Wednesday 3 July 2013

Wounded Gay Elephant - Presidential Musing by Dawn

In my early wanderings around the ICS community, visiting churches in Ontario, talking with supporters, listening to conversations and questions, I am picking up the scent of an elephant in the room. Yes, that one. I’m talking about the gay elephant.

Many people seem interested in discussing “the gay issue" with my husband and me. Some have talked about gay friends and relatives. Others are concerned that ICS is “liberal” based on a history of accepting gay people as Christian brothers and sisters. Some request biblical exegesis. Others are seeking pastoral guidance. Some have expressed disappointment that our leadership on this matter is insufficient right now when the church needs us. Others, no doubt, might be displeased that there is any mention of this elephant.

Ron Kuipers, the Director of our Research Centre, discusses this topic in a Ground Motive blog entry at

It has been two decades since the brouhaha surrounding ICS regarding homosexuality. I wasn't around for that. Almost none of the current employees of the Institute were here for that experience. For us, it is history. There seem to still be some wounds from this, however, both within and outside of ICS. The wounded gay elephant is an elephant, after all, and elephants never forget, right?

“Gay rights” is a hot topic right now. The US Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act recently and also opened the door again to gay marriages in California. Exodus International closed down and apologized. They had worked hard for many years to change gay people so they would live straight lives. Many people, including many Christians, consider gay rights to be today’s civil rights issue. Others consider it the most important gate-keeping issue for churches wishing to keep out those they deem to be unrepentant sinners. Perhaps some spend their lives working to rid the church of all sinners. We saw many empty church buildings in our recent drive around the Netherlands.

When visiting Holland for the first time in June, we met some distant relatives. One church-going relative mentioned this topic as something that divides Christians, indicating a hope that the churches in North America could be leaders regarding the treatment of gay people. Many people have suffered wounds.

Although I recognize that Reformed Christians have differing opinions about how the laws of our countries ought to treat gay people, I was really taken aback by what I heard from a Reformed Christian at the conference we attended in the Netherlands. She indicated that in her country of Nigeria, Christians had just had a victory (not her exact words, but this seemed to be the tone) in that people can now be locked up for fourteen years for homosexual behavior. Wow! There might be North American Christians who would agree with this law, but I trust that the vast majority of readers of this musing are as shocked and disappointed as I am that Christians today would fight for such a law.

More locally, we likely all know stories of someone who has been wounded by the treatment of gay people within our churches. Although there is disagreement within churches on this topic, there is likely also some commonality within our denominations. For example, can we agree that it is not right to lock up practicing homosexuals for fourteen years? Our Research Centre is working on a project related to Faith & Justice. I anticipate that I will learn something from this study regarding the church’s approach to justice. I have many questions. For example, how best can we, as Christians, practice justice in the area of homosexuality?

Justice has many variations. So do elephants.