The big news in the evangelical world today concerning "gay, celibate Christians" who affirm an essential and positive homosexual identity (I have coined the expression CHI or "Christian Homosexual Identifier" for this) is that Julie Rodgers, a Protestant CHI, has "come out" a second time, this time in favor of non-celibate relationships.
Rodgers was hired amidst some fanfare by Wheaton College last year and was featured in an interview in World. Her role was to be the leader of an LGBT student club at Wheaton. Now she has resigned at Wheaton (that's one good thing).
But let me back up a bit.
Two years ago Wheaton started an LGBT club called Refuge. I don't know quite how naive President Ryken and other orthodox administrators are, but I suspect we have not yet plumbed the depths of their naivete, or perhaps I should say their self-deception. From the very outset, Refuge was very clearly intended to challenge Christian ethics, despite the fact that Wheaton is attempting to hold on (by its fingernails, at this point) to its traditional sexual moral code.
“I saw my future as something that was really bleak because, identifying as gay, I felt like I had been told that I was allowed to be a Christian as long as I fulfilled a certain set of requirements and as long as I stayed miserable and de-legitimized this very real aspect of my life,” a Refuge member said.
To say that "staying miserable" is not-so-subtle code for "staying celibate" should hardly be controversial.
A Refuge member also expressed hope that the Wheaton community will change its approach to this topic.
“There is no reason to fear talking about such topics, and I hope that our campus can approach conversations about the LGBTQ experience in a humble and loving way,” a Refuge member said. “We should be eager to talk honestly about it and not be afraid of perspectives that may be different from our own. I don’t think we should shy away from any conversation no matter how difficult it may seem to us.”
What could those "perspectives that differ from our own" possibly be?
And then there was this:
Another source of frustration for Refuge members is the lack of sensitivity in language due to the assumptions about the gender identities and sexual orientations of Wheaton students.
“Whether because of the homophobic comments and jokes in the dorms … or the all-encompassing assumptions made in public … there are many ways that LGBTQ students can be made to feel marginalized or isolated,” a Refuge member said.
So Refuge members wanted all speakers at Wheaton to be constantly checking their language for its "sensitivity" to "LGBTQ students," including not making heteronormative assumptions.
That this club was clearly promoting homosexual acts as normal should have been absolutely obvious. Indeed, as I said in the original article, to think otherwise was to tell ourselves lies.
But Wheaton's administrators were bound and determined to tell themselves those lies.
The saga continued when Wheaton's administration came, last winter, to a dim realization that Refuge wasn't what they wanted it to be. (Pause for a thought: What exactly did they want it to be? What does any Christian college think it's doing when it creates such a club? Creating a place and time where homosexual students got together and talked about how they shouldn't commit homosexual acts? That doesn't really sound all that helpful. It also doesn't sound like it would fill a meeting agenda. It also makes one wonder how roommates of these homosexual students feel about their own privacy.) So they stopped letting it be a student-led club, removed Justin Massey, an openly homosexual student who wanted to turn it into a gay-straight alliance, from the leadership, and instead put Julie Rodgers, employed directly by the college, at the helm. Problem solved, right? Gushed President Ryken, "The clear effect of Julie’s ministry has been to draw students in the direction of biblical faithfulness, including areas of sexuality.”
One can only wonder how wildly far from biblical faithfulness the students must have been before that for her ministry to draw them in the direction thereof.
But is that even true in any sense whatsoever? Now, Rodgers (who, please note, has been employed by Wheaton for less than a calendar year) virtually admits that she has been counseling young people with same-sex attraction that it's okay to have committed, physical homosexual relationships!
When young people have angsted at me about the gay debate, I’ve just told them to follow Jesus—to seek to honor Him with their sexuality and love others well. For some, I imagine they will feel led to commit to lifelong celibacy. For others, I think it will mean laying their lives down for spouses and staying true to that promise to the end. My main hope for all of them is that they would grow to love Jesus more and that it would overflow into a life spent on others.
Since she was hired by Wheaton to counsel precisely those young people, it is quite evident that some of these "young people" she is talking about are Wheaton students. And she is openly saying that a) she has told them just to "follow Jesus" and to "honor him with their sexuality" and b) one thing she means by that is having homosexual sex so long as it is in a relationship with a homosexual "spouse."
So Wheaton has brought this woman in to promote celibacy for homosexuals, and it now appears that she has quietly been promoting the opposite. I doubt that the students were so stupid as not to realize what she actually thought about the matter, and frankly, it doesn't sound like she took much trouble to hide it in her counseling of them.
Here are a few more quotes from Rodgers's latest post:
Though I’ve been slow to admit it to myself, I’ve quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now. When friends have chosen to lay their lives down for their partners, I’ve celebrated their commitment to one another and supported them as they’ve lost so many Christian friends they loved.
Gee, how did nobody notice this?
While I struggle to understand how to apply Scripture to the marriage debate today (just like we all struggle to know how to interpret Scripture on countless controversial topics), I’ve become increasingly troubled by the unintended consequences of messages that insist all LGBT people commit to lifelong celibacy. No matter how graciously it’s framed, that message tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love. When that’s the case—when communion is contingent upon gays holding very narrow beliefs and making extraordinary sacrifices to live up to a standard that demands everything from an individual with little help from the community—it’s hard to believe our bodies might be an occasion for joy.
Translation: "It makes people who identify as homosexual feel really bad when you tell them they can't engage in sexual acts, so now I've abandoned that position." Gotta love the smarmy phrase "our bodies might be an occasion for joy" with reference to homosexual sex acts.
Most of the Christians I know love gay people. They simply underestimate the burden of feeling marginalized, scrutinized, unwanted and relationally toxic because one of the best things about us—the way we give our love away—is seen as sinful. It’s easy for straight Christians to underestimate how exhausting it is to simply exist in communities that feel uncomfortable with gays: we’re constantly wondering if we should tell the truth when asked that question, or sleep on the floor when there’s room in the bed,
Yes, Julie, if you mean this literally, you shouldn't be sleeping in a bed with another woman unless one or both of you is going to die of hypothermia in an Arctic winter otherwise. And young people should be counseled in the same way.
or cut that hug short, or voice that question, or publish that post, or write that tweet, or curb that mannerism, or run from that friendship, or shut down those feelings or leave the church altogether. Those fears subside around friends who simply delight in who we are as whole human beings made in the image of God.
Those, of course, would be people who say that homosexual sex acts are perfectly A-okay, in case anyone needed a translation.
But most will find it [a committed relationship] in a spouse because that’s the context we have for making such serious commitments and staying true to them once life happens. When we make those kinds of promises to one another, we need a community to surround us to support us for the long haul. Communities with a traditional sexual ethic have, more often than not, dismissed sexual minorities the moment they moved in this direction. Rather than working out what it would look like for them to stay connected to the church and process all the questions in community, they’ve forced gays to go it alone.
Communities with a traditional sexual ethic have to dismiss "sexual minorities" (gotta love that phrase--do tell, Julie, how many different "sexual minorities" are included?) when they "look in the direction" of actually having sex, because that's what it means to have a traditional sexual ethic. See? How unloving to be true to your principles. These communities were simply supposed to throw all that over when the homosexual people among them decided to do so. We were all supposed to grow together in a more progressive direction.
Because many Christians assume that those who support same-sex relationships do so out of a desire to satiate their appetites rather than sincere Christian convictions, I feel the need to say that I’m not dating anyone (though I’ll add that our public obsession with total strangers’ sex lives does strike me as strange).
In other words, she could start "dating" another woman at any moment, because she now thinks that's just fine. She just happens to be celibate right at this particular moment in her life. Thanks for clearing that up, Julie. Not that any Christian organization should be employing you right now to guide the young anyway, but it's good to have that point clear.
My goal now is the same as it’s always been: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the God who’s been my first love all along. When it comes to this conversation, my goal has been to help Christians create the kinds of communities that make LGBT people feel wanted—where we can worship God, use our gifts, serve our neighbors, and find a family to share in the joys and sorrows of living in a world where so many people are so lonely. That looks a little different to me now that I’ve seen so much fruit in affirming communities, but it’s a widening of my circle—not a move in a different direction.
"Affirming communities" being, of course, those who think homosexual acts are A-okay.
So, does the Wheaton administration now realize what a disastrous mistake it was to form an LGBT club?? Will they dissolve the club? Will they realize that they made a huge mistake in hiring Rodgers herself and that she has not had the effect they wanted and for which they hired her?
Since Rodgers's statement just came out yesterday, we won't know for a while. Pessimist that I am, I suspect that at the most they will go out and find another CHI to lead it.
And one thing I am quite sure of: They will continue to welcome students who hold views diametrically opposed to the school's views on sexuality. Yes, I realize that student beliefs are not quite as crucial as faculty beliefs, but when you have a vocal contingent of students openly rejecting the school's position on perverted sex acts, that should be regarded as a crisis. It is not clear to me that Wheaton has so regarded it, and their approach has been all along to cosset those defiant students and try to find some way to bring them gently along to a biblical view, rather than telling them that they cannot be students at Wheaton while openly and loudly advocating the morality of homosexual sex, period. See this rather bizarre incident in which a morally traditional Wheaton student threw an apple at the shoulder of a vocally, stridently pro-homosexual-acts Wheaton student who was heckling the President in a Q & A. Guess who got disciplined?
The most depressing thing about this whole saga is that Wheaton is trying to hold some kind of principled line. Wheaton is on the relatively good end of Christian colleges from a sexually orthodox point of view. I mean, at least they tried to do some kind of repair on the situation by hiring Rodgers. But they weren't willing and able to say that they'd made a big mistake in allowing Refuge in the first place, to disband it, to start disciplining students and professors who are advocating homosexual acts, and to screen students more closely as part of the admission process. That would be too mean, and the fear of meanness is, in the evangelical world, the road to compromise. Until the Wheaton administration gets over the fear of meanness and replaces it entirely with the fear of God, without apology, they will continue to bumble along leftwards, just more slowly than some other schools.