Let’s just say…hot tub

“Our Church leaders will be holding a meeting soon to discuss what to do about this.”

“We will be coming out with a public statement on our stand.”

“They have an agenda you know.”

My ears perked up as I sat in the YMCA hot tub overhearing two men discuss the “issue of homosexuality” in the Church.  Prior to coming out I had been a part of these conversations with my church leadership too.  We had heard that some churches in the area had decided to put out a public statement that homosexuality is in fact a sin.  They wanted it to be clear to all who attended their ministries their theological position.

I leaned in and asked these guys to pardon me because I couldn’t help but overhear.  I wondered if I could ask them a few questions about the conversation they were having.  They were very polite as I inquired about whether they knew anyone who was gay.  The larger of the two men said “yes, they are nice people and very welcome in our church”.  I inquired whether they felt that a LGBT person would feel comfortable coming to their church after making such a point to make sure that everyone knows that it is a sin?

Essentially the conversation led them to saying that “the Bible says that it’s wrong”.  In return I stated that the Bible says many things and declares a lot of behaviors and actions as sin. They had no idea that I had been a pastor for 18 years and that months prior I had just come out to my wife, family, friends and church.

“You are correct that the Bible has many things to say about sin” I said.  “For instance, it has very specific things to say about gluttony and being overweight”.  I felt like we were having a fun and respectful banter so I went there. “Sir, you  are obviously not taking the best care of your body and one could claim that you are abusing the temple of the Holy Spirit”.  The Bible does say that it is gluttony to overeat.  I grabbed my belly and referenced my behavior of overeating as well.  I asked how they would feel if when they went to my church they read our public statement about obesity.  I asked how they would feel if the pastor made constant references to to obesity being sin. How many times would someone have to quote scriptures about gluttony and hand out weigh down workshop brochures before ascertaining that you aren’t good enough to belong?

Let’s just say that homosexuality is a sin.  I wonder why some people feel that their first response is to quote scripture.   Is this the appropriate response?  Declare the line in the sand? I just want you to know that I see wrong in your life when I compare it to what I read in the Bible.   How can I politely say that I can see see “sin” in your life too. Is it completely appropriate for me to point it out to you?  Especially when you haven’t spoken to me in years. Do you just want to speak your mind or do you want to also listen and engage in conversation?

There is a new tension as I live in between two worlds.  This past year I have attended a church where I know their “theological position” on LGBT issues.  It also happens to be one of the sister campuses to the church that I helped start.  While there I seem to be constantly assessing whether people are talking about me.  I wonder if this is where I am to belong.  Is it possible as I engage further someone may raise contention with me being openly gay.  Will that be good for me?  Will that be good for the church? Do they want me?

I’ve also visited several churches that are “open and affirming” to gay people.  There are gay couples in the congregation and LGBT folks in leadership of the church.  In this particular denomination there are even pastors who are openly gay.  I wonder about belonging in this context as well.  I’ve always felt a sense of participating in resolving injustice.  To be a part of a church that had these conversations 20 years ago about homosexuality makes this issue seem a moot point. Nevertheless, would this be a healthier option for me where i’m not worried about whether i’ll be accepted for my orientation?

The conversation about what the Bible says and what it means to be a gay Christian is a hot topic these days.  I know I have some decisions to make as far as how I would like to position myself in that discussion.  Will I be someone who engages people in the conversation or will I watch as others do it?  All I know for sure right now is that I have decided that I will tell my story.  I was a pastor.   Being a pastor will always be a part of me.  I long to point people to Jesus, and, I am gay.

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8 thoughts on “Let’s just say…hot tub

  1. HI Rob,

    Thanks for sharing your story. You’re doing so much good. I think that by virtue of sharing your story, you are already a part of the larger cultural conversation that you’re writing about. Now hang with me for a second while I go into a little rhetorical theory. I promise there’s a reason.

    Whenever we write we are always writing to an audience. This audience can be real, imagined, or some combination of the two. Who you are writing to shapes both the content of your writing and the rhetorical moves that you make in your writing. If you can answer the question “who am I writing to” then I think that you can start to answer the question “Will I be someone who engages people in the conversation or will I watch as others do it?” If you’re writing to people who are experiencing the same things that you have, then you have no real reason to enter into the conversation with the church etc. If, however, you’re writing to West Michigan then you’ve decided that you’re a part of the larger conversation in some manner.

    No matter what you end up deciding I have no doubt that you will do a lot of good.

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    1. Thanks Josh! I think i’m waffling a bit on who my real audience is. I think it’s both to those who share a similar story of being too scared to talk to anyone about their orientation and to those who may someday have someone they love come out to them.

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  2. Hi Robb ,I’ve enjoyed your blog and appreciate your willingness to hear what others think even if they disagree with the gay lifestyle. It is an extremely complicated subject to deal with as the leadership in a Christian church as you well know. What many would call discrimination,is to others being true to God’s word . I have a great deal of compassionate with what Christian gays struggle with and it bothers we greatly that so many feel unaccepted by the church. Our church has a group that meets with anyone wanting to talk about their experience as being gay or having a family member who’s gay and it’s totally confidential. Since our pastor has a gay brother, he is sensitive though he doesn’t condone the lifestyle .He basically gives people a place to talk with eachother without trying to influence anyone. It sounds like you’re getting a great deal of support in your choice to come out. I hope you agree that those like my best friend who love their gay child unconditionally yet believe the lifestyle is not God’s will for him, are still being supportive. He accepts that fact and they have a great relationship. I wonder if we talk about God’s grace without talking about discipline and responsibility. Any thoughts?

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    1. Thanks Laurie for taking the time to read and comment. I understand the hermetical lens where homosexuality is seen as a sin. I lived my entire life fearing that someone may find out that I was attracted to men. I only heard disgust about gays growing up and that their lifestyle was an abomination to God. What would happen if anyone ever found out that I was like them? Would I be rejected, thought of as a perverted monster?

      My issue is in understanding why a certain segment of Christianity gets to position themselves in a place where they will judge and intact discipline on LGBT folks. Many have left the church because unfairly and in unjust fashion their “sin” is demonized while other sins are not. It does not jive according to the standard that is being used to judge homosexuals. Does this segment truly believe that they have taken a hold of a special righteousness that an LGBT person could not attain? Only under a certain stipulation of remaining celibate they can attain this level of acceptance?

      I think a great first step in this conversation is humility. What does it mean that my lifestyle is sinful? Whose isn’t? All have sinned and fallen short. Our lives are filled with ways in which we constantly and even willfully miss the mark. I believe there are just some that have become socially acceptable and others taboo. We all come humbly before God working out our salvation. We need to support one another in that not throw stones.

      Now the other side of the coin. What if you’re wrong? What if what the Bible says about homosexuality has been misrepresented? Are people willing to understand this side of the debate? Do people realize that there are Biblical scholars who have very good arguments on both sides? I don’t see a day when they will agree. However, I hope to see a day where everyone can feel included and loved unconditionally.

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  3. I think, to me, that puts you firmly in the center of a very very important conversation. There’s such a great need for exactly what you’re saying. A couple years a number of my friends came out to me in a very short amount of time. All of them were raised in the church and all of them felt that they were no longer welcome in the church. A few have since reconciled their faith with their orientation and a few have jettisoned their faith entirely. The common factor between all of them was that they all felt that they lost their connection to the community that raised and nurtured. Despite the fact that many of my friends knew they were gay at a young age and also knew that the church did not support their sexuality the loss of their church community was still a large blow. There is such a great need for a safe place both literal and discursive for people who come out. GVSU has the LGBTQ resource center which is a fantastic space/resource for people who are coming out, came out, or are questioning their sexuality but beyond that there are paltry few resources in the West Michigan area.

    You have both the charisma and heart to be such a powerful resource for so many. I hope that you find the place that you’re looking for and become a powerful agent for good.

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  4. Robb,I agree totally that we ignore sins that the Bible makes a big deal of. In fact I’ve often wondered why Jesus never mentioned homosexuality if it was such a serious sin. I struggle with things that I know are grievious to the Lord and most Christians do,they just don’t think of them as sin. I see pride, self righteousness,and greed as being some of the most mentioned sins in the Bible. Gossip,gluttony,selfishness,the list goes on. So I agree that no one has the right to decide that some sins are acceptable while condemning others.’ I have never heard a sermon against homosexuality in my church but many that convicted me where I needed convicting.I have read some of those scholars you mention and found them thought provoking. I hope they’re right .I don’t want to believe any of those verses in the Bible and I don’t want to believe that God would be against a loving gay couple getting married. So as you can see, I’m not sure of anything. Except that we all need a Savior.

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    1. Laurie, Again thank you for engaging in a gracious conversation. I have found that it is very difficult for others to condemn certain behaviors in which they also struggle with. If someone has bitterness or hate in their life they will will not be too quick to point it out in someone else’s life. They wouldn’t want that same judgement coming back on them. It is very easy to throw a stone at something that is not a part of your life.

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  5. This is such powerful stuff, Robb! I have been wrestling through all of these issues of “correct” Biblical interpretatation and loving and open acceptance for the past couple of years (though maybe not to the extent that you have! :-). ). I am really looking forward to coffee.

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