‘God and the Gay Christian’ conversation

April 2014

The fight for acceptance of sex-same unions has moved from the gay community to the media to the states to the courts to “mainline” churches—and now to evangelical churches.

Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian is published by Convergent Books, owned by Crown Group which also includes WaterBrook Press, Multnomah Books and Image Books. The publisher sent out a release announcing the book will “radically change the conversation about being gay in the church. We believe it offers a thoughtful examination of Scripture on the topic of same-sex relationships from a bold, young, evangelical writer whose first calling is to promote a civil, loving, and biblically-based conversation on the subject.”

In a September 2012 interview with The Christian Post, Vines, [said] “The Bible never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships. There is no biblical teaching about sexual orientation, nor is there any call to lifelong celibacy for gay people.” Vine is founder of The Reformation Project, which seeks to reform church teachings on sexual orientation.

Needless to say, the book’s release has already created some, shall we say, “lively” conversation. So, may I suggest some ground rules for the conversation:

Let the conversation be gracious and loving

      Let your conversation be always full of grace (Colossians 4:6).

      Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Name-calling from the “God hates fags” crowd to pro-gay groups labeling opponents as “homophobic” does nothing to further the conversation.

      If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Keep in mind, our opponents are not the enemy. There is only one true enemy—Satan—but there are millions of prisoners of war. And you don’t shoot POWs!

Let the conversation be objective, accurate and fair

      Teach the message of truth correctly (2 Timothy 2:15).

      “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God (2 Corinthians 4:2).

The first casualty of war is truth. The same is true in the culture war. As I’ve taught to college classes and conferences, Christian writers and speakers must be OAFs: objective, accurate and fair.

Objective: Acknowledge that everyone is “biased,” but we can strive to be objective in our conversations.

Accurate: Strive for biblical accuracy in definition of Greek and Hebrew words at the time they were written, respect the literary and cultural context of verses, and seek out the broadest perspective on the subject from the entire Bible. No proof-texting! (See my post What does the Bible really say?.)

Fair: Quote your sources as well as opposing views fairly and in context.

Let the conversation be free and unrestricted

I fear that “political correctness” and “hate speech” laws will hamper the freedom to express one’s views in an honest, open, free conversation.

Both sides have used boycotts to force their views upon employees and businesses. Recently tech giant Mozilla (Firefox) forced its CEO and founder to resign for supporting California’s legislation to ban gay marriage. And Christian groups compile their lists of gay-friendly businesses to shun.

Debating the issue is difficult when one’s livelihood is threatened simply for voicing an opinion.

So, let the conversation within the evangelical community begin. What’s your perspective in the conversation? Please comment below, but please follow the guidelines above. Thanks!

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

My side in the conversation
“God and the Gay Christian” conversation: 2

Related posts:
A “civil” debate on same-sex unions
“Coming out” My sexual self-identity crisis
God hates godhatesfags.com
Why are some people so bent out of shape about homosexuality?

33 Responses

  • Linda Au says:

    Jim, I’m on the board of my denominational publisher and we have two publications I’d love to send you. One is a book that is making huge waves in the evangelical community, “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” (more memoir than theology), and the other is our denominational synod’s researched and studied paper on the subject “The Gospel and Sexual Orientation.”

    Both are excellent in their own way, and I’d love to know your reaction to them. Let me know and I can send them to you ASAP. –Linda

  • Wendy says:


    Just throwing this out there. For what it is worth to you. The Bible does appear to address the subject.

  • Diana says:

    Jim, I think this is marvelous! You are entirely correct that we need to treat each other with respect in our debates and interactions. Many people have been so badly wounded in the crossfire of hateful words and accusations that they’re afraid of stepping inside a church ever again. (I’m ministering to several right now.) Bravo for having the courage to write this.

    I also read your “Coming Out’ post. I know people who have had similar experiences. Thank you for posting those thoughts. Your courage will make a difference in people’s lives.

  • Harry Bohrs says:

    First: I like your argument, I would put point 4 in front of 3.

    Second:The Old Testament says things about the issue’ on the same book in which we ignore a wealth of things, including inheiiritance,succession in marriage/widow.
    The New Testament injunction, I believe, was against the Greek philosophy of paideia, the stress and practices that led to Platonic relationship.

  • I like what you’ve written, especially the rules. I dislike name calling and find it very counterproductive to intelligent discussion. It’s bullying, plain and simple. And you can’t bully people into a relationship with Christ. Charlemagne tried that back in the late 700’s. Didn’t work then either.

    I think we should always – ALWAYS – respectfully agree to disagree. That isn’t hate. That isn’t fear. That isn’t discrimination. That’s life. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Not everyone is going to take the correct path. You have to give people the freedom to pick their own future. God did. Can we do any less?

  • Steve says:

    I want everyone to enjoy God’s peace through his son Jesus Christ. This as well as other topics are between the person and God. We all walk into eternity at some point. I chose Jesus and his word. There are many verses that directly talk about this topic and how people respond. The media fuels the fire, the left and the right take positions which both preach tolerance, which comes to hate and really becomes intolerance. Saddens me political correctness has taken over. There is no real truth anymore in the world which is talked in 2 Timothy 4:3-5.

    Romans 1:27
    2 Timothy 4:3-5
    Search for sexual Immorality.
    The basis from God’s word and togetherness in Genesis 2:24.

  • Jim, I appreciate the tenor. And from all the stuff floating around the internet, this seems to be the message within the Christian community. Be nice. Play nice. I get it. I’m just afraid we will cave in the end. The Bible is not only clear, it is very clear. Implicitly and explicitly. It is clear about this sin (homosexuality) as it is about all other sin. And God dealt with this sin in very specific and harsh ways. Sodom & Gomorrah, for example. They wanted to rape and abuse the visitors who came to Lot’s house. Read the text carefully. The angel of the Lord, he is called. He is even referenced as YHWH (in our bibles, LORD is in all caps). So, to say God doesn’t address it is erroneous on so many levels. He personally dealt with S & G. Now, having said all that, homosexuality should be treated as any other sin. A person can become saved and still struggle with homosexuality just like a person can be saved and struggle with any temptation. The BIG difference in this debate is this: the Matthew Vines of the world want to say a person can be gay, live a gay lifestyle, and still call themselves a Christian and go to heaven someday. If this is true (and it is not), then so can adulterers, pedophiles, murderers, liars, thieves, human traffickers, you name it. So long as they profess to be Christians, they’re in. That’s the difference. It’s all about the new man. For the Matthew Vines of the world, they’ve missed that part. For them, their “old and new man” can live together under the same temple roof. If we cave to this theological deception, our message is lost, and we might as well “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

    • Deb Evans says:

      Many people profess many things. We can not judge on the basis of what people profess. The bible condemns homosexuality in the exact same way that it deals with adultery and many other sins. In the end, only God can judge. We can only love and encourage people who fight with any sin to resist and accept the consequences of their behavior. Too many people condemn homosexuals while silently condoning fornication, adultery, greed and so many other sins. Is this attitude any less sinful than pride and stubbornness? If we are to hold homosexuals up as an example of rampant sin, then we must hold all other sin up in the exact same way.

  • Both the Old and the New Testaments are very clear on what God thinks about homosexuality. He does not think it is natural. He did not intend for it to be. Yes, we are to love all men. Yes we are to treat all people with kindness. Yes we are to live as peaceably as possible with all men. But if we say homosexuality is acceptable then we are denying the truth. If we deny the truth, Christ will deny us. Christ said not all those that say Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those that do the will of his father.

    Leviticus 20:13

    Romans 1:18-32

    • Tara says:

      Complete Jewish Bible Leviticus 18:22 do not lay with a man as you do with a woman, it is an abomination the bible goes over these things in old and new testament alike…… I really enjoyed your reply.. I agreed whole heartedly. ….

  • Bob Haslam says:

    While being loving and kind, Christians–to be authentic–must be biblical. Any discussion of the gay issues that leaves out Romans chapter one is a cop out.

  • Lora says:

    Hi Jim, I’m a little confused about #2. Are saying sexual orientations could be the result of “nature?”
    If so, I know there has been media coverage of a “gay gene,” but I’d check the research, as my
    understanding is those claims were not based on a solid interpretation of the research.
    Unfortunately, both sides interpret research to support their position on lot of social issues.

  • Steve says:

    Jim, I appreciate this statement.

    My one suggestion, if you mean to say that the Bible is not in favor of homosexual behavior, but that God does not condemn homosexual desire (if it is not acted upon), I think you need to be clearer on that. I think that is what you are saying, but it is vague. Your words could be interpreted that those with a homosexual orientation (that they did not choose to have) would be at liberty to act upon that.

  • Patrick Vaughan says:

    God makes it pretty clear what is sexual immorality. Anything outside of marriage between a man and a woman is immoral. Adultery, any fornication which includes homosexuality. Yes salvation for all. Then comes sanctification. Being Holy and set apart by God’s standard and Word, not man’s interpretation. Work out salvation daily by being sanctified. If we refuse sanctification, Is salvation guaranteed? Nothing in the Bible justifies homosexuality, and you’re a false teacher walking a dangerous path if you do.

  • Karen F. says:

    James, I really appreciate your perspective, and it resonates with me. For a time, I was in the Roman Catholic church. The official church takes an excellent stand on this issue. They acknowledge that people struggle with same sex attraction. They also say we have to follow the rules in Scripture: That sexual activity is exclusively for a man and woman who are married to one another in a lifelong commitment. They advise celibacy for those who struggle with homosexuality, just as they would recommend that for a single Christian heterosexual. Again, this is me attempting to sum up what I believe their position is, and I really appreciated the compassion and understanding they show to those who struggle with same sex attraction. You seem to have the same sort of balance in what you have written above, and I truly appreciate it. Also, I recently read a blog post that I thought was well written on the subject: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/why-homosexuality-is-not-like-other-sins. Had some good “food for thought”, if you will. I like how you set up the “ground rules”. It established a good tone for the rest of the post.

  • Lori Hollinger says:

    If this article is to be published, and if gay men or women read it, they WILL argue that homosexuality is not a sin. I once had a conversation with a friend of my daughter’s who was gay and the conversation came to a screeching halt when I made a comment like, ” sin is sin in God ‘s eyes and that was the END of the conversation and our relationship. If we are interested in a relationship with a person, I learned very quickly that it is judging to point the sin finger at him/her. I find just loving and caring for any and all people is the best way. If God wants to get through to any of us, then the Holy Spirit will convict and it isn’t our job to try and change their heart. The Bible says the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself, Mark 12:29-31. How many of us would walk up to a believer at a buffet and say, “Let’s be friends, but just so you know overeating is a sin and I can’t condone you doing this yet sin is sin. None of us would dream of doing this. That is what people who are gay feel like. Like all of us, they deserve grace and love from us and let the Holy Spirit do His job.

  • Mark Lundgren says:

    Jim, I appreciate how you’ve started, but I get the sense that this is just a start. I’d like to hear more of the “conversation” you’re engaging in.
    Also, I share this link with you, from someone who has been on both sides of this issue. It is an excerpt from the author’s book. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful.

  • Annie Travis says:

    This is something I’ve done some thinking about, and some wrestling about. I don’t want to be hateful. I don’t want to condone sin, and I do believe that the Bible forbids this kind of relationship. Recently at my work a lesbian was hired, and I was going to have to work with her one on one. I am nearly 50 years old and have never had to work closely with such an individual before–I have avoided it up until now. And now I find that her presence alone is making me think about my own attitudes about this as never before. I found that I was very much afraid that if I addressed the topic with her at all, I would do it wrong and she would hear hatred. I was afraid that she’d hear hatred even if there was none. I was afraid that my own attitudes maybe really weren’t right all the time. I found that I can work with her and respect her as a colleague, and we can have good conversations. I also found that I have not opened up to her, have not “friended” her on Facebook, and worst of all, am afraid to let her know that I am an Evangelical Christian who believes the Bible. I am not ashamed of the Bible or the Gospel–at least, I never have been before, but I do not want her to think I am against her. I have heard it said that no matter how nice you try to be, if a gay person finds out you think its a sin, they think you hate them. That may be an over-generalization and a prejudice, but it felt okay to live with that until I was faced with an actual gay person, and I have no idea whether she would actually feel that way or not. I have worked with her for a few months now, and have not really allowed her to see nearly as much of who I am as I usually do with new people, because I’m not sure how she’d take me. I actually thought about changing jobs, until I realized that a lot of the reason was because of being afraid of being a poor witness to this lady, and the thought was to take myself out of her sphere and remove myself back to my gay-free existence. This is not something I ever thought might even be a part of the conversation. I never realized that coming into contact with a gay person would make me ask questions of myself. I’m glad she’s my co-worker just for that! I think God is using her to stretch me and grow me. I think right now I’m going to have to stay in my job, even though there are other compelling reasons other than the fact that it means I have to work with a lesbian to think about changing it, reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with this conversation, because right now I need to let God take me through the changes I need, and then maybe I’ll get to be a witness to her, just like I try to be, and pray to be, to my other co-workers.

    • Ray Kershaw says:

      How about buying a sign for your car that says you love Jesus? Not that you really need to do that but it would help you overcome your fear of being a public Christian. I did that when I found one for no particular reason than that it says who I am (better than vanity plates). Once done, I realized this would label me and despite some concerns (really fears) I’ve left it on the last several years- it’s still there. I also work with all kinds of people, including gays, straights, christians, muslims, you name it. They also know where I stand, not just from the sign. Sometimes you don’t need words, you have to demonstrate love and concern, but you shouldn’t back down on your beliefs (Jesus warned about denying Him).

  • Hi Jim,
    Thank you for inviting me to be part of this “Facebook First Trial”. I like your conversation rules. I’d like to comment, however, on “your part” in the conversation. As a woman in lay ministry, this is one topic I come across regularly. It’s a difficult one for sure. I think all your points are good and strong. However, I feel like perhaps something has been missed. It’s the topic of marriage. I personally know people who would agree with everything you have written. They believe God loves them the same as heterosexuals, they don’t believe God would condemn them for being homosexual, they believe in sexual sin and that it must be avoided, and they believe God can forgive their sin, and that they need to live according to God’s plan.

    However… there are so many assumptions in your part of the conversation I feel like you may want to consider addressing. Here are some questions or comments I know would come up if you had a conversation with some of the people I know (I am changing this tense as if I was gay to speak on their behalf. I am NOT gay and stand firmly again homosexual marriages. I personally have no issues with what you have written… I only see ‘holes’):

    – We’re married to each other so we’re not sinning now. Perhaps we burned with lust for one another before our marriage, and even had homosexual sex… but we’ve confessed that, God’s forgiven it, and now we’re married. God blesses marriage so we are in complete agreement with Scripture. (And you would say…??)

    – 1 Corinthians 7 talks about making sure that you get married if you are going to burn with passion and end up sinning. So we have obeyed Scripture and gotten married.

    – So now that we’re married, is the church actually advocating that we get a divorce? Really? the church thinks divorce is better than our happy, well-adjusted marriage of two gay people?

    I think there is coming a time quickly when we actually have to say what we mean… with love.

    These would be my answers:
    – The issue is not that you are not, or cannot be forgiven, but that to be forgiven requires repentance. Repentance means doing things differently, and according to God’s plan. God’s plan has never included homosexual marriage, and therefore I believe it cannot be blessed. Because God does not endorse homosexual marriage, your sexual relationship with your partner is a violation of God’s command to flee from sexual immorality. I understand this must be a very difficult cross to bear. However, it is a cross that I believe also acts as an invitation. Jesus specifically called us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. This may be the very thing He was thinking about for you when He said that. The Christian life is not easy. For some it is harder than others. But for those who submit under the most difficult circumstances we can be assured the Lord will bless with abundant reward in eternity.

    – 1 Corinthians 7 is more about NOT getting married than about getting married. The idea is that staying single will give you more opportunity to minister and less opportunity for trouble. IF… you were so distracted by sex that you simply cannot live a pure and holy life you should get married. However, the marriage that is talked about in this passage, as it is in all other biblical passages is the union that GOD calls marriage: A covenant between one man and one woman for all time or unless separated by death. So your marriage is not recognized by God as a marriage. This means your sexual relationship is still sinful.

    – Because God does not see a homosexual union as marriage, the divorce would be civil rather than spiritual. I believe divorce should only happen under very rare circumstances.

    I write this with some trepidation because I know the outlashing that is possible. If at all possible I’d prefer for this to be a private message between me and Mr. Watkins. If it’s possible, that is my humble request.

    Thank you… for this opportunity to speak openly.

    May you be blessed in your stand.

  • Jim, kudos. Clear, accurate, and written with objectivity and loving kindness. I have no doubt there will people who will insist you aren’t being objective or kind, and will apply every ugly label under the sun. I really like your “rules” for conversation and the biblical references to back them up. I hope this gets through to Christians because we too often depict the opposite of Christ’s love and do more harm that good.

  • David says:

    In the third paragraph under “Let the conversation be gracious and loving,” I would insert commas for clarity. Had to read it twice to get the sense of it. Thusly: Name-calling, from the “God hates fags” crowd to pro-gay groups labeling opponents as “homophobic,” does nothing to further the conversation.
    Great start at a conversation. I’m more on the conservative side, but like the tenor of your approach. Much needed. Thanks.

  • Something that I’ve always seen as missing in this debate: The context in which homosexual conduct is denounced. It seems to me that it belongs to what Christians called the “world system”: while Leviticus doesn’t say this, I surmise that the nations that ancient Israel was supposed to push out were engaged in that kind of behavior, and since God calls His people to be distinct He tells us what we should and shouldn’t do.

  • Your post is a good invitation to conversation about a difficult topic in our culture. I appreciated that in addition to inviting everyone to speak and act in love that you also challenge us to recognize that we all come to a conversation with a bias. Hopefully God’s word influences our bias, but I don’t think we realize how much the culture we live in influences us in addition to our Christianity. It would be helpful if we considered how our cultural bias influences what we get upset about (and what we don’t) and admit it when we enter the conversation.

    I also appreciate your distinction between orientation (desires) and behavior.

    Thanks for the invitation to the conversation and I pray that it helps create a place of meaningful discussions.

  • Pam Halter says:

    What’s come to my mind is the woman caught in adultery (a sexual sin.) Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more.” I’m thinking that means she needed to STOP committing adultery. Sooooo … if someone’s sin is homosexuality, doesn’t that word from Christ also apply to that?

    I have friends who are gay and I love them. Just like I have friends who sin in other ways and I love them, too. I like to be able to discuss things like this without name calling and condemning. I think you’ll stir the pot, Jim, but the pot needs to be stirred or the stuff sticks to the bottom and burns. It does no one any good. The problem I have is when you try to speak in love about sin, you’re automatically called a hater or homophobe. But if you feel God calling you to talk about it, then you need to talk about it. Setting down the rules in the beginning is a good idea.

  • Deb Evans says:

    Why has the Christian community forgotten the command to love the sinner and hate the sin? It seems to me that all sin is equal under God’s sight. I am not sure about God’s stand on homosexual marriage. I do however know that he still loves them as us and wants us to surrender and stop committing all sin. The judgmental attitude of much of the Christian community is, according to scripture, condemned in the exact same way sexual sin of every sort. We forgive people who commit adultery and fornication and some ever turn a blind eye to that. Is there any difference in how we sin sexually? I personally don’t believe there is.

  • Jim, I think this is good. My feeling is that if your rhetoric changes as a result of society’s attitudes, then you are allowing the society to control your rhetoric — whether your rhetoric is compromising or reactionary. I don’t think your message is compromising or reactionary. I would have phrased it a bit more strongly (probably too strongly, I am afraid — reactionary!).

  • Janyce Brawn says:

    Rules for discourse are good but only if a person wants to follow them. Hopefully, they will. To me from all biblical accounts, sin is sin and wrong is wrong but we are to love no matter what. We struggle to put off the old man and put on the new daily no matter what the sin. We are works in progress and I thank God for His grace that doesn’t condemn me. Recognizing that the sin and the sinner are different is one thing and we must love the sinner and despise the sin – lovingly, is another. Judge not lest you be judged but pray for one another thus building up the community of faith. We walk a narrow road indeed, but the prize is worth it.
    This said, I know homosexuals who love God and serve Him. They did not ask to “be this way”, they say. Whether it is a biological mix up, or choice, that to me is their cross to bear. All I can do is love them.

  • Daniel says:

    Jim, thank you for sharing. I appreciate your ground rules. I think we (as the church) struggle to balance the search for truth and demonstrating love for all. I don’t have all the answers, but I know it is rooted in Christ and requires us to love.

  • gary ashbrooke says:

    I’m as conservative as they come! However it is difficult for me to understand how we have tolerance and even sympathy for the MEMBERS of the church who have sex outside the marriage and even the couples who were friends in church and got divorced so they could marry each other and they are welcomed into the congregation. Yes they should be welcome just as we should welcome any and all into our congregation and still teach and preach the truth of Scripture and our all knowing all powerful GOD will either take over their hearts and through HIS HOLY SPIRIT change what he wants changed or they will never find the peace that passes all understanding. This, my friends, is more difficult than talking judging or avoiding fellowship with those we think may taint our church. Oops, guess it’s not OUR church anyway!

  • If we err on any side, let it be on the side of love. And grace. Paul talked about homosexual practices in Romans 1, but people rarely look past that chapter to Romans 2. “Therefore, you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things…Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

    We tend to single out the “bad sins” while turning a blind eye to our own. We are all sinners. In need of grace. The reason we can have a relationship with God is through grace. We stand on the same playing field, gay and straight alike, in need of God’s saving grace.

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