Andrew Marin is a friend; Andrew has spent the last decade in pastoral work among gays and lesbians. I asked Andrew how he’d respond to the letter I posted yesterday and here is his response.
Allowing the student to rejoin the worship team, sexually celibate
outside a civil union, is the right thing to do as that is the
Scriptural requirement for all people. Many evangelicals fear that
allowing people with a same-sex attraction to participate in church
activities automatically presumes they condone a pro-gay theology. That
fear must be deconstructed.
As explained in the original email, the student is currently following
a traditional interpretation of Scripture in regards to sexual
behavior. Although the student believes gay civil unions are accepted
by God, that neither speaks for the belief of the worship team nor does
it disqualify the student’s current celibacy–or the consented agreement
that if the student becomes sexual active, they cannot be involved in
the group anymore.
If the student does enter into a sexually active civil union, that does not make them bad/wrong and the leader good/right; the traditional end-result. We must understand that the student would be acting within the boundaries of his belief system, just as the leader in theirs. In order to build a bridge, at some point all of us must work within the metric the other “side” gives us–while still holding true to what we believe. That includes progressive working within conservative understandings (as the student is currently doing), and equally, conservative working within progressive understandings (including the student continuing in the group). The key to this continuance is the broader group’s involvement in recognizing their traditional Scriptural beliefs about gay sexual behavior–regardless of the political and Scriptural challenges that always arise out of legalized gay civil unions.
Even with a continued participation, such a scenario doesn’t mean the leader is affirming a pro-gay theology. It rather gives feet and hands to Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 9:19-23. Though in this case the student is already a professing believer, which is why this matter with sexually active gay Christians is always so difficult for many evangelicals.
It has however become my habit of always erring on the side of giving an abundance of grace and unconditional love, even when the other person isn’t going down the “ideal” path that lines up with what I believe. I am a firm proponent of what it means to live in that tension of disagreement. From my experience, trying to easily and individually handle these situations does more harm than good to the broader group. I have found that organized, peaceful discussions within a framework of pre-outlined boundaries lead the group to less polarization and more engagement. This type of group involvement is not a ‘larger group vs. gay student’ situation. It is rather a transparent way to work through these tensions together. God doesn’t work only when we know the outcome, and far be it for us to find any way out of the things that challenge the way we walk out our faith. As Dave Gibbons says, the biblical understanding of our neighbor is actually the person most unlike us.
But at the end of the day if the leader decides that the student has to leave the group, that doesn’t make the leader a “non-bridge builder.” The leader would just be holding true to the original agreement. I am not asking people to do things that they are not Scripturally comfortable with. I’m rather trying to face the traditional reactionary understandings and move them in a more productive and peaceful direction. Doing so gives room on both sides for each to believe as they may (in opposition to one side only being content when the other believes exactly as they do), while also being able to understand those differences and yet still have significant things happen for the Kingdom.