Hi, my name is Peter Johnson.
Why am I writing this blog site? Why have I changed my mind?
I was born and grew up in South London, within a Christian family, and attending a Baptist church. I became a Christian in 1971 and was baptized and formally joined the church in 1972. Over the years I took various roles in that church. I was a deacon [within a Baptist church that is a church governance leadership position]. I was also a part of a team mixing the sound of music, vocals and speech for amplification purposes, and recording the finished product. In addition, I was a Home Group/Bible Study leader for probably around 25 years. All this time I had been immersed in a fairly typical conservative evangelical theology, which I probably knew inside out.
When someone close to me “came out” (I’ll call them Alex – not their real name, and it can be either male or female), and asked me whether there was room in the church for someone like them, I gave the standard answer of the time as I understood it, that providing celibacy was observed, there would be no problem. I think deep inside me I couldn’t see how being gay or lesbian wasn’t a lifestyle choice . I had never previously known anyone who wasn’t straight, so I simply didn’t understand how wrong I was. Later, at work, I knew of a couple of guys who were gay, but because I wasn’t close to them, it didn’t touch, or challenge me, in the slightest.
At the time I originally spoke to Alex, I knew nothing of the hurts that so many people feel, and hadn’t a clue how devastating my answer would be. I have also had many conversations with other Christians since then who don’t think they have any LGBTQ+ folk in their churches, but I suspect that is because they have visited and then not returned, because it has been made abundantly clear in an overheard comment, a prayer or a sermon that they aren’t welcome. You know yourself, how careful you are when you have been bruised or injured, and if you get a nudge where it’s hurting, you quickly step back. And if you’ve been hurt, why put yourself in a place where you’re likely to be hurt again? So either they go away, and the church is safe again, or they hide who they really are.
Later, I moved to the other end of the country, eventually settling in another Baptist church. After a while, I served as a deacon in this church as well, but after facing another couple of issues regarding the way we accept or reject those in the LGBTQ+ community, I decided it was time I needed to properly work out my theology before God. I couldn’t bury my head in the sand any longer. It resulted in my leaving that church and spending several years reading everything I could find, and exploring as many other churches I felt drawn to, to see if I could live with them with my new-found thinking. Early in this period, probably sometime around late 2014, I had to go back to Alex, and ask them for forgiveness for my insensitive and misinformed views. I no longer understood the Bible as rejecting people in the LGBTQ+ community, but now saw it as welcoming them unconditionally. One key verse was John 3: 16, which I tackle in some depth in my essay.
During this time I had come to realize the LGBTQ+ community has no choice in being who they are. This raised a major theological problem for me. As I say towards the end of my essay: “if the church says we will accept Homosexuals if they remain celibate, aren’t we tacitly agreeing that they have an orientation that they have no control over, just as heterosexuals have no control over their own orientation.”
What I had implied thirty years previously, in what I said about celibacy, was that Alex would be rejected by God, for something they were totally powerless to change. However, I didn’t see it at the time. It didn’t touch me, and so was irrelevant. There were all sorts of theological problems with that stance, as well as some hypocrisy: I was also tacitly saying that my own sins, which frequently separated me from God, weren’t on the same scale – I would be forgiven, but Alex wouldn’t, because Alex wouldn’t try to change. Even that was arrogant, because I have learned that most folks in the LGBTQ+ community would do anything not to be different, especially in their younger years. I have heard and read many stories about people pleading with God to change them, but He doesn’t.
When I have a deep problem I write about it. Usually a couple of pages will suffice to clear my head and come up with a better idea of whether I am right or wrong, and if wrong, work out a better path. This time I started with a working title of “Reconciling Transgenderism and being Gay or Lesbian with a Christian faith?” and after I had written about 20 pages, I realized not just that the title was cumbersome, but that of course it was possible to be fully committed Christian – and LGBTQ+. I was now reading the Bible in a way that was exciting and liberating. The blinkers around my eyes had fallen off.
I am now at home and love my lesbian, gay, bi- and trans friends, as we worship God together each week (that was until Covid-19 struck!). I began to see how much the Holy Spirit was at work in their lives as well as mine, just as Peter in Acts 11: 17 says: “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
My essay grew and is now around 370 pages and 180k words. It is too big to be a book, but too big to just leave sitting on my computer with no benefit to anyone else, given how many hours of research, reading and writing has gone into it. I have therefore decided to release it in chapters, probably with a Blog Post summary of each chapter, over the coming weeks and months. I might also add additional Blogs, if questions arise that haven’t been covered in my essay. I have created a Resources page, and this includes all the books, essays and websites that have helped challenge and formulate my thinking as I wrote my essay.
In the essay I look at the issues historically, scientifically (including genetically), logically, and of course Biblically (examining in detail the Old Testament passages, the New Testament passages, the ethics of Jesus in the Beatitudes, and include a close look at marriage). I quote all my sources, and provide web links wherever appropriate, and appeal to anyone who reads my work to double-check anything I have written against the sources. I would also encourage you to read around the issue and see what other Christians say, because there are many stances taken. Just because someone holds a different view to you doesn’t mean they aren’t a Christian – leave that for God to decide. In the meantime be respectful and listen, and avoid harming your spiritual brothers and sisters, whichever side of the debate you are on.
I am not a qualified theologian, but have spent my 60+ years in active service within various churches and love exploring Biblical issues, so perhaps I am an amateur theologian.
I chose the railway lines image at the top to symbolically show that we don’t have to stay on the line we are on forever, but that with Jesus as our guide there are points where we can change to follow His leading. Traditionally, Christians have seen the straight wide path as leading away from God (Check out Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress). The images on all the key pages follow this theme, and I have included some of my own photos, taken while out on walks during the Covid-19 lockdown. Pictures on the individual blogs may not necessarily follow this pattern.