With Mo*Con quickly approaching and with our main conversation centering on the issue of homosexuality and the church, I thought that I would encourage some guest posts from some of our guests as well as interested observers.  One such observer would be Pastor Brad Grammer weighing in on his journey with the church and the homosexual community.

Mo*Con VI:  The Lowdown

Mo*Con VI:  Return of the Mo?

“God Hates Fags!”  “Fags Can’t Repent!” A beautiful day in southern California was completely disrupted by these repulsive statements. The individuals bearing the signs yelled condemning statements hoping to banish homosexuals to hell unless they repent.  Yet, one of the signs stated that homosexuals CAN’T repent.  Was there any logic or truth in their statements, or were they committed to a personal agenda using God as their authority?

Only feet away, a large group of men and women joined hands forming a circle that faced those observing them.  A large arch of balloons displaying the colors of a rainbow was placed near the entrance of the convention hall.  Shirts worn by the demonstrators begged the Church to not prevent ‘gay’ Christians from serving in the Church.

The convention hall in Long Beach, California was the host for the annual General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA in the year 2000.  As I stood looking at these two groups diametrically opposed in their positions, I couldn’t keep the grief and anger from welling up within my heart.  Are these the only two positions the Church in America has to offer regarding the issue of homosexuality?  Where are the Christians who are compassionate yet fervently committed to the truth of the Scriptures?  The only two representations at this demonstration were either hateful and derogatory, or gentle and deceived.

Marion Soards, author of Scripture and Homosexuality, sums up my observations, “For us the divine combination of judgment and grace, or condemnation and forgiveness, of wrath and reconciliation are hard to fathom, and so we tend to eliminate one or the other dimension of the paradox of God’s relationship to humankind. We focus on judgment and wrath and contemplate damnation, or we savor reconciliation and grace and celebrate divine acceptance of sinful humanity.  The tendency is to view God as a cosmic ogre, bound and determined to administer well-deserved punishment; or we envision God as an eternal Mr. Rogers, eager to welcome us all to the neighborhood of the kingdom.  Wrath and reconciliation become theological oil and water, so that we opt for the ointment of righteous recompense or the refreshment of divine deliverance.  Jesus, however, lived with the dynamic tension of God’s wrath and grace; in fact, he embodied the paradox.”

For several years, I led a ministry that walked into gay bars on the north side of Chicago, a couple of nights each week. What surprised me was that many men and women were eager to talk about God. What often came out in people’s stories was their common experience of being either rejected in the Church by being asked to leave or being simply ignored or forgotten. When I think of how Jesus Christ has impacted my life, I can’t help but wonder how far the Christian community has moved away from the very teachings of Jesus Christ that they profess to follow.

When we see how Jesus lived His life, He spent a lot of time with individuals in the culture of His time that were considered wicked and outcasts (like tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers). Quick out of His mouth were not condemning thoughts of how people lived their lives. He never avoided talking about problematic areas of their lives, but neither did He spew venomous words of hatred.  Jesus spent time asking questions and listening before He spoke.  After reading about His life in the four gospels of the Bible, I thought His method of interacting with people would be the example I would follow.

What I found was that asking questions and listening is the way to earn anyone’s trust. The goal is to understand first before sharing anything that would speak into someone’s life. We are not free, as Christians, to say whatever we want whenever.  Whenever we are to speak, we are to do so in love.  Otherwise, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13, we are to keep our mouths shut if we can’t do it in love.

One night, a man dressed as a woman approached me as I was standing there watching him play pool.  I wore a button that had the name of the ministry on it, my first name and a small cross insignia.  He asked what I was about.  I said I was there to talk to anyone who wanted to about God.  Immediately his response was, “Get out of here!  This is the way I am.  Stop trying to change me!  Leave us alone!”  I responded, “I’m not trying to change you.  I’m here to talk to anyone who wants to about God.”

For the next hour and a half, we got into a conversation where I mostly practiced the method of asking questions and listening.  At one point he shared that he had been sexually abused by his father and uncle for 10 years.  Open doors don’t often come this quickly but that night, I knew this was my time to speak.  I said, “There is no way that could have happened to you without messing up your sexual identity.”  You don’t have to be a Christian to believe that having sex with your dad is wrong.  He responded, “You know I think you’re right.  I don’t think I’m always going to be this way.  I have a girlfriend and she doesn’t know I do this.”  I jumped in, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Just a couple of hours ago you were telling me this is the way you are and that you’re not going to change.  What are you saying?”

I learned from our time that he would never tell me his true feelings without me earning his trust first.  This is imperative before we know the heart of anyone.  Once you have earned someone’s trust, then you may be fortunate enough to know their heart.  At that point, your only responsibility as a Christian is to love them where they are.  If they are open to hearing what you have to say, then great.  If not, you have done your part in being loving because most people don’t listen well, and most people often model that they don’t care. We have the chance to actually live out what Jesus called us to, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  That includes the gay community.

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For the past 19 years, Brad Grammer has sought to bridge the gap between the Church and the gay community.  As director of Face-to-Face Ministries in Chicago from 1992-1998, Brad reached out to men involved in prostitution on the streets and in the gay bars for six years, sharing his testimony of overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions. Through support groups and discipleship, Brad also counseled many Christian men and women bound by sexual sin.  From 1998-2006, Brad was executive director of Hope & New Life Ministries in Indianapolis, an equipping and training ministry for churches seeking to offer a redemptive response to issues of broken sexuality. A contributing author to three books, Brad continues ministering to those struggling with sexuality issues in the context of the Church.  He presently pastors The Crossing, a Sunday evening congregation reaching out to the homeless and addicted, and has for more than 4 years.

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OTHER CONVERSATION STARTERS

-Road to Mo*Con VI: Guest Blog by Zoe Whitten
-Road to Mo*Con VI: Guest Blog by Lucien Soulban
-Road to Mo*Con VI: Guest Blog by Brad Grammer