Human Sexuality and Loving Our Neighbors

Posted by on Apr 10, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

Resources for an ongoing conversation…

As we continue to pursue our mission to Love God + Love Neighbor, Bethlehem is committed to understanding the needs and challenges of our LGBT neighbors, people with same-sex attractions or orientations within our church, our families, and our community. We’ve been blessed with the help and expertise of Dr. Gary Strauss whose training and research has contributed to our understanding of sexual variation.

One of the enduring challenges for the church is to understand how the scriptures form and guide our life together. How does scripture call us to holiness, faithfulness, compassion, and grace for all people? A theology of the human body and sexuality is not something easily summed up in a few words or a simple statement. To assist us in the long journey of understanding the Bible’s wisdom of human bodies, sexuality, family and marriage; I’ve compiled a list of recommended resources to contribute to our conversation.

In our series of classes in adult Sunday School, Gary has cited a number of different books from different perspectives including Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting, Jeff Chu’s Does Jesus Really Love MeRosaria Champagne Butterfield’s Openness Unhindered, and Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian.

Of all the books I’ve read over the years relating to the church and human sexuality, I give high recommendations to Preston Sprinkle’s People to be Loved for being clear, considerate, and thorough as it looks at the Bible and considers the stories and testimonies of Christians with same-sex attractions and orientations.

Our denomination has been long at work articulating a Biblical perspective on sexuality, and has a few easily accessed documents to summarize them:

  • In 1996 the Annual Meeting of the Covenant Church passed this resolution on Human Sexuality in response to growing cultural questions about marriage, singleness, pornography, sexual abuse, and same-sex relations. At the 2004 the Annual Meeting, the resolution was established as the basis for practice and policy among clergy and shared denominational ministry.
  • In 2007 the denomination’s executive board commissioned a paper to provide more biblical and theological background to the resolution on human sexuality. An abridged version can be found here, the full 35 page document can be found here.
  • In response to growing questions by some Covenanters about the resolution on Human Sexuality, last year our denomination’s president penned a letter to clergy and lay-leaders to offer further guidance on how the Covenant church can minister to its members and friends who are LGBT.

Over the last year I have been very impressed with the work of Bill Henson at Lead them Home, an organization committed to helping the church love its gay and lesbian neighbors with deep compassion, specifically through anti-bullying campaigns and training pastors and counselors to help families navigating LGBT issues. Bill’s own story of same-sex attraction and identity is also significant.

For more scholastic and academic insight into sexual variation, Dr. Mark Yarhouse leads the Sexual Identity Institute at Regent University. His research on identity and orientation is profound and exhaustive (Dr. Gary Strauss has collaborated with Yarhouse for research as well).

A short list of a few recent good articles on the topic:

An interesting blog with a variety of authors of different backgrounds on the topics of identity and sexuality is Spiritual Friendship.

And if I may include my own humble offering to the conversation, last summer while preaching through Galatians I spoke a little to the topic in this sermon.

This list might seem overwhelming but its far from comprehensive. Eugene Peterson calls being a disciple, “a long obedience in the same direction”. Understanding the Christian vision of human sexuality is a similar journey: its long, it requires faithfulness, it can’t be done alone, and it will never be complete on this side of eternity. I hope to be a faithful companion with you on this journey, seeking the glory of God and the good of our neighbor, rooted in new life in Jesus, and reliant on the foundation of scripture.

I welcome your thoughts and questions as we go forward.