In my previous series, I shared how the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2008 adopted a policy of “self-determination” to guide therapists in the care of people with non-heterosexual orientations. They also encouraged therapists to recognize the important role faith plays in how a client acts on his or her sexuality. While these policy shifts benefit everyone, they notably enhance care to those who have same-sex attraction (SSA) but as a matter of faith do not identify as LGBT+ or otherwise act on such desires.
I then shared how church leaders have slowly progressed toward a similar policy regarding the inclusion of LGBT+ persons in the church. Interestingly, this movement by both APA practitioners and church leaders is flowing from their respective therapeutic and pastoral care work. A healthy middle ground has emerged.
Self-determination is the right to one’s “own fate or course of action without compulsion.” It is otherwise referred to as free will, “the power to exercise control over one’s decisions and actions.” In a secular context, it implies that matters of conscience may at times trump conventional, popular or majority attitudes and beliefs. In a spiritual context, it has several meanings.
Free will implies that we are not robots in the hands of a deterministic god; rather, we have the freedom to form beliefs and conduct actions independent of God’s control. Second, it implies that our conscience is given a degree of latitude on many matters. Third, it describes our human fallenness – the fact that we are prone to possess attitudes and commit acts contrary to God’s will. In short, our “degree of latitude” often exceeds what God has in mind.
There are innumerable religious, philosophical and political debates about self-determination. Much of this debate is driven by people who lack the commitment to seek “areas of agreement” within an atmosphere of disagreement. Yet as I said in my prior series, we are NOT constrained to the “on/off” or “yes/no” world of culture war. We can choose to be peacemakers seeking reasonable enhancements that will benefit people on opposite sides of a particular issue. Which raises the question: how can church leaders apply a “reasonable self-determination” policy for inclusion of LGBT+ people in local churches? Join me next time.