Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Real Welcoming and Affirming Church

Richard Rupp is a Christian counselor with a thriving practice in Pasadena, California. He's also a member of an American Baptist church--Evergreen Baptist in Rosemead, CA. Men's issues are among Rick's specialties, and he's had a very sucessful ministry in helping men who are struggling with sexual misindentity.

Rick and I had lunch a few weeks ago, and I asked him to write something that a church could use to clarify that while we stand with Scripture on the morality of homosexuality, we also stand with Scripture on love. Here's what he wrote. Thanks Rick.

Statement of Welcome to Men and Women with Homosexual Attractions

Not all Christian men and women with homosexual attractions identify themselves as “gay,” nor do they want a gay lifestyle or gay partners. Instead, their own hopes are to have a wife, husband and children someday, like most other men and women since time began. And these brothers and sisters deserve to receive all the help they need to make such hopes and prayers come true. A supportive and loving church can be a major source of help and healing for these men and women. For those who feel led to remain single and celibate, we also support their life and role in our churches. This church welcomes and affirms all of these men and women into our churches.

In fact, this is exactly the need that these men have had all of their lives, to feel accepted by a community of other Christian believers that recognize him as the man he is, instead of erroneously labeling him as “gay.” Instead of being ostracized or teased as they often were as boys, these men can finally have their masculine identity respected and affirmed by the men of our churches. Finally, these men can feel like they are “one of the guys.” The healing of their masculine insecurities can finally come true. And these men should never have to worry about being shamed by other men in our churches, for all men are called to a life of righteous living by the same Lord. As Paul himself said, “Not that I have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12) We are all in this journey together of being “conformed to the likeness of His Son.” (Ro. 8:29) We are also called to “encourage one another and build each other up.” (I Thes. 5:11). Women with homosexual attractions can be encouraged by other women in our churches to find new trust in women, and with men, and security in their own femininity. Men with homosexual attractions can be supported in the growth of their masculine identity and their heterosexual desires and confidence with women. These men and women deserve our help. Again, this church welcomes and affirms these men and women into our churches.

Having homosexual desires (vs. behavior) is no more or less a sin than coveting and lusting after some other man’s wife. We are all challenged to align our desires and behavior with God’s design for our sexuality. And God’s design has been clear since the creation of man and woman. We are created for each other, male and female. A man who has sexual desire only for his own sex has been wounded along the way in his masculine identity and sexual development. These wounds typically include a conflicted ability to emotionally separate from his mother, a resentment and disrespect of his father/other males, being ostracized by other boys and peers as “different,” “sissy,” or “gay”, and often times, being sexually abused. A woman who has sexual desire for her own sex has also been wounded in her own feminine identity and sexual development. Her wounds typically include a detachment and resentment of a weak or unavailable mother, and an envy of perceived male power. Her trust in men may also have been destroyed because of sexual abuse or rape. Finally, she may have bought the radical feminist belief that women don’t need men—as if, men are the enemy. Any of the above wounds can contribute to a homosexual orientation, and they deserve to be lovingly healed by our churches with care and respect.

For men and women who have taken a “gay” or lesbian identity and a “gay” lifestyle—you also are welcome into our churches. You are welcome to boldly face God’s Word together with us that calls all of us to His perfect design for our sexuality—male and female sexual intimacy in a monogamous, life long marriage. In the same way, atheists and skeptics are also welcome to join us, as we all respond to God’s revelation to us in Christ Jesus. We welcome you as does Jesus Himself, who opens his arms to all who would put their faith in him. We exclude no one that would want to be a disciple of Jesus along with us, based upon the authority and teaching of his written Word. As for sexuality, God’s Word explicitly teaches His perfect design for male/female intimacy. When God created male and female in His own image, His response was that it was “very good.” We thank God for creating both sexes, and we welcome anyone to our churches who want to grow with us into the fullness of this God given design for sexuality and marriage.

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