Daily Archives: January 20, 2017

Generous Spaciousness


I am currently reading a book that is entitled Generous Spaciousness[1]. Its subtitle is: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church. I am in the process of preparing some presentations for a small Kinship-sponsored convention in March in Germany, and want to read up on the theology of sexuality. Generous Spaciousness was among the books I ordered from Amazon.com, partly because of the title that sounded so intriguing. I have found the reading very rewarding.

The book is written by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter. This, and the fact that she refers to her Christian-Reformed background, gives me the suspicion that there are some Dutch connections in her family. She studied theology, and when looking for a job she found a position in the Exodus-organization. She worked for this organization a good number of years. This evangelical organization was founded in 1976 and ceased operations in 2013. One of its main activities was its ‘healing ministry’ for gay people. Gradually, however, many of its leaders and of the people active in the ministry had to conclude that they were on the wrong track and that it ministering to people with a gay orientation is far more complicated than they had thought, and that many of their ‘healing’ claims were, in fact, not based on lasting changes.  The writer of the book also gradually distanced herself more and more from her initial approach and began to increasingly question many of her ‘traditional’ Christian convictions regarding homosexuality.

Wendy VanderWal has not yet solved all biblical and theological questions in her own mind, but she has more and more understood that the biblical material is not as clear-cut anti-gay as she had long believed. She is realistic about the fact that Christians are very divided on the issue of ‘alternative’ sexualities and does not believe that any time soon there will be a consensus. But she feels that all faith communities must arrange for a continuous dialogue about this topic. In the meantime the church—in all its layers—must offer a safe place for all who—irrespective of their sexual orientation—want to belong to it and/or worship in it. For this ‘safety’ for all, she coined the beautiful phrase Generous Spaciousness. (She admits that she was inspired by the title of another book, entitled Generous Orthodoxy, in which the author, Brian McLaren, calls, in words of publisher Zondervan, ‘for a radical, Christ-centered orthodoxy of faith and practice in a missional, generous spirit.’ This book is also well worth reading.) She appeals to her readers, irrespective of how they interpret the biblical statements, not to judge but to support each other—in particular those who have a ‘different’ sexual orientation. The church—in particular the local community of Christian believers—must be a place of ‘generous spaciousness’ where, in the Spirit of Christ, there is ample room for all!

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is as divided as many other Christian denominations on the issue of homosexuality. It certainly needs continued dialogue, but reaching consensus any time soon is an unrealistic dream. We can, however, promote a ‘generous spaciousness’, in which a judgmental attitude makes place for a willingness to support each other, irrespective of our sexual orientation, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I can personally testify to the truth of the following statement by the author of Generous Spaciousness: ‘Building relationships over the last years with gay Christians has allowed me to experience, in a very tangible way, the wideness of God’s mercy . . . I have been confronted with my own impoverished view of God, one that often expected a stinginess in God’s mercy rather than lavish acceptance’ (p. 52).

[1]  Wendy VanderWal-Gritter, Generous Spaciousness: Rsponding to Gay Christians in the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2014).