Does the New Directions Ministry Actually Represent All Views?

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Synod has mandated a study on the area of homosexuality for its 2016 assembly. One of the resources that it has engaged is the material from New Directions Ministry of Canada with Wendy Gritter as its executive director. This blog asks the question if New Directions actually represents all voices in the discussion.

A previous blog post in the Network stated:

Wendy is the executive director of New Directions Ministries of Canada, a organization whose mission is to nurture safe and spacious places for sexual minority persons to explore and grow in faith in Jesus Christ. The book ["Generous Spaciousness] offers, "a framework for discussing diversity in a gracious way, showing that the church can be a place that welcomes a variety of perspectives on the complex matter of human sexuality. It also offers practical advice for implementing generous spaciousness in churches and organizations."

Let us examine the New Directions website:

1. The Home page states:

Welcome to New Direction Ministries

Welcome to the online home of New Direction Ministries. No matter your reason for visiting-whether you’ve got questions about your own sexuality, you’re trying to be a safe person for a friend, are a part of a community wanting to be a safe space for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people, or if you’re wanting to support us financially – thank you for taking the time to visit and find out more about us.

2. The "About"  page features":

a. What are we About?;--with mission, vision, core values etc.

b. What makes us different?;--with distinctives and a pastoral, relational discipleship and partnership focus

c. Generous Spaciousness--defines the posture, the concept and the need for "cultivating healthy communities of diversity"

d. Who are We?--this page features a short biographies  of Wendy Gritter {center photo] along with Danice Carlson [also referred to as Danice Carlson-Malena]  and Beth Malina

e. What's Our Story?--a brief history of the ministry

3. The "Community" page features:

  • One on one connections
  • Generous space groups

4. The "Consulting" page includes, evenings, retreats, workshops and consultation services

5. The Resources page includes:

a. Videos

b. Books under the categories of:

  • Centrist  
  • Doesn't Directly Address LGBTQ Questions  
  • Supports Equal Marriage
  • Supports Traditional Beliefs  
  • Autobiographical  
  • Counseling & Psychology  
  • Dialogue & Conflict
  • Gender &Transgender  
  • Helpful for Parents  
  • Helpful for Pastors  
  • LGBTQ+ Author
  • Posture of Generous Spaciousness  
  • Sex & Sexuality in General  
  • Spirituality & Faith  
  • Theology & Ethics

c. Newsletter archives

d. Our products

e. ND in the media

6. The "Youth" page engages youth with questions such as:

  • Maybe you haven’t figured out everything about yourself. Heck, most 30 year olds still haven’t!
  • Maybe you have questions about whether you are attracted to people of the same sex or gender.
  • Maybe you have questions about your experience of gender, and what that might mean for your identity or expression.
  • Maybe you have questions about your friends at school or youth group who are queer, or have strong opinions about what some of these terms mean.
  • Maybe you are queer and are considering coming out to a family member or friend.
  • Maybe you have come out, and your family or faith community has not been supportive, and you are looking for a place to be honest about yourself, and still talk about your faith.

7. The "Blog" page features short articles, book reviews by Wendy Gritter, Danice Carlson and others

8. The Events page features an upcoming calendar.  

9. The Store features the following books:

a. Church Conversation: Embracing LGBT People $15.00

b. Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church $20.

c. Parents' Conversation: Nurturing Love & Navigating Faith with your Gay Child $12.00

d. Pastors' Conversation: Navigation LGBT issues and Questions  $16.00

e. Bridging the Gap: Conversations on Befriending our Gay Neighbours $15.00

f. The Youth Room has a closet" Talking with Youuth about homosexuality. $15.00

Summary observations:

There is no doubt that this ministry facilitates conversation, pastoral healing, consultation for churches and pastors, resources for youth and parents and  works on issues of shame, guilt, loneliness, bullying and embracing, all under the rubric of "generous spaciousness" which has a certain ring of neutrality and acceptance for all. All of these are commendable.

What is missing?

As much as the New Directions website would give the impression of neutrality in the area of sexuality and sexual identity and use liberal amounts of Christian talk like "commitment to Jesus Christ" something vital appears to be missing. I would suggest that this is intellectual and spiritual honesty. As much as that charge may appear to exhibit less than "generous spaciousness" allow me to explain.

1. The power of images.

The "Who are We? "page features the photo of  Wendy Gritter {center photo] along with Danice Carlson [also referred to as Danice Carlson-Malena]  and Beth Malina. Elsewhere on the site one can read a blog of August 2015" When Danice and I moved to Toronto, we felt it was important to attend a church that would affirm and support our marriage."  Elsewhere on her blog Beth Malina announced their wedding and the caption of her "Beth Blog" stated,  " I'm a gay-married Baptist blogger"

The image that is presented is that two of the major contributors to the New Directions Ministry are living as a married couple in an openly lesbian relationship.

This would appear to mitigate against any neutrality when it would come to this subject. The commitment is obvious.

2. The power of selective materials

In the videos, books as resources and books for sale areas, one is presented with the semblance of neutrality and the entire playing field with terms such as "conservative" "traditional view of marriage" and "centrist". What is missing from these lists however are the important and critical inputs of the following:

a. The Southern Baptist theological and exegetical response to the work of Matthew Vines [on the New Directions reading list] which is clearly an attempt to massage the Scriptures into his own interpretation. The Southern Baptist text is entitled, God and the Gay Christian?: A Response to Matthew Vines (Conversant Book 1)

b. Kevin DeYoung's What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

c. Rosaria Butterfield's [an ex lesbian] videos and books. including:

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith

d. Sam Allberry, Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction

e. Jackie Hill-Perry, “Love Letter to a Lesbian“

f. Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope

g. John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation and the dangers of "indwelling sin".

h. Any material on the area of unclean spirits.

3. The power of the use of the guilt feelings of the church to whip it into a general acceptance of what the culture accepts.

There is no doubt that the church has failed on many fronts. Add to that parents who openly state that if "xyz" church had been more accepting their gay son or daughter would not have done "abc." The pendulum swing is obvious. Yet to capitalize on this pendulum swing and to open wide any and all interpretations of Scripture under the rubric of "generous spaciousness" appears to me to be the road to spiritual ruin. For good reason Kevin DeYoung wrote a recent blog entitled " The Toleration that the Lord Jesus will not tolerate" and it referred to the church of Thyatira which tolerated a woman named Jezebel with an aberrational set of beliefs. when measured by Biblical orthodoxy. That church was castigated by the King of the Church for its generous spaciousness.

4. The spiritually seductive packaging of the words "Did God Say?" 

For the executive director of the ministry to be pictured  in the section "About Us" and "Who are We" with a couple proud to let the world know about their lesbian marriage, tells me that the very non-culturally conditioned prohibitions of marriage in the Bible by same-sex partners has been subjected by New Directions Ministries  to the words "did God say?"  It would appear that in the instance of the temptation of Eve by the Devil, he was advocating the ability to negotiate the very commands of God, maybe one could say with a bit of attitude for interpretation, or we might say with a degree of spaciousness. 

Conclusion:

For the Synod and the CRNCA network, along with multiple congregations and classes  to be as invested in New Directions Ministries as it seems to be, appears to wise at first glance, given the need for serious reflection on the subject. On closer examination of the New Directions website, however, one can't help but wonder if Synod, the CRCNA network and multiple congregations and classes, might have overlooked other resources that provided other voices that might have questioned  the advocacy of openly homosexual marriage, that provide wider reading recommendations,  and provide those deliberating these topics multiple points of view that generous spaciousness would demand.

Has the CRCNA really done its homework?

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