Somewhere between absolute freedom (rebellion) and predetermination (robotics) lies God’s will. In this “land between,” sincere followers of Christ listening to the same Holy Spirit and reading the same Bible often come to different conclusions about a multitude of doctrines; not just social issues like homosexuality.
The latest edition of Mission Frontiers published by The U.S. Center for World Missions illustrates this perfectly. Greg Parsons, Global Director, in an article titled “Locking People Out of the Kingdom” writes: “While many may not recognize it, we sometimes act – or are perceived – as if we expect all believers to be like us in things spiritual, theological or behavioral.” Parsons goes on the address how difficult it is for missiologists to agree on a threshold point for saving faith – especially where ethnicity, language, culture and religious expression differ from our own. Missiologists have a wide range of viewpoints. It’s messy.
At the risk of belaboring this point, Kevin Higgins in an article titled Beyond Christianity addresses a growing debate over how far beyond “the church” or “the Christian religion” God can act to bring people to Christ. He – quite carefully – proposes a framework for dialogue designed to minimize the anticipated divisiveness over this issue. My point is this: well beyond homosexuality, hotly contested debates over doctrinal issues are as old as Christianity itself. This is not only messy; it is incredibly humbling.
As peacemakers, we therefore must start from a posture of deep humility by recognizing that we lack the ability to solve every blind spot in others’ lives. We struggle just to rid our own hearts and minds of fallibility (or hypocrisy). In light of this, any discussion about a “reasonable self-determination” policy for inclusion of LGBT+ people in the evangelical church must start with a sincere realization that they are no more broken, sinful or rebellious than the rest of us.
While some segments of the church abandon orthodoxy too readily, evangelical churches tend to draw the boundaries of legitimate faith very tightly. Unfortunately, this approach more often than not targets minority sinners locking people out of the Kingdom. What we are aiming for then is a reasonable, emotionally intelligent, spiritually wise, mutually respectful and biblically sound policy that upholds church doctrine and protects leadership while providing a generous inclusion by which LGBT+ people may nourish their faith in our evangelical churches.
Impossible? I think it is possible but achieving it will cost both sides a measurable degree of comfort. Many will turn to the old models of caricature and culture war – exaggerating, criticizing, accusing, and blaming. Some LGBT+ people will complain, “That’s no welcome.” Some evangelicals will proclaim, “You’re watering down truth.” Yet the next generation of evangelical church leaders that I encounter are going to address the explicit and perceived exclusion of LGBT+ people from the evangelical church. I sure want to make sure we provide a biblical framework for this pendulum shift as the next generation of leaders emerge.
Next time, I will look further at the basis upon which change is needed. God bless.