The Way Forward for Courage
Our Vision, Values and Mission
First and foremost, Courage is a ministry of the Gospel – acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and proclaiming the Good News of the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father, through the cross of Christ. Through commitment to regular worship, prayer, Bible study and Christian fellowship we aim ‘to spur one another on to love and good deeds’ (Hebrews 10:23,24).
Courage’s primary outreach is to Christians who are gay or lesbian, their families, friends or anyone affected by homosexuality (Leviticus 19:33,34; Galatians 3:2328). By providing a safe haven and walking alongside folk, at Courage we seek to alleviate the suffering and loneliness of many gay and lesbian people, exacerbated by misunderstanding and prejudice down the ages. As we endeavour to ‘work out our salvation’ (Philippians 2:1216), we believe it is important to share our experience and understanding with the wider Christian community.
We acknowledge the Bible as God’s Word, sufficient for instruction in all God’s ways and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16,17 ; Hebrews 4:1112). In working with gay and lesbian people, our first concern is for regeneration in Christ; our second is discipleship-to encourage growth to maturity for all who have committed their lives to Christ (Matthew 28:1820).
The Call to Repentance
In common with all who recognise the Holy Spirit’s call to serve Christ, we are working for a change of heart and a change of life direction-calling for repentance from self-sufficiency and self-centeredness towards finding our identity and confidence in Christ. The fruit of a life in Christ is love and the service of others with a quiet confidence and reliance on Jesus (Galatians 5:22,23).
A Change of Heart is the Priority
While recognising the social pressure to become ‘normal’ (i.e. heterosexual), fifteen years experience has revealed that God’s primary concern is not to change the sexual orientation of his gay and lesbian disciples, but to help them find wholeness in Christ-becoming secure, assured of his love and acceptance, set apart to follow Jesus faithfully and responsible in building relationships with one another.
Our God-given Need for Companionship
We note that from the beginning God declared it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Clearly, life-long union between a man and a woman is a God-given provision (Matthew 19:46) and we uphold and honour marriage (Hebrews 13:4) as the norm for most people. Yet Jesus drew attention to the fact that not everyone will be able to marry (Matthew 19:11,12). Nevertheless, God our heavenly Father recognises that the need for companionship and belonging remains the same for all (Psalm 68:46; James 1:27). We believe that today, deep same-sex friendships (for both single and married people) remain an important though neglected (even discredited) part of God’s plan (John 13:34,35).
Biblical Endorsement of Covenant Relationship
In acknowledging the desire for companionship and belonging that most unmarried people share, we support wholesome same-sex relationships that honour God in conduct and expression. Same-sex covenant relationship has biblical endorsement (1 Samuel 18:3 and 20:16,17; Ruth 1:1517) affording both precedent and models for gay and lesbian people. While not the same as marriage-God’s foundation for family life, providing a safe, secure setting for the raising and nurturing of children-unmarried folk (including gay and lesbian people) are not second-class citizens. If, therefore, gay people deserve the same respect and dignity accorded to all God’s creatures, this must include our need for companionship and intimacy.
Sexuality is a Gift of God
Whatever the origins of homosexual desire, which remain controversial, we see the need to acknowledge our sexual orientation as a gift from God. Just as some folk come to accept their disability as a gift, we accept our sexual orientation with dignity and seek to express our affections responsibly. To dismiss homosexuality as a result of the Fall-unholy in every regard-is an emotionally and spiritually crippling pronouncement! Scripture teaches us that God’s grace is sufficient for all who trust in Him; His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:710).
We believe there is wisdom in preaching abstinence from sexual intimacy outside heterosexual marriage: to abstain from sexual intimacy in preparation for lifelong commitment to another surely reflects the biblical teaching for marriage. However, heterosexual marriage is rarely an appropriate option for gay people. If therefore, by mutual consent, an erotic dimension of love should develop as part of a committed gay relationship, we believe this to be a matter of personal conscience for those concerned. It is important, though, that for Christians this develops in the context of partners seeking God and acting together from a position of faith (Hebrews 11:6).
We shall all be called to give account to God!
Shun Sexual Immorality!
We acknowledge and uphold that throughout the Bible we are called to shun sexual immorality ( Romans 13:1114; 1 Corinthians 6:13 -20 and 7:13; Ephesians 5:15; Colossians 3:517 provide a few examples). Jesus taught that even a lustful attitude is immoral, regardless of whether or not there is any contact between the person and the object of their lust (Matthew 5:27,28). But the Church does not condemn ALL heterosexual behaviour, by association with the sins of lust, rape, fornication, adultery or paedophilia. Why then should we assume that all homosexual behaviour must be subject to unqualified condemnation? From their context, the verses in Scripture apparently outlawing sexual union between men, were surely intended to address sins of idolatry, rebellion, self-indulgence, abuse or grossly irresponsible behaviour (Genesis 19:410; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:2127; 1 Corinthians 8:911; 1 Timothy 1:811; Jude 7). But none of the verses warning against sexual immorality are written with the kind of people in mind who love their partners, remain faithful to each other and are committed to following Christ-gay or straight!
What about Genital Acts?
Sexual immorality is never defined in the Bible merely in terms of genital acts-a peculiarly reductionist way of thinking, typical of our modern sex-obsessed world, that divorces ‘sex’ from its relational context. Clearly people’s perceptions of God’s priorities were quite different in the Bible, as we can see from the fact that the prohibitions of sexual immorality were taught to people who saw nothing wrong with polygamy-a practice we would consider grossly immoral today!
Throughout scripture, we see that it is our underlying attitudes and motivation that are the determining factors as to whether or not our actions are pleasing to God (John 7:24). Therefore, provided such actions are not abusive or exploitative, and do not violate another commitment (such as marriage or relationship with God), the morality or otherwise of sexual intimacy between two people of the same sex is, we believe, determined by their relationship with God, their love for one another, and a clear sense of personal responsibility towards their partner.
Celibacy: Custom or Command?
Another point that needs clarification, in the context of our ministry, is that nowhere in Scripture is celibacy demanded for those who are unable to marry. In fact the word is never used in the Bible. The only references to the concept of celibacy come from Jesus and Paul, who refer to the ‘renunciation’ of marriage as a free choice (Matthew 19:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:1 and 7). Whilst we acknowledge the wisdom and importance of abstinence, the ‘requirement’ of celibacy for the unmarried is surely not the law of God but a doctrine of man!
If God Himself acknowledged from the beginning, in a perfect world, that it is ‘not good for man to be alone’, then when we find opportunity to build intimate relationship, this should be the cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving to God, not censure!
Forbidding or Permitting?
In Matthew 16:19, Jesus gave his disciples the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven-giving them the authority to determine what is good and right practice and what should be forbidden in the Church. Ever since, we have tended to be zealous about forbidding (especially in sexual matters) and over-cautious about releasing!
In 1 Timothy 4:15, Paul described the forbidding of marriage as a ‘doctrine of demons’! Similarly, we believe, to inhibit the development of same-sex relationships by casting aspersions of moral failure in the event of any hint of sexual intimacy is surely a serious flaw in the Church’s thinking today. Two thousand years ago, Jesus confronted the Pharisees for nullifying God’s law (Matthew 15:39). In the same way today, we refuse to recognise as important the need for intimate companionship for those unable to marry-either because of man’s traditions or out of concern for social propriety. This is the time to be guided by the compassion of Christ.
Consideration for the Consciences of Others
While committed same-sex relationships should not be dishonoured by gossip, disparagement or condemnation in the Church (1 Peter 4:710), gay people must recognise that although their consciences may permit an erotic dimension to their relationships, drawing attention to the fact can create a serious stumbling block to others whose consciences dictate this to be wrong (Romans 14:918).
‘... whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.’
Romans 14:22,23 (NIV)
Jesus Christ is Lord!
Whatever controversy may rage-about homosexuality and the legitimacy or otherwise of its practice-we acknowledge above all the sovereignty of our God. We give thanks and praise-for the love of the Father for all creatures; for the compassion of Christ, his Son, who came in the flesh to live among men and for all who put their trust in him; for the redemptive work of the Cross; for his resurrection; his authority given by the Father; his Word and the guidance and work of renewal by the Holy Spirit in the lives of all who believe in and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.
© Jeremy Marks (updated December 2003)