My story is different and often doesn’t get heard
I am a Baptist minister who accepts the traditional/orthodox teaching on human sexuality. I feel my denomination does not care about my sacrifice and years of obedience - and it hurts
Tell my people I love them, tell them I care..
The first line from a Christian song of the 70s and I know it is written with these words in God’s mouth, but there are times when I hear it I think who are ‘my people’? Who do I identify with? There is the nation that I was born in, the people I went to college with, my family, the church tradition that I am called to and so on. But of course, I have left out the most recent one: my sexuality and associated community.
The reasons for telling anybody that they are loved is that they see the love of God and become followers of Jesus (born again) and that they belong. For the sake of this article I want to identify with my sexuality and the LGBTI communities, as so much has been written about the need to be open, ‘inclusive,’ and ‘affirming’ because the church has got it wrong in the past. For me, the church, our Baptist family, has got it right in terms of accepting the traditional/orthodox teaching on human sexuality. (My preference is to identify as a Christian first and foremost, loved, adopted, Spirit-filled etc.,). I remember reading in a book Love is an orientation how some gay men who attended a gay church were so pleased to come to a Bible study that was not about sexuality. That there is so much more to life than who you want to take to bed.
I have read so much about the church needing to beat itself up and how much this is an issue of justice from parts of my Baptist family. However, my story is different and often doesn’t get heard. I knew even before becoming a Christian that were limits to sexual behaviour for God’s people – in fact I told God His people would never accept or want me, so why should I become a Christian? It was a wonderful excuse, but it got blown away; well, actually smashed to pieces. So at 18 my Christian journey began, all that long time ago. Even better, some may say, so did my journey as a Baptist! (not sure if that is a Baptist Christian or a Christian Baptist!).
I have had that open conversation with my pastors and have been given support, sometimes better than others. Yes, there were guys I fancied in the youth group, and at college, but rarely at church. So I stayed in the same church for a quarter of a century, serving, worshipping, growing – being known as a Christian rather than by who I wanted to go to bed with. My faith journey is similar to others, with ups and downs, floods and drought. I did look for a relationship, but felt constrained, that this was incompatible with an active faith .
But more recently I have been in pain. I was at a gathering and we were doing the Baptist thing of sharing what was happening in our churches. I knew there was somebody who wanted to share how their church had decided to register for same gender marriages, so I steeled myself ready. However, when it was mentioned I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.
I mused over this in the coming days and months and came to this reflection. Here was part of my family telling me that my many years of obedience were wrong, it was an issue of justice! Here was part of my family telling me and the many like me it didn’t care about our service or sacrifice. Here was part of my family going off in a direction that seemed more about the present society than the fate of our eternal souls. Here were the family I identified with trying to be kind and considerate, but not hearing my voice and the many like me.
I wept. Now I am positive that no injury was intended, but this move has injured me and fellow Baptists like me.
As people of the book we look to scripture for guidance and of course we look for a Christian response rather than a human or cultural response. All sexual issues and justice issues are theological first for the Christian and yes, they may differ from the freedoms we wish to see in our culture. Therefore, while I have no problem with same gender marriages in our culture as an issue of justice and fairness, for members of my Baptist family the Word must come first. Scripture reminds us not to put stumbling blocks in the way of the faithful (and I know it can be argued for the opposite opinions) but we are also reminded not to have our minds conformed to this world.
What I find most hurtful is the lack of investigation and the enormous assumption that others know best for people like me, even though they do not know me or the others like me. It may be because we don’t speak out or are assumed not to exist. When this comes from those Baptists and others supporting the move to same gender marriages as being Christian, it hurts people like me who have lived out their lives to traditional sexual values, who have thought that a sacrifice worthwhile and who have put pleasing God as a priority. There seems to be an assumption that ‘moving forward’ (whatever that really means) we must adopt this one concept of inclusion and not to do so is hurtful and wrong. This makes me weep and feel like I'm being pushed into a corner. You see, I am not alone: there are many like me in our own tradition and other evangelical and even non-evangelical traditions, who identify first and foremost as believers and don’t wish our first identification to be our sexuality.
I want to see many to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord, to meet them in heaven that they may have eternal life. As someone who accepts the traditional/orthodox teaching on human sexuality, my deep concern is that we are putting souls in danger - dare we do this? After what Christ has freely given for us on the cross there is no sacrifice too great for you or me or anybody to give as we accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
Yes, tell my people I love them – as they are, but also for what they can become in Christ.
I have asked not to be named because my identity is in Christ foremost and I don’t want to be known as a celibate, gay Christian.
Image | geralt | Pixabay
Origen is a Baptist minister
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