The following remarks were delivered by IRD’s Evangelical Action Director Chelsen Vicari on September 21 at Family Research Council’s Values Voters Summit during a panel discussion tailored for students, titled: “Restoring A Generation’s Identity.” The panel was moderated by Patrina Mosley, FRC’s Director of Life, Culture, and Women’s Advocacy, and also included Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, author, Longing for Motherhood, and John Reid, FRC’s Director of Social Media.
Is the Church immune to sexuality and gender confusion?
I bet you all know the answer to this question already. Absolutely not. The Church is not immune to today’s sexuality and gender issues. Why not? Because the people who make up the Church—capital “c,” the global body of Jesus Christ—we are not immune to social pressures and we are absolutely not immune to sin.
What is different about sexuality and gender identity confusion, and struggles, and hostile battles happening inside the Church is that there are Christians enthusiastically supporting practicing same-sex behavior and gender reassignment as sanctioned by God.
Perhaps some of your own denominations and local churches are facing pressure to affirm same-sex behavior and gender reassignment.
Are there any Methodists here?
Right now the United Methodist Church is embroiled in this very debate. After a hotly-contested election of a “bishop” who is an openly partnered lesbian, the United Methodist Church will gather this coming February in St. Louis to possibly determine whether or not their denomination will deny their historical Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality and embrace progressive sexual ethics.
Any Episcopalians here?
The Episcopal Church has taken steps to revise their Book of Common Prayer, which could include gender-neutral language for God.
Back in January, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington D.C.—which includes the National Cathedral not far from here—passed resolutions to encourage all parishes to remove any obstacles to full participation of transgender persons in congregational life by making all gender-specific facilities and activities fully accessible.
The organization I work for, the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), monitors these liberal trends happening within Christian denominations. We report on them and encourage congregants to speak up and defend traditional Christian sexual ethics.
Every year, the IRD sends a staff member to a liberal Christian conference called the Wild Goose Festival. It’s an open-air gathering that sort of resembles Woodstock or Burning Man. The first year I attended in person, I sat and listened to a Christian man who transitioned into a woman give his testimony. His testimony was quite moving and convincing. But then the man’s son stood as part of the presentation and offered his perspective. Try and he might to affirm his dad’s transition, the son’s pain was evident. He cried over feelings of losing his dad. And I remember thinking to myself that no matter how hard we try to revise God’s Creation, the trickledown effect of sin has harmful consequences that we cannot hide or deny.
Too many Christians think that if we cave to cultural pressures, then the Church will be embraced by the outside world. This will never happen. Christians can bend to cultural pressure, but the result is a hindered public witness of the Church.
Let me give you an example.
About a year ago I spoke with a pastor of a Baptist church in Dallas, Texas that voted to affirm homosexuality. Because of this decision, 250 members left the church. When I asked the pastor if the church’s decision lead to a large number of people joining the church, the answer was not really. At that point, the church had only gained 120 new members. Interestingly, the pastor admitted that the majority of those new members are not LGBTQ. My guess is the new congregants are older white politically liberal locals.
No matter how culturally relative churches like this Baptist church try to rebrand themselves, people are not flocking to join affirming congregations. Most affirming Mainline denominations are in steep membership decline. They’re dying in numbers and influence on behalf of Christ.
Here in Washington, D.C. perhaps you’ve noticed that some of the big beautiful Protestant sanctuaries have rainbow flags hanging outside. These sanctuaries might have 30 people in attendance on an average Sunday morning. But the theologically conservative church plants that rent those sanctuaries on Sunday nights are growing.
This rapid decline in progressive churches tells us that people don’t go to church simply for a like-minded community. People can find community at Soul Cycle or Hot Yoga. I think people are attracted to theologically conservative churches because deep down we all yearn to know Christ’s truth.
Sexual sin is and has always been affecting the Church.
The Church is not immune to adultery, premarital sex, pornography, and sexual assault and harassment. But when do you hear congregations rushing to defend and sanction any of these sins that we all struggle with in some way or another? So why are we expected to embrace sexual sin dealing with homosexuality?
Sexual sin is why my family despondently found a local church, and ultimately meet Jesus Christ. My father’s affairs came to light. My parents’ marriage was broken, seemingly irreparable. My mom wandered into a church close to our house. While my parents were not practicing Believers, my mom knew there was something hopeful about a church. She went in. The pastor agreed to provide premarital counseling and shared the Gospel. Both of my parents were saved…and changed. Not perfect, but transformed and daily sanctified by the grace of God.
Here’s the difference between how the church handled my dad’s sexual sin and how too many Christians are handling the sin of same-sex behavior. No one in the church told my dad it was okay to have an affair. No one said he was born that way or should be able to love whoever he wanted.
The men of the church provided accountability and discipleship and examples of healthy marriages. As a child pained by a parent’s affair, I’m so glad the local church spoke the truth in love to my parents.
And that is the Good News of the Gospel. We are all more than the sum total of our sins. We are redeemed because of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Transformed, made new, and sanctified by God every day. Praise God. This is the Good News the Church is responsible for sharing, and shame on us if we cower to social pressure and call sin good.
One final point that might seem disjointed is that I know of Christians who provide an excellent example of courage in the face of cultural intimidation and bullying. They’re not celebrities. They don’t have their own radio programs or make television appearances. They are our Christian brothers and sisters who live in the Middle East and Africa and elsewhere around the globe who are persecuted for their faith every day but refuse to hide or diminish Christian teaching to appease their hostile society. Who in the face of imprisonment, rape, and beheading refuse to deny Christ and His message.
May we here in America have an ounce of the Persecuted Church’s courage. Thank you.