How Inclusive is Your Church?

Early in November, a Nine Marks affiliated Baptist church hosted a Living Out seminar. Living Out is a UK based ministry focusing upon helping homosexuals and those individuals experiencing same-sex attraction and is directed by Sam Allberry. The folks at Living Out insist they are nothing like Revoice, an almost identical group here in the US who also claim they minister to homosexuals and SSA people. They held their first conference during the summer of 2018 in St. Louis.

Just to make sure everyone understands that Living Out is different than Revoice and to preemptively answer possible objections, the church hosting the Living Out seminar posted a FAQ explaining the key differences between the two ministries.

Does Living Out hold the same views as the Revoice conference?

No. Neither we, nor Living Out believe that our sexual desires define us. Neither do we believe that passions of homosexual desire or “orientation” are fixed entities. While Revoice may mean well, we believe they are attempting to uphold Christian ethics from an unchristian anthropology. We believe this is unbiblical and will have long-term drastic effects. It has been noted that Living Out posted an endorsement of Revoice prior to the conference, but removed that endorsement following the discovery of the conference’s theology. May he who has not posted something on social media they wish they hadn’t cast the first stone.

While I appreciate the attempt at clarity answering any preconceived misconceptions, when we look over the Living Out website, there are still similarities with the Revoice folks. This is seen particularly when you read over the Living Out Church Audit that evaluates whether or not your church is inclusive and welcoming of those “who might identify as LGBTQ+/same-sex attracted.” In fact, when you watch the video of speaker Ed Shaw reviewing the audit points, he calls those identifying as LGBTQ+ “sexual minorities” utilizing the same descriptor as Revoice.

I thought it would be worthwhile to consider each statement of this audit and offer commentary. Especially in light of how the new trend among so-called conservative evangelicals is the offering of safe spaces and warm embraces of LGBTQ+ into their churches.

There are 10 statements. Each one is followed by true/false/or not sure. (A pdf of the audit can be viewed HERE)

1.Your church family meetings include people who could be labelled LGBTQI+/ are same-sex attracted.   

I imagine many congregations have individuals who struggle with homosexual desires. Just like they have members who struggle with desires of porn, or anger, or hypocrisy, or whatever. The key word in that statement is “labelled.” What exactly is meant by the idea of labelled? Recall the statement above that claims Living Out doesn’t believe our sexual desires define us. The word “labelled” certainly presents the impression that LGBTQ+ is defining the people.

2. Derogatory language or stereo-typing attitudes towards anyone would not be tolerated either up-front or in conversation between church family members.

It would be helpful if that were explained a bit further. I would imagine the author has in mind the thought that gay people shouldn’t be mocked or called names like “faggot” or “bull dike.” But that assumes such language is prevalent among Christians. I think that is a slanderous accusation against the majority of Bible-believing Christians, because I don’t believe such derogatory language is prevalent as this point implies. Refraining from the use of any derogatory language whether profanity or ridiculing name calling should not be marked among a Christian no matter what.

3.  All in your church know that we all experience sexual brokenness and all are being encouraged to confess their own sexual sins.

If what is meant is that Christians in our churches are taught a robust understanding of the totality of sinful depravity and the Christian sexual ethic, sure. I would ask the Living Out folks in response, do those struggling with SSA understand that such desires, whether never acted upon in outward behavior, is the sexual brokenness some experience? In other words, SSA is inordinate affections and must be repented of and replaced by healthy, godly attractions for those of the opposite sex.

4. Same-sex sexual relationships are never mentioned in isolation from other sinful patterns of behaviour, or from the forgiveness offered to all through faith in Christ crucified.

I am guessing the point being made here is that homosexual relationships should not be singled out from other common sins and condemned in isolation. What I have noticed among those supportive of the idea of SSA, but celibate Christians, is the scolding of churches that beat a drum against homosexuality in culture, but allow other sins to remain unnoticed and uncondemned like gluttony or greed. Gluttony usually defined as out of shape and overweight and greed defined as enjoying the blessing of a middle-class lifestyle.

On the contrary, Scripture does isolate the sexual perversion of same sex desires and behaviors as uniquely defiling sins. This is seen in Leviticus 18 with the holiness code and reiterated in Romans 1 when Paul is describing a culture that has abandoned God and has come under His judgment. The normalization of homosexuality, in both desire and behavior, is the key indicator of a society that has left God and are now under his judgment.

5.  All in your church are hearing the same call to radical self-sacrifice of themselves in response to God’s giving of himself in Jesus.

A healthy church preaching a theologically sound Gospel will exhort all believers to radical self-sacrifice, or what is otherwise known as making Jesus Lord of one’s life. If you watch the video, the point Living Out is making with this statement is that it shouldn’t ONLY be SSA Christians who are called to give up their SSA. As if their sin is somehow greater than the personal sins of others in the church. However, there seems to be a minimizing of SSA and homosexuality with this statement. SSA is no more a big deal as that woman who struggles with gossiping so SSA Christians shouldn’t be singled out as engaging in some specially defiling sin.

I would just say in response that given what I just noted under the fourth statement, homosexuality is something of an unique sin. It certainly is a sin Paul highlighted as an indicator of God’s judgment upon a society that has forsaken God. Hence, SSA Christians must forsake those desires, recognizing them for what they are, disordered and inordinate.

6.  All in your church are encouraged to develop an identity founded first and foremost on their union with Christ.

Of course.That is the work of sanctification. A Christian’s identity is now with his savior, Jesus Christ. Meaning, if he is SSA, his inordinate desires and filthy affections should not be his identification AND his union with Christ provides that person with the spiritual ability to overcome and change those desires. Moreover, the emphasis on unity with Christ seems to conflict with the idea presented in the first statement regarding individuals who are labelled LGBTQ+. If what is now defining us is our unity with Christ, why should we care about whether those labelled LGBTQ+ are comfortable in our churches? Church should be welcoming to all equally I would think.

7. A godly Christian’s sexual orientation would never prevent them from exercising their spiritual gifts or serving in leadership in your church

The idea with this point is that SSA Christians should have the liberty to share their sexual struggles with others in the church and those struggles should not block them from serving in leadership within the assembly.  What typically happens is that once the SSA Christian opens up that he or she is SSA, that person is then shunned, set to the side, and can never use his giftedness in the church.

First, I have a problem with calling their sin an orientation, as if it is something they can never change. Orientation also implies this is their identity as a person, something that I see as directly conflicting with what is advocated with point six.

Second, why is the person’s SSA orientation a struggle he needs to share with others and they in turn need to accept it? Why must a SSA Christian share his or her struggle with this sin? In fact, where does Scripture provide for us this pattern where a Christian must be open with everyone at church about his personal sin struggles?

Third, Paul writes about Christian leadership in 1 Timothy 3. Several spiritual virtues mark a leader, but two directly shape how we think about this seventh statement. First, a leader is not a novice, or a new Christian that has yet to gain mastery over his sins. That is why it is wise for a young man to have a good number of years walking with Christ before he seeks out leadership roles. Additionally he should be above reproach, meaning there is no scandal or behavior that anyone can point to and claim he is not qualified to serve. One who has made sharing his SSA with the whole church risks not being above reproach.

Fourth, would we allow one who openly shares struggles with sexual attraction toward minors or pornography the exercise of his or her spiritual giftedness in church leadership?

While the church that hosted the Living Out seminar insist in their FAQ statement that the ministry does not believe sexually active homosexuals should be admitted into membership, I find it rather confusing that Living Out advocates for LGBTQ+ oriented people to not only be members, but insist they must be considered for leadership. I suppose it is the sexually active part that they reject, but obviously, any solid church would never allow any single believer who is sexually active outside of marriage a place of leadership. Yet that person who frequently shares his struggles with looking at porn with the congregation would not have a leadership role.

8. God’s gifts of either singleness or marriage are equally promoted, valued and practically supported in your church family’s life together

Are there churches that can have an imbalance where marriage and family is promoted over and against singleness? Sure. This is especially true in Reformed churches that place a heavy emphasis upon large families, integrated worship, and homeschooling. Is this a particular difficulty for those struggling with SSA? I suppose if those persons wallow in their inordinate affections knowing that they are forbidden by God to be in a same sex marriage.

9. Church family members instinctively share meals, homes, holidays, festivals, money, family life with others from different backgrounds and life situations to them.

Well of course if a church is practicing the one anothers of Scripture and has a theologically robust understanding of the church as the body of Christ. That doesn’t mean, however, that church members accommodate LGBTQ+ lifestyles within their midst.

10. No-one would be pressurised into expecting or seeking any “healing” or change that God has not promised any of us until the renewal of all things.

This final statement regrettably presents a defeated redemption. In the video accompanying this survey, Ed Shaw builds a strawman suggesting that it is perfectionistic to expect that a SSA Christian can have his desires changed. Yet, no one is saying that a gay person will no longer struggle with sexual perverse desires.

Anyone preaching total perfectionism in this life is preaching a false doctrine. The Christian looks forward to glorification in eternity, when there is complete liberty from the ruination of sin and depravity. Certainly we believe all men will have sin struggles from one degree to another. However, if we refuse to believe that God can and will change lives, what kind of Gospel are we presenting? What kind of hope are we offering?

According to Romans 6, Christians have been set free from the slavery of sin. “We should no longer be slaves of sin,” Paul writes, and he goes on to explain that as we are now dead to sin and alive to Christ, we do not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (6:12). He calls us slaves of Christ and slaves of righteousness (6:19,20). As believers, we can very well seek healing from those lusts and passions that once enslaved us. That is done through the renewing of our minds as we put off our old way of thinking, because we are no longer enslaved to that thinking, and put on a new way of thinking, because we are empowered by the Spirit to do so, (Colossians 3).

I would not want a church pressuring a person to just “pray the gay away.” That only makes a person bitter when the change doesn’t happen as fast as one expects. However, I would want the church to engage in discipleship that confronts those sinful desires so that the person will not remain comfortable entertaining them.

What I am seeing from this last statement, and really the entire survey, is that those in the LGBTQ+ community may have to resign themselves to the fact that they will always feel that way, in spite of coming to Christ. Moreover, the Church needs to realize these individuals are just that way and accept them with no expectations of helping them cultivate healthy, godly sexual attractions for those of the opposite sex. If that is the case, what good is a Gospel message that can’t offer total redemption for a person? Apparently, SSA/ LGBTQ+ lifestyle is the one sin that can resist the power of regeneration and sanctification. I for one don’t believe that.

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4 Comments
  1. […] The Australian arm of The Gospel Coalition recently published an interview with Ed Shaw, one of the founders of Living Out, the U.K. version of Revoice. Consider the title of the interview, “The Church and Same-Sex Attracted People.” It assumes such a category as “same-sex attracted people” is a reality of the human existence, that Christians should recognize them as legit, and accept them into the body dynamic of the local Church. Shaw, for example, even wrote up a church audit that determines just how inclusive a congregation is for same-sex attracted, LGBT+ people. I wrote a response to it HERE. […]

  2. WendyG 4 months ago

    What happens when a former lesbian develops attractions toward the opposite sex, but no men are pursuing her romantically?

    • Author
      Fredman 4 months ago

      Wendy,
      That is wonderful that God is working in your life in such a way. My exhortation to you would be first and foremost, the pursuit of godly holiness in your personal life. Pursue what it is that a godly woman should be before the Lord and develop those truths in your own life. Look at Prov 31, and even Ephesians 5 that speaks to a husband and wife filled with the spirit. Are you seeking to be a submissive wife who will love and serve her husband. The kind of man you want to marry will want that kind of woman to marry. Also, seek out older, godly women. Perhaps even online if need be. Get their advice and wisdom about steps you can take. And most of all bring these things before the Lord in prayer and trust Him to work in your life.

  3. beccaj 11 months ago

    The goodly old Bible teacher William R. Newell truly said, “Theological teaching since the Reformation has never set forth clearly our utter end in death with Christ, at the cross.”

    That sad fact, among others, paved the way for what you Fred are addressing. Regarding the theological teaching of the Living Out crowd and the Reformed Orthodox crowd in general; it is apparent they do not teach Christ and Him crucified, buried and risen, AND, what His glorious gospel entails.

    The former generally ignores and or denies the fact that we “died to sin” and “that our old man is crucified with Him” by redefining sin, among other things. Thus, their confused and confusing teachings, for example; “I want to hold a couple of things in tension. James 1 helps me because it reminds me that when I experience any form of temptation, that is not something I can pin on somebody else. Those come from my own desires. That comes from within, that temptation. So, I do need to take ownership of it, but at the same time it is not as if I have chosen to experience that form of temptation. So, I would be uncomfortable with saying same-sex attraction is sin. It is form of temptation. The temptation comes from within my heart and therefore I am to resist the temptation, but I think we as Christians need to make a distinction between temptation and sin.” Sam Allberry

    The latter generally ignores and or denies the fact that we “died to the Law” and “ye also are become dead to the Law by the body of Christ” by redefining the Law, among other things. Thus, their confused and confusing teachings, for example; “Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience.” The Westminster Confession of Faith

    Via their un-Biblical, man-made theologies, both clearly focus on themselves and fellow believers as “in the flesh” and “under the Law” among other things. It is evident those on either side of that coin simply will not take God at His clear Word (let alone teach His Word) and enter into His divine statements of fact that believers DIED WITH CHRIST “to sin” and “to the Law”—to the world.

    “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Proverbs 30:5-6 (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19)

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