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The voice inside: Who is listening?

February 27, 2012 8 Comments

 

by Kim Goebel

Every couple of years we see articles published and discussion arising about homosexuality and the Church. With the recent acceptance of practicing gay and lesbian ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) reiterated its stance on the issue: homosexuality is not what God intended for His creation. However, I am left wondering if we ever intend to look at this issue from a more personal perspective—something less rule-oriented and more people-supportive. For me, the message we too often seem to send is this: “If you’re gay, don’t come to our church.” The articles always talk about hating the sin and loving the sinner, but that message is not really comforting when condemnation of the person seems to be on the tips of so many tongues.

I’m not a pastor, nor a theologian; I am not a DPS, nor do I hold any theological degree. I have a BA and a BEd. I attended Concordia University College of Alberta, sang in the choir, and am currently actively involved in my congregation. I grew up in  LCC guided by faithful parents who took me to church almost every Sunday, and I thank God regularly for their guidance—my faith is strong today because of it. But I am gay.

The human side

There is a human side to the homosexuality issue. Gay LCC Lutherans exist, and I, for one, would like to feel safe and accepted in my own synod.

As a Christian struggling with same-sex attraction, I often find the tone of the ongoing discussion offensive. It sounds very magnanimous: “love the sinner, but hate the sin”—as if this is a concession the Church makes on behalf of gay people. It’s fine to believe that being a practising homosexual is wrong, but offering to love us anyway is not some favour the Church extends—it’s the Church’s responsibility to offer access to God’s Word and Christ’s forgiveness.

Gay LCC members are hesitant to come out. Why? The answer is as simple as it is disheartening: many Christians do not truly distinguish between the sinner and the sin. It is not the act that is condemned; it’s the person. Even if we are non-practising homosexuals who accept the Scripture’s teaching on same-sex relationships, we still feel that condemnation. It is the fact that we are gay that is the problem—we must “repent of our desires,” we are told, and “not be gay” anymore.

But which desires?—the desire to be loved, to have a family, to come home at night and have someone ask, “How was your day?” The desire for companionship?

Much of the discussion simply labels all desire as sin and “the lust of the flesh” (Romans 13:14). However, whether straight or gay, the desire to be with someone special is as human as it gets. Even God recognized it is “not good for [people] to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). How are these desires any different from those of a straight Christian? God ordained from the beginning that we need partners in this life—physical beings with whom to live our lives.

Homosexuality is not a choice. I did not wake up one day and decide to prefer women.

The people perspective

Let’s look at it from the “people” perspective. The way many Christians condemn homosexuality does not reflect “loving the sinner and hating the sin,” because many cannot separate the two. There is also an implied expectation that this sin, above all others, must be eliminated to be assured salvation. Are we therefore required to recognize and control every sin to gain salvation? This is one of the things Martin Luther fought against in his struggle with the Roman church almost 500 years ago. If every person must sit down and name every sin they’ve committed and then stop committing them in order to be assured a place in heaven, it’s fair to say heaven will be a lonely place.

Paul’s comments about the “lust of the flesh” aren’t limited to sexual immorality. He discusses many sins such as idolatry, slander, drunkenness, swindling (1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-11) and he doesn’t rank them. That’s not to say we don’t try to stop committing the sins we recognize, but failure is a regular part of our daily routine. It is God’s grace that holds us up and assures us of salvation—not our ability not to sin.

Homosexuality is not a choice. I did not wake up one day and decide to prefer women. Likewise, I cannot wake up tomorrow and decide to prefer men. I cannot change who I am. (God can, but so far, He has not).

A lonely place

I admit to spinning between believing that to actively pursue a physical relationship with another woman is wrong in the eyes of God, and really wishing I could find a loophole somewhere. I struggle with the choice daily because, like most people, I desire an intimate, physical, loving relationship with another human being. And this at times is a lonely place to be—something both straight and gay people can understand.

For me this isn’t an issue about ordination or a question of whether my sin is worse than someone else’s; it’s about recognizing that there should be a place for all sinners to come to the cross in safety and love, warts and all.

The Church should be a place where I can find others who share my struggle and can support me in my journey. If I have to be sinless before coming into the Church, then I don’t really need the Church, do I?

Let’s try looking at this issue from a different perspective: seeing homosexuals as people who want the same thing as everyone else—people whose wish is not to be alone. Maybe that’s a place to start.

 Kim Goebel is a member of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Edmonton, Alberta.

  • claire

    Kim, thank you so much for sharing so vulnerably and honestly. 

  • Littlecountryblessings

    This is so what I have been looking for.  I am extremely interested in this topic and the Lutheran church.

  • Zannova In Ink

    Thank you so much for sharing your struggles Kim, this is a topic that’s close to my heart. This article is such a healthy and open discussion-starter for people in the church.  Peace in Jesus <3

  • Judy

    Thank you so much, Kim and Pastor Esperanza for your articles.  Both of your articles “spoke” to me on a different level, but very much the same.  It spoke to me about ACCEPTANCE, the acceptance of all people, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or SIN! 
     I am new to my congregation and although I don’t have the same “story” as you, I did not feel a loving acceptance when I joined my present congregation.  I have been a member of the LCC church all of my life.  I did join the ELCIC church at one point, and then left the Church all together for quite a long time.  The reason??  The judgments that I heard come out of my fellow Lutherans mouths made me sad, resentful and angry.  I wanted to be a part of a group of Christians that accepted anyone entering our Church with the idea of coming to Christ and learning about His Word.  I struggled finding that, but eventually I knew that I could no longer forgo having a home Congregation as I was no longer a good role model for my children or family.
      Maturity has changed me and I now know that I am responsible for that change and therefore, as much as I struggle with the judgments I see and hear (and have had directed verbally right at me!) I know that I must be the one that models this behavior of acceptance for everyone around me, especially my children.  So Kim, if you ever come for a visit to my church (Prince of Peace Lutheran in Calgary) I welcome you with open arms, just as Christ does for you and I every day! Blessings to both!  You are role models for every Lutheran and Christian.

  • Kim

    Thanks to all who wrote in with support. I am encouraged by the many people I’ve spoken to since this article was printed. I pray for all Church communities to talk openly about the struggles of our Brothers and Sisters regardless of what they be. I try to go to worship honestly these days, rather than wearing my “church-face”. God Bless us all, in all our weaknesses.

  • Carlos Frederico Lange

    Very nice words, Kim.

    This article was featured on episode 216 of the Crossfeed Podcast: http://www.crossfeednews.com/

  • DawnRolke

    I am moved by your article, Kim, and the responses and support offered here. Thanks for coming out and beng out and for responding to the light within.
     

  • He leído muy detenidamente el artículo de nuestra hermana Kim, ha sido muy conmovedor, sobre todo porque no trata de re argumentar a favor de la práctica homosexual, es pues una plática – confesión que nace de lo mas profundo de un corazón sufriente y con muchos desiertos internos. Me llamó la atención que no siente un “orgullo gay”, ni pretende ser premiada, ni busca concesiones, más que ser aceptada, más a los ojos de Dios, que ante la misma iglesia.
    Como conclusión, me atrevo a decir, que muchos heterosexuales, no somo menos pecadores por el simple hecho de sentir atracción por el sexo opuesto; yo no sería capaz de arrogar la primera piedra, ¿y usted ?.
    Reciban Paz y Bien, son mis deseos.