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    Building Bridges With the Gay Community

    The marginalization of any group of people should disturb The Salvation Army, since one of our core values is to promote the dignity of all persons. August 13, 2012 by Major Juan Burry
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought


    Pastor Charles L. Worley is a North Carolina minister who caused an uproar in May when a segment from his sermon was caught on video and posted online. Worley, infuriated by U.S. President Barack Obama's proclamation that he supported gay marriage, called for the entire homosexual population to be gathered in an electrified enclosure until they perished from lack of reproduction. This was a Christian pastor saying this to his 1,200-member congregation. It's hard to fathom that the sheer contempt and genocidal intimations that spewed from his mouth occurred in North America or a Christian church.

    It's easy to distance ourselves from this preacher and pretend that because his comments do not echo the feelings of most Christians, that we have no investment in this news story. In fact, when it hit the news, I noticed that my Christian friends and colleagues (who love talking about how the media represents Christianity) were unusually silent. If this pastor had said something similar about women or a specific ethnic group, I can guarantee you there would have been more Christians talking about it—in church, coffee shops and on Facebook. People in the church would be up in arms.

    And so they should be. Murder is diametrically opposed to the kind of lifestyle that Jesus preached about. Jesus not only condemned murder, but declared that anyone who expressed hatred and anger against another person, such as Pastor Worley did, sinned against God (see Matthew 5:22). One would think that we should have pounced on this opportunity to speak about the love and kindness of Christ and rectify any misconceptions that Pastor Worley created. From my experience, Salvationists often push to the front of the line to tell people just how friendly our churches are and how we would love to see them come visit us on Sunday. So, why didn't we in this case?

    The Salvation Army prides itself on its service to the poor and marginalized. But what does it mean to be marginalized? We see that word used in Army publications and articles, but who are we talking about when we speak of the “marginalized”? We are talking about people who have been excluded from significant participation in society and have been consigned to the cultural fringes. They are people who walk into the same places as you and me; the only distinction is that they have the nagging feeling that at least some of the people in those places don't want them there. In my missional context as the executive director of an addictions and rehabilitation centre, I cannot think of a people group more marginalized than those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

    The marginalization of any group of people should disturb The Salvation Army, since one of our core values is to promote the dignity of all persons. Marginalizing people inevitably leads to oppression. Did you know that 30 percent of the suicides in Canada are committed by LGBT people, while most estimates figure that LGBT people make up only five percent of the total population? Did you know that LGBT students in this country hear on average 26 slurs each day? Or that more than a quarter of the young people who tell their parents that they are LGBT get kicked out of their homes? Recent studies have demonstrated that the number of youths living on the street in Victoria (where I live) is growing and a disproportionate number of them are LGBT. As the Army's sheltering representative in this city, what do I have to say to my community about this? More importantly, what can I do? I can provide a temporary roof to put over their heads, but shouldn't I also be concerned about attacking the fundamental causes of this marginalization and not just the symptoms?

    Which brings me back to my original question after the Pastor Worley video went viral. Why don't we react as swiftly or significantly when marginalization happens to those in the LGBT community as compared to other groups? Is it because many Christians believe, as the Army's positional statement says, that gay marriage is not something the Bible supports and, therefore, they're not sure how to bridge that gap? Or maybe that's a convenient pretext and the fact is that many of us still hold prejudices towards our LGBT neighbours that we don't want to confess exist. Or maybe I'm wrong and we really are doing our best to provide dignity to all.

    But if what I am saying reflects the reality in your own corps or church, I would encourage you to start talking about it. Talk to your corps officer or leadership team. Ask them what can be done. Get the discussion started. Because if The Salvation Army doesn't extend hope to everyone in our society, then our promises are just words.

    Major Juan Burry is the executive director of Victoria's Addictions and Rehabilitation Centre.

    Comment

    On Tuesday, August 16, 2016, Ira Barrow said:

    About CASTING people out of the church. If worthiness were the key to unlock the church doors we would all be outside-- every one of us.

    I don't think the writer who demands that on the basis of scripture does not understand what the Bible is saying. I always tell people, "Never mind what the Bible says; but mind carefully what the Bible means!" Interpretation is vital!

    It is too bad people do not read more of the Army's early-day history. Kate Booth, when in France, had some pretty low-down characters in her meetings. In fact, she encouraged them to come in. And during the meeting some of them swore at her and acted in ways that would demand TV networks of today to inform viewers it is 18+ viewing. But Kate's love for those people and for their souls was primary in all she did and said. So, don't talk about barring the doors to anyone lest we ourselves be found wanting.

    What hypocrites we would be to do take control of the keys to the church in that way! After all He who we claim to follow and emulate said when a woman was being condemned by religious folks of that day, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." (I can almost hear stones being dropped on the ground.)

    Lord, bless ALL the dear children (and adults) in Thy tender care, is my prayer of inclusiveness.

    On Saturday, August 13, 2016, Ray Simms said:

    I found the original article to be very informative, thought provoking and presented in a spirit of love. What followed only reminds me of the continued controversy. While controversy can be healthy within a closed discussion, in this forum, anyone outside of the group only heard the the negative judgmental arguments which do nothing to reach out to those who are marginalized. It certainly does not encourage them to seek any sort of comfort or feel any love or desire to be part of "the church". I am not sure how any of the Christina's of the church would reach one person for the kingdom. Most would go running in the opposite direction.

    On Tuesday, May 5, 2015, Eric said:

    Juan, best answer I've seen yet! Made my day.

    Anyhow.....

    Whenever someone says "The Bible is Clear," The FIRST thought that follows should be the question: "Why is it clear?"

    Considering that Scripture was not written in English, or in any modern language, then our English versions of Scripture are translations that may or may not be right. So, as Paul tells us, we have to study. You cant just look at something and say 'its clear,' if it seems to be so, then you have to be able to prove WHY it is....

    It has long been my opinion that the 'traditional' interpretations of these Scriptures fail miserably in application. I have never read or heard about an interpretation of Scripture that has led nearly an entire group of people [possibly anywhere from 210 - 490 Million people, worldwide] to believe that not only do Christians hate them, but the Church hates them, and God hates them. [So much for being Ambassadors of God's love!]

    Liars, drunks, thieves, murderers, rapists, pedophiles and just about anyone else who commits a sin not only KNOWS they're doing it, but also gets the feeling that God, even though He loves them, is disappointed in them. Some may believe they are so far gone that there's no hope of forgiveness, but they dont believe God hates them. [ok, there may be a few exceptions to the rule, and I will grant you that..]

    What is the supposed sin of a homosexual? Loving someone of the same gender, and expressing that love in sexual acts. Which is basically what heterosexuals do all the time, seemingly, according to some, with God's seal of approval reserved ONLY for the heterosexual. [Which leaves the question of whether or not God's a bigot, and I really don't like that idea!]

    What if the only sin surrounding homosexuality is the way Christians react to it? In many cases, Christians don't seem to be reacting to homosexuality in a loving or compassionate manner. Some will even fabricate or exaggerate facts in an attempt to demonize homosexuals [read: bear false witness against their neighbour]. Doesn't sound very Christlike to me! Do we protest liars? What about the "No-tell Motel" where the married men are committing adultery? Do we stand on street corners holding up signs that say: "God hates Audultery?" Do we enact laws that allow people to discriminate based on their 'deeply held religious beliefs' that allow us to stop offering our services to people who drink? [I do realize this is a Canadian site, but some of this is what is happening in the USA..]

    As Christians, we are the representatives of Christ. The things that He would do if He were incarnate in our world today are the things WE are supposed to be doing. He isn't here right now [physically], but He once walked this Earth, and during His earthly ministry Jesus often called-out the religious leaders of His day that got God's message wrong.

    Today, people are getting the message wrong. Instead of reaching out in love to a group of people who find themselves on the margins of society, we reach out with condemnation and bigotry. Instead of trying to find ways to build bridges to these people and bring them into the family of God, we look for excuses and Biblical references to keep them out. [Do we hate them so much? They certainly seem to think so!]

    Regardless of whether you want to believe it or not: God is reaching out IN LOVE to the gay and lesbian community. He has already found people who are willing to re-examine what they think about 5 [Sodom & Gommorah isn't about homosexuality, its about hospitality] Verses of Scripture: FIVE.

    Are these 5 verses of Scripture and their seemingly misinterpretation so important that we are willing to let people believe God hates them?

    At the beginning of The Salvation Army, we were one of the most innovative and forward-thinking churches of the day. William Booth and his helpers went where God led them, ministered to whomever God brought them, and ALWAYS worked to find ways to evangelize the people the other churches wouldn't dare minister to.

    Not any more. Today, we're respectable, set in our ways, and not willing to do anything WE think is going to damage our good reputation, or our relationship with other Evangelical churches. Well... If our reputation and our alliances with other churches gets in the way of doing a simple thing like finding a way to love and accept people whom other churches reject... then.. we can do without them!

    On Tuesday, May 5, 2015, Juan said:

    Hi Christina,

    I wasn't going to respond to your litany of verses, but I was intrigued by something you said after one of those lists. You said, "What I said doesn’t go against God’s word at all. I am sorry if you cannot see that. God’s word is more than abundantly clear."

    Let's assume that you are correct in your notion. I disagree with your statement. The Bible is clear on many overarching themes, but on many things it is very unclear. That is why we have theologians and scholars who devote their lives to understanding it. Even our own Wesleyan heritage tells us that we have to examine the Bible through the lenses of logical reasoning, church tradition and personal experience. Nevertheless, let's assume you are correct - the Bible is more than clear and can be taken on its face.

    In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, the writer says, "A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." Under your paradigm, in which the Bible is more than clear, it is clear to me that women should not be instructing men about spiritual and ethical matters. Therefore, your other comments about scripture and homosexuality are ipso facto nullified because everything you say to the men, such as Brad and Donald, in this conversation is subsumed under the paradigm which you have created. So, essentially, if we accept the foundation of your argument, then your argument collapses on itself.

    If you want to engage the debate from a different perspective, other than the "Bible is clear" point of view, then you may have a leg on which to stand. But for now, the argument doesn't hold up.

    On Thursday, April 30, 2015, christina said:

    Brad...you said

    Christina, my heart goes out to people like you. You really are trying to be a “good Christian;” especially at the end when you say “I love you anyway Brad.”

    I thank you for that because I DO love you anyway, regardless of whether I actually know you or not.

    I do apologise if I am coming across rather harshly. I don't mean to but I am just that kind of shoot from the hip person. I believe in the uncompromising truth and am not afraid to say it.

    I don't wish to continue this discussion any longer but will finish off with this.

    I do believe without a doubt that God loves gay people just as passionately as he does the rest of us and would want us to do the same.

    But you are living in a fantasy world if you think that God wouldn't expect you to leave the homosexual life if you want to be an active participant in serving His church.

    EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US, GAYS OR WHOMEVER, is expected to leave behind that old man of sin when we accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour. And although being saved makes us forgiven sinners, not perfect people, we are called to draw upon the strength of God to help us avoid falling back into sin

    I believe God makes gay people gay but not the the reasons many think. God tests us all in different ways for reasons known only to Him. God makes gay people gay to TEST them to see if they would choose a few years of sin over eternity with God.

    I once knew a young gay man in his late teens from Australia, a really nice young guy, the kind you could just love to pieces. He was a devout christian who abandoned homosexuality and chose a celibate life BECAUSE HE SAW THE TRUTH. He knew that homosexuality was an abomination as the bible says it is, and chose willingly to stay celibate although I know it must have been very difficult for him.

    Its too bad we sort of lost touch over time.

    Jesus came into this world fist and formeost to save the lost, not judge and condemn them which He will not do till He comes again.

    His is why He said to the adulterous woman Neither do I condemn thee.

    But too many people like to ignore the second part of that passage where Christ says Go and SIN NO MORE.

    Jesus also said to the paralytic man in John 5

    John 5:14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

    Not that his illness or whatever would come back to him but that he could die in his sin

    Now I would not be very loving to you if I did not tell you, in Jesus' name Go not and SIN NO MORE. Leave the homosexual life lest you die in your sin.

    Also as a forgiven sinner who has no right to judge you. I do not judge you or condemn you but am only speaking the truth as God has taught me over intensive Bible study of more than 15 years.

    On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Brad said:

    Christina, my heart goes out to people like you. You really are trying to be a "good Christian;" especially at the end when you say "I love you anyway Brad."

    I have come to learn, as a born-again believer, I am already accepted by God. I don't need acceptance from anybody else. Jesus Christ loves me just as I am! As a matter of fact, Zephaniah 3:17 says He takes great delight in me and that in His love he will no longer rebuke me. That verse also tells me that the Lord rejoices over me with singing. Imagine that!

    God knows me and loves me AND while I may not be welcome in your church, I know I am welcome in His presence.

    I don't have all the answers and I don't need to have all of them. What I do know is that I am blessed, loved and highly favoured by the same God who created the universe.

    On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Royal senter said:

    Christina, do you realize that the argument that you are making affectively says that a person needs to become a wholly sanctified Christian before they can come to church?

    The relationship a person can have with the church will vary depending on many things and not everyone who comes to our meetings can become a member or give a testimony or take some leadership or other things, but everyone is welcome to come to the meeting, even week after week for years. They don't have believe what we believe or live as we teach to come to our meetings.

    On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Christina said:

    @Brad....oh really...Have you read Romans 1:26-28 and 1 Cor 6:9? they are very clear. You cannot open the house of God to unrepentant sinners.

    Let me give you another example, not of homosexuality per se but fornication of another kind

    1 Corinthians 5:1 It is reported commonly [that there is] fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.

    1 Corinthians 5:2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

    1 Corinthians 5:3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, [concerning] him that hath so done this deed,

    1 Corinthians 5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

    1 Corinthians 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

    1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

    1 Corinthians 5:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

    Later on it tells people to keep their hearts open to forgiving that person and welcoming him back is is right to do if he repents.

    But what, first and foremost, does it tell people to do with that person? CAST HIM OUT.

    God's word does not change. We are not to have unrepentant fornicators in His house

    What I said doesn't go against God's word at all. I am sorry if you cannot see that. God's word is more than abundantly clear.

    @Donald

    God will deal with them. And really if a person accepts Christ as lord in savior because of the ministry of a homosexual will that nullify there acceptance?

    Absolutely not. I pray for gays all the time that they repent. I want to see them in heaven and if they repent and choose to live celibately, then God bless them.

    PS….I know we are all sinners who are bound to slip up now and again. I don’t pretend to be perfect myself.
    But still there are certain standards that Christians must uphold when it comes to who to allow in God’s house, in His church services.

    I would like to add…

    2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

    I should clarify something too, sorry, don’t meant to babble on like this. I am not in any way saying that gays should be shut out of any of the social services offered by the S.A. Not at all. I would never treat them as many in Jesus’s day treated lepers.

    I was speaking strictly of Sunday gathering services. I know that isn’t going to sound much better to most of you here though.

    I love you anyway Brad…

    On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Donald Jefcoat said:

    A couple of years ago I sat down with my bible, my dictionary, Google, and prayerfully questioned many of christian teachings. Some of those teachings were in some cases a direct violation of scriptures. And some where miscommunications or misguided attempts at good.

    In this time I came to the conclusion that most of what we think and how we act in many conservative, fundamentalist, and holiness movements need to unfocussed. Jesus sat down in his first training college and really put the action requirements of his followers in clear direct teaching. We call this the Sermon on the mount. The sermon on the mount went past the beatitudes. It taught us to forgive others including our enemies. It taught us to never cast judgement. It taught us to not worry about who is included in Gods Kingdom as we will screw it up. We are to plant seeds, share the good news, and be living testaments to Gods love. God will do the rest.

    I believe that we need to lovingly welcome Gays Lesbians into our family. With that said I believe what is expected of them and their behavior should be the same as we expect of heterosexuals. A sense of respect of others. No excessive displays of affection (no sexual activity). Jesus himself said there will be people in heaven we didnt expect to see. There will be people not in heaven we thought we would. Many people think that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the homosexual acts. They seem to forget that it was destroyed because of all the sinful activity. The worst wasnt the sex but the mean spirited hearts. They just didint love God or his people. Homosexuality has been in our world since the beginning of time. However in this time we are not forcing it to be a hidden dirty secret that breads in ones heart they need to lie. But rather we want to embrace the person and show them they dont need to lie. God will deal with them. And really if a person accepts Christ as lord in savior because of the ministry of a homosexual will that nullify there acceptance?

    On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Captain Royal Senter said:

    I am with you Brad. Gay people are and always will be welcome in any corps at which I am the corps officer. We may not agree on the "acceptability" of same-sex sexual activity and I won't compromise the Word of God but everyone is welcome into God's house.

    On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Brad said:

    So much I could say in response to your uneducated comment Christina; but I doubt you would understand where I am coming from.

    You said that "they do not belong in any house of God as long as they continue in the lifestyle." This goes against God's Word! If a house of God is not open to the whosoever, then it is not God's house!

    On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Christina said:

    I know its highly unlikely that anyone will read this post at this rate but I wanted to say something any way.

    We, every single one of us are sinners in this world and we are each called to love sinners no matter what, even gay people.

    but that still doesn't take away from the FACT that homosexuality is an abomination against God and we are to warn people to repent and abandon the practice.

    Any reference to Sodomites in the bible is a reference to homosexuality because of...

    Genesis 19:5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where [are] the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

    Also any one read Romans 1:26-28?

    1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another *; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
    1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;


    1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor EFFEMINATE, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, (<-- read here, gay people)

    Being gay by itself is not a sin. But acting upon it is. Gays need to repent and choose celibate lives or they have no chance. There will be no heaven for them. And they do not belong in any house of God as long as they continue in the lifestyle.

    If we do not warn them to repent, they will perish and we will be held accountable for their blood. I do not wish them to perish. I love gays and want to see them saved but this liberal wishy washy attitude that many here seem to have isn't helping them

    On Saturday, July 19, 2014, Shaed said:

    No matter how many ways it is said "the way you feel for your soulmate and the way you feel compelled to express that love is and always will be evil" is never something that someone will accept. That is what "homosexuality is sinful" means to gay people. As long as that is the position of the Church, any attempt at building bridges is going to fail. It isn't something you can agree-to-disagree with someone and still have a healthy spiritual relationship.

    On Wednesday, November 13, 2013, Captain Royal Senter said:

    Everyone should be welcomed in our corps. Jesus himself said that he did not come to call the healthy but the sick, not the righteous but sinners to repentance. But that means just that, sinners to repentance, not sinners to get comfortable and accepting of their sin. Sadly, I think that many Christians have become comfortable and accepting of many sins but then get all bent out of shape about homosexuality. That is not right. No sin is acceptable, Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you, now go and SIN NO MORE." That applies equally to being greedy, self-righteous, sexually promiscuous, to divorce, to worldliness, materialism, self-indulgence, lack of concern for the lost or the poor or the victims of injustice and to homosexuality as well as countless other sins. Sinners of all types are welcomed but they are still called to repentance. We all continue to sin in one way or another but an unrepentant sinner, no matter their sin, cannot be a leader or a teacher. It is unfortunate that some sins are far less easy to identify so some unrepentant sinners continue to lead and teach.

    On Monday, November 4, 2013, Arnold White said:

    Gay should be accepted.. You sin too. Homosexuality is just another sin no more or less equal then any one else's sins.

    On Monday, November 4, 2013, Rob K said:

    I am a fourth generation Salvationist, but I do not attend the Salvation Army anymore. There are a lot of reasons why, but primarily I was fed up of saying I had not met the right woman yet. I now am a member of the Quakers who accept me as ME .... when the Salvation Army starts accepting people as they ARE they will start moving in the direction of being welcome to all. Lesbians & gay men in the Salvation Army don't want special measures, they just wanted to be treated as equals.

    On Thursday, September 26, 2013, Desmond Jagger-Parsons (Rev.) said:

    This week I had been having a social media debate about whether or not people should support the Salvation Army because of the collective position on same-sex marriage, etc...I said that, as is the case with Major Burry (got to be another Newfoundlander with a name like that), that my experience of Salvationists is that they are as broad minded and open as any other group in Canada. I am pleased to see Major Burry's article, and I like that instead of getting into another seemingly never ending debate about full inclusion of LGBTQ community WITHIN the church, that Major Burry is talking about how the church should be IN THE WORLD. An offshoot from Methodism, like my own tradition in the United Church, the Salvation Army's great gift to the universal church is it's dedication to joining with Jesus in his mission in the world helping the marginalized. This message is a natural extension of that charism.

    On Sunday, November 25, 2012, lmba said:

    Juan,

    Thank you for speaking up on this issue. It is refreshing to hear it addressed within the SA, as it is not something that I have heard spoken about from the pulpit at any time. The few times that I have heard SA officers address anything related to homosexuality, the comments have always struck me as justifications for (or a way of covering over) our congregations' failures to be inclusive and truly seek a tearing down of walls between the Church and LGBT individuals. As Christians, I don't believe that we have a right to place blame on marginalized communities for not wanting to connect with us! LGBT individuals who are not practicing Christians should not be expected to follow Jesus' example in reaching out to "us," when they have not signed up for Christ's mission!

    The Salvation Army, however, DOES have a responsibility to break down the barriers that separate people from God. This is our calling as a denomination. I think that the conversation about sin (or whether homosexuality is a "sinful practice") is missing the point. I do not believe it is necessary for us to make decisions about the sinfulness of another's actions. As people come to know God, Holy Spirit works in their lives to reveal the sin from which He wants to free them. I have all kinds of sin in my life, and I know that God wants to free me from it, however the moment that I chose to follow Him, I wasn't given a list of each of my sins to repent of. Over time, God has revealed areas of my life that He wants to heal and work on with me. Sometimes that involves someone else calling me out on my sin, but more often it is a conviction that comes internally through Holy Spirit's movement. I believe it must be the same for LGBT people who know God. If God does in fact want to make a change in a person's sexuality, I don't believe that will come from a churchgoer declaring that it is a sin. It will come from the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in each person's heart - AFTER he or she has come into relationship with Him.

    A few years ago, I attended a Christian conference discussing issues of sexuality. One woman shared that her friend (a lesbian woman) had recently become engaged to her girlfriend. The woman was struggling to find the right way of expressing love and support to her friend... She wanted to pray for her friend, but her mixed feelings about the marriage made her confused about what to pray for. A wise friend of mine (a gay man) gently responded that she should pray for her friend to know Jesus. He explained that each person's deepest need is to be in relationship with God, and whatever we can do to facilitate that is the best way to be a friend to that person. The playing out of that woman's relationship, sexuality, marriage, etc. is not the most important thing! It is her connection with God that will matter most. Too often, I think that we Christians (and I know that I am guilty of this) pray for the "problem" to go away (the addiction, the illness, the unhealthy relationship, etc.) while forgetting that these issues are secondary to what God really wants: to commune with our spirits.

    Rather than worry about whether something someone else does is right or wrong, it seems more sensible to think about what each person needs in order for God's love and desire to be with them to be revealed. In many cases, I believe that the first step is often for believers to simply state the truth of Christ's message:
    Those who preach hatred and violence and exclusion are not representing Christ.
    Jesus loves each of us - even those who are declared "sinners" by the religious leaders!
    Not only does Jesus love "sinners" in an abstract way, but He also wants to hang out with those people in their day-to-day lives. (That is, He LIKES them, too!)
    God instructs us explicitly not to judge others, and urges us to welcome the "unclean," the "sinful," the rejected members of society.

    If our beliefs around homosexuality spill over and prevent us from speaking out against injustice and suffering in the world (for example: Pastor Worley's comments, the stigma and isolation surrounding AIDS, bullying of queer youth, etc.), then it is time to take a long, hard look at what the fruit of those beliefs really is. Do our beliefs around sexuality produce love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

    On Wednesday, November 7, 2012, Brad Oxford said:

    Thank you Juan. I do not lose hope because of such ignorant comments. Thank God for HIS Mercy and Grace!

    On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Juan said:

    Sylvia, I don't find your comments offensive. I find them mostly irrelevant to the subject matter at hand and completely uninformed. I would suggest that if you insist on starting any conversation with this tired old rhetoric that you put some effort and study into it first and use Scripture in a more responsible manner. Ultimately I would encourage you to abandon your current manner of engagement since I can guarantee it isn't working.

    Hey Brad, it takes all kinds of people to make up the world and the church. Hopefully through some of the other forty comments you have experienced some grace. Peace.

    On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Brad Oxford said:

    Hey, see Juan, comments like the "salvationists" (Sylvia Brin) is a good example of why the unsaved see the church as people who are "better" than anyone else. It's people like her who have an "If you find my comments offensive then I am sorry [BUT]" attitude that not only keep people away from our churches but drive them away! So sad!!!

    On Monday, November 5, 2012, Sandi Jones said:

    This in response to the article "Bridging the Gap" (August 2012) written by Major Juan Burry and Captain Royal Senter's letter in the September Salvationist.

    Your final sentence "If I can figure out how to bridge that gap I'll be very glad to". That "gap" is a result of sinful actions, not the people themselves but their actions and only Jesus Christ by His death on the cross was able to bridge the gap between a Holy God and a sinful people. If there is a gap in our churches between the LGBT community and our congregants then it is because the LGBT communities support and participate in actions that God says are wrong. We can welcome them to our churches, but I don't believe that we can condone actions that go against God. When God forgives the sin He changes the behaviour. Sin is sin, there are no big sins and there are no little sins. When what we do goes against God's will then we have sinned. We do not become instant saints. Many will struggle with their desires for the remainder of their lives, but by the grace of God they will live lives that are pleasing to a Holy God.

    Building bridges with the gay community is not an easy task. Bridges are two directional. Building a bridge between the LGBT community and our churches which are now referred to as "faith Communities" does not mean that one community gives up its beliefs for the other one. If we are to build a bridge between the gay community and our community then we need to ask ourselves what they will see when they walk across the bridge to visit our community. Suzie Day speaks to the issue of not feeling comfortable in The Salvation Army because of her choice of lifestyle. She has however found a church in which she is comfortable. This church accommodates her lifestyle and supports her beliefs and actions. She makes the statement that she and her partner were celebrated.

    To celebrate is to extol or honor. In other words this church (community of people) is honoring her and her partner, thereby supporting her actions and lifestyle. As a church (community of people) the Salvation Army does not condone homosexual behaviour, how then can we celebrate the homosexual? Will they see a church that takes God and His word seriously? Will they see a Jesus who picks up the sinner and says "you are forgiven, go and sin no more", or will they see a Jesus who picks up the sinner and says, “continue on in your lifestyle even though it goes against God's will”? Will they see a church that stands firm on the word of God or will they see a church that says "We will change God's word or interpret it differently so that you will feel comfortable."

    It is not the church that mankind will have to answer to when our Lord returns, it is Almighty God who we will answer to. Will He change His mind on the day of judgement and say...."I didn't mean it when I instructed Moses to write those laws in the book of Deuteronomy.” I'm not really a "jealous God" as I said so many times in the Old Testament. We cannot bridge the gap (Jesus did that at Calvary), but should members of the LGBT community venture into our churches perhaps we can introduce them to a God-honoring lifestyle that satisfies our inner self not just makes us feel warm and fuzzy.

    On Thursday, September 20, 2012, Juan Burry said:

    I wanted to take a moment to say a few words about the conversation that has been happening around my column. I have always enjoyed participating in the discussion threads on this website. However, I decided that when I wrote for the magazine that I would stay out of the discussion threads as much as possible. I figured, “I’ve given my two cents. Now let others chime in.” However, there are a couple of things I would like to say to help the conversation continue after it has disappeared from the magazine’s homepage.

    First of all, I would like to thank everyone for participating in the discussion. There is so little that one can say about such an important subject in a mere 800 words. My main goal for this column was to get people talking about the issue. At least in the context of this website, that has happened. For the most part, the comments have been very respectful and helpful to the ongoing dialogue. David is correct in his reminder above. The purpose of the article was to build bridges, not put more stumbling blocks in the way. I’ve seen a lot of discussion forums and threads around the internet that cover the topic of whether or not homosexuality is a sin. That was not the main purpose of this discussion. Perhaps there are more appropriate places on the web to go if that is what you want to do.

    At the same time, I do appreciate and feel that I understand the comments of Royal Senter. There seems to be a big elephant in the room when talking about building bridges and I think Royal’s concerns are valid and come from someone who is genuinely in a dilemma over this situation. From where some sit, it may seem like a gulf that we cannot cross. But I don’t believe that is the case. I think every chasm can be crossed. Personally, I think it begins with exposure and dialogue. I am amazed at the number of people who hold strong opinions about LGBT people or issues like gay marriage only to discover that they actually don’t even know anyone who is gay, let alone make an effort to talk to someone.

    I have been pleased to read the testimonies here and ones that I have received via e-mail and Facebook from gay Christians. While that phrase alone will upset some people, I am reminded of their witness that Christ is real to them and that salvation is for all those who believe in the Son of God. Perhaps for a moment we can put off the self-righteousness and remember that among millions of Christians throughout the world there are many who have beliefs different than ours. As Salvation Army people, we should be among the first to recognize that. Some Christians might question our genuineness as believers since we do not practice the sacraments or because we do not believe in “irresistible grace”. It takes all kinds of believers to make up the Body and I think we are too quick most times to start hacking off limbs for various reasons. The people I have met who are both Christian and gay have been lovely people who are sincere about their faith. Chances are many of them have thought their faith through and have a fairly deep theological system that explains why being a gay Christian is OK. We can start building that bridge by asking people to tell us about their journey. It is so easy to dismiss someone else’s faith from a distance. It is quite another thing to ignore it when you know the person, love the person, and take time to show compassion to the person.

    So whether you are someone who believes God’s salvation and his church is inclusive or you are someone who still thinks this is something outside of God’s will, both groups can talk and reach out. Seek to understand and also seek to be understood. But do so with gentleness and compassion. There are two quotes that have been in my mind as of late and I think both are helpful as we go forward:

    Make no judgments where you have no compassion. (Anne McCaffrey)

    and

    Exposure is one of the key tenets of wisdom. (A high school friend)

    On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, Brad Oxford said:

    Captain Royal, thank you for the words above spoken from your heart - as I feel they were.

    Like many in society whom we have come in contact with, there are some who will NEVER accept the Gospel message; including many LGBT. However, like many others in society who are looking for something to fill the void in their lives, so there are LGBT seeking for something more. We all know that human relationships (homosexual or hetrosexual) are not in and of themselves totally satisfying. Until one finds The Light of Life the void is there. I would never expect you or anyone else to change their views for the sake of changing them or because someone says you should. In fact, I'm not sure one can change their views until that need for change is felt in their own life - in their heart/mind - if indeed it is ever felt. I do believe though, there can be a happy medium reached where the views of people like yourself are not trampled upon as well as the views of the LGBT. Then we live in harmony allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our living. I'm sure you have discovered by now that Christ will point out things in one's life that needs changing although we have seen nothing wrong with that area of our lives before. Such is the case as we all live together in harmony walking this journey. You are not "watering down your beliefs" or "compromising" anything by living in harmony with your fellow man. God will NEVER judge anyone harshly for loving any of his creation.

    Let's begin the "bridge building" at the beginning - love! Love and acceptance of all, even if the church see's them as "sinner's." Once the "building of relationships" begins (and building relationships are key) I believe the Holy Spirit will guide the way forward.

    Please understand, I have no ill feelings toward you or any of the above commenters. We are all God's children, with the same eternal goal in mind. Let's help others in their journey, and healthy conversation is a way.

    On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, Captain Royal Senter said:

    Brad, you are correct. The issue at hand is building bridges. I am not sure that you believe that I honestly would like to do exactly that. My dilemma is how to do that while being faithful to Scripture as I and many others read it.

    There is a huge obstacle in the way of building bridges. The LGBT community is not likely to be very receptive to any overtures from any group (including The Salvation Army) that maintains that homosexual activity is sinful and, frankly, if I was in your position, I would feel the same way.

    At the same time, we cannot deny who we are or what we believe to be God's truth. I'd like to say, "I think you are wrong and you think I am wrong. Now that we understand each other, let's be friends." Is it that easy?

    While we will undoubtedly never reach agreement about the place of LGBT people in the church, I want to close with my own words of apology for any abuse, disrespect of any other form of negative treatment that I or the people of Christ have displayed or harboured against you. I firmly believe that it is the place of the followers of Christ to be at the forefront of guarding the dignity and rights of all people.

    On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, Brad Oxford said:

    Royal Senter: you say "The issue at hand is whether or not homosexuality is sinful." Hummmmm, you are incorrect. The issue at hand is the title of Majoy Burry's article, "Building Bridges With The Gay Community." As long as you (and others) sit behind your computer trying to convince LGBT that they are sinners, you are failing to fulfill the entire purpose of the article. The "Bridge" will never be built with the technique used above by yourself and others. You, and many more who think like you have to make some serious changes in your approach if there is ever any hope of reaching LGBT.

    On Friday, September 7, 2012, Grant said:

    Thank you so much for your kind and powerful words Eric on August 31st...May i say that it is what i wanted to say however did not know how to put it into written form. Blessings to you for first of all having and taking the courage to say what you have said. Those of us who a part of the LGBT are and would be very thankful for you comment. As well thank you so much Bradley for your Prayer.

    Blessings to you all.....Please Army world may i plead with you to continue to work with the LGBT comunnity instead of pointing fingers and judging....you are driving us further away from the church instead of closer.

    Blessings to you all as you consider this and previous postings.
    Grant

    On Thursday, September 6, 2012, Royal Senter said:

    Well, so much for having made a final comment.

    I do want to say that I would never say that a gay, lesbian or otherwise person is not saved. Who am I to say such a thing? Jesus came to save sinners and we are all sinners. Whatever may be our particular struggle with sin, we are all in the same boat with respect to our need for a savious and we are all objects of God's wrath without the grace of God. God's grace is scandalous to many because He pours it out very liberally and upon many people that the "righteous" would never expect. This is why Jesus ruffled so many feathers - he was the friend of sinners.

    The issue at hand is whether or not homosexuality is sinful. So what does it mean to be sinful? The word means to "miss the mark." In other words, anything that deviates from God's created plan is sinful. For Bernard to suggest that all sexuality is sinful because Adam and Eve became sexually aware at the fall is a clear misreading of the text. They became aware of the fact that they were naked but they had already been commanded to be fruitful and multiply. Sexuality was part of creation. Their new found awareness of their nakedness indicates that their pure sexuality had suddenly been corrupted. By clearly stating that God created them male and female and then moving directly into the command to be fruitful, it appears that sexuality and two genders are inseparably linked. Homosexuality is merely one way in which human sexuality has deviated from God's creation plan. Therefore, there is no difference between homosexuality, promiscuity, adultery or any other sexual sin. There are many scripture passages that clearly show that homosexual activity is sinful. Again, it is no worse than any other sin but when sin is denied, there is a problem. If a promiscuous heterosexual person says there is nothing wrong with their sexual behavious then there is a problem; if a greedy person says there is nothing wrong with their greed, then there is a problem and so on and so on.

    Now, the LGBT community says that God created them that way. I am not sure how they arrive at that conclusion. Is homosexuality a choice? No doubt it is not. Is it natural? Perhaps, but what does it mean to be natural? The world in which we live is corrupted through and through so things natural are not necessarily godly or god-ordained. Certainly it is much easier to deny the reality of sin that to have to wrestle with it. It is easier to surrender to a persistent temptation than to surrender to God's full righteous standard.

    On Wednesday, September 5, 2012, David Oxford said:

    The Major presented an article to build bridges with the gay community. I fear that many of the comments presented above to his article is making that bridge very difficult to build. I have no intention of debating whether homosexuality is right or wrong. I, however, long to see the day when there will no longer be a need for a bridge or a separate community because we will be able to live in harmony. The last time I checked being a Christian does not give us the right to judge.

    On Monday, September 3, 2012, Brad Oxford said:

    Dear Heavenly Father:
    I pray for your church here on earth, I pray that the eyes of their hearts may be opened and that they can see clearly our fellow man/woman through your eyes. So many in society are giving up hope because of where they find themselves in their journey. Sadly, many of them are teenagers. Lord, I'm sure you know even more of what I speak about. My heart aches for the ones who feel "down and out." I know it is your desire that people who feel hopeless would look to the church, but Lord, so many just can't accept people who have flaws. Help us all to see our own sin and not so much the sin of others.

    Lord, we know clearly what your Word teaches about many issues, but above all you have preached, proclaimed and lived love. Help your children do the same. Love above all.

    Lord, help the church to accept ALL men/women right where they are and leave the rest up to your Holy Spirit. Oh Lord, I plead with you today, make our churches lighthouses of hope and not places of condemnation. Help each of us to stand still and see the need of grace in our own lives. Help us see ourselves as sinners in daily need of your love and mercy. Surely we have not yet arrived and indeed still have our own "hang-ups" that have yet to be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Change our minds! Change our hearts! Open our eyes! In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!

    On Saturday, September 1, 2012, Bernard Thornett (UK) said:

    Captain Senter you say that Alex's argument about eating pork and wearing mixed fabrics, etc shows a lack of understanding of etc etc. I think that you show a lack of undersatnding of LGBT
    people.
    Surely it is pointless to argue that gayness is sinful, since hetersexuality is also sinful.
    Have we forgotten about original sin where adam eats the forbiden apple and becomes sexually aware. Now is someone going to use that to say that being a heterosexual is a choice? I can assure you that being gay is NOT a choice and that God in his/her wisdom created gay people for God's own reason. I and you cannot say what that reason is. But a possiblity might be for population control. However I trust God! I will nvever use the "H" word or the "Q" word as any gay male who lived in Britain throughout the 1950s, such as myself, know that these word are derogatory and hateful. I recall my Officer mother telling me that being gay is sinful and my response was that if it is so I'll go to Hell loving God. As I said earlier being gay is just as sinful as being straight. Straights seem to forget this when they point the finger! I aplaud the "Building Bridges With the Gay Community" by the Canadian S. A. Yes we are all siners and those of us who are saved, are saved from that sin by the grace of God. I hate all this "proof texting" of the Bible. The Bible has an overall meaning. And some of us need to remember that Jesus never mentioned gayness and why sould he because it is as normal being gay as it is to be straight!

    On Friday, August 31, 2012, Eric said:

    Holiness isn't holier than thou, doesn't point fingers, doesn't exclude, doesn't judge. Holiness reaches out to everyone on their level, then let's HolySpirit do His job to convict of sin. It is not our job to point fingers and judge, or to exclude those whom God has brought to us. Whatever happened to 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone?'

    Did you people read the statistics about suicide? About gay youth being turned out of their homes? About kids being excessively bullied? And yet, here you sit in judgment, claiming God's word and God's law to bring futher pain and sufferig to those who already hurt! No wonder gays and lesbians don't want anything to do with Christian churches.

    So, go ahead, sit here and debate the 'sinful nature of homosexuality.' And the whole time your doing it, gay men and lesbians are leaving the church, turning their back on God beacue His people, who tell them God loves them, can't show God's love to them, making it nothing more than a lie.

    IF the Army TRULY wants to build bridges to the gay community, they should stop talking about it and start doign it! The first step might be to actually talk to openly gay/lesbian people who identify as Christians and find out how they were able to reconcile their sexuality with their spirituality. And I don't mean to listen to them while thinking in the back of your mind that they are mislead, or wrong... after all, they might be right, and YOU could be wrong..

    Until the Army actually starts to engage in a positive manner within the gay community, all this talk of brigde-building is nice, but until it is put into practice, its nothing more than words, another sweet-sounding lie.

    On Thursday, August 30, 2012, Jennifer said:

    Thanks for the comment Randy. I read Capt Senter's comments as well and as I said to a friend last nite - I would rather stand alone on God's Word then stand with a crowd that is going against it.

    On Wednesday, August 29, 2012, Randy H. said:

    Jennifer, do not consider a stand you take to be old fashioned if it is contrary to Biblical beliefs. As Capt.Senter has stated " we must take a stand when things are just wrong". Please read Captain Sentors responses above they make sense.As Christians we can't just accept the trends of the world without weighing them against God-given biblical standards. We are called to be "set apart" but we still love one another which includes tactfully sharing non-judgingly our beliefs. Please continue to pray and speak with others on this,
    Randy

    On Wednesday, August 29, 2012, Jennifer said:

    At the United Church on Sunday I found out that the new Moderator/leader of the United Church of Canada is openly gay. This has disturbed me not because I have any issues with people being LGBT but because it goes so much against biblical standrads and teaching. I am really confused at this point. Do I stay at a church that thinks electing an openly gay person to be their leader is acceptable? Am I being old fashioned in my thinking? Where do we as Christ followers draw the line in what we just sweep under the rug and ignore or what we take a stand against? It scares me to think of what will happen next.

    On Sunday, August 26, 2012, calvin hepditch said:

    I too would like to add a final few comments to the discussion. It is obvious from the comments of LGBT respondents that there is a major twofold problem in 'bridging the gap', i.e. a reluctance to accept the irrefutable rejection of this lifestyle in the Word of God, and an expectation that the Army, and Christians in general, should recant their beliefs, accepting and condoning what they know to be sinful. The Army did not author the Bible, but are only messengers charged, as are all truly born again Christians, with the responsibility to preach and teach the gospel. As Paul said in 1Corinthians9:16 'Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel'. And God admonished through the prophet Ezekiel (33:18), that it is incumbent upon Christians, and especially pastors, to warn sinners of the consequences of sin which will keep them from heaven, lest their 'blood be on our hands'. Just as God is able to deliver alcoholics, addicts, adulterers, gluttons and others, He undoubtedly is 'exceeding abundantly' able to set free those who are trapped by the sin of homosexual behaviour. In closing, I would commend Captain Senter for his sensitive and compassionate approach, as well as his insightful interpretation of Biblical doctrine regarding this subject.

    On Friday, August 24, 2012, Captain Royal Senter said:

    My final comment on this subject is two fold.

    No one is (or should be) suggesting that LGBT people are more sinful or sick. It is simply that we cannot call righteous what the Bible calls sinful. Everyone struggles with something through no choice of their own and may never see the point where they cease to have to struggle with it but that does not mean that the appropriate response is to say that it is not sinful.

    Alex, your argument about eating pork and wearing mixed fabrics, etc shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of the old holiness code. These things have been satisfied by Christ's atonement whereas many other things still remain in force. Your argument could be used by many people to justify their own particular issue.

    Does God love LGBT people? Absolutely! Does the church love LGBT people? In far too many cases the answer is no but the answer needs to become yes. I sure wish I has the answer to bridging the gap but because the two sides will probably always disagree about whether homosexuality is acceptable to God (that is, being part of God's creation, therefore acceptable, or a deviation from God's creation, therefore sin) I am sadly not very optimistic about our chances even if our doors are widely open.

    On Thursday, August 23, 2012, Alex said:

    I think that what Christians who don't personally know anyone from the lgbtqq2i community need to realize is that it's not a lifestyle or a choice or a behavior. It's not something that can be "cured" or go away because it's the way we were born. If God sends someone to hell because they lived another person endlessly who just happened to be the same sex, or because since the day they were born they felt like they were living in a body that wasn't theirs, this is a God I don't want to believe in. How can Christians look at only parts if the Bible, and ignore others? Do we not get our hair cut and eat pork? Do we not wear fabrics made of more than one material? I don't understand why these are not considered sinful when the Bible clearly says they are, yet those who can't help who they fall in love with are considered more sinful or even "sick" compared to heterosexual people. The church just seems hypocritical to me and I love God.

    On Wednesday, August 22, 2012, Grant Janes said:

    WOW...What an articicle....God Bless you Bradley...Its far past due that people of the LGBT stand up for what truly is right myself being one of the LGBT Community. I have come to learn in recent years that it is my relationship with the Holy Spirit and no one elses. As soon as the Army begins to notice and pratice what they preach "Loving without limits" instead of loving and snatching back the love they have given by slurs, looks or comments then i beleive they will then begin to experice a Holy Spirit Revival....Unitl that time, i have a hard time believing and standing for what the Salvation Army attempts to stand for.

    This artice above is given from a once uniformed Salvationist and Youth Pastor. I am not at all asshamed of my past soldiership or pastorship but have to say i am saddened when i see what the army contiune to do to out right hurt other human beings!

    On Wednesday, August 22, 2012, Captain Royal Senter said:

    Brad, I agree with you on some points but I think that you are missing the mark on others.

    First of all, everyone who sins is a sinner so that includes all of us. In that regard we are all in the same boat; we all stand before God equally guilty apart from the saving work of Jesus. Therefore, you are right in that none of us has the right to judge others. The law has already judged every one of us and found us guilty without exception.

    Now, if you had a friend who was committing adultery, would you think that you should just say nothing, not warn the person that this is a sin and just leave it to the Holy Spirit to convict the person? The Bible never suggests such a thing. 2Th 3:14-15 says, "If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother."

    We have a responsibility to each other but warnings need not be judgmental. Sin hardens us and the world constantly pours out messages that say that sin is OK or non-existent. It becomes increasingly difficult to hear the Spirit's voice without the ministry of the body. Such ministry must always be undertaken with great humility because all are guilty. The one who warns must be equally open and receptive to warnings from others.

    One of the big problems that we face today is that Christians are increasingly accepting the world's idea of tolerance which is to accept just about everything. At the other extreme is an increasing number of Christians who are reactionary and judgmental. We need to think and act Biblically which allows for neither of those tendencies. We must act in love and uphold the truth. That is the way of Jesus.

    On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, Brad Oxford said:

    Captain Royal, I guess what I'm trying to say is that as believers, we have no right to point at individuals and say "look, here is the sin in your life." You clearly state that homosexual activity is a sin in your eyes. But does that give you the right to label active homosexuals as "sinners?" Think about it, you too have sin in your life. We all sin and I'm sure you must agree with me that sin is sin and one sin is no greater than the other sin. Imagine, us mere human beings calling someone sinners. I strongly believe that judgement should be left up to our Heavenly Father.

    In any event, we are to present the Gospel in love without presenting our own opinions. Then we allow the Holy Spirit to do the convicting. In The Salvation Army they often sing these words, "...I know not how the Spirit moves, convicting men of sin..." We must not and indeed cannot speak to sin in individual lives. The only sin we have to get personal with and deal with is the sin in our own lives that is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. We leave everybody else to the convicting power of God.

    The absolute wrong stance is to consider ourselves better than someone else.

    On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, Frida den Hollander said:

    As a pastor I met a family, who lost a son and his friend. The young boy's were afraid that the community did not understand their sexuality. They choose dead for live. The community forgot that Jesus is love. The bible are words explained by men. But Jesus has told us to love eath other. That is the most important in life.

    On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, Captain Royal Senter said:

    Brad, I can speak only for myself but I can say that in another church (not Salvation Army) where I was the pastor we did happily accept a homosexual couple in our congregation. They only came as occasional visitors (one of them being the brother of a church member) but they were very welcome. In that case we all understood and accepted that the church considered homosexual activity to be sinful.

    Problems arise for the church when we lower our standards in the name of acceptance. It is not merely a matter of accepting that people are going to sin but whether we decide to no longer call sin what the Bible calls sin, all in the name of inclusivity. This has been a problem from the beginning.

    We have no right to call something right when it is wrong. when we start doing that then we will be like ancient Israel who went into exile or like the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira in Revelation. Our goal and our need is to be like Jesus - attractive to the sinners but who always upheld the truth and righteousness. He who said, "Neither do I condemn you," then immediately said, "go and sin no more." That must be our approach and our attitude.

    On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, Brad Oxford said:

    Salvation Army leadership will never allow some of the acceptance that is discussed above. The ethic's centre can write all the words on paper they want indicating that they accept homosexuals. The truth is, The Salvation Army will never allow homosexuals in Corps leadership positions or behind the pulpit. Actually, SA top leadership will even go as far as trying to keep homosexuals "in the closet" rather than "coming out" and causing the leadership the stress of 'what do we do with "them" now.' I KNOW of cases where The Salvation Army have turned their backs on Salvationists who have "come out" about their sexuality.

    The church has come to accept the "dirty" homeless person to come and sit in "their" pews on any given Sunday. But how about the homosexual couple? Are SA churches ready for a gay couple to walk in church and sit together as a hetrosexual married couple would?

    The statement "love the sinner hate the sin" has been mentioned a couple times above. What about "love the 'sinner' hate the sin in your own life?" You nor I have the right to look at anybody and confront the "sin" in their lives when there are so many hang-up's in our own life. I thought the conviction of sins was the Holy Spirit's job?

    What The Salvation Army should be doing is teaching Salvations to love and accept everyone right where they are in life. We sing "Just as I am." do we really mean that? Please tell me that Salvationists don't look at themselves as being sinless but see sin in everyone else. That would be like the guy in the Bible beating His chest saying He's better than the other guy.

    Fact of the matter is, if we are gonna be relevant to society then we must lower our expectations. In doing so does not mean we are lowering our standards or watering down the Gospl.

    Friends, we will NEVER understand the mercy of God. The ones we would condem, He would extend mercy. The ones we consider "saved" may in fact be the ones needing His mercy.

    I left The Salvation Army for various reasons, one being their inability to stand up and admit they're wrong. Another is their statements such as "giving hope today" yet snatch that hope away from so many (in most cases, Salvationists).

    On Monday, August 20, 2012, Captain Royal Senter said:

    I could not agree more that it is imperative for Christians to build bridges with the LGBT community but I am somewhat at a loss in how to do it. The problem is that we have to speak the truth in love which means that we cannot compromise the Biblical truth that homosexual activity is a sin (with heavy emphasis on the fact that it is no more or less a sin than countless other sins committed regularly by believers). The problem is that while few people disagree that adultery or selfishness or the many other things are sins, the LGBT community and increasingly large segments of society do not see same sex sexual relationships that way. This creates a very large rift between us.

    I do not want to be a negative, condemning person. I want to welcome LGBT people into my corps, but I cannot and will not do so by compromising the truth which will inevitably mean that a huge gulf will continue to exist. If I can figure out how to bridge that gap I'll be very glad.

    On Friday, August 17, 2012, Randy H. said:

    The last few entries to this post has caused me to reflect on the issues of sin. Yes, we cannot neglect the area and issue of sin here. My thoughts are to hate the sin but not the person. The issue of the sin that the Bible speaks to should certainly be addressed but in the proper time and context with the person.I would not be able to condone participation in all roles with the Army (or any church actually), such as leadership roles. I look very forward to other responses on this article. It is good to discuss such dilemas such as this.

    On Thursday, August 16, 2012, Wielie Elhorst said:

    Dear Major Murry,

    Thank you very much for your hopeful words. My name is Wielie Elhorst. I used to be a (4th generation) Salvationist in The Netherlands. I had to give up my place in the Army, because I was an openly gay man. At the time, in the early 90s, this was to difficult to conceive of in the Dutch branch of the Army. I am still proud of having been a Salvationist and in my heart and actions I will remain to be one for the rest of my life, although I am now very happy functioning as a youth minister in the Protestant Church in The Netherlands. In my spare time I am the chairman of the umbrella organization of the Dutch Christian LGBT movement. I am very much envolved in everything that has to do with homosexuality and Christian faith. Still a lot of work needs to be done.

    I am grateful for what you have written. Worldwide there are a lot of LGBT Salvationists waiting for a bit of mercy and compassion. I am also very happy with all the positive comments on your article and the courageous testimonies. I still have one question though. Your article is about outreach and hope. Is the hope you want to extend to the LGBT community also about full equality and full participation for LGBT Salvationists in the Salvation Army? I would be happy to hear your opinion on that.

    I am proud to say that in The Netherlands a small book with fifteen portraits of LGBT Salvationists was published last year. I am the only ex Salvationist in it. This is also a hopeful sign of change.


    Your gratefully,
    'fighting on',
    Rev. Wielie Elhorst.

    On Thursday, August 16, 2012, Rob Reardon said:

    Timely & excellent article! This is an area where my wife and I have great interest. There's an organization in the US that we absolutely love & support that might be of some assistance to you - The Marin Foundation out of Chicago has an active & dynamic ministry to the LGBT community. You can find all kinds of information and resources on their website: http://www.loveisanorientation.com/

    On Thursday, August 16, 2012, calvin hepditch said:

    I find it amazing that the conversation initiated by Juan's column avoids even the mention of sin, except in his (Juan's) reference to the pastor's sin against God. While I agree that the pastor's statements are extreme and patently un-Christian, I fail to understand why our officers and others in authority are reluctant to address the sin involved in the homosexual lifestyle. Has the Army become fearful of the consequences, or so politically correct that it is no longer willing to preach and teach the whole of Biblical doctrine? The practice of homosexuality is unequivocally condemned in Leviticus 18:22, as abomination, in Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1 as worthy of death, and in 1Corinthians 6:9,10 it clearly states that the effeminate (or female equivalent) will not enter heaven. I acknowledge that some Christians, and churches, are averse to reaching out to the gay community, but all the blame for this is not to be shouldered by Christians alone. As Rick Warren and others have recently noted, for a Christian to even express the Biblical view that homosexual activity is sinful, and expressly condemned by God in both the Old and New Testaments, is construed as hateful and homophobic. And the owner of Chick Fil A recently found this to be the new reality by simply stating what the Bible clearly teaches concerning this subject. The old adage of 'hating the sin but loving the sinner' is apparently viewed as unrealistic or unacceptable from the gay perspective. If homosexuals or others insist that such a lifestyle has to be accepted or condoned before marginalization can be overcome, then for many Christians the divide will never be bridged. Hopefully, the Army will not follow the lead of some other churches, which have not only compromised but capitulated to the point of administering same-sex unions and allowing practicing LGBTs to minister in their pulpits. (Jesus left no doubt of His affirmation of the traditional definition of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6) The Army and other fundamentalist churches are now being challenged as never before - time will tell whether they are willing to stand for what the Bible teaches in regard to this matter. While marginalization of any group by the church is totally unacceptable, the integrity and infallibility of Biblical doctrine and its standard of morality must be protected and preserved at any cost.

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2012, Bernard Thornett (UK) said:

    This is part of my testimony That I gave at Hendon Corps (London)
    I am what I am
    It is an interesting fact that whilst we are all the same
    We are each unique.
    We all have 2 eyes 2 ears 2 feet 2 hands and so on
    And also we have millions of brains cells and connections
    Yet our brains can interpret the difference between one
    Person’s face and another
    So we are all the same but different, each one of us is unique
    God made you the way you are and he made me the way I am
    -we have no choice in the matter
    A wise old school master once said (yes one or 2 were intelligent ones)
    He said there is no such thing as invention
    I had a think about that and thought it was rather an odd thing to come out with.
    So I’ll refer back to this later on when you have all
    Had time to consider and disagree or not with that statement
    I now tell you a little about myself
    I was born into a Salvation Army family being the second son
    And third generation.
    Since my parents were S.A. officers we moved to a lot of different
    Places including St. Albans till I was 5 years old and other cities that included Stockport, Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton,
    Bristol and Birmingham. I had been to 6 different schools. Once I had just made friends in one place and it was time to move and start Over again
    After a while I didn’t bother making friends – why should I, I’d
    Only lose them. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I am not good at making friends but at least I saw a lot of different places
    And I was always interested in the customs of various areas
    Teaching was quite different in the North from the South
    For example In the North if you drew say a pulley system and it could be seen how it worked you’d get full credit
    In the South however the drawing had to be very neat in order
    To get 10 out of 10 also in the North we were judged on the percentage of marks whereas in the South it would be on our form position. So I have met many good people and some that were not so nice
    After school I did 3 years in the Royal Air Force partly as National service but also to gain a qualification in RADAR My education was further enhanced there.
    On the first I night I knelt by my bed to pray the noise continued
    In the hut that housed 40 or so airmen. I can still hear the swearing!
    But after the second week something happened, just after I had
    Started praying the loud mouth in the bed next to mine shouted
    Be effing quiet and stop swearing Bernard is saying his prayers!
    The rest of my working life has been spent in electronics of one sort or another.
    Now let’s go back to that statement that at this school master made.
    There is no such thing as invention ONLY discovery
    And that brings me to the last point, you’ll be glad to know.
    When I was about 2 or 3 I discovered that I was gay. Well I did not know there was a word for it then.
    But I did know that I loved Ralph who was the same age as me and often came over to play. Unfortunately he was a sickly child and there used to be times when he couldn’t come over. And I pined for him.
    I believe as do many that one’s sexuality is a gift from God.
    The Salvation Army preach that it is alright to love a person
    Of the same sex as long as you don’t have sexual relations.
    Well if I am right that it is a God given tray I firmly believe that
    The SA will have to come to terms with their insistence and that it must change. Let’s face it if God gives me a gift and I don’t use it I am sinning.
    I implied earlier that I agreed with my old school master but he wasn’t exactly 100% correct because it is all to easy to invent God. The gambler - his god is gambling The thief – his god is a selfish god. The prostitute, her or his god is sex and money.
    I really want you to know that I had absolutely no choice in being gay.
    But I did have a choice in being a Christian!
    So like it or not I am a Christian gay.
    Any questions? On a postcard please …

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2012, Paul du Plessis said:

    Thank you, Major Burry for challenging us to turn our promises into actions on this controversial topic.

    May I offer a gentle word of advice to those corps officers or members of the leadership team when they're asked what can be done. Start by examining our language. For instance, what do we mean by 'the LGBT community'? Does this phrase of itself not create a feeling of exclusion? Are they not just ordinary people, part of the crowd of today?

    I liked your visual of Jesus with just one person (not a community) on a journey - it could have been anybody.

    On Monday, August 13, 2012, Derek Yeung said:

    It's an good article to let us rethink who are the needy people nowadays. Most Christians said we should love those LGBT but in reality, we are excluding them from the church. Love should follow with actions.

    On Monday, August 13, 2012, Timothy McPherson said:

    I appreciated this open and frank discussion of our responsibility as Christians in this world. Too often we as Christians have gone and tried to make homosexual people heterosexual before we accept them into our churches/corps. This is totally against what Jesus did.

    I believe that gluttony is a sin; however, I do not see any Christian in North America advocating for laws to ban all-you-can-eat buffets. I do not see any Christian advocating giving overweight and obese people fines because their weight-related health problems negatively impact our health care system and take away needed health care dollars that could have gone to other people suffering from issues that are not weight-related.

    I believe that if Jesus had come to Earth in our age, he would be eating with homosexual couples and employees of Planned Parenthood, the prostitutes and tax collectors of our age.

    On Monday, August 13, 2012, Nathan Swartz said:

    Good article Juan.

    I think that the fact that so many Christians are quick to point the finger at this particular issue yet stay silent about issues such as gossip, gluttony or as you so aptly pointed out, murder. As Christians I believe we need to spend a lot more time preaching the GOOD news about Jesus' atoning work. The fact that he died for all of us sinners, all of us, and that by accepting that sacrifice we are saved. Believe first, behavior becomes the natural response to the greatest gift you can ever receive. As a recovered drug user and people user I know all too well that my behavior has fallen short long after I accepted Jesus and continues to be a difficult walk to this day... I'm still far from perfect. We would all do well to remember the Jesus' warnings about judgement.

    Thanks for writing,

    Chaplain Nathan Swartz
    The Salvation Army Victoria ARC

    On Monday, August 13, 2012, Randy H. said:

    This is a good reminder that we need to be more vocal on all matters and certainly to consider the marginalized. As well this article helps us to honestly reflect inwardly on those we may not see or even wish to see as being marginalized. Breaking the chains of bondage also includes inward searches and healings in areas of prejudices.We must be ready to extend hope to everyone in our society. Thank you for this reminder and insightful reminder that the Gospel is for everyone and that our promises are not to be just words.

    On Monday, August 13, 2012, Carolyn Doonan (Major) said:

    Juan,

    Thank you for presenting a subject that needs to be discussed far more often and openly within Salvationist circles. God bless you in your ministry.

    Carolyn

    On Monday, August 13, 2012, Tammy said:

    Hello, I would first like to say that being a reformed addict who recovered at Homestead Salvation Army treatment centre and participated in 2 years in the Genisis program with the salvation Army I accepted christ in my life. I am currently studing the bible and listening to Joyce Meyers Ministries what I have learned is that God loves each and everyone of us, we are his children and we should seek out a personal private relationship with him, He is the only God, the alpha and the omega the begining and the end. We are not in any position to Judge any one that is his responsibility,also most importantly I learned that with every action and decision in life I must ask myself what would Jesus do? How would he respond and I know that he would simply LOVE.

    On Monday, August 13, 2012, Suzie Day said:

    YES!!!

    This is exactly what I needed to hear at this point in my life.

    I became a uniformed Salvationist when I was 17, knowing full well that I would need to step out of uniform one day. Why? Because I am gay.

    For a long time I ignored the homophobia of the Army (mostly the Positional Statements), because I had accepted that while I believed in the Army's values of helping other, and full and total equality, I knew they were not perfect. But I could push that aside if it meant that my OWSOMS contribution could feed one more mouth each year.

    Then I met Sam, and she changed my life. Also a Christian, I started to accompany her to her Anglican services each week, as well as still attending the Army. It was around this time I felt I needed to step out of uniform. It wasn't because I lost my faith, but because, while I didn't agree with it, I was no longer holding true to the Army's expectations of a Uniformed Soldier. That is, I was in a relationship with another woman.

    For a short time, attending the Army out of uniform was enough. But then one evening, Sam and I went to a special Anglican service at a different church, specifically for the LGBTI community. There was a rainbow flag on the alter, a gay pastor, and most of the congregation was gay. For the first time in my life, I felt welcomed within a church, rather than just tolerated. It was more than that: we were celebrated. When I prayed, I could hold Sam's hand and pray with her, something we had never felt comfortable enough to do in a church before, and that was a feeling I will never forget.

    I can't say I am overly fond of the traditional Anglican services, or a lot of Anglican theology, but I still prefer it to the Army right now. I still consider myself a Salvationist, and I don't drink the communion wine at St Andrews (although I believe in the Communion, I have only ever taken part with grape juice before). And more than anything, I miss the community involvement that the Army brings.

    The day that I feel welcomed, is the day that I will return to the Army. Till then, my fiancee and I have a Church wedding to prepare for. Because even though we will not be married in the eyes of the law, it is important for us that we marry in the eyes of God.

    On Monday, August 13, 2012, Alma said:

    Excellent article - great job Juan!

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