By Tricia Dykers Koenig
Our PCUSA Book of Confessions, in the Larger Catechism [7.254], teaches that “a charitable esteem of our neighbors, loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name” and “a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report concerning them” are among “the duties required in the Ninth Commandment.”
Although he is of Southern Baptist background, Justin Lee seems to have taken this Reformed exhortation to heart.
A more conservative Presbyterian friend suggested to me that Lee’s book TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate [Jericho Books, 2012] would be a helpful contribution to our church’s ongoing conversation. Now that I have had an opportunity to read it, I also commend this volume – a quick read – to all who care about the church and the integrity of our witness to the world.
In TORN Justin Lee, now the founder of The Gay Christian Network, details his journey to reconcile his strong Christian faith with the reality of his persistent experience of same-sex attraction – unchangeable despite his initial willingness to participate in ex-gay ministries. Lee continually attributes the best of motives to Christians whose views and actions he nevertheless believes are harming LGBTQ persons, their families, and the name of Christ – including those who promote ex-gay ministries. It is largely misinformation, he insists, that is undermining the church’s gospel message; and he is determined to help correct the problem. Sharing his own story, he encourages others to do the same.
I prayed and prayed that night. And God heard me.
… Deep down in my spirit, something told me that I wasn’t going to get the answers I wanted right away, but that they would come in time, as long as I kept trusting the Holy Spirit.
Whatever the future might hold, I was committed to endure whatever God called me to. And God was going to be with me.
The church, however, was another matter. [page 105]
The Covenant Network and many other organizations have been working diligently to challenge the perception that “Christian” necessarily implies “anti-gay.” In these days when the news is filled with messages suggesting that “Gays vs. Christians” is the norm, Lee calls his fellow Christians to a better way – a way that can free the church from the sin of pushing people away from Christ.