“Let me begin by begging your forgiveness for the way you have been mistreated…”
Wonderful readers, I share this pastor’s letter which resonates with my heart, echoing my ongoing blogs, showing us Jesus’ love. Please enjoy and take great courage from pastors like this — and there are plenty of them! – Susan
An open letter to my GLBT Christian sisters and brothers and those supporting family members or friends who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender:
On behalf of Christian pastors and leaders everywhere, as an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and committed follower of Christ, let me begin by begging your forgiveness for the way you have been mistreated, ignored, abused, neglected, shunned, and otherwise treated poorly by the very people called to serve you and share with you the steadfast love of God. May the One Who Has Always Loved Us have mercy on all of us who fall short in our call to be conduits of God’s love to ALL of God’s children.
Secondly, let me make it clear that no one, regardless of how many degrees he or she has earned, how many years he or she has served the church, or how faithfully he or she has studied the Bible, can rightly declare that the Bible clearly states ANYTHING about committed relationship between gay or lesbian people. References to homosexuality in the Bible all refer to practices we would all find abhorrent, including rape, subjugation, pagan Temple prostitution, and cross-over sex (where heterosexual males married to women indulge in sex with each other.) There are no references to committed same-sex relationship in the Bible because there was no social or cultural room for the open practice of such relationships.
Any reference to Biblical condemnation of homosexuality as though such a reference condemns you or your loved ones, therefore, is making an unwarranted inference unimaginable to the original author. Condemning gay and lesbian people by referencing Scripture is a misuse of Scripture and, more importantly, is a violation of very clear commands that we are to refrain from judgment and love our neighbor as ourselves. When Jesus gives the great command that we must love one another, he does not offer exceptions that will allow us to condemn those who make us uncomfortable or uneasy.
Church leaders who single out sexually active gay and lesbian people as engaging in sin are misinterpreting Scripture, but even if their errant interpretation were correct, they would still be engaging in forbidden behavior. The Bible actually does explicitly condemn a number of behaviors. (Spend a little time reading Leviticus!) Why do you suppose your church leaders overlook all these other behaviors and dwell on a misinterpretation of a very few verses that seem to address homosexuality?
Here’s my thought on the subject: Human beings are naturally repulsed by the thought of sexually coupling with those toward whom they feel no attraction. Straight folks find it repulsive to think of coupling with members of the same sex and gay and lesbian people are equally repulsed by the idea of coupling with someone of the opposite sex. This is nature at work. Since most human beings are straight, this natural impulse serves to continue the human race. Your church leaders are mistakenly projecting their natural impulses on everyone else.
Following Christ is about overcoming our natural, selfish impulses so we might be transformed into people who accept, love, and serve one another. Jesus continually challenges us to cross all boundaries that would divide Gentile from Jew, clean from unclean, man from woman, accepted from outcast. This is the heart of the gospel. We who follow Christ must all grow to the point where we recognize that our natural repulsions should not be projected on everyone else. We find some people attractive and others unattractive, and we are powerless to change that reality. God can and will bring us to accept and love others whose attractions and repulsions are different from ours, though, if we are willing to surrender our will to the will of God in Christ.
We must all decide for ourselves, based on what Scripture DOES address, how Scripture would address committed gay or lesbian relationship if it actually spoke to the issue. As for me, I can come to no other conclusion than this: Jesus reveals God’s universal love for humankind and God’s determination to draw all of humanity into deep relationship with God and with each other. God loves the world–all of the world, and yes, all means ALL. There is nothing about you, about your family member, or about any of us that could ever cause God to give up on us. God believes in us even when we can no longer believe in ourselves. God forgives even when we would condemn. God IS love (1 John 4:8), and God’s love can and does transform all of us who surrender to God through Christ.
Amongst the holiest expressions a human being can make are those associated with intimate, loving relationship. The decision to give oneself fully and completely to one’s beloved is, at its best, a reflection of God’s invitation to all of us to surrender our lives to God. In loving one other person as fully as we are capable, we begin to experience the invitation to lose ourselves in the all-encompassing love of our Creator. May you all know the depth of God’s love for you and share that awareness with everyone God brings into your circle.
She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”
She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at FreedHearts.org and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHeartsand Jesus Blog columns.