Some Personal History

When Debi and I moved from Kansas to Palo Alto, CA, I quickly realized how out of touch I was with those who had same-sex attraction. I remember one night after about a year of leading our home group, I realized about 50% of our group had come out of a gay lifestyle or had same sex attraction. I remember thinking about how God had used this amazing group of committed believers to show me that my perspective on same-sex attraction had been very incomplete and distorted. I reflected at that point, on my 20 plus years of following Jesus.  I had made so many comments that were hurtful, I had told and laughed at gay jokes.  I had overly simplified the issue and had judgmental views of those with same-sex attraction both in and outside the church. My theology was incomplete. It was the based on what I believed was true, but it was lacking in love, humility, and identification.

Over the past year, our leadership has been discussing the many questions surrounding homosexuality. I have personally discussed this topic with numerous Christian leaders I respect, both inside and outside of the Vineyard. I have devoted hours to reading and listening to many sincere believers from a number of perspectives explaining what they believe about homosexuality and why they believe it. I have examined and re-examined all the verses in the Bible that discuss homosexuality. I’ve had long conversations with friends who have same sex attraction, some of whom are fully engaged in the church and some who are not.  One thing is clear; viewpoints on homosexuality vary immensely.

Today

As most you know, we believe that the Scripture makes it clear that sex is to be expressed between a man and women in the covenant of marriage.  Sexuality outside of this boundary is not God’s design and is destructive.

But even if you believe the above statement is true; this still leaves many questions.  How do you hold to the truth that we believe the Bible teaches about homosexuality and still love and relate to those who see themselves as gay, or are trying to decide what to do with their same-sex attraction? What about orientation? Is having same-sex desires wrong or is it just acting on those desires? Are we called to influence those outside the church to believe as we do? In what ways has the church wrongly viewed and treated the gay community or those around us with same-sex attraction?

This last year has been a good process that has allowed God to reveal things in my heart that needed changed. I am sure I still have many blind spots.  But as the culture is rapidly changing, we wanted to offer you some resources that will be helpful to fortify your beliefs and strengthen your ability to love.  In addition to our “City on A Hill” teaching series, I have selected some additional teachings, videos, and articles that very closely represent our church’s convictions. These resources reach much more deeply into the subject than we can cover on Sunday. They address sexuality (including homosexuality) and many other issues in which the church and culture see differently. Please know that the resources listed below do not perfectly represent my or the pastoral council’s views, but they get pretty close.

Blessings,

David Stark

God’s Instruction on Sex – Click here to hear David’s teaching from the series “City on A Hill”.

Resources

– Steve Nicholson, Pastor of the Evanston Vineyard:  I have great respect for Steve Nicholson and have known him personally ever since I moved to St. Louis.

– Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church:  Tim Keller is not from Vineyard, but he lays things out theologically in a way that amazes me.

– Rich Nathan, Pastor of the Columbus Vineyard:  I don’t know Rich Nathan personally, but I think his blog has some really good points.

– Book, “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality”: While I haven’t personally read this book, it has been recommended by leaders I trust.

Statement from the Vineyard USA Executive Leadership Team 
First, we must be committed to both mission and holiness. The message of the kingdom is a message of welcome. Anyone can come to the feast- Jesus himself was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. And at the same time, the message of the kingdom is repent, believe, and follow Jesus in every area of life. At times, it can feel as if these two principles are mutually exclusive. But we are convinced they are not. It is possible to offer the radical welcome of Jesus while calling people to high standards of discipleship.

 Second, the Bible promotes, celebrates and affirms marriage as a covenantal union between a man and a woman. Marriage is not the highest purpose of humanity. The apostle Paul himself was single, as was Jesus. At the same time, it must be honored as a sign and gift from God.

Third, we believe that all humans are to be treated with kindness and compassion, as the image-bearers of God on earth. We are all sinful, and it is profoundly unbiblical to pick out one sin that is stigmatized above others. In the history of the church, homosexual persons experienced such sinful stigmatization. We repent and renounce this sort of sinful treatment.

Fourth, we believe that outside of the boundaries of marriage, the Bible calls for abstinence. We know that in our culture, premarital sex, along with many other forms of non-marital sex, has become normative. We want to lovingly help people of any sexual orientation to live up to this standard. We recognize that it can be a difficult journey, and there must be grace along the way. The powerful, beautiful gift of human sexuality must be stewarded with seriousness and compassion within our movement.