by Wendy Gritter (a summary by Pat Evert)
Chapter 1 Reevaluating evangelical Ex-gay ministries: We evangelicals have done a poor job of ministering to the gays, we rush in to fix a problem with little listening. Then with misdiagnosis, we only frustrate and hurt those we are trying to help.
Chapter 2 Of doubt tension and anxiety: Don’t fear to stay in uncertainty, content with Christ’s presence. We need to try to walk in their shoes, hiding the huge secret of who ‘I am’ or trying to change what even God will not change. In seeing this God has birthed in me deeper empathy and humility.
Chapter 3 The power of stories: For a few same-sex attracted people it is a choice and they can change their orientation. But for the majority of gays it is more intrinsic and beyond their control. It is therefore unethical to deny them the joy of relationships and marriage that we as heterosexuals enjoy.
Chapter 4 Complex spectrum: What is same-sex attraction? Rebellion, addiction, brokenness or just a difference? If rebellion, repentance is required; if addiction, abstinence; if brokenness, accommodation. If it’s a natural variant then we can celebrate the difference. To insist on their change would be to demand the impossible of them.
Chapter 5 Coming out and the church: When one comes out to me that he or she is gay, my responsibility is not to fix or change them, my responsibility is to provide a safe environment for them to be honest. It is okay to have same-sex attraction. You don’t have to choose between being gay and Christian. There is room for you in the church. You don’t have to be straight to be acceptable to God.
Chapter 6 The journey of discipleship: to be accepting of one’s same-sex attraction and open to God’s changing their lives at the same time. The Spirit offers permission and freedom in our lives. We should:
1) allow them to grieve their imperfections
2) see how God is using this to make something beautiful in their lives and
3) cultivate a positive vision for the future.
Chapter 8 Our image of God: the most profound impact of sin in our lives is the inability to take off the dark lens through which we view God. My experience of God’s grandeur offered me a portal out of my daily sense of being unacceptable. His question to me is, “Do you believe I loved you?” Fear is the enemy of love. It keeps us from truly seeing God as He is. Our best ideas of God are incomplete and flawed, to say otherwise is idolatrous. Jesus is the perfect picture of God.
Chapter 9 The role of Scripture; the invitation is to come into a spacious place where God is revealing Himself personally, relationally, and with increasing depth. Do we view Scripture as stories to imaginatively live into, or do we view Scripture as a prescription for how to live? We are called to be participants in the revelation of God and to find ourselves in His story. The integration of the human and the divine is a mystery we are called to enter. It is God living through us. And we, as the church, need to give one another room to wrestle with God … to be fully known and loved by Him, to be wooed and won into complete submission to the lordship of Christ.
Chapter 10 The challenge of interpretation; the interpretive challenges may result in different conclusions for different individuals. We should not try to control the outcome of another’s journey, this process of how our experiences should be applied is guided by the Holy Spirit. Jesus persistently reached out to those on the margins. Your calling is to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, to more fully trust in his sufficiency, to love and to grow in that capacity. Even humble heterosexual Christians who make every effort to be kind and gracious toward homosexuals, are really not reaching out; they are reaching down from a place of moral elevation. How much more we ought to approach this conversation with humility and a willingness to listen.
Chapter 11 A disputable matter? We’ve had to learn to live with one another and respect one another despite differences. We’ve had to learn to listen well. All this because God has kept silent on this issue, or at least not been clear enough. There are good reasons on both sides. So each is free to follow the convictions of conscience. Don’t be critical or condescending, neither stumble your brother. Don’t interfere with the free exchange of love. In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love. Rather than fleeing the discomfort of disagreement, I believe we are called to submit ourselves to the Spirit’s work of increasing our humility and graciousness. The Lord longs for us to know wholeness, through 1) intimacy with him and 2) loving and serving in our relationships with one another. If we demand uniformity on this question, I believe we will miss the blessing God wants to extend.
Chapter 12 Engaging the church: no one wants to be pressured to change their perspective. How can we better welcome into our church communities those who are different. To expect conformity brings with it a breeding ground for secrets, shame and pride, judgment and hiding. We need to give one another the freedom to fail. We can trust the Holy Spirit is more than able to guide people rightly and correct them when needed. We leaders need to relinquish excessive control as an expression of trust in the Holy Spirit, we can then be confident that God will build His church. Instead of just tolerating the stranger we can then welcome him who is different. All of us need to give up our status and privileges to serve the most lowly.
Chapter 13 A word for pastors and leaders: to really serve as a hospitable pastor to gay people means that you commit to be a learner. It means that you will be willing to explore diverse perspectives with them, not with a sense of coercion, but from a place of deeply entrusting this individual to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be afraid of losing your job, friends or reputation, etc. Careful not to push your congregation beyond their readiness to engage such a complex and emotionally charged topic. Are people able to be transparent about the real issues in their lives? What is the congregation’s response, or level of openness to uncomfortable issues of sexuality? Hospitality is not about compromise, or even tolerance, it’s about living the heart of Jesus. Oh to be a more mature and hospitable congregation.
Chapter 14 A word to gay Christians: it is the imperfections of our churches that can afford us important opportunities to grow.
Chapter 15 A word to would-be gay advocates in the church: if you would work to see the church become a safe and spacious place for gay people, be prepared to relinquish power and any sense of superiority. Be vulnerable and available to engage with them through pain and suffering. One never knows how long a particular rift will last. Authentic formational community takes time and humility. Cultivation means we meet each person where they are, we expect no quick fixes or simplistic shortcuts, but we discern together how to take each step of relational investments.