Wheaton College’s Celibate Lesbian Chaplain

My problem with Julie Rodgers’ hire as Wheaton chaplain and as a speaker (she is a celibate lesbian) is certainly not that both are trying to reach out and minister to students who struggle with homosexuality (or what is nowadays sometimes euphemistically termed “same-sex attraction [or orientation]”). Homosexuality is not an “untouchable” sin, and homosexuals need the transforming power of the Gospel and Spirit like all of us other sinners. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Homosexuals can be converted and changed — and multitudes have been.

I do, however, perceive two problems with Rodgers’ hire and her ministry. First, note this quote from WORLD magazine:

Rodgers also wrote on her blog that a same-sex orientation is not sinful. She said it can actually be “an expression of diversity, a unique way of experiencing art and beauty and community.” Rodgers added that her “gay parts … overflow into compassion for marginalized people and empathy for social outcasts—[God has] used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight.”

But if the act of homosexual intercourse is sin, as the Bible obviously teaches, then the persistent desire to consummate it must be sin also. We would say the same thing about adultery. We would not say that while the act of adultery is sinful, the persistent desire to commit it is “an expression of diversity, a unique way of experiencing art and beauty and community.” Nor would we say it about murderous hatred in one’s heart not actually consummated. We read in James 1:14-15:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Misdirected desire is the seed of sin. “Homosexual orientation” is certainly a misdirected desire since it is a desire to sin. By saying that people with homosexual desires should simply accept them (as Rodgers does) is to deny the transforming power of the Gospel. We would say the same thing about any desire for any other sin.

In addition, to say that “same-sex attraction [or orientation]” is not sinful is actually to argue that homosexuality may be rooted in one’s very being, part of God’s creational design. But Genesis 1–2 is quite clear that at the beginning God created humanity as male and female, with the entirely legitimate desire of the one for the other. If God created humanity only for heterosexual desire, then homosexual desire is misdirected.

The Gospel is good news, and the good news is not just that God forgives us our sins in the work of Jesus Christ, but also that he changes us by the power of the Spirit — and this includes both homosexual intercourse and desire.

Second, I believe that Wheaton made a mistake in hiring Rodgers to counsel young and impressionable adults both at Wheaton and when she is out speaking. They will hear two fundamental messages from her: (1) The correct message that the Bible forbids homosexual intercourse, and (2) the incorrect message that God permits our nursing and persisting in homosexual desire, whose “diversity” we should celebrate. For those young adults who struggle with this desire, that is the last message they need to hear. They need to hear that the Gospel is powerful enough to heal them of that desire. To be blunt: Rodgers’ message is a denial of the power of the Gospel, not just a deviation from biblical sexual standards.

10 thoughts on “Wheaton College’s Celibate Lesbian Chaplain

  1. Of course you are exactly right-on in your assessment of this situation Andrew. This is a case of evangelical mumbo-jumble if I ever heard it.
    Wheaton was engaged in this back in the 60s when I graduated from there.
    As an institution it serves to confuse rather than give a clarion call of solid Biblical teaching. Not every faculty member is errant I hasten to add but apparently the powers that be have caved so as to promote this hire.
    Keep us posted Thanks

  2. I’m not comfortable with this response. It construes orientation as persistent desire, and that simply isn’t correct.

    Orientation is not persistent desire to commit a sin; if it is, then is being oriented straight the same as persistent desire to sin? If you’re straight, whether you’re single or married, your orientation sets you up to be aroused to sexual desire for the opposite sex; whereas what we chose to do with arousal is voluntary and can be directed or resisted with our will, arousal itself is an involuntary response to stimulus. Being oriented such that you can be aroused by one sex and not the other does not mean you have the persistent desire to be aroused or to engage in the act. I only see that the Bible calls the act and the fostering of thoughts of the act sin; I see no good argument that a person is sinning by not being able to be aroused at the opposite sex while being able to be aroused at the same sex.

    Whether God made Adam and Eve to be oriented straight or not is irrelevant to whether the orientation that a person has is rooted in their being; God made Adam and Eve vegetarian as well. We never say that our eating meat violates the way we were made to be. We live in the fallen aftermath. I know too many instances where young gay men or women developed as gays, and there simply is no evidence that they chose such an orientation, especially knowing the kind of grief that the orientation would bring them in the culture they’re brought up in. If a person is homosexually oriented, but celibate, it shouldn’t matter any more than if someone is heterosexually oriented but celibate.

    (To let you know where I’m coming from, I’m not gay. I am a Bible believing, theologically conservative Christian. The Bible is unequivocal about certain sexual acts being sin; it says nothing about orientation; the language of orientation is a recent development.)

    1. You and I agree that “orientation” isn’t a biblical category. I’m perplexed then why you’d employ it. The Bible speaks of lust, desire, sin, etc., not orientation.

      Your “orientation” doesn’t “set you up to be aroused to sexual desire for the opposite sex.” According to Genesis, God does. You don’t catch sexual arousal like a cold. Homosexual arousal isn’t part of God’s design. I agree that in a sinful world it does happen, but that wasn’t the issue in my post. The issue I objected to was celebrating homosexual arousal as though it were God’s gift. It isn’t. That’s why I used the language “persistent desire.” I didn’t say that arousal itself is persistent desire.

      You write, “Whether God made Adam and Eve to be oriented straight or not is irrelevant to whether the orientation that a person has is rooted in their being.” It is supremely relevant. God made them ontically to be male and female, and to desire one another and to have intercourse and take dominion over his creation. God didn’t simply create humans with an amoral animal arousal that they could catch like the flu.

      You write: “God made Adam and Eve vegetarian as well.” Could you point out where the Bible teaches this? The fact that they were prelapsarian vegetarians has no moral significance whatever. The fact that God made man as male and female to desire one another does.

      You write: “I know too many instances where young gay men or women developed as gays, and there simply is no evidence that they chose such an orientation, especially knowing the kind of grief that the orientation would bring them in the culture they’re brought up in.” So, they drifted into gayness? If I read the Bible correctly this means they drifted into (chose) sin. We don’t catch sin like we do the flu. We have a choice. James says this plainly. And shouldn’t we allow the Bible, not our subjective interpretations of our observations, to govern our morality?

      You write: “If a person is homosexually oriented, but celibate, it shouldn’t matter any more than if someone is heterosexually oriented but celibate.” Would you agree that to wish to enslave blacks or oppress women or abuse children without consummating each desire is not different from believing that all races should be treated equally, that women should be honored, and that children protected, even if one is not in the position personally to consummate these desires? I suspect not.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

  3. The woman you slander loves God with all her heart and seeks to live out his mission of love to every student she comes into contact with. She does agree with the sexual ethic of Wheaton college. I am truly disappointed by this post to the point of grief. The lack of empathy, compassion, and Christ-like love is truly striking.

    “But if the act of homosexual intercourse is sin, as the Bible obviously teaches, then the persistent desire to consummate it must be sin also.”

    Christ said that to be tempted was not to sin. Being tempted is natural. You are tempted to to sin no doubt sir, but being tempted is not sinful. We all have misplaced persistent desires. Do you classify these as sins? Christ doesn’t.

    You say that homosexuality is not the untouchable sin and yet this entire post drips with disdain that you would not afford to any other sin. Would you write about gluttony, racism, pride, or mammon like this?

    You say we will hear two fundamental messages.

    “(1) The correct message that the Bible forbids homosexual intercourse, and (2) the incorrect message that God permits our nursing and persisting in homosexual desire, whose “diversity” we should celebrate. For those young adults who struggle with this desire, that is the last message they need to hear. They need to hear that the Gospel is powerful enough to heal them of that desire. To be blunt: Rodgers’ message is a denial of the power of the Gospel, not just a deviation from biblical sexual standards.”

    The woman you so ungraciously slander does not encourage the nursing of homosexual desire but does reconize that the reality is that we dont wish away our attractions. Are you able to wish away attractions for women other than your wife? I would ask you to try and only ever think of your wife and only her ever for a whole month. The attraction will be there, but you will not act on it. Attractions are a fact and can not be wished away in much the same way that hunger can not be wished away. Lust can be refused tho, while hunger cannot and this is where the analogy breaks down.

    She speaks of LGBTQ christians being a gift to the church in that we teach the church how to rely on Christ through our circumstance. Certainly, reliance on Christ should be celebrated.

    You sin greatly by accusing a woman you have never met about things which you know nothing of. She does not deny the power of the gospel but in fact lives it daily as she relies on Christ to help her love the students of Wheaton College while also being gracious to her detractors.

    I had a far snarkier response written to this post but I was convicted that “they know not what they do”. I struggle to understand why straight people think they can talk in an informed manner about a reality they will never have to live.

    You do disservice to Jesus Christ through this post and slander a woman of God. Christ calls us to reach out to the downtrodden and the least of these. Surely, LGBTQ students are counted among those in an evangelical context. She is doing the work of Christ. You should be ashamed.

    -A current LGBTQ student blessed by the prescence and work of Julie Rodgers

    1. Kathryn,

      I understand your deep emotions as a current LGBTQ Wheaton student (“I am truly disappointed by this post to the point of grief”; “I had a far snarkier response written to this post”), but I can assure you that I did not “slander” Rodgers. I think you meant “libel”: slander is spoken, and libel is written, words calculated to damage one’s reputation. As far as I can see, I merely disagreed with Rodgers’ public views. Disagreement is not libel. You chide me for not approaching her privately, but she has spoken in public (not merely private) forums, so her views are open to public debate. I respect your deep feelings; we all have them; but the Word of God must judge the deepest feelings we have (Heb. 4:12). The Bible is our only infallible guide.

      I’ll address you assertions point by point for clarity’s sake:

      1. You write, “Christ said that to be tempted was not to sin.” Where did he say this? It’s true that to be tempted is not to sin, since Jesus was in fact tempted and did not sin, but this is not the issue we’re addressing. Rodgers isn’t arguing that temptations to homosexual acts aren’t sinful; she’s arguing that homosexual attraction is a gift from God to be celebrated as “an expression of diversity, a unique way of experiencing art and beauty and community.” Rodgers wrote (according to WORLD magazine) that her “gay parts … overflow into compassion for marginalized people and empathy for social outcasts—[God has] used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight.” She’s plainly arguing that her homosexual attraction is God’s gift to be celebrated, not that temptation isn’t sin.

      2. You write: “We all have misplaced persistent desires. Do you classify these as sins? Christ doesn’t.” In fact, he does: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Matt. 15:18-19). I quoted James, who writes that sin begins with misguided desire (“attraction”). If I allow a sexual temptation toward another woman except my wife to become an attraction, I am led to commit sin, according to the Bible.

      3. You write that my “entire post drips with disdain that [I] would not afford to any other sin. Would you write about gluttony, racism, pride, or mammon like this?” Yes, I would. But gluttony attraction, racist attraction, pride attraction, and mammon attraction are not presently the issues being trumpeted on evangelical campuses, and they are not, further, the sins that Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 will exclude us from the kingdom; homosexuality is.

      4. You write: “The woman you so ungraciously slander does not encourage the nursing of homosexual desire but does recognize that the reality is that we don[‘]t wish away our attractions.” No, she says much more than that. She says that her “gay parts … overflow into compassion for marginalized people and empathy for social outcasts—[God has] used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight.” She’s not saying only that we can’t wish away our attractions. She’s celebrating attractions that if consummated are condemned in the severest of terms.

      5. You write: “Are you able to wish away attractions for women other than your wife? I would ask you to try and only ever think of your wife and only her ever for a whole month. The attraction will be there, but you will not act on it.” Any attractions I have for women other than my wife are not by God’s design, and I should never celebrate them by saying, “God uses them to help me to help others and keeps me attracted to other women than my wife rather than pressing me to devote myself entirely to her.”

      6. You write: “She [Rodgers] speaks of LGBTQ christians being a gift to the church in that we teach the church how to rely on Christ through our circumstance. Certainly, reliance on Christ should be celebrated.” But why then does she not rely on Christ to deliver her from desires that if fulfilled would be deeply sinful? And would you claim the same about people who desire to enslave blacks, murder their enemies, or rape 13-year-old girls? Why should the desire for one sin be celebrated and another condemned?

      7. You write: “Christ calls us to reach out to the downtrodden and the least of these. Surely, LGBTQ students are counted among those in an evangelical context.” I agree that LGBTQ students should live in terms of the Gospel. For the Bible, this means repenting of all sin, including heterosexual or homosexual, and trusting the Holy Spirit to bring our attractions and desires into greater conformity to God’s loving, holy way revealed in his Word. Unrepentant homosexuality (like other sins) excludes us from Jesus’ kingdom; we should work hard and trust the Lord to deliver us from it and the desire for it. That’s a big part of the what the Gospel is all about.

      8. You conclude: “You should be ashamed.” No, I should feel privileged to be called to speak the truth in love to a lost generation that has replaced God’s truth for lies and love them enough to tell them the truth so that they won’t be excluded from the Lord’s kingdom.

  4. Reblogged this on Would you Consider? and commented:
    Major problem here. If you still have the sinful desire it is still a sin. Jesus said that even looking upon a woman for adulterous purposes is sin-hanging on. Matthew 5:28 (AMP) “But I say to you that everyone who so much as looks at a woman with evil desire for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    So you can gloss over her statement all you wish and not be rid of the real issue – lust retained is sin retained and has not one whit to do with diversity.

    Wheaton College should know better – that to compromise one jot or tittle of the Word is to structurally damage the whole edifice of their reason to exist.

  5. I agree with your concern regarding Ms. Rodgers statement on her blog. However, I would urge you not to throw the baby out with bathwater, as the saying goes. The three-tier distinction (same-sex attraction, orientation, and identity) that you are referring to, as articulated by Dr. Mark Yarhouse in Homosexuality and the Christian, understands that all three are a result of the Fall, and, in that sense, are sinful. However, it is important for the church to realize that some aspects of our experience, such as same-sex attraction, while a reflection and manifestation of the Fall, are not a conscious choice. The beauty of the three-tier distinction is that it emphasizes that there is still a choice to be made even if one experiences same-sex attraction; that choice is whether one decides to identify as gay or decides to find their identity in something else (such as being a follower of Christ). I don’t believe that Ms. Rodgers statements reflect a right understanding of the three-tier distinction, so to lump her misunderstanding together with the three-tier distinction is to misrepresent the three-tier distinction.

  6. Come on folks, quit with all the philosophy and verbal double takes! It is not wise, will never be wise, and will always be unwise to do what Wheaton has done period end of sentence. It is a crazy notion that this is right – it is wrong not matter how you cut the situation!

  7. This is shocking I grew up believing Wheaton had a stellar reputation for bible believing doctrine. Now using the wrong message from the bully pulpit could hurt schools reputation.
    Kim Durba

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