Many Christian organizations, as they think about their treatment of gays and lesbians, and their theology of sexuality more generally, are “evolving,” or “in process,” or “on the journey.” And make no mistake, this is a journey on a one-way street: no Christian group is moving from greater to less tolerance of same-sex relationships.
So let’s imagine that a given Christian organization takes its journey from A to B. A is believing that sexual activity between people of the same sex is wrong because it is forbidden by Scripture and/or by Church teaching; B is believing that such sexual activity is not necessarily forbidden (not “intrinsically disordered”) and can, under the same conditions of faithfulness that have traditionally governed opposite-sex unions, be blessed by the church.
Let’s also assume that God has not changed His mind about sexuality.
So as we try to evaluate this imaginary Christian organization, we can see what has happened in one of three ways:
1) At one point, the organization held views about sexuality that were largely determined by its social environment, but it has now reconsidered those views in light of the Gospel and has come to a more authentically Christian understanding of the matter.
2) At one point, the organization held authentically Christian views about sexuality, but has succumbed to public pressure and fear of being scorned or condemned and now holds views that are determined by its social environment.
3) The organization has always held the views about sexuality that were socially dominant, bending its understanding of Scripture to suit the times; it just changed when (or soon after) the main stream of society changed.
Note that there is no way to read this story as one of consistent faithfulness to a Gospel message that works against the grain of a dominant culture.
And that’s the key issue, it seems to me — that’s what churches and other Christian organizations need to be thinking about. Either throughout your history or at some significant point in your history you let your views on a massively important issue be shaped largely by what was acceptable in the cultural circles within which you hoped to be welcome. How do you plan to keep that from happening again?