Growing in Grace in a Sexually Broken World
Evangel – Summer 2015
Western Canadian Leadership Summit Review
“For followers of Jesus Christ, there is something more important than our sexual identity. That is our identity in Christ.” So spoke pastors, Guy and Cathy Hammond of Strength in Weakness Ministries to the sixty-one people attending all or part of this year’s Western Canadian Leadership Summit in early May.
This was the eleventh year that ABC has hosted a gathering for the leadership of Restoration Movement congregations in western Canada. The gathering features both rich fellowship as well as conversations on critical ministry issues.
This year’s theme was Gospel Soul: Growing in Grace in a Sexually Broken World. The focus was pastoral, that is, how we come alongside same-sex attracted persons and their families.
Probably no topic is more controversial in today’s world than that of same-sex attraction. And no topic has more self-righteousness attached to it, regardless of where one is ideologically. Yet as one attender testified, the Summit “demonstrated that conversation that seeks to respect and understand people in their pain, and God’s call to seek truth and wholeness in ourselves and others, is possible. We don’t need to rant!” We have much to learn about both the beauty of God’s intention for our sexuality, as well as how to love, respect and hold in confidence and prayer those who disagree with us, or who are themselves in deep pain in the church. For those seeking to live out both “grace and truth,” both judgementalism and full-on advocacy for the rightness of same-sex expression miss the mark of pastoral care.
The context for the more practical pastoral concerns was described for the Summit by Ryan Scruggs, former ABC Registrar, and current post-graduate student at McGill University. In a session entitled “Towards a Biblical Theology of Sexuality,” Ryan described how our sexuality is deeply rooted in the creativity, and relationally intimate essence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
“God created humans male and female as a sign of his triune love. This love has been definitively revealed in the one-flesh union of Christ and the church, which is the realization of God’s plan from the beginning to unite himself to his creation. Humans witness to this divine plan by expressing a faithful and life-giving love, and are drawn into God’s triune love through participation in the flesh of Christ. In this way Christians are infused with divine life and made children of God by the power of the Spirit.”
Attendees appreciated both the insightful biblical principles, and the practical ways to help people. Several referred to the real life struggles that threaded their way through the discussion. “I loved the honesty and transparency of the speakers. They gave a tremendous amount of insight into the struggles that people, including themselves, face daily.” Several commented that the stories “drew us to respond compassionately,” or that they challenged “to the core of my being, even some of my traditional and even hypocritical thinking.” Or this: “Guy and Cathy’s lives are testimony to the power of Christ’s love through His people, to redefine us when we are strangers to ourselves because of our attractions and desires.”
The issue of same sex attraction is related to larger ones. One said that they appreciated Ryan’s challenge to the seduction of a contemporary evangelical understanding of sexuality, as being only about pleasure. “Our creation as male and female has much more to do with being ‘co-creators with God’ than we’ve thought, at least for several generations.” Another offered, “I appreciated Guy and Cathy’s distinction between sexual attraction, and acting on that attraction. There are forever covenantal boundaries that as a heterosexual I need to hear about.” The discussion triggered thoughts about the mission of the church as well. “If we have any hope of helping our kids deal with moral confusion more generally, and of modeling compassionate community that lives the mission of the church with clarity, I think the sessions showed the possibilities. God enabled us to deal with controversial issues, but to do so graciously. I’m grateful for other leaders who modeled that for me.”
Others appreciated the timeliness of the theme. “My only complaint is that we didn’t talk about this a year ago!” Or this one: “The topic is essential to this age, and it was handled with sensitivity, openness and honesty, and in accordance with Scripture.” Summit ’15 was truly a time of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!