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.