Scandalous Good News
Scandalous Good News by Andrew Comiskey
A Forward by Stephen Black: I am always on the hunt to find messages that will really prophetically rivet my soul to its core. I have recently been touched by two messages that seem to be bookends to what is relevant in our day. I am always looking for messages that will speak in context to the ministry we provide at First Stone Ministries; as we want to be a source of life-giving ministry and hope to the relationally and sexually wounded. Last year, in 2015, Christopher West’s offering at the National Restored Hope Network (RHN) conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was profoundly prophetic. He gave a message called, “Theology of the Body, Sexual Redemption and the New Evangelization.” As West was delivering this message to several hundred people at the RHN conference, another delivery took place in our nation. The Supreme court ruled that homosexual marriage should be made legal in our country. Truly the extremes of life and death, light and darkness were revealed to the discerning.
This year, at the 2016 National RHN Conference outside of Chicago, Andrew Comiskey gave a very timely message that serves as a prophetic warning to the Church. I believe this warning is especially needed for evangelicals that are more susceptible to the growing deception toward embracing “gay Christianity.” Evangelicals are more likely than ever before to embrace the mixture of the cheap-grace messaging, adding the validation of same-sex sexual orientation and then pouring in a once prayed, always saved message. The outcome of this mixture has caused many to embrace “gay Christianity.” Andrew Comiskey gives a warning as he shares his own story of how this “gay Christian” messaging infiltrated his own home through the “Spiritual Friendship” movement with the so-called celibate gays, who are calling for the Church to embrace “gay Christianity” as a dangerously deceptive and corrupting option. Below is the video and the text to Andrew’s address at the Restored Hope Network Conference in June of 2016 outside of Chicago. Please listen to this message today!
Scandalous Good News – by Andrew Comiskey (text below transposed from audio/video)
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We at RHN represent one thing: how Jesus Christ transforms persons impacted by same-sex attraction (and other gender-related disorders). Yet applying the good news of His crucifixion and resurrection to what has affliction us has become a scandal in our culture today. We whom HE has charged to bear witness of His glorious cross and thus share in that invitation of HIS cross. As we testify to the exchange of the stronghold of ‘gay’ desires and gay selves for Christ-likeness, we incur disgrace from the world and worldly Christians. ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Cor. 1:18).
How many of us now face closed doors due to the word of our testimony? How many of us have encountered the dreadful blend of unbelief and false mercy in Christ’s members who in turn have made us unwanted members? In my wonderful church, in my parish, I prayed and worked a long time to get a Living Waters group started there. It is just one of the many beautiful streams that were being released in the community. I worked hard for it; I had a wonderful pastor who persevered with me and finally gave the go ahead.
In the first year were amazing, protected, signs and wonders. All manner of persons with sexual brokenness were coming and receiving help in the house of God. Towards the end of that year, I felt like the Holy Spirit said, “Well, hang on because the glory days are going to change.” Sure enough, as soon as we had finished this wonderful cycle, the priest came to me and said, “I think we need to talk.” This began a series of meetings in which he beautifully advocated for me and for our work from all kinds of people who had come out of the woodwork in the church as having discovered what we were doing as we gathered in our brokenness and exchanged our sins and our wounds for the healing work of Jesus.
I’m going to tell you a little bit about what happened to me as I walked through a kind of a gauntlet that I think represents what we are facing in our churches as we seek to offer the good news of healing. ‘For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is up to such a task?’ (2 Cor. 2:15-16).
Only the person founded on Christ Crucified—more alive than ever to His transforming love and not surprised at all by the scandalous good news we bear. Our word for scandal is from the Greek word ‘scandalon’ or stumbling block; this is the word St. Peter uses when he describes how Jesus has become the ‘scandalon’ for those who do not believe Him, but for us, who do believe Jesus, rejected stone has become everything (1 Peter 2.)
The servant is not greater than the Master. St. Peter encourages us in 1st Peter 4:12-14: ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trail you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’
Let’s look at this: v. 12: ‘Don’t be surprised…’ Frankly, I was surprised when a group of people from my church rose up and tried to snuff out the work of my hands. I was surprised. I was scandalized. I resorted to worldly thinking that I’m a nice person. This is volunteer service. No one is getting rich on this. I’m just offering myself to broken people out of the mercy that I have received, but I was responding like a sentimentalist. We have to think deeper people. It’s not well, I’m nice; you be nice, too. That is not how it works, today, when it comes to the reality of the redemption of gender and sexual brokenness.
The issue is not about being nice. It is fundamentally about how we understand and convey God’s will for humankind. Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote this, “A church that does not have the courage to publically highlight how she understands humanity – made in God’s image as male and female – is no longer the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” It may help to review some of the changes in values and thought that has occurred in Western culture in the last century. At the risk - and I do risk this - of oversimplifying a complex shift, we might describe this as the rise of a kind of secular individualism which emphasizes, as you might expect, the needs of the individual, especially persons who have been perceived as having been diminished by Judeo-Christian values.
The church, of course, on the other hand, emphasizes community life which is ordered and sustained by reliance upon God. Valuing the whole, the community, has special relevance for sexuality and gender as both involve the creation and the rearing of new members of the community. The church understands the human person as created by God and necessarily subject to self-evident truths in order to flourish. These truths include clarity of gender identity, integrity of sexual boundaries, and championing the new life that results from sexual love.
‘Individualism’ challenges the Church on the basis that she hinders human freedom. Such values are framed as ‘discriminating’ against individuals based on diverse gender identities and sexual practices. The individualist may believe sincerely that anyone who employs ‘faith’ to limit sexual and gender freedoms is oppressing good people.
Empowering the individualist’s vision is the deceptive pairing of sexual civil rights with ethnic ones. Ethnicity is in truth an unchanging, beautiful and God-ordained reality that cannot even be compared to sexual disorder. Tell that to Obama who sincerely believes that he has furthered the legacy of Martin Luther King by making ‘gay the new black’ and now has taken it a step further by insisting that gender identification be a matter of choice, not one’s biological birthright. We now live in a state of such confusion in which persons who stand for gender clarity as a human good and a condition of human flourishing are considered on par with ethnic bigots, small–minded haters who oppress individuals with bad outdated religion.
Every one of us at Restored Hope Network live under that judgment now. Let’s just get it straight. No matter how sweet you are; no matter how kind you are; no matter how low key you are; you are now seen by the eyes of the powers in our culture, that prevail as one on par with, maybe even less than, an ethnic bigot. And in truth, where we as Christians have been heavy-handed in upholding an ideal without offering mercy to a person, where we have failed to bear with a broken person in order to help him or her realize the freedom intrinsic in her daughterhood, his son-ship—then we need to be judged.
Nevertheless, in light of all the refinement we need to become better healing operatives for those that we are championing, we must hold fast to what is actual and good and true for all persons. That good is founded upon our faith in the Creator who made us all in HIs image as male or female and who has become our Redeemer.
God has a vested interest in confirming the clarity of our gendered personhood and the integrity of our sexual boundaries. He pre-ordained the children who will be conceived from our redemption and the spiritual children who will flourish because of it. And He knows the dark shadow that has been cast over our culture by a well-intentioned but misdirected individualism that fails to recognize the Creator—His vision for humanity, His grief over our disordered state, and His joy in our redemption. In refusing the Creator, individualism refuses what actually dignifies the creature.
It is up to us my friends to ensure that we stay aligned with the dignity our Creator and Redeemer ascribes to His creatures. Our critics may be right in pointing out how the Church has often focused on divine ideals without dealing with the reality of people. In this way, we must make every effort to champion real human freedom by walking with persons into the greater good that God has in store for them.
For that call, however clear, and however compassionate, we are, we will be scandalized. We shall be framed as a stumbling block to human freedom. This is the painful trial that St. Peter wrote about. We should not be surprised. The creature, does seek to prevail over the Creator today in the gender and sexual realm and will stop at nothing to stop those who have the audacity to lead others into sexual purity and wholeness.
This involves the sowing in of popular myths that have now become strongholds of a kind of truth - they are utterly without truth, but are now framed as THE truth that we will come up against as we seek to impart this integrity and healing. ‘To suit their desires, men will gather round a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.’ (2 Tim. 4: 3-4)
A series of charges came upon me in my church and elicited a series of meetings to address certain “scandals”.
1. The first meeting was about the scandalizing of the therapeutic community: the assault on ‘reparative therapy’ in particular. At my first meeting, I had to sit through a short video which was a warning from a poorly educated and very ill-advised therapist who knows nothing about gender development, let alone redemption, but who used it as a launching point to shut us down. ‘You are not one of those ‘change’ groups?’ What? First of all, we are not a therapy group, but a Christian discipleship group. Yet, we will stand with, fight for and be grateful for the real insights that we can glean from those who in the last 80 years have charted the development of persons and who have sought in a variety of ways to help individuals sort out the devices of heart that seek to repair what is missing or lost in our fallen lives and how that reparative drive can express itself in distorted sexual and emotional desires. Yes, I will stand with those insights, and I will not concede them to you in your misbegotten idea of reparative therapy! Secondly, I said, “we are ALL about change! If you as a Christian therapist have the audacity to challenge a group of Christians who meet in humility around the cross of Jesus Christ and condemn us because we are offering change, then you know nothing of why Jesus entered into the human realm! He came to reorder fallen humanity according to His good will and purposes, and we are absolutely seeking for that in our group.” That ended that meeting.
2. The second meeting involved the scandalizing of the spiritual community: the assault on a prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit to impart truth and grace where it is most needed in the lives of fractured souls. Leanne Payne writes, “The primary need of every lonely suffering soul is to be ushered into familiar communion with God through His healing presence.” Thus our task as a minister is to quiet the soul and ask for the Holy Spirit to come, come Holy Spirit, You Who searches out the deep things of the heart, we give You room to move on behalf of this one who does not know how to begin to cognitively figure out his or her life.
Now this exquisite spiritual discipline is reduced to ‘praying away the gay.’ We’ve all heard that! Snide snarky truth bearers! In truth, no-one is claiming that prayer removes same sex attraction. Rather, we are relying upon the Real Presence of God, to continually to meet us in the core ‘gaps’ of our lives where there was trauma and where there was a lack of love and where we can see vulnerability to false solutions to secure the love we need. Learning to ‘practice His Presence’ and listen for the healing Word is how our entire being is turned toward the Lord in our deepest areas of need, how He becomes everything to us. These rich disciplines are now reduced to ‘Praying away the gay…’ When someone accused us of this, honestly I felt a deep grief over a mocking spirit, this mockery of the Holy Spirit’s power to heal foundational wounds. It is a spirit of mockery! We must be on the alert for these lies now sown into the popular mindset. That are used by men and women who used to be our brothers and sisters. We must be prepared to give an answer. God gave me the presence of mind to give one. I was able to proceed.
3. Next, out of the scandalizing of the therapeutic community and the spiritual community, comes the rise of the ‘gay Christian’. Here I am not referring to the obviously deceived who now claim freedom to have ‘gay’ lovers, spouses, etc. Honestly, that is a big, “duh!” Like really! No subtlety, no nuances, we just now that is wrong. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! “You are deceived man! Doesn’t fly! No biblical basis for this whatsoever!” But what we are up against today, is far more deceptive and subtle than this, these are much bigger strongholds that are polluting the wells, that might otherwise be ours in the body of Christ. I am referring now to those who on biblical grounds refuse to act out homosexually but who embracing the ‘gay self’ and who claim that their wholeness is tied up in integrating their ‘gay selves.’ Eve Tushnet, the writer of “Gay and Catholic” who writes extensively for the movement, that most summarizes the gay Christian celibate movement, called ‘spiritual friendship’ wrote in her book, after 10 years of being a Catholic Christian, “I seem to become more lesbian with time.” I seem to become more lesbian over time? Hmmm, this is the fruit of your sanctification, you seem to be becoming more lesbian with time?! And Wesley Hill, the founder of the spiritual friendship movement, has evolved from viewing his same-sex attraction as broken into what he now embraces as his way of experiencing reality. In his latest book, he now describes his ‘gay self’ winsomely without any openness to God transforming him. In its subtlety, with its nod to biblical orthodoxy, the ‘abstaining gay Christian’ is actually more dangerous than the ‘practicing one.’ It appeals to evangelical Christian leaders who do not want to be accused of advocating ‘reparative therapy’ and ‘praying away the gay’; it is seen as the middle ground, a resting place from the culture wars where downtrodden gay-identified Christians, can be just that, as long as they don’t do the dirty deed.
I want to tell you how subtle this is. I have four children – three sons. Of my two eldest sons, one went to Wheaton with Wesley Hill and the other went to the Episcopal Seminary where Wesley Hill is a professor. So they both know Wesley and have had experiences with him in Christian settings. My one son, who is a pastor, a lovely guy, he did a year-long internship with us at Desert Stream, but has no SSA, but certainly has fallenness, but also received a lot of healing, and certainly grown up around Desert Streams, and been surrounded by many who have been in route becoming men and women of God, open horizons for Jesus to do His will and work in their lives. He began to be kind of strange around me. I asked, my son, “Nick, what’s going on? What’s the problem?” He asked me, “Dad have you read Wesley Hill’s book, you know his first book (Washed and Waiting)? I said, “Yes.” He said, “You know dad, you know… a lot of people aren’t like you. A lot of people, don’t really, you know sorta come out of this – (homosexuality – being gay).” I said, “wait a minute! Nick, what?! What’s going on?” And he referred me back to Wesley Hill’s book (Washed and Waiting). Reading that book was enough for him to be so exposed, so onboard with the opening of new horizons in Christ Jesus for people to become so on board with an idea that persons with sexual and relational brokenness don’t really find freedom, and it had the effect of closing the horizons of freedom for people. My other son, who is not so impressionable, spoke with his pastor, a big evangelical pastor in town about Desert Stream Ministries. He mentioned, that he wasn’t in the ministry but wanted his pastor to know about the ministry. The pastor, who had been exposed to “spiritual friendship” and Wesley Hill, said to him, “well it sounds like you are dealing with those very few people who experience the miracle. The miracle of change. We really don’t expect that miracle here.” You see, it is a way of thinking. Yes, there are some people who get it, but most us don’t, most of us just sluff around. God doesn’t really help. But were trying to be so cool. Trying to be on board with the culture. We are not going to ask too much of these poor people. These are my two sons who were exposed to this subtle ideology and were confused by that book. ‘Spiritual Friendship’ refuses the transforming power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit at the level where it is intended. In encouraging a generation to refuse the call of the Gospel at the level of our sexual desires and for advocating that persons identify with their same-sex attraction, the ‘Spiritual Friendship’ movement resists the Gospel, and quietly divides and deflects the bright witness of the Church for all persons impacted by same-sex attraction. All of us!
We are scandalized now at nearly every turn for advocating the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Our good news has become the bad news in nearly every sector of society. Should we despair? St. Peter calls us to ‘Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.’ (1 Peter 4:13) We are right where Jesus wants us. He calls us to come where HE is, in the burn, in the fire of suffering. At every turn, even in my own household, we are challenged for the hope we uphold. Such suffering is intended to refine us, to make us more like Jesus. How can this be so? I offer a couple of suggestions:
1. Burning off every presumptive attitude, like ‘My life should be easier’, ‘People should understand me’, ‘You should respect me’! Lay it down, people. We are called to offer truths that people no longer believe, or have even heard. Stay humble, stay child-like, always ready to give an answer to the hope you have, to clarify the hope, where some of the myths have been woven into people’s thinking, but I would also urge you not to belaboring the issue where there is no openness to the hope. Discerning—wise as serpents. For those whose ears are closed, shake off the dust. One of the great Catholic reformers in the 1960s open the doors and windows to the Church, in the power of the Holy Spirit, who died young as a result of his efforts said this, at the end: ‘We have worked hard, we have served, and loved people. We have not stopped to gather stones the stones which were thrown against us from one side or the other, to throw them back.’
2. I think these challenges can burning off our need to be right; some of us who are a little narcissistic need to be right, because I am right. We must remember the much deeper level that we are standing for the true dignity of other people. This trial is reducing us to love. We stand for the truth of human dignity for the redemption of persons. We need to express love of the dignity SO please, let us not return the hatred we incur and are accused of with hatred. I remember when I was going through this with my boys. I was having a family meal, and honestly, I just blew up, I just got ignited, and I blew up! I said my truth in the most terrible way possible. My one son who is very cool and objective said, “dad, when you speak like that, neither we or anyone is going to listen to you. He was right!
When we are persecuted for being bitter, ranting fools, we deserve it. Stay cool. Remember, we are doing this for persons so they can be set free for the truth of their humanity. All for love! At the end, we shall be judged by how much we loved, for the truth that we have held of what actually dignifies humanity. At the end of these talks, these difficult talks, my pastor said, “You know, in the midst of this trial, I like that way you have responded, (by the work of the Holy Spirit two or three people from Living Waters came to my pastor and explained what the Living Waters did for them. I didn’t press them, they just did it on their own, kind of a divine encounter). My pastor assured me that I had done no harm, but had helped people. So proceed! Proceed!
3. Remember, we are holding out for the dignity of our fellows, not their desecration. We hold fast to the true value of the individual, made in His image, endowed with the glory of God in his or her gendered humanity, a beloved object of His mercy amid the brokenness of that image. We are the ones who are truly for the individual! Jesus came to teach each one of us in the specifics of our blind and broken states and made a way for our eyes to be open—to Himself, to the beauty we could not see in ourselves, and to the beautiful community around us that helped us realize His will for our gendered humanity. This is our call: not to win a culture war--it is to make a way for individuals to find their way home to the Father’s house. We thus do everything in our power to equip the Church to be the community that is clear and compassionate, a Light that shatters the darkness shrouding our sexual humanity today.
In closing -
The darkness is increasing in the culture and is certainly not getting better for us. It will get worse. Our call to impart sexual integrity and gender clarity are increasingly never more scandalous, so we hide ourselves in the God who is scandalized on the cross. St. Peter says that ‘we can rejoice now in our participation in Christ’s suffering, so that we may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.’ (1st Peter 4: He refers here to the glory of the soon-coming King—a time we wait for as we suffer now, united with the Crucified. Pain today, glory tomorrow. We wait in hope, and we endure hardship in the present, aware that suffering is temporary and is required of serious Christians.
Then St. Peter takes it deeper in verse 14: ‘If you are insulted for Jesus’ sake, you are blessed by the Spirit of glory that rests upon you now.’ Peter does not only leave us with a future hope. He actually invokes a truth of the Cross that St. John the Apostle centered upon in his gospel. The shame (this is the key) the shame of Christ Crucified is also and at the same time the glory of God in Jesus Christ! Only the gospel of John majors on this theme of fusing shame and glory. Only John sees that when God is high and lifted up on a Cross is His glory most marvelously revealed. Peter is not dividing them up saying that the glory is only after the crucifixion. He was saying that the glory IS the crucifixion. This is why St. John could say to the Johannine Community that had been kicked out of the temple, because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They that had been pounded from normal and respectable society because of their standing firm in the stumbling block. This is why he could say your shame is their glory. The Glory is resting upon you right now. The Spirit of the living God is resting upon you in you being hounded. One greater has come to you, take hold of it. This is the power of St. John’s preaching of the cross. This is its power! We had to take hold of this. The shame is the glory! The rejection IS the qualification. Suffering is the mark of favor. Woe to you when everyone who only speaks good things. Isn’t he so nice? Isn’t she so nice!? The shame of the Cross is the glory of the Cross. And the Spirit of Glory rests upon us mostly deeply, when we are least understood. When we don’t get the high five! Instead, we get the scorn. This is the occasion for God’s Glory to rest upon us. The glory of Jesus Christ fully raised from the dead shines upon us as we hold fast to the whole truth of Jesus’ transforming power for persons impacted by same-sex attraction. Like Paul said, I have preached to you the Whole Good News, the Whole Message, the full truth, I have held nothing back! In truth, the insults we incur—the unbelief, the smug ‘we know better now’, the compromises everywhere, the church doors that close, the friends who become enemies, family members who become strangers—rejoice, the Spirit of glory is resting upon you! The shame of the cross is the glory of Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord! St. John and St. Peter fuse the shame of the cross with its glory, and the persecuted, insulted early community of Christ glows in the glorious shame of that Cross. So must we, as we hold out the Whole Truth for persons impacted by same-sex attraction.
Some of you are in this burn, you are in it! You’re in this, whether in a hand-full of relationships, or with a specific person, one important relationship, some in small ministries, some large ministries, pastors. You’re in this! Some of you in Churches, but some of you wish you weren’t. You are saying, “I don’t wanna to tell the whole truth – too many e-mails and to many people who leave. Too many people leave! I don’t want to take the heat of this! I’m going to only tell a little bit of the truth!” This is the place where you say, “Am I going to stand in that place with Christ crucified?” Am I going to be hounded from my place of worship? Maybe. The good news is that The Holy Spirit is all over that and all over you. And… now, I want to pray for you today, for those of you in that place that are feeling the burn. Say to God, I need more of You to stand in the burn, to pray that you be ignited by the burn, to burn brightly for Christ today, for the saving of many. Instead of being deadened by our insulted minority status, let us understand this as the earmark of our anointing, of our humble, high calling. Pray for strength and infilling! Rejoice in doing the really hard right thing. Embrace the cross; despise the shame. It really is hard, but the Lord will sustain.
Closed with prayer and ministry time
- Transformation of Persons with Same-Sex Attraction: Becoming Who We Are
- Advocating for Marriage
- ‘Gay Christian’ and ‘Spiritual Friendships?’
- Will the Church Show Justice and Mercy to the Same-Sex Attracted?
- A Grace-filled and Truthful Response Regarding "Gay Christianity"
- The Gospel According To Jesus Christ and the "Gay Christian?"
- Gay Christian - Oxymoron