Picture is of Downtown Los Angeles in motion.
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I (Randy) was invited to participate in a panel discussion at Azusa Pacific University entitled “God’s Design for Human Sexuality” for their student initiated “Common Day of Learning.” The panelists included a pro-gay theologian, a gay activist, a conservative social worker on staff at Azusa and me.
When we met before the workshop actually started, the panelists were cordial and nice in spite of the underlying tension. Our sharp disagreements were about to clash in front of a crowd. I truly enjoyed meeting the other panelists even though you couldn’t deny the reality of the tension. It is my prayer, always, to see them as Jesus does and not be distracted by pride, competitiveness or judgment.
When we walked into the hall where the workshop was to be held, the crowd was already spilling out of the room and into the hallway. A young female student said, “if you are not the speaker we do not have room inside.” We made our way through the throng and took our seats up front. One of the professors said that he counted 138 students in the room and 60 standing in the hallway. They turned about 40 people away because there simply was not enough room.
Once the discussion started, each panelist allowed the others to speak their mind and no one interrupted or spoke over someone else. Many points and counterpoints were made but I want to share two examples and then conclude with why we must be available to participate in these discussions.
The first example is that the pro-gay theologian, Wilma Jakobson from All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, California, mentioned several times that in order to correctly understand the scriptures in context as well as relevance to modern issues, you must first determine whether you have an “inclusive” or “exclusive” view of theology. She said this multiple times throughout the panel discussion in what apparently inferred as inclusive or exclusive view of gay identified individuals. During the panel, I shared my testimony and view of scripture but this framing of theology kept bugging me well after the panel ended.
Most of my deep thoughts happen while ironing. I have no idea why and others may not think these epiphanies during ironing are worth anything but as I was ironing my clothes for the next day, well after the panel ended, I thought of this inclusive/exclusive view to which Wilma had referred. It occurred to me that her framing of the debate is inherently exclusive. By her forcing people to approach theology as either/or she was already setting up a mindset that excluded other peoples viewpoints. Whether one adopts a personal view of “inclusion” or “exclusion” toward theology you are being asked to pass judgment on which view of scripture to take before you even look at the scripture. In other words, if you follow Wilma’s advice you will filter scripture through whatever inclusive or exclusive is defined as, not allowing the scripture to speak for itself.
Personally, I have found that God is both inclusive and exclusive. John 3:16 is about as inclusive as it gets, “"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And God is also exclusive, John 14:6, “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Notice that the Lord did not say, “one of” the ways, or one of the truths, “no one comes to the Father…” except through Jesus.
That is both inclusive and exclusive.
It would appear that Jakobson, believes that God’s word can be filtered through politically correct definitions of inclusivity and exclusivity. When in reality, His word is His word and all things are filtered by Him. My theological approach is to allow Jesus to truly be Lord and to remind me of why I need Him as such to be saved from my sin and live a Holy life.
Jakobson was the epitome of theological intolerance in the name of being inclusive. By framing the debate in the way she did, she was already separating the whole of scripture into one of two theological pigeonholes which is a very exclusive place to begin a theological approach.
Another example was when Jacob Reitan, the gay activist from Soulforce, said with pointed finger that it was “sad” that people would not embrace the “gift” of being gay. It was “sad” that society would impose on gay people the need to make a choice about being gay or not. With obvious anger toward those believe homosexuality is a condition to overcome, he talked about Mel White’s testimony of going through electro-shock therapy and how praying didn’t make his struggle go away.
A passion rose up within me at that point and I said that I thought it was terrible the amount of pressure that those dealing with same sex attraction had to go through in the past. I have no idea about the pain and pressure that other folks have gone through. I certainly could not speak to Mel White’s experience. Even so, I really didn’t want Jacob to feel “sad” for me. I am happier and more content with my life than I have ever been. When I was gay I wasn’t ashamed and society didn’t force anything on me except a one sided message that said I had to be “gay.” I prayed on my own volition and my life changed when the Lord spoke into my reality and started the process of change in my life. I shared that I had found a greater love than what being “gay” could have ever promised. I am sorry that Mel White seems to have had such a negative experience but my testimony on this issue is just as valid as his and it would be my hope and prayer that the gay community would not feel “sad” but come to a place of tolerating what they may not personally accept.
I will add that I genuinely liked Wilma and Jacob. I really did. I don't think ill of either of them in any manner and I bet we would have a great discussion over coffee on any number of issues. I share the two examples above because they are the top two that stood out to me even though there was great discussion for over an hour. Actually it went longer than that because we talked with a lot of people from the audience for quite a while afterward and over dinner.
It was a great trip. I will write more about the following trip to Taylor University very soon.
More: Read Exodus Press Release concerning the event.
Update: A person who attended the panel discussion sent the following encouragement.
Again, thank you for your time (at APU) ... God has certainly given you gifts to use to glorify his kingdom.
The two verses discussed, that were on my heart, and then lived out by you on Wednesday, March 1, 2006 were as follows:
Proverbs 15:1 -- "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
And the second, also from Proverbs is
Proverbs 4:11-13 -- "I guide you in the way of wisdom and lend you along straight paths. When you walk , your steps will not be happered, when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go: guard it well , for it is your life."
Grace, peace and mercy to you. Again, thank you.
That was certainly encouraging to hear. Thank you friend! I pray that it was/is/and continue to be true whenever I participate in these things in the future.