Have the Conversation on LGBTQIA – Part 1

11164666_10103869779827051_4021114476678969994_nThe defining question of the church in our generation, like it or not, has become this: What is your view on homosexuality? So instead of pretending this question is resolved or superficial or even clear-cut, I and others have been working to “have the conversation”. Today I want to begin sharing the outline of my four-part presentation that I developed as a result of attending the Reformation Project Leadership cohort in Washington D.C., led by Matthew Vines. This conversation is difficult to have in many churches because the topic of homosexuality lies at a somewhat odd and often dismissed intersection of sexuality and the gospel. Here is part 1 of my presentation, the introduction.

Our Purpose

mvI am not going to hide or filter my purpose in having these conversations. I and many others are working to develop a Bible-based, gospel-centered approach to gender and sexual minority inclusion in the Christian church. I realize this puts me outside the gates of the visible church, Christendom. My claim is that I am not outside the Christian faith by welcoming and including LGBTQIA people. I am referring specifically to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual and asexual people. Our inclusiveness however does not stop there. We believe our theology is a gospel-centered approach toward any and every oppressed people, especially those oppressed or outcast by the white, male-dominated hierarchy that has existed around the world for eons.

What I Affirm

trIn the LGBTQIA world, there are “affirmers”, those who affirm and welcome same-sex marriage and the genuine self-narratives of LGBTQIA people. And there are “non-affirmers”, those who do not affirm such things. We believe these terms are neutral, meaning these terms do not necessarily imply rightness or wrongness of either side. The terms merely acknowledge our differences and give us a starting, civil framework.

I think it is important to notice that both affirmers and non-affirmers can have some common Christian ground. For example, I affirm the following:

  • Authority of Scripture
  • Desire to please and obey God
  • Value of moral fortitude
  • Gratitude toward the church
  • Love for all people

Where do we begin?

For me, the conversation about any social issue or human condition begins and ends with the gospel. The gospel is Jesus the Messiah. This is the best starting point, and really the only starting point I can find that has any chance of bringing about the unity Jesus expects from His followers. We know many facts about Jesus: His birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension and return. The good news is an announcement and proclamation that God has entered our world and is eager to live among us, both in bodily form 2,000 years ago and in the form of the Spirit now. When we read the Bible we see five key messages or results of this gospel: grace, glory, salvation, peace and the kingdom. We see the themes of the gospel at work: forgiveness, freedom, fulfillment, Love, reformation, reconciliation, repentance, justice and so forth. Any conversation about society, for Christians, centers around these gospel topics.

Meet some of the Reform Leaders

chOne of my goals in the presentation is to introduce people to some leading reformers who have some remarkable visions for the church. One of the most dynamic and effective leaders is Kathy Baldock. She lives in Nevada and created a wonderful “hiking ministry”, where she goes on hikes through the mountains.

I was fortunate to talk with Kathy during the cohort (and get a signed copy of her book!) What Kathy’s book brings to the table is the historical, medical and non-religious perspectives. This is so very important for the church to consider, in light of Galileo, left-handed people and interracial families. Her book is a great place to begin the conversation.

Book to begin with: “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon

“If you read only one book on the history of LGBT rights, the culture, psychotherapy, religious reactions, and what the Bible really says about being gay, Walking the Bridgeless Canyon should be it. It is well-researched, compelling, and eye opening. If this book had existed when I became an anti-gay Christian activist, I would have questioned if what I was doing was truly Gods will or if it was nothing more than a man-made construct meant to maintain white heterosexual male dominance on the backs of gay people and women.”

–Yvette Cantu Schneider, former policy analyst at
Family Research Council, former director of women’s
ministry at Exodus International

Respect for Conscience

Can we make a deal? Those who do not affirm samesex marriage are not bigots or full of hatred automatically. Can we agree that those who do affirm samesex marriage are not going to hell automatically?

My hope is that starting with this handshake (no hatred/no hell), the church can be healed and move forward in a God-honoring manner. The next three parts of my presentation are the following:

Part 2: The non-affirming conscience rightly concerns about the holiness of God. Are we disobeying God? What is God up to?

Part 3: The non-affirming conscience rightly concerns about our children. Are we setting a bad example? How do we break through the hostility?

Part 4: The non-affirming conscience rightly concerns about immorality. Are we on a slippery slope? What restraint do we have?

How would you answer these questions? What thoughts do you have about this topic? I am sharing these presentations publicly in order to give some time for critical feedback and challenge to my thoughts.


  1. bekamartin

    Excellent start. I have much stock in this matter, as my son is a Female to Male Transgender person. And he left the church, and maybe even God, because of the opposition he felt to homosexuality and all alternative lifestyles. He attempted suicide and when he finally came out to his father and I, my response HAD TO BE (in my opinion) to accept him and help him live and no longer try to hurt himself. His father has chosen to stay in his traditional Christian mindset and reject that his child is a male, not a female. His choice. I have thought and prayed log and hard and researched and read many books on the subject, especially Transgendered Faith, and have changed my view on this matter. I accept my child as a male and as bisexual, since he chooses to love the person, not his or her gender. I am a devoted Christian, I love God and his ways and to glorify God with my life and my thoughts and beliefs. I will continue to pray and listen to God in this matter.

    • Beka, this is painful, but I am so very glad that you are showing compassion and understanding toward your son. I am learning how important it is in the transgender world to ask the person what pronouns they want to be identified with. If they identify as “he” and “him”, that is what we should use. I can tell you that a compassionate parent who respects this identity is so precious and honorable in God’s sight.

      You mentioned: “my response HAD TO BE (in my opinion) to accept him and help him live and no longer try to hurt himself.” This tells me you are of sound mind and are healing well from your time at ubf, where we were conditioned to reject anyone different from us.

    • In addition to respecting pronouns, I have also learned something from the medical field.

      We all know our bodies are gendered. But it has been discovered that our brains are also gendered. Most of us are born cisgender. This means our brain-gender and our body-gender match.

      In the case of a transgender, their brain-gender and body-gender do not match. For a transman, his body is female but his brain is male. It seems from what I’ve read, that transpeople often self-identify with pronouns matching their brain gender.

      The bottom line in all this, and the premise of my New Wine book, is that the wineskin of “male and female” binary thinking is bursting. Such a thought fabric simply cannot describe human nature fully and in a healthy way for all people. Humanity does not fit into pure male and pure female.

      I contend there is a kingdom of God reformation at play here, based on Galatians 3. There is no “male and female” division or category in the kingdom of God.

  2. Joe Schafer

    Brian, thanks for starting this much-needed conversation.

    Beka, thanks for sharing this. The situation is heartbreaking.

    Are Christians in North America ready to have this dialogue? Some are. But sadly, many are not.

    For example: I was astonished by the opening paragraph of this Sunday message delivered at Chicago UBF a few weeks ago.


    No doubt, the speaker (RW) sincerely believes he is standing up for truth clearly revealed in Scripture. Perhaps he believes he is being courageous and countercultural and prophetic, calling an immoral nation to repentance. But honestly…

    * How much courage does it take to speak like that in front of an audience of people who already fully agree with you? (If anyone in that audience didn’t agree, they have probably learned to shut up about it because they don’t want to be labeled as difficult or dangerous or liberal or humanistic.)

    * The speaker’s use of declarative statements, and his attempts to sound authoritative, do nothing to advance the conversation, but only serve to shut conversation down. If anyone disagrees with him — or even if they generally agree with him, but realize that nuance and sensitivity are required to talk about this issue today — the message that they hear is: You are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, the issue been FULLY AND FINALLY SETTLED, and this church and community are NOT FOR YOU. The demonization of those who do not agree as godless, immoral, etc. is unnecessary and often not accurate.

    Christians who speak like this, regardless of what positions they take, are doing far more damage than they realize. People who speak like this will continue to lose credibility. They marginalize themselves and blame others for it.

    • Joe,

      Every opening paragraph of every ubf lecture I’ve read is full of red flag of cult control. That one you mention is a classic example. RW is dictating the emotional and spiritual reality to the ubf members around the world. He is the authority and speaks as a dictator of truth. As you point out, no one at ubf feels they can raise any valid challenge or question him.

      In regard to the topic, it is a very shallow and weak argument to claim that the USA is like Sodom due to accepting samesex marriage. Does anyone even read Ezekiel? The whole of Scripture needs to be examined before making such absurd claims.

      If anyone is fearful of God’s judgment on the USA because of the SCOTUS ruling, I would ask them to look at Canada. Samesex marriage has been legal since 2005.

    • Youre right Joe; many churches are unwilling to really have the conversation. In some churches, the subject is regarded as outside the realms of polite conversation, for fear of offending GLBTIQ people. In some circles, to regard homosexual practise as sinful, is sinful in itself. In such an environment, it’s very difficult to have an open conversation.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks Tom. Do you know of any examples of churches where real dialogue is happening? By dialogue, I mean respectful conversation among people who hold diverse positions and actually hear one another and learn from one another.

    • I hope there are many around, Joe. But Im not sure I could point to any as good models. I hear that Hillsong do talk about it to some degree, and with reasonable respect.

  3. My heart goes out to the gay sons of Chicago ubf leaders. I am sure there must be other gender and sexual minorities there as well. Most of them have left ubf by now, I suspect. However if there are any LGBTQIA people at ubf, please reach out to me and I will connect you with people who will have a far more healthy respect for you than RW and the ubf echelon.

    • In case someone thinks LGBTQIA people do not exist at ubf, please note that 3 different people from 3 different chapters have already reached out to me in the past couple years.

  4. Thanks for starting the conversation, Brian. Without a doubt, Christians, by and large, have failed by the way we have regarded and treated the LGBT community even to this very day. We Christians have failed by our actions and especially by our “damning,” hateful, hurtful, words of denunciation, intolerance and disgust toward them without much gentleness, kindness, compassion or tolerance. For this we must surely constantly seek repentance with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), and with humility and tears (Ac 20:19).

    This is an excellent Catholic response, in my opinion:

    “The temptation to see the court decision in black and white terms is also evident among some of those who see the court’s action only as one more attempt to marginalize the church and diminish religious freedom. We should resist this temptation as well. The church must vigorously defend its freedom; the state has no natural or constitutional right to compel religious believers to perform actions that compromise our consciences. There will be many more debates and decisions in the years ahead, however, involving contestable questions of religious freedom and the public interest. In engaging in such debates, Catholics must be careful not to develop a “Masada complex” that would reduce our self-understanding to that of a besieged minority. Such a narrow self-perception is contrary to the generous, expansive nature of the good news we seek to share.”

    (Source: http://americamagazine.org/issue/after-obergefell)

  5. Father Barron’s excellent and irenic articulation of the distinction between love and hate, and between tolerance and intolerance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pO8iYfS6JGY&feature=em-subs_digest

    Love and tolerance is always called for. Hate and intolerance is never ever called for, regardless of which “side” one is on.

    Barron makes a good point that celebration should not be expected of one who is tolerant. Thus one who tolerates but does not celebrate a particular position/side should not be accused of being intolerant or hateful.

  6. So in the Karcher gay-acceptance scale (which I totally made up), there are these reactions:

    1. condemnation (inhumane) – gays should be killed
    2. hatred (un-Christlike) – gays should be hated/excluded
    3. tolerance (non-affirming) – gays should be straight/changed
    4. acceptance (non-affirming) – gays can stay gay but at a distance
    5. celebration (affirming) – gays are gay and have gifts for service

    I am in in the 5th category, but I understand not everyone will celebrate with me and my friends. I am willing to be respectful toward everyone, but conversation seems only possible with people in the 3, 4 and 5 categories.

    I often resort to extreme words when dealing with people in the first two categories.

  7. I am of the conviction that Christians should always express tolerance toward positions that they disagree with.

    Surely some in your #3, #4 category might have the definitions you expressed: gays should become heterosexual or kept at a distance. But the word tolerance, by definition, means that even if I disagree with you, I will not act disagreeably toward you. I will not try to make you heterosexual or marginalize you, but based on my conviction I cannot agree with you or embrace your position.

    What Fr. Barron is saying in his video is that some affirming Christians/gays have regarded anything but celebration and whole-hearted endorsement as intolerant and/or hateful, which is not necessarily true. Right?

    • Correct, Ben, that is often the stance from the affirming side. It is very easy to see why we often think this way. While I respect the non-affirming conscience, and do not demand everyone to celebrate, it is true that the only affirming stance is #5. Every other stance does not affirm some part of the gender or sexual minority person.

      As a straight, cisgender person, I can muster enough grace to have civil conversation with people in the non-affirming positions of tolerance or acceptance. But most gays/others cannot do this. What right do we have to ignore whether a person is gifted with celibacy and demand and entire class of people be celibate? That is a form of oppression and even slavery.

      If we put ourselves in the shoes of a gay person though, we can see how unhealthy and damaging it is to tell a person: you must be celibate and never have any hope of sharing any kind of intimacy with another person. This is why suicide rates are so high among gender and sexual minorities.

    • forestsfailyou

      Just a question here- but what good does it do to say “that is often the stance from the affirming side”. Someone’s particular view only matters in so far as it has caused them to make an error, but we need to know that it is an error to begin with. It’s the same way when you say “As a straight, cisgender person”, not that that does not color your view- but that we need to examine what your view is and if it right before we ask about your motives behind your view. Your sexual orientation cannot be the warrant for a belief. It would be like a KKK member saying “I am in the KKK therefore Barack Obama is a bad president.” It’s a distraction from whats really in question.

    • Forests, I am just making observations.

      “we need to examine what your view is” Yes, please do this. I have expressed my views in 2 articles. I’ll share 2 more articles soon.

      I think I was crystal clear with my view and my intention.

      My view is that I am fully affirming and fully inclusive toward all gender and sexual minorities, and promote such inclusion in the context of marriage. I am explaining why in light of the concerns others have expressed to me.

      My intention is just what I said: “I am not going to hide or filter my purpose in having these conversations. I and many others are working to develop a Bible-based, gospel-centered approach to gender and sexual minority inclusion in the Christian church.”

    • forestsfailyou

      Yeah, not that your position is in question, but it just appeared to me that the reason something was true was due to his identity rather than the idea given. This shift from motive to agent is also evident when people say “He is simply blind and thats why he cannot see (that we are really right).” Or “He left UBF so he is wrong in whatever he said.”

  8. I agree with Chris’ comment recently that we should not get sidetracked here in talking about other issues. Just want to point out that LGBTQIA issues are relevant to ubf.

    Regardless of being non-affirming or affirming, can anyone here subscribe to what the ubf echelon teaches in this area? Why or why not?

    “As the Bible records that there were about 120 members of the upper room in the book of Acts (Chap. 1), UBF tends to maintain a maximum of 120 members per chapter. In doing so, UBF stresses Jesus’ value on quality more than quantity and seeks to follow his example. Dr. John Jun mentioned that the central UBF HQ is located in the state of Illinois where homosexual marriage is tolerated. “As all 50 states of the U.S.A. probably will go in the same direction and since this is a sign of the end of the world,” he emphasizes, “we need to be the salt and light of the world and should not be indecisive or unclear by maintaining some kind of middle/neutral position.”


    The ubf teaching is that gay people are a sign of the end of the world and ushering in tidal waves of sin, AIDS, corruption and immorality. I have seen these exact things in ubf lectures.

    So ubf teaching is a 1.5 on the Karcher Gay Acceptance scale. I wonder if JJ would say we should kill gay people? Such flawed ideology is why I will remain the loudest ubf critic.

  9. MJ Peace

    it’s not just Ubf that scores 1.5 on the Karcher scale. I think it is the majority view of protestant evangelical circles. I really enjoy this article because you focus on the commonalities between affirmers and non affirmers. Kudos bk, thanks for getting away from binary thinking.

    When I was questioning homosexuality, one of my friends posed this question: Was a heterosexual preference a prerequisite JC imposed for salvation? I dont think so.

    Another thing is there so much vehemence between affirmers and non affirmers and so little dialogue. How many Christians actually have lgbtq friends? Make a friend and then talk about the issue.

    • Thanks MJ. Some other great questions I have uncovered:

      When did you decide to be straight?
      How will you react if your son or daughters comes out to you?
      What if Jesus allows gender and sexual minorities at His Wedding?

    • Was a heterosexual preference a prerequisite JC imposed for salvation? I dont think we have any reason to believe that to be the case. We have reason to think it’s not the case, based on passages such as John 3:16, which says that “… EVERYONE who believes in him will not perish …” (emphasis mine). IE there are non precluded except those who choose not to follow Him.

      Some have said that the first gentile convert was of a sexual minority. IE the eunuch of Acts 8:26–40.

    • Great question TomKent! And welcome to ubfriends. Thanks for sharing. I see the salvation issue as a the key to discerning whether a conversation is possible regarding gender and sexual minorities. I’ve had almost no ongoing conversations with those are a 1.0 on the Karcher gay acceptance scale :) However, for those above 2.0, there are many conversations going on across the country and around the world.

    • Thanks for your warm welcome, Brian :)

  10. For some reason, in the Philippines, a strictly Catholic nation, there are not a few LGBT people who come to UBF and are welcomed in the ministry without discrimination or prejudice, as far as I can tell. So over the past decade I’ve gotten to know them and study the Bible with them, focused solely on the gospel without any gender identify issues.

  11. Yeah, mentioning gays being a sign of the end times is highly unfortunate. But being a UBFer for 35 years, saying that we limit to 120 people on the basis of Acts is rather spurious (Ac 1:15). For soon after that, in the very next chapter, the church exploded to thousands (Ac 2:41).

    • Yea, Ben but you are forgetting that all those thousands were “junk sheep”. They were not the “high quality shepherd candidates” in the 120 elite holy soldiers who were sacrificing sooo much for God to make Rome into a kingdom of priests and holy nation…..

  12. There are certainly laudable goals in this series. But there is a degree of conflict in regards to the first of the common goals put forth. That is the authority of Scripture. I suggest that the authority of Scripture is foundational. If the Bible is not authoritative, then what defines our faith?

    But if this series is based on the Reformation Project, then we have a lowering of the authority of Scripture from where Christendom has traditionally held it to be. Although Vines claims to hold to a high view of Scripture, the claim is flawed not only by the fact that his work tends to cite and be based on the works of those who dont hold a high view of Scripture, but because he has shown that he himself at times does not maintain a high view.

    In his viral video, Vines teaches that the author of Romans believed homosexuality to be an excess of lust on the part of heterosexuals. This is to say that Paul did not understand that homosexuals are not heterosexually attracted. IE it’s to claim that people who authored the Bible did not understand the reality of human sexuality. That claim brings into question the standard Christian notion that the entire New Testament was “god breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), ie that god guided the authors in what they wrote. If St Paul doesnt know what he’s talking about in Romans 1, is it reasonable to take the rest of the epistles as authoritative, especially on matters unseen, such as the afterlife?

    The authority of Scripture is an important basis for this conversation. But it would seem to me that in order to maintain that, this series should distance itself somewhat from the teachings of the Reformation Project.

    • Well TomKent, this series (and my books “The New Wine”) is my summary of what I learned at the Reformation Project cohort in Washington D.C. :) David Gushee and James Brownson are far more educated in the theology of what I’m presenting here. I loved listening to the teaching of Brownson at the cohort.

      I think we should define the “authority of Scripture”. What does that mean?

      I have utmost respect for Matthew and the others I have worked with at the TRP. They respect the authority of Scripture far more than those who go around gay-bashing.

      What does it mean to respect the authority of Scripture? Does it not mean we let the text change us? Or do we just conform to the church authority and what they say Scripture teaches?

      I think the Wesley quadrilateral is important here. By what authority do we live by? As a Christian, I live by the authority of reason, experience, Scripture and tradition. Actually I live by the Karcher petnagram, which is reason, experience, Scripture, tradition and Holy Spirit :)

      It is a great misnomer to say “I only live by the Bible.” We all bring our eisegesis to the table of exegesis. My primary contention is that we have patience with each other, and allow people to form their own convictions and challenge each other in civil debate. That is my great prayer for this series “Have the Conversation”. I envision one day travelling to various churches/groups and presenting these thoughts, sparking conversations around the country.

  13. “In his viral video…”

    Yea, Matthew admits that first video needed some refinements. It has been remarkable to connect with Matthew and watch how his arguments have become more and more robust, as he faces each challenge. I respect him and love him for walking into the hurricane, going where angels fear to tread!

    • Well in his book he expanded on the topic, and he even denies believing that St Paul was wrong. Yet at the same time, he *does* continue to teach that St Paul was wrong, though in a different way. In my hard copy version, on p. 102 he begins “Paul’s words indicate … that they were capable of heterosexual attraction.” And he continues further down the next page; “As the failure of the modern ex-gay movement has shown, however, that isnt the case for gay people.”He tries to dismiss this by adding that “what Paul is describing is fundamentally different to what we are discussing.” But at the end of the day, Vines book still claims that what St Paul appears to have intentionally worded to be understood a certain way by the people of his day, is in fact wrong. So Vines’ argument comes with a large and anomalous hole in Biblical authority.

      What does it mean to respect the authority of Scripture? Does it not mean we let the text change us? Yes it does. But do we simply listen to what the text says, or do we need to interpret it only through the ahistorical lens of Matthew Vines?

    • Well I’m not going to argue about Romans 1. That passage is perplexing and anything but clear. It is greatly and widely misunderstood and has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. I think we should read Romans 2 any time we read Romans 1.

      I don’t see a contradiction, as you attempt to point out. What is the “Biblical authoritative” reading of Romans 1? I think it is foolish to extrapolate an entire gay-excluding theology based on it, which it what I hear Vines and others saying.

      Paul is not wrong, he is just not addressing the questions we are asking about same-sex marriage. That doesn’t degrade the authority of the Bible in my mind. It just is yet another example where the Bible does not have every answer for life.

    • Okay Ill respect your wish not to argue about Romans 1. I guess we will have to leave it there and agree to disagree. At least we agree (in some sense) that St Paul was not wrong.

    • Well I am willing to discuss Romans 1, but I can’t understand your point, other than you are trying to say that Vines is wrong. If you want to reset and discuss Romans 1, I am more than happy to do that :)

    • Ok, well you suggest that Romans 1 has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. And I realise that Vines and others would agree with you. But conservative Christians would generally disagree, because we understand it to portray homosexual relations as sinful. Romans 1 does not state that the offenders were not married to each other. It seems to us to say that homosexual relations are inherently sinful. IE we perceive that a context of marriage would not stop it being sinful. I realise that Vines and others interpret the passage to be about excess. But I think Vines is exaggerating. Yes Romans 1 refers to lust. But does Romans 1 say it’s referring to offenders who are not monogamous? Or who are not in loving committed relationships?

      Do I think that St Paul is referring only to loving monogamous homosexual relationships? No. But I see little reason to interpret the words as not including such relationships.

      Yes Im happy to read Romans 2 when I read Romans 1.

      I too think it would be foolish to extrapolate an entire gay-excluding theology based on Romans 1. I dont think many do that, and I dont think Vines claims that people do that. I think a theology about homosexuality tends to be based on quite a few verses, rather than just one.

      You ask what a “Biblical authoritative” reading of Romans 1 would be. Well I think one where Paul and the Holy Spirit are not interpreted as being wrong. Im not aware of anywhere else in Scripture, where Vines says the Bible is wrong.

      Claiming that St Paul is not addressing the questions we are asking about same-sex marriage, does not mean that Vines is not interpreting St Paul as being wrong.

      The reason this is confusing is that on the one hand, Vines says St Paul is not wrong, but on the other hand he portrays St Paul as being wrong – or at least being very misleading. And by interpreting St Paul that way, Vines does degrade the authority of the Bible.

      Where does Vines portray St Paul as wrong? In my hard copy version, on p. 102 Vines begins “Paul’s words indicate … that they were capable of heterosexual attraction.” And he continues further down the next page; “As the failure of the modern ex-gay movement has shown, however, that isnt the case for gay people.”