A letter in six parts to Pastors and church workers from a gay Christian
In this day and age when diversity is celebrated, I think pastors, church workers and congregation members are often both worried and confused. What are we to make of this new world and how do we minister in it? This topic is close to my heart as I am one of those odd celibate gay Christians who fit neither into the Church, because I'm gay, nor into the "LGBT community," because I accept the biblical standard of sexuality and marriage.
Too often, ministry to those who are LGBT or Q takes one of two forms, at least in the conservative churches. Either ministry tends to mean trying to be nice while telling people they are wrong or, more often, it simply means keeping people from having sex. Frequently, both forms of ministry instruct the LGBT individual to "Put your indentity in Christ."
What is missing is the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. And most of all, no one is telling LGBT Christians how to go about "putting their identity in Christ" which can only be done through that neglected Gospel.
This letter is both a plea for the Gospel to be utilized in ministry to gay, lesbian and transgender members of your congregations and, I hope, an effective illustration of how that Gospel might be applied, especially to form an identity in Christ.
Will such ministry work? Well, if by "work" you mean will it keep gay people from having sex or a transgender student from tansitioning, I have no idea. The Church has never even done the work of laying the foundation of the Gospel in ministry to LGBT people so we are a long, long way from even asking the question of how to encourage obedience to a biblical view of sex. That's not even really on my radar in this letter. But if by "work" you mean, "will people listen? are LGBT people open to hearing what you have to say?" well some finding from a recent Marin Foundation study of gay people and religion "Us vs Us":
The fact is that a lot of LGBT people do want to hear what you have to say. They do respect you and the Church. And, at least when they are young, you are ministring to significant number of them - you just don't know it.
So if by "work" you mean "will people listen to what you have to say about God and the Bible" Then the answer is a resounding "YES"
In any case, writing this has been good for me as it has forced me to ask why my idenity has been more in my sexuality and less in Christ and what I would need to hear from my church and pastor for that to change. I hope this letter is instructive and helpful to you as well.
P.S. A brief note about terminology.
When discussing this particular subject, it is difficult to know what terms to use. You will notice I use “gay,” “LGBT”, and “same sex attracted” to describe myself and sometimes use “homosexual” to describe the orientation some people have toward their own gender. It is true that a couple of decades ago labels like “gay” and “LGBT” indicated not only that a person was attracted to their own sex but also held a particular political and social viewpoint. That, however, is less true today. Today “gay” is a more neutral term except in an ever decreasing circle of people while “homosexual,” which used to refer specifically to someone who was attracted to their own sex regardless of behavior, is now used by some to indicate someone who is actively involved in sex with someone of the same gender.
Further, labels like “same sex attracted” are not without their own significant and negative baggage. Ex-gay groups like Exodus used such labels for themselves in order to distinguish themselves from “gay culture” and “the LGBT agenda.” For this reason “same sex attracted” brings to mind the dishonesty and false promises of those groups.
So please understand, among all the labels there is no neutral choice. Because of this, I tend to use whatever descriptor feels right at the moment. If you are upset at some of the terms I use – well I just don't know what to tell you. There simply is no good option when speaking of this subject.
Part One: An introduction to the problem: “Ministry” to same sex attracted people should mean applying the Gospel.
Part Two: The foundation of ministry is Law and Gospel. And a review of some approaches and tools for ministry.
Part Three: How is identity formed?
Part Four: The doctrine of justification and why simply saying "God forgives you" does not convey good news to LGBT people
Part Five: How the doctrine of justification applies to the whole person and creates unity in the Body of Christ.
Part Six: A very brief discussion of the third function of the Law and celibacy.