Responding to an open letter from a fellow Chrisian columnist, a US pastor explains his reasons for writing in defence of openly gay NBA player Jason Collins, and emphasising a need for a dialogue on homosexuality within the church.

Pastor Dave Thompson, a columnist for the Christian Post, recently wrote a column supporting Collins for his decision to come out as gay, saying many church leaders “have denied the grace of Christ for gay couples,” and commending his bravery.

Jason Collins recently spoke about his sexuality, confirming he is gay in an article in Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Another Christian Post columnistr, Pastor Ken Hutcherson directly addressed Thompson, criticising his column, and compared homosexuality to “gambling, porn, alcohol and drug abuse,” as well as saying it “destroys the family… and eventually the soul”. He also claimed that homosexuality has “destroyed every civilisation it has touched”.

Writing for PinkNews, Thompson responds to Hutcherson’s letter, noting his reasons for commending Collins for coming out, and challenges biblical issues raised.

The full letter is available to read below.

Dear Dr Hutcherson,

I am so grateful for your open letter and your words written in love and with concern for our Scriptures. Thank you for your willingness to dialogue about this very important issue. This has been my intent from the beginning (even with my book), not to convince people of my reflections, but to encourage dialogue concerning the thousands of gay brothers and sisters in our churches. I will attempt as best I can to address the numerous points you have made.

First, I feel I should note that I couldn’t claim to respond for millions of Christians, as you do. If fact I cannot claim to represent anyone but myself. All that I can respond for are my convictions of the Scriptures. Still, I do bring the stories of many voiceless conservative faith pastors who have shared with me their hurts concerning the rejection of gay people from their congregations, who fear the cost of standing up to address this issue. I do bring the tears of the parents who have wept with me over the loss of their gay children that they rejected for reasons of faith. I do bring the words of Jesus who says, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42). So I wrestle alongside of you as a fellow pastor, with fear and trepidation, measuring the danger of denying anyone adoption into the family and Kingdom of God.

You’ve asked me to show you a place in Scripture where homosexuality is justified. I will not. Neither would I attempt to justify divorce and remarriage, nor working on the Sabbath, nor any other human complexity. Instead, as someone who is conservative in their biblical interpretation of Genesis, I perceive that God initially intended sexuality as an expression between a man and a woman to be shared in marriage with one-another. That said, the challenge is that we are not in the Garden, we have all-together found ourselves in a changed world, with consequences that leave us to find the best and most ideal solutions amidst the complication of unchangeable human realities.

For gay people, circumstances do not provide them with the ability to live into the Genesis notion of straight sexuality. Still, they are equally in need of relationship and intimacy. Forcing any person, gay or straight, into celibacy, when God has not gifted them for it, forces them to sin by forcing them to violate God’s first moral observation in Genesis, that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). Even Paul recognized this when he says “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1Cor 7:9). This is the biblical challenge with which we must wrestle.

This is perhaps where I fear our churches have appeared as hypocritical to the world. In our churches, we welcome many people into the Kingdom of God even though their own circumstances do not allow them to live into the Genesis ideal of God. For example, in our churches nearly half of our members (if not more) are divorced and remarried. Many of them did not divorce over marital infidelity and so they are now by Jesus’ words living in adultery with their new spouse (Matt 19). We would never dream of asking them to divorce their current spouse and live a celibate life, even though it would be the ideal, because we recognize their need for relationship. And yet, we do not extend the same grace to gay persons who also find their circumstances unchangeable, while still needing relationship.

I am so grateful that you have brought up the question of ‘choice’ for gay people. This is a key point of conversation in my book, Over Coffee, and is often a misunderstood aspect. I think you would agree that no straight person ever made a conscious choice that they would be attracted to the opposite sex. They just were. For gay people it is the same. Moreover, why would someone ever choose an orientation that would in many ways guarantee them rejection, hurt, and ostracization. I am grateful that we are beginning to find our churches as a place where our gay brothers and sisters can find the welcoming arms of God, love, and a community of refuge.

I would agree with you that same-sex attraction ‘destroys the family,’ but for different reasons than you state. I would not group it with the changeable elements like ‘gambling, porn, alcohol, drug abuse,’ etc. Gay people can’t change their orientation. Even our evangelical gay ministry, Exodus International publicly recognizes this. In our churches, the destruction of the family has come from our hesitance to understand the unchangeable nature of same-sex attraction, and from the unfortunate rejection of and lack of support for our brothers and sisters who face this human complexity.

Thank you also for bringing up the example of Sodom and Gomorra. This passage of Scripture is often misapplied to the context of gay people. As I’m sure you noted in your reading of the passage, the men of Sodom and Gomorra desired to rape the guests of Lot. Rape is a horrific and ungodly violation of the intimacy God intended for sexuality, which is far from the desires of our gay brothers and sisters. As you are no doubt aware, in contrast to this, our gay brothers and sisters seek companionship, intimacy, and the most godly fulfillment of their created need for relationship as is possible for them.

As for homosexuality ‘destroying every civilization it touches,’ I am not sure to which civilization you were referring. I am no historian, but I think it may be a bit hasty to suggest that homosexuality, let alone any one issue, has been the sole cause of any civilization’s destruction. In point of fact, a handful of super-power societies had recognized same-sex relationships even before their rise to power, among them the Roman empire. This is neither here nor there, when it comes to our biblical conversation, but I thought that I should reflect on this point.

Last, as for Jason Collins, I am happy to hear that you would welcome him into your congregation, helping him understand the true love of Jesus Christ, as you have done with all of the other persons in your church who face unchangeable human circumstances. Every one of us has our own unique human circumstances, requiring us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2). And each of us will have to measure for themselves what repentance means.

Again, Dr. Hutcherson, I am grateful for your open letter and I am grateful for your desire to uphold the Word of God. I hope to continue our conversations. I would like to welcome you to sit with me and talk, over coffee.

- Pastor Dave Thompson

Pastor Dave Thompson is a regular columnist for the Christian Post, as well as a published author. His book Over Coffee, deals with the issue of homosexuality in the church. He is available to contact through his website.