Tim Gibb and Bethel’s Fight Against The “Homosexual Agenda”

I spent an hour of my evening tonight listening to Pastor Tim Gibb (the senior pastor of a decade or so at the Sarnia Pentecostal Church that I grew up up) ripping into the “gay agenda” (whatever that means) and the “gay theologians” (he never did mention their names, maybe I’m one of them! But I would like to know who they are, because apparently they just throw out Lev 18 right out of the Bible) in a one hour sermon done on November 2 at their morning service. It brought back a lot of memories, as I spent my entire high school career being formed by his sermons. At one point, just like Pastor Tim, I would have considered the word ‘tolerance’ to be a bad word!

I think Tim has become slightly more sensitive to his ignorance since I remember because he makes lots of clarifications throughout his message. If not sensitive, he’s at least more aware of how he has come across. He says things like “those that know me, know that I have a genuine love for people” or that we “are motivated by love.” Before he gets to his opinions he is always sure to say that we need to have a heart of compassion and grace. So you know what. I’ll go with it. I really don’t think Tim is an evil guy or anything. I don’t think he’s trying to hate people or condemn people. I know the liberal folks might instantly want to throw him under the bus (which he mentions). I trust that he truly does love everyone and wants to see them come to know the love of Christ.

What I do think though is that Tim acts and preaches out of fear. This entire sermon isn’t an argument against homosexuality at all, it’s a sermon that is soaked in fear of the ‘gay agenda.’ He fears the “6-8 year old daughter ending up in a bathroom with a fifty year old man who identifies as a woman,” being imprisoned for his religious belief or his children getting sex-ed from a liberal pedophile’s textbook. This sermon is full of stories that will inevitably (consciously or not) persuade and manipulate his listeners about the way culture has changed and that it’s something that we must resist. Those are all stories that he tells, which is interesting because they don’t really have anything to do with homosexuality at all but rather a conservative reaction to something that they know nothing about. They just throw all fears surrounding sexuality into the same category and attack it all at once.

I’m not sure when it became the Christian’s job to defend the Bible or religious freedoms. What I see in the Bible, especially the New Testament is Christians who accept the fact that their message is counter-cultural and willingly accept persecution and eventually death because of it. The very sight of Christians complaining about their religious freedoms being taken and that they must resist the change of the definition of marriage signifies that there being something seriously wrong with this approach. This isn’t a Christian approach at all. This is just a cultural approach. Resisting political definitions of marriage and maintaining moral positions is not Christian, that is actually quite anti-Christian, or at least pharisaical, if we look at the New Testament for a definition of what a Christian should be.

All of Tim’s love and compassion always comes with a big huge “BUT.” His entire sermon really is about the big BUT to all the nice things he starts with. It’s too bad because that is where he starts to completely unravel and backtrack on the nice things. The beginning of his sermon he says we need to have…

a heart of compassion
but a backbone of steel
address issues with sensitivity
but with truth of God’s word

Tim is deeply concerned about this issue. This is what he says…

this is our conflict,
we deeply care about people,
we want to show grace and love them

but on the other hand,

there is a gay activist agenda that is knocking at the door that is becoming the principal threat to freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience in america and canada and this must be resisted.

Since when is political freedom something that the Christian is called to resist? Tim throws the gay activists agenda in the same category as the gay theologians, denominations changing their stance on gay marriage and the left wing liberals that are all so clearly corrupt! Plus, I thought this was the gay agenda.

He throws in a quick side note: what do two gay people do with Paul when he tells wives to submit to their husbands? Umm…who is going to be the wife in this situation? Obviously homosexuality is wrong because then there would be no head of a household. Yes. That is one of his arguments.

I think the sticking point of the whole sermon is in his repeated statement that “the Bible is a heterosexual book.” I’m not sure what that means entirely but apparently to him it means a lot and is his main argument that he continues to go back to. Don’t bother to mention the Bible is also a highly patriarchal, slave supporting and written in multiple languages over hundreds of years. Also, the fact that the Bible is 66 books with many different authors who have had their own records of sins doesn’t seem to matter. All 66 of them are heterosexual! He clarifies that by this he means that every example and every teaching is heterosexual and that the Bible doesn’t use homosexuality as a normative narrative. Even polygamy is heterosexual he says…but wrong of course!

He goes on to say that arguments from silence are not good arguments to make. So since Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality doesn’t mean we can assume that he approves of it all of sudden. Or for example, because Tim doesn’t mention that he doesn’t believe in aliens from Mars in his sermon doesn’t mean we can assume he does! This is a point I agree with. This is basic critical reasoning. However, he makes his own argument out of silence only minutes before. He claims that because the Bible is silent of homosexual examples and stories therefore the Bible is a heterosexual book and therefore God only approves of heterosexual relationships. Amazing how one can be so blind to their own fallacies that they can see so clearly in others.

I think what is the saddest part about this sermon and others like it is the complete lack of participation in the wider church conversation surrounding these issues. He is able to condemn multiple denominations and their stances with a broad stroke and yet promote the conservative evangelical agenda and endorse books like “Can you Be Gay and Christian?” by Michael Brown (spoiler: no you can’t.) I wish they would read Wendy Gritter’s book for a healthy Christian and pastoral response to a highly complex issues. It is clear that her book, or any like hers, is not on their radar.

There is a few hundred people hollering amen to his words and a few hundred people that are completely won over by the rhetoric that is commonly attributed to this approach. It’s all very sad. There is no element of any engagement at all with a broader conversation of the church. He simply reads the Bible as a moral guidebook to reinforce his own cultural morality and opposition to the “gay agenda” and then finds ludicrous examples to support it. With lots of justifications about purity and dietary laws and making sure that we know which biblical laws are right and which ones are wrong, Tim weaves a typical argument that completely exonerates himself while throwing the (practicing) homosexual into eternal hell fire.

I’ve sat on this post for a little while now. I keep going back and forth wondering if I should post it. It’s been eight years or so since I’ve really unpacked some of the unhealthy patterns I’ve seen at Bethel and I’m not sure if it is entirely my place to speak this out. But it’s on the Internet! It’s people that are in my community and have been part of my life! That said, I don’t really think I can change their minds. That is OK though, as I’ve noticed that posts like this aren’t generally for the people I’m writing about or to, but rather it is for the onlookers, the ones that are listening in. Maybe confronting errors and contradictions and ignorance publicly is just the little boost they need to finally start thinking for themselves.

I sent this to a few folks before hand just to make sure I wasn’t going to cause too much of mess. One friend said this after reading it:

“Your post feels like you’re attacking Tim. But let’s be honest, these aren’t his ideas…he’s just (poorly) repeating and playing mix and match with other people’s ideas. So if I were you, I’d clearly be attacking the ideas more than the person. It’s these ideas that are the most dangerous thing here.”

And I agree fully. I ended up making a few changes. I tend to come across that way when I confront people. So let me just apologize now. I don’t dislike Tim, nor want to attack him or insult him to make him feel bad. I do want to confront him and his ideas though. Hopefully he and others can see the difference. Tim is just a mouthpiece for a larger ignorant cultural Christian movement that refuses to critically engage anything outside of their narrow view of Scripture. They read the Bible as if it was written to them and extract from the Bible whatever proof references they need to prove their point. Throw the rapture, speaking in tongues, views on prosperity, creationism, colonialism all into the same melting pot of horrendous uses of scripture meant to promote (dare i say it) the Evangelical Agenda! However, I meant it when I said I don’t want to attack Tim. I poke fun with my style, but I recognize that it isn’t him that is dangerous as much as it is the whole movement of people who refuse to use their brains and actually see what Christ was talking about. This approach is a blatant refusal to be in solidarity with their brothers and sisters, christian or not, known in the scriptures as the “outcast, alien, orphan and widow.” You don’t have to agree with anyone’s position, but that should not change your disposition towards them.

I hope that Sarnia folks who listen to Tim and fall under his authority and who consider him their leader will challenge him and themselves to do some homework. I hope that if you are reading this that you see that not all Christians are this homophobic and narrow minded. Not all churches in Sarnia buy into this line of thinking. Not all churches use fear in their sermons to invoke a response. If you are gay and you heard that sermon, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for how you must have felt, I’m sorry that you feel unsafe and vulnerable and like your very existence is sin. Know you are loved, know that God loves you. Know that there is life and truth and beauty outside of those walls. Know that the gospel isn’t about getting your moral ducks in order but about living freely in the grace that we are forgiven and loved despite our morality or lack thereof. That is the kind of Christianity that is out there and Christ offers. That is the kind of Christianity that I hope the folks at Bethel will find.

You can watch his whole sermon below.

Issue Of Homosexuality | November 2nd AM from Bethel Sarnia on Vimeo.

10 Comments

  • Wowzers Nate.
    well done and very eloquently put.
    these are some of the reasons i shutter when someone asks me if i’m a Christian. Some of this rhetoric, frankly, and quite literally hurts my head.
    i think i prefer a word i made up…
    Christ-ion…
    ion… n.electrically charged atom or group of atoms…vt. changed into atoms.
    it quite simply points right back to Jesus… in all his humanity and compassion or example of pace in living.

    your final paragraph was beautiful. i could feel it’s warmth and welcome. Now, that’s what Jesus was all about.

  • Dude, well done.

    My favourite section – “I’m not sure when it became the Christian’s job to defend the Bible or religious freedoms. What I see in the Bible, especially the New Testament is Christians who accept the fact that their message is counter-cultural and willingly accept persecution and eventually death because of it. The very sight of Christians complaining about their religious freedoms being taken and that they must resist the change of the definition of marriage signifies that there being something seriously wrong with this approach. This isn’t a Christian approach at all.”

    Though we do have to be careful not to react in a similar way as those we are writing about, or else we are in many ways no different than them, it is important to present an honest, fair and thoughtful assessment of what we’ve seen and heard. And, in this, you did well.

    I wrote a piece along similar lines just a few weeks ago. One that I think complements your post very well. I’m not attempting to promote my own work, but it does resonate with with yours so well :)

    “No Walls Needed: The Ten Commandments, Evangelism by Force and Walking Away from Christianity”
    http://www.jeffkclarke.com/walls-needed-ten-commandments-evangelism-force-walking-away-christianity/

    Massimi hooked me up with this link :)

    All the best!

  • Amen. Thanks, Nathan. When I was ordained almost 30 years ago, I remember a wise old Anglican priest predicting that the issue of homosexuality would be dealt with in our lifetimes. I was surprised, to say the least. But it seems like there’s a growing consensus about the importance of full acceptance of the LGBT community in the church. The Bible is indeed counter-cultural, just as the prophets were, and just as Jesus. It’s truly sad when the church completely appropriates cultural norms and prejudices (whether that’s British imperialism or anti-gay attitudes).

    In John 16:12, Jesus says to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Thank God for the Spirit!

  • Thank you, Nathan. We had a session on the gay issue in February. Was well received, but some are uncomfortable with the next step. Some of us are trying to put something together about ‘how to read the Bible’. We use the Bible as a stick to hit each other over the head instead of receiving it is a redemption narrative.

    Wendy Gritter came to town with our session in February. Her book is good.

    Diane, who lives downtown, and will stop by sometime.

  • Nathan – I wanted to respond to tell you how much I appreciate your approach with this article. I appreciate the acute observations and the rational arguments you make for something that I can tell you feel very passionately about. I also appreciate that your own theological stance on the issue is obfuscated in the main thesis of your response; this allows focus on the issues you raise without furthering the mud-sling-style debate common to blogs and facebook comment threads. I really appreciate your prayerful consideration and seeking outside opinions before posting it. This is well presented and will hopefully prove useful to the onlookers as you described.

    Further in this vein, I hope to remind everyone (those inside the issue and those looking in from the outside) that there are people on both sides of the theological stance that are driven by rational thinking and Spirit-sought wisdom. There are rational discussions to be had on the issue, and there are people on both sides who are capable of having them. Unfortunately, it’s often the ignorant, driven by fear or anger, that speak the loudest. It would be helpful in this case to remember Proverbs 17:27: “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even tempered.”

    I can certainly confirm a historical trend of fear-based sermons from my own childhood at Bethel. Scripture states that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18), and “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Fear is an easy motivator, and it can be tempting to be driven by it (and have that cascade to the congregation). But we as Christians do not need to fear the world; that would be to fear an enemy that we claim is already defeated. Matthew 10:28 sums it up nicely: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    The only thing I find lacking in your article is compassion for those that you can see are deceived and ensnared by fear. I can appreciate your style of writing and the “poking fun” as you stated, and those things are not necessarily bad; but without love and compassion, we’ll never be able to heal the root of the issue. You state that we must focus on the ideas and confront each other on them; I agree, but I think we need to take it a step further.

    We do have a real enemy out there, and I imagine he works hardest to trip up those we’ve lifted up as teachers and mentors. Fear is an easy thing to fall into; it’s incredibly powerful and deceptive. But God has already given us the victory; when we see people deceived into fear by the enemy, we can intercede for their deliverance. There is indeed a time to confront the ideas, but if we don’t start in a place of compassion, our confrontations may be rendered ineffective. And starting in prayer is a reminder to everyone involved that we rely on the Spirit to bring wisdom and understanding, not our own arguments (as well-reasoned as they may be). In addition, this attitude of humility helps to guard against a plethora of sinful pitfalls.

    Again, I really appreciate the article, and I hope that my response hasn’t put too much of a damper on that. I don’t write this for the sake of being critical, but to encourage you and to spur you on to even greater effectiveness in your future dialogues. I’m posting this publicly in the hopes that it will further encourage our brothers and sisters to loving, compassionate dialogue on these issues. And I ultimately trust that the Spirit is working in the reception of this message.

    As iron sharpens iron… blessings, brother.

  • Owen, thanks for the comment and additions to the conversation.

    I think you are right about ‘lack of compassion’ – I tend to not see charismatics caught up in hype as caught in fear but rather perpetuating the fear, so I’m quite direct and sometimes poke fun at them as well. However that said, this article like others always causes people to come out of the woodwork of people calling me out and I always ask them to grab a drink with me so we can discuss it. I do think that I have compassion for even the oppressor in this situation and am willing to journey alongside of them as they journey alongside of me towards Christ, I think my tactics of confrontation get to the point where the compassion might not be noticeable, which is why I always attempt to meet in person.

    But thanks for sharing!

  • Hello Nathan,

    I have read your blog several times and I believe that you are speaking to a topic that is very important for all Christians to consider. I was at the meetings of the EFC last week and it was clear that this topic is on many people’s minds ““ not just how to find our way through the issues, but how we speak about them and with one another.

    I have not listened to Tim’s message, but in spite of your evident disappointment in what he said, I think that he needs to be commended for being willing to bring the topic up and try to talk about it. I think that you know that I would agree with your point that we do not need to come from a position of fear when we talk about homosexuality or any other subject. I also agree that we need to sort out what is cultural and what is scriptural, but we must do so in a spirit of humility.

    It sounds like you tried to get to that place, but I think that another rewrite or two could have made this a more helpful blog. Your friend gave you some good advice on how to strengthen it. I’d encourage you to reread the blog “as Tim” and look for insulting words, sarcasm and innuendo. Dear friend and brother, they are there and they weaken your blog because one feels that you are as passionately angry with a person (whom you name more than a dozen times in spite of your goal to only address issues) as you are compassionately passionate about issues. You come across as more passionate than you need to be and I wonder if there is also fear in your heart underneath that emotion. Is that possible?

    Perhaps Tim could have done better on what he prepared. Speaking kindly, this is not your best work. I know that you can do better than this. I hope that you and Tim have an off-line conversation.

    Let’s stay committed to keep talking about how we are going to figure this out together. Let’s ask the Lord Jesus to give us the grace to deeply love one another from the heart and to let that deep love temper how we talk to (and about) each other ““ especially when we are thinking through complex and volatile topics.

    Blessings,
    Keith Elford

    • Very wise words Keith. Thank you for taking the time to comment. You took the words right out of my heart and penned them much better than I could.

  • Being a woman, I have an issue with being in a public bathroom with a person that claims they are transgender and I would also fear for a 6-8 year old girl in the same situation. It has nothing to do with transgender. It has everything to do with being in a vulnerable situation where my safety is at stake. There are people in this world that are pedophiles and rapists and this is where I have an issue. I would not put it past a pedophile or rapist to be ‘hunting their next victim’ in a public restroom, while using the guise of being transgender. This is where I have an issue with it.

    As a side note, I was at Braeside Camp tonight where Tim was preaching and the presence of The Holy Spirit was extremely strong there tonight.

  • I was at the Braeside Camp tonight too. I am a born again Christian and some of us are walking very close to the Lord and we have the mind of Christ.. In the last days they will call evil good and good evil.. this is an example of that verse.. common sense, as well as scripture tell us that man is man and woman is woman.. it is through circumstances or childhood sexual trauma/abuse that give folks the idea that they are not sure about their gender or think they are the wrong gender..also the devil and/or demons can confuse people concerning their male or female status… I am with Tim and his making this clear. The compassionate thing to do is tell people the truth. The truth sets people free.. also, have you never read about the times that Jesus got angry with people? Check it out, man. It was not all lovey, dovey,,sin and rebellion against God’s Word will pay a dear penalty..yes ,hell it will be.. the compassion is this my Brother.. Jesus took our place,, that is the compassion.. we have been given a way out.. Jesus is the Way!

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