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You cannot deny people the means to undefiled sexual expression within the marital bed, and then condemn them for sexual expression outside of the marital bed to which you denied them access.
—The Rebuttal

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Affirmation Declaration

Drafted: Sunday, November 29, 2009
Released: Monday, December 7, 2009

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Preamble

Since the gospel of Jesus Christ reached the gates of Antioch almost 2,000 years ago, we, the disciples of Jesus, have been called Christians. It is not so much that we are followers of Christ, but that we set as our purpose the high goal of being like Christ. Although it has and will always be a gradual process of personal transformation from who we are into that great and perfect image, we continue to desire growth and change. That is what it means to be Christian—to desire to be like Christ, and to pursue that aim in sincerity of heart.

But "Christian" only describes our state of being. It is powerless to describe the quality of that state. It doesn't describe the journey itself葉he passion with which we individually pursue our goal. It defines what we are, but it doesn't show us how we are what we are. For that, we must examine the person of Jesus Christ. We must consider who He is, who we are, and how committed we are both individually and collectively to pressing toward that mark.

To describe Christ with as much brevity as possible, there is, no doubt, only one word that is able to illuminate the quality of His person様ove. We know that our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is love. Since its inception, the Christian faith has been self-described as the faith of love. Our God is love. Our Christ is love. Love has been held high as the pillar and standard of Christian belief and conduct. It is, indeed, our entire faith wrapped up in a word.

We can, then, only talk about the quality of our being Christian in terms of how fervently we love. As the definition of Christ's person, love is the standard by which we must judge ourselves. We are only truly Christian葉ruly like Christ葉o the extent that we truly love.

But, what does it mean to truly love, and how does this true love manifest?

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John 13:35

According to Scripture, people should be able to observe us and discern whether or not we really belong to Christ. How? —By virtue of how well we love one another. But, it's not just a matter of having love contained within the bowels of our person. The love that brings quality to our Christianity is the love that is in motion様ove that can be seen, heard, and experienced. It is the love that we have not for one another, but to one another.

If we examine the past 2000 years of Church history, it is amazing what we will discover. Historically, Christians have held people captive to tradition on one hand, and have been the proponents and champions of social change on the other. Although many Christians, motivated by love, fought the scourge of slavery, many also fought to preserve it, using Scripture to justify their bigotry. We have been the cruel oppressors of religious freedom (vis--vis the Inquisition), and have also championed the right of all people to worship as their conscience dictates. We have both supported and opposed the right of women to be considered and treated as the social equals of men.

These various contradictions speak not to a social evolution over time within the Church, but to the great dichotomy of mankind—the human will. It speaks to our all-too-natural ability to twist and contort Scripture to validate whatever beliefs we subscribe to at the time. Rather than beginning an investigation with "Thus saith the Lord," we begin it with a belief. It, then, becomes easy to see in Scripture all of the interpretations that uphold that belief.

We do not contend that we have been, in such cases, motivated by evil or otherwise devious intentions. We only seek to acknowledge our human frailty, an acknowledgement that magnifies our need to filter every perspective and worldview容very interpretation of Scripture and every response to that interpretation葉hrough the filter of love. We must see the world through God's eyes妖enying ourselves tradition on one hand, and social evolution on the other, and seeking instead to have our hearts washed by the water of God's word (Ephesians 5:26), so that His action-based love can usurp our fallible and mutable theologies and philosophies and reign supreme in our hearts.

We speak of this motive love at this particular moment in time because many of our Christian brothers and sisters have subscribed to a recently drafted document裕he Manhattan Declaration葉he purpose of which is to call attention to specific social issues that are seen to oppose proper Christian moralities. While it is not our purpose here to comment on every issue addressed in the Manhattan Declaration, we feel compelled to call attention to the traditional Christian view of homosexuality, and to the resulting opposition of many Christians to same-sex marriage. We seek to challenge those beliefs by the standard of proactive love.
 

Declaration

Although the purpose of the Affirmation Declaration is not to deal with the question of whether or not homosexuality is morally benign or repugnant in God's eyes耀uch a question is worthy of a detailed examination, rather than a simple pronouncement謡e do first and foremost emphatically state that God does affirm homosexuality as a natural state, and homosexuals as His beloved.

We reject the theological abuse of antigay doctrine, which has resulted in the spiritual and physical harm of countless people. Human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, have been made to feel lower than low because of the fear of diversity within our human family, and because of theology founded not upon rightly interpreted Scripture, but upon traditionalism with no substantial basis in sound hermeneutics.

Historically, humans have always had an aversion to diversity. That which is not like the norm has always frightened or offended, and we acknowledge with great regret that the Christian body is not innocent of this charge. But, we also readily acknowledge that God is calling us in this generation to be restorers of the breach葉o identify and correct the errors that so many Christians have accepted as foregone conclusions, and to reconcile those who have been ostracized and rejected back to the loving arms of their holy God.

Jesus was well acquainted with the great harm that "spiritual leaders" so easily dispense in the name of God. Our own Scriptures tell us that He was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." He knew what it was to be around people who claimed to love God, but couldn't stand to look upon people who were created in God's image. He knew what it was like to be held in low esteem just because He did not toe the line that the religious leaders demanded.

We take heart in the knowledge that Christ has been where so many in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (GLBTI) community are. He has gone through the pain of rejection用articularly, the pain of being rejected by the very ones who should have been a wellspring of living water. We are thankful that the God of all comfort has been a keeping power to countless GLBTI Christians, who could, at many times, turn to no one but Him for love, affirmation, and support. We proclaim that He has been enough; but we also unwaveringly declare that He has more in mind for His children than spiritual and emotional isolation葉hat He desires all of His body of believers to be in fellowship one with the other.

We assert that the pain brought upon our GLBTI brothers and sisters in the name of God is not an expression of love. It is not love to bring shame and self-loathing upon people. It is not love to tell parents not to accept their gay children because their affirmation will supposedly make their children not want to change. It certainly is not love to teach the damnable heresy that GLBTI people cannot be saved or go to Heaven until they have been delivered from their natural orientation.

We also call attention to the horrible spiritual effect that antigay theology has had on the secular world. We are deeply troubled by the number of people who have been made to despise Christianity because of the oppressive and tyrannical acts of our Christian brothers and sisters. However well intentioned they may believe themselves to be, they continue to short-circuit the gospel of Jesus Christ by imposing their religious beliefs upon the general population. Whether homosexuality is sinful or not, opposing same-sex marriage is not only counterproductive to evangelistic ministry, but it is diametrically opposed to the concept of religious freedom耀omething that the proponents of the Manhattan Declaration claim to cherish. It appears that what they, instead, champion is their freedom to impose their religious beliefs on others. We reject this hypocritical opposition to same-sex marriage, and stand for true religious liberty in the United States of America and the world.

These ever present sins against the GLBTI community are not faithful expressions of God's love, as is so often claimed. The protestation to the contrary expressed in the Manhattan Declaration only demonstrates the blind religious fervor that so many of our brothers and sisters are lost in. Like the Pharisees of old, they continue to believe that such cruelties actually serve the God who is love. But, this is not the type of love that Scripture defines for us.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. [5] It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. [6] Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [7] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
1Corinthians 13:4-7 [emphases ours]

Although opponents to affirming theology would likely point to verse 6 as justification for their treatment of GLBTI people, we stress that love necessarily requires hesitancy before accusing someone based upon face value readings of texts that were never meant to be interpreted in such a haphazard way. 2Timothy 2:15 commands us to diligently approach Scripture in order to "rightly divide the word of truth". Face value and diligence are not faithful friends; and we rejoice in this fact, lest we be contented to force women to adhere to a strict dress code (1Timothy 2:9-10) and keep their mouths shut in church (1Corinthians 14:34-35; 1Timothy 2:11-12), or men to keep their hair a certain length (1Corinthians 11:14).

Times change, and with them biblical pronouncements about acts that were, themselves, perceived through a culturally subjective lens. This fact does not make Scripture wrong; but it does make certain passages obsolete, and their application to modern Christians inappropriate and unfaithful to the intent of the text. It is time for the Church to stop acknowledging this only when it suits a given purpose (as in the case with women's rights or what makes for a "manly" appearance). Love requires an honest examination of this principle's application to the issue of homosexuality. Such an examination has led many people, both gay and straight, to affirm the GLBTI community.

Finally, we assert that no godly end is served by the cruel treatment of GLBTI people. While we are certain that some among our opponents are bigots and cannot be changed or reasoned with, we humbly challenge those who sincerely disagree with homosexuality for theological reasons to reexamine this most serious issue. For the love of Christ, and the GLBTI population that He so dearly loves, give this issue the due diligence that it is deserving of. Expose yourselves to the other point of view and see, if perchance, Scripture actually does not say what you always believed it to say. If you engage in such an effort sincerely, and emerge with your existing beliefs affirmed, we will bid you Godspeed and pray that Christian fellowship can be maintained while we agree to disagree.

In closing, we humbly beseech God for strength to stand against the theological oppression of those who wish to keep His Church in the past, as they, aforetime, did to women, to Blacks, and様ooking back to the early history of the Church容ven to Gentiles. It took the experience of Spirit-baptism to convince many Jewish Christians that the way of salvation was, indeed, open to the Gentiles. That God has granted our generation so great a cloud of witnesses of GLBTI people who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, it stands as a strong rebuke that we find ourselves still doubting the place of redeemed people in the body of Christ some 1900+ years after this lesson should have been learned.

As Christians stood against other Christians in appealing to the conscience of people in the liberation of slaves, of women, and of other groups throughout the history of the Church, we who now affix our signatures to this emphatic declaration of affirmation stand against those Christians who refuse to love without precondition. We oppose not with hearts of hatred or ill will, but with the very love that we demand of those who continue to sin against us. We commit ourselves to the virtues of humility and forgiveness, and anxiously await the time when one of the last prayers of our Lord and Christ may be fulfilled at last.

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; [21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me [26] And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."
John 17:20-26

 
   

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. [35] By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John 13:34-35