"And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life." (Acts 11:15-18)Here St Peter is recounting his mission to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. In a vision prior to his mission God revealed to Peter that "what God has made clean, you must not call profane", which Peter came to understand meant that the Gentiles would be included in God's redeemed community. Some of the circumcised believers in Jerusalem criticized Peter for eating with and ministering to uncircumcised Gentiles. But when they heard that the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household "just as it had upon us at the beginning", they realized that God was indeed acting in a new way and their response must be to recognize that action and embrace it.
I am hardly the first to draw upon this story when making the case for the full inclusion of LGBT people in God's Church - but it is, for me, a powerful and fitting analogy. Peter (and subsequently the church in Jerusalem) had plenty of reasons for believing the "unclean" Gentiles had no place in the redeemed community. They had Scripture and tradition backing them up. Nevertheless, God surprised them.
The LGBT situation is shockingly similar. We have in our midst numerous baptized Christians (that is to say, recipients of the gift of the Holy Spirit) whose lives indicate the fruit of the Spirit. At the same time they understand themselves to have a fundamental sexual orientation that is different from the majority. They understand themselves to be (and in many cases to have always been) attracted to the same or both sexes, or to have a different understanding of their gender altogether. Yet these are people who by all evidence are graced by the Spirit.
This, in turn, drives us to reconsider what we believe to be clean and unclean in the eyes of God, to re-examine our interpretation of Scripture and tradition - just as we have in the case of Gentiles, women, slaves, etc. We must not call profane what God has called clean.
The obvious objection is that we do not accept the self-understanding of those who, perhaps through self-deception, consider themselves to be at the same time Christians and adulterers, pedophiles, drunkards, or habitual liars. The difference, it seems to me, is that those latter cases are all cases of clearly identifiable moral or psychological defects. The person who is fundamentally unable to remain faithful to marital vows or refrain from raping children or resist alcohol or tell the truth is a person whom everyone knows to have something objectively wrong with them. In all of these cases there is very likely an underlying psychological cause. (Remember we are talking about people who are not merely tempted to do these things, but understand themselves to be fundamentally oriented in this way. This is a crucial distinction.) Psychologists, however, have long ceased considering LGBT people, as such, as mentally unsound in any way.
This story also illustrates why talk about "inclusion" of LGBT Christians is a misnomer. When we fully include LGBT Christians in the life of the Church we are not granting them a favor - we are submitting to and recognizing the prior work of God in them.