A Message to Conservative Christians: Evolve On LGBT Equality

In less than 24 hours it was discovered that the Georgia mega church pastor, chosen to give the benediction at the President’s second inauguration, preached anti-gay sermons over a decade ago. Rev. Louie Giglio took quite a public lashing from progressives around the country and has since been replaced by the Rev. Luis Leon, a D.C. Episcopal priest who, along with his 1.9 million member denomination, supports same-sex marriages.

The controversy has sparked a more fundamental discussion: are anti-gay beliefs welcome in the public square?

The short answer is no, but this is not a wholesale rejection of Christian beliefs, or even “traditional evangelical beliefs.” At first glance, it may seem superficial to criticize Rev. Giglio based on a sermon he preached over a decade ago. Even the President of the United States has “evolved” on LGBT equality in the past year. But Rev. Giglio has given no indication that his views have changed.

In his withdrawal letter to the White House, he acknowledged that he doesn’t agree with the President “on every issue” (read—LGBT equality), and on his blog, he asserts that the right to hold differing views on any subject must be “recovered and preserved.”

We do live in a society that should welcome vibrant discourse on a variety of subjects. Though, when it comes to affirming the human dignity of an individual, there is no room for compromise. It’s not up for discussion.

That’s why, on second glance, something was very wrong with the initial selection. The problem was not merely a difference of opinion on an “issue,” but rather, that the prayer to our nation would be offered by a man who might not fully affirm the human dignity of all Americans.

I have no doubt that there are conservative Christian leaders who provide extraordinary ministry in the social justice arenas of their choosing. Rev. Giglio’s commendable work to combat human trafficking was the rationale for his selection. But our culture is shifting and when it comes to LGBT equality, Americans expect more from our churches. The U.S. Episcopal Church, Metropolitan Community Churches and the United Church of Christ are just a few denominations that are meeting this need.

Christians are consistently becoming more visible advocates for the full inclusion of our LGBT neighbors. Over the past few years I’ve had many conversations with friends and families, and I’ve seen folks move from anti-gay opinions, to an unconditionally loving theology, and everything in between.

Christianity does not have to be exclusive of LGBT equality, and when it is, people are leaving the church.

The Public Religion Research Institute found a significant increase in the number of college age millenials who transitioned from being religiously affiliated in their childhood to religiously unaffiliated as young adults. A sizeable majority view present-day Christianity as anti-gay and judgmental and believe that what makes America great is our openness to change and new ways of doing things.

As public opinion shifts, churches that do not fully affirm LGBT people will leave many in their flock behind. Scripture that is void of compassion is merely words, and our ability to have compassion for every human being is critical to our faith and in an increasingly diverse world.

If conservative Christians cannot stomach this evolution, they should not be surprised if progressive Christian traditions, like the U.S. Episcopal Church, gain more traction in society. For some, this is a necessary consequence to maintaining their biblical interpretation on homosexuality, but this shift should not be depicted as a decline of Christian beliefs in our society.

The exclusion of Rev. Giglio is not a matter of banishing conservative theology from the public square; it is a matter of the public demanding more from our churches—more compassion, more understanding, and more dialogue about our biblical texts.

While I have and continue to appreciate the President’s efforts to reach across the aisle, it is clear that his inaugural committee initially missed the mark on this one. It isn’t a problem to have an evangelical conservative give the benediction, but at the very least, a pastor who blesses our nation must fully affirm the human dignity of all Americans—that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. 

Photo via flickr user arsheffield

Comments (10)

I would like to thank Mr. Ward for his thoughts on the topic at hand. Indeed vibrant public discourse is a necessary ingredient for any group who strives to grow in their love of God, others and oneself. However for that discourse to be of the greatest good it must first be complete and generally accurate. It is far to easy for anyone, myself included to take up a position on a topic and draw conclusions based merely on my experiences and the experiences of those around me. For instance in his blog Mr. Ward makes a general assumption that to take up an "anit-gay position" one must by default immediately question the human dignity of those folks belonging to the LGBT community. While this is true for some groups it is unfair to paint the masses of
Christianity with such a broad stroke. All of mankind derives what human dignity we have from the God of the universe who chose to create us in His own image. A Biblical view and practice of Christianity in no way seeks to subvert this fundamental truth no matter what your vew(s) may be regarding sin. That notwithstanding the same God who put His image in us does require that we examine our heart, turn to Him and embrace those things that are consistant with His image and character. That is a seperate conversation for another time.

I believe that the acceptance of the LGBT community should be left up to each congregation. I don't hate Giglio for his interpretation of the Bible, because it is written several times that homosexuality is a sin, however there are many ways to interpret those portions of scripture. The Apostle Paul isn't here for us to ask what he meant, but we do have the Holy Spirit to

As a Christian my struggle regarding the issue of homosexuality has been personal and at times very painful. Let me say something I love God and the Lord Jesus with all my heart and so staying in an abiding relationship with my savior has always been what has informed my process and now my decision, so if you tell me I have to make a decision between my faith and my sexuality my faith wins hands down but I don't believe this has to be true. I do think the church needs to review its position but that doesn't mean that if they don't change their position they should be disrespected we can disagree and even love each other and even if we are not loved back because as Christians it is what we are called too.

As a conservative Christian, I would like to share with you where I think you are very misguided as to what I believe. Just because I believe that homosexual behavior is sin, does not mean I think those who engage in that behavior are not fully affirmed with the human dignity we all share as being created in the image of God. Sin separates us from God, and the Bible teaches that when we repent we are fully forgiven. Christ went to the cross the pay for all sins; and as a biblical Christian I have to speak up for what I believe is Truth. God bless you, Mr. Ward, please know you are loved by God and I am praying for the lightof the gospel to help you understand.

Simply put, Mr. Ward argues the Straw Man Fallacy. Would that he engaged the actual issue of freedom of religion in his piece. That would be the violation of this freedom belonging to Giglio and other like-minded conservatives as well as any other class of individuals such as LGBT. Freedom disappears when coercion becomes systemic.

The apostle Paul give very specific information about those who have sinned:
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6:9-11 ESV). The ground is level at the cross of Jesus Christ. "And such were some of you..." After yielding to Jesus, we are changed and made free. That is true freedom.

How can there be a struggle of any kind if what you say is true. It is not up to Christians to question scripture, but to accept it as the infallible, inerrant Word of God. It is our guide to maintain a righteous existence during our time on earth. Homosexuality is a sin. It is un-natural, and an abomination in the eyes of God. Therefore, Christians should be praying for those afflicted with same sex attractions and be encouraging them, where possible, to change their ways and leave that life behind in favor of a far more rewarding life in Christ. There is nothing in Christian doctrine that is counter to the idea that we should show love toward homosexuals and treat them with the dignity that all human life demands, but when there is no repentence then we are directed to remain apart from those who sin. One cannot have it both ways, but Christian love and condemnation of the behavior are not mutually exclusive.

Hi Joseph.
I'm a conservative Christian, and I've posted a reply to your letter: http://www.citizenlink.com/2013/02/06/reply-to-dear-conservative-christi...
Thanks,
Jeff Johnston

Actually, what you're advocating in this misguided piece is devolution, not evolution. Note that we have 'evolved' into males and females as the genders which underpin everything that gives meaning to humanity. To think otherwise is regressive, and leads us towards a new dark age, where to be human is expressed through the affirmation of wants which have nothing to do with human procreation or love.

Mr. Ward states that people are leaving churches that are not evolving on the issue of accepting of the LGBT community. No one has left the church that I attend over this issue. We already preach the truth that saves people from their sin and death. That won't change. "Gay" Christians accept Crist as their Savior perhaps. But is He also Lord of their lives. That's the harder part for every Christian. His rules must rule our lives. Jesus never evolved on the issue of homosexuality when He had the chance and neither should the Church that follows His example.

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