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Bridging the Gap: conversations on befriending our gay neighbors

Bridging the Gap is a four part documentary produced by New Direction Ministries of Canada. It is intended to help Christian small groups facilitate discussion about how to respond to our gay friends and neighbors with greater love, respect, and understanding.

Along with about a dozen other contributors, I was invited to talk about my own journey, and to share some of the insights and experiences I’ve gained in over a decade of reaching out to the gay and lesbian community.

New Direction made a deliberate decision not to focus on the theological arguments about homosexuality: there are already a wide range of resources dealing with those debates (including some here at CityofGod.net). Instead, the producers chose to focus on issues of the heart, asking how our attitudes and relationships should embody the fruits of the Spirit in the midst of this contentious topic.

Many of the participants in the project come from theological perspectives that differ significantly from my own orthodox Catholic beliefs. For example, Tony Campolo is an American Baptist pastor, Brian McLaren is one of the leaders of the Emergent Church movement, and Justin Lee is the founder of the Gay Christian Network. While I do not agree with everything said in the course of the interviews, I appreciate the depth and seriousness of the discussion, and think Bridging the Gap can play an important role in improving Christian discussions of gay issues. I know of many better resources for addressing the theological issues surrounding homosexuality. But I know of no better resourse for helping Christians to understand what it is like to be gay and encouraging us to show love and respect in our interactions with gay friends and neighbors.

Justin and I have known each other for more than a decade, and over the years we have often argued about the theological legitimacy of same-sex unions. In the next clip, Justin and I join several others to discuss some of the pitfalls of online interaction. Internet discussions of controversial issues easily descend into unproductive “flame wars.” Here, we focus on the importantance of trying to understand the other person’s perspective. Face-to-face interaction with those with whom we disagree will not solve all disagreements, but it can often be a helpful way to overcome misunderstandings and move the discussion to a more productive level.

New Direction has made these and a number of other clips from the documentary available on their YouTube Channel. For more information and to join in ongoing conversation about the project, visit the Bridging the Gap blog. Or, you may order the DVDs through the New Direction website for CAN$32.99.

Bridging the Gap was made possible in part by a generous donation from the Bridgeway Foundation; however, donors are still needed to ensure BTG reaches a wide audience and meets its goal of equipping Christians to share the love of Christ with their gay neighbours. If you would like to consider partnering with New Direction on this project, visit their Donations page for more information.



Articles and Essays:
In 2003, Justin Lee, the founder and Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network, invited me to write an essay defending the traditional Christian belief that homosexual activity is wrong, and that gays and lesbians who are unable to marry a person of the opposite sex are called to celibacy. Justin wrote a companion essay arguing that God blesses gay marriage. Justin has made the two essays into a prominent GCN feature called the “Great Debate.”
For the Summer 2004 issue, Notre Dame Magazine planned to do a special issue focused on homosexuality and the Catholic Church. They invited me to contribute an essay describing how I came to accept Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Rather than focusing on theological arguments, they asked me to focus on telling the story through my own journey and experiences. The whole package won the 2005 first place Press Award for “Best investigative writing or analysis” from the Catholic Press Association. This is a somewhat revised version of the essay. Click here for the original version on the Notre Dame Magazine website.
In late 2002 and early 2003, there was an ongoing controversy in the letters section of the New Oxford Review over the editors’ use of the word “fag” in an article. With encouragement from several members of Courage who were deeply frustrated with the exchange, I wrote this essay, which was published in the June 2003 issue of the New Oxford Review.
This essay was originally written in 2003, in response to the planned protests of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops meetings in Washington, DC by Soulforce, a pro-gay group. Edited slightly to remove references to the original protest, it still provides a good overview of some aspects of Catholic teaching related to homosexuality.
Also written in response to the Soulforce protests, this essay examines prejudice against gays and lesbians, and attempts to provide a Catholic Response.
Speeches and Presentations:
This is the keynote speech I gave at the January, 2007 Gay Christian Network Conference in Seattle, WA. It voices frustration at the ways that gays and lesbians are sometimes treated by Christians, and focuses on the importance of obedience to God, even in the most difficult circumstances.
If you knew nothing about human biology, you could listen to most of our debates about abortion and never realize that men are involved in any way. We talk about the woman’s body, the woman’s right to choose. We in the pro-life movement talk about the unborn child’s right to life. But what about the father? In this speech, delivered at the March 25, 2006 Symposium on Life Issues at St. Monica's Catholic Church, I looked at the role of men in building the Culture of Life.
On January 22, 2006, the Knights of Columbus invited me to give a brief reflection at a memorial service for the unborn, held at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park to commemmorate the 33rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
On November 3, 2005, the Philosophy Club at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette invited me to debate Dr. Rick Swanson on the question: “Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?” I do not have a complete transcript of the debate; however, I have made my opening statement available here.
On January 23, 2004, the Washington, DC chapter of Courage and the Georgetown University chapter of the Knights of Columbus invited me to speak at Georgetown about Catholic teaching and homosexuality.

[The responses in this section were originally written in response to questions I received from friends or others. Before posting them here, I edited both question and response in order to enhance clarity and readability.]

Question: In God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door, Alan Chambers writes, “This is why I believe that it is so important to clarify that just living a celibate gay life is just as sinful as living a sexually promiscuous one. The sin is in identifying with anything that is contrary to Christ, which homosexuality clearly is” (218). Would you be willing to identify as a “gay Christian”? How do you think such an identity relates to the arsenokoitai of whom Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 6? [ Read response ]