Rooted in Scripture, Motivated by Love
Transform Minnesota holds to a historically biblical sexual ethic, but we also recognize the many competing voices—each offering a different narrative, vision, identity, and purpose for human sexuality. These perspectives are reflected within our church communities and often create division among church leaders and congregations. As culture continues to define gender and sexuality, the Church is responsible for its posture towards LGBT+ people. Transform Minnesota hosted president of the Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender, Preston Sprinkle for two sold out events early this November. Holy Sexuality: Engaging Questions was geared towards lay leaders and held at City Church. Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie hosted Transform’s Holy Sexuality Leaders Forum Conference. The latter highlighted Preston’s teachings over the course of eight sessions, two pastoral case studies, and a panel discussion.
“If you are a Christian leader, I think it would be irresponsible to not disciple the people you are leading in what has become one of the most pressing ethical questions facing the Church today. We need to press into this conversation and do it well,” Preston said. He detailed his personal journey in studying the New Testament through his Ph.D program and subsequent roles as a theology professor at three universities. Each experience both challenged and deepened his traditional view of marriage and sexuality. “I don’t believe in the traditional view because it’s traditional…I do think there is ethical, biblical and logical credibility to the traditional view of marriage,” Preston stated. He outlined God’s design in creating male and female as different, yet complementary and unified to one another—each a unique reflection of God’s own image. This creation of two different sexes is a fundamental component of Preston’s definition of and biblical argument for marriage: ‘a one-flesh union between two sexually different persons’. Preston spent the morning affirming a biblical view of marriage, gender, and sexuality through scripture.
However, a biblical sexual ethic is not held unanimously anywhere outside of or within faith communities. Preston acknowledged that generally speaking, the Church has historically prioritized its theology above its posture. “Jesus gives us a model for how the Church, who believes in a biblical sexual ethic, should be towards those who might disagree with our ethic.”
“Jesus gives us a model for how the Church, who believes in a biblical sexual ethic, should be towards those who might disagree with our ethic”
“I rarely, if ever, see people argued into the kingdom”
Preston shared stories of LGBT+ friends and those who affirm a non-traditional view, each with a reaction to church experiences that corrected, assumed, and condemned instead of listening and loving. These stories hold varying levels of pain, trauma, and isolation and contribute to statistics like 83% of LGBT+ people being raised in the Church with 51% leaving after turning 18 (Us Versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community, Andrew Marin (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2016)). In response to these and similar statistics, an increasing number of Christians are adopting a same-sex theology of marriage in efforts to better embody the love of Jesus.
Preston addressed the question many continue to ask: Can Christians really hold to our theology and genuinely love LGBT+ people? Absolutely. Not only can we do both well, but we have Christ as our example in how to love those we may disagree with. Reasons for leaving the Church often include feeling unloved and unsafe, experiencing a relational disconnect with church leaders, and an inability to openly discuss sexuality. Additionally, LGBT+ people are often explicitly asked to leave church communities after sharing their sexual orientation. In Preston’s experience, when asked where the Church could improve in loving the LGBT+ community, few replies include an adjusted theology. Rather a majority of LGBT+ people are tending towards churches that communicate biblical doctrine—so long as kindness and love are not lost in communication. Three LGBT+ panelists shared about their personal experiences within the Church and how faith communities have at various points harmed, hindered, or helped their relationships with God. Each shared a deep commitment to their faith and encouraged the Church in its authenticity and compassion towards its LGBT+ friends and family.
Preston and those at the Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender are passionate about clarifying that “the debate is over the sexual ethic that people are being accepted into…not about whether certain people should be accepted.” Preston challenged the audience that in holding to a biblical theology, Christians need to maintain a posture of love. The Church needs to listen to others’ stories and experiences, exist as a space where everyone can engage in scripture and fellowship, and exhibit the heart of Jesus towards all people. He encouraged those present to attend Transform Minnesota’s two upcoming Holy Sexuality events: Sexual Identity and Labels, A Testimony by Rachel Gilson and the Journey Well Leadership Conference with Matt and Laurie Krieg.
“Our Hope team was very impressed with Preston. We are so grateful for his teaching, foundation of biblical truth, and the delivery of his message on a challenging subject. He gave us much to think. I was especially grateful for the humility I sensed in him even as he stood his ground about what is true.” – Kim Laufenburger, Executive Minister at Hope Church
“I attended this conference because my teenager recently told me she is attracted to a friend of the same sex who is transitioning. I brought several members from my church with me, and I’m trusting God in my parenting.” – Anonymous