Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gays and the Church -- Interview with the Rev. Steve Kindle

Gay Marriage and the rights of gays and lesbians in church and society is an ongoing debate in the churches and in society, though it seems to be much less a concern for those under 40.  Several years ago I published an interview with my good friend Steve Kindle at the blog Faithfully Liberal, a blog to which I was a regular contributor, but one that is sadly no longer in existence (at least not as a functioning entity).  Knowing that the issue continues to rage on, I thought I'd reprint this to stimulate your conversation.  Since this interview was published, Steve became the pastor of a Disciples congregation in Fremont, CA.   His blog is called  Open Hearts -- Affirming Pages

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The Rev. Steve Kindle has a unique ministry. He is Executive Director of Clergy United for the Equality of Homosexuals, a consulting and education organization focused on the inclusion of homosexuals and transgender persons in the church. Originally ordained in the conservative Churches of Christ, in whose colleges and seminaries he received his theological education, today he has standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. Before founding Clergy United, he served as pastor of two “Open and Affirming” Disciples congregations, and since then has served as consultant to congregations exploring the process of becoming open and affirming to the GLBT community, and this fall (2007) he’ll be speaking to a number of Log Cabin Republican groups.  


Q. You’re straight and happily married, so why this cause?

A. Yes, it’s true that I have no “hidden agenda” behind my interest in promoting gay equality in the churches. It comes, very simply, from my understanding of the gospel: We are to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us—unqualifiedly, without exception.

Q. Since your background is fairly conservative, what was it that changed the way you looked at homosexuals?

A. I was raised in a very conservative home, both politically and religiously. My understanding of the gay community was formed by all the stereotypes that typically accompany such an upbringing: that they are in the main promiscuous, self-centered, lust filled, choose this “lifestyle,” and are not to be trusted around children. I happened to move from North Dakota to San Francisco and, in the course of getting to know the gay community, I discovered the startling reality that GLBTs are as normal as any other large segment of America. Also, working with many gay Christians challenged my view that “gay Christian” is an oxymoron. So, I began a lifelong pursuit of examining the scriptures used to support the antigay view and found the traditional interpretations wanting.

Q. What role does religion play in how we view homosexuality?

A: One’s religion is usually a received phenomenon. We accept what we are given with little reflection. Since most people are not familiar with gay people (at least knowingly), our religion provides us the context for understanding and relating to them. If one is raised in an environment where GLBTs are named as abominations and condemned to hell, it is difficult not to become homophobic.

Q. To take this to another level, since you teach a seminar on the Bible and Homosexuality, what is the role of biblical interpretation in forming our views?

A. Most Christians don’t form their views, they inherit them. In the case of Fundamentalist, those who teach them seldom interpret the Bible; they are content to “let the Bible speak for itself.” So the surface reading of the scriptures is left as the final meaning rather than as the starting point for understanding. It’s as though the Bible should be read the same way we read the morning paper, without taking into consideration that some 2,000-3,000 years separate us from the original documents. If you are going to take the Bible seriously, you can’t take it literally; what it says may not be what it means in the least.

Q. If religious communities have traditionally been inhospitable places for gays and lesbians, how might they become open and affirming?

A. Change can only come when people are given, or give themselves, the opportunity to meet gay Christians. That’s why “coming out” is so important. When people discover that the notions they have just don’t hold up, change can begin. That’s why I encourage gays to go back to their churches, even though they can be unwelcoming places, and be a living witness against the lies told about them. Most of the congregations I am familiar with which have become open and affirming did not make the change simply for reasons of justice (although it happens). Most discovered that the GLBTs among them deserved to be treated with gospel welcoming.

Q. Although ordination is a point of contention in most churches, it’s marriage that is the issue that seems to be a problem even for the most progressive among us. Why is this?

A. I’ve discovered that the refusal to marry same-sex couples comes more from polity than from belief. If the restriction were lifted, there would be immediate and wholesale gay marriages performed all over the country. In spite of the restrictions, many clergy do it anyway, and many others perform union blessings that are in reality marriage by another name. I find it very curious that we won’t allow gays and lesbians to marry, and then accuse them of not behaving as we straights (should) behave!

Q. With younger Americans seemingly more accepting of homosexuality, do you see a major sea change in both the church and in the broader culture occurring in the near future?

Projecting the effect of the Millennium Generation taking the power now held by the Baby Boomers is wonderful to contemplate. All the polls suggest that being gay is a non-issue for them. However, as in all the major sea changes in America, from slavery, segregation, women’s rights and now gay rights, the church always comes in last. The citizenry as a whole is much farther ahead of the church on gay rights. I’m not looking for much to change in this regard. We have much to answer for.

Q. Finally, Steve, is there anything we’ve not yet covered that you just have to get off your chest?

A. Yes, indeed, and thank you! Ultimately, the refusal of marriage to same-sex couples is a denial of their humanity. The first “not good” of creation was God’s discovery that “it is not good for the human to be alone.” When the church denies marriage to gay couples it is saying that you are not worthy of having your loneliness relieved in the only way it is possible. In other words, you are not worthy of being a human being. Imagine the anguish of a straight person not being able to marry, ever, unless he or she married someone of the same sex. God created us all in the image of God. Who are we to denigrate that which God has made?

59 comments:

Gary said...

Steve Kindle is an infidel, headed for Hell. As are you Cornwall.

Robert said...

If Heaven is filled with people like Gary, I think I'd rather go to Hell.

Adam said...

Thank you for the article! I put up a post recently at Faith.Life.Media that you may find interesting. The title of the post is "People Matter" and it deals with Jennifer Knapp's recent coming out and my views on how Christians should respond to announcements like this. www.faithlifemedia.blogspot.com

John said...

Gary,

Why not see the issue of gay marriage, and, more significantly, gays in the church, as a challenge: when Jesus calls on us to love our enemies, and to love one another, do not gays fall somewhere between those two? Jesus does not except anyone from the equation. So you can categorize gays (and Kindle and Cornwall for that matter) as "one another" or as "enemies," but either way you have to love them.

Then I ask you to respond to the question of what are the contours of the love that Jesus commands? It can't possibly include heaping abuse on those we love or anything less than praying for their salvation, can it?

John

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

John, I think Gary is loving Steve and I right into hell. By the way, while I enjoyed the comment by Robert, that isn't my post!

Thanks Adam for the note -- I'll check it out.

David Mc said...

Can I sign up for this wonderful "Hell" too? This reminds me of a Billy Joel song.

Gary said...

John,

I don't waste my time praying for perverts who are determined to wallow in their sin, while pretending that God approves. Neither do I waste time praying for devils like Kindle and Cornwall who call good what God has called evil.

John said...

Gary,

How come you are not in he least concerned about the consequences of your own knowing and intentional violations of God's laws?

John

Steve said...

Dear John and all--
Gary's disapproval of me is a badge of honor I wear for obvious reasons that totally escape Gary. His hateful and loathsome remarks only turn back upon himself and further increase the sympathy that most people feel for those so maligned. So, Gary, keep it up; your high and mighty attitude will continue to bring people to our cause. BTW, Fred Phelps suggests you take a look at his website, www.godhatesfags.com, for more inspiring ideas.

Gary said...

Robert,

Heaven is filled with people just like me. And you are going to get your wish.

Gary said...

John,

Which laws are you talking about?

Gary said...

Steve,

The only people coming over to your side are those that God has given over to a reprobate mind. Birds of a feather flock together. Real Christians won't have anything to do with you.

John said...

Gary,

Are you suggesting that real Christians avoid sinners?

John

Gary said...

John,

No. But neither should we pretend that sinners are righteous, which is what Kindle and Cornwall are doing. They think there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, which contradicts Bible doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Gary,
Please tell me where in the New Testament does it even mention homosexuality? I've looked, there just isn't anything there.
Please stop using the term "Real Christians"...because a "real Christian" knows that they shouldn't stand in judgment.
Mrs.DavidMc

David Mc said...

Real Christians? I thought we were just disciples (in training).

Gary said...

Mrs. David Mc,

Then why are you judging me? If a person says they are a Christian, but they are not, are they a real Christian?

The word "homosexual" is not in the Bible. That word wasn't invented when the Bible was written. But what we now call homosexuality is talked about in the New Testament.

Robert (Not Bob Cornwall) said...

Gary,

Could you please direct me to the book and verse where Jesus said that his disciples should not "waste" their time praying for a certain class of sinners and instead bitterly rejoice in their perceived failings? I cannot seem to find it and since I'm sure that a Bible scholar such as yourself would never do anything contrary to scripture, it must be there somewhere.

P.S. Please hurry your answer as I am concerned that God will notice your pronouncement of my eternal damnation and send me to Hell sooner than I anticipated where I fear a lack of internet access will prevent me from seeing your response.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary said...

Robert,

You're not interested in anything God has to say. You're a mocker.

John said...

Gary,

I feel that we are talking past each other. I understand that you feel compelled to prophetically identify and call out sinfulness when you perceive it, that you feel compelled to stand up when you perceive others condoning what you in your heart know is sinful.

I don't agree with your prophetic vision, but I accept that it comes from your heart. What I cannot understand is that you communicate your message with such abusive words - with so little room for God’s grace to others. I cannot understand why you (and those such as the Fred Phelps family) spend so little effort to clothe your message with the grace and goodwill of God.

I was thinking about Jonah this week, called by God to go and spread God's words among the heathen of Nineveh. The good man Jonah reluctantly went and preached with great success, and later sulked because God refused to rain down destruction on these people who had been so opposed to God in the past. The story ends with God metaphorically shaking his head in frustration because Jonah could not accept the core truth that even those whom Jonah judged to be the worst sinners are God's people as well, people loved by God every bit as much as God loved the good man Jonah.

You are Jonah here. You cannot let go of your own judgment and allow room for God's mercy.

But there is always hope. Jonah was sent not so much to convert the Ninevites but to be converted himself - and even though the mission with the Ninevites failed to do the trick, God did not abandon Jonah on the hillside but continues to work with Jonah as the story ends. All things are possible with God.

John

Glenn said...

Gary,

While I agree that Robert mocked you, he did so in a very gentle manner. And I believe that is the lesson here. You scornfully condemned him and others, yet he responded in a civil manner while still getting his point across. (And based on your lack of responsiveness, I think that you understood his underlying point) Also, I think Johns last response was spot on. You are this blogs Jonah and if you truly want others to see your point of view you should learn how to not conceal it in such contemptuous hatred.

Don said...

Gary is one reason why I left the institution five years ago after 59 years in the church, 17+ which was spent as a deacon.

Gary said...

Don,

If your former "church" would let you be a deacon, they might not have the insight to realize what a blessing your absence is.

Anonymous said...

Glenn,

I'm honored to be compared to Jonah. I also like to think that I have a little John the Baptist, and Apostle Paul in me too.

Gary said...

Sorry, didn't sign my name to that last post.

Glenn said...

Gary,

Well I'll be the first to admit that you seem to have a lot of something in you.

Gary said...

Glenn,

Somehow, I don't think you meant that as a compliment.

John said...

You gotta love Gary's irrepressible cantankerousness!

John

Anonymous said...

Gary,
I wasn't judging you. Whether or not a person is a "real" Christian or not is not my call. A person's relationship with God is personal and it isn't my place to question it.
Can you please tell me where in the New Testament homosexuality is discussed? I've seen it in the Old Testament...but not in the New. I'm not challenging you, I just want to be able to find it. I've looked and can't. I would like to be able to read this.
Mrs.DavidMc

Anonymous said...

Well, folks, when are you going to realize that "Gary" is just pulling our legs? I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out he's actually Bob Corwall spoofing his own site!!! I mean, really, we've all seen and heard such outbursts of incivility spread across a wide spectrum of Christians, but all contained in one hyper-judgmental, critical, insensitive, know-it-all is expecting too much from one actual person. Keep it up, Gary/Bob. I'm finding this spoof quite entertaining.

John said...

Wouldn't that be a clever ruse!!

John

John said...

Ms. McCormick,

Here is a link to an admittedly 'gay-friendly' consideration of each and every biblical site (all seven of them) relied upon by anti-gay Christians.

http://www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-bible

John

Mitch said...

To anonymous,

My hat's off to you! That is how you politely insult someone.

Gary said...

Anonymous,

I assure you, I am not Cornwall. I live in N.C., Cornwall lives in Michigan. And I'm sure Cornwall would not want anyone to think that he is me.

John said...

Gary,

I will be in NC in late June. Do you play golf?

John

Gary said...

Mrs.DavidMc,

Romans chapter 1, I Corinthians 6:9

Gary said...

John,

I find I have time for only one hobby: annoying hypocrites.

John said...

Understood.

John

Steve said...

Bob, you wrote, "Knowing that the issue continues to rage on, I thought I'd reprint this [interview] to stimulate your conversation."

You're welcome!

Anonymous said...

"Gary/Bob", your last comment to me, given your ruse, was quite predictable. Of course you would want your "alter ego" Bob to appear to distance himself from you. Especially since you work so hard to distance everyone from you. And you must be congratulated for such a great success in that goal. You actually are creating more pro-gay sympathies with this approach than trying to be reasonable (Believe me, I know!), which, of course, is your real objective. Another clue that this is a clever ruse is that I know for a fact that the real Bob Corwall doesn’t golf!

Robert (Not Bob Cornwall) said...

Since Gary has just admitted that his only interest in posting on this blog is to disrupt civil discourse, perhaps we could all agree to address any future postings by simply ignoring his uninformed commentary. Maybe pastor Cornwall could even save Gary the time of posting by agreeing to end every article with the phrase, "All you infidels are going to Hell, Love Gary."

Gary said...

Anonymous,

I don't buy your claim that people become "pro-gay" because I believe what the Bible says. People are "pro-gay" because they are wicked to start with, and have a perverted theology.

Gary said...

Robert(Not Cornwall)

My commentary is VERY informed, which is really why you want to ignore it.

David Mc said...

Gary, You're more amusing than annoying. Otherwise you'd be ignored more often. David Mc

Glenn said...

Anonymous,

O.K., you've convinced me. Gary doesn't really exist. He's obviously just a Homer Simpson/Archie Bunker caricature of a dim-witted fundamentalist invented by our beloved Bob Cornwall to stimulate conversation. Genius! Pure genius! And congratulations to you for unraveling this clever ploy. Hopefully Bob will continue to stay in "Gary" character because this is the funniest scam since Andy Kaufman outraged his own fans while playing the audience abusing character "Tony Clifton."

John said...

Gary,

I don't know that people are more accepting of gay rights in reaction to your commentary. But I think that when people who's faith is uncertain, or who are otherwise outside of the church hear you purporting to speak as a faithful Christian they are very often disturbed and pushed away from seriously considering the claims of Christianity by the bitter and ungracious message you bring.

You may claim to be a little bit of John the Baptist, but ultimately most of his followers abandoned him and his judgment for the message of love, forgiveness, and grace taught by Jesus.

John

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

If only I were that creative that I could invent Gary!

Anonymous said...

Thanks John!
Mrs.DavidMc

#50 said...

Sure Bob (wink). It's one way to get your comment numbers up!

Gary said...

John,

Love, forgiveness and grace is but one side of the coin, so to speak. The other side is condemnation, judgment, and damnation. Guess which side gets the most attention from most people.

Anonymous said...

It's certainly not your job or responsibility Gary.

Gary said...

What's not my responsibility, anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Gary/Bob,

Condemnation, judgement and damnation is not Gary's responsibility, although your Gary character seems to relish those three aspects the most. The Gary character seems incapable of love, forgiveness or grace even though he claims to be the only "real Christian" which is what makes him so maddening and compels people to respond to his comments. This is really a lot of fun and this Gary is a great teaching tool.

Gary said...

Anonymous, or whoever you are,

You mean, I can talk about God's love, but not about His judgment? Whoever told you that, was either joking, or delusional.

vapor414 said...

In that there are already 50 posts to this article, I expect there will not be many folks reading my comments, but I feel it necessary to provide my input. In this article there was an insinuation that Gary had been told that Homosexuals could not be Christians.

I do not believe this is true. I believe Homosexuals can be Christians. Now don't jump to conclusions on me. I do not believe an unrepentant Gay person can achieve eternal life, but that is not the discussion here.

What does it take to be a Christian? The basics: Believe in the Immaculate Conception; believe in the death, burial and most importantly, the resurrection. You must also believe that Jesus Christ is LORD and that HE is the only source of salvation.

I'm sure there are thousands of homosexuals who believe these Truths and they are, therefore, Christians.

The question; is believing all that it takes?

Consider this: A person involved in adultery is killed in a car accident just moments after an adulterous encounter with his lover. He has every intention of going home, lying to his wife about his whereabouts and he plans to meet his mistress the next day. Is this man not living in sin? Can we be saved from our sins if we do not repented of them?

Think about what I am asking. I’m talking about “living in sin”. Living in such a way that the ongoing sin is simply a part of who the person is. This is not the kind of attitude toward the sin that allows for repentance. With our repentance there is no salvation.

I think the Homosexual is in the same boat. He or she may believe in the LORD but with out repentance there can be no salvation.

Millions of Christians are bound for hell. So many of them believe in Unconditional Eternal Salvation in such a way that they actually believe they can do anything and still avoid eternal death in hell.

The worst thing is the irresponsibility of the church. Most of you are aware of Ray Boltz and his fall from fame as one of the most incredible Christian singers of his time. I do not know for how many years he hid his homosexuality but I do know he quickly found a church home that would accept his choice to live in sin.

Put 100 thieves in the same room and it will not take long for them to develop a rationale of legitimacy in their profession. Keep them together for long enough they will begin to influence the weak that they come in contact with. I am curious how many people have become homosexuals simply because they found acceptance in one of these groups. Acceptance that was too attractive to their unstable emotional state to turn away from.

This is partly the fault of non-perverted Christians. How many times might this person, with whatever problems he or she had, have come into contact with a Christian who failed to represent Christ-like love to them? Well I will assure you that a person or group that wishes to cause a person to stray from legitimate righteousness will embrace and accept a person with such a deceiving charisma that they can’t help but fall into the evil spell, if you will.

So, should we abandon the homosexual Christian into the foyers of hell known as liberal gay accepting churches or should we as Christians fight the devil for their souls. I think the answer is clear; we are to tell the TRUTH to everyone. Yes everyone!

We better get busy as it will soon be illegal to say that a homosexual is living in sin. Soon the government with the unknowing help of the liberal church will make calling a sinner a sinner a crime.

Liberal ministers - listen up! - Repent of your corruption and tell the Truth! Don’t lead your flock into death because you want to be liked or because it is an easy way to build a congregation.

Congregations – Listen up! – identify the evil in your midst and remove it from you. Save yourselves buy listening to the WORD and by the guidance Holly Spirit.

Christians – Listen up! – stop shunning those who do not think like you. Love everyone as Jesus did, and does. Show everyone the stability in the Word, the Joy in Grace and the Love in Christ.

David Mc said...

I do not believe an unrepentant Gay person can achieve eternal life, but that is not the discussion here.

I read that as "Gary" person at first.

What about a straight person (or gay) who struggles with faith in your list? Faith in the supernatural doesn't come easy to all. Are the highly rational damned, even thought they recognize the wisdom of Jesus and the value of the Christian community? If I'm hit by a truck tomorrow, maybe because I'm distracted by these things, I burn for eternity regardless? I don't think I'll ever believe that.

I don't think I'll ever believe any loving gay couple lives in sin solely due to their relationship.

John said...

Vapor414,

I do not agree with your list of requisite beliefs to claim the name Christian (I don't think Gary agrees either - but I will let him speak for himself). But I still think you and I are both Christians.

As for who will enjoy God's grace today and into eternity, I pray that as many of God's children as possible will enjoy God's grace, now and forever. Can any sincere Christian hope for anything less?

You said: "The worst thing is the irresponsibility of the church." Really? For me, the worst thing is the arrogance, pride, condemnation, and hypocrisy of those who think they are entitled to salvation and the personal judgment they want God to impose on others. The worst thing is when Christians deny loving kindness to those who seek it and to those who need it most.

You ask if believing is enough to be saved. No. What is needed is the grace of God. Right thinking, even if I could control my thoughts, is not enough to merit salvation.

You said 'With[out] repentance there is no salvation.' And then you ask 'Can we be saved from our sins if we do not repented of them?' What is needed for salvation is the grace of God. Human effort at repentance is as inadequate as any other human effort. Human effort alone can not buy salvation.

Jesus' commandment is to love one another as he loves us. Jesus' consistent warning is that we are not to judge one another but instead we are to worry about our own salvation issues.

Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery - because he knew her heart. Jesus did not condemn David for his murder and adultery because David was man after God's heart. David did not fully repent - he certainly did not end his sinful relationship with Bathsheba. yet God continued to love him anyway, and God kept the promise that a son of David would rule Israel forever.

I cannot know a sinner's heart, and I surely do not know how God regards any particular sinner, beyond the knowledge that God loves all sinners.

I am called to humility, kindness, mercy, and love. To reflect these qualities is to accept each person as God's beloved. Kindness requires us to look upon one another with compassion and pray for God's grace for the other, no matter what they do or how they live their lives. God knows what is in our hearts. And God has all eternity to convert each of us into the person God wills us to become.

I believe that if anyone sincerely wants to belong to a Christian community, they should be welcomed, they should be able to find spiritual sanctuary there, and not judgment. To deny a seeker sanctuary is to turn away from God.

John

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