Homosexuality: A Disputable Matter

New Direction CanadaIn the chapter “A Disputable Matter?” Wendy Gritter of New Direction Canada fleshes out her suggested approach to issues around same-sex attraction. She begins with a discussion of the idea of disputable matters in the church, using texts like Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. She also discusses Jesus’ words that people should be judged by the fruit of the spirit in their lives, not by whether they have their theology of gender and sexuality correct.

She then moves to the conclusion, applying it to this discussion:

To recap, Paul says that when we encounter a genuine believer who disagrees with us we need to accept them, without quarreling, without viewing them with contempt, and without a judgmental attitude. He says not to put a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way and to work toward peace and mutual edification. He challenges us to keep our convictions about disputable matters to ourselves and to live consistently with our consciences. Imagine if that actually became our posture toward one another in this contentious conversation at the intersection of faith and sexuality. Imagine if we didn’t back one another into a corner demanding to know where we stand on this question of covenanted same-sex relationships as the ultimate orthodoxy test. Imagine if we did not judge the heart’s motivation of those who conclude differently than we do. Imagine if we ceased showing contempt to those who disagree with us. Imagine if we stopped our quarreling. Imagine if we no longer put stumbling blocks in the way of those who were deeply wrestling with these questions and desperately needing some safe space to search out God’s heart and will for them. If all those things were true, we would be experiencing the richness of generous spaciousness.

I suggest that we reframe this question of whether gay relationships are a disputable matter just a bit. I believe the answer ought to be determined by those who mustmake a decision about entering one. If you consider Romans 14, Paul is not speaking to those who have only theoretical ideas about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Every single person reading Paul’s letter needed to eat food and therefore needed to make decisions about what they would eat and what they would refrain from eating. Paul’s admonishments weren’t for those who stood on the sidelines offering opinions and directives. It is very easy for a straight pastor to write a blog stating that the scriptural validity of covenanted same-sex relationships is not a disputable matter because of his belief that the Scripture is unequivocally clear. But ultimately, he is, from his theoretical perch, discounting the lives of gay Christians who are in the trenches wrestling out these questions with God, in the context of commitment to Christ, concern and care for the Scriptures, and a desire to live faithfully. And for those who are wrestling, is being taught what to think (from someone who has never had to wrestle personally with this) really the most effective way to disciple and impart wisdom for this stewardship of desires and drives?

We are called to a living, embodied faith. We are called to wrestle with the spirit of the law (which is much more challenging than wrestling with the letter of the law) as we walk in intimate relationship with a personal God revealed to us through Jesus Christ. (pp. 183-184)

As a straight man myself, this is particularly important for me. I do have opinions based on study of Scripture and its context and church history and listening to stories and prayer. Maybe there is some scenario where somebody who experiences same-sex attraction comes to me for pastoral care, genuinely wanting to know my opinion. But ultimately, my opinion is theoretical and I need to remember that before I’m tempted to enforce my opinion on those who actually have to live with the question.

On January 22nd at 8pm EST, MennoNerds will have the opportunity to interview Wendy and others from New Direction. Sign up to watch and be able to submit questions through the Google+ event.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

  • Christina McReynolds

    I like this article. 🙂 It’s a very self-aware and peaceful look on the debate as a whoel and an opinion that I’ve held in my own heart for some years now.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Really? Everyone who struggles with some area of sin in her/his life is the only one that can answer how God speaks through his scripture about that issue? It is bad enough that so many people who call themselves Anabaptists and Mennonites believe that congregational authority trumps scriptural continuity, but to place the prophetic mantle only on whoever thinks whatever about their own issues is spiritual anarchy or secular relativism. We are now apparently, like Christina, left to the opinions of our hearts. Bye bye God, I’ve got things to feel. I know, this kind of sarcasm is not peaceful, but neither is making our own ideas equivalent to God’s word, nor replacing God’s Spirit with what we feel in our hearts. Moral deception is spiritual violence–for those who have eyes to see.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    When OT law prohibits something that is also proscribed by the NT and the Church has consistently considered that behavior as sinful as well, I’m inclined to think that it would take a prophet to overthrow it. About 3000 years of clarity on a moral issue ought not get dismissed even with an avalanche of seemingly reasonable or emotionally persuasive arguments. So, regarding homosexuality in the Church I’m waiting for those who want to say God didn’t mean THAT to step up and proclaim their prophetic status as those who are speaking God’s new word on the matter, because they are assuming that level of responsibility for changing God’s word to us.