Holy Love: The Life

In the final chapter of ‘Holy Love’ I hope to turn theory into practice, beliefs into behaviors—what John Wesley called “practical divinity.”  He believed that faith had to be practiced, not just professed.  He called it “living faith”—in the spirit of St. James who wrote, “faith without actions is dead” (James 2:26).  And so, to the already-existing Anglican trilateral for doing theology, he added experience (lived theology) to the picture.

In the final chapter of ‘Holy Love’ I seek to do the same.  Since I became an ally with LGBTQ+ people in 2014, many people have asked me how they might consider becoming so.  The last chapter of the book is my response to their inquiry.  This post develops that response further.

I begin broadly, and with a pastoral challenge.  Attitudes and actions toward LGBTQ+ people are critical today–significant matters in our time—both with respect to the society and the Church.  Here’s my question/challenge: are you willing to base your opinion solely on second-hand information and on what you have been taught—or—do you recognize the need to do your own homework and develop first-hand convictions?  Are you willing to stand on your own two feet, or are you going to settle for only getting your ideas from others?

This is a serious question.  It means are we active or passive—engaged or disengaged?  This is important to think about with respect to any significant matter, and it is a crucial consideration with respect to our beliefs about and behaviors toward LGBTQ+ people.  As Christians, we are called to “ask, seek, and knock,” ourselves and not be spoon fed by others.  I hope you are willing to do this.  The rest of this post is a response to the question, “How can I go about doing my homework?”

First, establish relationships and friendships with LGBTQ+ people.  Talk with them.  Invite them to speak in your church, and attend the meetings of religious and civic LGBTQ+ groups and related advocacy organizations.  More than anything else, forming these relationships will provide you with discoveries, experiences, and learnings you cannot get any other way. [1]

Second, study.  Hopefully, your reading of ‘Holy Love’ has already set this point in motion for you.  Now, use the Reading List in the back of the book to keep going.  Ask LGBTQ+ people what you should read.  Inquire the same from local organizations.  There is plenty more to explore.

Third, manifest the fruit of the Spirit.  If you become proactive, and especially if you seek to learn about views other than those advanced by conservatives/traditionalists, you will receive pushback.  Accept that fact, knowing there is more than one way to view the matter.  Keep love for all paramount.  

Fourth, follow the example of Jesus.  He bore witness to inclusion through his words and deeds. Do the same.

I cannot predict how these four things will change you or where you will end up.  But I guarantee that a year from now, you will not be exactly the same as you are right now.  And that brings us back to the original question, “Are you willing to do the work necessary to form your own opinion, or will you settle for second-hand information?”

[1] Begin by going online.  The websites for the Human Rights Campaign and the PFLAG organization contain a wealth of information, including contact information for local chapters of these groups.  This action alone will get you started.  You can also call your City Hall, Chamber of Commerce, and United Way to discover additional groups in your area.  Once connected, you will be able to befriend LGBTQ+ people, be befriended by them, and learn so much in the process.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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