How Do Evangelical Churches Talk About Homosexuality?
With Westboro Church at one extreme, and MCC-San Francisco at the other (a strategic juxtaposition that inclusion of more mainline churches would have nuanced), Chu finds a happier medium at Highlands Church in Denver. Because he decided to include gays in positive ways in theology and leadership, founding pastor Mark Tidd lost his Christian Reformed Church credentials and his church planting support. Nonetheless, Highlands Church is thriving. Jenny Morgan, co-pastor and partnered lesbian, describes it as "a deeply Christ-centered, deeply biblical church that is okay with the gays." This approach rings true for Chu, who describes it as "progressive evangelicalism," though traditional evangelicals likely wouldn't call it that. Interestingly, Chu says that homosexuality isn't, and shouldn't be, the focus of such a church. What most deeply resonates with him is that people are encouraged to "bring their whole selves, not just their sacred stances but also their profane fears and insecurities. They are called to do what is uncommon in the church: question boldly, without fear and in confidence." This ethos, and the Christ-centeredness of the church, seems to impress Chu more than the theological affirmation of homosexuality.
An Unfortunate Turn
In Part Four, after describing the coming out of Gideon Eads, a heart-rending narrative that ends on an open-ended note, the book takes an unfortunate turn. The last few pages conclude that "if the church is supposed to be the body of Christ, then what I saw on my trip were our Lord's dismembered and terribly dishonored remains." Chu then describes the reasons for the "diminution" of his faith: pastors (too cowardly), words (used too thoughtlessly), and people (not loving enough). His words might be more powerful if read aloud in a testimony, or written in an op-ed essay or blog post. Positioned at the end of a journalistic inquiry, they come across as a diatribe that undercuts the sincerity of the pilgrimage. (These flaws weren't newly revealed to him during his quest; they were a large part of what distanced him from conservative Christianity many years ago.)