An open response to Franklin Graham, as well as to Pastors, church leaders, and the those in the LGBT+ community, their families and allies:
Mr. Graham, I’d like to thank you for your letter. You have opened wider the door to a conversation that desperately needs to happen. It is literally a matter of life and death, both physically and spiritually for thousands of individuals around the world. When we include all to whom I’ve addressed this letter, the number of those impacted by this topic will easily reach into the millions. I consider you first and foremost my brother in Christ and so I beg your pardon as I set aside your celebrity status, the legacy you have inherited from your father, and the far reach of your influence in order to address you more personally.
I identify myself as a Progressive Christian Trans-Lesbian. While it would be wonderful to assume that such an identity allows me access to a great host of circles doctrinally, socially, and relationally, the reality is that I find myself isolated from more people than are open to connecting. The overall tone of rhetoric from all camps is one of defensiveness, exclusion and judgment. By God’s grace over my forty three years of life, I have learned that my aim is neither to befriend or offend, but simply to be. So to that end as I write today I’m not speaking on behalf of Progressive Christians, nor on behalf of the Transgender community or even on behalf of Lesbians. I speak only from the depths of my heart, mind and soul.
My passion is to see Christ’s people (i.e. “the Church”) fully embrace the mission to which He has called us: to love the Lord with all our hearts, all our minds and all our souls, and to love our neighbors as we love our selves.
Throughout my life I have sought to be a part of that process. I studied Bible and communications at Moody Bible Institute, I completed a BAS in Communications and Christian Ministry at Dallas Baptist University, I have worked for Christian musicians and on staff at churches and para-church ministries. I have watched as an entire generation of people has questioned, been rejected by and ultimately walked away from the Church and denounced the God we claim to love and serve.
For the majority of my life I stood on the same side of this discussion as you outlined in your open letter to me (yes, I read it as personally as I am writing to you now). As a victim of sexual abuse early in my teen years, I lumped all humans who identified as Gay or Lesbian into one category of “promiscuous and predatory.” It wasn’t until after years of prayer, counseling and study that I began to find some peace. It wasn’t until after years of depression and wrestling with my own identity had driven me to the brink of suicide, that I began to see God’s healing work in my life. He didn’t heal my identity or my body; He healed my perception of Him. He tore down the box that my church culture had built around Him and allowed me to see Him as the great, loving, all knowing God that He is.
I could engage here in a look at the specific passages of scripture that relate to the subject; I have done so in other publications and there are others that do a much better job of it than I have. But I really want to address the heart of the Church. My fear is that the forums by which both of our letters are finding their way to the masses (granted yours will find more “masses” than mine ever will), are doing more harm than good for the Church. They are taking the soul out of her and replacing it with cold text and empty replies and comments.
To the best of my ability, I like to respond to letters like yours personally and privately. As that isn’t an option, I’d like to take advantage of the public forum and extend this invitation to pastors and church leaders – specifically those who are my neighbors in North Texas: let’s talk.
This isn’t an issue to be settled in an online forum or on a blog. It’s not going to be sorted out by elders isolated in a board room or by academics pontificating in a classroom. It is going to be hashed out in coffee shops, over kitchen tables and by living room fireplaces. It’s not a clean, sterile issue that can be easily dissected. It’s organic, complicated and extremely beautiful in the depth that the Spirit of God breaths into it. I will come to you or you can come to me. And if not me, then one of my hundreds of passionate Christian brothers and sisters in Christ who are either part of the LGBT+ community or have, by their own conviction, become our allies.
The Eleventh Leper
As I read your letter and prayed over my response, I was reminded of a passage of scripture I heard taught at a church I recently visited. It comes from the 17th chapter of Luke. Christ had come upon ten lepers and sent them to present themselves to the priest at the temple. As they went, they were healed of their disease. Nine of them went on to the temple. One of them, a Samaritan, turned around and boldly praised the God who had just healed him. Acknowledging the man’s faith, Christ sent him on his way – not to the temple – but about the business of rebuilding his life as a healed man.
The message I heard focused on the Samaritan’s gratitude. But it made me ask, “What if I had been the eleventh leper?”
My own answers disturbed me. In all honesty, I would not have turned around with the one, but would have pressed on to the temple with the nine! In fact, I would likely have grabbed the man by the collar as he turned and rebuked him for failing to follow the teacher’s very specific directions. I would have been so focused on following Christ’s instructions to the letter, that I would have missed out on the chance to praise Him in His presence. I would not have been busy with rebuilding my life, I would have been bogged down in trying to explain to a counsel of Priests who already were suspicious of Christ, exactly how I had been healed. (Something that would have been impossible to explain without the faith to understand the power behind the healing!) I would have been burdended with their rituals of cleansing rather than accepting the cleansing that Christ offered simply by speaking it.
In other words, I would have been devoutly religious, but spiritually blind and bankrupt.
This is how I see my life as I sought to serve God and seek His healing under the oppressive culture of a well intentioned, highly educated, but misguided church. In your letter, Mr. Graham, you freely and rightfully admitted that you are also a sinner saved by the grace of God. So I ask you and those who follow in your footsteps, as well as any who would claim to be followers of Christ: what sort of leper are you?
A History of Getting it Wrong
A fellow LGBT parent posted a response to your letter in a private forum on Facebook. She pointed out, as many others have before her, that the church has a very clear history of misinterpreting Scripture in order to oppress, even persecute and kill those who did not conform to their particular teaching. We see examples of it in the New Testament where they begin to quarrel with each other; it came up as early scientists suggested that the earth was both round and not the center of the universe; it was used to justify slavery, racial prejudice and the oppression of women.
Time and time again we have seen that the Gospel of Christ has not been entrusted to us to perpetuate the Gospel of Christ: it’s true target is the soul of humanity.
So Much Truth
I will often make a statement in my writing: All truth is God’s truth, all Scripture is true, not all truth is in Scripture. John concludes his Gospel account by stating that to write all of what Christ had done would take volumes (John 21:25). Every one of those accounts would have been truth, yet it is not recorded in Scripture.
The absence of a statement or concept in Scripture does not make it sin.
There is so much of the LGBT+ experience that is not addressed in the text of the Bible. (There is so much that is addressed in the Bible that we would all like to ignore, but that will be for another conversation!) Again, these realities are not going to be effectively presented or demonstrated through this medium. We need to be part of each other’s lives. We need to wrestle with the truth side by side, as partners of the Gospel – not as vindictive orators using it as a weapon against one another.
Mr. Graham – and all who have rallied behind him today, take off the gloves, come out from behind the pulpit, step down off the soapboxes and sit at the tables with us. It will take a great deal of humility for a man of your stature to acknowledge your error on this issue; but that is a change I have seen God work in the lives of so many; myself included.
My heart and mind are open to the refining fire of the Holy Spirit. Are yours?