I’ve written enough on this subject already. But I sense a need to summarize some thoughts especially in light of this post by Craig Carter. I think Craig’s got me wrong and frankly inhabits a position that does not meet the demands of mission to a sexually broken society. I’ll respond to Craig’s post in next few days when I get a minute. For now, I’d like to put forward a summary of the whole thing by posting a comment from the last post. It’s by Jon Trott. Jon encapsulates the challenges, the practices and the shape of the “welcoming and mutually transforming community” as it seeks to incarnate the sexual redemption of Jesus Christ.
Living in an intentional community of very imperfect people, of which I am certainly one, I might add that sexuality within a Christian community ought to entail confession, transparency, and restoration. This could also be formulated as repentance / restoration, but that implies sexual failure, which is not always the case; one can be tempted without falling. But the need for others walking alongside — others who also transparently admit their own struggles sexually and otherwise — is one of the great lacks in the Church today. It startles me how dishonest we are individually and corporately about the near-universality of sexual temptation. How do we minister to one another? Living as I do, I have the amazing luxury of being able to walk down the hallway on most days to a friend’s room, pull him aside, and ask for prayer and/or counsel re being tempted sexually. These days, it is more often just “Five minutes to live by” — a quick confession of feeling weak or even entertaining sexual thoughts — followed by a prayer. Why do this? Why not just do it on my own? Because the act of becoming transparent before my brother also makes me accountable to him as a representative of Jesus. I know the difference — he’s not going to rescue me or condemn me. But looking into his eyes and telling the truth about myself sexually is a place to start facing my own struggles in a deeper way than I otherwise might.
There’s so much more to this… as someone who does believe in the work of mutability groups such as Exodus International (in part because I know people — see them daily — who have changed their orientation), I do bear witness to what the Scriptures say regarding homosexuality. But I don’t think homosexuality is where the conversation starts or ends. Rather, it is part of the human journey toward wholeness that Jesus uniquely enables us to walk into.
In this simple comment, Jon describes what I think gets at some the essential elements of a “welcoming and mutually transforming community” that I have tried to articulate in this long series of posts (you can read them all by clicking onto the Women/GLBTQ category). Jon’s community (the JesusPeopleUSA Community of Chicago) manages to occupy the broken position thereby inviting everyone to see their brokeness not from a position of power (making public pronouncements). We’re all in this together. This hopefully becomes a place where we do not engage “the other” from platitudes which mean little in this age where the words “heterosexual,” “gay,” “lesbian” mean any number of things. Jon’s community engages in regular concrete practices where the examination of one’s self, desires and the reshaping of those desires is all part of a communal language, liturgy and practice. Jon’s community appears to do all of this while continuing to live within the historical wisdom of the Christian tradition, that same sex unions and many other kinds of sexuality miss the purposes of God’s creation and His work for sexual redemption in our lives. I don’t know everything about JPUSA community in Chicago. I am sure there is some dirt here too. Yet Jon’s words give a little vision of what is possible through incarnationally inhabiting a context for the sexual redemption God has begun in Christ for the world.
My questions are: 1.) Is this possible in non-proximal intentional communities? say in “groups of three,” or other forms of redemptive community. 2.) Why does my brother Craig Carter have such a problem with this? If anything I expected more push back from the traditional Emergent folk who I consider my friends but have been largely silent on this particular approach I am pushing for. What’s going on here?