*This article originally appeared on JennieAllen.com. Used by permission.
This week my dear friend Jen answered an important question in an Internet article:
“Do you think a homosexual relationship could ever be holy?”
She responded, “I do.” And, not surprisingly, my phone and inboxes started to blow up.
Many want me to issue a statement, because their local churches around the world have entrusted us with their women. I have a few drafts open on my computer, but this is so much more than a statement for me. This is not about some “Christian celebrity” out there, this is my friend whom I have logged a lot of life with—including hours over the past many months about this very topic. While we disagree on this important issue, Jen and I love each other and agree on so many things. Jen speaking at IF Gathering isn’t even on the table, because she took herself out of IF many months ago for reasons that are her own.
Concerning where IF and I land here: Nothing has changed. I lean on 2,000 years of church history and we continue to hold an orthodox view of marriage. Our commitment to Scripture is a guiding value: We believe the God of the Universe reveals and defines Himself through His Word. We believe the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, are verbally inspired by God, fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in what they say. (Including in regards to sexual ethics.)
And guess what? If you disagree with that or if you have yet to land on the above statement—we are also deeply committed to building a safe place for you and all people to come and experience and know Jesus and consider Him. All people are welcome at IF—I just want to be clear that from the stage we are giving you the Bible and Jesus when you come.
What the above sentences don’t say is that each time I attempted to write a “statement,” I cried, eventually falling asleep because I was physically exhausted trying to put down words that might be used to drive a relational wedge between me and someone I love so dearly and hurt members of the LGBTQ community, many who are friends.
IF exists because Jesus’ invitation to us is not “clean up your life, then you can come to me.” We all bring something different to the table, and we allow Jesus to meet with us where we are, transform us and follow where He leads.
When IF began three years ago, I believed the way through for us would always be to keep things SIMPLE and PURE. Humbly focus on the BIBLE and JESUS. We would hold tightly to the Nicene Creed which has defined orthodoxy for nearly 2,000 years. See, we aren’t the local church and so we didn’t have to speak into every topic…this would not be a time to gather around the issues, this would be a place to gather around Jesus.
Was it naive? You bet.
Except that three years later, I see it happening…online in Facebook groups, in cities where 20-30 churches are coming together, at dinner tables over a meal and intentional honest conversations, and this past February over a million women gathered from nearly every denomination in Christendom and in over 125 countries around Christ. You see, even in the messiness of it all I’m more convinced than ever that God is using our humble offerings of tools and experiences for women to grow as disciples and make disciples.
And none of that has changed.
Church, this issue of homosexuality is a difficult one for us right now, and it’s not because the Bible is not clear on the issue. The difficulty is because it is not an issue—it is people. And people we love.
It is requiring something we are not well practiced in—holding the tensions of grace and truth.
We have a decent amount of practice with grace. We have more practice dumping “truth” everywhere, but mixing the two together feels so impossible we usually just choose one. Jesus was described as “full of grace and truth” (Jn.1:14).
This isn’t easy. Most of God’s callings on my life actually require God in my life.
He didn’t build us to hold all the tensions and live them out perfectly. I want to say this clearly: Friends, in some way we all are getting this wrong.
We’re getting this wrong, because we aren’t Jesus. But we do have Jesus. We have this model of a man so radically willing to lay His life down for others, He did so. He walked with all types of people, in grace and truth, and used less words than we do. And we have His Word and His Spirit in us to help us do the same.
I’ve got enough planks in my eye to keep me busy for my short years here.
I have seen hate rise up in my heart toward someone else.
I have chosen comfort rather than fighting injustice.
I have lived out of fear of man instead of fear of God.
I have wanted to be understood rather than seeking to understand.
I have shrunk back when I should have stood up.
I have stood up when I should have shut up.
Yet, I also have tasted the depths of Jesus’ great and unending love for me.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5
That is who IF:Gathering is and that is who we will remain—if you are a sinner in need of grace, if you are someone tired of the division, if you are someone craving God and a sisterhood to follow Him with…come on. You are welcome here.
Church—I don’t know how we navigate all of this perfectly today…but I do know how it turns out forever. Those who have put their faith in Jesus—we do life together for the rest of eternity.
So, where we can all agree: Let’s do better here.
Let’s remember we are talking about people’s lives.
Let’s seek to understand.
Let’s please stop demonizing each other no matter where they fall.
Let’s lean on Jesus more than we ever have, to hold these tensions more graciously, and let’s hold to God’s Word as we do.
Let’s confess our own sin rather than sitting on the Internet speaking up about everyone else’s.
I believe in us, church.