Even writing that title feels terribly strange... not because I am saying that I love gay people, but because I feel like I have to say it. And here's the thing, I don't feel like I have to say it in defense of some wrong that I have committed. That isn't the case at all. I feel like I have to say it for myself and for probably thousands like me who are regularly and increasingly wronged by others - maybe its simply that I feel mischaracterized, or misrepresented. Dr, Godsey's recent opinion piece in the Macon Telegraph (found HERE) has moved me to write a brief response - I feel that he has terribly mischaracterized many Christians and in so doing deepens the divide that already exists on the issue of church and homosexuality. It is unfair and unhelpful to lump everyone who has an opposing view of homosexuality and the related issues into one group. It is wrong to say that anyone who doesn't hold your view is hateful, archaic, bigoted, homophobic, mean... While Dr. Godsey did not say all of these things, many, many of the social media posts by those who read his article and agreed with him did.
Here is what I believe Dr. Godsey did say that I do take issue with:
In paragraph 2, Dr. Godsey writes: "justifying wrong-hearted and wrong-headed behaviors by covering them with a mantle of faithful devotion." It could be understood here that those with opposing views to Dr. Godsey's are "wrong-hearted and wrong-headed and also their behaviors are masked behind a claim to faithful devotion. Perhaps I am misunderstanding the intent. If that is the intent, then please understand that while many may mask behaviors, actions, and ideals behind the cover of religious devotion, many are simply basing their actions and setting their ideals based on religious devotion. I am one of those. The views that I hold regarding homosexuality have nothing to do with fear, hatred, distrust, dislike, superiority... but have everything to do with an attempt to live out my faith as a Christian - there is no fear or hatred masked here, just a genuine attempt at biblical faithfulness.
Paragraph 4 seems to indicate that the church and religious people should should place the wants and desires of people above their doctrines. Not doing so is bad religion - "While we understand that church doctrine is clear and that the bishops of the church have the right and the authority to act without regard to the sensibilities of the communities they serve, we also understand that whenever their actions place doctrine above people, they face the prospect of having turned good religion into bad." This sounds lovely but it is far from biblical. The God of the Bible has always held humans to the standard that He set. In other words, God didn't say to humanity, "You guys decide what is nice and what is beautiful - you guys decide what is right and wrong, and then everyone do that." God established right and wrong, good and bad and said, "do this and not this - it is for your best." While there are certainly many who add to the Bible and have for centuries in the name of Christianity, there are many, perhaps even a majority of conservative Christians who's only desire to is faithfully follow the teachings of God found in the Bible - who faithfully believe that the final authority for life does not rest in the human collective, but in the Creator Himself.
Dr Godsey followed that paragraph with this: "With clear eyes, we should see that when we hurt or injure in the name of earnest belief and protecting the religious order, we are missing the mark of radical grace that Jesus embodied. Jesus said that we should love God and one another without condition. “Do this and you shall live,” he said. Perhaps the grace of loving without condition should trump following church doctrine without condition." First, this is not what Jesus said. But if we take it as though he did, it seems that many believe that love - the radical, grace filled love that we see in Jesus is not only without condition, but it is without judgment of right and wrong - if we love, we cannot say a behavior is wrong or sinful. To do so is to judge and is unloving. This is a terrible misrepresentation of Jesus and His teaching. While we cannot judge the eternal condition of a person's soul or their walk with Jesus - that is something that Jesus Himself will do - we are often told to make judgments of right and wrong. Matthew 18 gives instruction on what to do when someone has sinned against you - believing that they sinned against you requires a knowledge of right and wrong and an ability to judge whether you were sinned against. Even in Luke 10, where Dr. Godsey quotes "Do this and you shall live," there are several instances where judgements are to be made and those who do not accept or believe are rebuked. The woman caught in adultery is often used to say, "see, there is no judgment." Yet Jesus did judge her - he called her actions sin and he called her to repent - "Go and sin no more," (John 8). Clearly he judged her sinful and clearly he called her to stop sinning.
Finally, I believe that paragraph 6 brings the real difference between myself and Dr. Godsey to light. I believe it is truly the difference that all other differences on this issue flow from and it makes debating the issue almost impossible - Dr. Godsey does not believe the Bible is the Word of God. He writes: "Our willingness to act with grace becomes betrayed by fear -- the fear that God will not approve of us unless we believe the right things, the fear that unless we abide by the rules of the church we will be unacceptable, the fear that unless we believe the Bible is literally true or that church doctrine is infallibly right, we might land in the grips of an angry God." Dr. Godsey does not believe that the Bible is literally true. Therefore it is unreasonable, in his view that the Bible should have authority over faith and life. This is quite the opposite of what I believe. New City Church's statement of beliefs includes this: We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally inspired word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible, and God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; Matthew 5:18; John 16:12, 13). We hold a very high view of Scripture and we do so with soul-filled conviction. Because of this, we argue passionately from faith. We order our churches and lives as best we are able according to the Bible.
So to say that I have or show no grace because my view is different than yours is a mischaracterization. To call me a bigot, prejudiced, or unloving is simply not true. There are countless thousands of us who love homosexuals and are earnestly struggling with what it looks like to love others well while faithfully loving and following the God of the Bible.