By Justin Massey
I once advocated for absolute inclusion.
Now I admit I no longer support this ideal.
As a gay Christian, I experienced too many sleepless nights—overwhelmed with the exclusion and hurt I felt from well-intentioned people dedicated to Christ. In these moments of crisis, with tears in my eyes, I swore that I would make a space for all people. While I will always push for grace and love for all people, I now realize that sometimes my very faith calls me to reject particular voices that cause only damage and pain. The words of a few have wreaked havoc on God’s beloved for far too long.
Yesterday a dear friend and brilliant woman of God, Julie Rodgers, was disparaged by an article which intended to give ‘all sides of the story.’ Rodgers, a celibate gay woman, is a beloved mentor to many and a new addition to the Wheaton College staff this year. This article was allegedly written to provide a balanced conversation. However, all it did was 1) criticize my college for hiring a qualified staff member who is entirely committed to its theology and 2) promote ‘reparative therapy’ which so many have rejected, even in the conservative church, as highly dangerous and problematic.
This voice is one seat I will unapologetically remove from my table.
I like to think I am level-headed and promote broad inclusion that might make some uncomfortable. For instance, I embrace my LGBT brothers and sisters who believe God blesses same-sex relationships. At the same time I will always allow for those who are called to celibacy or even believe they must personally work to change their orientation.
However, I will not stand by as someone speaks in order to do little more than shamelessly attack my sister in Christ. LGBT individuals are hugely important to the Church. For a believer to condemn a person for simply having a non-heterosexual orientation (not talking about behavior here) is for them to blatantly reject an entire group of people. This leads not only to serious personal damage for the one marginalized, but also to the loss of something incredible value in our Church: diversity.
Senior student, Jordan-Ashley Barney, who was quoted in the aforementioned article under false pretenses, explained to me the value of including LGBT persons in our faith communities. She believes that “other orientations bring diversity and experience, [and] this experience makes us whole people. We experience God’s grace and love in different ways. If we had people of one experience…this would be lost.”
The hiring of Julie Rodgers has indeed been shown to be an incredible gain for community at Wheaton College. Sara Kohler, a senior at Wheaton who identifies as a lesbian, explained some of the difficulties of life at an evangelical college, “Half of my LGBTQ friends have dropped out due to psychological stress or worse. I have had friends try and commit suicide because of the messages the church sends LGBTQ people. The subsequent hopelessness is overwhelming.” In a space that often feels despairing Kohler went on to affirm “the hiring of Julie Rodgers [as] the first time [she has] seen Wheaton College listen to the needs of LGBTQ students…She is unanimously loved [and] to disparage her is completely inappropriate.”
If you are wondering whether or not we ought to demand LGBT persons to change, you are asking the wrong question. Rather than criticizing the story of those working according to traditional theology, lets applaud our brothers and sisters making huge strides for the Kingdom and ask how we can create a safer space in which we can share the hope of the Gospel.
While I used to support a balanced conversation in every context regardless of the consequences, I am realizing that the most Christian answer may not always to fully embrace every view point. In fact the most Christ-like response may be to rebuke those perspectives that fail to embody the profound love of our Savior.
All people are children of God including LGBT persons. It is against the very nature of Christ and His love to demonstrate the sort of insensitivity and aggression my community faces on a daily basis. Therefore, I will reject the voices of those who contribute to this injustice.
We are not called to make sure people feel comfortable.
We are called to love in the radical way that Christ has loved us.