Let’s begin with the fact that I’m a “straight” Christian guy, and am formed by my orthodox upbringing in Biblical teachings (with maybe a dash of Puritan thrown in). But then, I am currently more consumed with my calling to be a voice for what I choose to call missional ecclesiology, i.e., how the church understands and forms itself to accomplish that for which Christ calls it.

But a significant dimension of that has to do with understanding (or exegeting) the cultural setting in which the church finds itself, and the very real people to whom God longs to make known his grace and love. And the moment you say that you have to stop in your tracks and realize that all such people are those who are in various ways broken and in need of knowing that very grace and love—and that’s all of us, every one of us, no exceptions. (Earl Palmer once commented that the doctrine of original sin was the great democratizing principle in scripture—the great leveler, because it puts us all on the same ground.)

But back to where I started: the cultural, social, demographic context in which I live involves a very large community of “gay” (GLBT) folk, among whom I live, and who are my neighbors, and whom I love and appreciate. And I have to acknowledge that there has been a lot of ugliness in the relationships (or lack thereof) between the gay and straight communities all too often.

So that it was enormously helpful for me to receive the November-December issue of PRISM Magazine under the theme: “Beyond Labels, Finding our Identity in Christ,” which deals with this very issue. It is a refreshing approach. It is an issue of the magazine that deals, not with debates but with story telling, and listening, and coming to understand one another.

On the one hand we live in a morally ambiguous culture where “whatever” simply blows off any need to understand our behavior, and to relate such to God’s design. But such ambiguity doesn’t help with the real pain, the misunderstandings, and all that accompanies so many of us in understanding our sexual identity.

So it was marvelous to read of editor Kristyn Komarnicki forsaking her comfort zone and attending the annual conference of the Gay Christian Network, and having her eyes opened to the vital faith, the love and honesty of a beautiful group of Christian brothers and sisters who welcomed her, and affirmed her “straight” orientation, and appreciated her. It was the more marvelous that this provoked her, and Evangelicals for Social Action, to sponsor a retreat and conversation for a small mixed company of gay and straight Christians with no agenda, entitled: “Oriented to Love.” The November-December issue of PRISM contains the stories of a number of these participants, and it an incredible and eye-opening introduction to the grace of God at work in gifted persons of differing sexual orientation. It is available at: The whole issue of PRISM can be accessed as a PDF by Googling: beyond labels finding our identity in Christ. I commend it to my readers. The issue is also loaded with tons of good resource material.

Understanding this cultural reality and our mutual need of God’s grace is all significant in the mission of God.

Ron Sider, Evangelicals for Social Action, and PRISM Magazine have been a healthy prophetic voice for decades on such convulsive issue as racial justice, economic justice, war and peace, abortion, and so much more. They have done it again with this issue.

We’ll be coming back to this subject from time to time. We have much to learn from each other.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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