“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14
by Cristy Perdue, MD, IamIncludedinChrist@gmail.com
The Traditional Christian Approach to Homosexuality
Thus far in history, many traditional, evangelical, and other mainstream churches have chosen what appears to be the most conservative and safest approach regarding homosexuals, or gay people. Churches have been friendly to gay people but have not allowed them to participate in membership or ministries. Some churches with traditional views may allow those who maintain celibacy to participate, but would not consider a gay couple for membership or ministry. The approach is thought to be safe because the traditional argument holds to the premise, “homosexuality is a sin,” and Christians cannot condone sin.
Nevertheless, gay Christians and gay Christian couples are in our churches all over the world. Some Christians were raised in church and attended for many years before they realized that they were gay, or same-sex attracted. Other gay people come to church later in life, seeking a closer relationship with Christ. Gay people are in virtually every church, whether congregants are aware of it or not. The steadfast witness and undeniable testimony of faithful gay Christians is opening the door for conversation between the traditional church and Christians who support the inclusion of gay people in local churches.
If all gay people are living in sin because of their same-gender attractions, then the church is doing the right thing to condemn them, and probably is not going far enough. However, if God is honored within monogamous, permanent, committed, Christ-centered relationships, and in the lives of single gay Christians, then the church has misinterpreted key Scriptures which have been mistranslated, misunderstood, and misused to condemn gay Christians unjustly.
God hates injustice. Proverbs 17:15: “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent – the Lord detests them both.” It is my conviction that we must, therefore, consider this matter more thoroughly, as I believe the traditional Christian community has condemned the innocent.
I hold that the traditionalists’ premise, “Scripture is clear that homosexuality is a sin,” is wrong. I present my case directly from the Bible. For decades, the vast majority of Christendom, including countless trusted leaders, have heralded this phrase. For those in agreement, there is comfort and assurance that this unambiguously reflects the truth. Our modern Bible translations outright condemn homosexuality. Thus, it is not unreasonable that many Christians currently believe that homosexuality is a sin.
What is abundantly clear in Scripture is that male sexual acts involving abuse and exploitation, and all same-gender sexual activity related to idol worship and rejection of the Creator, are sinful. Unfortunately, since 1946, Bible translators have erroneously referred to those acts as “homosexuality.”
Traditional Christians refer to marriage as a sacred institution designed by God exclusively for one man and one woman. There are biblical exceptions to the one man, one woman tenet, which we will explore. Scripture records one of these exceptions in God’s voice; Jesus also gave us one exception to “one man, one woman.” We will also consider biblical exceptions to other previously held traditional positions within Scripture, to which traditionalists no longer hold.
The Word of God absolutely does not change. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God’s inspired Scripture, in its original form, is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. Translations and interpretations, however, do change over time. Our understanding of Scripture changes as the Holy Spirit within us guides us to understand His will for our lives and for His Church.
A dear friend of mine is a gay woman who has never known Christ. Over the years, I have prayed for her salvation. She was invited to a megachurch in Atlanta around 2007. When she began attending, I was so thankful and optimistic about God’s work in her life. She enjoyed the church and community so much that she wanted to volunteer. She signed up to help with the nursery. After her first Sunday volunteering, she was told that she was not allowed to be in the nursery. She requested to meet with the pastor. When she asked why she was not allowed in the nursery, he said, “because you are gay.” Genuinely confused, she asked, “what difference does that make?” He said, “I’m sorry. That is our policy.”
I am dumbfounded by this event. My friend had never in her life heard the gospel, beyond what he had said from the pulpit. He could have presented the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to my friend instead of simply rejecting her. At this point, over a decade later, I am in a position to present the gospel to her. She graciously declines, but I continue to pray that she will one day see that God loves and adores her and does not reject her. The church desperately needs to look more carefully into this matter and engage gay people, rather than reject them.
Consider another example, this one involving a gay Christian who believes that Scripture condemns homosexuals. “As a gay Christian [man], I am looking at two possibilities for my life: I could marry another man, and live the rest of my life with nagging doubts that I have sacrificed my relationship with God for this marriage. Or, I could choose not to marry a man, and blame God for the loneliness that I feel. There’s a third option, and that’s to kill myself now, while I still am in good relationship with God.” -Anonymous
The following are statistics from a study published by Andrew Marin in 2016:
- 86% of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people were raised in church.
- 54% leave by the age of 18, and many of them did not want to leave.
- 76% of them are open to returning to church.
- 92% of those who want to return to a local church are not asking the church to change its theology, but to accept, welcome, and love them.
In general, Christian churches want to welcome people into a saving relationship with Christ. However, the church leadership cannot condone sin. Churches recognize that people are imperfect, and everyone sins. There are statistics, for example, that reveal that addiction to pornography is prevalent in churches today. The unique situation with gay Christians, however, is present when gay Christians do not agree with the church and believe that same-gender attractions and committed, covenantal relationships are not sinful. In other words, the church will accept someone who sins, provided that the person agrees he is sinning. However, the church cannot accept someone who believes his relationship is not sinful when the church believes he is living in sin.
Can a monogamous, permanent, Christ-centered, same-gender relationship be blessed by God, or is it sinful? Our failure to agree on the answer to this question is the crux of this issue.
There exists within the Scripture an excellent example of this unusual phenomenon. There was a fundamental issue that divided Christians in the New Testament, some of whom believed the act was sinful, and some of whom believed that God blessed it. I will examine this carefully.
As churches continue to exclude gay Christians from membership and ministry, please recognize the bigger picture. Gay people in the community are not welcomed into these churches, and many believe that God’s saving grace does not extend to them. Throughout this book I will refer to the issue of excluding gay Christians from membership and ministry in traditional churches, but this argument extends to sharing the gospel with those who do not know Christ.
As gay Christians and their Christian allies have become more outspoken, this issue is gaining attention. My goal is to present the scriptural basis held by those Christians who believe that Christ-centered, same-gender attractions and covenantal, permanent relationships are blessed by God.
I plan to demonstrate that the Bible does not condemn gay people or monogamous, loving, gay couples. Many people believe, based on I Corinthians 6:9-10, that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. I will demonstrate the error in that translation. One can believe the Bible to be the sacred Word of God and faithfully, confidently determine that there is no biblical reason to disapprove of gay people or gay couples.
For those readers who believe that marriage is only appropriate between one man and one woman, I am not asking you to give up your view of marriage or to change your theology. I only ask that the reader be willing to hear on what basis some Christians, holding the Scripture as the absolute highest authority in our lives, honestly believe that God blesses gay Christians, even those within committed, same-gender relationships.
Until churches realize the possibility that gay people can and should be included in the local church, even while gay, we will not be able to effectively minister the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ to this beautiful segment of God’s creation.
For those who cannot consider homosexuality to be anything other than a sin against God’s design for humanity, I humbly request and thank you for hearing me out through the pages of this book.
Footnote: I Corinthians 6:9-10, NASB: Do not be deceived… neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals… will inherit the kingdom of God. This is one example. Section 2 covers all the biblical passages that are thought to address homosexuality.
Imagine if you will, a room full of 400 people who have all come together to worship the Lord. There’s a band up front. There’s praise music. People are worshiping the Lord, some with hands in the air, some prostrate on the floor. Someone in the crowd has a beautiful giant orange and red flag, and he’s waving it rhythmically with the music. It’s a beautiful scene of worship. The leader says into the microphone, “if you have your prayer language, just begin to pray in tongues as the Spirit leads.” And then gently, softly, people are praying in the Spirit, worshiping and thanking the Lord. The music continues, and another song is sung. Thereafter the voices of people praising God can be heard. Eventually, among the sounds of worship to the Lord, one voice stands out. This one voice is singing, and all the other voices and sounds die down.
Amazingly, the man holding the flag is now in the center of the auditorium in front of the stage, singing, beautifully, slowly, in tongues. And the whole crowd is silent. Then it ends. You could hear a pin drop. Seven seconds later, the bassist on the platform sang the interpretation: “I dwell among you. I call you My friends. I dwell among you, and I hold your hand. I am the Lord your God, and I go before you now. Lift up your head in this place, and wear My heavenly crown.” The tongues and interpretation were both sung in the same tune. It was incredible.
More people lay down, prone, on the floor, on their faces before God. Many were crying; some were laughing and jumping and praising God out loud. There was an atmosphere of worship in that room unlike anything I have ever experienced. I have seen the Lord give a word through tongues and interpretation countless times in my life. Until that day, I had never once seen it happen in song.
This event involved 400+ Christians, approximately 95% of them from the LGBTQ community. The Immersed Conference 2018 was titled Healing and Miracles by Faith. It took place in July 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. I have since attended several LGBTQ Christian conferences, and I find that a scene like this is not unusual. Most of the attendees are in covenantal relationship or marriage with a same-gender partner. These Christians love and honor the Lord with their lives. They are walking with the Lord.
There are large groups of LGBTQ Christians all over the world who meet periodically. The Reformation Project and Q Christian Fellowship are other examples of LGBTQ-affirming Christian groups who hold annual conferences. The Covenant Network, which hosts the Immersed Conference every year, lists ten conferences held in 2019 in cities throughout the United States. The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups hosts conferences throughout Europe.
I describe this worship scene because I know that many people do not realize that gay Christians even exist. Some cannot imagine that gay people would take any interest in Christianity since the church typically rejects them. Conversely, others assume that homosexuals could not even be Christians because they believe homosexuality to be sinful.
Throughout this book, I hold that gay Christians are, in fact, Christians, having trusted in Christ, His life, death, and resurrection. I break this down carefully in chapter 17. If the reader believes that a gay person could not be a Christian, I encourage you to consider a simple example, a 17-year-old Christian boy who has just realized that he has same-gender attractions, or a 25-year-old Christian man who has prayed since he was 17 to be straight. This man follows Christ, is celibate, and recognizes that he is a sinner in need of a savior. But he simply cannot and does not deny that he is attracted to men, despite never having acted on his feelings. Importantly, despite the placement of the two words, the gay Christian’s identity in Christ is more important than any other identity we have. We are Christians, first.
The word gay does not imply any action. It refers to something that one senses from within himself. It is as if one is left-handed or right-handed. Some may reject even that notion and believe that gay people have chosen to be gay. Here, the word gay refers to someone who realizes that he/she feels most comfortable in a romantic relationship with someone of the same gender. This is someone for whom a relationship with someone of the opposite gender may be wonderful as a friendship but does not feel natural as a romantic relationship. This word, gay, applies both to people who wish they were not gay, who are asking God to change their orientation, and to those who accept that they are gay. Some gay Christians believe that romantic intimacy within a covenantal relationship can be blessed by God. Some gay Christians do not think that same-gender, romantic expression is permitted, and thus remain celibate. Whether celibate or in a committed, monogamous relationship, both of these examples refer to gay Christians.
Christians who believe that God blesses permanent, monogamous, committed, Christ-centered, same-gender relationships are referred to as gay-affirming, or simply, affirming. Those who believe that God does not bless any same-gender intimacy are referred to as non-affirming, or non-gay-affirming. (I use the terms non-affirming and traditional interchangeably.) Some gay Christians are non-gay-affirming and thus do not believe that God blesses same-gender relationships. They typically advocate celibacy for gay Christians but do not deny that they are same-sex attracted. Some Christians prefer the term “same-sex attracted” because they feel that the word “gay” reflects a sinful identity. A small minority of gay couples feel that God calls them to celibacy within a gay relationship. It is not uncommon for gay Christians to enter into heterosexual marriages in order to uphold the traditional view of marriage.
I am a Bible-believing, evangelical, Holy Spirit filled Christian. I am also a gay woman in a permanent, Christ-centered, committed relationship with my partner, Sue. Importantly, I have recently completed a re-reading and a study of the Bible before beginning the writing of this book. I want to show Christians that one can maintain one’s faithfulness to God and His Word and affirm gay Christians, despite all that we were taught and grew up believing. Importantly, I understand the non-affirming position, and years ago I could have written that book. I recognize that many non-affirming people are well-meaning Christians, many of whom are my close friends and family. My goal is to expose God’s heart and His truth on this matter, as He chooses to use me, to the best of my understanding of His purpose. I want only to honor Him in my life.
To my beloved non-affirming reader, I owe a great debt for your time. I recognize the vulnerability it takes for some of you to read something so far out of the bounds of your experience and walk with God. Some of you have been mature Holy Spirit filled, Bible-believing Christians for decades, and cannot imagine that you could have possibly been wrong on this topic. I thank God for you, and I want to treat to coffee everyone who reads this short book.
Footnotes: LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer. “Queer” is typically a blanket term referring to anyone who is non-heterosexual or gender non-conforming in some way. For further discussion of the word “transgender,” see the footnote at the end of chapter 16. For those unfamiliar with the idea of “tongues,” I have included a simple yet thorough explanation in the appendix.
Does the Possibility Exist?
My goal is to demonstrate that God lovingly, legitimately, purposefully creates some people without the capacity for heterosexuality and that He does not exclude them from His kingdom. Some Christians immediately assume that one must disregard the Bible to believe this, as they think that homosexuality is a sin. Conversely, based on their understanding of the teachings of Christ, others cannot imagine that the exclusion and disapproval of gay people is justified. Nevertheless, they acknowledge that many Bibles read that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. Thus, many do not consider the Bible to be sacred Scripture. I will demonstrate that the same-sex practices condemned in the Bible involve idol worship, abuse, exploitation, and rejection of the Creator. The lives of gay Christians do not reflect the same-sex practices condemned in the Bible.
Another view that some traditionalists consider is that “God’s best” for everyone would be heterosexual marriage. However, perhaps God reluctantly allows same-gender expression, just as He reluctantly allowed for divorce and for Israel to have a king. Jesus explained to the Pharisees in Matthew 19 that God had not planned for divorce “from the beginning,” but that due to their “hardness of heart,” Moses permitted divorce. Similarly, God allowed Israel to have a king, despite His profound disappointment that His people had rejected Him as King over them. (I Samuel 8:7-8) God called King David a man after His own heart, despite having intended from the beginning that He, God alone, would be Israel’s only King. While the idea that God “reluctantly” allows same-gender relationships may be illogical to many gay-affirming people, it may be a way to begin this conversation with the traditional faith community.
“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14a) Affirming Christians believe that Scripture suggests we are fearfully and wonderfully made, even while gay. Non-affirming arguments would not disagree that even gay people were fearfully and wonderfully made; however, traditionalist Christians believe that God created everyone with the capacity for heterosexuality, but that the results of sin in the world have led to same-gender attractions. The idea that same-gender attraction is a result of the fall is prevalent in the traditional arguments. I discuss this in chapter 8 (numbers 2 and 11).
If there were a gay couple blessed by God in Scripture, the church would be inclusive of gay Christians. If we knew that there existed, now or in the past, a gay couple whose relationship was blessed by God, then the church would be inclusive. Likewise, if the church believed that the possibility exists that a gay couple could be blessed by God, that is, that a particular gay couple’s relationship brought honor to Him, then the church would probably want to be inclusive of this small Christian minority in their midst. In other words, I am setting the standard of proof here very low purposely.
The standard I propose is whether or not even the possibility exists that God honors some gay Christians, even while gay, and that God honors some same-gender relationships. Is it possible that the church is wrong on this topic? If that possibility exists, and if we can find the error in our long-held premise, then the church would not want to continue to reject gay Christians and gay people.
Consider a different scenario. If a man took his father’s wife as his own and the two began attending church as a couple, the church would rightly question this situation. This is adultery, a grave sin. The local church would have to take the man aside and explain that living in an adulterous relationship is forbidden in the church, and taking one’s own father’s wife (likely his stepmother) makes the act especially heinous. There is no possibility that this situation or one like it would honor God. Since that possibility does not exist, the local church must deal with the couple, and if they do not repent, then exclude them. This situation is described in I Corinthians 5:1-13
The idea that homosexuality is a grave sin against God is seared, as with a hot iron, into the consciences of many Christians. However, the premise is not maintained under scrutiny of Scripture. If Christians re-examine their premise and remain certain that homosexuality is sin, as we are certain that adultery is sin, then traditionalist Christians will proceed with that view and continue to reject gay Christians in our churches. Let us agree to re-examine the issue over the next few chapters.
Neither side, the traditionalists nor gay Christians, condones or promotes sin. I hold Scripture as the highest authority in my life. As Paul noted in I Corinthians 4:4, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord Who judges me.” I recognize soberly that God judges me in all of my thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions, including everything written here. I do not take this matter lightly. Holding Scripture as the highest authority in my life, I will present my case, that God is not dishonored, but rather, He is pleased and honored by gay Christians and permanent, loving, monogamous, Christ-centered, same-gender relationships.
Until recently, in Christian circles, most gay Christians remained closeted, and the Christian community did not realize that there were sober-minded, disciplined gay Christians in their midst. The gay Christian community has seen a move of God in recent years. Spiritually mature gay Christians and gay Christian couples are increasingly free to worship God openly. Furthermore, anointed and passionate Christian, straight allies are working tirelessly to see inclusion of all LGBTQ Christians in our churches.
If the traditional, non-affirming argument reflects God’s heart and His will, then the information presented here will not be of any consequence, and what I refer to as “a move of God” among gay Christians will fade. However, if God’s heart is reflected in the pages of this book, and if the world begins to recognize a move of God among gay and all LGBTQ Christians, then the church should consider this evidence. The traditional teaching on this subject is flawed. Scripture does not call for rejection of gay Christians in the church. On the contrary, God’s saving grace through Christ is extended to all people, including gay people and gay couples.