It’s been five years since Andrew Marin published his widely read Love is an Orientation, and the need which Marin’s book attempted to fill has grown at a rapid pace.  While there has been no shortage of discussion among evangelicals about the moral and political status of homosexuality, few rigorously theological and pastorally sensitive resources have been developed for churches and pastors to learn best how to welcome gay into their communal and individual lives.  Instead, vague exhortations about how Christians need to be more loving and improve their image abound.

generous spaciousnessWendy VanderWal-Gritter’s Generous Spaciousness:  Responding to Gay Christians in the Church is not, alas, the book we have been waiting for.  As the director of New Directions Ministry, a Canadian organization that was a part of Exodus International until it pivoted in 2007 toward building bridges between Christians and the LGBT communities, VanderWal-Gritter has a wealth of practical and personal experience to draw from.  She aims in Generous Spaciousness to “model a posture” for individuals, churches, and organizations that is not “just a wishy-washy, weak compromise” on the questions surrounding homosexuality, but that orients us toward hospitality and faithful discipleship for LGBT people within the church. That is a commendable goal, no doubt, and her book has occasional moments of insight and the occasional bit of wise council for pastors and parishioners. But by repeatedly presenting the progressive position at its best and responding to ‘conservative’ theology at its worst, VanderWal-Gritter creates a caricature of the demands of “unity” that claims the moral high ground for those who wish to push doctrine to the side. Her concept of ‘generous spaciousness’ is no “wishy-wash, weak compromise”: it is an outright abdication on the possibility of moral knowledge and its role within the church.

Her book is pervaded by trendy jargon that obscures as much as it clarifies, and that sometimes borders on the sort of de-Scripturalized, therapeutic discourse that has marked the “ex-gay” community at its worst.  (As she notes, VanderWal-Gritter notes that “many ex-gay ministries espouse a variety of psychoanalytic theories in the development of ministry interventions.”  While she doesn’t endorse such an approach, it’s clear from her own work that she hasn’t quite escaped it.) Terms like honesty, authenticity, openness, vulnerable, acceptance, and the inescapable journey get their power from their vagueness, even if they seem to be for her the central virtues of the spiritual and moral life.

Such terms sometimes also function asymmetrically, so that those who are doubting and questioning their convictions and the traditional teaching of the church on the morality of same-sex sexual practices end up with a privileged insights into key portions of Scripture.  In her defense that Christians should interact with each other on questions of same-sex sexuality as though it were a “disputable matter,” and hence akin to how Paul exhorts the Romans to behave with respect to food ethics in Romans 14, VanderWal-Gritter offers the following jaw-dropping analysis:

“One has to wonder if the process of wrestling with a particular question personally is the foundation from which one can internalize Paul’s teaching in Romans 14 of not getting in the way of someone else’s choices and making life more difficult for them. For when you get on your knees at the side of your bed night after night pleading with God to take away your same-sex attractions, you experience solidarity with others who have had the same experience….And out of this very real and personal place arises the kind of mutuality and preference for the other that Paul speaks of.  The truth is straight people will never be able to fully enter that space—because straight people have never wrestled in those particular personal and deep places.”

Even if we thought that Scripture put same-sex sexual activity on the same moral plane as food sacrificed to idols such that it is a “disputed matter”—and there is lots of reason to doubt that is the case—this sort of argument actually would work against the case.  If Romans 14 did require people to internally wrestle with the particular question, then only those with same-sex attraction could have the “generous spaciousness” that VanderWal-Gritter ostensibly wants.  That would be a bizarre basis for a Biblical exhortation, however.  What’s more, VanderWal-Gritter’s claim that “straight people have never wrestled in those particular personal and deep places” strikes me as false to the point of incoherent.  Many straight people who have taken Jesus’s exhortations about lust in Matthew 5 seriously have spent wakeful nights pleading with God to remove temptations from them, even temptations that if known or acted upon would bring them great shame from their community. To think otherwise would be to single out same-sex desire as uniquely troubling to the individuals who experience it—a claim I suspect many in her audience will be fast to reject.

While VanderWal-Gritter wants to avoid arguing directly about the moral questions surrounding this debate, she ends up simply presupposing a moral outlook that many conservative evangelicals object to.  In her exhortation to help same-sex attracted individuals cultivate a “positive vision for the future,” she suggests that some will begin to dream of a same-sex marriage.  “Where this dream is grounded in the confidence of the unconditional love and embrace of God,” she writes, “such a dream can be a vibrant part of a person’s ongoing spiritual journey, particularly when it is based on careful study, reflection, prayer, waiting, and listening to Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and trusted mentors.”  In perhaps the worst sentences in the book, she encourages us to welcome those who might dream of a same-sex relationship by pointing out that “It is important to remember that love is love. And love is of God.”  Nevermind that the content or shape of “love” within the sphere of human sexuality is precisely what is in question. “Love,” whatever else it might be, is not the amorphous, empty concept that her tautology indicates. While she protests that her view is not a “call for a watered-down discipleship,” her unwillingness to specify the terms under which sexual “love” no longer is from God suggests that is precisely what is on offer.

This kind of slant structures the entire book, so that it is questionable whether VanderWal-Gritter’s understanding of “generous spaciousness” is separable from it.  For instance, in discussing the role that spiritual fruit among Christians has played in her own life, she writes, “A closed system necessarily finds ways to discount such fruit as appearing to be authentic but actually being counterfeit.  But I could not justify such an ultimately subjective, selfish, and spiritually violent evaluation. As far as I knew, the fruit that I was seeing and experiencing was the real deal—and if it wasn’t, that could only be God’s call.”  I leave aside the question of “fruit” within the Christian life only to point out that being “closed” is not necessarily the negative feature of a “system” that VanderWal-Gritter presupposes.  If a system has no way of discerning when someone is self-deceived or when the fruits they are demonstrating have been disconnected from other crucial moral aspects of their lives which may erode them over a long period of time, then so much the worse for the system.

There are all sorts of people in this world who demonstrate qualities that seem to be similar to the fruits of the Spirit.  VanderWal-Gritter privileges our ability to discern when someone’s life demonstrates “fruit.”  As she goes on to say, “It seems incredibly audacious to me that anyone would consider sitting in the seat of judgment regarding the authenticity of faith of those who demonstrate good fruit in their lives.” But rather than accept the “tension” and the “mystery” that some people might have “fruit” while engaging in practices that Scripture is opposed to, she instead wishes us to embrace the tension and mystery at the heart of Scripture’s teachings about human sexuality, where she sees only complexity and disagreement.  It’s not at all clear, though, why we should be more confident in the meaning of our own lives and the quality of our own spiritual fruit and hesitating and uncertain about the meaning of Scripture, especially when the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9) opens the possibility that we are all self-deceived.

My point is not necessarily to drag VanderWal-Gritter into the very moral questions that she thinks have been so harmful for the church’s witness.  Rather, it is simply to point out that it may be the case that how we go about inculcating a view of “generous spaciousness” in the church may itself depend upon the answers we come to with those moral questions.  If the “space” of the church is going to be anything more than an empty void, a black hole where anything (literally) goes in the realm of human sexuality, save those actions which do not result in “fruit,” then we must identify and understand its boundaries, and that invariably means drawing lines.  While it may be the case, as VanderWal-Gritter repeatedly points out, that conservative evangelicals have been overly focused on such boundary-maintainence and have sometimes operated based on fear, without boundaries there can be no “inclusion.”

To make the point sharper, if we can substitute the language of polyamory and polygamy for homosexuality and gay marriage, without a significant alteration to the argument, then something is clearly awry. If there are “polyamorous Christians” who demonstrate the kind of “fruit” that gives us pause and who can similarly problematize Scripture’s teaching (where there is even some positive evidence for polygamy in the Old Testament), then ought we treat the question as a “disputed matter”?  My only point is that the language of morality is more useful for understanding what sort of spaciousness we should have in the church, and what kind of generosity we are called to.

It similarly helps no one if the presupposition is that those who are theologically conservative have not worked through the “hard questions”, and so only hold their view because of tradition or for other reasons.  VanderWal-Gritter repeatedly objects to an emphasis on truth, orthodoxy, and certainty as being driven “more by fear and anxiety than by love.”  The book is written for those for whom “simplistic, black and white answers on these questions will not suffice.”  Doubtlessly such people exist.  But there is nothing simplistic about the answers Christians have traditionally given on these questions, and there is nothing easy about accepting them. Working from such caricatures—VanderWal-Gritter at one point uses an anonymous comment on YouTube!—is simply not helpful, though. It may be that a conservative theological approach to inclusion has not been found wanting, so much as left untried altogether.  Trying to circumvent doctrinal claims and genuine moral knowledge for the sake of unity simply presupposes that the two can be disconnected—which is simply not a proposition that conservative evangelicals can or will get behind.

All this is a missed opportunity, as evangelicals need to articulate how the message of the Gospel can be embedded in our local church communities in a way that is more hospitable to those whose form of lives we disagree with.  We need generous spaciousness.  Of that I have no doubt.  But not this one.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book for review. 

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

  • R

    Equating same-sex struggles over lust with wrestling with homosexuality is “false to the point of incoherent.”

    • I presume you mean “different-sex struggles with lust”? And why, out of curiosity?

      Matt

  • ChrisM

    As Christians, isn’t sexual desire for someone of your same sex sinful lust to be resisted the same way sex addicts must resist pornography or promiscuity?

  • ronfurg

    Nice review, Sir. I suspect the folks who sent you the free book for review regret that decision. ;-) Again, well done.

  • Marisa

    I can not get my head around justifying same sex relations when it is clearly stated in the Word that it is wrong. Yes, God loves everyone of us, but how can our churches condone this and remain blessed?

  • Andrew Dykstra

    How we treat people is very important and how our reading of Scripture influences how we treat people should give us pause. (“In that you did it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.” For instance, if our reading of the story of Sodom and Gomorah causes us to treat LGBT people as though they were indistinguishable from those ancient people, and we feel justified treating them accordingly, then we are closer to the ancient Pharisees than to Jesus. There are about a handful of Scriptural passages that speak negatively about same-sex sexual activity. That does not mean they are unimportant, but how does our understanding of them affect how we treat others? Christians are wary about accusing others of what they themselve might be guilty. How convenient to point the finger when one is very certain that no such accusations can rebound back on the accuser. The “causes” of homosexuality are not exactly known, so we must either take the word of LGBT people that it seems innate and likely unchangeable, or we must decide that we know better. None of these attitudes reflect the posture Ms Gritter is calling the church to in Generous Spaciousness. We must listen humbly to the testimony of others, accepting that we may be wrong. James V. Brownson (“Bible, Gender, Sexuality”) discovered that his son was gay and could not reconcile his reading of Scripture with what he knew of the son he loved. He knew that he had to explore the possibility that he had mis-read Scripture. Stories about xenophobic rape do not inform us about our LGBT loved ones. Obscure words appearing in lists are not sufficient to create a mature reading to guide us. We must look at our LGBT christian friends and ask how we might see Jesus in them. If our unexamined views of Scripture cause us to reject our LGBT loved ones, what have we gained? Their voices are silent, unheard in our churches. We must recognize that if our faulty readings of Scripture have driven them away, then we are ALL diminished by their absence. We can do one of two things: we can exclude people based on potentially flawed theology, or we can suspend judgement for a while and pray that God will lead us into all truth. Surely we can afford to do that much?

    • To be clear, are you suggesting that VanderWal-Gritter’s position isn’t satisfactory because it doesn’t sufficiently include GLBT individuals within the church?

      • Andrew Dykstra

        No, I am saying that the author is asking for their inclusion even if we have not been able to get all of our theological ducks in a row.

        • Right. So she wants churches to include as full members those who are engaging in practices that the Christian tradition (of every kind) has nearly unanimously determined are morally wrong despite not having all the “theological ducks in a row”? You can see why if that’s what “generous spaciousness” requires of those who reject the arguments that same-sex sexual activity is morally licit, it’s not a very useful concept at all.

          • OldBaldGuy

            I sincerely wish there had been a Wendy Gritter in my church when I came out thirty years ago. I was more or less tossed aside, made to feel like just so much trash, by my ****entire**** faith community. Including my own parents.

            Can you for a moment try to comprehend what that kind of global rejection does to a person?

            What Wendy does in generous spaciousness is something that I have categorically NOT experienced in the majority of my dealings with Christianity. She hears me. The others nod and smile and learn nothing from (and lead me to believe they care nothing about) my story, my life and the real love that is in it. I do not hear a lot of empathy in your position.

  • jamiearpinricci

    Associating heterosexual lust with any sexual orientation that not heterosexual is a false parallel that is “false to the point of incoherent”. When we consider heterosexuality, we easily acknowledge that attraction includes- in addition to physical/sexual- social, relational & romantic dynamics that are not lust or sin. Yet, you are insisting that the only attraction same-sex attracted people have is physical/sexual. This is not an argument in favour of any position, only a refutation of a poorly argued point in your review that is indicative of most of the piece.

    • “Yet, you are insisting that the only attraction same-sex attracted people have is physical/sexual.”

      I would genuinely love to know which part of the above review (or any of my other writings on this subject) led you to this reading. Do tell.

      Best,

      Matt

      • Guest

        When you said:

        “What’s more, VanderWal-Gritter’s claim that “straight people have never wrestled in those particular personal and deep places” strikes me as false to the point of incoherent. Many straight people who have taken Jesus’s exhortations about lust in Matthew 5 seriously have spent wakeful nights pleading with God to remove temptations from them, even temptations that if known or acted upon would bring them great shame from their community.”

        This framing comparison places same-sex attraction in the category of lust. It fails to address the much more faceted expressions of attraction, etc. for which lust has little to no bearing.

        What’s
        more, VanderWal-Gritter’s claim that “straight people have never
        wrestled in those particular personal and deep places” strikes me as
        false to the point of incoherent. Many straight people who have taken
        Jesus’s exhortations about lust in Matthew 5 seriously have spent
        wakeful nights pleading with God to remove temptations from them, even
        temptations that if known or acted upon would bring them great shame
        from their community. – See more at:
        https://mereorthodoxy.com/generous-spaciousness-gay-christians/#comment-1576020712
        What’s
        more, VanderWal-Gritter’s claim that “straight people have never
        wrestled in those particular personal and deep places” strikes me as
        false to the point of incoherent. Many straight people who have taken
        Jesus’s exhortations about lust in Matthew 5 seriously have spent
        wakeful nights pleading with God to remove temptations from them, even
        temptations that if known or acted upon would bring them great shame
        from their community. – See more at:
        https://mereorthodoxy.com/generous-spaciousness-gay-christians/#comment-1576020712
        What’s
        more, VanderWal-Gritter’s claim that “straight people have never
        wrestled in those particular personal and deep places” strikes me as
        false to the point of incoherent. Many straight people who have taken
        Jesus’s exhortations about lust in Matthew 5 seriously have spent
        wakeful nights pleading with God to remove temptations from them, even
        temptations that if known or acted upon would bring them great shame
        from their community. – See more at:
        https://mereorthodoxy.com/generous-spaciousness-gay-christians/#comment-1576020712

      • jamiearpinricci

        When you said:

        “What’s more, VanderWal-Gritter’s claim that
        “straight people have never wrestled in those particular personal and deep places” strikes me as false to the point of incoherent. Many straight people who have taken Jesus’s exhortations about lust in Matthew 5 seriously have spent wakeful nights pleading with God to remove temptations from them, even temptations that if known or acted upon would bring them great shame from their community.”

        This framing comparison places same-sex attraction in the category of lust. It fails to address the much more faceted expressions of attraction, etc. for which lust has little to no bearing.

        • Sorry: perhaps I’m dense, but why on earth should I grant your interpretation that “lust” is simply physical? I don’t think lust is merely physical. I don’t think any sexual desire, or even “attraction,” is simply physical.

          Best,

          Matt

          • jamiearpinricci

            I did not equate the two as the same- in fact listing them side by side to highlight their distinct, yet overlapping meaning. My point is simply that you suggest straight people understand based upon struggling with lust. This demonstrates a failure to grasp both Gritter’s point and the complexity of same-sex attraction in a heteronormative context.

          • What you said was, “Yet, you are insisting that the only attraction same-sex attracted people have is physical/sexual.”

            I have said absolutely nothing even close to this. I do not agree with your attempt to describe “lust” as aimed at “purely physical” characteristics of a person. And so I fail to see how your original claim holds.

            Best,

            Matt

          • jamiearpinricci

            Again, that is not at all what I suggested, but let me reword it. In the quote above, you suggest that straight people’s struggle with lust are parallel struggles to those of LGBTQ people. While everyone struggles, there are exceptional circumstances (i.e. functioning in a heteronormative context, which is even heightened in the church) that make their experience exceptionally challenging in ways that straight people generally don’t understand.

          • I don’t know how you didn’t suggest “that.” I quoted you. But your revision is helpful. Thanks.

            I’m running out to dinner right now, but you can look at my post here for more thoughts on heteronormativity: https://mereorthodoxy.com/meaning-of-heterosexuality/

            Best,

            Matt

  • Guest

    I don’t quite recognize Matthew’s church, the congregation were everyone interprets the scriptures in exactly the same way. It sounds comfortable, a place where the theology is all neatly systematized, where there is only moral certitude on all issues and no ambiguity or uncertainty or contrary evidence or challenging testimony. It sounds nice, if a little boring, but I suspect it exists only in the ivory imagination.

    In practice, however, outside the blogosphere, the church could use some practical advice on how to get along when we disagree. The experience of those in the pews is that the old consensus on this issue no longer holds; the conventional wisdom no longer makes sense, especially for our young people. What we thought were ‘bad trees’ are producing ‘good fruit,’ and the growing dissonance between ‘orthodoxy’ and existential reality is shaking us awake. We need to learn how to listen to each other, to respect differing opinions, to think outside neatly compartmentalized comfort zones, and, most of all, to love each other as God has loved us. For this, I’m sure, we’ll need some gracious spaciousness. Maybe this book can help.

  • Schuh

    I don’t quite recognize Matthew’s church, the congregation were everyone interprets the scriptures in exactly the same way. It sounds comfortable, a place where the theology is all neatly systematized, where there is only moral certitude on all issues and no ambiguity or uncertainty or contrary evidence or challenging testimony. It sounds nice, if a little boring, but I suspect it exists only in the ivory imagination.

    In practice, however, outside the blogosphere, the church could use some practical advice on how to get along when we disagree. The experience of those in the pews is that the old consensus on this issue no longer holds; the conventional wisdom no longer makes sense, especially for our young people. What we thought were ‘bad trees’ are producing ‘good fruit,’ and the growing dissonance between ‘orthodoxy’ and existential reality is shaking us awake. We need to learn how to listen to each other, to respect differing opinions, to think outside neatly compartmentalized comfort zones, and, most of all, to love each other as God has loved us, that is, generously. For this, I’m sure, we’ll need some spaciousness. Maybe this book can help.

    • I am not sure why you are reading me as saying that everyone interprets the Scriptures “exactly the same way,” or how you’re reading me saying that we *don’t* need practical advice on how to get along when we disagree. I start and end the review with that claim. And in my own book (which is not about sexuality), I devote an entire chapter to questioning and disagreement.

      I simply don’t think this book has the right strategy for finding agreement…as I argued.

      Best,

      Matt

      • Brian McKelvey

        It’s not offering a strategy for “finding agreement.” It’s offering a strategy for living together with each other amidst our disagreement, while treating each other with respect and dignity. We don’t have to live in agreement on every issue. Frankly, we only need to agree on the core aspects of theology as laid out in the creeds (Nicene, Apostle’s) in order to live in community with each other, considering each other to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can disagree widely on a great many other things but live in the tension of those disagreements, without needing to break fellowship or view others with condescension, as though only we have the right answer to every ancillary issue.

        • Right. That’s totally fair improvement on my (hurriedly written!) comment.

          Still, where are the boundaries for “living in the tension,” to use a popular phrase? My point about polygamy is a serious one: if a Christian polygamists comes into the church and wants to enjoy the “generous spaciousness,” should they get to? It’s probably easier to make the case that polygamy is Biblical than same-sex sexual activity. So should we treat it as a “disputed matter” because people of good will who show “good fruit” in their lives disagree?

          Note: I’m not suggesting polyamory is an ‘orientation’ or that polygamy is equivalent to same-sex marriage in every way. The point of the analogy is simply to demonstrate the potential absurdities that arise when we take Vander-Wal Gritter’s approach of having church communities that suspend judgment on sexual ethics in order to have her version of “generous spaciousness.”

          Matt

          • Brian McKelvey

            There’s no widespread disagreement amongst faithful Christian scholars and theologians about the morality of polygamy. It is a totally separate issue, with it’s own different set of aspects to evaluate for or against. It doesn’t overlap with the considerations for faithful gay and lesbian committed relationships. Each issue deserves to be weighed on it’s own merits, separately, without conflating issues that might seem on the surface to the casual observer to be related but in actuality are not.

          • How “widespread” must the disagreement be, and who determines which “scholars and theologians” are “faithful” in such a way that they should be listened to?

            Here’s an Episcopal priest who makes an argument with the exact same form for accepting polygamy that you have given for accepting active same-sex relationships. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/18/how-i-learned-to-love-polygamy/

            My argument is not a sociological argument, as you are making it. I cannot predict whether a “Christian polygamist” movement will come to the fore, though your own sociological point would seem to have to commit you to just such a predictive temperament for it to be a real argument (i.e. you’d have to think that not only is such a position not currently “widespread,” but that it never will be).

            What I can ask, though, is whether you rejecting the Episcopalian priest’s position is anything more than arbitrary.

            Best,

            Matt

  • Don

    Great hatchet job. I can see you were really P O’d by this book

    • Thanks for the comment, Don. I wasn’t angered by the book: I merely thought it wasn’t very good. If you think I’m wrong in my reading of it, well, that’s why the good Lord gave us Amazon reviews, blogs, and even comment boxes.

      Best,

      Matt

    • Alan Noble

      No hatchets were mentioned and I doubt very much that Anderson would stoop to the level of PO boxes.

  • Kevin Botterbusch

    The problem I often encounter with conservative Evangelical ethics is that there is little room for considering the personal and relational element involved in morality, ethics and theology.
    I found the portion regarding good fruit telling because it didn’t seem to respond to the argument made by drawing from Jesus’ parable. If the person’s lives as a whole and to perhaps especially relevant to this discussion their loving relationships are fruitful, edifying, and life-giving, how do we respond?

    If the conservative ethic and interpretation of Scripture points at these families and calls it sin, why is this compelling?

    Is the ethics of sin either so arbitrary or obscure that we can see good and beautiful actions and call them evil?

    Do their lives provide no questions or even context to how Scripture might be regarded?

    Here you respond by saying lines must be drawn yet the lines appear at best perhaps arbitrary, if not altogether damaging. What is to be done with these families with children, commitments and shared lives?

    But more troubling here is when an ethic sees no difference between adultery or murder and a loving gay relationship. Is it really that difficult to make distinctions between the two? Do you really look at these families and see something inherently evil akin to ending a life or breeding a vow?

    • These are all very good questions, Kevin. I think what Scripture means by *good fruit* is very closely tethered to certain norms. My piece isn’t a constructive one: I’m not offering my own answers or alternative to this book. But I do think that these are the kinds of questions which conservatives have to give proper answers to (and which I may take up here in the next few weeks and months).

      Matt

  • Gerald

    As a 58 year old man who has been a Christian since I was baptized in the late 60s and who has been attracted to the same-sex for just as long without any shift in that attraction, I highly recommend this book. From then until now, I have experienced a few things — the good, the bad and the ugly — from within the church and outside with respect to this topic. I have friends who have taken their lives because their experience as labeled as trite and they were dismissed as fist-in-your-face rebels against God. I highly recommend this book. And, yes, it has elements that push boundaries and make some uneasy, myself included. However, if you are not familiar with the experience of lgbt folk who are Christian then, again, I highly recommend this book. My experience tells me that Gritter has gone above and beyond what most heterosexual people will ever to do to listen to our stories carefully and thoroughly. It is this intimate knowledge of our experience that gives the book its bite and makes people uncomfortable. There are great insights in this book and more than just an ‘occasional bit of wisdom’, but don’t speed read or you will miss it. It moves the discussion from the abstract to the lived experience which is never neat and tidy. I highly recommend this book.

  • ghartwell

    In order to discuss this I want to struggle with the term ‘simplistic’ and why that term might be used for the answer Christians traditionally have given to these questions. Let me define simplistic as the traditional tendency to create opinion, moral choices and theology based on a few verses, often from the King James translation, that touch on the topic. At times this is like learning about a complex topic based on the few seconds of sound bites on the news or a YouTube video.

    What stops being ‘simplistic’ is more thorough scholarly study of all relevant passages and reviewing a variety of scholarly opinions about the meaning of different passages. Wendy Gritter calls all parties involved in this examination to listen to one another – to be gracious enough to listen with an open heart to others who proclaim faith in Jesus Christ and who take scriptures revelations seriously.

    To be honest and follow Christ, more than good scholarship is needed to find our way to God’s heart and find the Truth that is found in the person of Jesus Christ. John 14 informs me that eternal life is very personal, that the Way to our Father is very personal, and, therefore, the testimonies of believers who have experienced same-sex attraction must be taken seriously if we would find the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We might find God’s heart as we exercise generous spaciousness toward the brother whose experience does not fit our conservative interpretations of scripture.

    There is more in finding God’s heart on this issue and it involves following the Jesus hermeneutic in which the prime purposes of God, the very heart of God, is sought in our searching of the scriptures. When Jesus did that, for example on the Sabbath law, he come up with very different rules than did the religious teachers of His day.

    I submit that the theologically conservative, and much of church doctrine, has not been based on ‘the Jesus hermeneutic’ and, therefore, deserves some such label as ‘simplistic.’ It misses the mark. It falls short of the heart of God. Perhaps ‘simplistic’ is too kind.

    • I’d submit that’s a pretty simplistic understanding of theologically conservative “church doctrine.” : )

      Matt

      • ghartwell

        It might seem like a straw man definition of simplistic but I would submit that after a deeper and more thorough review of how church policy on moral issues has been created in most conservative churches, it catches the essence of the process, in that the most obvious verses on the topic and the most obvious interpretation of these verses is taken as the most inspired and authoritative bases for church moral policy.

  • nwjeff

    As a gay man who was in the church for over 25 years I know all the in’s and out’s of the conservative mindset and theology that deals with one being gay. As one who tried to change their orientation much of that time and was celibate as well I discovered that at the core my orientation never changed even though I tried with all my might heart and soul. And had more inner healing, deliverance, fasting, confession, accountability, etc. than 99% of the chruch.

    I say all this to say people and most Christians do not get the whole “gay” thing. So many still believe that it is a choice like as a kid you had a choice in who you are attracted to. And they pick and choose Scriptures like Romans 1 without really looking at it in context or then reading on to Romans 2:1. And they continually demonize us and sexualize us without ever getting to know us as a human being’s a person made in God’s image. And this is just one of the many things why the church in America is shrinking and will continue to shrink and reveal it’s irrelevance to modern culture (and the blame will be on the big bad liberal media) and all those “lost souls going to hell like me”.

    And in this little rant just saying I am so glad I left that mindset that “Christian lifestyle” that did not ask hard questions, think critically, doubt, or truly learn to love those who are left out on left field. And I have found the love of my life with another man that is deep and meaningful full of purpose and with thankfulness that the desert of the past has been swept away and there is life and love with joy knowing that God likes us yes loves us and no one can take that away.

    • I’ve written one book with two chapters on sexuality, and a second book on what it means to question, doubt, and so on. So if you think I’m on board with things *as they are* in the conservative evangelical world, well, tolle lege.

      Best,

      Matt

  • Jason Hinchliffe

    Hey guys, here’s a thought- how about just accepting that gay people are complete, functioning human beings with a right to live and love as they choose. The fact that you debate their place for them is the height of arrogance. They’re not broken and they’re certainly not in need of your approval. Christ would have a place for them at his table and he wouldn’t need a special set of circumstances under which to do so. They just be welcome, like everyone else.

  • Keith

    I do not see how words such as, ‘acceptance, and honesty,’ would be considered vague. Sounds fairly clear to me. And to say that the lgbt issue is almost unanimously decided on in the church seems like out right denial of how many individual believers, individual congregations, and whole denominations have come out in support as affirming of our lgbt brothers and sisters. Even if you disagree with her book, at least she is actually doing something to try and solve the tension between the lgbt community and the church. That is more than most straight christians have ever done.