British minister Sam Allberry’s Tuesday night talk at the 2014 ERLC National Conference entitled “Is God Anti Gay?” took on questions frequently posed to Christians such as did Jesus ever talk about homosexuality, why can’t the church overlook this issue and is it OK to be in a same-sex relationship if it is faithful and committed.
An Anglican priest who has openly spoken about his journey with same-sex attraction is offering advice for Christians navigating through the storm of sexual identities, saying that he sees a “harvest” of souls coming from the LBGT community.
In an interview with Desiring God, Sam Allberry — who is an Anglican pastor at St. Mary’s Maidenhead Anglican Church in the U.K. and the author of Is God Anti Gay? — urged Christians, particularly those ministering on university campuses, to not shrink back from speaking about sexual identity for fear of negative publicity.
“My encouragement to pastors and to campus ministries out there is that actually there’s a harvest to be had on this issue,” he said, when asked how Christians with orthodox convictions on sexuality might steward conversations on the touchy subject of sexual identity.
RELATED POST: Episcopal Church: Same-sex couples can marry anywhere
Allberry recounted that he has had the opportunity to engage with secular LGBT students on university campuses, something he said he enjoyed. On one such occasion before a group, during Q&A he realized that many of the students were not so much angry at him but afraid of him because they thought he hated them.
“They thought I was out to have a go at them and to attack them. I found that heartbreaking because I was there to represent the Prince of Peace. I was there to represent the most loving person who ever lived,” he said.
“It just made me realize that the onus is on us as believers to show that we are for people and not against them. That we care for them. That we don’t hate them. That we want to know them. I think we assume we are the target and everyone else is the aggressor. So we are in a defensive posture.”
He urged Christians to take the initiative and befriend those in the LGBT community and emphasized the importance of listening.
“I think too often we’ve been thinking, ‘I’ve gotta have my spiel I’ve gotta say to people.’ Actually, I find the more I listen to someone, particularly in this context, actually the much sharper my instinct is of where I need to begin in sharing something of Christ. The more I’ve heard them, the more I will have a sense of who they are, where they’ve come from, where they’re at, and therefore where to start.”
Allberry has frequently encountered the assumption that what Bible-believing Christians believe about sexuality is “unjust and harmful” and he intends to demonstrate that Jesus treats everyone the same way and that “the Gospel puts us in the same boat.”
Therefore, he never says to someone what he cannot say to everyone, he explained, adding that he often encounters openness to the Gospel among gays and lesbians.
Allberry continued: “Honestly, if you start a conversation with what you think about the ethics of gay sex, you’re probably not going to get very far.”
“But when I start talking about what the Bible says about identity, or what the Bible says about intimacy, I find people are really interested because some of it they’ve half-sensed in their own experience. They have sensed that something doesn’t quite add up.”
The Anglican pastor advised other ministers to not avoid speaking about the issue.
“Your job is not even just to hold the line. Your job is to win people. The Gospel is good news, in whichever area of life we apply it. That is no less the case when we apply it to the issues of human sexuality. We’re giving people good news, not bad news. We can have great confidence in that.”