An Open Letter to Billy Humphrey of IHOP Atlanta on ‘Homosexuality and Gay Marriage’
My friend Mike Morrell invited me to read and respond to a post produced by Billy Humphrey of IHOP-Atlanta. Mike graciously reminded me to use my words (and some of those words come from our similarly conservative backgrounds). Mike shared my response as a guest post on his own blog today. Here is my response (and Mike’s note).
Good afternoon. I am an Atlanta-born, Christian mom who recently read your post A Christian Stance on Homosexuality and Gay Marriage. I am writing because I am concerned about the same things you are. As a mother and a Christian I am personally – and ardently – concerned about the rapid changes in our society that reveal a growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.
The source of my concern springs from my deep faith and desire to honor and protect families – especially Christian families like mine who it seems are under constant attack in the public sphere. As I am sure you can understand, my family is everything to me, our children the light of our lives. Every day I am shocked by the rising din of vitriol directed at families who want only the best for our children as we seek to follow the Light of the World. I can hardly explore Facebook or turn on the news without hearing how wrong I am and how twisted my faith is. When my family is in public, we even hear the searing conversations at supposedly family-friendly establishments.
I feel called, like you, to stand in the gap. To pray, and work to stem the rising tide of darkness that seeks to confuse the hearts of faithful followers of Jesus Christ, and citizens of our great land.
What might surprise you is that I am a lesbian – a wife, mother, and Christian, who feels the promptings of the Holy Spirit to stand up to the anti-gay agenda that is tightening its death-grip increasingly over the Evangelical and charismatic church in North America.
In light of having quite a different experience of the Living Christ from you, you might question my motives for writing this open letter to you. No need to question – here’s what inspires me:
- There are Christian leaders and believers who seem to believe they have the authority to speak for the Church Universal when in fact they do not. There are people of deep faith, churches actively engaged in life-changing ministries and whole Jesus-following, God-loving and disciple-making denominations who think, believe, worship and work very differently than what you propose in your letter.
- There are churches, quite clear in their walk with Jesus, affirming their LGBT sisters and brothers in the life of the church and as citizens who deserve equal treatment under the law in a country that has pledged to uphold the separation of church and state.
- This clarity – born out of Scripture reading, discernment, Christ-like empathy and loving our community – has lead to deep conviction that Christians are called to work with and for their LGBT neighbors as we seek to live into the radical hospitality of Jesus, together.
- As you are well aware, all indicators point to the fact that 18-30 year-olds know full well that marriage has been redefined throughout history to suit the needs of powers and principalities. (Might I recommend a book on spiritual warfare that you are likely unfamiliar with? The Powers That Be, by Walter Wink. It might just change your life and ministry.) We both know that it is a lie of immense proportions that the Bible only condones the marriage of one man to one woman. Between Levirite marriages, the sample of King Solomon and the projections of weak and broken men who claim that God would commend them for raping conquered peoples, Scripture hardly has a consistent message about marriage.
- Churches everywhere are answering a call to participate in sacred activism that seeks to bend the arc of the universe toward justice for LGBT people. The United Church of Christ, the PC(USA), the Alliance of Baptists and the Episcopal Church are just a few that represent thousands upon thousands of churches that are working together to shine the light of God in new and exciting ways.
Billy, I have heard of Atlanta’s International House of Prayer, and your reputation for having a passion for both God and reaching people. I commend this, as it is near and dear to my heart and ministry also. It is because of this mutual affinity that we have in Christ that I feel so grieved, as your sister in Christ, to read your words in this and other recent posts. I am afraid that your hyper-focus on individual sexual morality, and homosexuality in particular, draws neither from the Gospel of Jesus Christ nor the cries of God to let justice roll down like water. Jesus said not one word condemning same-sex relationships but did have a pointed word about divorce.
Make no mistake about it, your differing opinion (not your right to differ) is being challenged because you are vilifying people who are children of God, not an “issue.” Your position is being challenged because you strive to impose a single, narrow interpretation ofone stream of faith on a sexually and spiritually diverse nation.
I am called as a mother, a wife, a Christian, a church member and a citizen of this country to stand up and speak boldly in the face of a Christianity that has been twisted by xenophobia and willful ignorance.
A suggested attitude for Christians
In a spirit of love and peace, I am inviting you to a true posture of humility.
- Receive in your heart the action of the Holy Spirit in the world today. Here is truth: I am a Christian. I am a mother. I am also a lesbian. I love God. I follow Jesus. I am devoted to my family. I am not struggling with my sexuality or my faith. I am struggling with fellow Christians who are spending so much time and energy trying to defraud me of the Grace that is freely given. I am struggling with a wing of the Church that chooses to spend the trust, time and talent of good people trying to prevent me from living in peace and pursuing happiness in my own country. I am struggling with churches that waste their faith on policing people’s bedrooms rather than seeking justice for the poor, the weak, the imprisoned as we Christians have been called to do by Jesus.
- Recognize that you are continuing to inflict the very pain you claim to renounce. When you parrot misleading oversimplifications and blatantly stereotypical phrases such as “gay life” you are contributing to a persistently painful paradigm. There is no such thing as a universal gay lifestyle or gay agenda.
- Cease the notion that what you are doing is compassionate. You cannot reach out in compassion if you refuse to see me as a full human and my sexuality as a gift from my Creator. If you think truth in love is “love the sinner and hate the sin,” then your love is a sham, a dangerous lure and conditional. This is contrary to the Grace revealed by Jesus.
- Stop the false polemic of gay vs. Christian. It is simply a lying dichotomy. You are either lying to yourself or to everyone who trusts you. The only agenda I have is to follow Jesus while I work for my own justice and the justice of my sisters and brothers.
I am not an issue. I am a child of God.
- Love compels me to speak truth to power. Your voice is not the only voice of Christianity and to claim it is (or should be) the only true voice is pure hubris. Hubris is not a fruit of the Spirit.
- I am afraid your salt is laced with the arsenic of bitter lies, and your light is fanning the flames of hatred.
- What you are preaching is not the Gospel of undeserved liberation, unmerited grace and unending peace revealed in the Word Who is Christ.
- You’re version and vision of Christianity does speak for all Christians.
As a fellow Christian, minister, American, and Atlantan, this is my prayer for you and the IHOP community under your influence.
Your sister in Christ,