Nashville, TN — A diverse panel at the National Religious Broadcasters’ International Christian Media Convention examined the issue of homosexuality last Thursday at a public policy session titled “Cultural Controversy Through the Lens of Scripture: What does the Bible say about homosexuality?”
Among the panelists were defenders of natural and biblical marriage — Michael Brown, President of the FIRE School of Ministry, and Anne Paulk, Executive Director of Restored Hope Network — and supporters of "gay marriage," Gay Christian Network Executive Director Justin Lee and Brandan Robertson, Executive Director of The RISE Network and spokesperson for Evangelicals For Marriage Equality. Moderating the panel was radio host Janet Parshall.
Lee and Robertson said their presence on the panel was not to argue over theology on the issue but to address the treatment of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people within the Church.
“What we as a Church have done far too often is that when that kid in the church says, ‘I think I’m gay,’ what we do is tell them, ‘Either you must change your attractions or you’re not welcome in this church and in this family,’” Lee told attendees.
In his own organization, Lee said, some members believe same-sex relationships can be defended biblically, while others reject that interpretation and say Christians with same-sex attractions should be celibate. The two groups agree, however, that churches have not known how to respond with love and grace to the person in the congregation who says, “I think I’m gay,” when referring not to identity or practice but to an attraction, he said.
Paulk, who came out of the homosexual lifestyle after she came to Christ, told the audience, “Honestly, when someone comes with same-sex attraction, the church should be the first one to put their arm around that individual, and the first one to say, ‘You know what, this is not God’s plan for your life.’”
Similarly, Brown said the Church can love people with same-sex attractions while refusing to affirm same-gender sexual relationships. The Church’s “response is absolutely clarity on what Scripture teaches,” while encouraging parents to love their children with same-sex attractions, he said.
Brown said his philosophy in recent years has been “reach out and resist.”
“Reach out to the people with compassion; resist the agenda with courage,” he explained. “There’s a certain tension I live with.”
Both Lee and Robertson said they were willing for purposes of the panel discussion to concede Brown’s view of the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality is true.
Regarding the biblical message, Brown said, “There is zero evidence, zero evidence, I’ll say it again, zero evidence, God intended a man to be with a man, a woman to be with a woman ever under any circumstance.
“Every single reference to marriage and family from beginning to end is heterosexual only,” he said, adding that there is not “a single positive reference to homosexual practice anywhere in the Bible.”
It is impossible biblically “for another male to fulfill that role of being [a] suitable helper” to a male, Brown continued, referring to God’s description in Gen. 2:18 of creating someone for the first man.
When questioned, Lee explained why his organization uses the word “gay” in its name and why he thinks it is important.
For older Americans, to use the word “gay” is to say “my sexual identity is at the core of my being,” Lee said. For millennials and other young adults, he said, “the meaning of the word ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ is about who you are attracted to. So in other words, the word ‘gay’ is a shorthand way of saying: ‘A person who is attracted to the same sex and is not attracted to the opposite sex.’”
Both Paulk and Brown said the use of the word “gay” by Christians is problematic.
“The word ‘gay’ can be interpreted in so many different ways,” Paulk said. “It can be interpreted as meaning affirming of homosexual behavior, as well as those who may struggle with same-sex attraction. … For me, the clarity is vital.”
While he understands Lee’s approach, Brown said he differs with him. “We cannot ignore the elephant in the room of gay activism,” Brown said. “We cannot ignore its principal threat to religious liberty, speech, and conscience in America. We cannot ignore its attempt to redefine marriage and the agenda that’s being pushed. … [G]ay means something in our culture on a larger level.”
Parshall told Robertson his support of government-approved, same-sex marriage “seems to be a spiritually schizophrenic position.” Robertson — who said he is uncertain if the Bible permits same-sex marriage — denied the diagnosis, saying, “[W]hat the government is doing is not marriage. Marriage is something that happens as a sacrament in the church. Only the church has the authority to marry people.”
Brown disagreed, saying religious and civil marriage “overlap too much.”
“We deceive ourselves if we think we can separate them,” he said.
Despite their disagreements, the diverse panel found agreement on one thing when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, which Parshall summarized late in the session.
The takeaway from the discussion, she said, is that “the Church needs to do a better job of teaching mom and dad how to love their child regardless of whatever sin struggle they’re engaged in.”
By Tom Strode and NRB Staff
Published: March 6, 2015