I have been following with interest Willow Avenue Mennonite Church’s current involvement “in a discussion about how its mission statement can best be lived out with regard to LGBTQIA+ persons” (“PDC responds to congregation’s discussion about being an affirming community,” October 1, 2021, and “Pondering questions about Confessions of Faith,” November 19, 2021).
I applaud their desire to address this complex issue as a congregation given its contemporary visibility, but I disagree with its “recommendation to fully welcome and accept people regardless of sexual orientation.
Several years back the Spanish-language MB congregation that I pastored also addressed this issue. Following you will find a published article titled “How Do We Love the LGBT Community?” about our congregation’s journey to be inclusive regarding how to love LGBTQ persons and at the same time be faithful to what we understood to be God’s design for human sexuality.
“In September the Spanish language congregation that Mary and I are part of has been responding to the question, “How do we as followers of Jesus love those living a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender lifestyle?” We have focused on this question for two reasons: one, because of the growing acceptance of this lifestyle in our American society; and two, because of the number of members of our congregation having family members who openly identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender or who are gradually moving in this direction.
We have stated five biblical presuppositions related to homosexuality in its diverse expressions:
- God loves every human being equally in spite of his or her sexual orientation. (John 3:16) God has no favorites. It makes no difference if a person is Lutheran or lesbian, Grace Brethren or gay, Baptist or bi-sexual, Traditional Orthodox or transgender, God’s love is constant towards all.
- God is revealing his wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” in this present age. (Rom. 1:18) God’s nature calls him to hate all destructive thoughts and actions robbing humans of the promised abundant life. This includes all sexual activity outside of marriage. Again, God hates sins and not sinners. Ex. 20:3-17, Rom. 1:29-31, Gal. 5:19-21, among other texts, list many of the sins God opposes. God equally detests every sin.
- Those habitually practicing ungodly lifestyles will not inherit God’s kingdom in its present or eternal dimension. (Gal. 5:21) God is saying, “come and live,” but they have chosen not to.
- God desires that everyone be saved and healed of ungodly and unrighteous lifestyles. (1 Tim. 2:1-4) He is doing all possible for those desiring wholeness, holiness and heaven.
- God has designed marriage as the union between a man and a woman. (Eph. 5:31)
Matt Moore, once a practicing homosexual turned follower of Jesus, says, “…the Western Church at large—there are some exceptions—has been radically ineffective in reaching the same-sex attracted community with both the truth and the love of Christ.” For the most part, we evangelicals have grossly sinned against the homosexual community as we, in the words of Moore, “have begun to arrogantly view ourselves as not-quite-as-bad-of-sinners as ‘they’ are.”
Given Christianity’s sad track record with homosexuals, and with these five biblical presuppositions running through our spiritual DNA, we of the Spanish language congregation are seeking first to be good news in the presence of those living an LGBT lifestyle. (Acts 1:8) Being a friend and not a foe opens the way to greater opportunities for service and encouragement. Seeking attitudinal changes and greater humility will help us be good news before our LGBT friends and relatives.
Secondly, we are seeking to communicate good news to the LGBT community (Rom. 10:15). Oftentimes we have heard so-called Christians say, “God hates homosexuals” or “homosexuals are going to hell.” Such is not good news to the homosexual’s ears. Even stating to a homosexual in a first encounter that homosexuality is a sin lacks discretion. While such a statement reflects biblical truth it doesn’t reflect God’s ordering of the revelation of truth. Truth is best communicated in a relationship based on love. Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11 is a great example of this.
In my work as a chaplain in a hospital, I deal with patients living all types of ungodly and unrighteous lifestyles, many of which are probably contributing to their present health complications. I always tell them and their family that God deeply and unconditionally loves them and that they are unique and special treasures who are valuable in his sight. This is the good news I feel we first must proclaim to anybody living in an ungodly and unrighteous manner.
Being Good News and then proclaiming Good News in a timely fashion will hopefully open them up to the blessed reality that God is deeply fond of them and that he wants to heal them of their hurts, hang-ups, and habits, just as he so graciously is doing in us.”