Pro-LGBT Evangelical David Gushee: “I’m With You and the Church Needs to Change.”

David Gushee is thinking a lot about history. About social change, about civil rights movements, about religion, about power, about the Bible, about oppression, and about love. He has been thinking a lot about when the pro-LGBT movement within evangelicalism, one in which he has become a leading figure, will sweep across the church, transforming pulpits once known as bastions of anti-gay diatribe into bastions of Christ-like embrace of LGBT believers. He is certain change is coming—he’s just not certain how quickly.

But he does seem confident saying that decades from now, the anti-gay, “angry” stalwarts of today will look like “the dead-enders on race” did after the civil rights movement.

“My mind goes back to 1963, to the white churches in the south,” he says, referring pastoral reaction to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. “Who’s going to be brave? Who’s going to step up? There’s never a majority. There’s always people waiting for other people to go first.”

Gushee, a prominent evangelical ethicist, has been laying the groundwork for his coming out, as it were, over the past several months through a series of columns at Baptist News Global. He has turned that series into a book slated for publication next week, Changing Our Mind. When Religion News Service’s Jonathan Merritt offered a preview of the book last week—“Leading evangelical ethicist David Gushee is now pro-LGBT. Here’s why it matters”—the result was nothing short of a social media earthquake.

Both Gushee and Merritt would be the first to say that Merritt wasn’t exactly breaking news. After all, for anyone who has followed Gushee’s work, the revelation that he supports “covenanted same-sex relationships for Christians” was no surprise. He’s been coming to this position over time—too slowly, he admits now, telling me, “I’m not proud of how long it took me, in fact I apologize for that in the book.”

The book, he says, isn’t about marriage or sex, but “about acceptance of the most beaten-up minority in the Christian world. It’s about ending harm. It’s about adolescents making the terrifying discovery that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender” and being met with the “distressingly familiar response,” including “anger, abuse, rejection, exile, even the continued survival of ex-gay therapy.” The book is about, he says, “how do we come alongside of and offer Christian love to this particularly marginalized group of the Christian community.”

Reaction, Gushee says, has ranged from “predictable invectives from people who are fixated on the sexual question” to “extraordinary outpourings of gratitude.”

Indeed Gushee has been the target of harsh, dismissive criticisms from fellow evangelicals. Robert Gagnon, a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, writing in the Christian Post, called Merritt’s article “a tendentious puff piece” and contested Merritt’s description of Gushee’s “intellectual heft” with the accusation that “Dr. Gushee has ignored nearly all the major arguments against his embarrassingly bad exegesis.” Denny Burk, a professor of biblical studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, charged Gushee with “adopting the rhetoric of Christianity’s fiercest critics who routinely accuse us of being bigoted and hateful simply for believing what the Bible says about sexuality. I cannot understand why Gushee would stake-out such an uncharitable and intolerant stance against Christians who hold the very same views that he once held.”

Gushee says he doesn’t keep up with either the positive or negative buzz about the book. Instead, directs his energy towards what he considers signs of progress. He pointed to statements by leading Southern Baptists at the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s recent conference, The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage. (“Are you and your church prepared for the moral revolution surrounding homosexuality and same-sex marriage happening across America?” the ERLC asked in promotional materials for the conference. “While human sexuality and social institutions are being redefined before our very eyes, the Bible presents marriage as an unchanging picture of the gospel through the union of one man and one woman. The gospel announces that the story of Jesus is greater than the sum total of our sexual desires.”)

There were moments, though, of what Gushee calls “incremental progress” from the conference. SBTS president Albert Mohler said, “I repent of denying that sexual orientation was legitimate.” Russell Moore, the ERLC’s president, called “ex-gay” therapy “severely counterproductive.”

Other signs of “incremental progress” include churches that embrace LGBT believers—but only if they are celibate. Gushee is quick to add, “there are not that many people called to celibacy in this world and it’s a pretty miserable life if you’re not called to it.”

Gushee told me the attention the book is already receiving has led the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to reach out to him as a resource. Next weekend, in Washington, D.C., he will keynote the Reformation Project conference, at which he predicts, “history will be made.”

Whereas previous Reformation Project gatherings involved 20 or 30 participants, this year’s event will be “much more ambitious,” Gushee said. Founded last year by Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian, the Reformation Project as a “grassroots movement” that is “growing exponentially,” Gushee says. He wanted to attend “to stand in solidarity with Matthew” and to “be one of the few gray beards” there.

Gushee uses the word “solidarity” frequently, emphasizing that he wants to say to LGBT Christians “I’m with you and the church needs to change.”

“Rejection at the hands of the church,” Gushee says, “is not rejection at the hands of Jesus.”

 

  • LegalizeLezMarriage

    What, Frank#### isn’t here to comment? Pity. Kudos to this man though.

  • Frank6548

    Meh. Man can never change the truth that homosexual behavior is sinful and marriage man plus woman.

  • Andre M

    Not even bothering to put together full sentences now, Frank?

    In all fairness, though, I do imagine you to speak like that IRL: “MARRIAGE MAN PLUS WOMAN”

  • Frank6548

    Poor Andre. No substance is his words ever. He deserves our pity for sure.

  • Andre M

    Why do you insist on shaming the name of Christ, Frank? Give it a rest. It’s despicable.

  • LegalizeLezMarriage

    ah, THERE he is!

  • Precisely what is the behavior homosexuals engage in that is sinful?

  • Frank6548

    Romance and sexual activity.

  • amyskene

    It’s not possible to make wrong, right, however it is possible to cause people to compromise their integrity. Rather than comparing “anti-gay” to civil rights (not the same thing) let’s instead compare millions of Germans following Hitler down a path of evil. That’s what this “gay rights” movement really is.

  • HETEROSEXUALS engage in romance and sexual activity and HOMOSEXUALS and BISEXUALS and QUEER FOLK also. What is the issue you are upset about?

  • Frank6548

    Ther only possibility of not sinning sexually and romantically is through man plus woman in marriage. Everything else is sinful.

  • Sex is sinful?

  • Our pity? You do not speak for me.

  • Godwin’s Law.

  • pennyjane

    frank is despicable incarnate. a servant of the devil, died in the wool. his hatred of God pours over into his hatred of His creation. if he actually believed in the Loving God…he would be terrified by his own prospects in eternity.

  • pennyjane

    don’t argue with frank….he is the devil incarnate.

  • pennyjane

    how long have you had to practice to become so stupid?

  • He is an uptight old fart and no one listens to him but us.

  • And I bet folks run when they see Frank coming.

  • FrJesusGaylord

    You are worthless bigot trash. I hope you get what you deserve.

  • Jeffrey Samuels

    why?

  • Jeffrey Samuels

    in what way?

  • RexTIII

    Progress, most definitely. Starting with actually stepping out of the Square Box of ‘Same Sex Attraction’ into the real world of Sexual Orientation. No doubt Gushee will be attacked – over and over again, while his supporters will grow in great numbers – and quickly. Many simply understand we are born as we are, accepting simple realities – not so difficult.

  • Andre M

    How is gay rights like Nazi Germany?

  • amyskene

    In the sense that a few short years ago nobody was on board this train. Then you have a movement that labels anyone who dissents a “bigot” and suddenly you have people conforming to the new norm. People will compromise their integrity in order to avoid a negative label.

    Just as “faggot” has taken on a meaning no one wants to be associated with, so too has “bigot”. It’s a brilliant social strategy akin to what Hitler pulled in Germany, causing an entire nation to commit some of the most heinous acts of all time. It’s a slippery slope.

    No normal person can honestly claim to not find homosexuality disgusting and repulsive, yet people are scared and willing to compromise. Basically anyone can be made to do, or shift belief when this type of psychological warfare is applied correctly.

  • Andre M

    So your argument is that because there is social pressure, then it’s like Nazi Germany? Just like there is social pressure to not, say, fart in public? Or the social pressure to be polite? Damn, we really are living in Nazi Germany! I feel pressured to wear clothes everyday! I feel pressured to socialize with my in-laws! My God, soon enough, I will be holding all my farts in all the time until I explode and become a doormat for everyone to walk on and start wearing burqas to hide myself and even liking my in-laws! It’s a slippery slope, after all!

    Your likening social pressure to treat people kindly and fairly to Nazi Germany is what is disgusting and repulsive. DO YOU REALLY NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED IN NAZI GERMANY AND HOW IT IS NOTHING LIKE THIS AT ALL? That you could minimize the horrors of Nazi Germany by comparing it to this is awful. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    And how can you speak for every “normal” person out there? I feel pretty normal, and I don’t find homosexuality disgusting or repulsive!

  • Whiskyjack

    I suspect that most people who find homosexuality repulsive are those who are frightened of their own homosexual impulses.

  • Honey Badger

    Gushee argues Christians should ignore the Bible and say homosexual sex is no longer a sin. Because…Huffington Post says so.

    If Christians ignore the Bible, then why bother being a Christian? Be a Unitarian, or whatever is one step down from believing.