Rob and Linda Robertson did what they believed was expected of them as good Christians.
When their 12-year-old son Ryan said he was gay, they told him they loved him, but he had to change. He entered “reparative therapy,” met regularly with his pastor and immersed himself in Bible study and his church youth group. After six years, nothing changed. A despondent Ryan cut off from his parents and his faith, started taking drugs and in 2009, died of an overdose.
“Now we realize we were so wrongly taught,” said Rob Robertson, a firefighter for more than 30 years who lives in Redmond, Washington. “It’s a horrible, horrible mistake the church has made.”
Yes and no; they should have told him what God’s standard is, and that he had two choices, for living righteously in harmony with God’s ways: either celibate or married to a woman (if reparative therapy worked). Either of those two would be in line with Scripture. Unfortunate that their church’s failure to present the two godly alternatives open to their son led him to despair, to the point of foolishly taking his own life.
The tragedy could have easily driven the Robertsons from the church. But instead of breaking with evangelicalism – as many parents in similar circumstances have done – the couple is taking a different approach, and they’re inspiring other Christians with gay children to do the same. They are staying in the church and, in protesting what they see as the demonization of their sons and daughters, presenting a new challenge to Christian leaders trying to hold off growing acceptance of same-sex relationships.
“Parents don’t have anyone on their journey to reconcile their faith and their love for their child,” said Linda Robertson, who with Rob attends a nondenominational evangelical church. “They either reject their child and hold onto their faith, or they reject their faith and hold onto their child. Rob and I think you can do both: be fully affirming of your faith and fully hold onto your child.”
Not if your child is in rebellion against God and His ways.
It’s not clear how much of an impact these parents can have. Evangelicals tend to dismiss fellow believers who accept same-sex relationships as no longer Christian. The parents have only recently started finding each other online and through faith-oriented organizations for gays and lesbians such as the Gay Christian Network, The Reformation Project and The Marin Foundation.
But Linda Robertson, who blogs about her son at justbecausehebreathes.com, said a private Facebook page she started last year for evangelical mothers of gays has more than 300 members. And in the last few years, high-profile cases of prominent Christian parents embracing their gay children indicate a change is occurring beyond a few isolated families.
James Brownson, a New Testament scholar at Western Theological Seminary, a Michigan school affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, last year published the book “Bible, Gender, Sexuality,” advocating a re-examination of what Scripture says about same-sex relationships. His son came out at age 18.
Chester Wenger, a retired missionary and pastor with the Mennonite Church USA, lost his clergy credentials this fall after officiating at his son’s marriage to another man. In a statement urging the church to accept gays and lesbians, Wenger noted the pain his family experienced when a church leader excommunicated his son three decades ago without any discussion with Wenger and his wife.
The Rev. Danny Cortez, pastor of New Heart Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in California, was already moving toward recognizing same-sex relationships when his teenage son came out. When Cortez announced his changed outlook to his congregation this year, they voted to keep him. The national denomination this fall cut ties with the church.
Ah yes; I had heard about that latter situation, in fact I reported on it here…
Good for the Mennonite Church USA and the Southern Baptists, holding the line, at least for now…
(Though how much longer the SBC will hold the line, isn’t clear, esp. in light of recent developments…)
In the United Methodist Church, two ministers with gay sons drew national attention for separately presiding at their children’s same-sex weddings despite a church prohibition against doing so: The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, a former dean of the Yale Divinity School, ultimately was not disciplined by the church, while the Rev. Frank Schaefer went through several church court hearings. He won the case and kept his clergy credentials, becoming a hero for gay marriage supporters within and outside the church.
Not surprising; the UMC sold out a long time ago…
“I think at some point moms and dads are going to say to their pastors and church leadership that you can’t tell me that my child is not loved unconditionally by God,” said Susan Shopland, the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary who, along with her gay son, is active with the Gay Christian Network.
Oh yeah? What does Scripture teach?
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And sorry, ma, you’re supposed to love God more than your son, else you are an enemy of God.
Matthew 10:34-37 King James Version (KJV)
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
There it is, in God’s Word. Chew on that.
The article continues:
Kathy Baldock, a Christian who advocates for gay acceptance through her website CanyonwalkerConnections.com, said evangelical parents are speaking out more because of the example set by their children. Gay and lesbian Christians have increasingly been making the argument they can be attracted to people of the same gender and remain faithful to God, whether that means staying celibate or having a committed same-sex relationship.
Those are two entirely different things: being celibate means honouring God; being in a committed relationship means deliberately, defiantly disobeying Him. The one is remaining faithful to God; the other is the exact opposite.
How can you be so stupid as to not see the difference, other than that you willfully don’t wish to?
The annual conference of the Gay Christian Network has grown from 40 people a decade ago to an expected 1,400 for the next event in January.
Matthew Vines, author of “God and the Gay Christian,” has attracted more than 810,000 views on YouTube for a 2012 lecture he gave challenging the argument that Scripture bars same-sex relationships.
“These kids are now staying in the churches. They’re not walking away like they used to,” Baldock said.
Good; now said churches must communicate both the eternal consequences of lifestyle choices and also the consequences for continued membership in the church here on Earth: excommunication for defiance of Biblical sexual norms.
The collapse of support for “reparative therapy” is also a factor, Shopland said. In June of last year, Alan Chambers, the leader of Exodus International, a ministry that tried to help conflicted Christians repress same-sex attraction, apologized for the suffering the ministry caused and said the group would close down.
I remember when that happened; I thought it was tragic; Mr. Chambers had been doing righteous, Godly work, but they got to him, and changed his mind, unfortunately. And there’s nothing else out there quite like what Exodus International was, alas…
At a conference on marriage and sexuality last month, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, the Rev. Al Mohler, said he was wrong to believe that same-sex attraction could be changed.
Oh look; Al Mohler being an idiot again on a matter of sexuality. Why were you wrong? Exodus International worked, at least for some; there were testimonials to that effect out there, I remember hearing them.
Baldock, The Marin Foundation and the Gay Christian Network all say Christian parents have ben reaching out to them for help in notably higher numbers in the last couple of years.
“If it doesn’t work, then parents are left with the question of what is the answer?” Shopland said. “If I can’t change my kid into being a straight Christian, then what?”
Whether or not they can be changed into straight, they are called, just like all of us, if Christian, to live holy, God-honouring lives. For the Christian of homosexual orientation, if they can’t become straight, that means taking up the cross of self-denial, and committing to living a life of celibacy. Either way, they, like all of us, are called to not wilfully sin.
Bill Leonard, a specialist in American religious history at Wake Forest Divinity School, said church leaders should be especially concerned about parents. He noted that many evangelicals began to shift on divorce when the marriages of the sons and daughters of pastors and “rock-ribbed” local church members such as deacons started crumbling. While conservative Christians generally reject comparisons between the church’s response to divorce and to sexual orientation, Leonard argues the comparison is apt.
“The churches love those individuals and because they know them, those churches may look for another way,” Leonard said.
Alas, no doubt Leonard is right; no doubt that’s exactly how divorce became socially acceptable within evangelicalism.
Which is a damn shame, because now we have the worldly culture of frivolous divorce within evangelical churches.
Some evangelical leaders seem to recognize the need for a new approach. The head of the Southern Baptist public policy arm, the Rev. Russell Moore, addressed the issue on his blog and at the marriage conference last month, telling Christian parents they shouldn’t shun their gay children.
Yeah, but as usual, Moore went about it all wrong.
Mohler has said he expects some evangelical churches to eventually recognize same-sex relationships, but not in significant numbers.
A-ha! Preparing to capitulate, are we, Dr. Mohler?
Linda Robertson said the mothers who contact her through her Facebook page usually aren’t ready to fully accept their gay sons or daughters. Some parents she meets still believe their children can change their sexual orientation. But she said most who reach out to her are moving away from the traditional evangelical view of how parents should respond when their children come out.
“I got a lot of emails from parents who said, ‘I don’t know one other parent of a gay child. I feel like in my community, I don’t have permission to love my child,'” she said. “They have a lot of questions. But then they’re going back to their churches and speaking to their pastors, speaking to their elders and speaking to their friends, saying, ‘We have a gay child. We love them and we don’t want to kick them out. How do we go forward?'”
You tell them the eternal consequences of defying God and living as unrepentant fornicators and abusers of themselves with mankind, and you don’t try to sugar-coat it; nor do you try to get the church to change its Biblical stance.