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It’s been quite a month for the issue of gay rights. Overshadowing court decisions and not-so-random acts of ecclesial disobedience have been two stories. Both have drawn in the media and enraged the public. One was suspension of “Duck Commander” Phil Robertson and the other was the defrocking of the Rev. Frank Schaefer. Both sides of this debate are on the warpath!

I’m one of the nutty people who takes time to read comments on internet articles and blogs. Yeah, I know. A big waste of time and far from being an accurate barometer of a cultural storm. However, I’ve never seen such wild ramblings from both sides.

And leaders within the Church are weighing in as well. An executive director for a religious gay rights network stated that the defrocking of Schaefer “will serve the purpose of galvanizing our movement for even greater acts of Biblical Obedience moving forward–we are only growing stronger.” And a video on a conservative site states that the United Methodist Church is moving toward schism. One needs only to look at how other denominations have fared to know the fracturing that likely awaits the UMC.

I never watch UFC matches (Ultimate Fighting Championship). The brutal commercials have an appeal. But I sense that the part of me which is drawn to the slugfests is not a part I want to feed. I can imagine as one fighter lands a head-jerking punch or a rib crunching kick, half the crowd cheers. Then others roar as their hero returns with a flurry of fists. For me, good sense says let’s ring the bell and end this thing.

For 40 years two extremes have slugged it out in various venues. A crowd of moderates have watched as each assault is launched and each point scored. Sometimes they cheer as an opponent staggers, or sigh with relief as someone survives until the bell is rung. Is it not time to disentangle the combatants?

Will the moderates please jump into the ring and moderate?!

This is not to assume that the moderates have no opinion. Most do. But as with other controversies which have faced the Church, most moderates vote for unity and hope the storm will blow over. Can we not see that this debate/dialogue/debacle is tearing us apart? Are we just going to let this match continue until one bloodied opponent concedes or flees the ring?

The Church must lead by example. There are bigger issues which call for our attention. Whether your tradition is Holiness or Contemplative, Charismatic or Incarnational, Social Justice or Evangelical, we must live with the tension of disagreement and work to address other more pressing issues.

What if we put the same amount of energy, passion and money into ending human trafficking?

What if we combined efforts to bring healing and reconciliation to victims of sexual abuse?

What could we accomplish if we focused our expertise on the marriages crippled by sexual addiction or sexual aversion?

These are sexual matters which are relevant to an ever growing majority of people.

For further insight on unifying our efforts, please read the article available on the resource page: “Sexuality and the Mess We’re In”.

And as always, your thoughts?

  • Mark,
    Great job!!! Extremely challenging and great perspective, Keep up the good work.

  • Eric Raygor

    “Will the moderates please jump into the ring and moderate?!”

    That may well be one of the best sentences among thousands that have been posted in the past few weeks about this topic. Thanks, Mark.

    • Mark Ongley

      Thanks, Eric. Next week I’ll address what that might look like.

  • Heather Escontrias

    The younger generation is disillusioned with the church over our inability to communicate our message compassionately. We are seen as “haters” by many young people today. I feel like Phil’s comments may have added to that perception of the church. I have found that it’s best not to make blanket statements. I feel that having a relationship with an individual sometimes opens up the chance for me to dialog with them about their choices. It seems that if they know me personally, it’s a lot easier for them to trust my heart toward them.

  • Jim T

    First off, I must say “Merry Christmas” to all. What a blessing it is to know that we have a God who loves each one of us so much (regardless of our race, gender or sexual dysfunction), that He sent His one and only Son to us … knowing that He was destined for such a gruesome and painful death. How deep the Fathers love for us!?! And assuredly it is that awesome love that all of us posting on this blog desire to share with ALL of humanity!

    Mark, I appreciate your effort here and while I don’t disagree with anything that you’ve stated thus far, I’m not hearing any good solutions to the dilemma that the Evangelical church is facing on this issue. I belong to a progressive, but conservative, evangelical church that has taken a significant stand to support those suffering the impact of sexual abuse and sin. Several of our members, including myself, have attended your seminars to become better educated in how to address such matters and we’ve even had some of your colleagues present seminars at the church on sexual abuse, dysfunction and the impact that it has in each of our lives – that presenter left stating she felt we were “truly a healing church”. Our Christmas Eve offering last night went to help support the State Certified Professional Clinical Christian Counselor to whom our church offers free office space and substantial financial support for her ministry to the victims of sexual abuse, as well as other counseling needs. Needless to say, we have not buried our heads in the sand regarding the sexual dysfunction that abounds in our nation today. Additionally, we do not have signs on the door stating “Only white heterosexual persons permitted in this House of Worship.” Our little rural church actually has a few mix race couples who regularly attend and we are actively involved in a diverse number of missions throughout the world.

    That being said, however, we do hold firm to what we believe to be biblical truths. That we are all – each one of us, regardless of our past or current sin, loved by God. (And what an awesome truth THAT is!! Amen?) And we know that we all are sinners in need of a Savior. We also believe that God is the Creator of life and that He values each one of us from the very moment of conception (which, of course, places us into another divisive moral/cultural position). And finally (and most closely related to the topic at hand), we believe that God created man, then He created woman to be his partner. God created and physically designed men and women in order that they might be joined together in joyful and prolific union – that is His natural design. So while we are not homophobic (really – what is there to fear from homosexuals??), we do preach from our pulpit that God’s design for sex is that it be limited to married men and women enjoying one another in a loving and consensual manner. That just seems like such a no-brainer for me that I almost want to scream at the daily deluge of pro-gay marriage “news” that the liberal media seems to unendingly report. I love lots of men and I love lots of women, but I firmly believe in my heart that God only honors sexual intimacy between a married man and woman.

    So I guess the question here is, since I believe our church is already taking a pretty solid position to address the “Elephant” in the room, what’s our next step to show Christ’s love to the LGBT community without compromising His word? Gays are welcome at our church, just as alcoholics, porn addicts and adulterers are, but none will ever receive a perpetual “Get Out Of Jail Free” card! We’re gonna’ call a spade a spade, all the while taking a very long look into the mirror to recognize our own sins, faults and failures. No one here is claiming to be “Holier than Thou”, yet we feel we have a responsibility to hold one another accountable.

    • Mark Ongley

      Sounds as though you are miles ahead of most conservative, rural churches. Kudos! In short, I would say doors to ministry will open more easily with learning some sensitivity to the LBGT community’s concerns. (Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin would be excellent.) In the next few blogs I will paint the picture with some broad strokes, but I will communicate directly with you about specifics for your congregation.

    • Rick Chrosniak

      Thank you, Jim, for your forthrightness in your comments. Personally, I am very conservative, and both my pastor and myself do recognize sin for what it is: rebellion against God. However, when you say that “none will ever receive a perpetual ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card”, we need to include ourselves in that scenario. According to Paul, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6: 23). You see, at issue is the way we as humans put “degrees” on sin, whereas God sees all sin the same.

      I once saw a Facebook post that stated, “Don’t judge me because my sin is different that yours.” Because we “compare” sin based on – shall we say – a “sliding fee scale”, those who hear the statement that “we have a responsibility to hold one another accountable” also hear judgment in that same phrase. It is the manner in which we call “a spade a spade” that is at issue.

  • Jim T

    Thanks for your reference to some additional reference material, Mark. I’m not a real big reader, but God keeps moving me toward doing more reading, beyond my daily devotions, so I’ll probably pick up a copy of this and check it out.

    And Rick, I certainly agree with you. That would be why I stated “all the while taking a very long look into the mirror to recognize our own sins, faults and failures.” and “No one here is claiming to be ‘Holier than Thou’ “. We all need accountability, offered as “truth in love”, regardless of the nature of our own sin. As we sin, or rebel against God, it distances us from His love and our relationship with Him. And what Christian would want that?? Any accountability, whether it’s with your Pastor or some sexually confused parishioner, MUST be offered with GRACE and HUMILITY.

  • Jennifer

    I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. I realize these posts are over a month old, but I thought I would post this anyway. One of the comments made was about God considering all sin the same. I have heard those thoughts many times in Christian circles. I have always found that to be a curious thing. Does God really consider one sin the same as another? Here are my thoughts, and they are meant to be respectful as I walk out this journey with Jesus and have much to learn. In the Old Testament, the penalties for sin were different. Not only that, but not accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior seems to be the only one that keeps you out of heaven. I believe sin is sin, but I cannot say I am convinced that they are all the same in God’s eyes. He does not deal with all sin the same way. Sacrifices were different based on types of sin. I also believe we sin a lot more than we can even fathom. I am so thankful that Jesus loves me, and the world, that He made a way to be forgiven. He made a way for me to know Him.

    I appreciate the posts. They have challenged me to think more about what I believe and why.

    • Mark Ongley

      Glad you are reading, thinking and commenting, Jenny. Several thoughts. Without question, some sins have greater consequences than others. Sexual sins, by their very nature, cause a lot of damage. But all sin is equally sinful in the eyes of a holy God. The best example is Jesus’ statement that to look at a woman for the purpose of lusting is as bad as adultery. They are equally sinful, but certainly the consequences would differ greatly. As for the differing penalties and sacrifices in the OT, I believe those correlated to the type of law that was violated. Ceremonial and civil laws carried different penalties than moral laws. The latter, as found in Leviticus, carried the death penalty. (I’m actually in the process of writing a booklet which will go into more detail about the sexual laws in Leviticus.) Keep thinking through the issues!

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