Anti-Gay?

I was sitting at the edge of my seat, anxiously waiting for Hybels to make his announcement. As a former Starbucks partner (the internal terminology used for employees) and manager, the cancellation of Howard Schultz at the Willow Creek annual Global Leadership Summit was particularly disappointing.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting and speaking with Howard on more than one occasion, sharing cocktails and conversation with him and other senior leaders during the Starbucks leadership conference in NOLA; and again had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the business legend (who is really more like an iconic company rock star), during a closed session for selected managers in our region prior to the company launching their version of instant coffee called VIA  in Chicago – a bold move for a respected coffee company.

VIA ultimately led to me being fired from Starbucks…but that’s another story, for another time.

Howard and his leadership team had, as Hybels put it, ‘a tough decision to make’ and though I haven’t agreed with every decision the senior leaders at Starbucks coffee company have made (which, by the way, includes my being fired), I do respect their leadership and think we have much to learn from them.

I was looking forward to Howard speaking at the conference, and was disappointed to hear news that he had cancelled. Even more frustrating was the reason why.

As Bill Hybels addressed Howard’s cancellation, he stated emphatically, ‘Willow is not only not anti-gay, Willow is not anti-anybody…the mat at every door on this campus has always read ‘welcome.’ He continued, ‘we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the scriptures, which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage, and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else.’ (this statement was received with thunderous applause to watch video of the announcement, head to Kurt Willems’ blog.)

Hybels then encouraged those attending the conference to purchase Howard’s most recent book, Onward and to go out and buy a cup of Starbucks coffee. Whether you agree with Hybels’ position on sexuality or not, he handled the situation with grace.  Given the circumstances, it could have gone much, much worse.

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Yet here’s the rub: I wonder — was it necessary for Hybels to make the polarizing distinction of marriage being solely ‘between a man and a woman’ in the midst of a ‘we’re not anti-gay’ speech?  Isn’t making a public declaration denying the rights of gays to marry, in at least some sense, anti-gay?

I’m not saying Hybels should have misrepresented his church and endorsed same-sex marriage, or sexual behavior. If Willow doesn’t bless and celebrate same-sex unions, that’s their right…and through relationship and conversation, I believe many gay Christians would still find Willow to be not only not anti-gay, but quite welcoming and accepting (in fact many already do, making Willow their place of worship). But making a statement that lacks clarification, conversation, and relationship in a public forum that smacks of traditional anti-gay rhetoric, in my opinion, is unhelpful in elevating the conversation with the gay community.  Had he left that portion of the statement (and the term ‘homosexual’) out, I would have been much more pleased with the speech.

What do you think?

Note: This isn’t a Bill-bashing moment.  I respect him and his leadership, and think we have a lot to learn from Willow Creek.  Yet, just like I don’t agree with every decision Starbucks has made, I question the language used in the announcement of Howard’s cancellation.

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Michael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ.  Michael worships and serves on staff as the Communications Project Manager at Richwoods Christian Church in Peoria, IL.



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About the Author

Michael Kimpan

Michael KimpanMichael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ. Michael works with The Marin Foundation in Chicago, a non-profit organization which works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Church.View all posts by Michael Kimpan →

  • Aaron Broomall

    Michael, I was at the conference and had the exact same thought.  It seems as though so many christian communities declare that they are open to everyone, however, when it comes to homosexuals, there is always a “but” on the end of it.  Strangely, I hardly ever hear that “but” when it comes to those that might struggles with sins that are more clear and dominate in scripture, like greed, lust, and judgement, which so many more of us struggle with.  I admired Bill for offering grace and understanding to Howard in what had to be a very stressful and disappointing situation, however, to me, in some ways going into the portion of the declaration that you spoke of almost seemed like pandering to a particular portion of those in attendance.  I hope that we as Christians can all agree that we are called to love all and welcome all.  Why can’t we leave it at that basic level and allow individual communities to determine where they stand on this subject?  In this very large, public setting, adding the portion about Willow’s beliefs served to drive a wedge between beliefs of different communities, rather than raising the conversation to the higher calling of all of us, which is to love God, love ALL people and bless the world.  When we, as the Church, can raise the focus above small issues that truly effect very few of us, to the bigger picture of the calling of the Church, then we begin to truly chang the world and honor God’s Kingdom.

    • Benjamin

      Claim to open accept to homosexuals? Sort of like this site and traditionalist Christians? Are you sure it is not homosexuality that the Church’s are against? Have you denied that people can have self-control?

      • Aaron Broomall

        Hi Benjamin,
        I’m afraid I don’t understand quite what you’re asking, however, I’ll point out that I didn’t promote homosexuality, nor condemn it.  I was neutral on my standing towards it.  In fact, it’s not an issue that I struggle with, so I don’t have a stand on it.  I’ve got plenty of things that I struggle with (selfishness, judgement, materialism, the list could go on and on).  I wish I had enough time to worry about other issues, but just understanding and trusting God to work through my own is enough.  My point was that bringing it up in the context of this summit by condemning it morally caused to drive a wedge in the Church over an issue that very very few of us actually struggle with.  We’ve allowed an issue that affects a small proportion of people to dominate conversation while ignoring issues that affect so many more of us.  I agree with one writer earlier who mentioned that a very, very small portion (I think they said 13 people signed the petition) caused this to come up and I wish they hadn’t, although I can understand where their frustation could come from, I do think it was an unfair and unwaranted attack, however the Church had an opportunity to rise above the rhetoric and pain and show universal, unconditional love for all regardless of sexual orientation without condemnation.  My call is for the church to be open and loving and guide all of us to open our eyes to where we are missing God’s mark so that we can better represent Him and His love to a world desperately in need of it, but not to single out small groups of people to be picked on, which is what I think has happened with this issue.

        • Drew

          Aaron,

          What you are really saying is that you don’t think the Bible has a stand on the issue.  This is where the real difference in opinion is.  If you look through the lens that homosexuality is not Scriptural, then it is a “wedge” issue, because of those who are unrepentant.  The things you mention above “selfishness, judgement, materialism” are also “wedge” issues if people are unrepentant towards them.

        • Benjamin

          What I’m trying to suggest is that just because someone is born with a certain sexual desire doesn’t mean they have to act on it, and that acting to satisfy homosexual desires is sinful.

        • Benjamin

          Do you really see a substantial group of churchs picking on homosexuals?  I think the Church has long recognized that we are all sinners. I don’t think the church is “picking on” all of us.
          Now perhaps the Church might speak against unrepentent homosexual behavior (beyond being born a certain way.)

          It is not always most loving to support more pleasurable behaviors in others, regardless of orientation.

    • Benjamin

      Claim to open accept to homosexuals? Sort of like this site and traditionalist Christians? Are you sure it is not homosexuality that the Church’s are against? Have you denied that people can have self-control?

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    I believe Hybels expressed his views and the views of Willowcreek with tact, grace, and humility. In the same Spirit as Christ, he stood by his principles while at the same time welcoming anyone and everyone regardless of their sexual identity. I believe we can be accepting and tolerant of others while still holding to our foundational beliefs. Even Jesus had His principles while at the same time extending grace to all. After He saved the adultress woman He left her with these words, “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

    It is my hope that Christians will learn to become more loving, compassionate, and tolerant of others. At the same time, it is my hope that the gay community will learn to become more patient, understanding, and willing to compromise. Maybe then, the two sides can come together in peaceful harmony and unity with the end goal of glorifying God.

    • Benjamin

      Well I don’t believe Jesus went around saying that it was perfectly fine for anyone to commit adultery.

    • Benjamin

      Well I don’t believe Jesus went around saying that it was perfectly fine for anyone to commit adultery.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ALJTB7FIYKY7MLAVYILQIZLNWA Michael

      I think Greg really has a good point… As a a celibate Gay Christian; I found that many people within the Church (I’m talking conservative/Evangelical position here) already are accepting of gay people like me… They hold the traditional teachings of the Bible on gay sex/marriage but that’s okay because people aren’t condemning me for being gay (the orientation); people are concerned about the sex and marriage (which doesn’t really concern me either lol)… Is there homophobia in some levels of the Church? Yeah there is but there’s also racist and sexist elements within the Church as well. I think if we can learn to welcome and tolerate the “orientation” and take a compassionate stand for abstinence (for LGBT people) and defense of traditional marriage (civilly of course) then I think we can all come together…

      • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

        Michael,

        Very well stated. I agree wholeheartedly.

        greg

  • Nora

    What is challenging to Hybels’ claim that Willow Creek is not anti-gay is the inconsistent application of biblical-based sexual ethics. Would Willow Creek also state that divorcees are not allowed to remarry within their church and are instead encouraged to live out the same sexual sexual values that Hybels expressed in this statement? Would remarried persons be encouraged to walk away from 2nd marriages to adhere to scripture? What about polygamy? Arranged marriages of children? Levirate marriage? 

    The richness and complexity of scripture makes it challenging to define biblical sexual ethics. Citing adherence to scripture in this one instance, without a willingness to be in conversation and discernment about God’s intent for lives and relationships, seems to justify Howard Schultz’s cancellation at the event – and the accusation of an anti-gay policy at Willow Creek.

    • Paul Charles

      The other issues, like homosexuality, are very complex. If Hybels was to address them all in that one moment people would never get to the rest of the conference. I’m sure he is more than willing to converse about those issues as well, but this just wasn’t the time.

      • Nora

        Hybels was not expected to do the exegetical work within this statement, but their practices/policies regarding marriages and weddings are well known in the community. Biblical clarity is absolute in issues of homosexuality at Willow Creek, yet Scripture loses some of its authority when applied to heterosexual relationships. This inconsistent application of scripture between “them” and “us” ultimately undermines the credibility of Willow Creek, the authority of scripture, and gospel of Jesus Christ.

        • Jon

          Actually, the full statement (you can find it on youtube or on wcablog.com does include Hybels addressing the same Biblical standards for sexual expression for homo and hetero – but includes the statement “grace is offered to both in their pursuit” – that’s a critical distinction. It’s not that divorced people can get remarried easily or that gay people can’t get married. It’s that there is a Biblical standard. We all fall short. Grace is offered to all. Anyone who knows Willow would know they actually don’t have different views or inconsistent application. It’s the same for all.

          • Nora

            Yet I know at least 5 couples who have married there with at least one person of the couple being a divorcee. I don’t know any gay couples who have had their relationships blessed. Do you? Seems like a double standard.

    • Drew

      “The richness and complexity of scripture makes it challenging to define
      biblical sexual ethics.”

      Are you really saying that Scripture is so challenging to interpret that there is no bedrock principles relating to sexual ethics?  This reminds me of Satan speaking to Eve in the Garden.  “You can’t be sure what God meant, so you might as well.”  I think Scripture is pretty clear.  Sure, there are some gray areas where the Bible does not dive into, like someone who has a homosexual orientation but is celibate.  But to say that parts of the Bible are too complex and challenging, that seems like opening up a can of worms.

      • Nora

        Satan was in the garden??? Wow, I thought it was a serpent. At least, that’s what the Scriptures say. (See my point?)

        • Drew

          If you don’t understand what the serpent represents, I suggest reading the most basic of Bible studies.

  • Paul Charles

    Well done to Hybels. I think it’s worth him stating his views, because he firmly believes that you can stick to the scriptures of marriage between a man and a woman without being anti-gay. Why should there be a problem with him stating what he believes?

    • ErinvEchols

      It isn’t wrong for him to express his views. I dont think that is what the author is arguing. What they are arguing is merely that it is inconsistent. In the eyes of lgbt folks, to believe that their s equal identity is changeable or a sin if they don’t change it, is anti-gay. Hybels and others may not recognize that as qualifying as anti-gay, but to not recognize that I how lgbt folks generally feel is to show just how disconnected hybells and much if the crhsitian community is from the community.

      That being said, I do like hybells. I hope that when he said he wanted to talk to the petitioners, that he did. I think there is a good bit of mutual understanding that could come from that and bill would be the first to admit he always has things to learn about others.

    • Drew

      Paul,

      The problem is that what Bill said is not popular with the world which we live in, nor with liberals who want to reinterpret and redefine this part of scripture.  (I should note that conservatives do the same, just with other parts of scripture).  There is nothing inconsistent with what Bill is saying from a Christian standpoint.  From a liberal, secular standpoint, it is inconsistent, because anything short of a full endorsement is “anti-gay” (which by the way is a loaded, inflammatory, secular term).

      • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

        Jesus wasn’t very popular with the world in which He lived in either.

      • Paul Charles

        There is a great deal about Biblical teaching that is unpopular, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stick by it.

  • http://shackbible.wordpress.com/ ShackBibleGuy

    His statement very clearly communicated that he isn’t interested in having a conversation with anyone about this.  Willow has every right to choose its own conversation topics, but excluding this one is a gesture of unwelcome.

    And when did marriage become something other than a religious sacrament administered by a religious group, becoming instead a privileged status conferred by the state?  I think that’s the issue that would start to untangle the political issue of gay marriage.  Legislatures have no right to define my church’s sacraments.

    • Benjamin

      I think marriage became something other than a religious sacrament when people wanted to do it in a secular way.

  • Robroy

    I agree with you as well, Michael.  Thanks for your comments on this topic.  Like Aaron, I was in attendance at Willow Creek and had very similar thoughts.  As a matter of fact, one of our leaders from our church (who happens to be in a same sex relationship) was there too.  I asked this leader at the break what they thought of Bill’s statement.  And they had the exact same thought as you/us.  The explanation had a sense of contradiction in it.  
    To me, I believe that everyone is welcome at our church and encouraged to follow Jesus and to live a life that exemplifies Christ.  That would have covered every one of us as human beings.  My conviction is that if there is an area in our lives that is keeping us from drawing close to Christ, then the Holy Spirit will convict us and lead us to an appropriate place in our lives to deal with such issues.  I feel as though we as the church try to play the role of the Holy Spirit at times and that isn’t our responsibility.  So there ya go!  Thanks again!!

  • Drew

    Michael,

    I think it’s hypocritical to call out Hybels for being unhelpful in elevating the conversation with the gay community, when they were responsible for pressuring Howard not to speak at the summit.  It’s a two-way street.

    This post is not about your disagreement with Howard’s choice.  This post is not about your response to the petition that led Howard to make his choice.  This post is only about one thing – your disagreement with Bill’s speech – yet you have the audacity to say it’s not a “Bill-bashing moment?”  The good news is that Jesus predicted as much in Matthew 5:10 – that God’s people would be persecuted for simply standing up for righteousness – and gave people like Bill words of encouragement when this happens.

    It appears that the purpose of his speech was to clarify his position, and I thought he did a great job of that.  The Church is welcome to all, but at the same time, we are called to repent and live a Scriptural life.  Just because Scripture makes people feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean that we should avoid it.

  • Erinvechols

    This is almost exactly what I tweeted after watching the video a few weeks ago. I respect Bill also, but he did fail to see how his stance is, in the eyes of the petition signers, an anti-gay stance. Anti-gay isn’t just about outright discrimination (I.e. Not letting lgbt people into your church building) it is also about the way we understand being gay and speak about homosexuality in a heteronormative culture in ways that undermine their identity (I.e. By saying they can change their sexual identity).

    • Benjamin

      Do you not believe that someone who has sex with someone while cheating on a spouse is not actually attracted to the person? Finding something attractive does not make it good and Godly. We should not continue to act like slaves to our sexual desires. Do you not know where true freedom lies?

      • Erinvechols

        You are comparing intentionally cheating on someone you have made a lifelong commitment to in marriage to committed same-sex relationships that include intercourse? 

        I can’t even answer that question because it is so ridiculous. I am not saying “go have sex with anything your attracted to.”

        I AM saying that homosexuality, as biblical scholars have interpreted it is problematic … least of all because there was not such thing as a “homosexual” (or heterosexual) identity in those days. That didn’t occur to much, much later, but also for a myriad of other reasons. 

        Also, I am not saying “Hybells should believe ____.” What I AM saying is that if Hybells wants to speak to the LGBT community, he needs to make an effort to understand that the ideas he is supporting are perceived as anti-gay by many in those communities who feel committed same-sex relationships are perfectly healthy and not sinful. If he wants to say same-sex intercourse or what-not is wrong, then he has to understand that, to them, that is anti-gay. He can’t pretend that it isn’t just because he isn’t banning them from the church or other over acts of homophobia. To deny that his statements about homosexuality are anti-gay is to show just how disconnected christianity often is from understanding the thoughts, feeling and opinions of LGBT folks. 

        I think Bill is a great guy, I just think, in this instance, he overlooked or misunderstood how the petitioners felt in some regards because he (like most of us) is stuck in a heteronormative mindset. 

        Lastly, I do think there should be more conversation in the church about the texts on homosexuality. People tend to say “it is clearly wrong,” but not everyone sees it that way. I don’t see in that way. My well-trained pastor doesn’t see it that way. Many episcopal (and now PCUSA) leaders don’t see it that way. To many of us, it seems quite a bit more muddy than everyone supposes. I would just like to have an honest and open, cross-denominational discussion about that. And when Bill’s church is being accused of being anti-gay, I think a little introspection may be healthy to access  if that claim is valid instead of merely saying “we are not anti-gay because we let gay people sit in our pews.” 

    • Drew

      In his own words from that speech, he says nothing about changing their sexual identity, but rather not practicing that sexual identity.  His views are the same as Tony Campolo’s, from what I have heard/read from Tony.

  • Jay

    I think that there would be some people who would take offense no matter what is said.  There are people who feel unwelcome in churches without ever entering the door.  Hybels represented the teachings of the church.How the teachings are received is a matter between the receiver and the Holy Spirit.  We can second-guess everything we ever say to the point where we become silent.  This is not what we were commanded to do.

    We must temper the truth with love, but we must also temper love with the truth.

    Hybels well knows (as do the rest of us – including Howard Schultz) that there are sinners of all kinds in every church.  It is a shame that one sin has been singled out for a battleground.  It is hard to accept people as victims if they can bring a corporation to its knees.

    The rest of us should already be on ours.

  • Jay

    I think that there would be some people who would take offense no matter what is said.  There are people who feel unwelcome in churches without ever entering the door.  Hybels represented the teachings of the church.How the teachings are received is a matter between the receiver and the Holy Spirit.  We can second-guess everything we ever say to the point where we become silent.  This is not what we were commanded to do.

    We must temper the truth with love, but we must also temper love with the truth.

    Hybels well knows (as do the rest of us – including Howard Schultz) that there are sinners of all kinds in every church.  It is a shame that one sin has been singled out for a battleground.  It is hard to accept people as victims if they can bring a corporation to its knees.

    The rest of us should already be on ours.

  • Gavin

    I am not clued in to the information: what does not allowing Howard Shultz to speak have to do with church and sexual morality?  Is he openly gay? Does Starbucks have a certain protocol that is not in line with Willow Creeks practices?

  • Benjamin

    But two people of the same-sex cannot actually marriage, for marriage is by definition between a man and a woman. Perhaps not DICTIONARY defintion, but the man-woman relationship is what is mentioned in the Bible; if you change the word “marriage” that doesn’t mean that suddenly a man and man can become sexually involved against God’s will. If the definiton of the word “marriage” changes, then I guess I wouldn’t use that word anymore, and I suppose I would call what the Bible mentions the special-man-woman-bond.

    I think you have read the Bible. I think C.S. Lewis mention the issue as being that people who are born homosexuals are just disadvantaged to marry by birth, (as a man born blind is disadvantaged to see.)

    By the way, I don’t plan on changing my mind if I’m called uneducated, or non-intellectual, or narrow-minded as I hope most of all to stand by my God, and not with the world. Isn’t the world full of evil? Why should we seek for its approval?

    Is this really about wanting to accept other people, or you wanting other people to accept you?
     
    -Benjamin

  • Benjamin

    But two people of the same-sex cannot actually marriage, for marriage is by definition between a man and a woman. Perhaps not DICTIONARY defintion, but the man-woman relationship is what is mentioned in the Bible; if you change the word “marriage” that doesn’t mean that suddenly a man and man can become sexually involved against God’s will. If the definiton of the word “marriage” changes, then I guess I wouldn’t use that word anymore, and I suppose I would call what the Bible mentions the special-man-woman-bond.

    I think you have read the Bible. I think C.S. Lewis mention the issue as being that people who are born homosexuals are just disadvantaged to marry by birth, (as a man born blind is disadvantaged to see.)

    By the way, I don’t plan on changing my mind if I’m called uneducated, or non-intellectual, or narrow-minded as I hope most of all to stand by my God, and not with the world. Isn’t the world full of evil? Why should we seek for its approval?

    Is this really about wanting to accept other people, or you wanting other people to accept you?
     
    -Benjamin

  • http://twitter.com/nokoryous Kory Mereness

    Non-Christians cannot continue to expect Christians not to have standards. It is hypocritical for people to cry out for “tolerance” in such a fashion. Christians stand by what the Bible teaches, and Hybels needs not be called into question for doing so. I believe he did well to tread the fine line where grace and righteousness meet, and thought it to be particularly inspiring in the age of spiritual cowards. Very appropriate. Hopefully we don’t become to wrapped up in the semantics of what “anti” means, while acting like Jesus never took sides or that God never stood against anything in this world that mankind might have loved.

  • http://twitter.com/nokoryous Kory Mereness

    Non-Christians cannot continue to expect Christians not to have standards. It is hypocritical for people to cry out for “tolerance” in such a fashion. Christians stand by what the Bible teaches, and Hybels needs not be called into question for doing so. I believe he did well to tread the fine line where grace and righteousness meet, and thought it to be particularly inspiring in the age of spiritual cowards. Very appropriate. Hopefully we don’t become to wrapped up in the semantics of what “anti” means, while acting like Jesus never took sides or that God never stood against anything in this world that mankind might have loved.

    • http://twitter.com/michaeljkimpan michael j. kimpan

      thanks for your comments, kory.  see my response above.

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  • Boardermom

    It is insulting to gays and lesbians to be “embraced” with the ‘hate the sin, not the sinner’ rhetoric.  While I cannot speak for all persons of anything, all of the homosexuals I know agree that their sexuality is not a choice and find it offensive to be cast as a sinner for simply being the person God made them to be.  In my opinion, any church that does not embrace same sex marriage is anti-gay, no matter how they try to spin their position.

    • Louis

      I realize Gays and Lesbians don’t like the “hate the sin, not the sinner” rhetoric as they typically believe that their sexuality is not a choice. But that is the core issue behind this debate. I respect that they believe their sexuality is who God made them to be but my argument is that it is NOT who God made them to be even if they believe it. One argument would be if God made them that way why did he not make them with the natural ability to procreate? That is ultimately how God designed men and women to function naturally and how we are ultimately designed regardless of whether you think it is “natural” or not.

      But that is a secondary argument. Ultimately we are all defined in life by the choices we make and not our inner sexual desires. If I am attracted to a man or a woman, that is not a sin, but if I have sex outside of marriage with them (homosexual or heterosexual) then it is a sin. You see the difference? In your opinion any church that does not embrace same-sex marriage is anti-gay but in my opinion any church that embraces same-sex marriage is anti-Christian no matter how they try to spin it. The Bible and mainstream Christianity has a very clearly defined view on homosexuality and the argument that the Christian church needs to adapt its core values to a politically correct agenda diminishes its foundation as a “Christian” church.  

  • Tbh2

    Hybels is, I think, doing the best he can.

    It’s just that some of us think he is wrong. Wrong in the same way that those who wanted not to mistreat African Americans but didn’t think they should marry white people — were wrong. Some of us think that Hybels is anti-gay, in the same way. We do not call him impolite, unreasonable, or inconsistent–  just wrong. And wrong in ways that are hurtful.

    And honestly, some of us are happy to see such views marginalized, the same way  we were happy to see those who opposed interracial marriage — marginalized. At some point in this country it was no longer possible to say, “black people are fine as long as they don’t want the same acceptance as whites.”

    So that is why we are somewhat satisfied that Schultz did not show up. We’re hoping that one day this will be seen as something which is not debateable — we hope that gay people have the same right and ability to marry as other people do. We hope that in churches this will become the same as apartheid — no longer defensible.

    So when others claim we’re being unreasonable — understand how we see it. We see it as equivalent to 1840, whien some whites advocated the freedom of slaves — but were glad to have Jim Crow in place. We think Hybels ideas are as odious as that.

  • canadude

    Micheal might be right. But I can’t help but feel like the article is splitting hairs over a nuance. Bill is only really tolerant if he chooses just the right words? Not being gay, I cannot really imagine what is required for a gay person not to feel slighted. Yet, if Bills comments offended someone, I have to think they are ultra sensitive or looking to be offended. Maybe the truth is offensive. I get the impression it’s kind of OK to hold a more traditional view of sexuality but really it should be apologized for – not stated clearly or held with confidence. At some point, unless  a church (or Bill Hybels) completely endorses homosexuality, they will be percieved as anti-gay. A lot of people, especially men, are born with the desire to have sex with any women any time and yet the bible requires them to control those desires and to limit that to one woman only for their entire life. Bills church would hold that heterosexual people have to live differently than the desires they are born with. Why scripture doesn’t allow homosexuals the same expression in marriage seems unfair. The fact remains that there are biblical requirements for everybody to restrain themselves from urges they are born with, not just homosexuals.
    There has been so much hatred and innappropriate behaviours displayed by church and church people towards homosexuals, it is no wonder gay people are ultra-sensitive. FOr that reason alone, I may be out of line. However, I have to hope there is grace for those of us who are trying to sort out how to act in love and still maintain our beliefs, including Bill.  

    • http://twitter.com/michaeljkimpan michael j. kimpan

      thanks for your comments, canadude.  see my response above.

      • canadude

        That give some clarity – thank-you. I agree. elevating the discussion is important. I quite sincerely desire to be loving to all people. One thing I know for sure is that generalizing and marginilizing needs to stop for the discussion to be elevated. Just because a person believes there is a moral problem with sex outside of marriage between a man and woman does not always mean that he or she automatically hates those who disagree or practice otherwise. I am confident that not all gay people hate those christians who have a more traditional view of marriage for believing as we do.

        I came back from a funeral today thinking that we all take ourselves far too seriously. Life is very short and relationships are extremely precious. sometimes I think we should just sit down over a beverage and share our stories before any meaningful discussion happens. all these (supposedly?) moral choices and decisions happen in a context and when you know that context it may not change your belief but that understanding will often change your attitude. Thanks for getting us thinking!

  • Cindy

    I’m new here, and I’m a little confused. I thought red letter Christians focused on what Jesus taught. I might be missing it, but I don’t think Jesus ever addressed sexual orientation. So I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that Jesus was telling us in a million ways to focus on being completely loving beings. So even if I thought that God condemns homosexuals (which I don’t), I would leave that to God . I’ve got a big enough job trying to be the most loving person I can be, and that includes loving everyone, regardless of their personal journey with God. 

  • http://flickr1.com Kangxi

    Nice Post!

  • Vid

    As a sexually active gay in a committed relationship of 16 years, this “hate the sin, love the sinner” hair splitting is very annoying.  Willow and the rest of the haters can continue to live happily in this dream of being gay friendly while denying gays the right to sexual expression. Sorry, this is just nonsense.   Until people admit that they selectively pick the scriptures they follow or ignore, we will continue to see prejudice views celebrated as inclusive and loving Christianity. 

    Clearly, Jesus taught in very black and white terms that divorce and remarriage is a sin.  Yet, we rarely see an evangelical church do much except make support groups for the divorced and remarried.  Nobody is telling them that they are whoremongers and whores or that their sexual acts are fornication.  Unless you, as a “Bible believing Christian” disagree with our Lord, that is exactly what the divorced and remarried and their sexual acts are.  Yet, evangelicals find a way around that teaching that comes directly from Jesus (perhaps the fact that the divorced make up close to 50% of most megachurches is one factor – giant loss of membership and associated income for that to be preached). 

    The reality is that we pick what we want to follow.  We all do but only some of us actually admit it.  All are guilty of sin and all of us have planks in our eyes while pointing the finger at someone who is different. 

    So spare me the idea that this was a graceful move.  History will show that this type of theological game playing is no different than the defense of slavery by evangelicals in the 1800s.  If a leader of a megachurch (or hopefully any church) made a speech supporting slavery today in the 21 Century, he or she would be considered a deranged racist.  And anyone who supports this type of antigay prejudice today is no different than those who supported slavery in the 1800s “because it is in the Bible” as a justification. 

    Until we are ready to admit that all of us selectively use Scripture to support our beliefs rather than inform them, we will continue to see such rank hypocrisy come from religious leaders and see others support and make outlandish claims of it getting us “past polarization.”

    • DrewTwo

      While I think it’s going a bit far to label the folks at Willow as “haters” I think you’ve really hit on an important point. 

      I’m a gay man (currently barely Christian) and as I’ve discussed my struggles with my conservative straight friends I too been confronted with the usual “cherry picking” argument. It seems selective application of orthodox Biblical principles is OK if it suits those who fit the currently defined norm. I’m not sure where that leaves the rest of us. 

      I might find it easier to take if these same folks had anything more to offer me than pointing me towards celibacy, which practically speaking means I get to grit my teeth and wait for heaven while they enjoy the emotional and spiritual nourishment that comes from their spousal/family relationships.

  • http://wowgod.org Tim Thomas

    I don’t know that stating a truth ought to be considered “anti-“.  But if it is, I want to be “anti-” all the same things that Jesus is “anti-“.  While “God so loved the world”, he also recognized that many were “already condemned” and would be condemned eternally.  Read not just John 3:16, but also verses 17 to 19.  In fact, as I try to look into Jesus’ words more carefully, he almost always sketched the way of life or salvation, and then the alternative way, which was “condemnation” or “fire” or “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  God invites everyone, loves everyone, and yet still people reject Him and His way.  Bill Hybels managed to say things briefly and eloquently.

  • http://twitter.com/michaeljkimpan michael j. kimpan

    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.

    It isn’t.

    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.

    My post 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 scripture.  I hope it has, in some small way, done that for some of us.

    In that spirit, this article 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 so many responded in thunderous applause was many in the audience 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.’  

    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 wonder if the language 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?

  • http://twitter.com/michaeljkimpan michael j. kimpan

    *a response from the author*

    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.

    It isn’t.

    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.

    My post 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 for us.

    In that spirit, this article 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 so many responded in thunderous applause was many in the audience 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.’  

    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 wonder if the language 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?

  • Jer

    Jesus told the woman caught in adultery “neither do I condemn you,” and “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  Was he anti-adulterer?

  • http://profiles.google.com/seanpnelson Sean Nelson

    I can certainly appreciate your question, “was it necessary for Hybels to make the polarizing distinction of marriage being solely ‘between a man and a woman?” This is a topic that is very near and dear to me and I shutter when i recall the many times the Christian Community has not only missed the opportunity to do this conversation justice but have also hurt many people in the process. And for personal reasons, I am very sensitive to how these discussions take place.

    That being said, I think it was good for Hybels to link his “not anti-gay” statement to a definition to keep everyone else from “filling in the blanks” and causing even more controversy and upheaval. I wish the greater Christian Community were more mature on how it handled “in-house” disagreements and misunderstandings, but they are not… yet anyway. 

    I believe that Hybels was in a tough “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position and he was forced to make a tough leadership decision. I believe he chose his words and actions wisely and applaud his sensitivity and spirit with which he acted.

    What a great example of WHY he is leading this “Leadership Summit” in the first place. 

  • Pastortim

    Honestly, is this really any more “anti” than also saying the church is anti-pedophiles because we stand against pedophilia? Or anti-adulterers because we preach against adultery? Or anti-polygamists because we don;t approve polygamy? The list could go on and on. The truth is the extreme, radical gay element has made the church’s moral stance and anyone who supports that stance out to be a hatemonger or a basher or something just as despicable. That is not true. We are allowed to have moral convictions and moral positions, based on our understanding of Biblicla teachings, traditions and our own reason and experience. That doesn’t make us hate mongers or bigots. The problem is, we in the church have allowed folks like Schultz and others to occupay the “high ground” in this moral battle and they are bombarding the church and culture with their own personal opinions and beliefs. Jesus did address sexual sin and He was very clear about the dangers, equating lust with one of the “Big Ten” ultimate sins. Now please tell me, if He would be so adamant about something as simple as just looking lustily at another person as being this kind of huge sin, it stands to reason He would also look unkindly on men and women having sexual relationships outside the male/female marriage bond as blessed by God, wouldn’ it?

  • Dwells

    Hybel’s message was clear, truthful, and loving…and you can’t please everyone.

  • http://www.faithchallenge.blogspot.com Bruce Kratky

    “You can’t speak to me, and I won’t speak to you, because you won’t say what I want you to say in the way I want you to say it” is a double edged sword.  We must be cautious in the way we speak to each other and bathe all in love.  At the same time we are who we are when we say what we believe and believe what we say.  To attempt to force Mr. Hybels into saying something “correctly”, to hide truth and bend reality, is to use bully political force.  He and his church say what they say and are who they are.  I would expect nothing less of them.  If those in the gay community are dissatisfied with any of Willow Creek’s or Mr. Hybels’ positions they can either understand and engage, or they can bully.  If they believe that the bully methodology works best for their cause then they will continue to bully.  I do not believe that Mr. Hybels was bullying when he made his statement.  He was being honest to himself, his elder board, his church, and to the gay community.  Personally I admire that and truth is a fine starting point for dialogue.  Obviously, Mr. Hybles and the leadership of Willow Creek are not “persuaded” to another point of view.  Perhaps in time, perhaps not.  Bully methodology, to my thinking, will only slow the process for decades to come, if it is ever to come. 

    I frequent my local Starbucks almost daily.  I enjoy their bold coffee (you can keep the cheap Pike stuff, might as well go to McDonald’s), the staff, and the comfortable leather chairs.  The free WiFi is a hit with me also.  I’ve seen Mr. Schultz on “Charlie Rose” plugging his book and I have seen the book for sale at my store.  I’ve chosen not to purchase it.  Having been a CEO myself for twenty years…I find us quite boring, often just flavors of the day.  If Mr. Schultz canceled his appearance to attempt to make a point with Willow Creek and Mr. Hybels, then he is a bully.  Not very flattering for a “rock star icon”.  Some could even think it unloving and rude.  If he folded his tent from activist pressure groups that he may or may not agree with, his actions could be constrewed as somewhat cowardly.  This is unbefitting of someone of his reputation.  Getting up on a high horse is unflattering for CEO rock stars and pastors alike.

    If Mr. Schultz won’t hear Willow Creek, and won’t talk to Willow Creek, because they won’t say what he wants them to say in the way he thinks they should say it…so be it.  His loss.

    In a world filled with less than honest “men of the cloth” I find Mr. Hybels most refreshing.  There are many folks who speak, believe, interpret, and live their lives as does Mr. Hybels.  That they cheer him means only that he has achieved a high level of trustworthiness within his sphere of influence and speaks clearly for others who have not the pulpit nor the gifts to speak as he does.  This does not mean that they are anti-anything.  It just means that they are who they are and believe what they believe.  So, the game of persuasion continues unabated.       

  • Sue

    “But making a statement that lacks clarification, conversation, and
    relationship in a public forum that smacks of traditional anti-gay
    rhetoric, in my opinion, is unhelpful in elevating the conversation
    with the gay community”…
    I agree. The fact that he made a point of stating his own beliefs on the marriage relationship, shows he is not at all affirming and inclusive, and doesn’t believe in equality.
    It only shouts that he is indeed anti-gay. Maybe he didn’t realize this at the time.

  • Bthomas5217

    It was necessary for Hybels to act with integrity by telling the truth about what is plainly taught in Scriture as right and wrong as regards marriage.  To tell the truth is an act of Christian.  To say less would have been to fail in genuine love by substituting for the truth that which is only a culturally correct aberration.

  • Maradok

    You asked “Isn’t making a public declaration denying the rights of gays to marry, in at least some sense, anti-gay?” Yes, in some sense, and despite how hard to tried not to be, it is anti-gay. He’s saying people should abstain from sex until they are happily married heterosexually. That, in my humble opinion, is anti-gay. I wonder if other Christian leaders who believe homosexuality is sin struggle with the inconsistency of allowing other blatant ‘sinners’ to be married and have sex, such as obese people, or greedy people, or elitists…? If it’s all based on the belief that ‘this is sin’ then why discriminate only on this issue?

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  • Ian

    These dirty deviants have chosen a disgusting way of life unacceptable to the decent people of NZ. What is a worry is that sites such as Whaleoil, are championing these rejects of humanity and banning anyone from their site who comes out with argument against these scum. Fairfax are feting them, along wih Dotcom, so no wonder their company is in deep financial strife . . . sooner it falls over the better.

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