What LGBTQ People Need To Hear From Christian Leaders

"Sexual orientation is not a sin. Gender identity is not a sin. We are all created in the image of God."

For me, more than anything else—this statement is what I want to hear from our religious leaders. I want to hear the unambiguous pronouncement that people who are same gender loving, bisexual, transgender, non-gender conforming folk, otherwise and queer—are God’s wondrous gift.

I want to hear that we are not God’s mistake.

Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian and convener of The Reformation Project that took place in Washington, D.C. last week has said as much in a recent BBC interview, stating: "There is no contradiction between being Christian and being gay."

Along with Matthew’s voice from the Conservative Evangelical community, more and more authors are coming forward with books that explore and attempt to better understand Scripture, as it relates to queer folk—an understanding that will hopefully continue to unwind decades of harmful dogma and practices towards our community.

The message of these emerging groups of authors and Christian leaders is helping to create a shift toward healing and reconciliation. Still, I want to hear the bold and prophetic chorus from our leaders that un-defines us as “sin”:

"Sexual orientation is not a sin. Gender identity is not a sin. We are all created in the image of God."

At the close of The Reformation Project’s D.C. conference, and just prior to worship, Dr. David Gushee, Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University provided the keynote address. A distinguished speaker and author, Dr. Gushee is an influential and important advocate for change in Christian, evangelical and academic communities.

His coming out as an ally for LGBTQ equality is momentous, and his broad comments have within them seeds of wisdom and great healing. Yet, even in the midst of his statements on the need for change in faith communities and equality for our queer family, I felt the old sensation of an impending attack mount as Dr. Gushee came to a close with the following:

Ultimately, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians must be accepted and welcomed in the Church on the same basis as any other sinner saved by grace. Their – your – participation in Christian community must be governed by the same principles that apply to any other believer.

For many in this room such a claim is an obvious truth. But as you well know it is not a truth universally acknowledged. In the end, incremental progress toward partial, conditional half-acceptance is not enough. You (we) are right to ask and to require full, unequivocal, equal acceptance in Christ’s church on the same terms as every other sinner saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

There it was again, the “we are all sinners” line—spoken not once, but twice. No matter the intention, here’s the message I hear: “We are all sinners, and these folks’ sin is that they are queer. Still, because we are Christians we should welcome these sinners and their sin into the Church.” 

As a gay Christian, I’ve heard and felt this sentiment so many times it makes me uneasy even to write it here.

Harmatia, the Greek word for “sin,” translates as “missing the mark,” which for me means the “distance between us and God.” Whatever increases that distance between our creator and us by teachings, practices, fear, oppression, marginalization or conditional love—those are the “sins” that we need to address.

Our sexual orientation and gender identity do not distance us from God. And I am convinced that as long as the concept of sin is caught up in our understandings of sexual orientation and gender identity, our best of efforts for LGBTQ inclusion will fail. 

I welcome the small steps, as they lead us forward. Yet, we are at an incredible intersection, a kairos momentin which the Spirit is stirring us together, replete with the tension that coming close can often produce, and out of which great leaps are possible in welcoming all into the Kindom of God. It is time to take the leap. It is time to write it, say it, and preach it:

Sexual orientation is not a sin. Gender identity is not a sin. We are all created in the image of God.

From there we can talk about admissions of wrong done to one another; we can talk about amends and healing and reconciliation. We can talk about the New Jerusalem. But until we have agreed upon the statement above, we risk our words and writings and speaking remaining code for: “God loves you; it’s just your sin God hates.”

This “high-pitched whistle” that brings sin into conversations of LGBTQ inclusion is a subtext that calls for an immediate response. It is always marginalizing and, as such, a component of violence, especially when fueled by notions of faithfulness.

We know how difficult it can be to speak from deeply within the center of who we are. When I started speaking publically as a gay man. I couldn’t get the “g” out without a conscious effort, knowing that whatever reactions followed were out of my control.

And as hard as it can be for us to be out, it is another struggle to present ourselves as a Christians who are queer.

In so doing we trust in God in spite of all the perceptions, teachings and practices that have been so harmful to many in our community, family and friends, including the idea of accepting LGBTQ people, sinners though they are.

Is it any wonder that many friends think we have lost our minds by being Christian? For some, it is as though we have aligned ourselves with our adversaries. Which is why, if we really hope for change—and the speeches and books and lectures are for real—leadership in the church and academia must go deeper.

It is worth it all and all the risks to speak the good news: "Sexual orientation is not a sin. Gender identity is not a sin. We are all created in the image of God."

Say it, write it, preach it once, and then again to make sure the message is heard. 

From there we can fully live into the New Jerusalem that has too long been a distant promise for us, all of us, together.

Photo via flickr user Savannah Roberts

Comments (7)

That is great Reverend, until the evangelical starts saying, "of course, orientation is not sin, it is having sex with someone of the same gender that is a sin." They always have something up their sleeves to use against us.

I don't believe Dr. Gushee was implying that homosexuality in itself is a sin. He was calling for full acceptance of same-sex relationships in the context of marriage, and celibacy outside of marriage, just as he expects for heterosexuals. I felt that he was simply reminding heterosexual Christians that they are just as sinful as their homosexual neighbor.

Well, this particular Queer person doesn't need to hear "Sexual orientation is not a sin. Gender identity is not a sin. We are all created in the image of God." These things I already know and are written on my heart.

What I need to hear is something the Rev'd Ed Bacon, rector of All Saint's Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA, once said on the Oprah show: "Being gay (LGBTQ) is a gift from God."

I suspect people who have been hurt by religion don't really need to hear their sexual orientation expressed in the negative - what it is not - as a reaction to religious homophobes. It's a bit like calling a person of color, "non-White". We need to move away from "reaction" and move to a "response".

I suspect the response we all need to hear about our sexual orientation and gender identity is one that affirms and celebrates the gifts which God has given to us all. It's time for Christians to offer a counter-narrative to the lies being told about God, who is not a God of hatred and oppression and retribution but a God of love and justice and compassion.

"Being gay is a gift from God." That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

"Being gay (LGBTQ) is a gift from God." Lovely. Empowering. Perfectly put. :) This statement speaks to my soul and expresses what, up to now, I couldn't find the words for. Thank you and bless you!!

I doubt, after having read Dr. Gushee's book "Changing our Minds", that his reference to accepting LGBT persons as "sinners saved by grace" was identifying sexual orientation or even same sex sex as sin per se. I believe that he was referencing the Christian doctrine of universal sinfulness. This means that all human beings come into this world as fallen, sinful people, who are in need of salvation in Christ.
Gushee does not see sexual orientation as sin and he does not see gay sex as sin, as long as that sex is within a marriage or marriage type union.

Praise God in all God's Creation!! As a gay man I am God's loved and loving creation!!

I have not attend a church in years, because all I have felt coming out organized religion is venomous hate and the feeling satan is in control in the buildings we call churches and the people who go into them.

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