I recently came across Rejecting Rejection: My Journey to Becoming an LGBTI Ally (in its entirety at the bottom of this page), a paper presented in November last year at the N.Z. Salvation Army’s Booth College of Mission by Major Christina Tyson.1 In her zeal to atone for the Army’s leading the charge against homosexual law reform in NZ in 1985,2 she now teaches:

Just five or six Bible passages are commonly used when discussing homosexuality. Two verses (and sometimes Genesis 19) are from the Old Testament, and of the three New Testament passages, only two are thought to be relevant. For many, the existence of these six passages is the end of the whole ‘discussion’; while others point to ways of interpreting the Bible that don’t exclude homosexuality as we know it today. Significantly, Jesus didn’t speak against homosexuality, although he had a lot to say about religious hypocrisy.3

She speaks passionately of learning how several Greek words have been mistranslated and that, rather than her being ‘captured by culture’, she believes she and our churches are instead being ‘corrected’ by our culture. As a Bible-believing Christian, she thinks that today’s same-sex marriage resolves the issue of immorality for gay Christians, concluding:

Personally, I no longer believe faithful same-sex relationships are incompatible with the Bible’s teaching… by broadening our outlook to accept and nurture same-sex relationships, we would be able to speak more convincingly of God’s love for all… 4

I genuinely admire Major Tyson’s zeal and her desire to repent of the Army’s misguided campaign against homosexual law reform and that she wants to reject the Army’s apparent rejection of the Rainbow Community and to speak of God’s love for all. She’s dead right that we are all to love everyone in the LGBTIQ spectrum as well as fornicators, prostitutes, adulterers, pornography addicts, paedophiles, and even religious hypocrites because that’s what it means to love our neighbours as ourselves.

When I met her, I found her to be gracious, patient, and personally engaged because, like many of us, perhaps most, she has family and friends in the LGBTIQ spectrum. She also has a particular concern, as have I, for the plight of those born intersex.5 However, her personal repentance and relationships don’t entitle her to change Jesus’ message – that will help no-one. She’s wrong about what Jesus taught and about the Greek words but rather than deal with details in a dictionary, let’s first consider the big picture and then the details in context.

The Big Picture
In focusing on three passages in Paul’s letters,6 Major Tyson completely overlooks what Jesus actually said – we were not created to have sexual relationships with just anyone or anything:

  1. “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning ‘made them male and female’,
  2. And said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” 7

In quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, Jesus restates God’s definition of sexual morality: the loving relationship between a man and a woman who are unrelated and have committed themselves in a public covenant called marriage. Anything other than this is sexually immoral i.e. bigamy, polyamory, incest, fornication, prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, rape, paedophilia, pornography, and bestiality.

It’s that simple.

Of course, if you prefer to believe the more recent theory that we all evolved from beings more primitive than monkeys, none of this may concern you. After all, animals can have sexual intercourse with anything at any time. But if your conscience informs you differently, you may prefer to face up to what Jesus taught, be forgiven for everything, and start again with a clean slate. The Scriptures are crystal clear: no matter what we have done and been, if we come to Jesus, we can be ‘washed’, i.e. cleansed of everything that’s dirtied us, and ‘sanctified’, i.e. set apart and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently, and ‘justified’, i.e. forgiven, declared innocent, both now and on the Last Day.8

Jesus’ Standard
But how do we know for sure this was Jesus’ standard? Because He was a Jew who perfectly lived and upheld the Law, and His 1st Century audience were all Jews. They already knew what Moses had spelt out for them when Israel came out of slavery in Egypt into the land of Canaan. However, for any of us 21st Century Gentiles who may not know, God told them they were not to be misled by the sexual culture and morality of either Egypt or Canaan (Lev 18:3) – they were not to have consensual sexual relations with any blood relative (Lev 18:6), neighbour’s spouse (Lev 18:20), same-sex partner (Lev 18:22), male or female prostitute (Deut 23:17), or animal (Lev 18:23). They were also forbidden, obviously, all non-consensual sexual relations such as rape (Deut 22:25-26) and the seduction of children. N.B. While the Scriptures give no specific age of consent, only adults and any ‘sons and daughters who had knowledge and understanding’ (Neh 10:28) were allowed to make such serious commitments as marriage. Today, we insist on our children being at least 18 years old, or 16 with Family Court permission.

They weren’t to accept the lower standards of all those around them, and neither are we. In explaining this, Jesus pointed out that all sexual immorality begins in the heart (Mark 7:20-23), which also rules out pornography and sex dolls, as you’d expect. Paul, however, had to spell out a few details for Gentile believers in Jesus who didn’t have some of these standards in their Graeco-Roman world (Rom 1:26-27, 1 Cor 6:9-11, 1 Cor 5:1).

In response, Jesus’ disciples complained to him that this was a high standard of morality which wouldn’t be easy, even for those who were married… but then He’d always said that the way to life is narrow and few walk on it while the way to destruction is broad and many, most, choose that path.9 This time, He replied:

  1. …”Not everyone can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.
  2. “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”10

‘Eunuchs’, by definition, are celibate and in those days, slaves could be castrated to make them celibate. In our day, just as surely, some are born unable to achieve the monogamy Jesus upheld while others have been made that way, often by being sexually molested as children, but Jesus appeals to us all to choose to live sexually moral lives or to live celibate:

“He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

He not only died to gain us forgiveness for our failings but also gave us the Holy Spirit to live within us, to empower us to live His way:

“…But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”11

It is essential that we receive the Holy Spirit because we can only really do it with His help.

Personally Speaking
I made that choice in 1973 as a promiscuous twenty-two year old who needed forgiveness for almost everything on the list. At the time, I wasn’t sitting in a church but in a roomful of lesbian friends, one of whom, Lana (not her real name), was my ex-fiancée. I’d heard their often tragic stories which usually included their being sexually molested as children – Lana had been molested by her grandfather and a next-door neighbour. I not only continued to love them as friends but, within the church, to advocate for more love, empathy, acceptance, and understanding of what they’d been through; I loved how Jesus ate with prostitutes and outcasts of all kinds.12

When Lana heard that I’d just given myself to Jesus, she asked me what I now thought of her lifestyle. I didn’t know because I had only just recovered my conscience but sometime later, I saw in the Scriptures that if our society doesn’t honour God, He will leave us to our own devices, just as Moses saw amongst the Egyptians and the Canaanites, and Paul saw among the Greeks and Romans:

…God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts… and just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.13

This may not be clear enough for Major Tyson as she tries to redefine two Greek words in two other passages14 but when I showed it to Lana, she easily understood this one and replied, “That’s a relief!” Her conscience had been bothering her and although part of her loved being a lesbian, part of her hated it and she didn’t know which part of her she should hold on to, and now she did. It was a year before she left lesbianism and several years later, she too turned to Jesus.

Today, I see Major Tyson’s rejecting the light of the Scriptures and of our consciences as not helping anyone and, far worse, causing them to harden their own hearts.

In 1985, I disagreed with the Army’s campaign against decriminalising homosexuality, arguing that since our nation had decriminalised adultery and fornication many years earlier, it was unjust to single out homosexuality to be illegal. As I grew in my faith, I saw how Jesus and the New Covenant had actually decriminalised sexual immorality e.g. in dealing with the Samaritan woman,15 or the Jewish woman caught in adultery – driving away those condemning her to death, Jesus instead forgave her, saying, “Go your way and sin no more”.16 However, He didn’t say adultery was now to be morally ok – He still called it sin.

As I said earlier, I genuinely admire Major Tyson’s zeal and her desire to repent of the Army’s misguided campaign and that she wants to reject the Army’s rejection of the Rainbow Community and to speak of God’s love for all. I’m very glad she’s arrived, at last, where I and my friends were standing almost forty years ago. She reminds me, however, of a story told by an elderly Greek friend – when she arrived in NZ in 1953, her Kiwi neighbours used to wrinkle their noses and say disapprovingly, “Ohh…, you cook with garlic!” And today, she says, “Now look at them! They think they invented it!” I think Major Tyson should listen to those of us who have had these forty years to properly consider both the Scriptures and our culture.

Biblically Speaking
Major Tyson’s rejecting of rejection is certainly how it should be among the saints of God. May she win over any in the Army who lack their founders’ love and acceptance of the outcasts, especially the sexually immoral. However, her desire to teach us to abandon Jesus’ standard of sexual morality is misguided:

Significantly, Jesus didn’t speak against homosexuality, although he had a lot to say about religious hypocrisy.

As shown above, He actually did speak to His Jewish audience about every kind of consensual sexual immorality. He didn’t need to itemise it for His well-educated audience. If Major Tyson is going to dismiss this as not specific enough, is she now going to advocate for everything else on the Jewish list? Is she now for incest, bigamy, polyamory, fornication, adultery, prostitution, pornography, and bestiality? If not, why not?

As for her claims of the two mistranslated Greek words, arsenkoites17 and malakos,18 she writes that arsenokoites does not mean homosexual because:

…it is clear that arsenokoitai is associated with exploitation and/or sexual abuse, most often where there is an exchange of money or economics. Therefore, the best translation may be ‘those who are abused in sex or sold in sex.19

It’s simply not. Paul’s use of arsenokoites combines man, arsen, and bed, koites, and is a Hellenisation of the Hebrew phrase describing consenting homosexuality:

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female (Lev 18:22, emphasis added)

If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act… (Lev 20:13, emphasis added)

In the Septuagint, Lev 20:13 reads hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos. Paul is simply restating this Levitical definition for his Greek audience. We use a similar phrase in English when we speak of a couple ‘sleeping together’ or ‘going to bed together’. There is not even a hint of the gay rape or sex-trafficking claimed by Major Tyson – the comparison is to a Jewish married couple, male and female, going to bed.

Major Tyson also asserts:

…we cannot assume this word is directly related to the Hebrew words arsen and koten [sic.] in Leviticus as it may have changed in meaning in the 1400 years since those Hebrew words were used.20

However, these words were not Hebrew but Greek, written not 1400 years earlier but by the translators of the Septuagint just 200 years earlier.

She also claims malakos, literally ‘soft’, should not be translated as ‘effeminate’ because it ‘did not just refer to sexual practices, positions or roles; it had a breadth of meaning associated with traits thought to be feminine or associated with women.’ She quotes as her authority Kathy Baldock, an American activist, who says the ‘negative traits the ancient world attributed to a woman [included] laziness, decadence, lack of courage, moral and physical weakness, fear and vulnerability, being unchaste or lustful, or being in the submissive role in sex.’

However, since Paul only uses malokos in conjunction with arsenokoites, i.e. men sleeping with men, even she has to admit that, in context, ‘being in the submissive role in sex’ is more likely than any other – someone who is malakos is the submissive partner where an arsenokoites is the dominant partner. This is why newer translations today put the two terms together as a single category e.g. ESV – ‘men who practice homosexuality’ and N.T. Wright’s The Kingdom New Testament – ‘practicing homosexuals of whichever sort’.

We all need to take seriously Peter’s urging us to not only stay free of our sinful desires and become like Jesus but also to press on to ‘moral excellence’ of all kinds, increasing in our ‘knowledge’ of what that means to Him:

He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge21

Strange Teachings
I agree with Major Tyson that Jesus ‘had a lot to say about religious hypocrisy’ but He also had a lot to say about those speaking falsely in His name:

“See to it that no one misleads you… Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many”22

Paul too, in his last words, warned Timothy:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth…23

Peter, in his last words, added that we should extremely careful how we treat Paul’s letters:

our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you… in all his letters,… in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.24

It seems clear to me that Major Tyson is not ‘unstable’ but she’s clearly ‘untaught’, according to Jesus, Paul, and Peter and that could lead to disaster for anyone following her lead.

Firstly, what Jesus taught about sexual immorality is very simple, as seen in Matt 19:4-5:

(i) We were not created to have sexual relationships with just anyone or anything.

(ii) God’s design is a loving relationship between a man and a woman, unrelated by blood, who have freely committed themselves in a public covenant called marriage.

(iii) Anything other than this is sexually immoral i.e. incest, bigamy, polyamory, fornication, prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, rape, paedophilia, pornography, and bestiality.

It’s that simple. Every Jew in His 1st Century audience knew it. They also understood when Jesus taught that all sexual immorality and hatred of our neighbours comes from the heart, i.e. whenever we don’t deny our sinful ideas and desires.

Secondly, in the three passages Major Tyson misunderstands and dismisses,25 Paul was spelling this out for his 1st Century A.D. Gentile audience in Rome and Greece, just as Moses had spelled it out to his 15th Century B.C. Jewish audience regarding the sexual immorality of the Egyptians and Canaanites.

Thirdly, we all should agree with her call to any in the Salvation Army, and anywhere else, who are still unloving to the LGBTIQ community. For too long they have been ostracized and vilified. I too reject their rejection as hateful and failing to love our neighbours and even our enemies as ourselves. Jesus didn’t single out any particular kind of sexual immorality and neither should we. However, no matter how Major Tyson tries to explain away the explicit passages in both the Old and New Testaments regarding homosexuality, it’s clear that nowhere is it written about in a good light.

Lastly, judge for yourself where she wants us to walk:

Personally, I no longer believe faithful same-sex relationships are incompatible with the Bible’s teaching… by broadening our outlook to accept and nurture same-sex relationships, we would be able to speak more convincingly of God’s love for all… 26

In trying to ‘broaden our outlook’, she’s actually urging those in same-sex relationships to walk on the broad way that will lead them to destruction, turning them away from Jesus and the narrow way to life.27 She has not been corrected by our culture but fully captured by it, ignoring Moses’, Jesus’, Paul’s, and Peter’s warnings in regard to Egypt and Canaan in the 16th Century BC, Greece and Rome in the 1st Century AD, and New Zealand in the 21st Century.

Personally, I’m relieved and forever grateful to God for His forgiveness, cleansing, and setting me apart for Him, for now having a clear conscience, and that we all can. It’s our choice. We can follow those trying to direct us onto the broad way chosen by most, or choose instead the narrow way, regardless of how few of us there are on it. Remember, we all have to make hard choices but whatever God requires of us always has life at the end.

Rejecting Rejection: My Journey to Becoming an LGBTI Ally
by Major Christina Tyson


Tonight we’re exploring the idea of ‘Rejecting Rejection’ — specifically the rejection of LGBTI people by some Christians and Christian churches. This is perhaps one of the most difficult topics before the church today. There is heat and hate on all sides, and I am very much aware that what I share tonight may further divide. That’s not my intention, but I do recognise the risk.

There are variations in the acronyms used to describe the Rainbow Community, but tonight I’m mainly using the initials LGBTI, for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex — distinct and sometimes overlapping groupings. I am deliberately including ‘I’ for Intersex as this group says they often feel overlooked and misunderstood even within the Rainbow Community. One-in-2000 babies are born with ambiguous genitalia so that doctors cannot easily decide at birth if they are male or female genitalia, with one-in-300 sent for further investigation. Life for them can be extremely difficult, particularly as their gender is often assigned before they can communicate their own sense of gender identity. So I want to include intersex people this evening. I have chosen not to use the letter ‘Q’ for Queer as some people, particularly those who had this word used against them in the past, find it offensive. I am therefore more comfortable with allowing people who self-identify as queer to use this label themselves, rather than presuming I have the right to use it on their behalf.

If you identify as a member of the LGBTI community, thank you for coming. I apologise that I am going to talk ‘about you’ tonight — that’s presumptive on my part and I recognise that some of what I say will be in the nature of generalisations that might not describe your experiences; just as some of the things I might say about heterosexuals and Christians (whether gay or straight) will also be generalisations.

In summary of where we are heading this evening, I want to share my personal and considered conviction, developed over many years and after considerable reading, reflection and prayer, that I am no longer comfortable contributing to the marginalisation of LGBTI people by the church; I instead feel it is my responsibility to advocate for their total inclusion. My conviction comes in part out of a sense of justice, because I see the harm discrimination and social exclusion causes to people’s mental health and wellbeing — especially among young people. Yes, many are resilient, but it’s surely not just or ethical for us to rely on that resilience when we could be preventing such harm in the first place. My drive to work for a more inclusive Salvation Army also comes because I no longer see the Christian story as excluding people from God’s loving acceptance on the basis of their sexual orientation or, perhaps more controversially for some, on the basis of their being in a faithful relationship with someone of the same gender, a relationship that may be sexually expressed.

I’d like us to start by watching a 10-minute video that captures New Zealand’s bitter public debate ahead of the 1986 law change decriminalising sex between consenting males 16 years and over. We’re going back to 1985, when The Salvation Army agreed to coordinate a nationwide petition against MP Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill. My apologies to those who might find this video upsetting, but this aspect of our history is where my own story of engagement as an LGBTI ally begins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M85ayjhanzE

1 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

Looking back

There is no doubt in my mind that many within the New Zealand gay and lesbian community still associate The Salvation Army with our opposition to the Bill and for the toxic vitriol expressed by Christians at the time, even if it did not come from our mouths. Actually, the most vile and hateful phrases came from MP Norm Jones, who you heard saying such things as:

Go back into the sewers where you come from … as far as I’m concerned you can stay in the gutter … Turn around and look at them … gaze upon them … you’re looking into Hades … don’t look too long — you might catch AIDS.

I can’t even imagine how it would have felt to hear hatred like that if you were a gay man, or if someone from your family was gay. What was it like for Christians with gay family members or friends to hear this said about people they loved? How did it feel to sit in church, including church services at The Salvation Army, when many Christians were showing so little grace and love — and when this was personal, because it was about you or those you loved?

‘Homosexuals’, as they were being referred to at the time, were being encouraged to come out for the first time when the Bill was being debated, a strategy law reform supporters hoped would bring people out of the shadows so the public could see they were not monsters or perverts, but everyday people they lived and worked with; the same people they were friends with and even loved.

But just how easy was it to come out if you were gay and Christian? When media reports communicated time and time again that you were not accepted by the church as you were, and therefore — by extension — that God didn’t accept you either? Could you come out and still have a home within the church, or would you need to walk away? Was celibacy the only path available for you, when you wanted to fall in love and build a life with someone, just as many straight people did? Would you have to find such relationships outside the church, among people who did not understand or share your Christian beliefs and values? Did you fear needing to settle for the promiscuity of casual encounters when you longed for the commitment and intimacy of a long-term relationship? And how easy was it for the Christian parents of gay children to ‘come out’ when the church was complicit in this nationwide campaign of homophobia? Was their stigma your stigma too?

I was 18 when the Homosexual Law Reform Bill began to be debated, working as a computer operator in the Finance Department of The Salvation Army’s Territorial Headquarters in Cuba Street. Because The Salvation Army was organising the petition against the law change, Salvation Army halls were targeted and some Salvationists had to run the gauntlet of protesters to get in and out of church on a Sunday morning (as we saw in that video).

Despite assurances to the contrary, people feared their donations to the Red Shield Appeal were being used to bankroll opposition to the Bill. The Salvation Army said anyone who felt strongly about this could come to THQ with their receipt and their donation would be reimbursed. I remember that for a while it was routine for people, some of them very angry, to come in the large front doors of the old THQ building, turn to the left to enter the Finance Department, and present their receipts to our cashier, who would politely refund them their donation.

2 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

It needs to be said — and said strongly, I think — that not all Salvationists agreed with the position the Army took. As Lieut-Colonel Ian Hutson says in his study into what happened at the time (which you can find on the Army’s website1), there wasn’t wide consultation with Salvationists as to whether the Army should join this campaign. In fact, it seems our leadership’s decision to coordinate the petition was more about ‘informing’, than ‘consulting’.

In 2001, Ian interviewed the officer who was the Army’s Social Secretary in 1985, Colonel Melvin Taylor, who described the campaign as ‘homophobia in action’, with the Army ‘the righteous crusaders waging war against the filthy infidels’. This despite his personal view that those with a homosexual bias had ‘no more control over this disposition than, say, children with asthma’.

Ian also interviewed the Chief Secretary of the day, Colonel Ken Bridge, who prior to the Army’s decision to sponsor the petition had outlined his opposing position that ‘The Salvation Army and maybe other sections of the church could do with a lot less arrogance and a lot more humanity’. The Chief Secretary felt so strongly that he took the extreme action of bypassing the Territorial Commander, Australian Donald Campbell, to write to International Headquarters in London, hoping the General would tell Commissioner Campbell to change his attitude.

Last year, updating his study of the Army’s actions during this time, Ian interviewed retired General Shaw Clifton, who served as Legal and Parliamentary Secretary at IHQ in the 1980s and later also served as New Zealand’s Territorial Commander. General Clifton responded by saying:

At that time … we [at IHQ] had faced the same issue elsewhere and had handled it calmly by neither opposing change nor supporting it, but instead analysing the draft legislation to see if it protected minors, plus those of unsound mind, prisoners, etc. We also looked carefully at the age of consent in the legislation as some were advocating in those days for same-sex relations to be legal at 16 when the age for heterosexual acts was often 18 or even 21 … The New Zealand Salvation Army leadership, through the then Territorial Commander, went public and made known its opposition to the new law without consulting or informing IHQ … Had IHQ been consulted before the Army in New Zealand went public, and had New Zealand acted upon the advice that would have been given, the outcomes would have been very different because less offence would have been caused to the supporters of the draft bill, without any loss of principle occasioned to the Army.

To add further context to events of the time, the Homosexual Law Reform debate came at the height of the AIDS crisis. The church — along with the New Zealand population in general — had a largely uneducated fear around the spectre of the AIDS virus. AIDS was seen as a ‘gay disease’ and even ‘divine judgement on homosexuals’. It was only in September 1983 that the world learnt AIDS could not be transmitted via casual contact, food, water, air or surfaces. It was only in 1984 that we learnt IV drug use could also spread AIDS, not just unprotected sex. It wasn’t until 1991, when basketballer ‘Magic’ Johnson announced he had AIDS, that the stereotype of AIDS as a ‘gay disease’ began to fade. And discrimination against homosexuals in New Zealand did not become illegal until the passing of the Human Rights Act in 1993. None of this justifies the ugliness of the church’s treatment of gay and lesbian people, but we do need to remember some of the forces at play.

1 www.salvationarmy.org.nz/masic – see content in the ‘Sexuality’ section

3 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

How educated was I?

I cannot recall if I signed the petition against Homosexual Law Reform, although I suspect I did. But I do wonder how educated my decision would have been. My personal view would have been shaped by the established Christian view that homosexuality was a sin and that to be a ‘practicing homosexual’ was to live in open rebellion against God’s will. I now realise at least two of my friends at The Salvation Army at this time were gay, although I genuinely didn’t think I knew any gay people. I don’t know if these young men had come out to themselves or anyone else at that stage, something that would not have been easy to do in the 1980s church environment.

I would have received a small amount of teaching on the Bible’s views on homosexuality as a corps cadet, the discipleship course available to teenage Salvationists. This would have been reinforced in soldiership classes, which were based on the book Chosen to be a Soldier: Orders and Regulations for Soldiers. The ‘Sexual Morality’ chapter, in a sub-section labelled ‘Unworthy Conduct’, describes homosexuality as ‘misconduct of a sexually deviant kind’ (along with marital infidelity, deliberate promiscuity and criminal sexual offending). The more detailed explanation is as follows:

The term ‘misconduct of a sexually deviant kind’ includes homosexual acts (if between women, termed lesbian practices) … It is necessary here to distinguish between homosexual tendencies and homosexual practices … The homosexual person is attracted to persons of the same sex. So long as this does not express itself in homosexual acts, it is not blameworthy and should not be allowed to create guilt. Such persons need understanding and help, not condemnation. Some can never achieve a heterosexual relationship, but it must be remembered that some men and women who have actually committed homosexual acts are still capable of heterosexual relationships. Given a close walk with the Saviour, and the strict discipline of thought and obedience which all Christian life requires, there is no reason why the homosexually disposed believer should not be a victorious Salvationist, rendering service in appropriate areas of Army activity as appointed by [their] officer. Homosexual practices unrenounced render a person unacceptable as a Salvation Army soldier, just as acts of immorality between heterosexual persons do.

Chosen to Be a Soldier was first published in 1977 (the version I have says it was last revised and reprinted in 1994). Its view on homosexuality was representative of Christian views at the time, which influenced society’s perspective but was itself shaped by outside influences.

If you’d like to look more into the historical, cultural, psychological, social, political and religious influences on how we view LGBTI people today, I’d recommend US writer Kathy Baldock’s book Walking the Bridgeless Canyon2 as an excellent resource. If you’re more a video watcher than a reader then Google ‘Untangling the Mess’ and watch a video of Kathy giving a presentation of her research, which she also gave last year to a group of Salvationists in Wellington.3 If you don’t feel comfortable with some of what I’m sharing tonight, I’d ask you to read Kathy’s book or watch her video. You don’t have to accept Kathy’s conclusions or mine, but I’d hope you would at least be open to considering them. I’d like to highlight some of Kathy’s research here, because as a young Christian and a Salvationist, I was never helped to understand the topic of homosexuality other than by way of

2 https://www.amazon.com/Walking-Bridgeless-Canyon-Repairing-Community/dp/1619200287

3 http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/untangling-mess-video-presentation

4 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

being told what The Salvation Army believed, with justification for that being those few verses from the Bible that, on the face of it, condemn homosexual behaviour.

For instance, I would not have been aware that before the 1946 Revised Standard Version used the word ‘homosexual’ in an English translation, that ‘homosexual’ or the like in any language had never previously been used in any Bible translation or paraphrase. And that in the original text, two words were used in different ways, not just one.

Of the two Greek words used in the three New Testament passages, one is easily translated in context of time and culture, and the other is more difficult. One of these words, malakos, translates to the word ‘effeminate’ in the King James Version. That was a good translation of an ancient word at the time the King James Version was written. Malakos did not just refer to sexual practices, positions or roles; it had a breadth of meaning associated with traits thought to be feminine or associated with women.

As Kathy explains, these were negative traits the ancient world attributed to a woman, including: laziness, decadence, lack of courage, moral and physical weakness, fear and vulnerability, being unchaste or lustful, or being in the submissive role in sex. It was used to describe men who neglected their businesses or took life easy, those who drank too much wine, had too much sex, ate too much gourmet food or were weak in battle. In other words, malakos referred to the entire complex of femininity as understood at the time. If we were to extend this to the mechanics of sexual intercourse: all penetrated men were malakos, but not all malakos men were penetrated.

The more challenging Greek word is arsenokoitai. It is thought Paul coined this word. (Note that we cannot assume this word is directly related to the Hebrew words arsen and koten in Leviticus as it may have changed in meaning in the 1400 years since those Hebrew words were used.) Arsenokoitai appears less than 100 times in surviving ancient texts over a span of about 600 years. It only appears in lists and always without definition, so the best way to figure out its meaning is to see where the word consistently appears in vice lists in comparison to surrounding words. When that process is worked through, it is clear that arsenokoitai is associated with exploitation and/or sexual abuse, most often where there is an exchange of money or economics. Therefore, the best translation may be ‘those who are abused in sex or sold in sex’.

The most important thing to be aware of in terms of our reading of the Bible today is that the Revised Standard Version combined both these words and replaced them with one word, ‘homosexual’, which is wholly inaccurate. Malakos is tough to translate today because we would, of course, no longer suggest that being a woman is the worst thing to be, or that women are inferior and should therefore always hold the position of social or sexual submission. Yet one thing is very clear: malakos would never have been used to describe an actual woman, only a man with the ancient complexity of so-called feminine traits. We can therefore see that while the term ‘homosexual’ is used in the Bible to describe both male and female, malakos would never have been used to describe a woman. This was not a gender-neutral term!

When reading arsenokoitai in ancient texts and in ancient context, this is closer in meaning to a man who sexually uses and exploits a male — typically a boy. The best understanding in the 1940s, when this translation was done, may have been a young male who was sexually abused or sold.

5 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

From all this, what is clear is that ‘homosexual’ was a poor translation of those two Greek words. Even in the medical community, people did not understand what homosexuality was in the 1930s and 1940s when the Revised Standard Version was being developed. An abused male for money and a male abuser did not translate to ‘homosexual’, and the culture of the time saw homosexuals as sexual perverts. By translating these two words as ‘homosexual’, the sexual perversion meaning was what the Revised Standard Version delivered to its readers — in a definition that covered not only males, but females too.

As a teenager I didn’t know this. In fact, I probably presumed that this word ‘homosexual’ was the same one word God inspired the original Bible writers to use, and that it meant precisely the same thing to them then, as it did to me in 1985. Neither did I appreciate that my views on homosexuality were shaped by relatively recent history that at one point regarded homosexuality as criminality, then a mental disorder, and more recently some sort of optional ‘lifestyle’. I would have accepted without question that someone who was gay was likely to try to ‘corrupt’ others, especially young men, into the same behaviour — and so they were to be feared. And I probably subscribed to the view that if the rights of gay people were strengthened, ‘normalising’ homosexuality, it would spread like some contagion.

I certainly wasn’t asked to consider what the church’s harsh judgement was doing to actual gay or lesbian people. This was the era of superficial and dispassionate clichés like ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ (which sadly people still use today, as if people might be reassured by such cold comfort). Perhaps we were able to overlook the harm we were causing because we thought homosexuals were on the margins anyway, a long way from where most churches lived. Of course, gay people were in our churches, but most were (and many still are) in the closet, having been led to believe (contrary to what the O&Rs for Soldiers said) that their same-sex attraction was indeed ‘blameworthy’, and that they should therefore accept considerable feelings of guilt because of this.

‘Praying the gay away’ doesn’t work

When gay people did out themselves, we were likely to engage in what has been shown to be ineffective and highly damaging to people’s wellbeing by attempting to ‘pray the gay away’ with what is called ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy. Although well intentioned, this really is a form of spiritual abuse, and it concerns me some Christians and church leaders still see this as effective and appropriate — when mental health and medical professionals and many church leaders and pastoral workers within churches agree it is not. It particularly concerns me when I hear of young people, at highest risk in terms of mental health and suicide, coming out to youth leaders or pastors only to be prayed for that they would no longer be gay. Several years ago, a deeply distressed father at our corps approached my husband concerned that this had happened to his 16-year-old son. He wanted to understand why The Salvation Army had not felt it appropriate to discuss this with him first and to seek parental permission to counsel his son in this way.

In June 2013, Exodus International, which had attempted to change people’s sexual orientation through prayer and counselling since 1976, shut down. The previous year, then-president Alan Chambers admitted to the Gay Christian Network conference that: ‘The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9{c574137c5777befa10820cae29c25c1ae59223bf337138f6c605a70fb950fc52} of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.’ In announcing the organisation’s closure he offered this apology:

6 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatised parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite — or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

My brother-in-law, who lives in Australia, is gay, and perhaps this would be a good time to share something of his story, which I do with his permission. Ross grew up in The Salvation Army and shared his experiences with me a few years ago. He said:

I remember quite vividly, as a Junior Candidate, standing in front of 500ish Salvos and testifying that Jesus made me straight. Apparently. I remember my dad bowing his head as I made the statement. It wasn’t because he was embarrassed by me, but because he’s not one for drawing attention to himself. I was giddy with excitement as fellow Salvos approached me and said how wonderful it was that I was saved AND straight.

I wanted to die. I would loath myself for looking at another guy and thinking how handsome he was. I would get up at 5 am and pray that God would fix me and take away this horrendous burden.

I remember as though it was yesterday when I woke up the day of my wedding. I was a silly 21-year-old and had no clue, and said that I shouldn’t be doing this.

[As an aside, this marriage was encouraged by Ross’s corps officers — who had offered deliverance ministry to Ross, and who perhaps thought encouraging his relationship with a young woman at the corps might help ‘seal the deal’. Ross and his wife had two children and went on to serve as Salvation Army envoys in charge of a corps before Ross came out and their marriage ended. Ross continues …]

I tried harder to save more people. I would be the first to go the mercy seat with my NIV Bible and counsel young men about being saved because they were sinners and separated from God. I thought of myself as some sort of super Christian Salvo who wanted all to join me in my lofty saved stature.

I genuinely believed that I was the most humble but most right Christian ever. I knew it all. Everything. Jesus could fix anything.

But Jesus didn’t fix me. I had the foulest temper that would dissolve into pity parties I could drag out for days. I would be repulsed by my body’s natural sexual response to a cute guy. And the sage wisdom that was bestowed on me was ‘seek God’s forgiveness’.

7 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

I’m now 45 and have the wisdom of time. I like that. I still get things wrong and I’m cool with that. The reality for me is that I will most likely not attend a church of any kind in the foreseeable future. I cannot accept any kind of condemnation that I am a lesser person because of what goes on in my bedroom. … But what I know is that I’m an okay person, extraordinary actually. I’m worth something!

Sadly, I suspect that many Christians today still operate from the same, narrow ‘this is what I was told although I’ve never really looked into it for myself’ base of knowledge I once did. Many still do not think they know any gay people. As a result, they feel they must stand as sentries over some perceived line of righteous morality, influenced by thinking of past eras that said homosexuality was a crime or a sickness or a deviance … or a sin.

Just five or six Bible passages are commonly used when discussing homosexuality. Two verses (and sometimes Genesis 19) are from the Old Testament, and of the three New Testament passages, only two are thought to be relevant. For many, the existence of these six passages is the end of the whole ‘discussion’; while others point to ways of interpreting the Bible that don’t exclude homosexuality as we know it today. Significantly, Jesus didn’t speak against homosexuality, although he had a lot to say about religious hypocrisy.

Captured or corrected by culture?

Personally, I no longer believe faithful same-sex relationships are incompatible with the Bible’s teaching, particularly when I look at its teaching on such matters as women in leadership and the remarriage of divorced people. Scripture’s opposition to these issues is far clearer, yet we no longer have such trouble contextualising human experience into our understanding of Scripture.

Most Christians today would struggle to accept that the Bible could ever have been used to endorse slavery as God’s will, but for 18 centuries Christians accepted slavery, arguing that God instituted and approved of it. The Bible was used to support those who established apartheid in South Africa, until this teaching was declared heresy in 1982. We’d probably be familiar with those Bible verses that advocate a male-dominated leadership, with women spoken about as the ‘weaker’ sex and instruction that they should remain quiet in church. (In fact, I wonder whether my empathy for LGBTI people comes because, as a female and a female leader in the church, I come from a historically excluded and oppressed demographic myself!) There was a time when those who were divorced had a tough road in Christian circles, but today we’re more gracious. Bible verses about divorce haven’t changed, but our understanding and application of them has.

I wonder if, when changes in thinking were happening around these matters, some conservative Christians complained the church was being ‘captured by culture’ — just as people are making that accusation today now that more Christians and churches are affirming and inclusive of LGBTI people. With the benefit of hindsight, I think we could agree these were instances of the church being ‘corrected by culture’. And I do think that as difficult as this current time of change is for the church, the same is happening with regards to LGBTI rights and inclusion within the life of the church.

My own view is that by broadening our outlook to accept and nurture same-sex relationships, we would be able to speak more convincingly of God’s love for all — the ‘whosoever’ we reference in our Salvation Army’s sixth doctrine. More than that, we would be better able to support LGBTI

8 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

people to live in relationship with God and with each other. Not because we are ‘giving them permission or authorising their access to God’, but simply because we are respecting their identity as people made in the image of God, sexual beings with that very human longing to love and be loved.

Actively promoting and supporting gay Christians to follow Jesus would, of course, mean promoting adherence to Christian values and standards of godliness — not the ‘perceived morality’ of a person’s sexual and gendered identity, but the morality of the choices made as people, gay or straight, seek to live well for Jesus in this world. A lifestyle of holiness that is open to all of us.

I’ve already alluded to the barriers erected between the church and the LGBTI community through the era of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in New Zealand. When we think about that time, we must sense the deep pain the church — including The Salvation Army — caused. We must also recognise that some people, then and now, have chosen to end their lives, rather than live with the burden of shame, hopelessness and despair that we in the church contributed to. I hope we feel a deep sense of sorrow about that and a determination never to repeat the sins of our corporate past.

Compassionate public engagement

One positive outcome of that time is we now demonstrate a more circumspect and compassionate approach to our public engagement. That doesn’t mean it’s easy for The Salvation Army to speak into this space, but when we have done so, it has been in more positive ways. Significantly, in July 2006, Territorial Commander Commissioner Garth McKenzie, issued a statement to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill. He said:

The Salvation Army remembers the time leading up to the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill as one in which judgemental and prejudiced words were spoken on both sides of the debate. We would wish to clarify that while The Salvation Army did not initiate the petition opposing the Bill, we did take a prominent public role when a few senior Salvation Army leaders offered our assistance in coordinating the petition. However, this was not a policy unanimously endorsed by all in Salvation Army leadership at the time and it did give rise to considerable debate within our movement nationally.

While some Salvation Army members supported the petition, others were uncomfortable to varying degrees and took no part. A further body of opinion supported the Reform Bill and even initiated a counter-petition. Then, as now, The Salvation Army encompassed a diverse community with a wide range of opinions on this and other subjects. We therefore continue to seek God’s wisdom on what it means to live as biblically-informed Christians in today’s world.

We do understand though that The Salvation Army’s official opposition to the Reform Bill was deeply hurtful to many, and are distressed that ill-feeling still troubles our relationship with segments of the gay community. We regret any hurt that may remain from that turbulent time and our present hope is to rebuild bridges of understanding and dialogue between our movement and the gay community. We may not agree on all issues, but we can respect and care for one another despite this.

9 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

This was followed, in May 2012, with Rainbow Wellington and The Salvation Army issuing joint statements in a rapprochement — ‘a resumption of harmonious relations’. The Salvation Army reiterated its 2006 statement but added an apology, while Rainbow Wellington said:

Many of those in the GLBTI community have come to adulthood in a world in which their human and civil rights are much more widely respected than was the situation in 1986, and to whom the events of that time are history rather than personal experience. That is not to say that they should be forgotten; on the contrary it is important that we should all be aware of or recall a time when we were a persecuted minority. Nor is this a matter of forgiveness. Some of our members and friends, we are sure, will continue, as is their right, to feel strongly about the events of those years. But we have further battles before us before we are acknowledged as equals in our society with full equality of rights, and in those battles we need friends and allies as we have needed them in the past. The time has come, therefore, to look forward rather than backwards, and to move on.

When same-sex marriage was debated in New Zealand after MP Louisa Wall’s Private Members Bill was drawn from the ballot in July 2012, Salvation Army representatives met with Louisa to discuss the Bill’s implications. Yes, we eventually made a submission opposing the Bill, but our opposition was intended to clarify that if religious communities chose not to solemnise such marriages on the grounds of religious belief, this wouldn’t be seen as unlawful discrimination.

Someone whose view impressed me at this time was Anglican Bishop Richard Randerson, who said:

… nowhere in Scripture is the concept of loving, committed same-sex relationships envisaged. One cannot find a biblical text on this subject any more than one can find something about nuclear bombs or genetic modification. Reference must be made to more underlying biblical principles … Part of our current knowledge about sexual orientation is that homosexuality is not a sin or aberration, but is as natural for many in our society as heterosexuality is for others. If we look to scripture for deeper principles that might underlie all relationships, they are ones of love for God and love for neighbour, and the belief that in love for God and others we might come to maturity in Christ and have a care for the wellbeing of others.

At this time, The Salvation Army was invited to join some other churches to lobby against the Bill. One statement we were asked to put our name to framed marriage primarily around the purpose of raising children. The Salvation Army saw this argument as simplistic and even insensitive, as it potentially marginalised couples that wanted to have children and were unable to, as well as those who chose not to have children for whatever reason. Pragmatically, it was also clear there was a will for change and that this Bill was likely to pass. There was little to be gained and a lot to be lost by reinforcing the perception that the church was unsympathetic to the needs of same-sex couples.

Leadership therefore prepared the following guidance for Salvationists: ‘The Salvation Army hopes this law change leads to a safer and more inclusive society for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in New Zealand. Regardless of their personal views on the merit of this law change, Salvationists are asked to honour the principles of the Christian marriage covenant in their own lives and to treat all people with respect.’ This was a long way from the approach taken in the 1980s.

10 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

Last April (2016), The Salvation Army took part in a small inter-faith church service to mark the 30th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in New Zealand. The event was held during Wellington Pride Week and sponsored by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). A composite Salvation Army brass band provided musical support, with our Territorial Commander playing and other Salvationists present in the congregation. I was part of the small organising group with two other Salvationists and I remember how surprised and thankful people were for the Army’s involvement. A number of people spoke of the healing nature of a gathering that allowed them to feel welcome inside a church — some for the first time since they had revealed their sexual orientation in the churches of their youth.

In August this year, The Salvation Army made a submission to Government supporting the expungement of convictions for historical homosexual offenses, saying the Bill was ‘an important reflection of the need for care, justice and mercy in society’ and that for the ‘men and families of men who have historical homosexual convictions, such convictions have been both discriminatory and distressing’. The Salvation Army hoped enacting this Bill would ‘ensure that this discrimination is not continued and that people can fully experience the freedoms given to them under current law’.

In Fiji, The Salvation Army has hosted AIDS Candlelight Memorial services for a number of years. LGBT and also HIV-positive Fijians say they find in The Salvation Army a more accepting and non- judgemental environment than other churches.

A small group of Salvation Army officers have been in positions that have allowed us to advocate as allies with Salvation Army leadership over the past 15 years or so. However, with the exception of a 2014 survey into Salvationists’ attitudes towards same-sex relationships, there has been a consistent caution and nervousness amongst many of our senior leaders to extend these conversations to our pews. I think this is regrettable, but symptomatic of what I see from The Salvation Army internationally. The risk is that should the Army’s leadership decide to move towards more inclusive practices, it may not have done enough to bring grassroots Salvationists with them. Similarly, if a more traditional stance is retained, there will be many who will see this as unjust and out of sync with what is happening in the world and in parts of the church. Our senior international leaders have been discussing the matter of sexuality for a number of years, and territories seem to be in a holding pattern waiting for their deliberations to bear fruit. I am not sure of the best way to widen this dialogue, but it’s important our leaders don’t keep this conversation entirely behind closed doors.

The Salvation Army no longer has an International Positional Statement on Homosexuality — our old statement was withdrawn some years back at IHQ’s request. Currently, therefore, our IHQ public statement seems to be limited to one on the topic of non-discrimination, issued in October 2013 in the wake of an unfortunate Australian radio interview. Here’s an excerpt, which includes content contributed from New Zealand:

A diverse range of views on homosexuality exist within The Salvation Army — as among the wider Christian (and non-Christian) community. But no matter where individual Salvationists stand on this matter, The Salvation Army does not permit discrimination on the basis of sexual identity in the delivery of its services or in its employment practices. Our international mission statement is very clear on this point when it says we will ‘meet human needs in [Jesus’] name without discrimination’. Anyone who comes through our doors will be welcomed with love and service, based on their need and our capacity to provide.

11 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

The Salvation Army stands against homophobia, which victimises people and can reinforce feelings of alienation, loneliness and despair. We want to be an inclusive church community where members of the LGBTQ community find welcome and the encouragement to develop their relationship with God.

Of those who have worked to help The Salvation Army engage around this topic in New Zealand, I want to mention the work of officers Harold Hill, Campbell Roberts, Ian Hutson, Garth Stevenson and Ross Wardle in particular, as well as gay Salvationist Colin Daley from Wellington City Corps and, more recently, Ian’s son Craig, who has been an effective bridge builder into the Rainbow Community. I also want to acknowledge those territorial commanders who have endorsed statements and activities that have put legs under our 2006 promise ‘to build bridges of understanding between ourselves and the gay community’. It has been a privilege for me to support the communications aspects of this engagement over many years. There have been plenty of moments where I have felt that my appointment in the Communications Department at THQ has been ‘for such a time as this’.

This year I was one of a small number of Christians, including a handful of Salvationists, who took part in the Wellington Gay Pride march behind a banner that said ‘Christians United in Love’ and carrying a sign that said, ‘Build Bridges, Not Walls’. Afterwards, we ran a stall in the ‘Out in the Park’ event. Significantly, Rainbow Wellington funded this stall. It was reassuring that younger people did not think it odd to see a Christian group at a Gay Pride event, while some older people took the opportunity to share some of the hurts they’d experienced from the church over the years. And we listened. This was a huge privilege and we were so graciously received by the LGBTI community!

No longer gatekeeping

In drawing my thoughts to a conclusion this evening, the passage of Scripture God that has used most strongly to galvanise my own activism in this area is from John chapter 10 (CEV), where Jesus talks about himself as being the gate for the sheep:

‘I am the gate,’ Jesus says, ‘All who come in through me will be saved …. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullness … I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me.’

All of us are the most complete, the most alive, when we can connect with God. Jesus came to make a way for that to happen — he is the gate. And yet we in the church seem to have adopted the role of gatekeepers; bouncers outside God’s door, deciding who is in and who is out. But we don’t have that mandate. Jesus told us to go into all the world; he didn’t commission us to tell others to go away!

As well, and I am sorry for not touching more on this because it is absolutely crucial to the topic under discussion: let’s not presume that LGBTI people are not already in God’s family as devoted followers of Christ. Because they are! And they shouldn’t be content with being shoved to the margins. They must be able to bring their faith, passion and skills to all areas of the church’s mission.

12 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

As I’ve said, I no longer see the Christian story as something we ‘own’ as heterosexuals. We are not meant to be salvation’s gatekeepers; we are to be the people who throw open the door and call people to Jesus. Actually, that’s wrong, God is the one throwing open the door and running down the driveway, racing to embrace anyone and everyone who wants to come home.

But just like the story of the Prodigal Son to which I allude, there lurks — at home — a judgemental elder brother, complaining at his father’s extravagant love ‘unfairly’ bestowed on the returning lost child. In this, the elder brother shows what we in the church demonstrate but do not easily confess: we know who we want in, and who we want out. And so the Father responds by standing with the beloved ‘outsider’ and saying words I wish the church would hear today:

‘My son, you’re always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we should be glad and celebrate! Your brother was dead, but he’s now alive. He was lost and has now been found.’

In conclusion, my deepest hope is that we would refuse to abandon the people God loves, and that we would also refuse to allow our own fears and prejudices to communicate that some people ‘don’t fit’ into God’s Kingdom. I pray that we would stop implying by word or deed that God’s love is not sufficiently wide and deep for everyone. Because it is.

13 | Christina Tyson (Major) / The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory
‘Rejecting Rejection’, presented at the Booth College of Mission Thought Matters Seminar, 26 October 2017

  1. http://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/our-community/church-life/masic/sexuality-issues
  2. Although I was initially unsure how to respond, I ended up supporting this law reform because the New Covenant decriminalised sexual immorality and our nation had already caught up with this by decriminalising adultery and fornication and, more recently, prostitution – details in my book, Silencing the Witnesses, p. 250 ff.
  3. Rejecting Rejection, p. 8
  4. Ibid.
  5. Defined as ‘people born with sex characteristics including (genitals, gonads, and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female’. They number ‘between 0.05{c574137c5777befa10820cae29c25c1ae59223bf337138f6c605a70fb950fc52} and 1.7{c574137c5777befa10820cae29c25c1ae59223bf337138f6c605a70fb950fc52} of the population – the upper estimate is similar to the number of red haired people. Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. An intersex person may be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both or neither.’ https://unfe.org/system/unfe-65-Intersex_Factsheet_ENGLISH.pdf
  6. Rom 1:24-27, 1 Cor 6:9-11, 1 Tim 1:10
  7. Matt 19:4-5
  8. 1 Cor 6:11
  9. Matt 7:13-14
  10. Matt 19:11-12
  11. John 16:7
  12. Mark 2:16-17
  13. Rom 1:26-28
  14. See answered below
  15. John 4:7-26
  16. John 8:3-11
  17. 1 Cor 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10
  18. 1 Cor 6:9
  19. Rejecting Rejection, p. 5
  20. Rejecting Rejection, p. 5
  21. 2 Pet 1:4-5, emphasis added
  22. Matt 24:4 & 11
  23. 2 Tim 4:3-4
  24. 2 Pet 3:15-16
  25. Rom 1:24-27, 1 Cor 6:9-11, 1 Tim 1:10
  26. Rejecting Rejection, p. 8, emphasis added
  27. Matt 7:13-15