Gay and Christian ( speech by Rev. Jay Johnson, PhD) great read if you are dealing with this

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    Oct 28, 2011 5:07 PM GMT
    SoulForce Equality Ride Forum at Wheaton College1
    The Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, PhD

    I’m grateful for the invitation to be here tonight, which is really a homecoming for me. I grew up here in Wheaton and I’m also a proud Wheaton College alumnus of the class of 1983. My father taught here in the graduate school for many years – in fact, I believe the last time I was on this campus was for his funeral, almost twenty years ago now, which took place in the Billy Graham Center auditorium. So it’s good to be back home – though I must say, I never quite imagined I would come back for an occasion like this.
    While the stellar liberal arts education I received here has served me quite well over the years, my time at Wheaton was not easy. As it still is for many college-aged students today, that was a time for me of coming to grips with what it means to be an adult and therefore a sexual human being. Realizing that I was likely gay prompted an emotional and spiritual crisis, and there were precious few resources available for addressing that sense of crisis; I felt terribly alone and not a little afraid.
    After being “out-ed” by my sophomore year roommate, that fear actually materialized as my own community – the people I loved and trusted, my brothers and sisters in Christ – assumed that I had either abandoned my faith or was mentally ill or both. Sadly, I took that message to heart and for far too long I did not believe it was possible to be both gay and Christian at the same time. That sense of conflict created a nearly impossible and unbearable choice between the two. In either case, I assumed that there would always be a part of me that God could not love.
    Since that time, after a period of prayerful discernment, therapy and study, I have come to a very different conclusion. Along the way I was also ordained in the Episcopal Church, earned a PhD in philosophical theology, and I am now openly gay as I teach theology at Pacific School of Religion and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, two member schools of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. I also proudly serve as the programming director for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion – the first center of its kind located at a school of theology or a seminary.
    All of which is to say that I have traveled here today in part to testify and bear witness, not only to the possibility but to the reality of being happily gay and a deeply committed Christian at the same time. My life is living proof of that reality, and I am only one among many thousands of others.
    I’m also here today to encourage and urge this community, which I still love, to engage in deeper conversation on human sexuality. Notice that I did not say debate –
    1 These remarks were prepared for the SoulForce Equality Ride visit to Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois and were significantly edited and condensed for the ten-minute oral presentation offered on April 20, 2006, as part of a college-wide forum on human sexuality in the context of that visit.
    Wheaton College Forum, 2006 Johnson, page 2 of 8
    there’s certainly a place for that, but I’m afraid that these days “debate” on this topic too often reduces to lobbing Bible verses at each other, like religious mortal shells.
    What we need instead, it seems to me, is to sustain genuine conversation with each other. I don’t mean what usually passes for “conversation” today – a brief chat at the water cooler or sharing some gossip over coffee. What I do mean has everything to do with the fact that the words “conversation” and “conversion” come from the same linguistic root. To engage in a genuine conversation, in other words, always carries the possibility of being changed in the process. And if stories from the Bible and the long history of the church are any indication, lifelong conversion is what Christian faith is all about. But that deepening of one’s conversion to Christ is not likely to happen if conversation is restricted or institutionally curtailed.
    Here at Wheaton College – an institution renowned for its academic excellence and its commitment to the Gospel of Christ – here, of all places, we should have no reason to be afraid of open, genuine conversation and encountering differing points of view. It’s precisely from that mix of perspectives that truth emerges. (And in that regard I recommend the recent book by Jack Rogers, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, who changed his mind on the question of homosexuality and yet remains an evangelical Christian and theologian. Changing one’s mind need not be a sign of weakness or infidelity. To the contrary, it can signal precisely the ongoing work of conversion at the hands of the Holy Spirit.2)
    In that light, I would like to share with you this evening just a slice of my own “conversational life” that has brought me here today. While there is much more that I could say about such things than time allows, perhaps in this context the critical issue at hand is the role played by the Bible in that conversation. As a pastor, preacher, teacher and theologian, I take the Bible very seriously indeed.
    To be sure, as your provost Stanton Jones has rightly noted elsewhere, there’s certainly more than one way to “take the Bible seriously.” So I want to offer just a few observations about how I engage with Biblical texts. Obviously, time does not allow for a full exegetical lecture this evening. Instead, I’d like to outline briefly just a few of the aspects of what I believe a genuine conversation about the Bible and human sexuality entails. In good preacher fashion, I’ll do this with three points.
    First, let me urge you to resist the idea that this conversation can transpire according to the “plain sense” of scripture. The texts of the Bible are far from “plain” and are in fact remarkably complex. Those of you who have struggled with translating the original Hebrew and Greek versions of those texts know quite well that the meaning of those texts is not necessarily self-evident; indeed, even the act of translating is already an act of interpretation.
    2 Jack Rogers, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006). Among other similar and helpful resources, see Walter Wink, ed., Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999).
    Wheaton College Forum, 2006 Johnson, page 3 of 8
    As I’m sure you realize, what we have learned from geology and biology present some challenges in our reading of the opening chapters of Genesis. Likewise, what we now know about astronomy creates some problems for dealing with the ancient story of the “sun standing still” (Joshua 10:13). How do we translate and interpret such an image in a post-Copernicus world? A more subtle example comes from the Acts of the Apostles where, we are told, early Christians “shared all things in common” (2:44, 4:32). This certainly stands in rather stark contrast to the dynamics of free-market economies with which all of us live, and rather uncritically I might add, today.
    Dealing theologically with biblical texts proves even more difficult with reference to the metaphorical and analogical language used for God. Relatively few Christians today pause to consider the metaphorical character of the word “father” with reference to God, yet readily admit such metaphorical usage in the prophetic literature, where God is described as an “angry she-bear” (Hosea 13:icon_cool.gif, or in the gospels, where Jesus refers to himself as a “mother hen” (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34). Even those who insist on dealing with the “plain sense” of scripture do not erect images of grizzly bears or chickens in their churches.
    The challenges presented by human sexuality are no less complex than the ones prese
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    Oct 28, 2011 5:36 PM GMT
    Thnx for posting. this is an important message, for those, who want to see healing with the Christian community at large. Bill
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    Oct 28, 2011 6:36 PM GMT
    It seems there is a bit of a text limit. For the whole speech go to:
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    Oct 31, 2011 1:59 PM GMT
    Awesome post.
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    Oct 31, 2011 2:11 PM GMT
    This is great and makes me proud to be an Episcopalian. Our denomination was the second (United Church of Christ) Christian denomination to remove barriers for LGBT clergy. If people had not gotten past their fears, this man's gifts would have gone untapped.

    Believe Out Loud!
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    Nov 22, 2011 8:55 PM GMT
    If it's helpful, you'll find that there are plenty of gay Christians out there, and plenty of folks who have either been where you are, or are now working through the same issues. Hang in there bro!