Homosexuality and the Christian

Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends
Author: Dr. Mark Yarhouse
Published by: Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2010.
ISBN: 9780764207310

Before I cracked open the book, I came with the preconceived idea that this might be another one of those knee-jerk reactionary books that Christians write against homosexuality; but after reading the first two chapters, I knew right away that Dr. Yarhouse is a professional who speaks out of the realities of his practice and interaction with his patients-clients.  He is an evangelical who wants Christians, and the church, to respond with compassion and understanding concerning the challenges that go with having same-sex attractions and a homosexual orientation.

Author, Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse, Professor of Psychology at Regent University, and director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity, also has a practice in the Virginia Beach, VA area.  Therefore, this book is not just all theory, but is based on his knowledge that comes out of his practice and research.

This is the first book that I’ve read that challenges Christians to take a real close look at research and deal with facts rather than only Scripture.   We all know what Scripture says so the author doesn’t bother going through all that; knowledge of scripture is assumed.  But what most evangelical Christians tend to lack is a proper understanding of the real inner struggles that LGBT experience in society.

This book is divided into three parts.  The first part, in four chapters, discusses a lot of research; a three-tiered understanding of homosexuality; and the struggles that come with SSA and homosexual orientation; and also, if change is possible.  The second part, in three chapters, discusses practical solutions in handling if your child/teen, adult child, or spouse, announces a gay/lesbian identity.  Part three discusses how we are to respond to homosexuality.

I am glad that I have read this book.  It has opened my eyes to a new way of approaching homosexuality with this three-tiered framework.  For most evangelical and traditional Christians, we have been presented with only two options: 1) that homosexuality is wrong and we must reject it outright because it is nurtured; 2 that a person with same-sex attraction (SSA) and/or homosexual orientation was born with it (nature), and so we must accept their orientation.  This nurture vs. nature dichotomy is polarizing and is bound to create heated debates.  Churches are increasingly pushed into this debate, including mine.

Dr. Yarhouse distinguishes homosexuality into three tiers and it allows us to approach homosexuality with the focus on identity rather than on sexuality orientation.  After being enlightened with this innovative framework, I feel much more comfortable with my current understanding of homosexuality, and that I don’t have to compromise my convictions.  However, Yarhouse’s approach does cause one to reconsider whether same-sex attractions are nurtured. The author does not believe a person can be nurtured into a homosexual orientation, which is also what I personally believe.  Moreover, Dr. Yarhouse says that research has not found any real evidence that there is a cause to homosexuality.  Research has not proven that it can be created or nurtured, but as far as I can see, he does not state that it comes from nature either.

In the past, the Christian community have been forced to listen to, what Dr. Yarhouse, calls the “gay script”.  In western society, the “gay script” has been forced upon everyone. It typically says that SSA is natural and God-designed; it is who you really are as a person and is the core of who you are; one’s behavior is merely an extension of that core; and that self-actualization of one’s sexual identity is crucial for one’s fulfillment.  As Christians, we must reject this typical “gay script” and present an alternative script that is compassionate but yet realistic to the facts of SSA.

What I have gained from this eye-opening book is an innovative approach to homosexual orientation using this three-tiered framework. Personally, I have rejected the nurture vs. nature debate because it is fruitless and only leads to never-ending debate.  However, with this new framework, I feel more empowered in dealing with this polarizing issue within the Church.  This is the most balanced approach I have seen.  I believe it will help all Christians, gay or straight, to deal with same-sex attractions and homosexual orientation.   Most importantly, it also challenges Christians to deal with one’s identity, which should be focused on Christ, rather focused on one’s sexual orientation. This is a principle of being stewards of what God has given us, including our sexuality.

This is an excellent book full of nuggets of gold.  After reading this, the reader can no longer hide one’s head in the sand.  The reader will be forced to look at real research and the realities of SSA.  I cannot recommend this book more highly to the entire Christian community.  If I had to pick one, this would be it.  If any Christian is dealing with same-sex attractions, or if a Christian knows someone who is, this will help you gain the knowledge necessary to deal with it.

And thanks from friends at Bethany House for sending me this copy to review.

This is available at: AmazonChristianbook.com

Christian preacher in UK arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin

A preacher preaching in public saying that homosexuality is a sin was arrested in Britain, as reported in The Telegraph. (HatTip: TC, Mohler)

Dale McAlpine was charged with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of “sins” referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships.  Full story here…

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech is not being upheld in many liberal democratic countries, e.g., U.S.A., U.K. and Canada. Churches claim that it is safe to preach according to ur moral beliefs regarding homosex being a sin; however, what are our churches doing to protect this right to our freedom of speech regarding our religious beliefs? Can this issue still be safely debated in public?  What are our church leaders saying about this?

Even if one does not believe in homosexuality being a sin, one should still uphold our common rights of free speech and religious freedom (as long as that speech does not harm another).  If the church does not stand up for these basic human rights, then we may  eventually lose more than we think.  If that happens, it may be the end of religious freedom as we know it.

Pope Benedict makes it easier for disenchanted Anglicans to convert

Since the consecration of the openly gay Bishop gene Robinson in 2003 and the blessing of same-sex marriages in the Anglican Church in Canada (ACC), there was no turning back.  The wedge was set and hammered into the heart of the Anglican Communion across the U.S. and Canada.  Now it’s open season.

It is now easier for disenchanted Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism.  The new constitution will allow groups of disenchanted Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church while keeping some of its Anglican traditions—even some Anglican liturgy.  This openness from Rome will allow the appointment of leaders and bishops to oversee former Anglican churches.  It will even allow married Anglican priests to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests, except for bishops. Sorry bishops.

In response, Cardinal George said in a USCCB press release:

“Today the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received word of the new Provision in the form of an apostolic constitution issued by the Holy See for the reception into full communion with the Catholic Church of groups from the Anglican tradition. The USCCB stands ready to collaborate in the implementation of that Provision in our country.

“This step by the Holy See is in response to a number of requests received in Rome from groups of Anglicans seeking corporate reunion. The application of the new Provision recognizes the desire of some Anglicans (Episcopalians) to live the Catholic faith in full, visible communion with the See of Peter, while at the same time retaining some elements of their traditions of liturgy, spirituality and ecclesial life which are consistent with the Catholic faith. full article…

Is this easy pathway the best for disenchanted Anglicans?  It’s an easy way to stick it to the Episcopal Church and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury but is the Roman Catholic Church the only place to turn to for protestants of the liturgical tradition?  Traditional Anglicans have nowhere else left to turn to right now because the Lutheran Church (ELCA) has become as liberal as the Episcopal Church.  But who wants to join a church that carries the name of an excommunicated Augustinian priest?  Anglicans still have a choice. Pre-existing Lutherans don’t.

It’s nice that Rome is so open to receiving disenchanted Anglicans but I wonder why Pope Benedict is so eager?    It almost seems like this is open season in the Roman Church…anything goes and everything is up for grabs.  He is becoming as anxious and eager as evangelical protestants in receiving new converts.  Evangelical churches, watch out.  Rome is coming and competing with evangelicals in converting the converted.  Pope Benedict really knows what he’s doing.  He’d make evangelicals proud because he’s outdoing the evangelicals in evangelism in typical evangelical-style.  It seems like the only church that isn’t doing much evangelism to Episcopalians is the Episcopal Church, which will be sliced and chopped apart.  Oh, but we can’t forget about the other evangelical Anglican churches competing for disenchanted Anglicans (e.g., ACNA).

Is it going to be so easy for Anglicans to recognize the pope as their leader?  The risk for the Roman Catholic Church is that it may even reopen the issue of celibacy in the priesthood.  I wonder what deacons in the RCC think about this?

Cardinal George Responds to Vatican Announcement on Anglican Groups Entering Catholic Church

(Hat tip for video: Tim).

The ELCA approves ministry for pastors in same-sex relationships

The church has been broken and needs fixing.  On Friday, August 21, 2009, the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have voted to approve for ministry those who are practicing homosexual pastors.  The vote passed 559-451 with 1,045 eligible voting members. It was by a margin of 108.  No longer do people with same-sex attraction (SSA) have to remain celibate.  As long as they are in an “accountable life-long, monogamous, same gender relationship”, the church will recognize, support and uphold them for ministry.

I think this signals the end of the church, as we know it.  Many in disagreement with this new church policy will probably see no hope of a reversal of it.  Once it is implemented, another churchwide assembly to reverse this is unlikely.  It also signals where the leadership of the church is.  I suspect that an overwhelming majority of the church leadership is on-board with this new policy.  However, if one were to take a grassroots poll, I don’t feel that the majority would approve of this.  But  this is what happens in a representative type of democracy.  The majority opinion is not heard.

Who is eligible to vote in the ELCA?  The documents of the ELCA states that each synod “shall elect one voting member … for every 5,800 baptized members in the synod” and “one voting member for every 50 congregations in the synod.”  Sixty percent of the voting members must be lay persons, 50% male, 50% female, 10% of color whose primary language is other than English.  The structure of the ELCA is like a representative democracy.  Not every pastor has a vote, nor does every member.  Is this democratic?  Not really. I feel an overwhelming majority of the grassroots membership in the church would not approve of this policy. [see some reactions and videos here. ]

This signals what has already been happening within the undercurrents in the church—a disregard for obedience to biblical teaching.  The teachings of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 1:26-27 clearly states that homosexual practice does not meet God’s approval but we have gone against God’s written word and approved this.  The teachings of the church have its source in holy scripture and when scripture is disregarded in favor of human policies, the church will ultimately move into a wrong direction.  This week’s voting results is an example of this human policy.

Gender identity and sexual orientation should be based on biological reality.  To tear this down and reconstruct this goes against reality.  I believe that all of humanity were created for heterosexuality.  If one were to honestly answer this question: “How could a man be designed for anal sex?”  It’s clear that there is no other way to answer this but to say that a man is not designed for anal sex.  If God meant for humankind to have anal sex, God might be an absurd God.

For those men and women who want to reverse their same-sex attraction (and there are many), there is no more justice for them in the ELCA.  Hope has been removed in the name of justice for those who desire to ordain ministers with same-sex attraction.

I predict that there will be a large exodus in the future of the church. Some have already left, but many more will begin to leave the ELCA, and there will be no stopping the floodgates because the gauntlet has already come down.  Well, the church is, after all, just a human institution, full of faults and errors.  But God is already fully aware of this.  A prophetic sound from outside the ELCA, through Pastor John Piper, has spoken out about our tendencies toward disobedience.  Take a look at the photo of the broken steeple at Central Lutheran that broke at 2:00PM on August 19, 2009.  The church has been broken and needs fixing.

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. (Romans 1:26-28, NRSV).

Ray Boltz has come out of the closet and announced he is gay

Christian musician-artist, Ray Boltz, has recently given an interview to Washington Blade, a gay magazine. Christianity Today magazine has a recent article about it. He’s announced that he’s come out of the closet and has said that the only way to deal with homosexuality is to accept it. Here’s some of what Ray Boltz said:

“I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore … when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.’”

I’ve listened to Ray Boltz since I was a kid and love his music. But when I just discovered he has come out of the closet, I was in shock. David Ker most recently posted on this subject amongst other bloggers. Stan McCullers has also just posted about this issue that is tearing the Episcopal Church apart. This same-sex issue is shifting within the mainline churches but it’s now also making small waves in evangelical circles. Many in our blogosphere is passing this hot potatoe

Romans 1 seems clear about this. Where do you stand?

If you don’t know who he is, here’s one of people’s favorite songs called “Thank You.”

Debate on homosexuality: Is is biblical?

Will Lutheran and Anglican churches continue to remain as a single organic communions or will they end up being separate communions? The debate of homosexuality in the church is currently tearing apart many mainline churches in North America, namely the Anglican church in Canada, Episcopalian church in the USA, and Lutheran churches in Canada and the USA. Thanks to Peter Kirk at Gentle Wisdom for writing this post about the controversial issue, which was sparked by voices in Nigeria’s Anglican church.

The TNIV: still timeless truth in today’s language?

I was informed about a new blog that calls itself the TNIV Truth. The blogger, who we now know is Wayne Leman, is hoping that the truth about the TNIV gets out there because there has been a lot of criticism about the translation. Like him and others, I also feel that the TNIV has taken overly heavy criticism from other “brothers and sisters.” Why can’t we all get along? I do feel bad about the onslaught of critique toward the TNIV. Its translators are accused of embarking on a liberal social agenda of feminizing the bible, which I am sure does not exist. Both the TNIV and NLT translation teams are still conservative. The names on the translation teams and where they are associated are evangelical. It is difficult to accuse the TNIV of having a left-leaning social agenda. It still renders some definitions of terms in a traditional way. Here is an example where the TNIV has continued using a traditional translation. The TNIV’s use arsenokoitai (Greek: “lying with men”) is rendered in a traditional non-gender neutral way. Note: the Greek use of arsenokoitai in 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10 is can be translated as “lying with men” (from Scott-Liddell lexicon); but if we use a gender-neutral approach, one could translate this as “lying with men and women”. Both the TNIV and NLT have kept the use of the term “homosexuality” rather than using it in a gender-neutral term like “sodomite” (RE: 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10). If we assume a gender-neutral approach, then the NRSV’s translation of “sodomite” might also be the gender-accurate translation because it is not necessarily a male-on-male act of sodomy. This is only one example where the TNIV and NLT have continued using a traditional approach in translation.