Stephen Hayner’s recent seminar for about 20 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) students at Yale University got far more press coverage than he expected or wanted.
The IVCF president said reports on his talk—specifically on his views of homosexuality—give a misleading impression.
Various reports stated that Hayner believes God permits homosexual relationships in certain circumstances. Hayner told CHRISTIANITY TODAY that this is not an accurate portrayal of his position if “permits” is taken to mean God approves of homosexual behavior.
By “permits,” Hayner said, he meant to reflect the view that God does not abandon homosexuals, that he is patient with sinful people, regardless of the sin.
In outlining his views, Hayner noted that there are only seven verses in the entire Bible addressing homosexuality. “If we look at these verses alone, there is some room for exegetical ambiguity,” he said. However, he added that a more comprehensive biblical theology of sexuality leaves no room for ambiguity, stating, “One man and one woman is the paradigm. Anything other than that is a distortion of God’s perfect plan.”
Despite his recognition of the inherent sinfulness of homosexual behavior, in speaking with CT, Hayner referred frequently to “the homosexual tragedy.” He explained, “I call it a tragedy because I believe that most homosexuals, particularly those who have come to Christ, have no idea how they got that way and really don’t want to be that way.”
Hayner said the purpose of his talk at Yale was to “build compassion among students for people who are struggling with the tragedy of homosexuality in their lives.” This entails, he said, rejecting the view that a homosexual cannot be a true Christian.
Hayner added that within the context of Christian fellowship it should be just as appropriate for someone to seek support and counsel for a homosexual lust problem as it is to seek such support for a problem with heterosexual lust.
The Option Of Celibacy
Hayner observed that some who struggle with homosexual temptation have found celibacy to be “an impossibility.” At Yale, he told students that some Christians have advised such people at least to confine their homosexual behavior to a single relationship of commitment.
“I didn’t spend much time refuting this view,” Hayner said. “But it is not my view. My view is that celibacy is the only option. But I understand some of the pain that accompanies the statements from those who say it is not an option.”
Asked how he would counsel a homosexual couple, Hayner responded, “I would make it very clear that I believe their homosexuality is a distortion of God’s creation and that homosexual behavior is sin.” He added, “I would also try to help them take steps toward Jesus and to understand, as they grow closer to him, they’ll have to deal with this issue.”
Hayner said it is up to individual churches to determine whether to break fellowship with people over homosexuality. He noted that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is a campus ministry, not a church. “We don’t dis-fellowship people.… Our goal is to help others take steps toward Jesus.”
Hayner expressed the hope that controversy over his statements would not have a negative effect on his organization. He added that his views on homosexuality are in essence identical to IVCF positions as expressed in various books and pamphlets.
By Randy Frame.
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