I believe that the most radical change I have seen in the past decade has been around attitudes toward homosexuality, both in society and the church. It was not long ago that being gay was a taboo subject and now it is seen in the same category as ethnic diversity.
Churches are still struggling with this. While most churches are welcoming of LGBTQ, they are split on whether they are affirming are not. Is homosexuality something to be tolerated or celebrated?
My first introduction to this was at a previous church where one of the youth had come out as bisexual. I was put in touch with New Directions Ministries. At the time, New Directions was an “ex-gay” ministry, that is their focus was to at best see some change in orientation and at worst convince those with same-sex attraction to live a celibate life.
It was through that, that I met Wendy Gritter. She seemed quite convinced of a traditional sexual ethic, where sex is reserved for being between a married man and woman.
Some time later, I discovered that Wendy and New Directions had experienced a radical change. They rejected any hint of “ex-gay” and moved to helping LGBTQ people to feel loved by churches just the way they are.
This brings me to the book, Generous Spaciousness. Having read the book, I suspect that this reflects where Wendy was after rejecting ex-gay methods but before where she currently is in terms of affirming LGBTQ.
I found the book to be quite moving. Not only is Wendy a gifted writer, she is very honest about the struggles she has faced. It is not easy for anyone, much less the leader of a well known ministry, to admit that they were wrong. But that is what Wendy does here.
She calls out the church, not as an outsider but as an insider, on the hypocritical and harmful ways we have treated the LGBTQ community. Churches have claimed to be welcoming with their words but were rejecting with their actions.
I will say that some conservative evangelicals will struggle with this book. They might not even want to finish it. But I hope they do.
I didn’t agree with everything in the book. I thought the weakest part was her treatment of biblical passages that seem to condemn homosexual activity. She seemed to fall back on the argument that scholars disagree on the interpretations.
The truth is that there are loving and kind pastors and churches who want to be fully welcoming of the LGBTQ community but who are wrestling with passages that seem to point toward sex between a married man and woman. This doesn’t make them hateful people.
Still, Generous Spaciousness is a needed voice in the discussion. It may not be the final word, but it may help those with only one perspective to have a wider vision of what church could look like.