Crosby, Gass, Shafer and Washer: For a more open religious community

In light of Christopher Yuan’s talk on Friday at an event sponsored by several campus Christian groups, we come forward as Christians first and foremost to repent. We repent for the silence and outright homophobia and transphobia from many organizations and individuals within our tradition, including those at Yale. We recognize that responses to gender and sexuality issues within the Christian tradition that deny the full dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons, no matter how well-intentioned, continue to cause incredible spiritual, emotional and physical harm to members of the LGBTQ community. We know that even we Christians who identify as LGBTQ or allies all too often fail to advocate vocally for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons within our society in general and our religious communities in particular. We wish to call these sorts of responses what we believe they are: sinful, and contrary to our understanding of our faith.

We, like many other Christians on campus and worldwide, believe that LGBTQ identities are beautiful manifestations of God’s creative power, and we celebrate this diversity. Further, we believe that LGBTQ relationships are holy expressions of God’s love, a love that calls us to authenticity. We believe that the Christian community has been richly blessed by the Christian witness of LGBTQ members and leaders — and we are humbled by their integrity and awed by their Christ-like generosity, often in the face of strong adversity.

We believe in the sacredness of Scripture. It is by engaging with God’s Word that we have arrived at a theology that celebrates LGBTQ identities. Moreover, we strive to follow Jesus’ example of speaking out against social discrimination of marginalized communities. We oppose prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, class, race, religion and disability. In addition to creating faith communities as spaces of sanctuary, we believe that we are called to acts of social witness. We call upon Christians to speak up, and speak for justice. It is because of our faith — not in spite of it — that we denounce those beliefs that do not affirm the holiness and equal participation of LGBTQ individuals within our faith communities.

We celebrate the individuals at Yale, including members of the organizations that invited Mr. Yuan, who are LGBTQ and allied. We celebrate the many Christian organizations at Yale that enthusiastically welcome and affirm LGBTQ individuals. We celebrate the several large Christian denominations and many individual congregations that have rejected their history of heterosexism and transphobia to embrace the full participation of LGBTQ persons within the church. While we do not wish to label or discredit Mr. Yuan’s experiences or identity, we do wish to assert that his position on LGBTQ issues is not representative of the diversity of the Christian community at Yale, and that we firmly stand beside our friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ community — Christians and non-Christians alike.

We are hopeful that this weekend’s events, despite the very real hurt and offense which they have caused, may nevertheless spark more honest and open conversations around issues of gender and sexuality within the Christian community as we strive to affirm the full dignity of all persons. We are pleased to see that various faith-based and LGBTQ organizations have already begun plans to co-host follow-up events in which LGBTQ and allied students and those who are still questioning their identity can come together for constructive and honest dialogue. We would also be happy to continue those conversations on the intersection of faith and sexuality on an individual basis or direct you to other resources at Yale.

We would also like to acknowledge the incredibly powerful outpouring of support we have received from many members of the Yale community: from undergraduates, graduate and professional students, and alumni, from people who are religious and secular, LGBTQ and straight. We sincerely thank them for their words of encouragement and celebrate the fact that there are many on this campus, within and outside the Christian community, who are willing to struggle alongside the LGBTQ community to make Yale an open and affirming campus.

Ben Crosby is a sophomore in Pierson College and the coordinator of Bridges, an LGBTQ and ally interfaith group. Joan Gass is a junior in Morse College and the founder of Bridges. Matt Shafer is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College and a member of Christians for Social Justice at Yale. David Washer is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and a Yale Christian Fellowship student leader.


  • The Anti-Yale

    Homophobia is the vestigial legacy of a 3000 year old tribal necessity: Ya gotta make babies if you don’t want your tribe wiped out in a desert wasteland: Beware pestilence, famine and drought.

    Why would a modern world with BILLIONS of people allow itself to be governed by such a vestigial tribal code?

    Two words: Ignorance/Superstition.

    M.Div. ’80

  • Leah

    Given that he believes gay sex is proscribed by God, he did seek the least bad solution for gay people like him that is possible within that framework (i.e. you can’t suppress sexuality by force of will, you can’t induce opposite attraction by force of will, there’s nothing that’s intrinsically wrong with you for being gay, chastity isn’t a booby prize but a different gift from God, etc).

    I disagree plenty with Yuan’s conclusions (not surprising, since I’m an atheist), but it seems like an answer to him needs to come in theological terms (either disproving Christianity or his brand of biblical scholarship). He’s not exhibiting the kind of hatred that would be self-refuting to a Christian message a la Phelps.

    Yale is an anomaly. In America, many Christians share Yuan’s beliefs and apply them much more harmfully than he does. Although I disagree with his beliefs, I think it’s worth giving him credit for his approach. It’s hard to imagine how Christianity will become more LGBT friendly if in-between preachers like Yuan don’t get some credit for calling out the more homophobic and hateful.

  • Jaymin

    I’m always suspicious, are you really “believing in the sacredness of scripture” if you hold the position that God is fine with the LGBT community having sex. In a larger sense, if you’re willing to compromise on some of the most distinctive philosophies of your religion such that all you’re really left with is a vague belief in God and a common sense morality of “don’t kill people and don’t steal from people”, are you really true to your religion? Why not just drop the whole thing altogether and just be a good person?

  • River Tam

    If we only followed rules that pleased everyone, would we have rules at all?

  • dtrainv2

    “We, like many other Christians on campus and worldwide, believe that LGBTQ identities are beautiful manifestations of God’s creative power, and we celebrate this diversity.”

    Being a follower of Christ, a Christian, has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what anyone on your campus or around the world believes. Being a Christian is about loving Christ to the point that you commit your life to Him and you obey His commandments (John 14:15). This is true regardless of how politically incorrect or out of date scripture (His commandments) may be. Your belief that “LGBTQ relationships are holy expressions of God’s love, a love that calls us to authenticity” is entirely against what is taught in the Bible. Am I a homophobe? No. I have LGBTQ friends and relatives, and I do not have anything against them personally, but I do believe that their choices are wrong. Not because it is my opinion, but because it is in the Bible, so it is God’s opinion.
    You claim to be Christians, but you pretend that sin is fine in God’s eyes. Don’t write an article in the name of Christ and call a sinful act “holy expressions of God’s love”. Open up your Bibles and learn your religion and stop pretending that whatever popular culture professes is what Christians should believe. If you call yourself Christians, stand up for Christianity. Otherwise, stop claiming to be someone while professing opinions that completely contradict who that someone is.

  • cwakefield2011

    @jaymin: i definitely see your point, which brings up another question: are anti-LGBTQ sentiments really one of the “most distinctive philosophies” of christianity? from a progressive understanding of christianity, which is what these writers used, they definitely are not. however if these sentiments are a fundamental part of our understanding of christianity, it seems we’re left with the “all christians must be homophobic” idea, which is the case for many christians, but is increasingly not an all-encompassing view represented by christians. perhaps it’s more important to embrace the progressive nuances in religion, since adherence to religious beliefs is a personal decision (well…as long as people’s decisions at the polls stay out of other people’s bedrooms lol)

  • The Anti-Yale

    The PROBLEM is idolatry. People worship a BOOK as sacred. (Graven Image?)
    That’s blasphemy.

  • Travers

    I stand with Muhammad: Heretics and apostates are the worst.

    But, more seriously, I can respect thoughtful Atheists and serious Christians, but please don’t feed anyone this crap about how the gospel of liberal tolerance is somehow biblical. It’s not. The Christ you worship is your own invention, and has nothing to do with what faithful Christians have taught and believed for the past two millennia. Christ died for sinners, not for diversity. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Repent of the scandal you have caused in this column, reread the gospels, and read some hagiographies. What you’re talking about here has nothing to do with Christianity. It’s much closer to Roman paganism.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    This is the worst kind of snobbish elitism and emotional blackmail. I’m ashamed to be associated with a religion which trots out this anti-semitic, anti-muslim propaganda tool.

    And our Jewish and Muslim colleagues are too polite to call it what it is: theological one-ups-manship. They are more “christian” in their polite tolerance, their turn-the-other-cheek attitude toward this power-play theological checkmate than the gloating christians themselves.


    Paul D. Keane
    M. Div. ’80