I saw the now openly published “Letter for Change” written by five to six (at the time current) Young Life staff and apparently signed by another 26 staff in a YL region. (Those names not visible on this document.) I think the region in question has upwards of 70ish full and part-time staff. This region is in an exceptionally “progressive” geographical area where even the majority of the regional staff are also affirming, yet they could only get 1/3 of staff to sign this? It doesn’t seem like the ground swell of support I imagine they were hoping for.
Here is the letter in it’s original form.
I will attempt to add context and rebuttal where each are warranted. I used the block quotes for their letter and any italicization or bolding within those is my emphasis. (Their original document emphasizes different points, so if you’re curious about that, check theirs out.)
The letter begins:
“The recent #DoBetterYoungLife movement has provided a jarring number of heartbreaking stories from former kids, leaders, staff, and friends of Young Life.”
The DoBetterYoungLife Instagram account, as of April 2, 2021, has 145 posts. Not all of those reference the LGBT conversation. Contrast this with a non-profit that spans the globe, in over 100 countries and serving 2 million adolescents a year. Mind you, ministry is thriving and growing the most in places the U.S.A. might consider higher needs/underdeveloped. Also note, in the mission, the staff that don’t live in the United States are not arguing about sexuality. That the Bible is correct on sexuality is a given, not a debate. Actually, for the most part, I think staff that don’t live in geographical coastal areas are probably not arguing about sexuality either. It seems to be one particular region in one coastal state that is attempting to make a lot of waves…
“Our current sexual conduct policy contains a prohibition that does not need to be there. It is a non-essential, divisive and harmful position. And we can do better. We, as Young Life staff, believe it is time for our policy to change. For all the reasons listed in the section below titled “Arguments for Open and Affirming Theology”, we are asking for our sexual conduct policy to be amended to remove verbiage excluding LGBTQ people from full inclusion in our mission, based solely on their sexual orientation. We believe the current sexual conduct policy to be theologically problematic, strategically detrimental, and harmful to a community that Jesus loves and died for.”
While in their first paragraph, the authors never specifically state what prohibition doesn’t need to be in the policy, the authors do demonstrate the belief and worldview that guides their entire philosophy for the rest of the 4,000 words. In their view, “sexual orientation” is God-designed, God-determined, God-endorsed, and wholly immutable and definitive to the human experience. This seems to be the foundation for everything else they believe to be truth. Biggest problem here: they believe this is true without any evidence and they provide zero evidence for it in the document. They believe this without biological/neurological evidence. They believe this is true without any philosophical or psychological evidence. And they believe their view of sexuality is true contrary to the evidence of God’s direct revelation in His Word and over 2,000 years of teaching and tradition that have guided Christians from various ethnic groups, countries, and Christian faith traditions. (The authors of this letter and “affirming” Christians must also believe Jews and Muslims got it wrong, because the monotheistic major religions for all of human history have aligned with biological reality: men and women are unique and complementary and the union of a man and a woman is required for human flourishing and continuance of the species.)
Remember, their philosophy is assuming your acceptance of what they define as “sexual orientation” and that God created and endorses it. This assumption under-girds the rest of the argument. To paraphrase: God made people gay, and that is not a salvation issue. THEREFORE….
Since I reject what the five to six people who authored this letter believe, that sex-attraction automatically means that God created and endorses an immutable “orientation”, none of the rest of their letter is particularly compelling to me.
I do not believe the sexual conduct policy excludes those who identify as LGBT from staff in particular but rather presents an affirmative belief that every staff and volunteer must agree with and naturally excludes those who do not believe it. This idea is true across most of the faith and conduct and doctrinal beliefs a staff or volunteer must agree with. Most of us will not be shocked to realize that Young Life prohibits Buddhists, Muslims, or atheists from serving as volunteers or Young Life staff members. But YL doesn’t have to specifically ban those worldviews. It simply requires the affirmation of the Christian tenets and doctrines of faith. To not believe it disqualifies one from leadership. At this point that puts about 5-6 billion people on the “cannot hire” list for the organization.
The authors state this policy keeps them from doing their jobs. (Then quit?)
Paraphrase: “You’re losing people because of your exclusion policy.” (Assuming the policy is exclusion of LGBT individuals in particular, when it is obviously not, as I just demonstrated AND assuming that an organization does not have the right or necessity to exclude particular people from its leadership?) I was about to lose people because YL has refused to boldly reaffirm the truth and train our people in it. Either “side” will “lose people”. The point is, are you going to lose the people who sound like deconstruction prophets on Instagram, who are attempting to shape the mission after themselves instead of after Christ, or will you lose orthodox staff and volunteers?
This paragraph notes that the societal pressure will only increase. The claim that culture is going a particular way is the big driving philosophy for this handful of staff people. Their conclusion for their entire argument at the end is “don’t you want to be on the ‘right side of history’?”
“The policy excluding LGBTQ individuals from participating as volunteer leaders or staff is discriminatory and we believe unbiblical. We are asking for a change in the sexual conduct policy to allow full inclusion of Jesus-loving LGBTQ people in Young Life. We propose the first step in this process is to allow areas, regions, or divisions to have the autonomy to make a decision or policy that makes sense for their community. As much as sexuality is a spectrum, we know that Christian acceptance of different sexual orientations is on a spectrum as well. We recognize that there are varying theological beliefs across the country and the mission. While we believe the sexual conduct policy, as it currently reads is harmful everywhere, it is especially detrimental in certain areas and regions because of the cultural climate regarding LGBTQ acceptance and human rights. The staff and volunteers on the ground know the climate and needs of their area and we would like the opportunity to amend the sexual conduct policy in regards to LGBTQ leaders.”
The policy is “discriminatory” and “unbiblical”, but again they don’t cite the policy or exactly what they want changed. They want “full inclusion.” The facts: regardless of personal belief and identity, no one is prevented from participation in YL. This is acknowledged even from the “Do Better Young Life” posters/complainants themselves. So what the authors of the letter mean by “full inclusion” is that they want LGBT identified individuals as volunteers and staff. They additionally say they want everyone to have the autonomy to do what they want. Makes total sense right? If part of the Bible is unpopular in your area, you should be able to teach something differently and train your leaders and kids according to how you personally would like Christianity to be taught. (Anyone else flabbergasted?) I can understand the impulse, but I don’t see how they thought this would be a winning line of argumentation with YL nationally.
Being that we are asking for a policy change and we recognize that the Board of Trustees has an influence on policy, we are requesting that the Board diversify – in age, ethnicity, and theological beliefs. Without trying to be offensive, as we see it now, the Board is made up of a majority of older white men. THAT IS NOT INTRINSICALLY NEGATIVE. It becomes an issue when the group, charged with the task of making decisions for the future of an ecumenical organization, is unable or unwilling to examine their beliefs and be open to change. We need and demand a diversifying of the voices at the table that writes policy. In addition to the diversifying of the Board of Trustees, field staff need to be more involved in these conversations recognizing that they are experts on their communities and know how decisions will impact direct ministry.
They use the zinger to end all zingers: Old white men. Everyone knows now that if something is believed by “old white people” it’s wrong! At least know the audience you’re trying to convince. They wrote and signed this and then sent it to the “old white men” they’re talking about? The other hilarious thing about this line of reasoning is that they don’t actually have an issue with old white men, because guess what, white men weren’t writing the Scripture they spend the rest of the letter trying to rebut. It wasn’t majority white men who assembled the canon or who have led the church through 2,000 years of tradition. It was a mixture of cultures, traditions, and ethnicity that God used to bring us His Word. But instead of the humility to see there was value in all that has come before 2021, these 5-6 authors have decided that current culture in a corner of one state in the USA should top everything else when it comes to an understanding of sexuality. These authors feel that field staff are the experts for what is going on in their communities (maybe experts in preaching culture to YL for sure), but what we’re learning is that perhaps there are a number of field staff who don’t understand basic Christian doctrine or church history.
We now have an opportunity to stand with the marginalized again. So we must ask, are we willing to pay that cost? Will we continue to stay committed to our mission and vision of reaching the farthest out kid, and that we are for every kid? Or will we maintain our current policy, which may please certain crowds and donors, but cost us dearly in other ways? The fact remains that as the current policy reads now we already are losing leaders, staff, committee members, donors, and kids. We need to decide…will we change our policy of LGBTQ exclusion? Or will we change our vision of “Every kid. Everywhere. For eternity?”
I’ve noticed these two themes come up in a few different posts and conversations from the “Do Better YL” side of the conversation now. First, they think only “old white men” affirm Biblical sexuality and that second, that YL is only holding to orthodoxy because of “donors”. I think it’s hard for this worldview to actually believe there are people who believe the Bible is true and there are folks who will not change their view points on Christianity regardless of culture. This is a big failing of theirs, because every good debate or conversation should assume the other people are sincere. When I read the way they so casually dismiss MY beliefs and experiences and the many authors who are writing of their own personal testimonies of sacrificing what they experienced and felt to follow Jesus, it’s hard not to get my back up.
Christianity being unpopular to the culture is the norm, not the exception, something the soft and scared American church has little knowledge of. These authors and folks that use this sort of reasoning also probably enjoy living in a bit of a cultural bubble and think that “the majority” of Christians or the country are sliding in this direction. We are completely polarized politically, but the stats simply don’t affirm that Christianity is in danger of some significant slide on this topic. In fact, the quickest way to kill your denomination is to “go woke”. This article goes into some specifics if you’re interested, but “becoming affirming” shrunk/split the Episcopal church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterian church. The split off that becomes affirming shrinks.
The large Methodist denomination just had a vote on whether or not to keep their traditional values and it passed to remain orthodox by just over 50 votes (out of 800 some attendants.) The people who carried the vote for the traditional side consisted mainly of NOT U.S. American members (i.e. black and brown Christians who reject woke-white-progressive-views on sexuality).
World Vision made a critical error a few years ago, citing its desire to be ecumenical and observe what various denominations would determine about marriage of same-sex individuals. Some people liked the decision and claimed they were increasing donations or starting donations…but the reaction from the orthodox was so swift and devastating, the org reversed course in TWO DAYS. “After announcing the decision, World Vision lost between 3,000 and 3,500 sponsors…”
Think of it this way. Peruse your Instagram feed for the Richard Rohrs, the progressive Christians, the deconstructors, the woke-everything-is-white-supremacy teachers and think how many of those folks and their followers are giving to an organization that believes:
-Jesus is the only way to heaven
-our sin separates us from the God of the universe
-an eternity in hell is our just wage for our rebellion against God.
Combine all the most progressive and woke people our affirming staff friends point to as their guides on sexuality and see how much they’re giving to orthodox organizations that believe we are saved when God died on a cross and you should pledge your allegiance to him and die to yourself, pick up your cross and follow Jesus exclusively.
Now realize they ALSO don’t like YL because it affirms the age-old beliefs about sexuality that orthodox Christians have held for millennia. Let’s say the affirming folks win the battle and get whatever dot and tittle removed from the sexual conduct policy they are gunning for. It’s not a 50-50 split, contrary to whatever they’re telling themselves. I doubt it’s even a 50-50 split in the Pacific Northwest or California WITHIN THE MISSION. You can argue we’re split that way politically in the country but that’s not the case within a global evangelical mission about sexuality.
You will lose almost everyone. Staff, volunteers, committee, and donors leave immediately. I believe, globally, the org would fracture particularly from the African ministries, but I would imagine from everything in Eastern Europe as well…and do you think the people who are doing ministry in war-torn, persecuted countries really care what a band of U.S. progressives are deciding about the Bible now? What then? Do our author friends think all the Satanist, deconstruction, and progressive allies demanding the Church “do better” while denying every single tenet of the Christian faith then sweep in to volunteer to tell kids about Jesus and donate? Anyone who thinks that is what happens if YL caves is beyond naïve.
Now the authors get into their arguments “for” changing everything the church has believed for over 2,000 years. Their primary source is Matthew Vines, who wrote a 2015 book called “God and the Gay Christian”. Here are a number of sources calling out his poor exegesis, scholarship, and arguments.
Why Matthew Vines is Wrong about Bible and Same Sex Relationships
Matthew Vines…applaudable but ultimately unconvincing
Dr. Michael Brown v. Matthew Vines
Sean McDowell v. Vines
Here’s how the authors of the letter cite Vines presenting “my” view (he calls it “traditional”:
“According to this view, if someone is gay, then their sexual orientation is a sign of the fall, a sign of human fallenness and brokenness. That was not the way that things were supposed to be. And while having a same-sex orientation is not in and of itself a sin, according to the traditional interpretation, acting upon it is, because the Bible is clear, both in what it negatively prohibits and in what it positively approves. Christians who are gay – those who are only attracted to members of the same sex – are thus called to refrain from acting on those attractions, to deny themselves, to take up their crosses and to follow Christ. And though it may not seem fair to us, God’s ways are higher than our own, and it’s not our role to question, but to obey.” – Vines
Again, the affirming-Christian’s foundational belief: PEOPLE JUST ARE GAY. So with that believed, the rest of the argument follows. Matthew Vines has not engaged deeply with folks like Christopher Yuan (cited his rebuttal above) who reject this philosophy right at the base and the following faulty definitions. Using the false choice fallacy of “you are gay” OR “you are straight” starts us off on a bad foundation to begin with. Those terms and beliefs are rooted in secular Freudian psychology. Most actual data shows sexuality and attraction are multi-faceted and can be fluid. The authors contradict their own beliefs about sexuality later on when they discount and misrepresent Jackie Hill-Perry’s testimony on attraction and identity and claim she is erasing “bi-sexual” people. (Oh wait, so you believe there is an immutable inborn attraction that is by definition fluid…make it make sense!)
Authors continue to cite Vines:
“We have issues with this interpretation on many levels, and again we will quote Matthew Vines: ‘The first problem is this: In Matthew 7, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns against false teachers, and he offers a principle that can be used to test good teaching from bad teaching. By their fruit, you will recognize them, he says. Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Good teachings, according to Jesus, have good consequences. That doesn’t mean that following Christian teaching will or should be easy, and in fact, many of Jesus’s commands are not easy at all – turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, laying down your life for your friends. But those are all profound acts of love that both reflect God’s love for us and that powerfully affirm the dignity and worth of human life and of human beings. Good teachings, even when they are very difficult, are not destructive to human dignity. They don’t lead to emotional and spiritual devastation, and to the loss of self-esteem and self-worth. But those have been the consequences for gay people of the traditional teaching on homosexuality. It has not borne good fruit in their lives, and it’s caused them incalculable pain and suffering. If we’re taking Jesus seriously that bad fruit cannot come from a good tree, then that should cause us to question whether the traditional teaching is correct.’”
Vines gets dunked on by Sean McDowell for completely misrepresenting Jesus’ words and teaching on fruit. Video where they start that part of the convo is here but here is a summary of McDowell’s point:
McDowell: “Where does Jesus teach that we are to evaluate Biblical teach by experience?”
Vines cites Matt 7 and says it means, “I’ve never seen a Christian teaching that destroyed lives, that is a good teaching.”
McDowell: “This is not what Jesus taught. Jesus teaches that good fruit is obedience and bad fruit is lack of obedience.” He asks Vines to show where Jesus says teaching is good/bad based on our experience with it. Vines then pivots and asks McDowell whether or not McDowell thinks fruit has to do with Gal 5 (fruit of the spirit) or not.
McDowell says the standard interpretation is “good fruit is when the message causes someone to turn and repent. Bad fruit is lawlessness”.
So Vines presents something that most scholars do not accept when they look at the terms good/bad fruit in the text Hatmaker used similar (good fruit = making people happy) language when she deconstructed from orthodox teaching on sexuality. But this is based on their view that people simply ARE gay (they prefer to use the term “queer” in their letter) and then any teaching that doesn’t endorse it = bad fruit because it would make people feel unaccepted, less-than, etc. Note that nowhere can the affirming argument acknowledge that perhaps a lot of the suffering within the LGBT community is precisely because this faulty worldview is accepted and I would argue leads to death and destruction. (I deal with this argument in my blog post on the LGBT suicide lie.) We both think the other person’s worldview leads to death. The difference being that I can sit humbly in the generation after generation of people from all over the globe who have affirmed the Biblical truth and the affirming side can sit in about 10 years’ worth of progressive political movements in the USA.
“Secondly, it is important to recognize the general silence of the Bible on the topic of queerness. There are only seven so-called “clobber verses” in the entire Bible that have traditionally been used to condemn queerness. Jesus does not talk about it once. That said, it is important to take those seven passages seriously, and we do so below. We will focus on the Scriptures that have traditionally been used to condemn same-sex attraction, as well as add additional arguments for full inclusion in ministry of LGBTQ people.”
One cannot argue that the Bible not mentioning a concept that didn’t exist in the human understanding until German psychologists coined the term 100 years ago means that said concept is moral. The concept that didn’t exist was not “same sex relationships”. Those are as old as humanity. What is a baby concept, for the human experience, is the idea that what you feel is who you are as an immutable identity. This did not exist prior to secular psychology trying to make sense of it. And as we now have mapped the genome and can scan and study brains, even of babies in utero, most of their theories panned out to be mush. Google “what makes people gay” and you cannot find definitive evidence of any singular biological thing that equals “queerness”. The Bible explicitly condemns every kind of sexual behavior outside one man and one woman married. It doesn’t condemn the concept of sexual orientation because the concept is not “real” or helpful and should be rejected anyway.
Jesus never mentions “queerness” (or pit bull fighting, crack cocaine, slavery, women in ministry, immigration) but explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman (Matt 19). That text is never addressed by the authors.
“There are three primary passages of Old Testament scripture that have traditionally been used to condemn same-sex attraction.”
The authors immediately cut themselves off at the knee (as orthodox theology has seemed to do historically and affirming theology has always done) by focusing exclusively on particular verses (the “clobber” passages) they say condemn homosexuality explicitly and ignoring the story of the Bible as a whole.
The three sections they first decide to pick apart are Genesis 1, Gen 19, and “Levitical Law”.
“When God created man and woman, it was on purpose. Biologically, he made it so both man and woman were equally necessary to procreate. However, if Genesis 1 is used to perpetuate the argument that queerness is outside of God’s design and plan because gay people cannot procreate, what does that say about people who identify as heterosexual and are infertile? What about people with disabilities that prohibit them from romantic relationships or procreation? What about babies born with ambiguous genetalia [sic], a rare disorder of sex development, where the infant’s external genitals don’t appear to be clearly male or female? Or the 1 in 1000 babies born intersex, where they have both genitalia present and parents have to decide which sex is prominent? What about women with Turner syndrome who fail to develop ovaries? Are all these people outside of God’s design and plan, therefore excluding them from engaging in the Kingdom of God? Furthermore, it is important to note that although this passage has been used to condemn same-sex attraction and uplift the traditional view of marriage, nowhere in Genesis 1 does it address same-sex attraction at all. To use this passage to do so is simply reading into the text.”
I’m happy to see that these authors acknowledge to be a man or woman isn’t a figment of the imagination. They differ from “DoBetterYoungLife” in this way. The argument one can make from Genesis (reaffirmed explicitly by Jesus and Paul) is that to be male and female are not accidental but intentional aspects of humanity that God determines. We don’t make arguments from exceptions to rules. Gloves are made with 5 fingers on each hand because that is the norm for human existence. Can humans have more or less fingers or toes? Sure. But I can’t find a glove at Target to accommodate that exception. There are disabilities and abnormalities that complicate some aspects of this conversation. But they don’t complicate this idea: Sexual behavior is only endorsed by God within the context of one man and one woman married. Genesis doesn’t talk about “orientation” because that is a made-up concept to categorize humans that isn’t Biblical OR scientific.
Using the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to come up with the ethical conclusion about same-sex attraction is also deeply problematic. Gang rape of men by men was used as a common tactic of humiliation and aggression in ancient times. It had nothing to do with sexual orientation or attraction; the point was to shame and conquer outsiders. That is the appropriate background for reading this passage in Genesis 19. According to Ezekiel 16:49-50, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with being gay, but more to do with inhospitality and lack of appropriate behavior toward outsiders. Trying to pin queerness as the sin here, is reading into the text. Furthermore we would argue, that the aspect of gang rape and violence in this story should be the sins that scream for our attention. Historically speaking, that they have not, is appalling. (Ez 16:49-50)
It’s only deeply problematic if you think about it in the wrong order. We know Sodom and Gomorrah were on the list to get wrecked by God’s justice, that’s why the angels were even there in the first place. Gen 18:20-21 says, “Then the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.’”
Abraham barters with God to not destroy the whole city if there are even fifty righteous people. But apparently, he knows that is pretty unreasonable and there aren’t going to be 50 righteous people there and begs God to not destroy the entire city if there are 10 RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE. (Lot, wife, daughter 1 and daughter 2 are the ones we know Abraham is wanting to protect…)
The text says every single man of the city shows up to Lot’s door and demands to have the men brought out. Lot, a real prize, offers to let them gang rape his daughters, but that doesn’t appeal the mob. The angels blind every man, bring Lot back in and basically say, if you have anyone else you’re trying to save, let’s go, because the cities are a goner: “because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it” (Gen 19:13).
I have a hard time imagining an ongoing crying out to God for justice against the evil in the city was just “God please send justice! Everyone here is so inhospitable!!”
Now let’s look at the Ezekiel passage. The prophet Ezekiel gets to deliver a super fun message for Jerusalem. He spends the majority of the chapter giving God’s words calling her a “whore”, a “prostitute” and an adulteress. God tells Israel that they are just as bad, even WORSE than their “sisters” surrounding them.
Ez 16:45-51 “You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed.”
Now, when the God of the Universe who burned S & G up with sulfur and fire then calls your nation a whore and says you’re just as bad, I don’t think the ancient Israelite heard that and thought ONLY about hospitality and pride. Though of course, those are clearly aspects of their judgement. And we know that’s not what the Jewish understanding of it was from a few other texts. Here’s the passages I found where the cities basically became synonymous in the Jewish texts with judgement and destruction: Deut 29:23 & 32:32, Is 1:9, Is 3:9, Is 13:19, Jer 23:14, Jer 49:18, Jer 50:40, Lam 4:6, Amos 4:11, and Zep 2:9 in the OT.
Then Jesus mentions the cities a few times basically condemning those who rejected him saying it was going to go worse for his modern day counterparts than it went for S & G (Matt 10:15, Matt 11:23). Then Peter says “if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…” (2 Peter 2:6) and Jude bats clean-up with “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (1:7). It seems like, to the Jewish people writing and hearing Sodom & Gomorrah references, it was synonymous with getting judged and destroyed for your evil.
I just remembered a similar story, which occurred later in Israel’s history: Judges 19. A man is traveling with his concubine. He is a guest in a house, that night the “wicked men of the city surrounded the house” and demanded the guy be brought out so they could “have sex with him”. The host offers his daughter and the guest’s concubine. They refuse the “offer” but the guy shoves his concubine out. She’s raped and murdered overnight. The text indicates he steps over her body the next morning like “let’s go” but finds her dead. Then he cuts her into 12 pieces and mails her to each tribe in Israel.
WHAT’S THE POINT? The point is, the level of evil there (from this guy in the story as well) is a picture of how evil and rebellious these people had become. This woman’s death ignites a country wide civil war where God is on the side of the men assembled to punish and kill the men who had done this evil. You can’t read these and come away with “well, terrible hospitality” alone, that is for sure.
The two wrong views of the S &G story are
1) people were gay and God destroyed them and that proves it’s bad to be gay! and
2) “God makes people gay and that’s fine and it’s just rape that’s bad.”
Romans 1 says that places like Sodom and Gomorrah and Seattle and Houston and Cleveland are this evil because of the RESULT of rebellion. Don’t put the cart in front of the horse. The cultural insanity we’re seeing (not being able to agree 2 +2 = 4 and that men and women are different and not interchangable in parenting/marriage) is the result of sin as much as it is sin itself. The insanity of the sexual revolution IS the hell and punishment, and also the sin. The judgement IS where we find ourselves arguing with fellow Christians in an orthodox evangelical organization about basic Judeo-Christian beliefs.
“Levitical Law (Leviticus 18:22/ 20:13) We do not feel the need to go into this much. We think most believers understand the difficulties of trying to create a Christian ethic using Levitical Law. The writer of Leviticus was creating a Law with the purpose of setting apart Israel from its neighbors, not creating an exhaustive book on morality.”
This is just lazy. If they had started talking about mixed-fabrics or eating shrimp I would have thrown my phone across the room. First, as a gentile, I was never under the OT law. I got grafted and adopted in as a Gentile. THANK YOU GOD. But I follow a savior who was Jewish who considered the Levitical law absolutely authoritative and perfectly upheld every iota of it. He quotes it in his teachings over and over again, using the term “It is written” as in “that ends the debate”. Here’s the easiest way to know if you’re bound by a law that was in the OT: The New Testament explicitly talks about it in it’s writings and teachings for Christians in the early church. While Paul and Peter have stories/writings that specifically talk about how we are NOT bound by Jewish diet and ceremony, they also specifically write that we ARE bound by the sexual ethic God ordained.
I’m not sure what they mean by “the writer of Leviticus” just trying to make Israel look different. (Like it was just some random guy who decided to start writing down some rules.) It’s Moses directly copying the law that God gave him from his own mouth.
“When it comes to same-sex relations, John Boswell puts it this way: ‘The only place in the Old Testament where homosexual acts per se are mentioned is Leviticus 18:22 ; 20:13 . . . The Hebrew word . . . translated “abomination,” does not usually signify something intrinsically evil, like rape or theft (discussed elsewhere in Leviticus), but something which is ritually unclean for Jews, like eating pork or engaging in intercourse during menstruation, both of which are prohibited in these same chapters. . . . Chapter 20 begins with the prohibition of sexual idolatry almost identical with this, and like 18, its manifest (and stated Lev 20:3-4) purpose is to elaborate a system of ritual “cleanliness” whereby the Jews will be distinguished from neighboring peoples. Although both chapters also contain prohibitions (e.g. against incest and adultery) which might seem to stem from moral absolutes, their function in the context of Leviticus 18 and 20 seems to be as symbols of Jewish distinctiveness. This was certainly the interpretation given them by later Jewish commentaries, for example, that of Maimonides.’”
I’m curious what the authors of this letter would say in terms of incest and adultery then, since those babies are in the exact same bathwater as the other sexual activities that are prohibited. If it was all just to make Israel look different and clean, are staff still held to those standards as well? Should YL have any sort of sexual conduct requirements at all? They go only far enough in their reasoning for the cultural belief of the day. Of course they’re not going to argue in favor of incest… but what they end up with is special pleading and not a coherent argument that actually works. I pointed this out to the “DoBetterYL” folks when I was commenting and having private conversations with them. But then, the guy who started that plainly says he is not a believer. He doesn’t have a working sexual ethic that YL could adopt. I’d be really curious to know if the authors of this letter or the signers who are on staff could articulate the sexual ethic they think YL staff and volunteers should hold to…
“For those that genuinely and honestly look at the scriptures and cannot conclude that the biblical texts do not condemn queerness, we offer the theology of accommodation. We see throughout the Bible, God consistently met humanity right where it was. God made allowances for humankind in order that we can know Him. He accommodates to the culture and society of his people in their current reality. It was not a part of His plan for Israel to have a king. However, God gave Israel a king. It was not a part of His plan to create the sacrificial system. However, starting with Cain, He relents and provides a system. It was not a part of His plan for humans to sin, but sin we did. What was His response? He made clothes for them, sent them on their way, and most importantly, promised to create a way back into relationship. Humankind changes course, and God meets us where we are.”
I feel like this is a weird argument in light of theology about God being sovereign. Most Christians understand that God wasn’t caught off guard by anything that has occurred ever in human existence. There was what God says is ideal for humanity and there is human rebellion. God’s “accommodation” as they have coined it, was never outside of His own plan or against his character. That would be a big difference from what they are arguing God should now accommodate.
“There is biblical precedent for God being responsive to a changing humanity. Is it possible that God does the same thing when it comes to the LGBTQ community today? Right now there are people in our community who are treated as ‘less than’ due to their sexual identity. Their human dignity is threatened and on-the-line, especially in the Church. If God showed compassion to Israel in providing them a king, how much more would He show the LGBTQ community human dignity in affirming their identity? To take this a step further, we as the body of Christ cannot continue to turn our backs and close our eyes to the changes and shifts in the culture around us. If we continue to refuse acceptance of the LGBTQ community, it will push us in Young Life (and the world) further away from the accommodating and loving heart of the Father.”
It’s interesting these authors thinks humans have changed. If anything, culture is regressing to what it was when Lot was chilling in Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s easily catching up to or has exceeded the culture Paul was born and raised into. Humanity is not progressing or changing when it comes to our proclivities to sin. It’s the exact same things history has talked about for millennia. The rest of their paragraph makes a lot of claims without any good reasoning or proof behind them other than their personal opinions about culture doing something having weight on whether or not the church should also do it.
“There are four primary New Testament passages that have been used to condemn same-sex attraction, none of which are found in the Gospels, and all of which we find problematic when it comes to this debate.”
Now, it’s not just about the NT I guess, but to be authoritative it has to be “in the Gospels”?
“What was the Bible really condemning? Romans 1:25-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, Jude 6-7. Was the Bible addressing legal, monogamous, committed, same sex marriage? Of course not, as that was not even a possibility 2000+ years ago. Specifically focusing on Paul’s writings about the subject, same-sex relations in his time were connected to behaviors such as temple shrine prostitution, statutory relationships between older men and younger boys, orgies, and rape (as in the case of Sodom in Genesis 19). As Robin Scroggs said, ‘biblical judgments against same-sex relations are not relevant to today’s debate. They should no longer be used, not because the Bible is not authoritative, but simply because it does not address the issues involved.’ It is simply a case of apples and oranges.”
I would have been susceptible to this sort of argument but thankfully great Christian authors have done this research. Preston Sprinkle writes about this. Yes, the modern idea of sexual orientation is, modern, but “Greco-Roman writers did believe in some form of inborn same-sex desires.” (People to Be Loved, P 59). Sprinkle quotes Aristole theorizing some sexual desire was a result of habit, some from nature. He quotes Parmenides who believes men who did same-sex acts did so from desires that “generated in the act of conception (same book, same page). Sprinkle quotes Soranus who was a contemporary of Paul (so we could even argue that Paul could have been reading, hearing the viewpoints of some of these folks..). Sprinkle’s point: “It is historically inaccurate to say: ‘the notion of sexual orientation was absent’ in Paul’s day and then use this to reinterpret Paul” (PTBL, p 60).
Next point, Sprinkle addresses the argument that the ONLY same-sex behavior was the result of power abuse, pedophilia, or rape and therefore that is what is wrong and what the Bible condemns, not whether or not the individuals engaging in the sexual acts are of the same gender or different. He says yes “most same-sex erotic relations in the Greco-Roman world exhibited some sort of power differential” (PTBL p 61). BUT ALSO: “There is some evidence for consensual ‘peer’ same-sex relations as well, That is, there were men and women who engaged in same-sex relations that were mutual, consensual, interdependent, loving, and committed. These were the minority, but they certainly existed” (PTBL, p 63).
He quotes philosophers and literature giving weight to this claim from both the Greek and Roman periods (pre-dating and co-existing with the NT authors, respectively.) He sums it ALL up with this: “We cannot ASSUME therefore that Paul only had nonconsensual, unhealthy, exploitative same-sex relations in view when he wrote about same-sex relations.” (PTBL, p64)
The letter-writers ask us to think about what the Bible was really condemning? So far, I’m still sticking with what it seems to say it’s condemning.
“A Lesson from the Church’s change in stance on women in leadership. It wasn’t too long ago that people held the belief that women were unfit to speak in church or have any authority over men. Didn’t Paul make it clear that women were not to take on leadership roles? Yet, over the past 30 years, it has been argued (and rightly so!) that Paul was speaking to believers in a particular context, culture, time, and place. Society changed and changed for the good. Specifically in America, through movements like women’s suffrage, things started to evolve. The Church, as it often has been, was slower to adjust its acceptance of women in leadership. However, many churches now affirm women in leadership. Why shouldn’t Young Life take the same approach of interpreting Scripture within its context when it comes to verses used to condemn queerness? Is it possible that Paul, Jude, and the writers of Leviticus and Genesis were also speaking to a specific time and place when it comes to the same sex attraction? We firmly believe so. Young Life has long valued women in the ministry. In the 1980s, Young Life leadership was able to contextualize Paul’s writings and take an official position that affirmed women in leadership. However, full actualization of women in leadership on all levels has remained an uphill climb. We are behind the curve in equity for women and people of color in leadership. Do we want to further delay equity for LGBTQ leaders as well?”
Different denominations believe differently about who can be pastors/elders/deacons and what those terms mean. One could argue this is not the same issue with the LGBT conversation because “women in ministry” was not explicitly spelled out or directly prohibited in the OT law, and then reiterated by Jesus, and then reiterated by Paul. (And actually, a lot of women were in ministry with Jesus and Paul.) A Biblical theology of sexuality sweeps across all of scripture. The specifics of what a church can do in its organization and leadership is a lot fewer and farther between. There is room for believers to differ. It’s not the same. People who want to switch to an affirming theology need to start in Genesis and end in Revelation and explain away a lot. So far, the affirming camp hasn’t done that solid of a job.
“Outside of the issues with finding biblical condemnation of queerness, there are other arguments for full inclusion in the mission. Below are few of those. What are we asking of our LGBTQ friends? Today the vast majority of people, who are knowledgeable on the subject, agree that conversion therapy (therapy aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation) does not work. There is virtually no evidence that shows that LGBTQ people can become straight.”
They again assume the foundation and then leap from it. First, please prove people ARE gay or straight, since we don’t have any scientific/biological or psychological evidence for it. If by “conversion therapy” they mean physically, emotionally, and mentally harming people, please acknowledge no licensed therapists are allowed to do that. It’s already illegal. If they mean “people getting counseling that aligns with their personal values and goals for their lives”, then that should be legal and people who seek it shouldn’t be shamed for rejecting the identity the “affirming” crowd labels them with. (Here’s my blog on “conversion therapy” if anyone is curious about it.)
“Instead, LGBTQ people who have gone through conversion therapy are often left with deep guilt, hurt, shame, and trauma. Outside of a few exceptional cases, it does not appear that God seems all that interested in changing people’s sexual orientation.”
Again: an assumption from their worldview that they see as absolute truth. I reject this premise at it’s foundation and their conclusion. Correct, God is not interested in “changing” a made up psychological concept adopted by secular culture for identity.
“Queerness is a piece of one’s identity, as opposed to simply a behavior, lifestyle, or desire. God does not make mistakes when it comes to our identities. He has created us on purpose, just as we are. Which means, we believe, He has made some of us queer.”
The authors are getting into some interesting territory here. Now they are stating “facts not in evidence” as absolute truth. They have not made this case. They don’t have evidence for this worldview. And it flies in the face of others’ lived experiences. From one of their footnotes:
(Such as in the case with Jackie Hill-Perry, author of Gay Girl, Good God, who shares her narrative that she was lesbian, but is no longer. Her story is that when she met Jesus, He changed her orientation and she eventually lost her desire for women. While we support her personal conversion story, we don’t believe this to be the narrative or path for all gay people. More so, this belief perpetuates the erasure of bisexual people.)
I was pretty irritated with this (intentional?) misrepresentation of Jackie Hill Perry’s testimony. She specifically condemns the “heterosexual gospel” (a chapter of her book that they cite…) “God isn’t calling gay people to be straight.” (P 177). She says God doesn’t automatically just remove our temptations or erase our desires. Here, her talk is titled “God is not calling gay people to be straight.” So it seems like the authors of this letter didn’t even do a search on Youtube and hear her own words on the very first page, much less read her book.
Their next point is about “assuming everything we’re saying is true, it’s not good enough to ask people to be celibate.” OK, sure. Nothing they’ve said IS true, but “celibacy” as a life long pledge isn’t an answer. The answer is “Holy Sexuality”. “From Genesis to Revelation, in the entirety of the biblical witness, only two paths align with God’s standard for sexual expression: if you’re single, be sexually abstinent while fleeing lustful desires; if you’re married, be sexually and emotionally faithful to your spouse of the opposite sex while also fleeing lustful desires.” This definition is presented by Christopher Yuan in his book Holy Sexuality, page 48.
“As ministers of the Gospel, our job is to remove barriers that get in the way of kids seeing and experiencing Jesus. At the very least, we never want to create barriers. Quite frankly, this topic is a barrier to kids hearing about Jesus.”
Their bad theology is definitely a barrier.
What side of history do we want to be on? The Church was on the wrong side of history when it came to slavery. And women’s rights. And segregation. Personally, we do not want to be on the wrong side again.
No it wasn’t. No it wasn’t. No it wasn’t. There have always been people and church buildings who have used the culture to twist the scripture do what they want to do. (That’s the affirming church right now, by the way.) People who wanted slavery chopped up the Bible to remove passages that talked about freedom. The only way they could wiggle their way into culturally supporting slavery was to ignore the parts of the Bible they didn’t like. Martin Luther King called on the churches NOT following the Bible to do so. Not to throw out Christianity, but live up to it. I need some additional context for their laughable comment about women’s rights. Christianity brings about human rights and protections wherever it is planted. This is plainly observable on the entire globe.
“Looking at the trajectory of our nation, we believe there will come a time when our hand will be forced. Our non-profit status may be threatened because of our discriminatory stance.”
I’m curious what these authors and signers would want YL to do when they might lose their non-profit status because of preaching Jesus? They should probably give some advice to all the current staff and volunteers around the globe who can’t even call it “YL club” or openly carry Bibles or preach/meet who are still telling people about Jesus and discipling.
“We want to be led by theology, by the Spirit of the Living God and by the heart of Jesus.”
By ignoring the Law God wrote and Jesus followed perfectly that gives explicit instructions on the topic of sexuality, by ignoring Jesus’ words, AND not considering the Bible that was breathed by the God of the Universe authoritative on this topic?
We need to be talking about this now, not when our backs are against the wall. There is already a strong diversity of opinion on this topic throughout the mission, and the voice of those on staff who are open and affirming is getting larger.
I’ve been wanting YL to talk about sexuality openly forever. Leaders obviously need better doctrine and training. They need winsome equipping on how to talk about this. The voice of those who are open and affirming (in a particular region perhaps) might THINK they’re getting bigger and stronger. Not sure that’s the case.
This is especially true with our younger staff, but many of our more veteran staff are changing their stance on this issue as well. Our desire is for change to come from within and not because our hand is forced.
Again, not necessarily. I’m a millennial and I reject this nonsense. Gen Z is actually more politically conservative and with GOOD discipleship any one of any age can understand Christian doctrine.
We believe the writing is on the wall and cannot imagine that in 20 years our policy will be what it is today.
Their using of this idiom is hauntingly ironic. It’s from the book of Daniel.
“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven.
…Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. This is the inscription that was written:
mene, mene, tekel, parsin
Here is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Your arrogance has caught up with you. Your rebellion against God has caught up with you. You’ve been in charge but that time is over. You’ve been evaluated and found lacking. Your kingdom will be destroyed and handed to your enemies. Do this letter’s authors think this means orthodoxy? I think it might better describe those who are trying to subvert the work God wants to do. If God’s desire is disciples making disciples that can withstand the culture and spread into it like leaven, then he isn’t aligning with popular culture in parts of the USA in 2021. Is God’s heart with the staff that think they are salty but are flavorless because they’ve abandoned sound teaching and have gone to have their ears itched?
“The question is, what side of history do we want to be on? We can choose to change now, or wait until it’s too late, when we have already lost all relevance with the kids we are trying to reach. Make no mistake, we will become obsolete as an outreach organization if we are unwilling to change this policy. We have an opportunity in front of us to see true revival take place. Revival almost always begins with people in the margins. As our friend Lina Thompson says, “Grace is like water. It pools in the lowest places.” Do we really want to get in the way of grace pooling in the lowest places? Do we want to be an impediment to revival? Do we want to get in the way of the movement of God? As Gamaliel says in Acts 5:39 while the high council was deliberating about what to do with the apostles who would not stop talking about Jesus, “But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” The Lord is doing a new thing in our midst. As believers, it is our job to be on the lookout for what God is up to and to join Him in His work. Friends, we believe God is up to something extraordinary. A revival is about to take place, with or without Young Life. Let’s not miss out on this movement. Let’s join God in it. Let’s be on the right side of history.”
I will be on the side of Jesus’ Words. On the side of 2,000 years of my brothers and sisters who have lived and died to pass on the Scripture so I can read it in my own language with the help of tradition, church history, commentaries, and more. I will not follow people without vision and wisdom. I will not allow the culture to preach to me but will instead sift through what the culture says and does in the light of God’s Truth so I can be in it and not of it. I pray God grants me wisdom to balance being truthful and loving, never sacrificing one for the sake of the other. I pray God grants me courage to stand for what is right regardless of how many I once called brothers and sisters decide to leave the narrow path for the broad one.