To be sure, this is a difficult topic to address. Relations between the evangelical and LGBT communities tend to bring out strong emotions and deep conviction, as evidenced by the myriad of comments this post (and countless others on the topic) has generated. It’d be easier to come down on one ‘side’ or the other – to make this a black/white, us/them, good/bad conversation.
I applaud Bill Hybels and Willow Creek for the hard work and conversations that they have been having. Hybels’ address at the summit was not a knee-jerk reaction. This is a topic that they’ve been talking about at a leadership level for some time (as is evidenced by Willow Creek distancing themselves from the ‘ex-gay’ ministry Exodus International in 2009).
As i stated, we have much to learn from Willow.
The article on the announcement was designed to inspire thoughtful conversation surrounding the topic – conversation that causes us all to rethink our positions, language, and response in light of the red letters of the scriptures. I hope it has, in some small way, done that.
In that spirit, this post was written to state my opinion– that when the distinction of marriage ‘between a man and a woman’ is made in the type of environment provided by the summit (public, high profile, non-relational) it potentially polarizes. I am convinced the reason why the audience at the summit responded in thunderous applause was many felt, ‘Oh good. He’s on OUR team. He thinks homosexuality is a sin, is ready to defend marriage and would vote the ‘right way’ on Prop 8, et cetera.’ If that is true, conversely, many in the LGBT community would (and have) responded, ‘Aha! See? He’s one of THEM, and Willow Creek is indeed anti-gay.’ This is unhelpful in elevating the conversation, as it perpetuates the polarizing mindset of us/them.
Certainly the comments I’ve read in the weeks following under posts written for national news agencies confirms that many in the LGBT community took the announcement that way (which again, to clarify – I do not believe to be the case. I do not think Bill Hybels or Willow Creek would consider themselves to be anti-gay; but I am suggesting the language may have misrepresented the heart of the message he meant to convey).
As stated by @Erinvechols, ‘[the post is] about the way we understand being gay and speak about homosexuality in a heteronormative culture in ways that undermine their identity.’
So I ask… how do we elevate the conversation between the gay and evangelical community beyond the definition of marriage and into a helpful dialogue for how we both move towards finding and following Jesus? Ideas?