#21 – A Thoughtful Approach to Sexuality & Gender. ft Matthew Price & Dr. Brad Harper

 In

Preaching & Discipleship

Helping equip and inspire pastors and leaders who may be considering preaching a series on sexuality and gender identity at their church.

We need to understand that we’re dealing with people in our midst who struggle with these realities, people who want to follow Jesus.  And if we just come out and condemn it as an immoral reality, how are we walking alongside those people? How are we understanding them? How are we understanding what their pain and suffering has been in this process?  Where’s the empathy?  There is none in that situation. – Dr. Brad Harper

 

But we want to be grounded in the Word.  We want the Word to come alive in our conversations here.  And if there are disagreements, let’s talk about those in love. – Matthew Price

In this podcast episode Rob addresses a tough topic that many pastors and leaders are wrestling with today, specifically around the church, our relationship, our mission, and our calling to be a community of grace and love for all people.  How do we do that with the LGBTQ community? Today Rob specifically focuses on how to preach on sexuality and gender identity. Matthew Price, lead pastor at NLCC and Dr. Brad Harper, professor at Multnomah University, share what they believe the Bible teaches us on this issue.

Topics include

  • Risks and pitfalls to be considered
  • Where do Christians stand on the issue today
  • Believers experiencing same sex attraction
  • Needs of parents and family members
  • Lies, truth and freedom

Show Notes

 

#21 – A Thoughtful Approach to Sexuality & Gender. ft Matthew Price & Dr. Brad Harper
BCMB Pastor to Pastor Podcast

 
 
00:00 / 1:08:28
 
1X
 

 

Transcription

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Matthew Price:
Every week I've tried to kind of encourage the conversation in life groups. We don't want to use the word to clobber, but we want to be grounded in the word. We want the word to come alive in our conversations here. And and if there are disagreements, let's talk about those in love. But let's have the dialogue in life groups.

Dr. Brad Harper:
I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. To the best of my ability, I've worked hard to understand what I think it says about the issue of gay sex and gay marriage. And I, I think I understand what that is. That idea is in disagreement with my son's view of sex and marriage. So I find myself in a place where I disagree with him. But he's my son. He's my boy. And I love him. And I want to stay in a relationship with him.

Welcome to the BCMB podcast, Pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode 21, a thoughtful approach to sexuality and gender with Matthew Price and Dr. Brad Harper.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, everyone. It's the pastor to pastor podcast, and my name is Rob Thiessen. I'm super grateful for you taking the time to listen today. And I'm also very excited about the guests that we have. This has been something I've been thinking about for a while, a chance to have Matthew Price, my pastor at North Langley Community Church, with us and a special guest as well, Dr. Brad Harper is with us. He's up from Portland, Oregon, and he's a professor of theology there at Multnomah. And I've known about Brad for quite a while because I had a couple of daughters that attended Multnomah and they often talked about their favorite prof at Multnomah, which was Dr. Harper. And so this is a great opportunity. We're here to talk about, you know, a tough topic that a lot of, a lot of us, as pastors and leaders are wrestling with. And in specific, it's around the church and our relationship, our mission, our calling to be a community of grace and love for all people, especially, how do we do that with the LGBTQ community? And today we're especially focusing on, on how we preach on this topic. And Matthew's been working on a preaching series, is right in the middle of that at North Langley. So that's our, our topic. But before we jump into that, I'll just ask you guys to share with us just a little bit about your journey, community that formed you. And yes, I'll start with you, Matthew. Just tell us a little bit about yourself and, yeah, your journey of faith and in the people that, that shaped your life.

Matthew Price:
Absolutely. I had the joy of being born in Texas and I was part of the Southern Baptist Church. And when I was about five years old, my parents felt called to the mission field. And so when I was five, we headed on down to Columbia, to South America. My dad's an artist. My mom's a school teacher, counselor. And I just had the best years growing up. You know, for about seven years in South America, watching my parents serve the Lord. And when I was 12, moved back to the United States and was a part of a Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma. And it wasn't until I was 18 when I came up to Trinity Western and I started volunteering at North Langley Community Church our MB Church. And so I've had both of those kind of worlds there. It's a Southern Baptist American context and a Mennonite Brethren, Canadian context (Rob- and a South American context), Right Yeah. Yeah. It was still, it was a, it was a Southern Baptist church in South America. But, you know, obviously it looked very different from the church I was part of in Oklahoma.

Rob Thiessen:
Oh, excellent. Well, that's great. Brad?

Dr. Brad Harper:
Yeah, I, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. Grew up in a, an Evangelical Christian church where the teaching was deeply focused on scripture and with the idea that it's through scripture that we can encounter Christ and have a relationship with God. So it was very much that kind of wonderful evangelical piety of relationship with God. I was raised in a family with a wonderful, Jesus loving mom who talked to me about Jesus, who prayed for me, and a rocket scientist, agnostic father who had really no interest in that and in some ways was somewhat hostile to it. So I grew up in an environment where personally I had to bridge these worlds, the world of the Christian church, the world of agnosticism that doesn't necessarily recognize even the existence of God. So those shaped me. I think also after college, spending some time at L'Abri in Switzerland reading the works of Francis Schaeffer, really also brought me to this idea of what it looks like to engage culture and not to engage culture, primarily from an "us" against "them" perspective, but from a perspective of dialogue and listening and finding goodness in culture. And I think that's really shaped my approach to Christianity and culture. Yeah. To this day.

Rob Thiessen:
Interesting that the Francis Schaeffer and L'Abri, how many people that's touched and how widely his writings and influence are felt still in the body of Christ. And it's probably, you know, the little Mathews from the next generation that wouldn't be as familiar with Francis Schaeffer, but, yeah, that's, that's amazing. It's still continues to have a big influence. So let's just jump into, you know, this topic. Matthew introduced to us the topic that you're in the middle of preaching this series at North Langley. You know, orient us a little bit. What's the series about? The goal? And why did you decide to do this? What have you learned so far? That kind of a thing?

Matthew Price:
Yeah. Yeah. So we're in an eight week series. We just finished week number five in our series with having Dr. Harper come to North Langley and we're exploring what it means to follow Jesus when it comes to identity, sexuality and gender. And it's been, it's actually been just a beautiful last number of weeks. Lots of dialogue, conversations are happening. We tried to start the series off with kind of a wide view of what's been going on in, in culture, how we talked about how sex has become king and how attractions have become identities. And we just tried to try to frame the conversation. The second week we looked at marriage, the single life and,and the family of Jesus. We talked about the importance of the church and and how we've always kind of thrown the single life under the bus, but tried to elevate it and say, hey, this is, this is the way Jesus lived. Right. And throughout the last two thousand years of the church, it is a beautiful, good option for those of us who are followers of Jesus. And, and then week three and four, we took like a deep dive into looking at gay marriage and the scriptures. So we unpack the texts, the kind of the famous text from scripture. We looked at some of the revisionists arguments that would, that would condone gay marriage.

Matthew Price:
And, and then it's been great. I was just telling Dr. Harper that it's been wonderful to have him come week five to, to kind of allow us to just pause and breathe a little and, and to hear a story, the story of, of him and Drew, his son, and to hear how the church should, should reach out and love towards our gay neighbor. So this has been, so that was week five. That's where we're at. We still have the next two weeks. We'll be all on gender. And we have a couple of people who are going to talk about their own stories of, of gender dysphoria. And then we'll end the series. The hope is to end with a missional challenge for us to be the hands and feet of Christ, the salt and light of the world when it comes to our gay neighbors.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Excellent overview. So what what was the motivation? That, or maybe it's complicated, but, you know, what can you tell us about why the series at this time, on this topic?

Matthew Price:
Well, maybe I'll start with, like, why I didn't want to do it for a long time. And maybe, maybe there's a lot of pastors out there who will, who will resonate with this, is just I want people to come to know Jesus first. Like, I really want people to know his love and the hope we have in the gospel. And it felt like, OK, if you're going to do a series on identity, sexuality and gender, aren't you just, you're, you're shoving something in between that person who's seeking, the person who's just brand new faith. And here, you know, you just insert this big wedge of a topic between them and Jesus. And so that was my thinking about why not to do it. And so years have gone by. You know, five years ago, we did have Christopher Yuan come in and speak to our church. But outside of that, this is my eighth year doing this. And I basically don't bring it up like I, I, I don't even bring up how to love my gay neighbor or gay marriage like as even like a little application point at the end of the sermon. Like, I just avoid it. (Rob - Yeah. Trying not to make a special category). Yes. Right. Exactly. And so I think one of the things that a couple of things started to happen is, is I realized that, that, that this is when we talk about discipleship and following Jesus, like questions of identity and sexuality are just at the core.

Matthew Price:
This is the question people are asking. And if I truly want to love my church, we'll walk through this and we'll be willing to to discuss the elephant in the room, as it were. But a second thing started happening. And I was chatting about this with you guys earlier. But there's this sense in which I was watching Christians begin to change their mind on, on what they thought the Bible condoned or didn't condone in the scriptures in terms of gay marriage. And so when I saw Christians start to change their mind listening to those revisionist arguments, I thought, OK, like, this is no longer something about, those who are seeking, you know, being thrown off by the topic. This is, this is a discipleship issue. and, and we're finding new ways of reading scripture. And so I really want to dive in to it. It's actually become how to read scripture a little bit like how to. How do we understand the Bible and how do we read these tough passages in scripture?

Rob Thiessen:
So, yeah, good. Well, that's helpful. Dr. Harper, you were saying in conversation before that, that so much of your invitations now are to address this issue and how the church can respond. Tell us a little bit about how that emerged and the book that, the very unique book that you've written with your son. So tell us a little bit about those things.

Dr. Brad Harper:
Sure. So my oldest son, Drew, is gay, openly so. Grew up in the evangelical church. I was a pastor, for 13 years until he was 10 years old. And, and then since then have been a theologian at Multnomah for the last 20 years. And, and so Drew grew up in an in a family and in a church environment that had a particular posture towards gay sex and gay marriage. So as he began to recognize his own attractions and began to struggle with that, as we saw the pain that he was enduring as a child, and then as he got to the place where ultimately he had to say, I'm done with the church, I'm done with Christianity, I'm gay. This is how I'm gonna live, you know, get over it kind of mom and dad. You know, we had some decisions to make. And, you know, we were faced with this decision of, okay, we disagree with Drew and his view of sexuality, morality, the world, God, that type of stuff. And this is the kind of thing that could create a real wedge between us. And, and we had seen how it did do that for parents and kids in the evangelical world. That wasn't an option for me and for my wife, Robyn. We said to each other, we are going to stay in our relationship with our son at all cost.

Dr. Brad Harper:
We're not going to sacrifice that as much as we are able to stay in relationship with him. And so, you know, we had to start looking at what does that mean? How do we dialogue about this issue? How do we dialogue about our relationship? What does it look like for him to be in our home? What does it look like for his friends to be with us, his LGBTQ friends? So there were a lot of things to talk about, but we were committed to staying in dialogue, even in the midst of the fact that there was some real anger, probably on both sides that created real stress in the relationship. But, but both Robyn and I and Drew were committed. We wanted to stay in this relationship. Drew didn't want to sacrifice it either. So, you know, we spent some years working on that. And the more I was involved in working on that, the more Robyn and I were involved, the more people we began to know. People began to come to us who had gay and lesbian kids, transgender kids. And we're like, what do we do? How do we deal with this? Drew started having dialogues with young people who'd grown up in evangelical Christian homes. "Oh, my gosh, how do I relate to my parents?" And so, you know, we began to talk to a lot of people one on one.

Dr. Brad Harper:
But, you know, eventually I said to Drew, you know, look, it might be that we could help a lot of people if we would take our struggle and our conversation to a different level and put it in a book, put our dialogue in a book so that people that we will never meet can can hear your voice, can hear our voices in this. And so we wrote Space at the Table and we, we from the very beginning wanted it to be not just kind of an information book, but a dialogue between Drew and me, which is what it is. Each chapter is us writing back and forth to each other, talking with each other about the past, about the issues we faced, about where we feel we need to move in the future. So it's, it's very personal and really is just Drew and I recounting our story and ending with the hope that we have, that we can continue to be in good relationship with each other, love each other well, even in the midst the fact that we disagree about something that's very significant, especially in his life.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, that's powerful. Brad, you know, a lot of times now, people, I hear people talking about, well, there must, must be a third way. You know, a third option. And in one way, you are, you're describing a third option. You know, we're talking about this before, like so many church. There's a couple of easy answers in this, and then there's a difficult answer. And maybe talk to us a little bit about those easy answers and not that they're not without pain. They all, they all end up with pain, but they're a bit more of a win-lose mindset.

Dr. Brad Harper:
Sure. And and we've seen this a lot. I mean, I would say, in, in my experience, especially with baby boomer parents in the evangelical world, the most common easy option is for parents to say to their kid when they come out is "you're out." "You can't live in our home." You know, there's there are hundreds of thousands of under 18 kids sleeping on the streets of America every night who are LGBTQ. And the reason they're on the street is because they're conservative, religious parents have tossed them out of the house. And that's an easy solution in, some sense in the way that you kind of, get rid of the problem. Now, you just don't have to deal with it. But, of course, it's an unbelievably damaging solution. You know, the number one killer of young gay men in America is suicide. And and so there's just an awful lot of carnage that takes place on both sides as a result of that. The other easier answer is when parents, evangelical parents will just say, OK, well, I love my child, so I'm going to change my view of this thing. And I'm, I don't care what the Bible really says, I'm just going to say, my kids fine, my kids great, his choices are fine, and I'm going to go with that, which again, also in some ways eliminates the tension. But I know too, from talking with some of these parents, that it creates a tension in them, you know, about what other areas can I do that with in terms of the Bible, is the Bible really the inspired word of God? And how does that require that idea with it? If I can just take something that's uncomfortable to me and set it aside. So I, I that's a problematic way of going to. The most difficult approach is to live in the tension between the two and to say, as I have found myself doing, I, I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. To the best of my ability, I've worked hard to understand what I think it says about the issue of gay sex and gay marriage. And I, I think I understand what that is. That, idea is in disagreement with my son's view of sex and marriage.

Dr. Brad Harper:
So I find myself in a place where I disagree with him. But he's my son. He's my boy. I love him. And I want to stay in a relationship with him. And so I'm going to live in the tension of disagreement on the one hand. But I will not let this relation go, on the other hand. And what that means is, we are constantly in a situation of tension. The tension does not just go away. It's always there. And it's not an easy way to live. But in this situation, for me, I think it's the best way to live.

Rob Thiessen:
Now, Matthew, in one of your messages recently, you, you, you made this statement that God's truth is not at war with, with his love. And I thought that was a helpful, helpful reminder. But I think what Brad, you're reminding us of, it, it may not be at war, but with, with each other. But living that, it leaves us in a place of, of tension and often conflict, you know, because that's not an easy place to stand, recognizing that truth and love are going to be held together.

Matthew Price:
Yeah, it was way easier just to say it. Yeah. I had like, I had it that was a nice little kind of tweetable thing that I said. But, but Dr. Harper is living it and, and, and I got to say, like, when when, when I was told about this book from, from Janet, Janet just said, you know, you gotta read Space at the Table by Dr. Harper, and his son Drew. And I grabbed a copy and went into my office. And I think I read it in one sitting like I just devoured it. And I came out of the office and I was like, we've got to bring Dr. Harper up to be part of this series. Because I think what you just articulated about your relationship with Drew is, this is exactly it, like this is the heart of what it means to be a people who cling, who cling to God's word, as inspired. It's inspired word of God. Yeah, we will just, will not back down on love and we'll continue to do all we can to love those in our life. And I just yeah, I just think Dr. Harper is a great example of that. And so it's been wonderful to have him here.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. In some ways I want to think about what any Christian parent does with a rebellious kid, whatever the rebellion was in years gone by. So some Christians opted with the "you're out" and come back when you decide to line up with our teaching. There are certain Anabaptist traditions that were known for that, you know. But I think of, you know, how my parents often were. And I have often wondered at my mother's ability to relentlessly speak good over my life regardless. And sometimes with I'm thinking, are you just oblivious to how rebellious I am? Like, surely, you know that I'm not walking faithfully. This was, you know, as a younger person, as a teenager. And, and yet she just relentlessly believed good for me. And I sometimes felt like my parents had a tractor beam on my life that just was pulling me, pulling me, pulling me always. And we've heard other testimonies like that. Like recently at the church, somebody shared a testimony and said, who was struggling with gay identity, and really, you know, into the lifestyle, yet felt like there was always a voice saying, no, you're mine. And, you know, that is a tremendous hope. So you're holding onto hope for your children?

Dr. Brad Harper:
Well, yeah. One thing I'd, I'd want to say about that, too, is even when you think about it in terms of rebellion, I think Drew would say, dad, this isn't so much an issue of rebellion. I don't, I don't feel the need to rebel against you as a person, as my father. I just disagree with your theology. I disagree with your view of marriage. So I'm moving against something that you hold to, an opinion that you hold to. But I don't want to rebel against you. I'm still your son. I still want to be your son, you know? And I really have to view it in those terms because he's, he's not saying, Dad, I don't like you, dad, you're a bad father, dad, I want to get away from you. I'm going to rebel against your authority. He's, he's really not saying that. And so I don't treat it that way, you know, and, and thus, you know, again, it's the issue is, I want to and can stay in a relationship with a son who disagrees with me. And of course, Drew's an adult too, he's not a a 14 year old kid and how parents in the church are going to live in their home with a 14 year old when he or she comes out is going to have some different realities than, you know, a 24 year old. And Drew would even say that, I mean, Drew has said to minors, you know, who are living in their Christian parents homes, "look, your parents are providing a place for you to live, they're feeding you all of this, your parents have a right to make rules for what goes on in the home." And that's a different reality. But I'm dealing with an adult son who lives his own life and, yeah, so I don't treat it like an issue of rebellion. I treat it like an issue of disagreement.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. Well, yeah. And I think part of what you're illustrating is that how we respond to people who are who are on a different pathway, whatever you want to call it, has a big impact on how they perceive the pathway that they're on to. Right. And has future implications for their ability to come back to Christ. You know, because I was like in the prodigal son, the father, he doesn't push the son into a rebellion because he doesn't allow him that. You know, he, he extends grace, you know, all along the way, which allows the son then to remember that there is a love and a welcome back at the home for him.

Rob Thiessen:
Ya, good. Well, let's get back to the topic at hand that is about preaching. So, I've got a question for both of you, and maybe we'll start with Brad. What are the risks and pitfalls that a pastor or, you know, any Christian, needs to consider as they engage in a public conversation on this topic? So that's maybe a huge question. It could be a podcast in itself.

Dr. Brad Harper:
Sure. I mean, I would say a couple of things. One is that, again, and this is in the U.S. context, historically, when evangelical pastors have taught on this subject in the past, the tendency has been to just say, OK, we're gonna talk about homosexuality this Sunday. You get out and you, you go through all the clobber passages and say to your congregation, see, it's very clear God says no to homosexuality. This is immoral. OK, we're done. Next topic. And and so they only treat it as this doctrinal moral behavior or reality, which is entirely disconnected from the community of people who are living out this reality. And in essence, says, we distance ourselves from you. You are wrong. You're going in the wrong direction. So see you later. When in reality, those those folks are not people who simply live apart from the church. They're in our midst. Right. And so two things. One, when we need to understand that we're dealing with people in our midst who who struggle with these realities, people who want to follow Jesus. Right. And if we just come out and condemn it as a immoral reality, how are we walking alongside those people? How are we understanding them? How are we understanding what their pain and suffering has been in this process? Where's the empathy? There is none in that situation.

Dr. Brad Harper:
And then missionary, if we are called to love our neighbors and to express the unconditional love of Jesus to our neighbors, how in the world are we possibly going to do that to the LGBTQ community outside the church, if the only way we deal with the subject is to say it's immoral, it's wrong, we condemn it. Next topic. So that approach to this subject, I think has been common. And I think is deeply damaging to the church, both internally and in terms of its mission. I think the other thing about this is if pastors are going to deal with this and especially if they're going to deal with it really well, which is to deal with the complexities of this, they simply have to realize you are going to create division in your church. People are going to be on either sides of this thing and you're going to create arguments. And so you just need to prepare for that. How are you going to deal with that ahead of time? You need to be getting your leaders on hand, on board with this. They need to be ready for the kinds of difficulties this is going to raise so that they can pastorally care for the congregation in the midst of conflict.

Rob Thiessen:
That's good. So Matthew, what, how did you deal with that? Like, did you prepare for, for this eight week series with your leaders? What did you do at North Langley to help set a pathway?

Matthew Price:
Yeah. So, you know, we didn't do a lot. But I think the things that, that were done, hopefully helped us get just the ball down the field a little bit. So we just with our elder board, we spent a number of months just working through some of the the key theological pieces to this conversation. And, and so, you know, we, we just started this series in January. And so we took our, I think our September, October, November elder board meetings to, to work through some of this stuff so that we just recognize we're having the conversation, we're on the same page, we're seeing where Matthew's going in the series. And so that, that, I think was helpful for us as an elder team. The other thing was that we really wanted to say life groups are our space and place are small groups in homes throughout the city. Like this is where we really want to have a beautiful conversation happening. And so, so what we did is we, we took a Saturday to kind of equip our leaders and kind of talked about some of the hard things, allowed them to ask questions are our pastor over life groups, Tim, did such a fantastic job. He really, I feel like he really equipped life group leaders to have the resources, but really tried to talk about the tone too, like, like we want, we want these circles to be the place where the conversation keeps going throughout the week. And we want these circles to be places that are authentic and loving.

Matthew Price:
Yes, we're gonna be in the word. We don't want to use the word to clobber, as Dr. Harper has said. But, but we want to be grounded in the word. We want the word to come alive in our conversations here. And, and if there are disagreements, let's talk about those in love. But let's have the dialogue in life groups, so I think that equipping of life group leaders. And every week I've tried to kind of encourage the conversation in life groups.

Matthew Price:
So those would be two big things. And then the third one was actually just promotion, is promoting it. And we're saying, hey, this is coming. So throughout the fall, we want to let our church family know this is coming at the AGM, previously in June, we went to let them know it was coming. And so people are kind of preparing their minds and their hearts for this and getting ready for a big conversation.

Rob Thiessen:
So ya, and the church has been packed. People are interested, you know, really. And showing up. I hear a lot of conversation about that. What are what are some of the key resources that you feel have been beneficial like for, for life group leaders, for the church? Any books, authors in particular that you're pointing people to?

Matthew Price:
Yes. So I would say to, to pastors specifically, there's a great resource by Dr. Preston Sprinkel. And it's, it's called the Digital Leaders Forum. So I think it's about sixty five dollars. But, but what he has there is a whole series of resources. Actually, Dr. Harper and his son Drew are on the videos and his wife Robyn are on the videos. But it's just, he offers, you know, deep theology, practical teaching tools, video testimonies, and really kind of allows a pastor, if you if you're feeling stuck, like every week I go to the Digital Leaders Forum, I look at kind of how Preston has kind of worked through certain things, and that's been really helpful. So I would just encourage you to check that out if if possible. So that's been great. And then outside of that, it's been just a lot of reading, you know, and. And actually, the two of you would know more than I would. But but some of the some of the key books would be like names like Andrew Walker, Mark Yarhouse, when we're entering in the trans conversation, conversation on gender. And it's been really great to, to, you know, to go to the Wesley Hills or the Chris Yuans and that and Rosaria Butterfields and, you know, and try to kind of get a sense from them in terms of the the issues of gay marriage and stuff like that. So those have all been wonderful resources.

Rob Thiessen:
And not all those authors necessarily agree with each other on all the points, no.

Matthew Price:
And a recent amazing book has been a book called by David Bennett called A War of Loves. And I think A War of Loves has been a wonderful resource for us as a church.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Excellent. Brad, do you have any sort of favourites?

Dr. Brad Harper:
I would agree with those as well. I, I think Preston Sprinkles book, People To Be Loved, is a very humble approach at the Scriptures. I appreciate his attitude as much as his exegesis. In the book, he specifically deals with some of the revisionist interpretations of scripture. And I think he does that in a, in a clear and caring way all the way along, talking about what this means in terms of how we care for and love the LGBTQ community. So that's very good. Again. Yeah, Mark Yarhouse has been excellent on this homosexuality and the Christian understanding gender dysphoria. One of the values of his approach is that he's a, he's a, you know, a clinical psychologist. He's approaching this from a Christian point of view, but also one who's, who's really entering into this from another discipline in which pastors often don't have as part of their resources. So I think that's really good. Also think it's important to read the stories of Christians, Jesus followers who have ended up on the other side of this. So you need to read Matthew Vines. You know, you need to read his approach as someone who said, look, I love Jesus, I want to follow Jesus. I disagree with this as an understanding of the Bible. You need to read Justin Lee's book, Torn, the former president of the Gay Christian Network, who who again comes to a different position as a Jesus follower, not because you you will necessarily agree with them, but you need to understand where they're coming from. So that, again, you see, this isn't just an issue of clear and open rebellion, but there are people who simply disagree about what the Bible teaches on this, and they're people that I have to take seriously, even if I disagree with them.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. I read David Gashi's book. Yes. Something about how I change our changing minds or something.

Matthew Price:
Yeah. I found that just as a resource for the church. Sam Allberry's, Is God Anti-gay. He actually it's just small, it's really thin and it would be great for members of the congregation to just kind of pick up a copy to look through some of that.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. That other resource that I mentioned to you guys that I found helpful is what the British evangelical Sam Allberry, being one of them. Ed Shaw is the author of that book on the Plausibility Factor on churches, whether Churches, how does a church actually provide a welcoming community, and their website, livingout.org, is also got really good articles, not video resources, but great articles. Let me just ask a question on this, a topic we were talking about before over breakfast today. This is the the role of the necessity, the helpfulness about an apology. And it goes, goes to the question of empathy. Again, going beyond just while here's a theological treatise or here's our discussion of this topic. Why is an apology, for how the church has hurt the gay community. Well, I like, what does that role play in a sermon series? Why is that important for a church when, you know, the reaction within a church might be, well, it wasn't me, I wasn't there, like, I didn't do that to anybody. And and why is it important for Christians to get beyond this? What's at stake here? And maybe, Brad, you could could start us off.

Dr. Brad Harper:
Yeah, well, as as you heard yesterday, when I, when I began talking about a relational incarnational response to the LGBTQ community and what that looks like, the very first thing I mentioned is, we should apologize. And I talk about apologizing for how the evangelical community as a whole has treated gay and lesbian and transgender people. And for the American context, of course, I illustrate this with Westboro Baptist Church, and it's, you know, awful protests at funerals and, and organizational meetings and different things like this. And, and, I talk about the fact that what's typical is for evangelicals to say, well, that's not me. I've never done that. I've never said those kinds of things. Why should I apologize? Well, the reason for it is it's not about what you've done, but it's about the fact that when the LGBTQ community as a whole looks at evangelical Christianity, that is what they see. They they see Westboro Baptist Baptist Church. They see those high profile, negative, horrible responses that have been made and thus they just lump us in that whole basket. And we also have to realize that, like it or not, the people who say those horrible things out of their, quote, Christianity about gay and lesbian people, they, they consider themselves to be part of us.

Dr. Brad Harper:
They consider themselves be part of this whole evangelical Christian reality. And so we simply need to realize that the community that says they're who we are, the evangelical community, at least in the U.S., has done horrible, hurtful things. And we just need to own that and recognize that we're part of that. And I mentioned yesterday how the guy who published Space At The Table, the first time he met Drew, he was a Christian book publisher. First thing he said to Drew, is, I, I just want to apologize to you because I realize how people in my community have done horrible, hurtful things to you. And I just want to ask you if you'll forgive me for that. And it's just an enormous step because what it immediately did was tear down that barrier and allow Drew as a gay person to say thank you. Thank you for realizing that. Thank you for understanding the pain that that caused me and my friends. And yes, now I can trust you. Now I can move forward and we can have a dialogue. So if nothing else, it's a very pragmatic thing of doing it so that we can actually have a dialogue without that barrier being in the way.

Matthew Price:
Right. And I, I really I, I appreciate what Dr. Harper is saying. One of the things I really struggle with is I feel like I am part of that group that says, well, what have I done? Like what? How did I who did I hurt along the way? I feel like I've only ever been someone who is befriended and being kind to my, my gay friends. So I as a pastor, I, I feel that tension and getting up. And so what actually did is I started researching things, but I started researching all the areas where, you know, how have Christians hurt those in the gay community? Because I got a little nerdy and tried to go down that road and it was helpful. Two things happened and maybe, I love Dr. Harper, hear your thoughts on this. But two things happen. A, I noticed horrible things like Westboro Baptist. Like the way the church responded to the AIDS crisis in the late 80s, early 90s, and what Christian leaders were saying at the time and just awful stuff and their stories at our own church that I know of where there's been some hurt. But I think the thing that keeps me, it's still in attention with an apology, is that where, where has the offense simply been? Where has the offense been? The attitude, the terrible words, the way we've treated someone vs. the offense is simply that you hold a position. Right. And, and what I have found just in a couple cases in my own life is that the offense was, you,you hold a traditional view of marriage. Right. And so, so I don't know if that's it. I'm assuming it's a Portland thing to you know, it is a Canadian thing. Like, you know, this church has not has offended me by its stance on, on gay marriage. And, and so when I apologize, I guess I want to do that in a way that, that kind of is that I'm being honest on what my apology is for. Right. Right. I'm not apologizing for some of your convictions. Right. Right. You know, that gets me stuck.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, let's talk about that stuck, because I think what you're describing is maybe we're talking about, oh, sometimes two different groups of people. We're talking about a relationship. And then there's the, the sort of activist agenda out there. And there are individuals where you realize every time I build a bridge, this person is just waiting to you know, they're, there on the attack. But maybe that isn't the most common person that we meet. Honestly. But you and I, Matthew, we've met that person in our context and know that, you know, it's just a lose lose game there. But so how do we not get stuck in that? And. You know, frame everybody in that context, because I don't think that's most people's reality who are struggling, was struggling with or identify as gay. They, I don't think most of them have an agenda. I don't know. What's your experience with this, Brad?

Dr. Brad Harper:
Well, you know, I guess particularly responding to what Matthew was saying is that, Scripture is very clear that the message and call of Jesus is difficult and even offensive. The scripture uses that word about it to say that it is an offense.

Dr. Brad Harper:
So much the time in my life I, I remember hearing evangelical Christians, you know, who, who were attacked by, you know, non Christians or whatever for what they said or who they were, you know, just chalked it up to, well, I'm, I'm just being persecuted for righteousness sake. When I would look at and go, no, you're not being persecuted for righteousness. You're being persecuted because you're obnoxious. And, and so what I want to be careful about is that, if someone is offended by a position that I hold, I can't do anything about that. I can't change that. I want to make sure that if they're offended, I hope they're offended by that. That I can't change. I don't want them to be offended by the fact that I'm an obnoxious idiot and a condemnatory person. And, and I have to recognize that much of the offense has been that evangelicals have been obnoxious and condemnatory. And, and that's not necessary. That's not the offense of Jesus. And, and so I have to recognize that sometimes people will simply be offended by my, my theological position. And I can't change that. But I can change my attitude. I can change my my approach of love and care and compassion instead of one of condemnation.

Rob Thiessen:
Now, you said something on Sunday in your message that I think is really helpful for our listeners to realize because, you know, and it goes to talking about just where we are as, as Christians, as evangelicals here in Canada or the U.S. at this moment in history, and why this is such an important missiological issue. We're talking simply around, you know, the opportunity to reach the LGBTQ community. But there is a prevailing notion or assumption around this conflict, if you will, that affects all of our missiological work in, in our society. And you quoted a perception in the U.S. about what non Christians, what their the word association with evangelicals. And on Sunday, you remember what I'm asking you about? So it was something to the effect of, when you ask people who are like secular folks,who don't identify as Christians, I think that was a category. When asked to say, what do what do they say about evangelicals? What is the number one thing they say?

Dr. Brad Harper:
Sure, this was a study done a number of years ago in the U.S. where. straight non Christians between the ages of 16 and 29 were asked what they think about or what their feelings are about Christianity and the number one response. Over 90 percent was Christians are anti-gay. And so, so what's happened, is you have this perception among the whole of society, at least under 30 society, that that's that's what Christianity is about.

Dr. Brad Harper:
Which, of course, is a disaster. And I very sarcastically, you know, yesterday said, yeah, isn't that what Jesus said by this all men shall know that you are my disciples that you don't like gay people. But in fact, that's what it's turned out to be. And that's the kind of thing which we should look back at ourselves and be saying, whoa, whoa, whoa. There's something deeply wrong here. And if that's how the culture is coming to see us, we've got some work to do.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah. This isn't just about our, our effectiveness with one particular part of the community. It's affected the whole witness of our church in society. And, and that's important. Boy, it's you know, I think in so many ways at churches, we've obviously played this wrong and gotten it wrong in a lot of ways. But it's really put us in the end zone, so to speak. You know, we're in deep, deep down the field and, you know, so that's part of why we want to talk about this, is how do we help pastors engage?

Matthew Price:
Yeah, that's right, Rob. And I was going say, like, even though so I think when we hear that over 90 percent thought that the church was anti-gay, I think what my tendency then to do is to just be quiet about it and go, oh, maybe someone could attend here for a decade and never hear an anti-gay message or something like that. But then that's not helpful. Like, I had a, I had a young guy who's probably I think he's 20, couple of years out of high school. And it was, we had a wonderful conversation. And I just asked him I said, what, what are your thoughts on what we're, what we're talking about here as a church? And he said he said it's interesting. He said, I, I've never heard this before. He said, I grew up in a local Langley school. Parents didn't really talk about it a ton. So I'm naturally on the progressive affirming left side of things. I didn't really understand the other side. Here's a kid who grew up in our church. And he spent his whole life, ever since he was in kindergarten at our church. And I thought, well, that's not actually loving, right? That's not, that's not a great thing. But just because I, because I hear stats like that, that 90 percent and in it, it, it pushes me to silence. I think an encouragement for us as pastors is to say, no, there's actually, there's another way of doing this. There's a way of,of doing discipleship truth. But but we can also teach a tone and the heart of Jesus throughout as we continue to work through the truth. And so, actually and so sorry, just to end that story like this young guy said, I'm actually really enjoying it. And I'm and it's allowing my mind to actually expand a little bit here. And I thought, oh, that's great. It's a beautiful win.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah, that's great. Thank you, Matthew. And I just want to ask a general question. I know, Matthew, your, you know, you're inundated with emails through this message and you are signaling on Sunday, hey, I might get back to you sometime in 2020 on your emails. But you gave this example. What what are you discovering? You know, in a more general way about how people are reacting to, to this sermon series, you know? Yeah. Tell us about the feedback that you're getting from, from the North Langley community in particular.

Matthew Price:
Yes. So it is all over the map. It feels quite, quite a range of of things are happening.

Matthew Price:
And I find that, I think that there were, there was a group of people that got really caught off guard by language. So I think something that has come up out of this is issues of identity. So, do we talk about someone having a same sex attraction or is that person gay? Right. That that's been a big dialogue. I actually I feel little ignorant. I didn't realize that was gonna be such a big thing. But it actually it has come up in a very big way to say I'm a gay Christian has been offensive to some. And so we've had to have that discussion talking about same sex attraction. And, and it's a it is a good question because it's a bigger question about identity. That's been interesting. I think I've also found that there's been a there's been a sadness. I think there I've been in dialogue with a few people that have been very sad that this is the position that our church has taken. They wonder whether they want to keep coming. They're attached to their life group, which is good. And, and, and I'm in dialogue with that life group leader. And. And, you know, it's it's just a very small group, three people that I know of that are really struggling with it. And the hard part about that for me is that several of them are very, very new to faith. Right. And they've been coming for a year. And all of a sudden, there's just this I mean, it really is my fear.

Matthew Price:
I mean, this is why I didn't want to do the series. Right. Was was for people like this. And so. Yeah. And so I'm really just hoping that that's going to land well, and just in terms of continual conversations with them. I also didn't quite expect, like the, the maybe the fundamentalist far right kind of people kind of getting really excited about a series like this and, and going, OK, like we need to need to monitor our tone. And, and having Dr. Harper come and speak this last week, I think was a really good reminder because, because I worked through two weeks on gay marriage in the scriptures and, you know, when we were in the middle of that Leviticus passage, you know, it could really feel like for some it's like finally someone speaking the word, you know, finally, we're we're a people of the word. And, and, and, yeah, we are a people of the word, but we're not coming slinging, you know, gunslinging here that we do have the position of Jesus, which we've looked at with the woman who was caught in adultery. Right. Like, he protects her. He protects this marginalized woman, but he still says, go leave your life of sin. Right. But he doesn't condemn her. So we're just trying to catch that balance. So those are just a few little areas that, you know, the things that have happened and are currently still happening in the series.

Rob Thiessen:
That's good. Any thoughts on that line?

Dr. Brad Harper:
Yeah. Perhaps the one factor that is creating a significant generational change and split on this is simply the awareness and friendships that younger people in our world now have of LGBTQ people. You know, I asked the question, first of all, the church yesterday, how many of you know at least one person who's gay or lesbian or transgender? Virtually everybody raises their hand. If you had asked that question when I was in my 20s in the 1970s, hardly anybody would've raised their hand in an evangelical church. And so, you know, as a baby boomer, I grew up in this environment where we didn't know gay and lesbian people. Actually, we did know them, but we didn't know that they were gay or lesbian. Right. And so it was a very distant out there issue that we really didn't have to deal with in terms of relationship, friendship, love, care. So we could treat it kind of academically. Right. That's not the case with the millennial generation. These millennials go to school and it doesn't even matter if they're in a Christian school. And especially in the public school. They have many friends that are gay, lesbian and transgender. And they love these folks and they are in relationship with these people going, these are some of the kindest, best people I know. And so they have these precious relationships. And so for them then to look at, you know, deal with what the Bible says about this. It's not an academic issue for them. It's very personal. And and because of that, we're definitely seeing a split between I'm just gonna say, baby boomers and millennials in terms of how they're responding to this issue. Millennials are much, much more likely to want to say, I know these people. They're great, wonderful, caring, loving people. And not there's no way I'm going to say this is a sinful issue. And and in the US, anyway, we're we're definitely seeing a split in the evangelical church on this issue. And I sense that 10, 20 years from now, evangelicals in America is, is perhaps going to be split in half in terms of affirming, non affirming on this issue. It's it's significant.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, there are lots of things that we, give us pause for, for the day and time that we're living in. So around, thinking about sermons as an opportunity to, for the truth, to engage lies, for light, to engage darkness. And that happens maybe every Sunday, hopefully every Sunday when we get up and proclaim the word. Jesus said, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. But what does freedom look like? What, what lies do you think the preaching in this series? What lies are you seeking to engage? And, and, you know, what does freedom look like? What are some of the goals that you have that you are praying that the Lord will do in the life of the church as you preach on these topics?

Matthew Price:
Yeah, so I, I think two big ones come to mind. And the first one is, is, is walking away from silence, from the silence and the shame of silence. And, you know, we're about to launch into two weeks on gender a transgender conversation. And I have two people who are going to be sharing their stories. And their story is one of just you know, one of them just told me just silence for years, for decades in the church. And just feeling a weight of shame. So I think, but when you talk about light in darkness, you've got, you've got to be in a loving community to be able to talk about it, to be open, to say I'm having these feelings. I feel like I'm a man in a woman's body or I'm a woman in a man's body. I feel trapped. And I don't know if this place is a safe place to talk about this. And so I think one of the first wins is to say in, in relationship in the church that we would have the DNA of a church that allows for people to, to to talk about this stuff. I just heard yesterday of someone who is able, for the very first time at our church, to tell someone on one of our teams just that, that they have a same sex attraction. They have told nobody before, but this series has allowed them to, to open up. So. So, yeah, that's, that's beautiful. And so I think that step one, is a trusted community where you can, where you can talk about the attractions, the feelings you're having.

Matthew Price:
I think the second thing, or the third thing is to kind of normalize all of this, is to say we all are dealing with attractions. We all struggle when our attractions become identities, you know? And so for a big thing is,six of the eight weeks that we're doing this series is we have a testimony. We have someone that comes up on stage, takes 20 minutes to share their story. And that's been huge because in all of these stories, the person sharing has had attractions within them or a way of thinking about their life. But they haven't made it the the highest thing in their life. They haven't made it king of their life. And, and they've walked in, in community and in love with others. And it's often loving relationships where they were able to be open and honest and to say, okay, my primary identity is that I'm a child of God and that's my primary. I'm deeply loved by the father. Yes. We all have things going on deep within us, but my primary identity is as a child of God. So final thing I want to say here is, as we've we titled the series Loved, because at the end of that I thought, okay, what is that? What is the one thing I want us all to capture by the end of these eight weeks is that you are the beloved child of God and like you are loved by the father. And so on.

Rob Thiessen:
That's powerful. So the lie of of shame, of rejection, of I can't be honest. If I tell the truth, I will be rejected and condemned, is a lie that your addressing to saying, no! And that the truth is that God calls us to be his children. He invites us all.

Matthew Price:
That's right. Yeah. And it's two sided, so there's that lie. But the second lie is that I have now made this thing my highest identity. Right. Right, right. So we either move to shame to fully embracing this as the true me. Right. And those are two lessons we have to kind of unlearn.

Rob Thiessen:
That's powerful. Brad, your thoughts?

Dr. Brad Harper:
Yeah, a couple thoughts about that. One is addressing the what I would consider the lie, that same sex attraction is a sin that's fairly common within the evangelical world, that just just having this orientation, this attraction in and of itself is a sin which is absolutely crippling, you know, because then you're telling someone until you lose this attraction, you really can't become part of us. And and it's so absurd to single out this reality in that way. We don't do that with anything else. We don't say that someone who is tempted to gossip or, someone who is tempted to slander other people but decides out of the love of Christ not to do it, that they're sinning. There's temptation, but there's not sin.

Rob Thiessen:
No, we kind of admire them or we say, good on you.

Dr. Brad Harper:
But in this one, we go, oh, no, no, no, no. Just the attraction itself is perverted, it's a sin. You know, you got to deal with that. That's, that is absolutely crippling. And we've got to renounce that. And along with that, the idea, too, that, you know, evangelicals and all LGBTQ people know this. Have raised homosexuality to the highest level of all sin. It is the worst of all things. And yet we find it in lists, that of other things that we hardly ever even think about in terms of whether or not they're sinful or whether we should do anything about them.

Dr. Brad Harper:
So, again, that, too, is very damaging. It's not helpful in the situation. I think another thing that I really want to deal with here is, is expressing the truth that God is able to help people, to give people what they need in order to follow him, even when following him is brutal and very difficult.

Dr. Brad Harper:
God is able to do that. If we trust him and if we walk in faith and, and so I need, I think we need to express that. But we also need to do it in a place of very clear awareness that when we ask LGBT people to do that, that we're asking them to do something that's very, very difficult. It's a brutal reality for them. And so we, we need to be people of compassion as we speak about the truth, that God is able to help people who must never say that flippantly.

Rob Thiessen:
Right, yea. I think Yarhouse is, one of his more recent books where he's done all that research about the costs, the obedience. Yes. Yeah. And he's saying, hey, look, the pathway that these people are choosing, it's, it's heroic. You know, in terms of discipleship and yet we marginalize them even just you know, we, we silence it. We don't talk about it. Matthew, maybe you could tell us too, a little bit, you know, for your dreams for the church. Like, what are you. We talk a lot about, you know, how this teaching maybe impacts a person, same sex attracted, how it also like Brad, you just pointed out the lies that Christians have also often taken in. Another one that you mentioned yesterday was the whole cause. You know, we you know, based on, you know, the earliest research, all you must have been traumatized. You must have, you know, have some kind of a bad relationship with your father or something. And, and that kind of lie, it just simplifies and acts as if we have some explanation for this, which is a part of our drive to fix people. And I think, you were saying yesterday, that's a lie that we have to let go of. So we want people to let go of some things. What would it look? What's the cost to the people? Like, let's just say the church family here. So we're trying to help parents. We're trying to help everyone in this community to be open. But what would we, what would we like to say to, to the to the Christian community that heterosexual straight Christian community here is ways that your life, your family. Might want to think about changing to become missional, To,to help us as a community change this, this story.

Matthew Price:
Yes. So the two words that come to mind are a porous family or an a messy journey. Those are the two things that come to mind. So it was actually your daughter, Aaron, who was speaking on the single life, and she had such a great job. And she talked about a porous family, a family that is willing to to, to welcome to, to kind of say, hey, our nuclear family, mother, father, two point seven children, whatever it is, the average, you know, we're just this nuclear family. We vacation alone. We do Christmas alone. We're, you know, have meals alone. But what would it look like to to say, actually, let's become a bit more of a porous family and to say, hey, let's invite our friend who's seen single with us on vacation, let's open up our home and our table for, for Christmas dinner. Let's make sure that we realize we that Jesus redefined what the family was right. Said, my mother and brother and sisters are those who do the will of my father. And he was forming a new, a new family. And so I think the idea of a porous family, I think that's a challenge for us to live that way. And especially, especially if we're if we're calling those those who have same sex attraction to the life of being single, we're saying you're part of our family and we're family together.

Matthew Price:
OK. But I think the second thing was just this messy, a messier journey. And I think it was David Bennett who in a War of Loves, said from the moment he became a Christian, it took him six years to get to a place where he realized a life of celibacy was what God was calling him to. Six years. That's six years of him being in a church, working through the mess. You know, it wasn't like day one when he gave his life to Christ, he suddenly thought, yep, a celibate life is the life him called you. You know, there was a messy journey for six years. And I don't mean messy just in a negative way. I just. And ups and downs and twists and turns and forwards and backwards and as people are wrestling through what this means in their life. And so I'm wondering, do we as a church have like I struggle with this a ton. Right. I can just feel like I'm such a black and white. Just make the decision type of a person. But are we okay with a bit of a messier story? And, and, and what does that mean in terms of conversations and love and listening, being someone who listens? Yeah. So those are the two things that come to mind.

Rob Thiessen:
That's good, Brad what's your dream for the church?

Dr. Brad Harper:
I think I would really echo what Matthew's just said. I want to say it in a little bit different way. And that is to say to straight evangelical Christians who think the Bible says no to gay sex and marriage. If you are going to say to your gay and lesbian church family members, you can't go this direction, that we do this with the awareness that those folks look at us and say, you know, that's really easy for you to say because you have a God approved way to live out your sexuality in marriage. I don't. And that's really, really brutal. And so we need to realize that we are saying something to them that's incredibly tough. And the response for us should been, if we're if we're going to say that with compassion, that means that the church needs to step up and say, and we will be your family and we will be with you and we will walk with you.

Dr. Brad Harper:
And we aren't going to let you spend Christmas or Thanksgiving alone. And we are going to invite you to come on vacations with us. And we are going to bring you and our families for lunch on Sundays. But the church stands up and puts their money where their mouth is and said, if, if if we're going to call you to something difficult, then we're going to walk with you.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah. And that does that, that frames this also that it brings in the justice side of this question. You know, that God is very concerned with, with the widow, the orphan and the marginalized. Whatever, whatever has brought the person to being marginalized has let, less may be an issue than that, they are marginalized now and feel marginalized or feel disempowered and, and are we a community that, that takes that seriously? I mean, I think about, you know, how the church responded to abortion and you know, it, it's one thing to wave placards and to vote for legal change. But I think of, you know, Mother Teresa's words at the prayer breakfast many years ago, too, when she said to the U.S., you know, if you don't want the babies, give them to me and, that's the real response of the Christian churches, like, it's not just to say this is wrong, but is to say, you know, we'll walk with you. We'll help. We're here as a community. And I think of Rosaria's book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, that is one powerful thing that she talks about. There is just that, you know, that this is Christian hospitality, which is kind of like a justice issue. It's like we have to give away the key to our home and family. That may be one of the most difficult things that Christians to think about, because we really have set boundaries around our ideal nuclear family. Mom, dad and the kids. Powerful stuff. And really, you know, a journey that, that we're all on and we need each other's help. Thanks so much for, you know, your honesty and vulnerability. Thanks for the time, both of you.

Rob Thiessen:
There's so many more things we could think about and talk about in this area. But I think we've, we've got, you know, plenty here already, plenty of thought and some, some good ideas to go to. So for our listeners, thanks for listening. And once again, from the Pastor of Pastor Podcast, thanks for being with us and look forward to our next time together. Bye bye.

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