Thursday, June 20, 2013

John Wimber, the late and beloved leader of the Vineyard, once said something to the effect that every great move of God is most vehemently opposed by the recipients of the previous move of God. It was an insightful observation; you can see it all through church history, going back to the Pharisees who antagonized Jesus and his disciples (the Pharisees often get a bad rap, but they were earnest seekers of God and part of an ancient reform movement which ultimately saved Judaism after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D.).

In more recent and local history, we've seen God-inspired social justice movements such as the abolition of slavery, women's rights, anti-poverty and civil rights in which Christians were simultaneously leading the charge and heading the opposition. Still today, the most segregated places in America and the most repressive for women are at many churches on Sunday morning.

We are in the midst of another tectonic move of God. This one involves a re-evaluation of attitudes towards people who are LGBTQ. Christians are realizing that the call to follow Jesus and to reflect Jesus to a hurting world has been obscured by what George Fox of the Quakers used to call a propensity for "preaching up sin." Many Christians, myself included, have carefully studied the handful of scriptures traditionally used to condemn homosexuality and found that the texts have been grossly misinterpreted and misapplied. Concurrently, more and more of us are developing "ears to hear" what the Spirit is saying. What the Spirit is saying is, "Inclusion."

Yesterday Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, issued a profound apology for the harm done by his organization's 30 years of reparative "cure the gay" therapy. Today it is being announced that Exodus International will shut down. Tonight, the television program Our America with Lisa Ling will air an emotional confrontation between Chambers and people who have been damaged by the "therapies" that Exodus proferred:

John Paulk the former chairman of Exodus and the co-author of "Love Won Out: How God's Love Helped Two People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other" (which was heavily promoted by Focus on the Family) has likewise recanted his involvement in ministries which claimed to be able to change sexual orientation:

“For the better part of 10 years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the 'ex-gay movement,' where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not. Today, I do not consider myself 'ex-gay,' and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people."

These are markers--mileposts--along a road that is leading towards the place where, as the prophet Amos (and later Martin Luther King, Jr.) envisioned, justice will "roll down like waters, and righteousness (which in Hebrew is tzedakah, meaning 'fairness') like an ever-flowing stream."

During the earliest years of Christianity, a wise Pharisee named Gamaliel counselled the Sanhedrin (the ruling council in Jerusalem) to leave the followers of the provocative new move of God alone: “So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!”

They who have ears to hear, let them hear.


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