church context anyway? Personally I think it is far healthier for leaders to think of themselves as facilitators rather than authorities who dispense correct knowledge and doctrine.

    • Joe Schafer

      Isn’t it noteworthy that, when the apostle Paul speaks of requirements for pastors and elders, he doesn’t impose lots of doctrinal tests? Rather, he focuses on personal character and behavior, citizenship, quality of relationships and family life.

  4. Good questions DavidW. My answer: the same as anyone else.

    We need to be resurrection people whose eyes are on Christ and whose lives are steeped with authentic gospel messages and founded on love.

    I believe Scripture gives us permission and freedom to explore how to better love and befriend all of humanity. Scripture warns of promiscuity and celebrates both marriage and celibacy, but should not be our ball and chain.

  5. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Hello David, Brian, and Joe,

    Recently I was thinking about the difficulties of discussing this issue in the context of the church after preparing a message on Levi, from Luke 5:27-32. As you know, Jesus’ disciples were questioned, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” By their words, tax collectors were categorized as sinners and marginalized. It didn’t matter to them who Levi or any of the other tax collectors were. Simply, they were grouped as “sinners.” It was the same for Zacchaeus. But just before this Jesus had seen Levi and called him to follow. It was unimaginable to them that Jesus and his disciples would eat and drink with such people because of who Jesus claimed to be. Yet, Jesus called Levi, welcoming and accepting him, even before we know of any change or repentance on his part. I believe that came after Jesus called. Jesus went to him first and welcomed him.

    This got me thinking about how groups are categorized and marginalized by the church today, especially LGBT. How might church members respond if one of their pastors or a UBF chapter director was supporting a pride parade, eating and drinking and parading with them, for example? We might ask the same question, “Why are you eating and drinking with them (sinners)?” Of course, there are some key differences between homosexuals and tax collectors, namely, choice (no one is “born” a tax collector). But what I’m getting at is how we have a similar way of categorizing people in groups and marginalizing them, distancing them from fellowship with Jesus and with the church body, for the very reason that they are sinners. Major cognitive dissonance.

    To Jesus, there was no discussion to be had. He just went and called Levi. Discussions began with the accusatory question of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. So, I had several questions after preparing the message.

    If indeed LGBT are sinners, then doesn’t Jesus see them as sick? Then shouldn’t that be the reason for Christians to also see them ask sick and engage in welcoming fellowship? At what point did we start setting standards for who we can have fellowship with? What demands do we place on people to be welcomed into our fellowship (are they repentant; are they “changed”)?

    I have heard quite a few UBF messages that focus on the good “qualities” in the people Jesus called, such as “hard-working” fishermen, as if Jesus were scouting them for their abilities. What about the marginalized people like Levi who were deemed as good for nothing sinners? It says that Jesus saw a “tax collector” before even mentioning Levi’s name. It wasn’t about his good qualities, but he saw his sickness and Jesus called out to him.

    Maybe one of the obstacles is our fear of being rejected by association? I find that my own lack of convictions about details are a personal obstacle. Yet, if we would go as far as to accept them into the fellowship, how could do show favoritism and not allow them to serve in whatever capacity, including teacher? That wouldn’t be a full acceptance as one would come to expect of Christians imitating Jesus.

    • Joe Schafer

      Charles, welcome to the discussion. You’ve raised so many good questions. I will give my own personal reactions to a few things that you’ve raised.

      About Jesus associating with tax collectors and sinners: Yes, this is one of the key features of Jesus’ ministry and of the gospel itself. Jesus associated with all sorts of people of questionable character and behavior to the point where religious conservatives criticized him as being an enabler of sin. I would say that we, as a church, are not following in Jesus’ footsteps unless we are associating with “sinners” to the point of being criticized by some religious conservatives as being enables of sin. Rejection by association is part of the scandalous nature of the gospel.

      You asked, “If indeed LGBT are sinners, then doesn’t Jesus see them as sick?” I won’t claim to know what Jesus sees. But based on my reading of the gospels, I think he sees everyone, the whole human race, as sick with sin. But more importantly, I think he sees them with eyes of love. I think that, when Jesus looks into the face of each and every human being, he sees a small picture of himself, a picture of God, in whose image we were created.

      Lately I’ve been reading about the spiritual disciplines of the early monastic Christians, the so-called Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers. Their main struggle was not to overcome the desires of their own flesh, but to see other people “correctly,” with eyes of genuine love. When we look at other human beings, it is so easy for us to see (what we perceive as) their flaws. We are constantly categorizing, judging, weighing, dissecting one another. Church people are so adept at this. We call it discernment, but Jesus calls it judging. There is no virtue in that. We think we have not perceived the truth about a person until we have uncovered all their sins and faults. But the early monastic Christians believed they had not perceived the truth of a person until they had glimpsed his or her essential goodness which flows from the image of God.

      My oldest son (now 21 years old) is autistic, with mental capacities bordering on retardation. He was born that way. (Note: I’m not equating this with homosexuality. The two are not equivalent.) God, for reasons and ways that I don’t understand, allowed him to be born that way. His autism is a kind of birth defect. But it is also a kind of gift. As a father, my mission is to see, understand and acknowledge his giftedness, because until I do, he will not feel truly loved.

      We as a church have the same essential mission: to demonstrate the love of God by seeing through (what we perceive as) flaws in other people to understand and acknowledge their giftedness to the point that they truly feel they are valued. That is my best understanding of what it means to love someone, anyone, no matter who they are.

      If I were king, I would ban the use of the following sayings, which quickly come up when Christians talk about LGBT issues.

      * “We have to hate the sin but love the sinner.”

      * “We have to speak the truth in love.”

      I would not ban these sayings because they are false. I would ban them because the understanding of “love” that typically lies behind them is so weak, so tepid, so superficial that it does not deserve to be called by that name.

      In my opinion, one way that the church can move forward is to momentarily set aside the direct questions about LGBT and instead have a serious discussion about the meaning of love. We toss that word around so casually, so flippantly, that at times if feels almost blasphemous. In my opinion, evangelicals (both at the conservative end and at the progressive end) have lost the ability to talk about love except in ways that are seem trite, and we need to turn to the contemplative Christian traditions to recover some wisdom in this area.

  6. Very good observations Charles, and welcome!

    Given the Christian paradigm, yes you are correct. I don’t see any evidence that homosexuality is a disease, or that LGBT people are necessarily “sick”. This merely speaks to the difficulty of overlaying the bible stories onto our current lives. Apart from that, I agree fully with your thoughts.

    The other passage that almost always comes to my mind is John 9. So many times I have been told exactly this: “Give glory to God!”, both by ubf people about ubf (the implication is that I do not give glory to God) and about LGBT issues.

    Perspective is so very helpful in all this. What would you do if an entire community rejected you and leaves you with only the following options: 1) go back into the closet and pretend to be straight or at least not act on your natural orientation 2) make the world a less broken place by dying.

    That’s really the only 2 options given to our fellow homosexual human beings. So yes like Jesus I willingly am “guilty by association”.

  7. All this speaks to that amazing book that changed my life: Hebrews. And those few verses that completely and irrevocably transformed how I will live my life. I wanted to be a priest. God said “Go outside the camp.” I wanted to be a missionary. God said “Go outside the camp.” I wanted to be a pastor. God said “Go outside the camp.”

    “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:11-14

  8. Joe Schafer

    Just one more rant, if I may. When I hear religious conservatives talk about church policies and civil laws regarding LGBT people, one of their main justifications for taking a hardline stance is “We have to uphold family values and prevent the breakdown of the family.” Yes, I am all for upholding family values. The family is super-important to me, and I don’t want any families to break down. But, honestly, the number of families destroyed by LGBT behavior pales in comparison to the number of families destroyed by heterosexual people acting like a-holes.

  9. Welcome, Charles and thanks for chiming in with your comments to spur on this sensitive discussion.

    I personally resonate with Joe’s statements about the desert father’s striving and laboring to see others in love, rather than to see their sin (which honestly any bloke can do spontaneously without much effort).

    Much of the brokenness of UBF stems from shepherds and missionaries sacrificing much to love their sheep. But all who have left UBF might acknowledge that they were loved and served in some ways, yet many did not feel deeply loved, but used instead. Why is that?

    The reason is obvious. The shepherds and missionaries loved their sheep with the expectation and agenda to make them Bible teachers and committed UBF members. Often they failed miserably to love their sheep as they were. Joe’s illustration of loving his autistic son is lovely and majestic. Henri Nouwen, a brilliant intellectual, loving and serving mentally retarded adults is a picture of heaven.

    But our love is riddled and laced with biases, prejudices, agendas, impositions, favoritism, racism, nationalism, selfish motivations, pride, etc, that if we are truly self-critical about our so-called love, we can only cry out Kyrie Eleison!

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, I like your comment. Nice use of the word “bloke.”

      You wrote: “But all who have left UBF might acknowledge that they were loved and served in some ways, yet many did not feel deeply loved, but used instead. Why is that?”

      Here’s my two cents’ worth answer, a quote from Jean Vanier:

      “In effect, to love is not primarily *to do* something for someone, but *to reveal* to that person his or her value, not only through listening and tenderness, through love and kindness, but also through a certain competence and faithful commitment.”

      The understanding of love that I was taught in UBF was service. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard messages that declare “to love is to serve.” Yes, service is a part of it. But people do not feel deeply loved by you until you receive something of value from them, until you find what is truly good in them and make it part of yourself and then reflect it back to them. That is the aspect of love that is deeper, harder, more sacrificial, more challenging to our own pride and dignity and self esteem than any kind of sacrificial service.

      You can be a faithful, lowly toilet cleaner for years and years, always obedient, always humble, always sacrificial, all the while doing it to build up your own identity and self esteem as a faithful servant. That kind of service, while apparently good, can be supremely selfish and ultimately unloving and even infuriating. Real love is to empty yourself of your own self worth so that you can fill yourself up with the good things that others can offer to you.

    • Good point, Joe. To love is not just to serve.

      And then there is another issue, namely when you are not even serving people “for free” (as in Mt 10:8b), but serving them with ulterior motives and expectations for a certain “return of investment,” namely raising people as shepherds and ultimately with the motive to somehow “own them”.

      I always felt that because UBF shepherds kind of “mediate” the ultimate gift of God to the sheep, which is salvation and eternal calling, then the sheep must be eternally endebted to their shepherds. I can testify that personally as a “sheep” I had this feelign towards my shepherds (my personal 1:1 teacher, my director who also claimed to be my personal shepherd and also all the missionaries and of course the founder of the ministry) believing that without the ministry and their service I would have ended as a lost sinner. And my shepherds always fostered that feeling, and demanded absolute obedience and loyalty and dedication to the ministry based on that feeling. This is what NickT called the “now you owe me” phase which slowly but surely follows the “love bombing” phase.

  10. Likely, it is very true that major segments (the majority perhaps) of the traditional Christian community has failed to love LGBT(Q) with Christ’s love. Then again, they may have also failed to love adequately all other sorts of sinners, likely including their own family members.

    Without justifying the perpetrators, LGBTs (and their sympathizers) who regard themselves as Christian may also not love adequately those who marginalize and exclude them. Again, without justifying those who hate and condemn, Christ was treated worse than any anti-LGBT person. If one is in Christ, intimacy and closeness to Christ and the unconditional love of God may be the result of being persecuted/hated by the Christian/religious community.

    Extending this to UBF, surely shepherds and missionaries have failed to adequately love their sheep. Again without justifying those who are abusive, the converse is also likely true in that those who felt used and abused by UBF for years and decades may also not adequately love their abusive and authoritarian shepherds and missionaries, for they also need God’s mercy and grace.

    I empathize as much as humanly possible with all those who felt taken advantage of by UBF missionaries. I in fact believe that you were often used, abused and taken advantage of. But I also know that it is often done in ignorance. This does not in any way excuse or exonerate them, and that they are still fully responsible for their authoritarianism and inexcusable abuse.

    We all need God’s mercy, patience and kindness in the midst of existing brokenness, misunderstanding and lack of love. All of us need to see love where there seems to be none.

    • “may also not adequately love their abusive and authoritarian shepherds and missionaries, for they also need God’s mercy and grace.”

      They need God’s mercy and grace, and they also need much rebuke and confrontation with their sin and the harm they caused. Adequate love can mean frank rebuke as Lev 19:17-18 explains. Patience with abusive leaders is not adequate love.

  11. Joe, Thanks for Jean Vanier’s excellent quote, which I hope more and more in our UBF community may read, digest, understand and apply. I barely began reading the 1st chapter of Vanier’s book, “Community and Growth,” (which incidentally was recommended to my son Paul by your niece Anastasia) which reminded me of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. Here’s a quote:

    “Communities are truly communities when they are open to others, when they remain vulnerable and humble; when the members are growing in love, in compassion and in humility. Communities cease to be such when members CLOSE IN UPON THEMSELVES with the certitude that they alone have wisdom and truth and expect everyone to be like them and learn from them.” (CAPS MINE.)

  12. Ben, one of your comments reminds me of some nakedpastor drawings.

    “Without justifying the perpetrators, LGBTs (and their sympathizers) who regard themselves as Christian may also not love adequately those who marginalize and exclude them.”

    Get over it already!”

    I’m not trying to control you!

    • Yeah, Brian , this is tough, tough for Christ to forgive those killing him, and tough for us/anyone who has been excluded, marginalized, criticized, controlled, used, caricatured, abused, treated condescendingly, etc, etc. In their own cute simplistic way, the Beatles got it right when they sang, “All you need is love.”

  13. big bear

    Love never means letting missionaries and shepherds to continue to abuse people….it means putting a stop to abuse…I will always be thankful for God’s grace and those who served me in the gospel….the reason I speak up because of love….abusers must be rebuked for the safety of God’s flock….I pray the abuse stories against UBF will stop and families will be honored and other churches respected..UBF is no better than any other church and has to be humbled and acknowledge it’s sin….it must find a way to get healthy….

    • Indeed. My second book, Goodness Found: The Butterfly Narratives, might easily be subtitled: “The definitive guide to understanding UBF”. I tackle three questions: Why did I join? Why did I stay? and Why did I leave?

      Here is a pre-release quote:

      “Mixed in with the façade of goodness was something genuinely good—-spiritual awakening. As a teenager who lost his father to a debilitating disease, and who had felt called to the Catholic priesthood, I was thinking deeply about the questions of life. I loved philosophy more than religion, but found the bible to be full of intriguing teachings. I sincerely wanted to know more about God and the bible and all religions, and I did so more than most it seemed. Perhaps this passion to comprehend the spiritual realm is not only why I joined UBF but stayed for all of my adult formative years. And perhaps this same passion is why I left UBF ministry 24 years later.”

      This book is a case study using my experience in University Bible Fellowship to tell the stories needed to understand how and why authoritative new religious movements operate on college campuses. And I include 3 appendices:

      Appendix A – Short Glossary UBF Terminology
      Appendix B – Diagram of Burden Layers in UBF
      Appendix C – The 12 UBF Heritage Slogans

  14. BK, I love your three questions: “Why did I join? Why did I stay (for 24 years no less)? and Why did I leave?” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/03/book-review-god-and-the-gay-christian/#comment-13152

    To convert it into different tenses and for people in the present, it could be: “Why did I join? Why am I staying? Why should I leave?”

    This obviously does not apply to all UBFers, but a primary reason I would leave would be if I no longer perceive that I am able to influence anyone else in UBF to love Jesus and the gospel that gives grace and freedom. Presently, I am truly having the time of my life (Jn 10:10b) and living a life of love, joy and peace (Gal 5:22)…only by the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10). Thus, I don’t believe that God has called me to leave.

    • I like your reasoning Ben. Ultimately, all 3 questions can only be answered by each of us on our own. All 3 decisions belong to the individual. That’s the primary concern I have, that each person be allowed the freedom to make their own choices. Only when ubf puts an end to the undue influence exerted on young adults will the cult label fade away.

      The short answer for me is: God sent me to ubf, God kept me in ubf and God called me away from ubf. I see God’s hand in all three decisions working out his good purpose.

      Most ubfers likely don’t see any “good purpose” in my leaving and the past 3 years of blogging and discussions. But I do, and so do many others.

    • This touches on the theme of my second book, Ben, “Goodness Found”. I refuse to see only badness in my entire adult formative years.

    • I guess my short answer would be similar except for the third: “God sent me to ubf, God kept me in ubf and God is still keeping me in ubf.”

  15. BK, I think this is very healthy: “I refuse to see only badness in my entire adult formative years (24 years in UBF).” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/03/book-review-god-and-the-gay-christian/#comment-13182

    As Joe shared about the desert fathers, it would be to see the goodness of God in people, even in bad and abusive leaders. It does not in any way mean to condone, approve of, remain silent, or not speak out against the abuses perpetrated. But it is to see God’s goodness in the midst of the bad as Joseph did (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28).

    My hope is that UBFriends may primarily promote the goodness of God, rather than primarily express the “badness of UBF.” Sorry that even if that is my own ideal, my telos and my goal, I know that I fail terribly at this. Thus, I can only cry out Kyrie Eleison (my recent favorite phrase)!

    • Correct Ben. And thus every reader here should now see the parallel struggle of a homosexual coming out of the closet and a ubf shepherd leaving ubf. It is am immense struggle for LGBT people to find goodness due how Christians have reacted to them. Likewise, it is immensely difficult for an ex-ubfer to see anything good about their time in ubf. Most of my friends from the 1990’s who left won’t speak to me and won’t talk about ubf at all. To them ubf is dead.

      But I believe God called me to stand in the gap, as you have done Ben, along with Joe. The three of us and all our ubfriends are living in the epicenter of what it means to live out reconciliation, which is the ministry Christ left all his followers. So we experience the messy, ugly, painful, crazy discussions. But this will ultimately result in the most amazing joy and peace and hope that we could ever find.

      And that is why people like Matthew Vines are desperately needed– people who walk into the eye of the hurricane full of trust and faith in Jesus Christ our Lord who lives in us.

    • And Ben, we have built a bridge of reconciliation among us. For this bridge of reconciliation to be most effective and life-giving, someone needs to stay in ubf. I thnank God that so far you and Joe are those people. I cannot be those people and all I can say is God-speed to both of you! Perhaps this will change one day, perhaps not. But I am confident that God would call someone else or entirely different people, to continue building such a bridge.

      So yes, I burned the bridge connecting me to ubf. But that’s because that bridge was dangerous and faulty. I am building a new bridge, and forming new relationships with ubf people. We can never go back to the old bridge, but we can always build a new bridge. That is reconciliation. And that is why I am still in this blessed conversation.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Brian, the picture of a bridge in this discussion is interesting. It seems that people like Matthew Vines who are self-professing Christians are trying to build this bridge of acceptance, but such a bridge needs to be built from the other side and be built out to him. It was mentioned early about the church not being a “safe place.” It is so unfortunate that this is the case. There are people who are calling themselves Christians yet kept outside. And even inside we have difficulties to even have discussions about the issue. It makes me wonder how to properly build bridges.

  16. Charles, In 2006, I prayed to plant a church after being a Christian in Chicago UBF for 26 years. What prompted me was a member of the church who asked me a question somewhat in exasperation: “Can we ask this question in church?”

    The answer was “Of course you can ask the question.” But the reality that we both knew was that if she asked the question (which I don’t even remember), she would have been viewed negatively and critically by the church.

    So yes, it is very very unfortunate when the church is not a safe place but a place where you have to behave according to the rules set by the oligarchy in the church, which is nothing short of legalism. I pray and hope that this will begin to change.

    Seriously and practically studying Galatians might be a great starting point. Forest’s testimony on Galatians 6 is an excellent starting point, even if some leaders might feel threatened by it and even sanction it from ever being shared or published on a UBF website.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Ben, yes, your words are a good reminder to go and seek God’s help in prayer firstly. That kind of oppression you mentioned is indeed unfortunate, and discussions have to begin somewhere. Thanks.

      Also, I find it interesting how your prayer for planting a church began, because I had not heart it from other stories of how WL began. :(

      What you said about Galatians is also interesting in view of the entire letter being the main content at the upcoming staff conference. Although I was a little discouraged after Joe’s comments about it from the education committee, your words give some hope for an enjoyable and beneficial conference.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      *I was referring to Joe’s comments about the study materials for Galatians.

  17. Charles, I hope that you will share your detailed reflections and experiences if you do attend the upcoming staff conference on Galatians, which is why I commented that this was a good start. It is the first time in 37 years ever since UBF USA started in 1977 that we are having a national UBF conference on Galatians!

    If you have not read it, here’s my account of how West Loop started: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/05/03/telling-the-truth-how-west-loop-ubf-began/

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Ben, will do. Interestingly, one reason I have enjoyed attending staff conferences is freedom I can enjoy. I don’t have to prepare anything and there are no expectations of me (except a few times as a group study leader). I enjoyed meeting with friends I don’t get to see except at these conferences and being able to talk with them and learn from them, from their personal lives and in discussing the Bible. Lately, however, quite a bit of time is spent having discussions about the conflicts between generations and cultures, which has begun to grate on me.

  18. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Another quick thought sparked by this book review: here is a person who calls himself a Christian and seems to be desperately trying to be accepted, even using the best scriptural arguments as he can. However, a church like UBF, despite wanting to pioneer or evangelize entire campuses, cities, and nations, can suffer from the very method by which new people come in: fishing, which can be so selective and subjective. I have visited the campus with others who are looking for very specific people to invite, to my great disappointment and displeasure.

    On the other hand, fishing has not been effective at all in reaching marginalized people who already feel distanced, such as LGBT. For example, one student responded to an invitation to Bible study by saying, “I’m gay.” They already thought the door was closed and I should not be asking them.

    • Charles, the last time I went fishing many years ago, a student said immediately “I’m not going to join your bible cult.” That was one of the last straws for me. I became so furious that the organization I gave over 2 decades of my life to with my literal blood, sweat, tears and money, didn’t lift a finger to try and address the cult allegations. The leaders only cared about whether or not I said ubf is a cult. If I didn’t, I was ok. If I even asked the question, I was not ok and has some “spiritual disease”.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Brian, I haven’t gone fishing pretty much all this year. I had to make a choice between that and seeing my kids after work. I’ve greatly enjoyed their baseball practices, soccer games, hide and seek at home, etc. I don’t want to miss those times. But before that, fishing responses were usually, “Are you a teacher here?” “Why are you on campus?” “Are you a student?” I could see how weirded out they were and it has made me that much more reluctant to go and to question my approach. The last time a new student joined for Bible study, I simply had a large poster made at FedEx Office that read, “Come and see,” Christian fellowship, and stood outside the student union.

  19. I think ubf people need to read Mathhew’s book.

    This former ubf Korean director teaches all ubf directors that homosexuality is akin to “swine flu”, will destroy families and will obliterate society as we know it, and perhaps destroy all societies on earth. Wow such stupidity.

    “Paul says homosexuality is unnatural, indecent and abnormal. These days in America and Europe, homosexuality has spread like swine flu. What is worse, some Christian leaders are homosexuals. Five states of America made homosex marriage legal. But this immorality destroys families. According to one of high school teachers in Chicago said that about the ninety percentages of the students are broken families. The family is the core of our society. If the family is destroyed, the society will be destroyed. If the society is destroyed, our societies of the earth would be like orphanages without families.”

    2010 ubf Director conference

    • Maybe the solution to all this homosex destruction is to make all families like ubf house churches. Then there won’t be any sex happening at all! And everyone will just live like single college students. What do you think bigbear?

  20. More gems of ubf teaching about “homosex” as they call it. Why did God send me to the margins of society to find goodness? I see it clearly now. The margins of society expose the ubf heritage flaws most clearly.

    Listen these quotes… do you hear the heritage?

    “There was great repentance among leaders and young students. Preparing their messages and writing life testimonies, we repented deeply and sincerely before God, and we were born again once more from lust and homosexuality.”

    SBC in Korea report

    “If one criticizes homosexuality in public, he will be in big trouble, probably even with a possibility of being arrested. Modern society is like Sodom and Gomorrah. Intellectuals follow the social consensus without thinking.”

    Double work of God report by John Jun in 2010

    ” According to verse 15, Nicolaitan teaching was same as that of Balaam. Nicolaitan means ‘swallowing the people’. This means that they swallowed the people with corrupted and immoral teaching. They claimed that the time of law was over, and people should live without the law. So they promoted lawlessness. They taught that believers could indulge in unlimited physical pleasure since they were already forgiven. Such teaching is comparable to hedonism in our time. Our times are badly influenced by hedonism, materialism and idol worship like Sodom and Gomorrah. As described in the later part of Romans 1 (Ro1:26-31), the world has become full of shameful homo-sexuality, every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. Love grew cold and people became lawless (Matthew 24:12).

    We also live in a flood of bad influences. Even in America, which is known as a Christian country, in 2 states including Massachusetts, which is known as a most intellectual state, gay marriage is legally approved. In America, the divorce rate has reached 60%. Ironically, the divorce rate among American Christians is almost the same. This shows that Christians are being influenced by the world; they are not positively influencing the society. The bad influence of the world corrupts the church.”

    Some kind of Revelation lecture

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, stop being so intellectual. You are following the social consensus without thinking. It’s time for you to repent and become a thinking non-intellectual.

    • “Nicolaitan means ‘swallowing the people’.” That’s not true. Actually it means “follower of Nicolaos”, and the name Nicolaos means “victourious over people” (nico = victorious, laos = people – the word “laity” is derived from that word). From that some have speculated that they tried to rule over the other people in the church, i.e. created a hierarchical system of control like SL’s UBF. But reading things into that name is really only speculation. The truth is that we don’t really know who the Nicolaites were.

    • You’re right Joe. After deeply meditating on all these wonderful messages by God’s servant, I have deeply repented and decided that gays really are destroying society all over the earth. This seems wrong to me, but I will make a bold decision of faith to obey God’s servant. If we all would just obey God’s chosen servant wholeheartedly we would learn a broken shepherd heart and become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation! Amen!

    • “If one criticizes homosexuality in public, he will be in big trouble”.

      Yes, but not in countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraque, North Korea, Lybia, Kenia, or Uganda – in all of these countries and quite a few others homosexuality is strictly illegal. In many other countries, like Putin’s Russia, it’s the other way around: If you propagate homosexuality in public, you will be in big trouble.

      When a country bans homosexuality, then it seems to me rather an indicator that it’s a country I don’t want to live in.

  21. In my opinion, it is really quite distasteful, unpleasant and even racist to my ears to hear missionaries coming to America (or other countries) to denounce Americans for her licentiousness and immorality, as though there are no social ills in the missionary’s native country to address.

    Two recent incidents that immediately come to mind are the horrific tragedy of the ferry that sank and killed 300 plus people, mostly high school kids. The other is the embezzling of 12 million dollars by David Yonggi Cho (and his son), the pastor of the largest church in the world.

  22. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Tim Keller’s review: http://www.redeemer.com/redeemer-report/article/the_bible_and_same_sex_relationships_a_review_article

    Vines’ response to Keller’s review: http://www.matthewvines.com/a-response-to-tim-kellers-review/

    “Reading this section of his review, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Keller actually read my entire book.”

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      When people use “original creative intent” as the basis of their arguments, I find it just down right ridiculous. It’s not faithful to the narrative of the character of God and his involvement with the people and world he created. Even a reading of Genesis shows God as one who considers the circumstance of people and acts accordingly, even at times acknowledging how things have strayed from original creative intent, but making “allowances” (for lack of a better word) and acting accordingly. Such consideration for the here and now of humanity is, I think, crucial to understanding the incarnation of the Word.

    • I am continually amazed at the responses shown by Matthew. His responses continue to be kind and clear. I also have doubts about whether Keller read his book entirely, but I shouldn’t say too much because I have not yet read either response fully :)

  23. “When people use “original creative intent” as the basis of their arguments, I find it just down right ridiculous. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/03/book-review-god-and-the-gay-christian/#comment-18660

    When I talked with Jim Brownson in D.C. earlier this year, he was toying with numerous theological ideas. One of them was about the new creation.

    He said that when people make the point that God originally created mankind as “male and female”, he agrees with them. God did that. But Jim asks what about the new creation? We have two facts we are trying to understand: God created male and female. Gays exist. How did that happen? Jim was bouncing around the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, God might be doing something new. Maybe what we are seeing is not some broken, failed humanity but something part of a new creative work?

    I don’t know what to make of that, but I certainly agree with the point that God does new things, and we should be highly cautious of speaking about God’s intentions. Who am I to speak for God? Could God change his mind?

    The solid theological concept I learned from Jim was to examine the trajectory of “male and female” in the bible. That yields some very intriguing results. That is something I bring up in my new book, which is in editing mode:

    The New Wine: Welcoming LGBTQIA People to the Wedding of the Lamb soon to be published!

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      It’d be refreshing to hear from the mainstream that there’s just simply much that we don’t understand and that not all is so clear because scripture says it, because often times we are making scripture out to say what we want it to say.

      If you want to call people to account for not following original creative intent, you’ll also need to call God into account. Even a reading of Genesis makes this clear. Consider the flood of Noah’s day that destroyed (almost) everything living thing on the face of the whole earth, or eating meat, or death–God ordained changes. He didn’t talk about intent. He understood the circumstance of people and the world they live in and acted accordingly. I think we see the same from Jesus throughout the gospels.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Right, this kind of talk about the new being made now and what will come should also be central in these discussions. For example, how do our gender issues fit into the word that we will be like Jesus or what Jesus’ words regarding being like the angels that do not marry. Limiting discussions to either right or wrong, sin or righteous, Romans 1 and Genesis 1, is to me missing the most central person in our cis id stations: Jesus.

  24. A friend sent me a few links to listen to and watch.

    Here is Vicky Beeching telling her story in her own voice in this 5 minute video: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/18/vicky-beeching-coming-out-matters-christians

    Here is a two hour long interview of various LGBT Christians who share their sometimes sad and painful stories of being rejected by their own churches, families and even parents: http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2015/5/18/episode-20-lgbtq

    My thoughts and sentiment at present is that we Christians, regardless of where we stand on this issue, might be able to have irenic discussions on this painfully divisive and increasingly delicate hot button issue. When we learn to “listen to the other side” with compassion and without reacting, I believe that God will help us to be loving and gracious, kind and gentle, and not judgmental and condemning.

    • Excellent points Ben.

      “might be able to have irenic discussions”

      This is my primary mantra in regard to gender and sexual minority people.

      If I a traswoman is brave enough to walk into a church, the church must be brave enough to “have the conversation”.

      My 4 part presentation on why I am a avid advocate for LGBTQIA people is entitled “Have the Conversation”.

      This is also a major point in my new book:

      The New Wine < new book just published!

    • Great conclusion to the article you linked to Ben:

      “Three years ago, the Christian activist Symon Hill embarked on a pilgrimage of repentance for his former homophobia. It’s now time for the church as a whole to follow in his footsteps. As a means of opposing injustice, sitting down and saying nothing may be polite but it’s not what Jesus did, and it’s not what Beeching’s story demands.”

    • FYI, my new book is free for 3 days on Kindle. I’ll send a free paperback to anyone willing to write a blog review to help launch the book:

      The New Wine: Welcoming LGBTQIA People to the Wedding of the Lamb

  25. This is an excerpt from the Pope (#7 of 10 key excerpts):

    7) Gender differences matter, and “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different.”

    Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/18/10-key-excerpts-from-pope-franciss-encyclical-on-the-environment/

    • The Pope has a good point. Indeed, we should seek genuine self-value, and that does aid in interacting with other people.

      He fails to see however that humanity is not purely “feminine” and “masculine”. There is no longer “male and female”, and the kingdom of God is bringing about this reformation, tearing down the male-dominated hierarchies and revealing more and more of humanity’s characteristics.

      So I would ask:

      How do we incorporate the reality that not only is our body gendered, but our brain is gendered? What is more, our sexuality is gendered and our desires are also gendered. There is no such thing as pure “male” or pure “female”.

    • There are clearly cases of ambiguity regarding human sexuality that has been demonstrated medically, anatomically, physiologically and perhaps even psychologically. But isn’t the vast majority of people clearly either male or female with only a minority of people being ambiguous sexually?

    • “But isn’t the vast majority of people clearly either male or female with only a minority of people being ambiguous sexually? – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/03/book-review-god-and-the-gay-christian/#comment-18703

      Correct. That is why we allies use the term “gender and sexual minorities”. There is evidence that such non-heteronormal people are not such a small percentage as we once thought. But yes, still a minority.

      It is a great thing to be cisgender, like me and most of us. We should be thankful we don’t have to deal with the realities facing gender and sexual minorities, and we should be compassionate and welcoming toward them. God is doing some astounding things among non-cisgender and non-heterosexual people.

    • Brian, I asked the question because you made two statements: “there is no longer male and female” and “there is no such thing as pure “male” or pure “female” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/03/book-review-god-and-the-gay-christian/#comment-18704

      So it would be correct to say that for the vast majority of people there is still cleary male and female, though a minority are not. I learned a new word today–“cisgender.” Thanks!

      And yes, we Christians should absolutely be kind, gentle, gracious, generous, compassionate and respectful toward anyone who is not cisgender.

    • Ben, I don’t see any contradiction. But I do see a need to clarify, as you pointed out.

      My point is that humanity has never been 100% male and female since way back in the Garden of Eden, perhaps. As in all things, we tend to want purity. We really wish this world could be made up of pure male and pure female. But that is just not the case.

  26. The Pope’s point #3 is very good, and relevant to our discussions we’ve been having here:

    3) Christians have misinterpreted Scripture and “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”