Monday Morning Insights

Photo of Todd
    .

    How Would Your Church Respond to Constance McMillen?

    How Would Your Church Respond to Constance McMillen?

    Given the interest in the Jennifer Knapp story here at MMI yesterday, I thought this would be a great follow-up, and I'd really like to spark some additional conversation around this topic because I think it's vitally important.  Meet Constance McMillen.  Constance is an 18 year old high school senior from Fulton, Mississippi (but she might as well be from your town).  Constance is a lesbian.  She's been 'out of the closet' since eighth grade.

    It's prom time, and Constance wants to take her girlfriend to the school prom.  School rules state that prom dates must be of the opposite gender.  She asks the school board to reconsider.  They refuse.  She enlists the help of the ACLU.  The school board's response:  cancel the prom for everyone because the whole matter is a distraction "to the educational process".

    My question:  how should the church respond to this?

    This morning, I tried to find out a little more about the situation, and how any of the local churches responded to the local controversy.  I found nothing.

    Oh wait.  I did find one thing.  The infamous Westboro Baptist Church (look them up if you need to) has announced that they are going to picket Constance's graduation this year.  Here's the only response from a 'church' that I could find on this story.

    “WBC will picket the graduation of Itawamba Agricultural High School to remind the parents, teachers and students of this nation that God said 'Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is abomination,'” the church said in announcing the protest.

    “This generation has been raised to believe that they can live for the devil and still go to heaven, that God has no standards and the biggest lie of all – that God loves everyone.”

    “The parents of Fulton, MS feign outrage that a filthy dyke wants to parade her 'girlfriend' around at their night of fornication called a prom,” the church added. “They had a duty to teach their children what the Lord requires of them. They shirked this duty.”

    Fulton, Mississippi is a town of less than 5,000 people.  It could be any of our 'hometowns'.  Let's say, for argument's sake, that Constance lived in your community.  That Constance went to the same high school as your son or daughter.  That your church found itself in the same location as this community-changing story.

    What would your church's response be?  Would you/should your church have a response?

    This is where the rubber meets the road, folks.

    You've often heard that we are to love the sinner but hate the sin.  How do you do that when it's a very public and very divisive issue?

    Sinners have names.  Most all of us (myself included) on this forum (at least from the Jennifer Knapp post) believe that homosexuality is forbidden in scripture.  So how do we mesh our love for Constance with our understanding/condemnation of sin?

    I would argue that calling Constance a 'filthy dyke' is not the way to do it (as Westboro has done).  I think most of you would agree.

    I would also argue that affirming Constance's lifestyle choice as God-honoring is also not a good choice.  Again, most of you would agree.

    So... if the church can not affirm the lifestyle, but cannot call names; how should the church respond?  It HAS to be somewhere in the middle.  But where?

    Like it or not, our culture HAS changed.  When I was in high school (a few years ago); homosexuality still had a very negative connotation to it.  Today, culture has shifted to the point that most high schoolers don't think twice about homosexuality being negative or sinful.  It's like red or blue... pick a color.

    In fact, I would bargain a guess that in your church, you have people that struggle with same-sex attractions on a regular basis.  You might not even be aware of their struggle.  How do you love them?  How do you reach them?  Just preaching against homosexuality won't do the trick anymore.

    Here's the deal... Gay people need Jesus too.  Specifically, Constance needs Jesus.  My fear is that the only 'christian' or church that Constance will hear from is the likes of Westboro.  Or, just as bad, a local church that will speak against the ills of homosexuality and never do a thing to personally reach out to Constance or people like her with the LOVE of Jesus.  'If Constance could only be delivered from her sexual orientation, then maybe she could hear the gospel and be saved.'  Is that not the approach that many of us take?

    OK... I've rambled long enough.  I've written about the homosexuality issue alot over the past five years because of one reason:  I think this is the BIG social issue the church will have to wrestly with in the next decade.  And how we respond now will determine our direction.

    Truthfully, I don't know what the proper response is.  I know it's somewhere between Westboro and affirmation.

    So... if Constance lived in your town, went to your kid's high school, maybe even attended your church's youth group... how would your church respond to this very public, very polarizing, very nasty situation?

    Seriously... think it through.  You may very well have a situation like this happen very soon in your community.  If it happens in Fulton, MS, it could just be a matter of time before this happens in your town.

    Please, take a moment to share your thoughts.  Iron sharpens iron, you know.

    Thanks,

    Todd

     

    Comments

    if you want a Globally Recognized Avatar (the images next to your profile) get them here. Once you sign up, your picture will displayed on any website that supports gravitars.

    1. CS on Tue, April 27, 2010

      My church would respond as we respond with any sinner: love them and show them courtesy and kindness, and call that person to repentance and faith by explaining the Gospel to them.

      But, I think the underlying question you’re getting at, Todd, is, “Would you help her with her prom dreams?”  That’s where it gets challenging.  On the one hand, it would seem nice and polite to let her take her girlfriend to the prom.  On the other hand, do we enable or facilitate her sin by letting her go with her date? 


      CS

    2. Todd Rhoades on Tue, April 27, 2010

      CS—Good point.  It could be that that is what I was really asking… I’m not sure.  smile

      That’s the hard part of the culture though, really…  How do you show love and respect and yet not condone the lifestyle or the sin?  How do you have a platform to share Christ while at the same time sticking to what you believe Biblically?

      We don’t ask smokers to quit smoking before we ask them to accept Christ.  We’ll even work with them and give them time, with the Holy Spirit’s help to stop smoking after salvation.

      If someone has a foul mouth, we don’t expect that they will instantly clean up their language when they accept Christ.  We know that it will be an on-going struggle with them; and that, as they submit to the Holy Spirit in their lives, it will work itself out.

      But when it comes to sexual sins, we are much less tolerable… much less forgiving… much less willing to let the Holy Spirit do his work before we judge.

      If a guy is living with his girlfriend and they have sex twice a day and he accepts Christ, we expect him to cut the sex and move out immediately.  If someone deals with same sex attraction or is gay, we expect that they will turn from their sin cold turkey and never look back.  And, while they’re trying to do so, we’ll preach sermons about how evil their particular sin and past lifestyle is.

      When the Christian alcoholic falls off the wagon, we pray for him.  When the homosexual or adulterer falls back into a lifestyle, we shun them.

      It’s tough to find the balance, is it not?

      Get my point?

      Todd

    3. Q. on Tue, April 27, 2010

      Very good question and good dialogue Todd…  I appreciate this very much…

    4. Carl Thomas on Tue, April 27, 2010

      A bunch of the kids from the prom were going to get drunk.  Others were going to commit sexual sin.  Others were going to spend money they did not have on the evening.  Sin abounds in these events. 

      I would not get involved in any of it.  Unless the school was a part of my church, I would not inject my church into the issue. 

      It is none of my business what the school does with their prom.

      This girl’s sin is between her and God.  It is not something I as a pastor in her town would discuss.  If she were in my church and I had to discuss it, I would tell folks the same thing. 

      The media wants to make this girl a lightening rod for their own purposes and I would not be baited into their agenda.

    5. Todd Bergman on Tue, April 27, 2010

      I know you are focusing on the homosexual angle of this. And I realize that the Knapp post tracked out into other sins. But in honest response to your question, the first thing that popped into my head was, “How does our church deal with the town drunk?”

      The reason this popped into my head is that at one point in American church culture drinking was the sin-du-jour. That has sort of passed away as a great detriment to our families and society. Have we as churches decided that drunkenness is an acceptable sin?

      Yet, how many people are killed by homosexuals every year? We (corporately as the entire body of Christ) have chosen to focus on this sin whereby the spirit of the person in the sin is the only victim. And have apparently chosen to ignore the growing epidemic of destruction through alcoholism and drinking-related violence.

      I am not condoning homosexuality nor claiming alcoholism and its consequences are a greater sin. I would argue that there is a lot of room to level the rhetoric.

      Now in response to the question, I as a pastor would treat this girl as I would any other youth in our church. As for the church, they struggle with that question on a regular basis. Not that it is an issue in our community of 1,000. But they fell that it someday will. I would hope that they would respond to her as a person needing grace, love, and acceptance so that they may grow in knowing and living God’s will.

    6. Leonard on Tue, April 27, 2010

      I hear all the time that all sins are the same. They are not.  The bible teaches the eternal impact of sin is the same but it also gives varying responses to sin in the laws of God.  The bible even says that sexual sins are different.

      One issue we must address in how we approach sin is we tend to single out sin as one sin or isolate sin as singular.  But no sin comes by itself.  When a person lies, there is always another sin or two or three… at work.  Lies in themselves are covers for sins.  When a person steals, there is also at work greed, malice, prideful forethought, a lack of trust…  A reason we have not adequately dealt with Homosexuality IMO is that we isolate it as a singular sin.  It is the sin we attack so to speak.  Romans one speaks of the progression that leads to sexual deviance. 

      To simply preach against homosexuality is to take a giant adventure in missing the point. Homosexuality is very often the accumulation of sins and is produced not simply chosen.

    7. Pastor Rick on Tue, April 27, 2010

      I did 2 years of community college in fulton back in the 70’s. It’s a typical southern town with a church on practically every block. I’m certain the truth about homosexuality is well known, and a very sore spot to those suffering with same-sex attraction. What we as the church must find a way to emphasize and be known for is not added condemnation but overwhelming love. We certainly must speak clearly the truth, but we must just as certainly live clearly the love of Christ, for it is “...the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.” Romans 2:4
      The pharasaic Westboros of the world must not be allowed to be the only voice of the church with regards to sin and salvation, and neither should the revisionist churches who deny God’s wrath. Our warnings against sin must be tempered with direction toward forgiveness and deliverance from condemnation through the Blood of Christ

    8. Rod Gauthier on Tue, April 27, 2010

      Tough question to answer. John Burke says in his book, “No Perfect People Allowed”, that the issue of homosexuality will be the litmus test of how we deal with culture. I agree with Carl, it is non of my business. Where it becomes my business is where my church and this issue intersect. Will kids from the youth group (perhaps your own kids) be there? (probably) What will be their reaction and response? What impact will the teaching of the church have on them as they are friends and fellow students. Will they shun (hopefully not), or walk with this girl letting her know that she is loved completely, regardless of what her sin is. Will all of us allow God, who knows the depths of her heart, deal with her using us as his hands, feet and mouth to restore her to himself? I think that at times we try to outthink God (or we think we do), He only asks us to manage our lives not the whole issue. Anyway that is my 2 cents worth. Thanks for listening!

    9. Vanessa on Tue, April 27, 2010

      I happen to personally fall on the liberal side of this, but I think Constance and her date should have just bought separate tickets and gone to the prom together without making an issue of it.  Honestly, I’m all for gay rights and I do believe that the scriptural stance on homosexuality IS AS DEBATABLE AS TITHING (both issues have valid scriptural stances that they stand on as their guide as to what they believe God expects from us but no one can GUARANTEE that their understanding is correct) , but I get sick of agendas.  I get sick of Christians trying to impose their belief system on the world and I get sick of the world trying to impose their belief system on the church.  That is why there is a separation of church and state.  Our own government was set up to protect the church from the state and to protect the state from the church but the lines have gotten blurry because of politicians trying to impose their agendas.  The church and the state (in this case, the school) are two totally different entities. The state and the school should have to support Constance’s request,  and the church should live and stand for what they believe is the way to live.  Christians aren’t the moral police that need to keep the nation in line.  We need to share the Good News of Christ, but not try to change people.  Only God can change people.  I think the school was wrong for canceling the prom.  If it wasn’t a private school I don’t think they should have the right to reject Constance’s request.  Public schools should be required to acknowledge her relationship and if the community doesn’t like it, then send the kids to another school that has the right to refuse her request because it is private and is not funded by tax money.  If I were in her town, I would help those kids by providing a prom for them where everyone is accepted and respected and let God sort out the rest.

    10. CS on Tue, April 27, 2010

      Todd:

      “How do you show love and respect and yet not condone the lifestyle or the sin?  How do you have a platform to share Christ while at the same time sticking to what you believe Biblically?”

      I’d say this isn’t unique to this particular girl’s situation, but is universal because all of us are sinners and prior to Christ saving us as Christians, we engaged in lifestyles of sin.  And I’d show the same respect and politeness while not compromising on anything.

      “We don’t ask smokers to quit smoking before we ask them to accept Christ.  We’ll even work with them and give them time, with the Holy Spirit’s help to stop smoking after salvation.

      “If someone has a foul mouth, we don’t expect that they will instantly clean up their language when they accept Christ.  We know that it will be an on-going struggle with them; and that, as they submit to the Holy Spirit in their lives, it will work itself out.”

      This is where things get problematic.  When we say, “repent,” do we really mean, “repent?”  Yes, you’re right that the sanctification is a process, no one will get it perfect, and we will all still struggle with it.  But from the moment a person is born-again, shouldn’t that desire be to flee from sin and seek after God’s righteousness?

      “If a guy is living with his girlfriend and they have sex twice a day and he accepts Christ, we expect him to cut the sex and move out immediately.  If someone deals with same sex attraction or is gay, we expect that they will turn from their sin cold turkey and never look back.”

      To be blunt, didn’t Jesus tell the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more?  =)


      CS

    11. keith on Wed, April 28, 2010

      “We don’t ask smokers to quit smoking before we ask them to accept Christ.”

      True. But we don’t buy them a pack of cigarettes, either.

      That principle applies no matter what they struggle with. Hold out the standard, give them time, pray for them and be patient - but don’t enable them in sin.

    12. Wendi Hammond on Wed, April 28, 2010

      CS: “To be blunt, didn’t Jesus tell the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more?”  I commented about this on the Knapp thread, and my point was that we have no idea whether or not the woman actually stopped sinning, and she offered no “repentance” to Jesus before he rescued her.

      Dallas Willard said (I’m pulling the quote from memory and know I have the intent correct, but may not have the words exactly): “in a pluralistic society, the true test of any religion is how it treats its non-adherents.”  Our founding fathers intentionally created America to be a pluralistic society.  Constance’ desire to go to the prom give us an opportunity to respond to Willard’s tenet. 

      For sure we shouldn’t jump into the media frenzy.  I agree that the public school was wrong to cancel the prom.  I’m not sure I believe a public school should have a rule about same-sex dates.  But I don’t know how / if we should respond further unless / until we’re invited into the discussion or into a relationship with this family. 

      Wendi

    13. CS on Wed, April 28, 2010

      Wendi:

      Normally, I wouldn’t respond to something from Willard because he believes in the heretical view that people will go to Heaven independent of specific revelation of Christ, but that quote has a little bit of merit. 

      So, how then do we treat Constance as a, “non-adherent?”  I would respond with the way I initially said—love them and show them courtesy and kindness, and call that person to repentance and faith by explaining the Gospel to them.  But we don’t facilitate sin.

      And despite any further evidence of the adultress repenting of her sins or not, we have clear indication that repentance is a part of someone coming to faith.  There are demonstrable stories of this including Zacchaeus, and there are proclamations such as Christ’s first words of His public ministry, “[t]he kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

      What would you propose?  If we had a chance to decide, would you have made the prom go forward and welcomed her?  If so, how would that meet with the Bible?

      “But I don’t know how / if we should respond further unless / until we’re invited into the discussion or into a relationship with this family.”

      By that logic, we’ll never be able to discuss trends that will eventually affect other areas of our lives.  Public items can be discussed publicly, provided it doesn’t delve into gossip, to determine how we as Christians should react to social trends and popular culture.


      CS

    14. Wendi Hammond on Wed, April 28, 2010

      CS – to quickly respond to your questions.

      If I were a principle at a public school, I would not cancel the prom because I have a responsibility to students of every religious persuasion, and none.  Not allowing the gay/lesbian equal access club, for example, also excludes the Christian club.  This is a good system because it forces Christ followers to influence by their presence instead of imposing biblical standards on people who have no interest or belief in the bible.  Yes, Constance and her female date can attend.  If asked (and only if asked) by a student what my personal beliefs are, I then have every leagal right, and a biblical responsibility to tell them.  But I don’t have a right to impose those beliefs on my students.  A private Christian school would be totally different.

      Yes, in the context of a relationship, Jesus called the woman at the well to stop sinning.  But my point is that Jesus rescued her FIRST, and we have no idea whether she actually did (was able) to change her lifestyle.  You may not agree, but I believe she was transformed (saved) by the encounter, whether or not she returned to her life.  That doesn’t remove the importance of repentance from the sanctification process, it just affirms that repentence is anything but a neat, “pray the prayer, stop sinning right now” deal.

      Wendi

    15. CS on Wed, April 28, 2010

      Wendi:

      “If I were a principle at a public school, I would not cancel the prom because I have a responsibility to students of every religious persuasion, and none.” 

      I understand the context of this statement.  Since you mentioned it, if you were the principal of a private, Christian school, would you have allowed it to happen?

      “You may not agree, but I believe she was transformed (saved) by the encounter, whether or not she returned to her life.  That doesn�t remove the importance of repentance from the sanctification process, it just affirms that repentence is anything but a neat, �pray the prayer, stop sinning right now� deal.”

      Yes, or no:  Do you believe that repentance is a component of salvation and a response of someone who is saved?  Do you believe that a person can be saved and continue on in a lifestyle of sin in full knowledge of what he is doing is a sin?


      CS

    16. Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >

      Post a Comment

    17. (will not be published)

      Remember my personal information

      Notify me of follow-up comments?

    Sponsors