To be fair, Sam Allberry says there is a difference between same sex attraction and being gay. I just happen not to agree with him on this point.
There is a movement afoot in the evangelical churches to diversify. This diversity is coming at the churches in all shapes and sizes. The heartbeat of the diversity movement is an overwhelming need for affirmation. The generations that are coming up into early adulthood and even into their 30’s were raised in a culture of unbridled and unrestrained affirmation. These are the kids who played sports where everyone got a trophy no matter what. These are the kids who were taught to believe that they really are special. The worse thing imaginable that you could do to these adults is to refuse to agree with all that they have been taught to believe about themselves. They are good people. They are special people. They are beautiful people. They are entitled people. They deserve all that they have. On and on the list goes, but you get the idea.
The demographics of the churches is becoming more and more reflective of these generations of adults. And this shift will continue to increase over the next 10-20 years until they reflect an extremely high percentage of church membership. Now, as a side note, think about what this means for pastors and leaders who have bothered to look into these demographics and have seen the writing on the wall. What do you think their focus might be? Remember the movie “Field of Dreams?”
If you build it, they will come. The “they” is the generations of young people who are bringing their unbending attitudes and values and morals with them. And if you want to appeal to this generation of western humans, you had better build exactly what they want. And what do they want? One word: AFFIRMATION. No one should be rejected except for those who have old-fashioned rules that require them to reject others. It is perfectly alright to reject them. Other than that, everyone is special and everyone deserves unbridled equal opportunity no matter what the shape of that opportunity might be. We see this in gay marriage, homosexuality, gender dysphoria, open immigration, abortion on demand, etc. It isn’t that this group of human beings don’t have rules. Of course they would like to think they don’t. And of course they would like us to believe that they don’t. But the fact is that they do. The truth is that they have exchanged the old rules for new ones. And the very dangerous thing is that their rules are not grounded on years of tradition, values, and life experience. They are grounded in the idea of affirmation. Utopia for this generation is affirmation. Of course it is affirmation with serious qualifications but nonetheless, it is affirmation.
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Enter the Anglican Priest, Sam Allberry. Sam Allberry is quite busy running around with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries doing all he can to convince the church that it needs to affirm celibate homosexuals. Of course, the term employed in this project is Same-Sex Attracted. He knows that evangelicals will have a hard time swallowing the stigmatized word “homosexual.” And so, he uses one that is greatly watered down in an attempt to change the mindset of the older generations. Allberry has included in his efforts an attempt to legitimize the category of gender dysphoria. And again, the goal is to provide a degree of affirmation. It is apparently alright to be a man and have sexual urges for men in general. You just can’t do it with a specific man literally or in fantasy. For purposes of this post, I am not going to argue that Allberry is wrong and make that case. Instead, I am going to assume he is wrong and proceed to ask the question, if Allberry is wrong about celibate homosexuals in the church and about gender dysphoria, what should we do about it?
Follow me here. Let’s say that homosexual desires are sinful. After all, Paul called these very desires degrading, literally, dishonorable passions. The Greek word attaches the alpha privative to the word timē which is the word for honor. The sexual desire for someone of the same sex is classified as a dishonorable desire and the sexual act itself is classified as against nature. A desire to act in a way that is a violation of nature itself cannot be morally neutral. The language used by the apostle is biting. Now, when we compare this descriptor by Paul to another descriptor by the same Paul in 1 Cor. 7:9 where Paul says that if a person does not have the ability to control their sexual desires, then they should get married. It is better for them to marry than to be in a state of having on-going unfulfilled sexual desires.
So then, to teach people that they should live in a state of unfulfilled sexual desire is to go against the sacred and divinely inspired writings of Paul. It would seem that Allberry is in clear contradiction to Romans 1 and 1 Cor. 7. When we add to this Allberry’s troubling remarks concerning gender issues, the problem gets worse. Now, that doesn’t mean that Allberry takes us to the worse possible place in this area. But it does mean that his position is bad enough that it merits serious attention and a careful response.
I believe that Allberry’s error lies in the same area that many modern Christian leaders lies. It lies in the urge to appease, to affirm. This generation wants affirmation. Think about that for a moment. What is the core thrust of the Christian message? What is the first word of the gospel? No, it isn’t God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life if you will just give him a chance. The message of Christ according to Mark 1:14-15 is “repent and believe the gospel.” The approach by Christ and his Apostles was radically and fundamentally different from modern preachers. We can say the same thing about the prophets as they warned the nation of Israel. There was none of this, “listen to the heart of the broken unbeliever and make sure you preserve your friendship above all else.” Repent and believe the gospel! You have an obligation to God that you have been and are ignoring. Nothing is more perilous than that. Repent and believe the gospel.
So then, if Allberry is fundamentally wrong in this teaching and approach, what are we to do with him? Now, saying that I disagree with Allberry is not saying that I think he does not know Christ. I am not making a pronouncement on his faith. I have no idea if he knows Christ or not. I don’t know if Andy Stanley is saved either. I try not to make it a practice to make such pronouncements on others because I am not God and I honestly do not know. Moreover, I don’t need to know. But that does not answer the question of this post. What should we do with Allberry?
If someone is teaching something that is plainly in violation of Scripture, it needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed directly. Even if the teaching is highly questionable, it needs to be addressed in some way, shape or form. Allberry’s message should not be given the platform it is. If there is concern over his views, then this concern should translate into action. And this is a part of the problem in our churches. Action seems to be missing in action.
If Same-Sex-Attraction is not in and of itself sinful as long as the person does not act on it, then we must follow this all the way to its unavoidable logical conclusions. Young Child Sexual Attraction must be morally neutral as well. And as long as you don’t act on it, then those urges are fine. This can be extended to bestiality as well. Why can’t two men have a non-sexual relationship as boyfriends so long as they do not have sexual relations and agree not to fantasize about one another? If you don’t think this isn’t where this issues lives, then you have your head in the sand. This discussion cannot remain in the ivory tower of scholarship. It has to move down to where the rubber meets the road. Ideas have consequences. On what principle can a pastor say to Bill and John that they cannot hold hands in church after he has accepted Allberry’s claims regarding SSA?
What do we do with Sam Allberry? We don’t have to draw any conclusions about his salvation. At least not yet. Sam should be subjected to discipline because his teachings are out of step with Christian orthodoxy. If he refused to submit to the authority of the church in this area, then both he and his teachings would be purged from the body and he would be treated as a target of evangelism. If his faith is genuine, it is right here where it would be proven. But the churches haven’t had an appetite for purity in doctrine of living now for a very long time.