My own journey towards becoming a founding member of Accepting Evangelicals, started as a reaction against certain evangelicals whose articulated views on homosexuals appeared as homophobic, bigoted and (in my mind) illogical. I could not help but conclude that for these people homosexuals were the new “lepers” and the authority of scripture rested solely on this one issue. I felt that the Bible was being misused in the selective way that it was being used and interpreted. The problem for me was that this approach was being portrayed as THE Evangelical stance on the issue and I as an evangelical objected to this most strongly.
For me Accepting Evangelicals is a unique space for evangelicals who sense unease and concern over the polarisation and debate on homosexuality and the way that this has had a negative impact on the Good News. When I was asked to be a founding member I was delighted to be in a space where we could say that the Good News is for all and to listen and appreciate the diversity within us and within society.
I hope that Accepting Evangelicals can be a space where evangelicals can explore a more loving, inclusive and positive approach to Gay people and Gay Christians. I welcome the wide diversity of opinion within Accepting Evangelicals, even when I feel some ambivalence with some of the views expressed by others within it. This diversity is a reminder that what holds Christians together is greater than what can divide us. I am uncertain of whether I will have the same reached the same conclusions held by some of the members, but remain confident that this is an important space.
I am a heterosexual and I just cannot understand what it means to be gay, but I know that I am not wholly defined by my own sexual identity and in Christ I have a new identity. This is also true for the Gay Christians that I have encountered, they are not defined just by their sexuality, but by Christ. Any attempt to define a person in a narrow way is an attempt to dehumanise them and therefore makes them less human than we are. Martin Luther King Jnr. would see such a process as not just dehumanising the oppressed, but also the oppressor. The inability to see another as a fully human being diminishes our own humanity.
There are still significant areas of scripture that make me uneasy about wanting to wholly affirm homosexual behaviour. However in scripture I also encounter a God whose is full of mercy and compassion, who challenges us to take the extravagant risk of love and compassion towards those considered outsiders, by the majority. My personal struggle with Scripture is holding onto what Scripture teaches about homosexual behaviour and affirming God’s mercy and compassion. In this tension I am inspired by Jesus, who looked to and loved those considered “less human”, those on the outside of religious purity. God calls me to love, I am not called to judge, but to show grace, to love others as I have been loved by God. This does not remove that tension, but it does provide me with an ethic for the present moment.
I want there to be a reasoned and prayerful dialogue that moves evangelicals towards a positive ethic of homosexuality (whatever that may be). I want to be part of a church that accepts and celebrates the gifts that God has given in our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and sees that they have an important part to play in the church and work of God. There are those within Accepting Evangelicals who will have a stronger and more defined view on this. I am not one of them, but I stand to say that I want to be part of that process, knowing that it will not be easy and that there may never be a total resolution, except for that resolution that lies in the grace and love of God.