Celibate spiritual friendships between gay Christians...

Error message

"Christians today are cringing at God's explicit condemnation of sodomy and are looking for some new place to stand. Desperate to find a sweet spot halfway between "marriage equality" and the Apostle Paul's "degrading passions," we find "gay spiritual friendship" scratches us just where we itch."

To identify as "gay," "queer," "lesbian," or "homosexual" is to declare our rebellion against God Who made us. When we say we're "gay," we repudiate the personhood and duties God assigned us when He created us one of only two sexes, man or woman. It's analogous to a man claiming he's a monkey or cat imprisoned in the body of a man. He refuses the human nature God gave him at the moment of his conception. So it is with the man and woman who say they're "gay"; they refuse to confess the sexual nature God gave them at the moment of conception.

Yes, there are questions we would want to ask those who identify as "gay." Why are you in rebellion? What contributed to your rebellion? Do you see your rebellion as soft or hard-wired? Is the origin of your rebellion tied to anything obvious in your past? Your childhood?

We will ask souls with this besetting sin such questions, and many more. We will be sensitive, tender, and loving. But if we truly love them and trust the Word of God in its revelation of the nature of sexuality, all our ministry with gays will be founded on the hard fact of their rebellion. It is the only solid foundation from which to minister to Christians who claim gayness, and within the church their number is growing. How could it be otherwise given our squeamishness...

over identifying anything as manly or womanly, and thus our inability to teach our children to confess their sex as an act of Christian faithfulness?

Does the Word of God present a model for ministry to gays; and if so, do we follow it?

The Apostle Paul lived in a day similar to ours in the sexual perversions of the surrounding culture and the infiltration of those perversions within the Church. But note the difference between his approach to these perversions and the sinners caught in them, and our approach today. Take, for instance, this famous passage from the first chapter of Romans. Had we not known it was the Apostle Paul speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Church in Rome, our hair would stand on end and we'd run from these words of the Holy Spirit as if the pin had been pulled from a grenade and it was dropped at our feet:

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.  - Romans 1:26, 27

Pastors, elders, and older women in the church today do not speak of gayness as a "degrading passion" or "unnatural function." We don't send e-mails to those we evangelize and shepherd, referring to gay sex as "indecent acts," nor would we ever utter the horrendous declaration that any aspect of the terrible emotional and physical consequences of gay sex are gay men and lesbians "receiving in their own person the due penalty of their error." Why not?

Because we're more committed to presenting ourselves as reasonable, sensitive, and gentle than we are to being faithful witnesses to our lost and suffering world. So we avoid speaking Biblically—which is to say truthfully—about sex and sin.

Take, for example, the recent promotion by Christian gays and lesbians of something they call "spiritual friendship." Wesley Hill is the main promoter of this movement and his book Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian is the charter statement of this novel approach.

What is spiritual friendship?

It is two gay men living together in a monogamous covenantal union in the same house, sharing cars, pets, bathrooms, the kitchen, the back deck, the basement, the computers and televisions, toothpaste, credit cards, pension funds, health insurance, and a home fellowship group of their church without sharing a bed. It is gay and lesbian couples sharing the adoption of children and the raising of those children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Another way of saying it is that the Supreme Court's homosexual marriage is the "spiritual friendship" of gay Christians, plus sex. Not every gay Christian couple promoting or subscribing to spiritual friendship lives together, of course; but if they do, it's perfectly alright. Not every gay Christian couple promised to each other in spiritual friendship and living together adopt and raise children in their home; but if they do, it's perfectly alright. The only firm requirement for celibate gay spiritual friendship is that the gays not consummate their gayness.

Too bad the Apostle Paul didn't think of it. Who could have been a better proponent of this mincing approach to the mainstreaming of gays and lesbians within the Church than the one who wished all men were single as he was, and called the single and widows to remain single:

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. (1 Corinthians 7:7, 8)

Somehow, though, the Apostle Paul missed out on this third path for gay Christians.

Come to think of it, the Apostle Paul never mentioned "gay Christians." Or rather, he denied the existence of gay Christians. Instead, he declared "of such were some of you" (1Corinthians 6:11). Past tense.

He also declared that men who were effeminate would never inherit the Kingdom of God (1Corinthians 6:9, 10). Tough words, those; but are they true? The English Standard Version removes this declaration by God from their sensitive and gentle Bible and no one has any trouble understanding why they chose to. Who wants to read in the Bible that gay men are not believers? After all, Wesley Hill is a columnist for Christianity Today, teaches seminary classes, and he says he's gay.

And really, what's wrong with being gay so long as you don't have sex with your lover? Gay celibate Christian friendship is the sweet spot today. You can deny the sex God made you and call yourself "gay." You can have a lifelong monogamous and covenantal relationship with the man of your dreams as long as you don't have intercourse with him.

In other words, the Apostle Paul was wrong. The effeminate can deny the sex God made them and still inherit the Kingdom of God.

Lesbians can deny the sex God made them, use artificial insemination to get pregnant, give birth to a son and raise him with their lesbian partner as long as they don't have intercourse.

Wesley Hill has won himself a large platform in both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. Peter Leithart thinks he's just fabulous, providing Hill this book blurb:

An elegant, theologically rich plea on behalf of the love of friendship that uncovers fresh ways to improvise on a lost Christian tradition of committed spiritual friendship.  - Peter Leithart, president, Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama

"Fresh" indeed.

Joined in his "celibate gay" project by women like the Roman Catholic Eve Tushnet of First Things and Julie Rogers of Wheaton College, the only way to make sense of the popularity of his promotion of gay unions without copulation is to note his impeccable pedigree as a softly-Reformed Evangelical. Like Rogers, he's a Wheaton alum. He converted to Anglicanism while over in Durham to get a doctorate—Durham where, until 2010, N. T. Wright was bishop. And finally, the man is an alum of Bethlehem College and Seminary.

Christians today are cringing at God's explicit condemnation of sodomy and are looking for some new place to stand. Desperate to find a sweet spot halfway between "marriage equality" and the Apostle Paul's "degrading passions," we find "gay spiritual friendship" scratches us just where we itch."

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!