Can Christians Affirm the Rainbow Community?: A note and some resources

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Last week, in light of the current discussion happening in our communities regarding conversion therapy, we revisited several of our stories and articles that explored this topic.

We heard from people who had expierenced conversion therapy, and others who had been harmed by the posture of some churches and Christians towards Rainbow people.

In response we have also had some questions about whether there is a way for Christians to support and Affirm the Rainbow Community. A perception within the Christian community, and out side of it, is that there is not. To help continue this conversation we’re sharing some resources Aaron put together exploring this topic.

This is a series that was written for his other blog Reclaiming the Lamb. You can read the first blog here, and if you’re interested in reading further, we’ve linked the rest of the series below.

We would love to hear your thoughts, and let us know if you would like to read more of this sort of content on the blog – The When Lambs Are Silent team.

P1: What About Biblical Authority?

The debate surrounding whether the Church should fully affirm Gay marriage and allow LGBTQ people in committed, covenantal relationships into positions of leadership in the church, is currently one of the most controversial debates taking place within the Western Church today.
On one side you have those who sincerely believe the scriptures unequivocally condemn all forms of covenantal same sex relationships. Many who belong to this group are passionate about scripture and the gospel. Many wrestle with the question of how best to love the LGBTQ community, while at the same time holding firm to what they believe to be the self evident witness of scripture.

Within their theological framework, to ordain covenantal same-sex relationships would not be an act of Love, as it would send the message that they are condoning sin. And though many within this group sincerely want LGBTQ people to feel loved and included, they cannot do so – at least in the manner that Christians from the rainbow community are asking for – if it means putting them at risk of eternal damnation (the term often used to describe this group is Traditionalists).

On the other side are those who believe in the full inclusion of the LGBTQ person. They are equally passionate about scripture and the gospel, yet when they explore the text, they find methods of interpretation that allow for the blessing and inclusion of covenantal same-sex relationships .

They adopt a theological framework which can accommodate the inclusion and acceptance of covenantal same sex relationships within Christian life and community (this group is often known as Revisionists).

Before We Begin: Continuing in Love
Leslie Newbigin in his book The Open Secret, claims that when engaging in dialogue with a person from another belief system, we must approach the person with such a level of openness that we risk losing ourselves in the others argument, becoming moved by their message.
Leslie was speaking primarily of people from different religious traditions, yet their is a nugget of truth that is useful to take with us into this conversation. It has become far to easy of late to demonize and degrade those who hold a different perspective from us. Revisionists claim that Traditionalists are heartless, homophobic bigots, whereas Traditionalists hit back by questioning the Revisionists faith, accusing them of selling out to culture, and distorting the gospel.

These sorts of stereotypes are unhelpful, and hurtful. They do not progress the discussion in any way, and in the end all they do is create division.
Whatever side of the aisle you place your feet within this korero, I encourage you to ask yourself, do you care enough to move past stereotypes and surface level arguments? Do you actually desire to move the conversation forward? Or do you just want to be right?For change to happen, we need to be willing to listen to the perspectives of those we disagree with. To Listen is to love.

And if the church is going to move forward, than it must be in Love. For without Love our korero is no better than a resounding gong, or clanging symbol.

Do we need to throw out Biblical Authority in order to reexamine a traditional sexual ethic?
One of the chief concerns held by Traditionalists is the desire to preserve and respect the Church’s teaching on Biblical Authority. Many Traditionalists are concerned that in order to revise a traditional sexual ethic – as it pertains to covenantal same-sex relationships – would require the church to undermine Biblical Authority.
Yet, questioning our understanding of traditional interpretations does not necessary involve throwing out Biblical Authority. Throughout our history the Church has reexamined her understanding of Scripture in light of new scientific discoveries, human experience and a deepened understanding of God’s character as revealed through Christ and the Gospel.

At times this reexamination has led to reforming ancient interpretations of scripture, at other times it has resulted in ridding ourselves of traditional interpretations which no longer work or fit with our current experience and understanding of God, science and the world. Let’s look at a couple of examples.


There was a time within our history when the Christian position on slavery was that it was ordained and mandated by God. There were even those who argued that slavery was a part of the order of creation. These arguments came straight from scripture, and were used to oppress, enslave and discriminate against people. Yet, after bearing witness to the cruelty and suffering people were experiencing as a result of the slave trade, the church was compelled to reexamine her interpretation of the scriptures. Later, after slavery was abolished and the debate moved from slavery to segregation in the United States, Science also played a role in this process. New scientific studies revealed that – contrary to what pro-slavery and segregation advocates claimed – there was no created inferiority between white and black people. This reexamination was not an act of conforming to culture, but was rather a process of ridding the church of cultural blinders that were preventing her from seeing God’s love and acceptance, in this case, of the African American people.

The Early Church and an example from Scripture

Another example is found in Acts, it illustrates a point in early church history when the Church was forced to wrestle with their interpretation of Scripture in light of their experience of God.

You can read the story in full in Acts 10-11, concluding in chapter 15, but here it is in brief.

The issue the Early Church faced was whether or not Gentiles could be saved without following the law of Moses or becoming circumcised. The Early Church had every reason to demand that the Gentiles accept and conform to Jewish Tradition in order to enter the church. Not only was the weight of tradition stacked against the Gentile believers, but Scripture itself was self evident, inclusion into the community of faith, required circumcision and was contingent on obedience to the Law.

Yet, one day Peter has an experience which completely changes the way he approaches this conversation. He meets Cornelius, a Gentile man who is filled with the Spirit, and who has accepted the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Having borne witness to the evidence of the Spirit in the life of Cornelius and his whanau, Peter cannot deny that God has accepted the Gentiles.

This is a pivotal moment for the new Christian community, faced with the real lived experience of Gentile believers, they choose to reinterpret their sacred texts in order to accept and welcome Gentile believers into the community of faith.

Now, some scholars such as leading Traditionalist scholar Robert Gagnon argue that neither of these examples are relevant, as issues of race and that of sexuality are not comparable. Yet, I think Gagnon misses the point slightly. These examples are not meant to be exact comparisons, rather they demonstrate that when faced with fresh revelation from the Spirit, science, and the experience of real people, that the church from it’s conception, has been willing and able to revise her understanding of traditional interpretations, without losing faith, or doing away with the scriptures.
Traditionalists are rightly concerned to preserve respect for the authority of the Scriptures. Yet, as we’ve just seen, questioning our understanding of traditional interpretations does not necessary involve throwing out Biblical Authority.

Now, it’s true that just because the Church has revised or reformed aspects of her theology and tradition in the past, is not in and of itself a case for the acceptance of covenantal same sex relationships. Yet, these illustrations do serve as a reminder that there have been times within Christian history, when the Church was certain that they were right, only to discover later down the track that they had – in fact – been wrong.

So what about covenantal same-sex relationships?

When we turn to this question of LGBTQ inclusion within the Church, is there enough for us to consider revising our traditional stance on this topic?

Aaron visits this question in the next blog. If you want to keep reading, find the links below.

P2: Is There Reason to Reexamine our Theology?

 P3: What about Hell?

P4: What about Repentance and the Gospel?

 P5: What About the OT? 

P6: Do We Need to Speak the Truth to Love?

P7: Is There Room for Silence?

P8: If This is as Far as You Go…

P9: Is it possible to have unity, within diversity?

P10: Can we Love our neighbour if we don’t know them?

P11: We’ve formed relationships, what next?

P12: Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin. Is it time to put this phrase to bed?

P13: Is this the hill we want to die on?


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