Theology Conference Question: Why invite a speaker who claims to be a “gay Christian”?

Greg Strand – January 16, 2013 2 Comments

A question was raised regarding one of the speakers for our upcoming EFCA Theology Conference. Since this question was raised by one, it has also likely been raised by others. With the questioner’s permission I am posting along with my reply.

Question

Wesley Hill is an avowed (though celibate) homosexual and after looking into it, it appears that he is. He admitted so in a Christianity Today book review. Did we know this when we invited him? If so, can you please explain the rationale?

Response

I am fully aware of Wesley Hill and his inclinations. In fact, it is one of the reasons why he was invited. However, even more foundationally, I invited him because he is a fellow brother in the Lord, committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and submissive to the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. He is an Evangelical in the best definition of that term theologically defined. He acknowledges that he has a same-sex attraction. He also acknowledges that it is a result of living in a fallen world. He also acknowledges that he must live in submission to God’s Word.

I don’t necessarily like that he refers to himself as a “gay Christian,” but he has his reasons. Based on his foundational biblical commitments to the Lord, His Word and personal holiness, I am not as inclined to quibble about his reference. I do want to hear his further explanations. I believe Hill has much to teach us about those who have similar struggles, and who desire to live faithfully before the Lord and in submission to His Word.

To respond/conclude that people with struggles like Hill don’t belong or they can’t be Christians, or they can’t be evangelicals, or they are in sin simply because they have these inclinations (I am not broadening this beyond Hill’s position as noted above with all of his acknowledgements and commitments) would be biblically inaccurate. Moreover, I believe the statement that “Hill is an avowed (though celibate) homosexual” is also inaccurate and hurtful, as it is not what he writes or claims.

There appear to be two incorrect assumptions in the statement. First, being a “gay Christian” and having those “inclinations” is equated with being “an avowed homosexual.” They are not one and the same. Second, “avowed” connotes that he affirms and celebrates his identity; Hill indeed regards it as a type of brokenness. But just as we are instructed in Scripture to rejoice in suffering (Rom. 5:1-5; 12:12; Col. 1:24; 1 Pet. 1:6-9), Hill finds things to affirm even in his brokenness (2 Cor. 12:9-10). He never goes the added step, however, of affirming any goodness in homosexual intimacy.

Such a (mis)statement/conclusion may deny the reality of the fallenness of our world that will only be made right when the Lord Jesus Christ returns (and it is important to remember that all of us in some way live with some implications in consequence of the fall that will only be fully sanctified at glorification); it may mandate that they be married which could be to encourage a response that would deny the gift of singleness (cf. 1 Cor. 7:7; both singleness and marriage are “gifts,” and marriage is temporary in that in the resurrection there will be no marriage [Matt. 22:30]); it may force them to the position and people where they find acceptance, that is in and with the homosexual community, those who do not believe the position or the lifestyle are sinful whatsoever.

Though we believe homosexual behavior is sinful, as does Hill, there is much that we as Evangelicals, generally, and as the EFCA, specifically, need to learn. I am prayerful the Lord will use Hill as part of our learning.

 

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to Theology Conference Question: Why invite a speaker who claims to be a “gay Christian”?

  1. Hear, hear, Greg! I’m in full support of this decision and hearing a robust and objective dialogue in Denver. After reading “Washed and Waiting” prior to our excellent symposium on the same subject in the Eastern District (Thank you, Steve Musser!), I realize there is much to learn regarding this issue.

    • Thank you for your response, John. While standing on the inerrant and authoritative Word, without compromising biblical truth and moral/ethical behavior based on that truth, there is much for all of us to learn.

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