By Janie Bont
This month, I got a chance to attend an event sponsored by New Direction Ministries. The ministry helps people deal with different sexual issues, particularly same-sex attractions. I attended with the goal of becoming better informed of New Direction's ideas, and their reasons that our churches should accept those who engage in homosexual behaviour. I was very disappointed to discover that this meeting was not about discussing the various views regarding this issue. Rather, it appeared to me to be about promoting the view of New Direction in order to recruit "straight allies." We were basically told to suspend our perspective, listen deeply to the other perspective, and resist insisting that our beliefs are the only way to look at it.
What is Generous Spaciousness?
Generous Spaciousness is the name of a speaking tour by New Direction Ministries. New Direction was a ministry that was started to help people struggling with sexual identity issues, including people with same-sex attractions. It used to hold a traditional view of sexuality, that sex is only honourable between a husband and wife. The ministry no longer holds that view.Today, New Direction seeks "to equip church leaders and followers of Christ to navigate the reality of a pluralistic cultural context in the interaction between faith and matters of same-sex sexuality." The concept of "generous spaciousness" is a "relational posture that acknowledges the reality of diverse perspectives on the question of faithful discipleship for same-sex oriented people. . . . Generous spaciousness seeks to build bridges, to find unity in our diversity, and to pursue peace," and is "unapologetically Christ-centered."[i]
New Direction Ministries believes that the promotion of generous spaciousness is needed because differences within the body of Christ on same-sex sexuality are discrediting its witness, alienating people from the church, and working against Christian unity.
Meetings to promote generous spaciousness are being held across Canada. A meeting was held in Calgary on November 10.
Wendy Gritter, the Executive Director of New Direction, gave a talk in which she said we should all come on board by having conversations with the LGBTQ community and hearing their story. In fact, she said that there are many interpretations of the Bible, and no one really has the truth on this issue, so we should just welcome these wonderful people to our Christian communities because they really love the Lord. In other words, she was claiming to have the truth and wanting us to agree with her interpretation by accepting pro-LGBTQ theology into our churches.
This tour also makes the point that they aren't trying to change anyone's mind. They simply want Christians to acknowledge that there are diverse interpretations of the biblical passages on homosexuality and therefore we can't take one side or the other. But this is disingenuous.
It's obvious from the presentation that their true goal is to get churches to embrace their theological perspective. That's why Gritter compared the debate over homosexuality to the debate about eating food sacrificed to idols. Just as at one time the "weaker" brothers believed it was wrong to eat food sacrificed to idols and no one believes that now, the "weaker" brothers and sisters today believe sex should only be between a husband and wife. It seems they only say that that they want both sides to be respected so they can get into Evangelical churches and seminaries that don't agree with their view.
So is there a correct interpretation of the biblical texts that give teaching on homosexual behaviour? I like what Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason says about this:
In order to interpret any biblical text, you have to understand its meaning. There's only one correct meaning to a passage. It's the one that author had in mind when he wrote. That meaning doesn't change over time or from person to person. As a result, there are right interpretations and there are wrong interpretations.[ii]
The following Bible verses make it clear what God has to say:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)[iii]
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Unfortunately, none of these passages or the four other biblical passages that explicitly talk about homosexuality were even dealt with that evening. When one of my colleagues attended the New Direction event the next day for pastors, he was told that these passages were explicitly excluded from the tour. According to Gritter, the purpose of the event was not to "debate" these Bible passages so they were not brought up during their entire tour across Canada.
In other words, there seemed to be no "generous space" for the Bible in a tour about generous spaciousness!
But given this clear teaching of God's Word, how do we love the LGBTQ community?
New Direction would have us believe that loving the LGBTQ community means accepting their homosexual behaviour, because they love the Lord and their interpretation of the Bible is just as valid as anyone else's. Is this true? Does God accept us despite sin in our lives simply because we say we love Him?
Ezekiel 33:7-9 says:
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, "You wicked person, you will surely die," and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.
It is clear that we are to warn others about their sin. We are also told to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3: 15).
We need to stand firm in the truth. We need to speak the truth and be grounded in the truth. We cannot compromise the truth. New Direction Ministries has "exchanged the truth about God for a lie," and since they identify themselves as being Christian, we must point out their fault as Matthew 18:15-17 instructs us to do:
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that "every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
It is also important that we become aware of their reasons for what they believe. Since there were no reasons given at this meeting, I have done some research as to what their interpretation might be. Matthew Vines, founder of The Reformation Project,[iv] has written extensively on this and I would recommend that we all become familiar with his arguments, talk about them and inform ourselves as to how to refute them.[v] Faith Beyond Belief will be hosting a seminar on how we can dialogue with compassion but without compromise on this issue in January.
The only way to truly love the LGBQT community is the same way to love any community, which is to speak the truth. We can't compromise the truth that those who continue to engage in any sexual behaviour outside of marriage between a man and woman will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Do we care enough to speak this truth? We have the Good News! Jesus died for those who will acknowledge Him as Lord, repent and turn away from their sin. God will walk with us through all the struggles we face!
[i] "New Direction Ministries—Nurturing Generous Spaciousness in the Church," New Direction Ministries, accessed November 20, 2014, http://www.newdirection.ca/about/generous-spaciousness/.
[ii] Alan Shlemon, "My Most Controversial Teaching," Stand to Reason, April 23, 2013, accessed November 20, 2014, http://www.str.org/articles/my-most-controversial-teaching; italics in the original.
[iii] All Scripture passages are taken from the New International Version (NIV).
[iv] The Reformation Project (www.reformationproject.org) is described as "a Bible-based, Christian non-profit organization that seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity."