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Given the interest in the Jennifer Knapp story here at MMI yesterday, I thought this would be a great follow-up, and I’d really like to spark some additional conversation around this topic because I think it’s vitally important.  Meet Constance McMillen.  Constance is an 18 year old high school senior from Fulton, Mississippi (but she might as well be from your town).  Constance is a lesbian.  She’s been ‘out of the closet’ since eighth grade. It’s prom time, and Constance wants to take her girlfriend to the school prom.  School rules state that prom dates must be of the opposite gender.  She asks the school board to reconsider.  They refuse.  She enlists the help of the ACLU.  The school board’s response:  cancel the prom for everyone because the whole matter is a distraction “to the educational process”. My question:  how should the church respond to this? This morning, I tried to find out a little more about the situation, and how any of the local churches responded to the local controversy.  I found nothing. Oh wait.  I did find one thing.  The infamous Westboro Baptist Church (look them up if you need to) has announced that they are going to picket Constance’s graduation this year.  Here’s the only response from a ‘church’ that I could find on this story.

“WBC will picket the graduation of Itawamba Agricultural High School to remind the parents, teachers and students of this nation that God said ‘Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is abomination,’” the church said in announcing the protest.

“This generation has been raised to believe that they can live for the devil and still go to heaven, that God has no standards and the biggest lie of all – that God loves everyone.” “The parents of Fulton, MS feign outrage that a filthy dyke wants to parade her ‘girlfriend’ around at their night of fornication called a prom,” the church added. “They had a duty to teach their children what the Lord requires of them. They shirked this duty.” Fulton, Mississippi is a town of less than 5,000 people.  It could be any of our ‘hometowns’.  Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Constance lived in your community.  That Constance went to the same high school as your son or daughter.  That your church found itself in the same location as this community-changing story. What would your church’s response be?  Would you/should your church have a response? This is where the rubber meets the road, folks. You’ve often heard that we are to love the sinner but hate the sin.  How do you do that when it’s a very public and very divisive issue? Sinners have names.  Most all of us (myself included) on this forum (at least from the Jennifer Knapp post) believe that homosexuality is forbidden in scripture.  So how do we mesh our love for Constance with our understanding/condemnation of sin? I would argue that calling Constance a ‘filthy dyke’ is not the way to do it (as Westboro has done).  I think most of you would agree. I would also argue that affirming Constance’s lifestyle choice as God-honoring is also not a good choice.  Again, most of you would agree. So… if the church can not affirm the lifestyle, but cannot call names; how should the church respond?  It HAS to be somewhere in the middle.  But where? Like it or not, our culture HAS changed.  When I was in high school (a few years ago); homosexuality still had a very negative connotation to it.  Today, culture has shifted to the point that most high schoolers don’t think twice about homosexuality being negative or sinful.  It’s like red or blue… pick a color. In fact, I would bargain a guess that in your church, you have people that struggle with same-sex attractions on a regular basis.  You might not even be aware of their struggle.  How do you love them?  How do you reach them?  Just preaching against homosexuality won’t do the trick anymore. Here’s the deal… Gay people need Jesus too.  Specifically, Constance needs Jesus.  My fear is that the only ‘christian’ or church that Constance will hear from is the likes of Westboro.  Or, just as bad, a local church that will speak against the ills of homosexuality and never do a thing to personally reach out to Constance or people like her with the LOVE of Jesus.  ‘If Constance could only be delivered from her sexual orientation, then maybe she could hear the gospel and be saved.’  Is that not the approach that many of us take? OK… I’ve rambled long enough.  I’ve written about the homosexuality issue alot over the past five years because of one reason:  I think this is the BIG social issue the church will have to wrestly with in the next decade.  And how we respond now will determine our direction. Truthfully, I don’t know what the proper response is.  I know it’s somewhere between Westboro and affirmation. So… if Constance lived in your town, went to your kid’s high school, maybe even attended your church’s youth group… how would your church respond to this very public, very polarizing, very nasty situation? Seriously… think it through.  You may very well have a situation like this happen very soon in your community.  If it happens in Fulton, MS, it could just be a matter of time before this happens in your town. Please, take a moment to share your thoughts.  Iron sharpens iron, you know. Thanks, Todd

A defiant Christian Singer Jennifer Knapp takes on a pastor of last week’s Larry King Live… Watch the video, then let’s discuss: First of all, while I do think that homosexuality, biblically, is a sin, I think Jennifer makes a couple of good points: 1.  She is correct when she asks why this one sin is chosen to debate.  Homosexuality is the big taboo sin in Christian culture these days.  I’m not saying that is a bad thing; but it is seen as a much greater sin than any number of other sins combined:  lying, cheating, divorce, living together before marriage, guttony, gossip.  Many of these are tolerated.  We very seldom ask the glutton or the gossip to turn from their sinful ways.  We just assign them to a different committee. 2.  She does, I think, have a point against the pastor.  He is not her pastor.  He does not have the power/privelege of speaking into her life; privately or on national television. That said, 1.  Jennifer cannot condone her sin by saying that other people who sin are getting a free pass.  It might be true, but it doesn’t allow her to play the ‘they’re sinning so I can sin’ card. 2.  Unfortunately, Jennifer has (as have many other gay christians) found a spiritual leader that has said that homosexuality is acceptable under scripture. This is not the first time that a Christian singer has come out of the closet.  Ray Boltz came out a few years ago (no one ever say that one coming!).  Kirk Talley shocked Southern Gospel fans with a scandal a few years back as well.  I’m sure there are others that will happen in the future. How will/are you responding to Jennifer’s announcement?  Will you buy her album (if you’re a fan?)  Will you continue to use her music in your services?  Would you attend her concert?  Would you have her sing in your church? And what do you make of her defiant attitude on Larry King?  Justified or not? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Todd