Sanity is a rare thing in today’s world regarding the gay and Christian “debate,” and it’s nice to find a little every once in a while. After anti-gay groups were handed defeat after defeat in this year’s election cycle, we’re finally beginning to see movement toward full equality for the LGBT community.
Except in church.
Yes, I know there’s a large group of LGBT Christians who proudly embrace both their faith and sexuality (I’m one of them), but the overwhelming attitude in the evangelical church is that of being “anti-gay.” Today’s church isn’t known for their love, their passion for Christ, or even their soup kitchens. Today’s church — according to those under 30 — is known for being anti-gay above all else.
As such, there are two important books that have been released this month by people who were once at odds with each other — and shared a stage early last year. Each of these books is written to a largely evangelical community, giving Christian men and women a glimpse not only of our internal struggle as gay Christians, but on how we can find our place not only in the world, but in the body of Christ.
The first is Ex’d Out: How I Fired the Shame Committee, written by my good friend John Smid. For those who have followed my blog in the last seven years, you know that my first post was about Love in Action, a ministry that Smid headed at the time — that was designed to “help” gay teens and men to become straight. The brouhaha at the time was over a teenager named Zach Stark who was put into the Refuge program by his parents after he came out to them as gay.
John was a confirmed ex-gay at the time, passionately preaching and living the life of a straight man — married, church leader, and living “victoriously” as he led others down the life of success that he had apparently found. In 2005, he had been director of Love in Action for fifteen years, and he probably had no idea that the next two years would be completely life-changing for him.
In the months that followed, protestors gathered outside of the Love in Action campus. The protests led to an eventual meeting with their leader, a gay filmmaker named Morgan Jon Fox. For his part, Fox had met with Smid for a friendly conversation — a conversation that led to an eventual friendship.
Love in Action eventually closed their teen program, and Smid resigned outright in 2008. Since then, he publicly apologized to the gay community — especially to those who went through his ministry. Shortly, thereafter, he came out (again) as a gay man.
John Smid had a bird’s eye view of the entire ex-gay community, and said with a great amount of conviction that he has never seen anyone change their sexual orientation. I could have said the same thing, but for someone like John Smid to say that, well — that’s some serious weight. This is a guy who literally put his integrity on the line for what is right. He’s a man who is truly humble before his fellow man and his God, doing what he can to right his wrongs and serve people. His life is a lesson in grace that many of us can only imagine.
His new book, Ex’d Out: How I Fired the Shame Committee, is out now, and tells his story of how he overcame his own personal struggles to find a place where grace truly reigned. I hope you’ll consider buying a copy of his book — his is a story that needs to be told, and told often.
The second book that brings a level of sanity to our world is written by a man whom I’ve had a few tee-niny interactions with over the years, Justin Lee. He’s a quiet, softspoken man who has a deep passion for Jesus, and an equally deep passion for justice and equality for LGBT Christians.
A few years ago, Lee started a small online community for gay Christians, gaychristian.net. I stumbled upon it in its early years, pleasantly surprised by the level of grace that I found among its denizens. Today, it is the largest network of Christian gays in the world, providing interaction between gay Christians of all walks in their Christian life.
Lee’s new book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, is being released this week, and is a watershed event for the entire gay Christian community. His book isn’t meant to add to the debate or even to settle it. His message, pure and simple, is to focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ and on Christ Himself.
I don’t know about you, but I can get on board with that.
One of the most important events at the 2012 Gay Christian Conference was a panel discussion between Justin Lee, John Smid, Wendy Gritter, Jeremy Marks, and Alan Chambers. Chambers, as many of my readers know, is the president of Exodus International, the nation’s leading network of ex-gay ministries. The entire panel was chock full with two hours of deeply emotional, intense, passionate discussion that was focused on Christ himself.
It’s only a natural expression for two people who have had such an impact to want to write a book. But when we’re offered equally important volumes from people who were once on the opposite side of the fence — within a week of each other, well, that’s just too good to resist.
You’ll be glad you did.
[This post is part of the Synchroblog for the Release of Justin Lee's book TORN. To see other blogger opinions on the topic of bringing sanity to the gay Christian debate, go to this link.]