David Gushee, from davidpgushee.com

David Gushee, from davidpgushee.com

A lecture with David Gushee in Dunedin, July 30 2015.  As his positioning himself as an advocate for LGBT inclusion was recent, within the last year I understand, it was interesting to have and hear him on a tour of New Zealand.

LGBT inclusion is dominating political life in USA and New Zealand, among other countries.  It is personal politics.  Gushee is the first Evangelical New Testament Ethicist to break ranks and move into advocacy for acceptance.  He was formerly a subscribed member of the Southern Baptist Church. Gushee uses the LGBT label.

I’m sorry he didn’t dwell on a description of the Southern Baptist Church, both an enormously popular national church, with over 10 million members; and perceived as conservative to the point of being fundamentalist.  Outside of America this can only be a mythical beast, both the paradigm of true Evangelical Christianity that others aspire to emulate, and the paradigm of Christianity’s toxicity to others.

Gushee has been teaching Christian Ethics for 22 years.  Over half that teaching career has been without contact with LGBT people.  This changed when a career move brought him in contact with the First Baptist Church of Mercator, a non-rejecting Baptist Church both accepting of LGBT members and providing them with pastoral care.

The classic paradigm of LGBT within the church is: grow up within the church – discover LGBT identity – face struggle and rejection – go into exile from the church – find ways of safe return.  I find myself reminded that any marginalised and rejected people who choose to remain in a church culture is an act of grace by the rejected.  Mild rejection alienates sexual identify, including relationship and eroticism.  To remain a bystander is to endorse the harm done by alienation.  Even in cultures of toleration degrees of bullying, criminalisation and discrimination continue.

The texts of hate: the gang rape of angels; man on man same sex taboos; the vice lists including the soft and the man-lying-with-man – exploitation and dominance in a slave-based culture without mutuality and reciprocity.  The Romans 1 text written to a church in a capital city where domination sexuality is normal for its emperors (Caligula and Nero), and a male and female binary,  and a heteronormative binary are accepted as the paradigm.  The stubborn fact of the existence of gay people is a road bump in the narrative.

So we try ex-gay therapy, celibacy and moral exclusion.

What if covenant trumps creation design in a broken world.  We proclaim a gospel that god’s love is available to everyone; include the marginalised; be a faithful people to Christ that confounds Romans 1.

Every advance leads to greater reaction.  Fear responds to progress.  It is not enough to legislate, legislation can be reversed, inclusion must become a given fact, intrinsic to society.  Schism may be inevitable and straight flight from inclusive churches may accompany white flight from coloured communities.  Covenantal ethics may prove to be ultimately transitional.  I suspect this to be true, but there is no need to fear what comes.  What comes will test the capacity of Christians to think theologically in an exclusive hermeneutic.  We enter into the shame of the marginalised, which should have been where we were in the first place, not at the seats of power, with the emperors.  Our goal is to be partners in liberation and seek an end to suffering.