Working Out the Anabaptist View on Same Sex Marriage

Recently Tim Keller has clarified (here) something he said recently regarding the Anabaptist view of legalizing same sex marriage. Scot McKnight agreed with TIm but also took issue with some of Keller’s clarification of the Anabaptist position here. Of course I have been working out what I have been calling an evangelical Anabaptist posture toward the issue of alternative sexualities on this blog for over two years (begin here ). Over against a “Welcoming and Not Affirming” stance or a “Welcoming and Affirming” stance,  I have been proposing a “Welcoming and Mutually Transforming” stance. I have been focused more on missional engagement of the issue as opposed to the church-state relation regarding same sex marriage. I have no doubt that my brothers and sisters in the mainstream Anabaptist traditions are utterly and totally confused by this whole discussion (evangelicals talking anabaptism?). Ahhhh the beauty of God working out theology in space and time when traditions./churches mix. Holsclaw and I sketched out/systematized and expanded my blog posts on the issue plus some course lectures on this issue in chapter 8 of Prodigal Christianity. We give a summary in the video below. Grab the book if you’re looking for a summary your church leadership can examine together.

Posted in LGBTQ Issues, Neo-Anabaptist, Tim Keller, Uncategorized
23 comments on “Working Out the Anabaptist View on Same Sex Marriage
  1. Alice Smith says:

    So, if I am part of Life on the Vine and we are working through our mutually broken sexuality together, it stands to reason some people will be getting married in the midst of it all, despite not having it all worked out. So, as a lesbian, can I be married to my partner in/by/with the church? Will you guys perform the ceremony?

  2. davidfitch says:

    Thanks Alice for the question …
    It’s hard to answer these kind of questions on a blog. The question assumes we both know what the other person means by “marriage”, by “lesbian” among other terms. I am now more convinced than ever that the meaning of all these words, labels, identifications are so fluid that I dare not answer these questions without mutually entering into discernment. If for some reason that does not make sense, then why would someone want to be married within our church? So, I’m not trying to avoid the question, but I don’t know how to answer your question. It requires for us a space of mutual discernment. Likewise, when someone who is “heterosexual” (that we don’t know) asks the same question:”Can I be married to my partner in/by/with your church?” I have to give them the exact same answer. I don’t see any other way.

    • Alice Smith says:

      On one hand, I hear you. On the other hand, I doubt very much that, practically speaking, the hetero folks in your community have to live with such ambiguity.

      • Alice Smith says:

        As I see it, unless you are as (un)likely to perform a straight couple’s wedding as a gay couple’s, this is just another ideology. In content and conversational result, I don’t see how your “third way” has produced anything better than the alternatives you critique.

  3. Rob Davis says:

    David,

    I would guess that, despite the attempt at a “third way” on this issue, many of us would take issue with the use of “alternative sexualities” language. We are not wanting same sex relationships to be considered “alternative” but, rather, seen as normal within Christianity.

    Just a thought…

  4. Julie says:

    Clear as mud. Does anyone find sexual redemption when the spiritual leaders won’t even define what it looks like?

  5. davidfitch says:

    Julie,
    I think clarity is exactly what is at stake here. We, the church, the church and the wider cultures, are NOT speaking the same languages. Add to that, the church has poorly defined for ourselves what marriage is. And so now we execute knee jerk pronouncements in the name of truth out of the sad state of our own witness and we compound the mud into mud slinging. Making sweeping pronouncements to a culture that no longer understands what it is we are saying just feeds misunderstanding, antagonism and no space is ever opened for the redemptive transformative power of the gospel. And mission ends.

  6. Julie says:

    You’re building a straw man. There is a way to be clear and teach the meaning and purpose of sexuality without making sweeping pronouncements. But, not answering questions because you have to define every term? You are most definitely avoiding the question.

    • Rob Davis says:

      Julie, this sounds very similar to the kind of non-arguments made by those who are opposed to “identity politics.” Rather than actually discuss these things, a “third way” is proposed to avoid “taking a side” – while real people in the real world are being hurt.

  7. davidfitch says:

    Julie,
    There’s plenty of room for defining terms, delineating/exploring/submitting to the depths of God’s redemptive work in sexuality within a community seeking Jesus Christ as Lord within Scripture via the manifold gifted community of the Spirit. This is real, this is authentic. It is in an actual community of redemption where God’s redeemed sexuality can be embodied for the world to see so that true witness can be given before the world. Here in a way which cannot be ideologized, what we mean by what we say can take flesh and make sense to those outside us who look on. This cannot be accomplished by those taking positions like yourself because they are more interested in winning a culture war. In the process, both kinds of positions, yours and Rob Bell’s get ideologized turning this whole issue into an battle ground of antagonisms and we are all distanced from God’s redemption in the Kingdom.
    To me culture war is the way of the beast, not the victory of the Lamb.
    So, Julie, I think there are people who don’t buy your accusations, who know me alot better than that, that know this is not a strawman, but a extremely important issue for the church’s authentic witness.
    Peace.
    DF

  8. Chris Jones says:

    So David, sexual intimacy is a key component of marriage. Is sexual intimacy allowable for Alice (#1) and her partner. Forget the labels.I have come to believe that when Paul addresses homosexuality he has the deviant sexual practices of heterosexual people in Greco-Roman culture and gay marriage is not on the radar. Is there a trajectory in the NT that would bless sexual intimacy between gay Christians who have entered into a covenant relationship that today we call marriage?

  9. davidfitch says:

    Chris,
    Seriously, I don’t think it makes sense to debate these issues on the blog. This might seem like question avoidance, but so much wrong communication can happen that I count it not fruitful. Like Julie, you seem to think everyone seems to already know what we might mean by intimacy. But “intimacy”in the NT? The connection between intimacy, sex, oneness and marriage for many people is an invention of the post-Enlightenment romanticist cultures of the modern West. Afterall the majority of the world’s marriages were arranged marriages prior to the 1700′s. So at the very least, the question you pose opens up a whole other list of questions. These things need to be discerned in multitudionous ways. It is not at all self evident that the pursuit of intimacy as AN END ITSELF is something we should consider Christian.
    Peace
    DF

  10. Julie says:

    I’m not interested in winning the culture war. It’s already lost. I’m interested in helping sexually broken people find healing and the church upholding the Truth. I have witnessed incredible sexual healing in churches that speak the truth in love — hardly “the way of the beast” or “distanced from redemption.” Your stereotype of those who disagree with your method is unfair. By the way, the straw man I was referring to was your characterization of those who speak clearly on this issue as merely making “knee jerk pronouncements.”

  11. davidfitch says:

    Julie,
    We’re interested in the same thing then “helping sexually broken people find healing and the church upholding the Truth.” Of course I think we’re talking about all people with sexual broknness of all kinds. IMO your approach (as I understand it) has alienated the church from mission to the very people you seek to minister to. But we disagree. So let’s be cool with that.
    Peace,
    DF

  12. Chris Jones says:

    Sorry Dave. I thought by posting a blog you were trying to start a conversation. The tone of your response was a bit over the top. I had a serious question. I am a dad, a member of the Mennonite church and I have a lesbian daughter and I was seeking some help.

    Peace

    • davidfitch says:

      Chris … sorry… I don’t think my tone came across in that comment. I wasn’t being tacky or snide. I was seriously trying to show how “intimacy” can mean many different things to many different contexts. We are not even together in understanding yet what place intimacy has within Christian construal of marriage and its order of importance or formation.. So your question can’t be discerned apart from a true community. I was trying to take your question seriously. Probably the fact that we talked past each other, or you heard me as off putting illustrates the futility I’m trying to avoid. Anyways, sorry for the misunderstanding and blessings on your journey towards faithfulness.
      DF

  13. Julie says:

    No, I don’t think you know much about my approach, but it’s not really unique to me. There are scores of conservative Christians who truly love sexually broken people, yet don’t shrink from calling them to repentance and wholeness in Christ. It may work well for your purposes to characterize us as antagonistic cultural crusaders, but that’s really unfair. Plus, it completely ignores those who have found sexual redemption through this kind of ministry.

  14. Zach Hoag says:

    Could I add the idea of “timing” to the conversation? I do wonder if the newness of gay marriage as a cultural consideration is behind some of Dave’s hesitation to make pronouncements. The “issue” becomes sweeping and political before the time has elapsed for it to be more deeply and locally discerned. “Geography” is something else, too – I live in the first state to sign gay marriage into law (VT) and civil unions before that, so we’ve had more time to deeply and relationally consider these things than many have in the US.

    Hope those are helpful additions.

  15. Rob Davis says:

    Honestly, these kinds of hesitations and talk of “discernment” automatically set off my cult radar. Of course, I can only speak from my experience, but I think many more people are in the same boat as me. Rather than talk openly about these things, they need to be “worked out” in a “local community.” This kind of approach, it seems to me, is only going to push people away. Especially the “unchurched” or “post-Christendom” folks “in the far country” that your proposal is targeting.

  16. Zach Hoag says:

    Alice, would be happy to engage on a similar topic here, if you have an interest: http://www.zhoag.com/2013/03/27/evangelicals-discerning/

  17. brad says:

    Dave, I appreciate your attempt at navigating a path forward. I respect your missional engagement and thoughtful processing of the matter. But like some others here, I find myself unclear about the solution you’re offering. Readers hope to gain clarity through interacting with you over your blogpost . . . only to be told that the comment section of a blog is not the best place to work out these questions. I am warm towards your Anabaptist framework and am eager to understand how you all at LOTV are working this out. But, if you really want to help others, you’ll have to offer more than the concept of discernment in a local body. Would you consider telling some stories of how you’ve entered into discernment processes in your context (with names and details changed, of course)? If it’s too violating to your communal life, perhaps you could write “historical fiction.” Anyhow, without that sort of specificity, I think you can expect that we’ll keep spinning our wheels here. Grateful for your leadership.

  18. dwight says:

    Just a few short comments regarding a topic that has consumed too much of my time and energy. (1) While discussion, discernment, whatever you want to call it is absolutely necessary, eternal postponement when confronted wtih a real life decision gets us nowhere; (2) the ideology critique, while helpful, is not a knock-out punch. Ideology is inescapable. The constant critique of ideology in others is itself an ideology; (3) Whiile disagreeing with Dave on some points, I agree that this cannot be resolved in a blog engaging anonymous parties.

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David Fitch
Betty R. Lindner Professor of Theology
Northern Seminary
DMin in Missional Leadership
Prodigal Christianity
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