Apologizing to the LGBT community

Editor's note: Agendas Aside, a Think Christian series on homosexuality and the church, also includes pieces by Neil de Koning, Joshua Walters, Glenn Goodfellow, Jason E. Summers and Josh Larsen.

It was almost two years ago that a group of friends and I stood at the Chicago Gay Pride Parade to make a public apology on behalf of Christians for how the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community had been mistreated. We called it our “I’m Sorry” campaign.

Our apology was never intended to make news, start a controversy or even start a movement at pride parades across the United States. It wasn’t making a theological statement on sexuality. We simply recognized that major wrongs and pain had occurred to the LGBT community and it was apparent that many Christians, including ourselves, were to blame. We realized that our actions, and even our inaction, caused people to be hurt, demonized and dehumanized. And, if we truly believed that God created all people and that they have inherent worth because they are created in God's image, then we needed to repent and apologize for the wrongs we committed to God’s children. We simply wanted to right wrongs. Standing with signs publicly apologizing, though humbling, seemed the right thing to do.

To this day, I continue to apologize to my LGBT friends when I hear their stories of pain, rejection or abandonment. People are still hurt by Christians. People are still angry with Christians and, consequently, angry with God. We continue to do our “I’m Sorry” campaigns at other pride parades throughout the United States. Apologies by Christians to the LGBT community, as was proven through the viral reactions of the "I'm Sorry" campaign and the “I Hugged a Man in His Underwear” blog post that followed, have the ability to bring healing, hope and reconciliation.

There is no doubt that there has been some movement towards reconciliation. I know of many LGBT individuals who are being welcomed into churches and whose faith is being restored. And there are Christians who seek forgiveness with the LGBT community and are mending past wrongs. But the road is long and the journey, in many cases, has just begun.

As a Christian, I believe that I have been mandated by God to be an agent of reconciliation no matter the cost (see 2 Corinthians 5). Heartfelt apologies can be the first step towards reconciliation and restored relationships. As Christians, don’t we want all people to have restored relationships with each other and restored relationships with God?

However, reconciliation is hindered when churches continue to fight over this topic and view homosexuality as some abstract issue rather than upholding the humanity of LGBT individuals. With the amount of division on this topic, Christians are giving LGBT individuals yet another reason not to be a part of the church. Why would anyone want to be a part of something that is full of division and heated tension over "issues?" I have heard many Christians say that the "issue" of homosexuality is overbearing, that the  "issue" of homosexuality is dividing churches or that the "issue" of homosexuality won't go away. Let me be clear, this is not an "issue" at all. This "issue" won't go away because this "issue" is about people. People who were created in God's image, people who have feelings, people who have been hurt and people whom Scripture calls Christians to love and even die for. More Christians need to be willing to lay down their lives for their LGBT sisters and brothers.

I have found that many of my LGBT friends haven't seen churches be a place where LGBT individuals are recognized as people. Most of the time, my LGBT friends are often quickly labeled and dismissed as sinners rather than children of God. This has got to change. For the sake of the Kingdom of God and the Good News of Christ, we must dignify all of humanity. We must move away from abstract issues that dehumanize people. We must let mercy triumph over judgment. We must love people more.

What Do You Think?

  • Do you see value in offering Christian apologies at gay pride parades?
  • What are ways that reconciliation might take place between Christians and LGBT individuals?

 

Comments (21)

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My team and I at The Christian Manifesto did a podcast on this very topic. While I was certainly not in the majority in the conversation, my contention was that apologizing to the gay community on behalf of the church seems counterproductive. I can sympathize with a person's plight or how they may have been mistreated, but I cannot apologize for that person or speak for the rest of the church. In some ways, it comes across as Pharisaical. "Thank God I'm not a tax collector, a sinner, or a woman," has now become, "Look at me, thank God I'm not like all those gay-hating "Christians" over there who really don't represent all of Christianity..."

The question is, what exactly is being apologized for or how is it being perceived? Are you apologizing for churches teaching that homosexuality is considered a sin in the Bible? You can't apologize for that. You simply cannot. Is the apologizing being perceived as a tacit endorsement of identification with and a lifestyle choice of sin? That is problematic.

If you have personally been unkind to anyone, an apology is legitimate. But, apologizing on behalf of church seems ineffective at best and woefully misguided at worst. Again, what exactly is being apologized for and can that apology bring about any effective gospel change?

Calvin Moore
The Christian Manifesto
@cejonmoore
I don't apologize for others' wrongs. I've got enough of my own wrongs to seek forgiveness for that I simply don't have the time to do so for others.

More than that, I also don't have the ability. It's like I'm taking on the role of savior, stepping in on someone else's behalf. Sorry, but that position's taken.

On the other hand, I agree completely that we are called to a ministry of reconciliation as co-laborers with that Savior. My relationships with my gay friends are friendships I cherish, and I hope to be an agent of reconciliation with them just as with everyone else I know. I don't know that I'm all that good at it, but the Holy Spirit is the one I count on to handle the real work anyway.

Tim
How can you use one Bible verse to justify ignoring several others? Until you realize that the Bible wasn't written or even "inspired by" (whatever that means) a perfect divine being, you are going to be in part responsible for the hate Christianity throws at the world. If you can admit that no divine being had any input into your holy book, then your apology might be taken seriously. Until then, you will remain part of the problem.
I think what is difficult here is that we, as Christians, see homosexuality acts as a sin. And rightfully so according to the bible.

But if I told someone that stealing is a sin, I don't get any backlash at it because most people agree that stealing is not a morally good thing. And even the person stealing might even disagree with me or give some excuse why they did it. But I'm not labeled as spreading hate if I claim that stealing is a sin.

But do that for homosexuality and I am labeled as hating the homosexuals of the world. But I don't hate them. I see homosexuals the same as I see all other people. We are all sinners with the ability to be saved by Grace. We all have value. Value, not because of who we are or what we do, but because we are created in the image of God.

But to say that I hate homosexuals because I believe that homosexual acts are sinful is labeling me incorrectly.

It is implying that my disdain for the sin is the same as my feelings for the person. And that is not the case.
But it is the perception. That perception is what has to change in the church.

To tell someone they are sinner because they are homosexual is incorrect.

If someone has a predominate attraction to the same sex but never acts on it, then they are no more a sinner than a person that wants to steal a car and never does it. The sinner is not the sin. This, I think, is where we as Christians have gotten it wrong. And where homosexuals have gotten it wrong too.

As C.E'Jon Moore pointed out, we need to understand what we are apologizing for. If you are apologizing because you have condemned the sinner the yes, you should apologize. None of us know what is going to happen in that persons life to maybe bring them to Christ. It is not our job/position/right to condemn anyone.
But it is our job/position/right to call sin, sin.

But how we say sin is sin, matters.

Homosexuals don't understand that they are doing something wrong. And even if they did, it does no good to point it out to them because all you get is backlash.

We, as the church, need to do something different. We need to kill the self righteous attitudes that make us think we are better. We need to acknowledge our own sin, change, and be as humanly righteous as we possibly can.
If we can do the right things, humbly, then we will not be out and about ridiculing others for their sins because we will be too busy working on our sins and caring for others to point out the mistakes of someone else.

I was wrong, above, when I said that homosexuals don't understand they are doing something wrong. Actually, they do. But they are not able to see that because they don't see Christ. The don't see Christ in this world because we don't reveal Him to them. We are too busy saying what is wrong instead of doing what is right.

Lets change that. If your I'm sorry campaign is actually changing hearts in the church without being accepting to the sin, they kudos, but if it is just making it seem like the church is accepting the sin, then it needs to stop because that will lose more souls then it will win.
Thank you AlbertL for proving my point. Christians see morality as nothing more than God's whim, completely divorced from humanity. As a result, you think it is okay to say that gay sex is wrong because God says so. But you can't gave an actual reason why it is wrong that is based in reality. This is why Nathan's apology is so hollow.

Christians just don't understand why it is wrong and hateful to say that homosexuality is sin. The problem doesn't lie with the fundamentalists and it doesn't lie in your communication skills either. It lies in your holy book!!!!
Apologize for mistreating them, OK. Apologize for preaching homosexuality as a sin? No. Folks who practice homosexuality hurt themselves, their families, and only add to the problems that we have as a nation who claims to be God fearing.

I am glad that I can say that I attend a church that has homosexual couples attending AND that we're also able to preach that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle.
Cory,

Can you further explain how this works at your church and the theological understanding behind it? So far in our Agendas Aside series, we haven't heard from someone at a church like this.

Josh,
TC editor
"The question is, what exactly is being apologized for or how is it being perceived? Are you apologizing for churches teaching that homosexuality is considered a sin in the Bible? You can't apologize for that. You simply cannot."

Why not? The assumption there is that there is one, single, objective interpretation of Christian teaching, which remains unchanged for all time—an assumption that is belied not only by the incredible diversity of Christian teaching in the present moment but also by the nearly-constant processes of change in Christian teaching over the past two millennia.

If you realize you've been teaching wrongly, and that the wrong teaching you've been presenting has hurt people, why shouldn't an apology be in order?

Don't you think the churches who preached that slavery was not only permitted but sanctioned by the Bible owed slaves an apology? Should churches that preached segregation as a Biblical precept or that the Bible proscribed interracial marriage apologize to African-Americans and interracial couples?

Many churches have preached that a woman's place is in the home giving her husband babies and keeping his house, and that women who work outside the home or couples who use contraception are sinning; if they realize they're wrong, shouldn't they apologize to the people their preaching hurt?

Once the church repents of false teaching, why shouldn't an apology be in order to the people it hurts with that false teaching?
I don't apologize to people of other ethnicities simply because I am Caucasian nor do I apologize to Jews because I am of German descent. I do not apologize for the hateful acts of others who were motivated by things that I never bought into even if they did call themselves Christians either. I agree completely with both C. E'Jon Moore and TimF. Should I, especially being a veteran myself, apologize for the antics of Westboro Baptist? No. Totally inappropriate.
You speak of "the nearly-constant processes of change in Christian teaching over the past two millennia" but the thing that impresses me, as I study this process of change is how the basic truths of God's Word have been reaffirmed and returned to repeatedly. It isn't as if the basic tenets of Scripture or the principles of interpretation have ever really changed. From Polycarp to Piper there is actually a very consistent thread of truth and body of doctrine that persists. Human opinions and preferred ways of looking at the Bible come and go but God's Word will remain what it is.
Here is your reality - You live in a relatively free and open society where you and I have the right to express our opinions because of the influence of this book that you consider so problematic and hate inspiring. As the light of the Bible has permeated our society, compassion, liberty and dignity have been afforded to people. Slavery was the result of hate and greed - not a misinterpretation of scripture. That was simply an excuse. The true impact of the Bible can be seen in the efforts of men like Wiblerforce and John Newton who, because of the Bible's influence in their lives, worked to end the slave trade. This is one example of dozens. If you want to see a society devoid of the Bible's influence, check out Nazi Germany, The USSR, Communist China, Cuba, North Korea... In these societies, homosexuality falls under the categories of every other human behavior - it is either profitable to the state or unprofitable. If it is unprofitable, then the perpetrators are eliminated. There is no moral absolute, no inherent value of human life, no higher standard to which appeal can be made. You think it is hateful to call homosexuality a sin even though love and compassion are extended to the individual? Try living in a society where no differentiation is made between the individual and their behaviors and there is no impetus to love anyone who you disagree with.

 

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