City Pulse Article on Gay-Friendly Churches Sadly Lacks Complexity

I’ve written before on how I don’t think it’s productive for there to be only two responses permitted in the Church vs. LBGT debate.  I hold a third response, which I feel is the response that holds true to the Bible in all facets.  This third response is what neither side of the debate wants to hear because it doesn’t fit into the clear cut, “Are you with us or against us?” that everyone is so eager for an answer on.

I was reminded of this truth in an article that came out in yesterday’s Lansing City Pulse entitled “Who Are We To Judge?” –a title that feels pretty judgmental to me, but that is a whole other topic.  The article, which you can read here, lists out 23 churches and religious organizations who considered themselves gay-friendly, who don’t consider gay-orientation or a sexually-active gay lifestyle to be a sin, and who will also officiate same sex marriages.  They attempted to contact a total of 53 places of worship, 14 of which responded to their questions.

What’s interesting about this is that I was one of the 14 who responded to their questions.  I (Crossroads Church) am also one of the two included in the following paragraph from the article:

We found at least two Christian organizations that consider themselves gay-friendly, but that still view same-sex sexual activity as a sin and that wouldn’t perform same-sex marriages if they were legal in Michigan. Those congregations were not included in the list.

I like how in some respects, we created a third category for the article.  What I don’t like is that the third category isn’t explored or discussed.  If you hold the third view, you are hush hushed because people don’t know what to do with you.  It’s either attack or embrace and a third view doesn’t fit either of those actions.  It’s ironic how we hate complexity when it comes to very complex topics such as homosexuality

I understand one of the main purposes of the article was to show LGBT couples where they could get married eventually and that makes sense, but I wish that wasn’t the only indicator of what it means to be “friendly.”  Because the only alternative to “friendly” is “unfriendly” and I truly don’t think I or my church or the Bible falls into that category.

The person who interviewed me was not the person who wrote the article.  I asked them if they could have the article’s author call me so I could better explain where we stood (because I was honestly wondering / concerned with what category they would put us in).  I’m sad that the author of the article never called.

I told the interviewer that while I would not officiate a same sex marriage, I would attend one.  I wonder where this fits in the “Do I attack you or embrace you?” reaction that dominates this conversation.  That quote was unfortunately left out of the article as well.  Or how people think that because you call something a sin, you won’t let anyone be involved in your church who sins in that area.  (Which, if that were true, Crossroads would have zero attendance every single week…)

There’s a lot more that could be said about the article, such as how Rev. Bonnie Tarwater, of the Edgewood United Church of Christ in East Lansing hangs her head in shame at the lack of leadership in the Christian community–an ironically judgmental quote to find in an article entitled “Who Are We to Judge?”  Or how she says it’s biblical to love one another but it’s not biblical to teach there’s something wrong with us.  I’m wondering what Bible Rev. Tarwater is reading, and where she gets the authority to slice and dice it the way she does. 

The Bible isn’t a popular message in many respects.  No one likes to be told there’s something wrong with them.  Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t say one person has more things wrong with them than another.  It never says a homosexual has more wrong with them than a heterosexual like myself.  Saying or implying that it does is simply not biblical.  In fact the Bible never even says being a homosexual (being attracted to the same sex) is a sin.  Saying or implying that it does is not biblical.  And by not biblical, what I mean by this term is you simply won’t find these things in the text of the Bible.

What’s most ironic about this is the subtitle of the City Pulse article reads:

Happy Easter from City Pulse — may you find a place of worship that doesn’t view your sexual orientation as a sin

Well, guess what?  That’s Crossroads!  Because orientation isn’t a sin.  Because I’d hire a gay pastor.  Except we don’t make it onto the “friendly” list…

With all due respect to Rev. Tarwater, I need to disagree with her statement that it’s unbiblical to tell people there’s something wrong with them.  The reason I have to disagree with it is because I know there’s something desperately wrong with me, and it’s that I’m a rebellious sinner desperately in need of Jesus, and I am so thankful someone told me this.  The Bible says this (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23), making it very biblical that someone loved me enough to tell me this.

I can think of nothing more loving than for someone to point this out to me and nothing more loving than for a God to give himself up in order to rescue me from myself.

A third response to this issue says we’re all in the same boat.  There’s no convenient “us and them” to throw stones at.  We are all sinners who desperately need a Savior.


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15 responses to City Pulse Article on Gay-Friendly Churches Sadly Lacks Complexity

  1. Thank you again for an insightful article. Too many people want it simple. C.S. Lewis had a word about that. Recently I was in an online discussion at an Apple forum about this sort of thing. You can see it here if interested. It highlights how difficult it is becoming to even have this sort of conversation.

    • Ya unfortunately the internet + anything controversial = an explosion of insults and nastiness. It’s funny how the one guy says about you: “aaaannnddd… cue the religious nut jobs. religion has no place in a
      sane, decent society IMO, but you won’t get anywhere arguing with guys
      like this so I will just comment on the OP’s remark about “politics.”

      —The guy calling you a religious nut job is the one claming to be sane and decent — Last I checked, calling someone a “religious nut job” isn’t very decent!!

      • Yes, there did seem to be a great deal of “plank in eye” syndrome going on there. It is rare to find someone in an online forum who will debate without falling back on name calling. The very thing the church is accused of (namely hate) is flowing freely indeed from the hearts of its critics. Very sad to see. I remember Ravi Zacharias quoting someone who said, “When you throw mud, you lose a lot ground”.

  2. I feel like there are some Christians that view homosexuality as a greater sin than other sins, and don’t even realize it (or don’t admit to it). Would you officiate a wedding for a straight couple if it was their second marriage? The Bible (and Jesus!) were pretty clear on their opinions of divorce. Remarrying is considered adultery, a sin.

    I personally believe that there are valid reasons for divorce sometimes, and marriage is a legal arrangement all loving couples should be allowed it’s benefits. Do you remind your friends that it is an abomination when they order shrimp at a restaurant? Would you console a woman beaten by her husband, or would you remind her that he was within his rights and she should not have spoken back? You have spoke before about taking the Bible literally, but it still seems like a lot of picking and choosing.

    • Hi Elyse, you bring up some great questions, and they are all questions that need to be discussed in this conversation. It’s one of the things that makes this topic so complex! I’ve actually written on most of what you ask already because I think they are such important questions, so I’ll link to those responses…

      On shellfish and the “abomination” reference: & –in summary, these talk about how the old covenant (e.g. the Old Testament, for the most part) does not apply to us, as we are under the new covenant. So it’s not picking and choosing, it’s understanding who each book of the Bible is written to, and literally a vast majority of the commands in the Old Testament only applied to the Ancient Israelites, who made that specific covenant/agreement with God, an agreement God no longer holds us to.

      And your point on remarrying divorced people is a GREAT point and is something I really really really wrestle with. While I don’t talk about officiating weddings specifically, I do bring up the point you mention, as well as add other sins on to it that Christians aren’t consistent in their approach with in the article I say: (You should read the whole article to get the context of what I’m talking about) “To be consistent (which is the key concept missing in all of these debates), if a law is passed saying I can withhold my business services to gay and lesbians, I also need a law passed saying I can withhold my services from those having sex outside of marriage, those who’ve been divorced, and those who get drunk. These are three sins that Christians who get up in arms about GLBT issues in the public square need to honestly compare their reactions to, because these are extremely similar to the homosexual commands in the Bible. All four of these are premeditated things that you are willingly and consciously doing, without making effort to refrain from, and all four of them are widely accepted by our culture. We treat those who get drunk, divorcees and fornicators (how ’bout that for a KJV word ‘atcha!) without stigma, yet those in the GLBT community with extreme stigma–which is inconsistent and wrong.”

      Would I remarry someone who has been divorced? Not every time. It would really depend on their circumstance (Jesus says remarriage after adultery is allowed), as well as what transpired before they became a Christian and what transpired after.

      And you are 100% right that there are Christians who think homosexuality is a worse sin than other sins. These Christians are absolutely wrong and absolutely not biblical in this, and need to be corrected, something I try to do repeatedly when I talk about this issue on my blog and in sermons. My gay Christian friend Jim Decke and I hit this hard in the sermon we did together:

      The idea of a woman not speaking back to her husband is another issue of understanding the context in which a passage of Scripture and applying it according to that context. The passages in the Bible that talk about women being silent refer to women, who culturally were not educated, being silent in church because they were being disruptive. So it really doesn’t have to do with women particularly, but an uneducated person not being disruptive in a church service, which when the New Testament was written, applied to women so that’s why women are mentioned that way. And the texts about women being submissive to their husbands (Which I think is what you are asking about) also talk about a mutual submission and men giving themselves up for their wives–if you’ve been taught women aren’t supposed to speak back to their husbands, whoever taught this is taking way too many liberties with that text and taking it out of context because that isn’t the message there.

      I hope this is helpful Elyse, you ask some great questions and they are very necessary to this conversation. Sorry for all the links, but these are all things I’ve really wrestled with as I’ve tried to navigate this complicated issue.

      Here’s one more blog I did on gay marriage itself, which is sort of an umbrella over all of the questions you asked:

      • Thank you Noah, and I will check out the links.

      • @ Noah – “if a law is passed saying I can withhold my business services to gay and lesbians, I also need a law passed saying I can withhold my services from those having sex outside of marriage, those who’ve been divorced, and those who get drunk.”

        Excellent point! This gets at the heart of what bothers me about the entire debate over LBGT rights. Why are we drawing the line at homosexual rights when it belongs so much further back up the continuum of sexual morals?! Answer: our culture (and even the church at large) has bought into the lie that sexual sins aren’t really harming anyone, despite the evidence staring at us in the face. Where would sex trafficking, STDs, unwed pregnancies, broken marriages, and the AIDS epidemic be if people would just act like mature adults, work at their relationships, and sleep only with their life-long spouses?

    • @ Elyse Gray – You pointed out something which is indeed an issue. The church does like to single out some sins while ignoring others. According to the Scripture, any sin will lead to damnation, but even the Scripture points out that not all sin will immediately kill you. Also, it is clear that among the eternally condemned some will be beaten with many stripes and others with few. So it seems, in my admitted opinion, that there is a certain stratification where the severity of wrongdoings is concerned. Something which does bother me very much is that we are having the conversation about the rightness/wrongness of LGBT behavior at all. This was, to my knowledge, unheard of half a century ago. Back then people still frowned upon divorce, shacking up, and so on. The LGBT issue is merely what has our attention. Churches which are serious about their doctrine also go after the other sins.

      • An important clarification with the passage you reference Brian (Luke 12:47-48) is that it’s not talking about the severity of one sin over the other (one sin receiving worse punishment than another) — it’s talking about how we will be held accountable for how much has been revealed to us. So a Native American from the 1st century who never heard of Jesus is going to be held accountable for much less when it comes to their faith than I would, who was raised in church, in a good family who taught me about Christ, etc.

  3. Noah – hopefully you guys are well. So, a quick comment – I think LinkedIn has, unfortunately, become increasingly less useful for business and more like a blog spot for people’s social, political, and theological opinions. It was once a business networking site for marketplace professionals, but now gets too cluttered with articles about things like churches & the LGBT community. Granted, this is probably not the place for me to stay connected to so many pastor-types, but I know several others who feel the same. I just wanted to say it. Thanks

    • Hi Chad, I’ll be honest I find your comment a little unexpected. Remember that blogs are legitimate revenue-making businesses too and in some respects, so are churches, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see them on LinkedIn. I don’t really use LinkedIn for anything except posting blog articles but in doing so, there are tons of people who interact with me on there. So as someone who wants to grow the business of my blog, I feel like it’s okay for me to do so there, in the same way a small business owner might display their items that are on sale or a new product they created.

  4. Hey man, no Facebook so could not leave a comment at the Pulse but Andy B left his email so left him a note giving you props. If I lived near Lansing, would go to Crossroads. . . expect you and the people there would offer welcome and find genuine fellowship in Christ. Keep to your third way man. . . so much better than either the churches that pound or the ones that encourage me back into what I’ve escaped. Your way offers the hope of the reality of something true of God in my life now.

  5. Noah, your studied and thoughtful response to the topic of homosexuality (and many others) has been invaluable to me. Wading through complex issues takes time, dedication, wisdom and humility. Thank you for going through all of that to benefit others.

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