A Father’s Story
I have wanted to express my gratitude for the RFA conference last October in Grand Rapids. It will be three years this month since [our daughter] came out to us, and in those three years I have ended up with a conscience before God that is both open and affirming. This has been an inversion of my previous state and my experience at the RFA conference played a very large role in that inversion.
Perhaps this comparison is too dramatic, but it seems to me that Christianity, in dealing with the question of LGBT legitimacy, is facing a conflict similar to the conflict faced in the Book of Acts over the issue of circumcision. The scriptures in hand then were unequivocally on the side of those who insisted that anyone (male that is) wishing to be a full member of the people of God must be circumcised. But the council of Jerusalem dropped this unequivocal requirement based on the experience of the gift of the Holy Spirit to gentiles who were not circumcised. Oh how I wish the church at large could respond in this way to LGBT inclusion.
By the time of the conference, I had come to understand that nobody in the Bible had faced the same issue we are facing. Paul faced same sex relationships in the form of pederasty, pedophilia, and ritual prostitution, and he should have had a negative view of those things. He did NOT face the reality of a substantial group of God fearing LGBT persons, committed to the Lord Jesus, faithful and righteous, with sometime godly origins and with NO connection whatever to ritual idolatry, who have endured all sorts of
damaging abuse from the church in its attempts to change them, who have endured contempt, and hate-mongering from inside the very flock of God’s people that they were nurtured in, and long to be part of–a substantial number made smaller than it might be because of the suicide of those who did not want to destroy the lives of others or the church by this part of themselves that they could not change, and the church was powerless to change. I had come to realize that we are not able to tell from Paul’s writings in the first century, what he would recommend and that it is absolutely inappropriate to apply New Testament words about what they did face, to what we are facing. I am confident about how Jesus would have responded.
So I came to the RFA conference trying to discern if the Holy Spirit was involved with LGBT Christians. And what I found out was that indeed He/She is very much involved with them. The air of the conference was pervaded by the fruits that Paul associated with the Holy Spirit: affection, joy, peace,gentleness, longsuffering, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self control. The air was dense with them, and I experienced those things as strongly as I have experienced them anywhere. The prayers and gentleness even toward those holding LGBT persons in contempt were exemplary, and the prayers for me even though I was at the time in an undecided position were full of the Spirit’s presence. During those days I found myself falling in love with these LGBT persons, and not falling in love with them in spite of their LGBTness (if I may invent a word), but I fell in love with them in their very LGBTness.
The last day, the communion service moved my spirit in a great way. There was such a pervasive deep longing for God in these LGBT people, a deep reverence for Christ and the cross, and a deep longing to be part of the community of faith. I saw all of that and the tears with all of that and I will never be the same. As I sat there waiting my turn to come to the front, I sensed that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me and He/She said two things: 1. This is the way things are going, and 2. This is the way I want it. (This was not audible and I do not claim to be a prophet here. I’m just telling you what I sensed).
I can quote Peter’s words in Acts 10:34 with slight alteration: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts those from every (sexual orientation) who fear him and do what is right”.
You have probably heard such stories many times. So I should perhaps apologize for making this story so long. I am a pastor, and we do like to drone on and on.
Anyway, I do not know what future awaits me… I have informed the elders of my open and affirming position… They do love me deeply, but I do not know that their level of trust in me spiritually can bear a weight as heavy as this. I am afraid but full of trust in the Lord at the same time…If things do go south for me, anything I might have to endure pales in significance compared to what every last LGBT person has had to endure by the truckload.