Sexuality and gender identity are important and critical issues our society is wrestling with in the public sphere.
In early April, Transform Minnesota and Bethel University hosted a church summit called “Holy Sexuality in Today’s Society.” We looked into how the Church can teach and live out grace and truth in ministry with regard to sexuality, gender identity and gender dysphoria.
Our Holy Sexuality in Today’s World Church Summit was so popular at Bethel University, it reached capacity, so we hosted a second summit in Cambridge, MN and had over 100 attendees.
This significant engagement and participation makes it clear that there is a need within the Body of Christ for this discussion on what scripture has to say about sexuality.
“The church in our culture is desperate for answers and pathways with which to love our brothers and sisters who are dealing with all sorts of issues. This event helped articulate and give voice to some of those tough issues, as well as ways to address them,” said Danica Wytcherley, MacLaurin CSF staff, attended the church summit.
Evangelical scholar and psychologist from Regent University, Mark Yarhouse presented on how to unpack LGBTQ, how to understand gender dysphoria in our culture, and sexual identity from a Christian perspective.
“When a gay person is a Christian who takes their faith seriously and is navigating this terrain, it is often felt as a storm cloud; a religious and sexual identity conflict between same-sex sexuality and the faith they were raised in. They are asking of themselves ‘who am I in light of the faith I was raised in, and my same-sex sexuality?’” said Dr. Yarhouse.
Three Cultural Lenses
Dr. Yarhouse spoke about the three cultural lenses which he has identified people tend to “see” gender dysphoria and homosexuality.
- Integrity Lens – integrity and sacredness of male/female differences. There is an essential maleness, an essential femaleness, and an intended complementarian between the two, intended by God for creation. (often the evangelical Christian perspective)
- Disability Lens – sexual orientation/identity concerns as a reflection of a fallen world. It’s not sexuality functioning as is ought to in nature, in terms of functional pragmatic considerations. It is a non-moral reality to be addressed with compassion. Christians tend to attribute those variations in terms of the fall.
- Diversity Lens – a reflection of an identity and community to be celebrated as an expression of diversity. Distinctions like same-sex attractions create categories of different people, and LGBTQ people comprise a people-group to be celebrated.
Yarhouse explains Christians often speak past people without meaning to, due to not using the same language, or having the same lens as the person they are ministering to.
“In the 21st century Christians who want to connect and do ministry to a broader culture are no longer going to be able to shout “integrity, integrity” and believe that that’s ministry. You have to at least be conversant with what the other lenses are, and I would say honor the strategies people use out of that lens before you ask them to consider yours,” said Dr. Yarhouse.
Navigating the Terrain
Yarhouse encourages Christians in ministry to borrow the language of “navigating this terrain” which creates a place for people to explore meaning and purpose, and to anchor their identity ultimately in the relationship they pursue with Christ.
“This seminar put an emphasis on how to relate well, how to love well, how to engage in the dialogue effectively with the LGBT community. I resonant with Yarhouses’ guidance to “navigate the terrain” together,” said Dave Trautmann, Pastor of Care Ministries at Westwood Community Church, attended the church summit.
Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality
Biblical scholar Dr. Paul Eddy of Bethel University, presented on the Biblical theology of human sexuality, and the emphasis God puts on covenant relationships.
“Throughout the entire Bible marriage becomes one of the dominant images used to express the covenant relationship between God and his people. Marriage becomes an icon, a microcosm, a little dress rehearsal on planet earth for what God has planned for his people for eternity,” said Dr. Eddy.
Dr. Eddy encouraged Christians to see that marriage is one covenant relationship, but that Christians need to value all covenant relationships.
“Marriage covenant is one of the good gifts of covenant relationship that God has given to us, but it is only one of them, and it is only good if you are called to it,” said Dr. Eddy. “As the church we must recover a deeper vision of covenant relationships.”
Theological Observations about Sexuality
Dr. Eddy identified three theological observations about sexuality in light of Jesus’ use of the creation text.
- Like marriage, sexuality is a good gift created by God for specific purposes.
- We need to become much clearer about God’s purpose for our own capacity for erotic intimacy and sexual union, and the differences between the two.
- The Bible unanimously assumes that sexual intimacy and union have been designed by God to function solely within the context of the male/female covenant marriage. Sex is a signing of the covenant relationship contract. Sex outside of marriage is a lie to the signing of a covenant relationship.
“We need to pursue both a theology of sexuality and eventually an ethics of sexuality that keeps both the overarching meta-narrative of scripture with its movement from Creation, the Fall, to redemption, and the restoration of things; as well as specific texts that speak to various issues of human sexuality, always reading them within their wider biblical context,” said Dr. Eddy.
Transform Minnesota Equips the Church with Resources on Understanding Holy Sexuality
Rather than allowing today’s secular culture to dictate the narrative of what is sexually permissible; Transform Minnesota aims to equip the Church with resources on better understanding God’s design for holy sexuality with regards to sexual orientation and gender dysphoria.
“Our Holy Sexuality initiative is to help pastors and church leaders be able to understand God’s vision of holy sexuality and communicate it in a compelling way to their congregation, to parents in their church, and to teens as they grow up in the Church,” said Carl Nelson, president of Transform Minnesota.
Transform Minnesota believes in loving the whole person, the Church needs to be willing to accept the questions that come along with people struggling with their sexuality and identity, while rooting the Churches response in the Biblical truth that we were all created in God’s image. Transform Minnesota is working to equip the Church to offer a fulfilling, good, God-honoring vision of holy sexuality.