“Gay Christian” Explains Why She Now Accepts Same-Sex Marriage

Rodgers’s explanation—like her previous one—is long on personal experience and short on Bible

Written by Denny Burk | Monday, February 8, 2016

If she has a reasoned biblical rationale for her views, she doesn’t really share it. In fact, she says that when she held to the traditional view, it wasn’t based as much on biblical teaching as it was on her trust in what certain Christian leaders were telling her. When she stopped trusting those leaders, she stopped holding the traditional view. In other words, it doesn’t sound like her former faithfulness on the issue was rooted very deeply in God’s word.

I just read another public account of someone who is walking away from what the Bible teaches about marriage. Former Wheaton employee and self-identified “gay Christian” Julie Rodgers explains why she has embraced gay marriage. She has written about this previously, and I have responded previously. Nevertheless, this latest account is also worth some reflection. She writes:

Your beliefs don’t shift in an instant. We research and agonize, bouncing between hope and despair, until one day we hear ourselves say something a former version of ourselves never would have said. That’s how I came to support same-sex marriage in the church. When I came out as a teenager in Baptist circles in the Bible Belt, I never would’ve imagined God would still like me if I married a woman one day. And I want to try to explain, in theological(ish) terms, how I ended up here.

She goes on to tell the story, which I won’t rehash in full here. I will simply encourage you to read it for yourself. I offer here a short list of reflections on what she has written:

1. The apostles teach us that there is no greater joy than to see brothers and sisters walking faithfully in the truth (3 John 4). Likewise, they also teach us that there is almost nothing more heartbreaking than to see someone falling away from it (1 Tim. 1:19; 4:1). This issue of homosexuality is so fraught with emotion and pathos, and it only adds grief to grief to see so many running their faith aground over it. Such a public falling away can only cause sadness. There can be no joy in it.

2. Rodgers perceives that church leaders keep moving the goalposts on what Christian faithfulness looks like for same-sex attracted Christians. Although I don’t entirely agree with her account of things, I think she is right that some evangelicals have not always taught with biblical and theological clarity on this issue. We’ve been clear that homosexuality is immoral. But we haven’t always been clear about how a Christian can struggle well against unwanted same-sex attraction. But that is no argument for abandoning the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Rather, it is an argument for us to speak and to love and to minister in ways that reflect what the Bible actually teaches. Jesus’ teaching really is good for us—all of us. It is the path to life (Matt. 7:14). Abandoning what Jesus teaches us about marriage will not lead people to Jesus but away from him (Matthew 19:4-6).

3. Rodgers’s explanation—like her previous one—is long on personal experience and short on Bible. If she has a reasoned biblical rationale for her views, she doesn’t really share it. In fact, she says that when she held to the traditional view, it wasn’t based as much on biblical teaching as it was on her trust in what certain Christian leaders were telling her. When she stopped trusting those leaders, she stopped holding the traditional view. In other words, it doesn’t sound like her former faithfulness on the issue was rooted very deeply in God’s word. That may have something to do with her recent declension from it. In any case, we can draw a lesson from this. All of us need to have our consciences bound to the explicit teaching of God’s word, not to the traditions of men. Again, this is an argument for greater biblical and theological clarity in the life of the church, not less.

4. Rodgers connects this issue to the long-standing gender controversy among evangelicals. She reasons that if evangelicals are going to allow for egalitarian readings of scripture, then they must accept gay-affirming readings as well. She writes:

Thoughtful Christians have taught that all of Scripture points to a theology of marriage that involves one man and one woman in a lifelong commitment with a green light for sex in that context alone. This is based on the idea that the Bible is our ultimate authority, but it’s complicated by the fact that we bring an interpretive lens to the Bible. When we support women’s equality in all areas of leadership in the church, we trust one interpretive lens over another. Both sides are sincere Christians and both view the Bible as authoritative––they just differ on how the Bible, which was written in a patriarchal context in the 1st century, should apply to empowered women in the 21stcentury.

Complementarians have been saying for decades that egalitarian readings of scripture will eventually give way to gay-affirming readings. While we are thankful that many egalitarians never made this leap, we cannot help but observe that their theological children have no problem making the connection. And they are doing so based on reading strategies that they learned from their egalitarian mentors. This was inevitable.

5. The Lord’s arm is not too short to save (Isaiah 59:1). He can always reach his children wherever they are. He will speak. They will hear his voice and come to him (John 10:3-5). Permanent departure from his word only leads to desolation in the end. I am hoping and praying that the departures we are seeing now will only be temporary—that the Lord would eventually get through to them. His patience and mercy are more vast than we can imagine. Perhaps the Lord would be pleased to draw back those who have turned aside. That is how I will be praying anyway.

Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.

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Categories: Misc.

26 replies

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful reprint. For a Christian, Jesus is Lord in all temptations, and sex is only one of them. For some it is alcohol, or drugs, or gambling. Regardless of how we “feel”, Jesus is to be obeyed if our love for HIm is authentic. What concerns me is point #4. I do hope someone can explain and expound on what is meant, ie, Jesus’ treatment of women in the 1st century context was quite liberating, but does that mean we should go no further? I guess I don’t see the connection in this argument with the homosexual issue…?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think there is much of a connection between complete equality in leadership roles in the church and same sex marriage, unless Ms. Rodgers is trying to say that if we allow women to occupy equal roles in the church God has not set in place (women pastors) then we must accept same sex marriage. The argument that leadership in the church and God’s design for marriage are somehow an equal comparison seems like a false dichotomy, like comparing eating shellfish and homosexuality prohibitions.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “Complementarians have been saying for decades that egalitarian readings of scripture will eventually give way to gay-affirming readings.”

    I have been saying this for decades myself. That is exactly how it proceeded to happen in our former church too, first they became very egalitarian, and now they are performing gay weddings. That movement away from scripture caused my husband to perceive the church as hypocrites, as not practicing what they preached, so he left the church and hasn’t been back. I left soon after because what became important to them was appeasing politics, not just LGBT politics, but feminism too, and that quickly became more important than Christ.

    It isn’t so much about homosexuality at all, it is really about idolatry, it is about who you are going to serve and what you stand for. A church that refuses to stand for anything becomes a church that will fall for anything, and when that happens it’s no longer a safe place, it is no longer that rock that we seek to place our faith in.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can’t say I am prepared to argue with another Christian about gay marriage or homosexuality as sin, at this point. I think we are long past the importance of the consistent, nearly microscopic inspection of what is sin and how we all better stop it….I did find this posting to be interesting, tho. Thanks!

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    • Some issues might ‘seem’ microscopic, to us, but are to God? If the Bible takes a stand, should we not also take a stand? Maybe a larger question is why some who profess Christ would not agree with Christ’s definition of what constitutes ‘marriage’, or any other role for men and/or women in His economy. To use an egalitarian argument seems to be beyond the pale when it comes to same sex marriage, not only Biblically, but historically also.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I could ask the same about the way Christians agree to treat the poor, prisoners, the immigrant, etc. Or how about the way they allow profiteers for money to utterly devastate the planet? You don’t think these things are sin? They don’t concern God? How about voting for a man who promises to carpet bomb Syria? ( Ted Cruz). Need I go on? I’m sure you get my point. The old drum roll about abortion and gay marriage while Christians sin hugely with impunity in their own eyes, makes me want to vomit.

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        • I hear you, it is outright hypocrisy and hardened hearts that drives people away, and yet Christians will completely ignore this myriad of other sins and point fingers at homosexuals as if we can make some kind of plea deal. We forget that we started devaluing our own marriages, that divorce rates rose above 50 percent, that Christians became the largest consumers of porn, long before anyone even mentioned same sex marriage. First we refused to stand against anything….. and than we discovered we no longer had the moral upper hand required to stand against anything at all.

          The only way I know to fix it is to put Christ back in as the head of the church, as the head of our faith. Sin happens, that’s why we need a Redeemer. We cannot build faith around making assorted sins, no longer sinful, and call it good.

          Liked by 4 people

        • Sin is sin and all sin will be judged, and many will spend eternity in Hell. ALL who have not repented of their sin and believed on Christ as their substitute. Sure, condemning one sin while knowingly engaged in another is hypocrisy. However, I don’t know any habitual,thieves, murders, or adulterers screaming for their sin to be accepted by the rest of the world. And I still cannot understand a professing believer condoning that about which God has CLEARLY spoken.

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          • Dan, are you kidding me? Practically 75% of religious right Christians condone the death penalty, don’t believe in or care about global warming, or the destruction of the environment God gave us to be good stewards over.

            These good church going Christians hate President Obama, and liberals who voted for him, including liberal Christians like me. They proudly defend their sin in a completely deluded, rationalizing way; they simply don’t acknowledge what Jesus Himself pointed out is sin.

            We are to share all we have with others, including our Muslim, gay neighbors…and the poor. Do I really need to go on? The hypocrisy sickens me and I know it sickens God too.

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          • Did I condone anyone’s hypocrisy?

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  4. This is a very tricky issue for me. My best friend is gay, and I am asexual (i.e. it disgusts me and I have no desire for it). I have trouble seeing same-sex marriage as immoral on its own because I don’t see how it hurts anyone. God dictates what is moral and what is not, but at the same time, it seems that most of what he deems wrong directly cause harm to someone (e.g. theft, lying, etc). Furthermore, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take cultural differences into account. For example, in the first century, women were basically viewed as property, and sex was mainly viewed as a means to an end, that being having (male) children in order to further one’s bloodline. For most this isn’t really a priority anymore. In fact, overpopulation is such a problem in some areas that having children is discouraged. In light of all this, one has to ask: what is a universal definition and purpose for marriage that spans all time and cultural contexts? Obviously one has to take scripture into account, but I’m not sure a literal interpretation is the best in this case. To be honest, I haven’t come to any definite conclusion either way on this issue.

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  5. Thank you for this post Dan. Glad to see Dr. Burk taking a stance.

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  6. Hey Dan,

    I liked your post and I meant it. It is well written and thought out. I love the conversation and it is very important understand how we interpret scripture, leads to dangerous conclusions later if we are wrong.

    I do have one concern that I believe holds most of us evangelicals back. Biblical Inerrancy is not just the words on the page but it is the story surrounding those words. Many times interpretations that lead us to what seems like a more liberal view can be the most biblical if it is true to the text in the sense of the intention for why it was written. Sometimes we read a book like first Timothy like it is a text book.

    But, reading I Timothy 2 divorced from understanding the Artemis cult is dangerous. Many people want to understand how Paul can talk about their being no difference between male or female to the Galatians and during the same time period it was important that women in Ephesus sit down and shut up, because Adam was formed first and then Eve.

    An understanding of the Artemis cult lets us know that the goddess Artemis was a twin. She was born first and then helped her lesser twin brother Apollos to be born.

    We also know that the Artemis cult was about sexual female dominance as well as a spiritual dominance and dominance in everyway possible over men. These women who were converted to Christianity or who were spending time in the church were trying to bring their old ways into the church.

    Here is a link to a blog I wrote back in April in response to something that was on the news one day.

    All this to say. The Bible is clear on marriage being between a man and a women. But seeing that scripture leaves room for women in ministry is a different issue all together.

    https://chaplapreneur.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/is-the-bible-sexist/

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    • The Galatians passage, in my opinion speaks to equality in Christ concerning salvation, justification by faith and spiritual heirs of the same promise made to Abraham. That is the context of Galatians. We are in the middle of a Galatians study and in fact in Chapter. One lady on a blog I read tried to apply it to the false teachers who wanted to put Gentile Christians in bondage again. I don’t think that fits the over all context. What I propose is that Gal 3:28 cannot be used to ‘prove’ women can be pastors. The passage just does not speak to women’s roles in the church. It speaks to equal standing before God in Christ, not equality ‘roles or function’ of any sort at all. At least that is one perspective.

      As far as the roles of men and women in church are concerned, I would say that we need to adhere to what God designed and described. Women play a huge role in the life of the church and are gifted in areas where men seem to not be as gifted. Where specific descriptions of positions/offices in the church are discussed,the gender of the office in question has to mean something in terms of God’s design for his church, but I am not taking a dogmatic stand.

      I will say that much of the feminist movement goes against God’s design for his children, but I won’t discuss specifics there either. 🙂

      Now I will go read your post about it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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