Most churches find themselves obliged to investigate the issue of homosexuality and the Bible. To have a serious, productive conversation, Christian churches need to either be equipped in leading such a conversation with facts, Biblical integrity and an honest conversation including as participants those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians. In lieu of being able to guide this conversation “in house”, church leaders often opt to invite facilitators who can guide such conversations.
Recently, I attended a several days’ series at a local church that enlisted a “no-longer” homosexual man to speak to youth groups, give the sermon and lead a Q&A period. The church leadership admitted they had not properly vetted the speaker or reviewed the information he presented. It was a disaster. Among the many stereotypes, lies and myths, he presented were: homosexuality as a mental illness, homosexual orientation as changeable to heterosexuality, the non-existence of gay Christians, sexual data from the 70’s, mis-reading of the Scriptures, distortion of historical events and junk psychology completely debunked by all medical professional groups.
Most churches are not well-equipped to have productive conversations with integrity and honesty. Although inviting people to facilitate or teach on the topic may be “easier” for church leadership, horribly slanted and ill-informed teaching can be more damaging.
Within the United Methodist Church, Dr. Tom C. Fuller is an itinerant evangelist who speaks on the topic of homosexuality. He is one such ill-informed guest speaker that can be damaging to United Methodist congregations and the LGBT people seeking to worship within them.
One need only look to Fuller’s book “Gay Christianity?” (2008) for confirmation of his dogma about gay and lesbian people. “Gay Christianity?” is a short, poorly written, 26 chapter, 118 page book that can be reduced to the message: “homosexuality is a behavior and gay people need to stop being gay.”
Concepts in the book:
- Fuller states: “I do not wish to write with anger or prejudice toward anyone. My intent is shedding light on a behavior that harms people on a massive scale . . .” This statement is contrary to all professionally medical and psychological associations that acknowledge homosexuality as a normal variation of human sexuality. Having a homosexual orientation is not harmful; the rejection people suffer from social, familial and religious communities, however does cause harm. Fuller’s premise as homosexuality as a behavior and therefore inherently harmful is a prejudice.
- Fuller labels those who are same-sex attracted as living a “lifestyle”. The way in which LGBT people lives their lives is as varied as the way in which heterosexual people live their lives.
- Fuller associates a homosexual orientation as being about “sex”. Having a homosexual orientation is to be emotionally, romantically and sexually attracted to the same sex. He seems to have never met a emotionally healthy, committed LGBT person or couple. He states: “Someday, after today’s proponents of promiscuity are gone, and after many more deaths, broken families and disintegrated denominations have passed into history, the church will reflect on my generation’s effort to normalize gay behavior, and realize our grievous error.”
- Fuller, although he says he is loving in his approach, exposes his internal disgust at those who are same-sex attracted in most chapters of “Gay Christianity?”. He also depicts those who support equality as angry and aggressive. “If you have ever tried to carry on a civil conversation with a gay activist, and attempted to discuss gay behavior and defend the biblical position, you probably hardly got started before he or she bristled up and began insulting and intimidating you.”
- He uses outdated, non-scientific information that was created in the 90’s to marginalize the LGBT community. “If you begin quoting statistics on the mortality rate of gay men, who tend to die early as the natural result of their extranatural behavior, your pro-gay acquaintance will likely react with feigned horror and accuse you or using ‘hate speech’.” Lying about a class of people with the result of causing them to be discriminated against and marginalized is hateful.
- Fuller says “homosexual activity temporarily gratifies the flesh of two people. In the long run, it destroys individuals, families, marriages, children, churches, and even entire societies.” Wow, that is an incredible amount of power two people in a loving same-sex relationship have over every other relationship.
- No serious Bible scholar views the story of Sodom as a story of homosexuality. Fuller, however does.
- Fuller believes gay people can change their orientation, actually, he is sure of it. “Of course gay people can change, just a drug-dependent people and the rest of us “holics” can change.” The leader of the #1 ministry in the Christian church says:
The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think there is a gender issue there, there are some women who have challenged me and said that my orientation or my attractions have changed completely. Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know will experience some level of same-sex attraction.
Fuller however is sure gay people can change orientation.
- Constantly reinforcing same-sex attraction as a “behavior”, Fuller writes: “The church is to treat gay Christians in the same way it treats members who are tempted to commit incest, adultery or pedophilia. We relate to them in the same way we relate to folks who are tempted to drink too much, take recreationally, gamble excessively, write hot cheeks or gossip.”
- He gives advice to the more effeminate gay men by saying: “If you parade your preferences, you will polarize people against you. Gay people who project an in your face attitude can expect rejection from straight people, as can anyone who flaunts behavior that is offensive to great numbers of individuals.”
The premise of “Gay Christian?” maintains that a homosexual orientation is a behavior, changeable and destructive to “individuals, families, marriages, children, churches, and even entire societies.” Dr. Tom Fuller is not a person that any faith community should invite to have a productive, respectful conversation about its gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender members or neighbors. His views and information about LGBT people are deeply flawed and destructive not only to LGBT individuals, but their families and the faith communities in which they are seeking to serve and follow God.
UPDATE: Churches have an increasing need to engage in productive conversations about sexual orientation and the Bible. Many of the speakers offering their services to facilitate these conversations are NOT EQUIPT to have balanced, respectful dialogues. As I become aware of some of these speakers offering their services, I will post my insights on their speaking/teaching/writing.