I Believe in Us, Church


October 27, 2016

IF Gathering227

This week my dear friend, Jen, answered an important question in an internet article:

“Do you think a homosexual relationship could ever be holy?”

She responded, “I do.” And, not surprisingly my phone and inboxes started to blow up.

Many want me to issue a statement, because their local churches around the world have entrusted us with their women. I have a few drafts open on my computer, but this is so much more than a statement for me. This is not about some “Christian celebrity” out there, this is my friend whom I have logged a lot of life with–including hours over the past many months about this very topic.  While we disagree on this important issue, Jen and I love each other and agree on so many things. Jen speaking at IF:Gathering isn’t even on the table, because she took herself out of IF many months ago for reasons that are her own.

Concerning where IF and I land here: Nothing has changed. I lean on 2000 years of Church history and we continue to hold an orthodox view of marriage. Our commitment to Scripture is a guiding value: We believe the God of the Universe reveals and defines Himself through His Word. We believe the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, are verbally inspired by God, fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in what they say.  (Including in regards to sexual ethics.)

And guess what? If you disagree with that or if you have yet to land on the above statement- we are also deeply committed to building a safe place for you and all people to come and experience and know Jesus and consider Him. All people are welcome at IF- I just want to be clear that from the stage we are giving you the Bible and Jesus when you come.

What the above sentences don’t say, is that each time I attempted to write a “statement,” I cried, eventually falling asleep because I was physically exhausted trying to put down words that might be used to drive a relational wedge between me and someone I love so dearly and hurt members of the LGBTQ community, many who are friends.

IF exists because Jesus’ invitation to us is not “clean up your life, then you can come to me.” We all bring something different to the table, and we allow Jesus to meet with us where we are, transform us, and follow where He leads.

When IF began 3 years ago, I believed the way through for us would always be keep things SIMPLE and PURE. Humbly focus on the BIBLE and JESUS. We would hold tightly to the Nicene Creed which has defined orthodoxy for nearly 2000 years. See, we aren’t the local church and so we didn’t have to speak into every topic… this would not be a time to gather around the issues, this would be a place to gather around Jesus.   

Was it naive? You bet.  

Except that 3 years later, I see it happening… online in Facebook groups, in cities where 20-30 churches are coming together, at dinner tables over a meal and intentional honest conversations, and this past February over a million women gathered from nearly every denomination in Christendom and in over 125 countries around Christ. You see, even in the messiness of it all I’m more convinced than ever that God is using our humble offerings of tools and experiences for women to grow as disciples and make disciples. 

And none of that has changed.

Church, this issue of homosexuality is a difficult one for us right now, and it’s not because the Bible is not clear on the issue. The difficulty is because it is not an issue- it is people. And people we love.

It is requiring something we are not well practiced in–holding the tensions of grace and truth.

We have a decent amount of practice with grace. We have more practice dumping “truth” everywhere, but mixing the two together feels so impossible we usually just choose one. Jesus was described as “full of grace and truth.”Jn.1:14

This isn’t easy. Most of God’s callings on my life, actually require God in my life.

He didn’t build us to hold all the tensions and live them out perfectly. I want to say this clearly: Friends, in some way we all are getting this wrong.

We’re getting this wrong, because we aren’t Jesus. But we do have Jesus. We have this model of a man so radically willing to lay His life down for others, He did so. He walked with all types of people, in grace and truth, and used less words than we do. And we have His Word and His Spirit in us to help us do the same.

I’ve got enough planks in my eye to keep me busy for my short years here.

I have seen hate rise up in my heart toward someone else.

I have chosen comfort rather than fighting injustice.

I have lived out of fear of man instead of fear of God.

I have wanted to be understood rather than seeking to understand.

I have shrunk back when I should have stood up.

I have stood up when I should have shut up.

Yet, I also have tasted the depths of Jesus’ great and unending love for me.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:4-5

That is who IF:Gathering is and that is who we will remain–if you are a sinner in need of grace, if you are someone tired of the division, if you are someone craving God and a sisterhood to follow Him with… come on. You are welcome here.

Church- I don’t know how we navigate all of this perfectly today… but I do know how it turns out forever. Those who have put their faith in Jesus–we do life together for the rest of eternity.

So, where we can all agree: Let’s do better here.

Let’s remember we are talking about people’s lives.

Let’s seek to understand.

Let’s please stop demonizing each other.

Let’s lean on Jesus more than we ever have, to hold these tensions more graciously and let’s hold to God’s Word as we do.

Let’s confess our own sin rather than sitting on the internet speaking up about everyone else’s.

I believe in us, Church.

Due to the sensitivity here- we are turning off comments. But feel free to email us with any questions at connect@ifgathering.com.

 

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all…” Ephesians 4:1-6

 

 

14 Responses to “I Believe in Us, Church”

  1. Laura Whitmore

    Jennie,
    I read your statement; I have no doubt it was very difficult to write, as you mentioned the tears you shed each time you began. Thank you for writing such a sensitive, loving, grace-filled response to this complex issue.

    I have many friends and family who feel that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. I also have many friends and family who believe there could be nothing worse. I have struggled for many years trying to know how to respond to friends and family who have adopted this lifestyle. I appreciated reading your statement about having many planks in your own eye. I have tried to keep in my mind and heart that my own sins are the ones I should be concerned with and that focusing on them does not allow me to point out the sins of others.

    Thank you for affirming what I have tried live out. It is a blessing and very helpful to hear this from you.

    God bless you as He uses you in the lives of others,
    Laura Whitmore

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Juanita Robinson

    And THIS my friend is why I love you.

    Honest, truthful, raw, beautiful… so many words to describe this post and you. Thank you. Thank you for setting an example for me of how to be full of grace and truth.

    Take care. You need to right now. You are doing great things for Jesus and the evil one would love to side track you and bring you down. You are a target, but you are not alone. You stand with thousands and thousands of your brothers and sisters.

    Thanks again for your words and wisdom.

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you for your courage in faithfully following Jesus

  4. I love, love, love this response! Beautifully written and well said! Thank you!

  5. Beautiful in every way. Jesus is embracing your transparency and is smiling at how HIS heart is being displayed through you.

  6. Jennifer Newman

    Thank you sweet Jennifer for dealing with this issue so beautifully. I was so upset over the ugliness that started pouring out about a fellow sister in Christ. I was saddened that others were so quick to judge and speak out so publicly in such a non-loving method.

    I love how you point us back to Jesus, the only blameless perfect being. You pointed us to His words, His actions and reminded so gently to be aware of the sin we all have every day.

    I pray that this will not be a wedge between IF and women or churches. I pray that you continue to love Jen H. as you always have and vice versa. Remember that God can use anything for His purposes and glory. And most importantly that He is in control.

    Thank you for your transparency and loving God-centered heart.

    Joy & peace- Jennifer

  7. Cassandra Dull

    So incredibly thankful for the truth and love that If stands for. God bless you Jennie Allen. Praying for you and this ministry daily

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