My faith journey has brought me to some interesting places in the last four years. Much of my theology and ethical views have changed, including my views on homosexuality and the church. Though I’ve never said it outright on here (I don’t think), after much research, thought, and prayer, I’ve taken up the position of an open and affirming Christian.
Now, outing oneself as an open and affirming Christian, though far from being on par with outing oneself as LGBTQ, is tantamount to saying you disregard what the Bible says in some circles. “What!? Doesn’t the Bible say that being gay is a sin?! You’re just crossing out the parts of the Bible you don’t like!” is the common reply. Without going into the argument, it’s often assumed that anyone open and affirming just doesn’t care what the Bible says and simply wants to be loving and accepting of everyone (because, you know, that’s a BAD thing…). What most accusers don’t realize, however, is that open and affirming Christians rarely come to the decision lightly, pouring over resources and praying for hours over whether they’re making the right decision. When longstanding traditions die as hard as this one, it often takes a lot of work to make the case to topple them, and anecdotal evidence or arguments from outside the Scriptures often have no effect.
Which is why I’m glad Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Resource For Congregations On Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity exists.
RDWT is a massive text (the thing doesn’t even fit on my shelf) of compiled essays, exegetical studies, scientific articles, and personal experiences on the subject of how the Church should respond to the LGBTQ community (TL;DR: accept them already). Compiled and edited by the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, and the Alliance of Baptists, the contributors to this volume speak from all angles about how the Bible understands LGBTQ relationships, how the church has responded poorly to this community, and the need for the immediate inclusion of these brothers and sisters we have scorned up until this point. Each and every section is thorough, insightful, and honest in its research, supplemented with personal stories of acceptance and rejection alike, gratefulness and regret.
The exegetical work in this text is excellent, diving deep in the Hebrew and Greek and tearing it apart with the right incisions to expose misconceptions about homosexuality (Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, was NOT destroyed because of homosexual behavior), but also to emphasize the need for Christians to adopt the radical inclusion of the Gospel when approaching these matters. This is huge when writing something like this; many churches want to adopt a “Berean”(Acts 17) attitude when approaching new teachings, and will want scriptural proof. In my opinion, RDWT not only offers evidence, but makes its case indisputably.
What was most important to me, however, about this volume is how inclusive its language is not just to the LGBTQ community, but to conservative Christians who are willing to read it. One of the personal stories was about a woman who rejected her daughter when she came out as a lesbian, causing her daughter to spurn her and eventually commit suicide. My tears stained the pages as my heart went out to this woman not just in her loss, but in her regret and wishing that she had run to her daughter with open arms. If exegetical, theological, and scientific study are the bones of RDWT, then these stories put flesh on them and bring them to life.
If you’re presiding over a congregation, or participate in one looking to have this conversation, this volume is completely indispensable and essential to your study.