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Sally Gary is the founder of CenterPeace.
Video screenshot of Sally Gary

To affirm or not? That is the question

As same-sex marriage gains increasing societal acceptance, how should Christians respond?

UPDATE: Here is the video of The Christian Chronicle Editorial Board’s live interview with CenterPeace’s Sally Gary and Strength in Weakness Ministries’ Guy Hammond.


Fifteen years ago, Sally Gary started a national ministry called CenterPeace.

The goal, as Gary shared at events and seminars across the U.S., was to help Churches of Christ show love to the LGBTQ community.

Gary, who grew up in the Tenth and Broad Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas, detailed her personal journey in her 2013 memoir “Loves God, Likes Girls.”

For most of her life, the Abilene Christian University graduate did not challenge traditional Christian beliefs on marriage.

“I just told my story of how hard it is to grow up in church, wanting to be faithful, when nobody would talk about this difference in sexuality,” she said.

But last fall, Gary, 59, revealed that her understanding of the Bible had changed. During a virtual CenterPeace conference hosted by the Highland Oaks Church of Christ, Gary’s home congregation in Dallas, she announced that she had moved to a fully affirming position in support of same-sex marriage.

She also said she planned to marry her girlfriend, Karen Keen. The two exchanged vows in December. Gary’s updated memoir, “Affirming,” was released in February.

To help understand Gary’s perspective, The Christian Chronicle’s Editorial Board will interview her in a Facebook Live event at 4 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Central on Monday, Aug. 2.

Related: Foster care and adoption ministries praise ruling in Fulton v. Philadelphia

Also featured will be Guy Hammond, executive director and founder of Strength in Weakness Ministries. That Restoration Movement ministry, which is non-affirming, aims to bridge the gap between Christians and the LGBTQ community. 

Until becoming a Christian at age 24, Hammond lived an active gay lifestyle. Now 58 and married to a woman, he’s disappointed by CenterPeace’s new direction. 

Watch the panel at facebook.com/christianchronicle.

Readers weigh in

In a survey, the Chronicle asked: “What should be the Christian response to the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage in society and in some religious communities?”

These are some of the responses:

Chris McCurley

Chris McCurley

“We get nowhere by throwing verbal punches or beating people over the head with a Bible. However, we cannot afford to avoid discussing the biblical view on this or any topic. We need to be sensitive to those who do not agree with us while maintaining our conviction for what God’s word teaches.” — Chris McCurley, preaching minister for the Oldham Lane Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas

“Listen, listen, listen. We are often way too quick to speak and much too slow to listen. Listening doesn’t necessitate agreeing, but somebody who never listens will never learn another perspective, not the full gamut of the conversation. After you listen, lead with relationship and grace because that is how you want to be treated by others.” — Joshua Parrish, minister for the Lake Merced Church of Christ in San Francisco

Verlon Johnson

Verlon Johnson

“This is a challenging one for me. I believe that we should show love toward everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. I personally know and love those (in the LGBTQ community) who seem to be truer to the Word than those who are not. And if we as a church body continue to overlook racism, adultery, premarital sex, domestic violence and other issues, I’m not sure this is the issue we need to address first. However, our response should be rooted in love and the Word.” — Verlon Johnson, member of the Park Forest Church of Christ in Matteson, Ill.

“Speak truth in love. Whenever possible, maintain friendships with those in the world, serve others, be generous even to enemies, but do not compromise Scriptural truth for the sake of keeping a relationship. Jesus warned us that following him may even split our families (Matthew 10:32-39), but it seems many Christians are choosing their kids or friends or position or popularity over biblical morality.” — Scott Franks, preaching minister for the Edgemere Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas

“With love! If they have committed themselves to each other and to the Lord and are trying their best in this broken world to live like Jesus, what more do you want from them?” — Zack Smith, who attends a Church of Christ in Colorado

Wes Woodell

Wes Woodell

“In the Scriptures, disciples are commanded to disassociate with those who claim to be brothers or sisters yet live in blatantly unrepentant sin (1 Corinthians 5:9-12). I do not believe the Scriptures are unclear that homosexual practice falls into that category. I have been fascinated and appalled by preachers and professors who have changed their stances because a family member of theirs or someone they were close to chose to openly begin practicing homosexuality. I do not believe it is loving to give up clear, biblical positions on issues like homosexual practice because we want to make the Bible easier to accept for the masses, or, in some cases, our own sons or daughters.” — Wes Woodell, lead evangelist for The Crossings, a Church of Christ in Collinsville, Ill.

“I think Christians need to teach the truth in love. I personally believe that God created marriage as a place to form a family that passes faith and God’s love and truth from one generation to the next. I believe he designed the nature of family for children to have a biological mom and dad who love them and protect them to lead them whenever possible. I believe his structure around sexuality is to make the act between a man and woman sacred and something to be shared only between a husband and a wife to make it extraordinary — something shared with only that person and always that person. … The brokenness of this world has interrupted God’s design in many ways. However, I think God wants it to be a reality as often as it can be possible and especially for those who follow Jesus. 

Tim Tripp

Tim Tripp

“That being said, I also believe that just as it is essential to remain committed to a godly perspective, we must also remain dedicated to a genuine love and care for others with opposing viewpoints on the issue. I think it is especially important to listen to the viewpoints of those who have given their lives to Jesus but have had different experiences and see things differently. I believe that Christians like Sally Gary and others who see a path that joins authentic Christianity and same-sex marriage need to have our attention and respect. Those Christians have wrestled with this topic from a perspective that those of us who have not struggled can never imagine. Rather than condemn or judge, we should love them and listen to them whether we agree or not. Only God will determine the eternal position of any of us, and he instructs us (Romans 14:4) to refrain from ‘judging someone else’s servant,’ saying ‘to his own master he stands or falls and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.’ Even where we disagree, we must do so from a perspective of love and unity.” — Tim Tripp, minister for the West Side Church of Christ in Russellville, Ark.

“Preach Jesus and him crucified. Same-sex marriage is a product of light preaching on the nature of Jesus’ work in saving humanity from sin, death and hell.” — Jay Kelley, minister for the Austin Street Church of Christ in Levelland, Texas

“The Christian response? It should be what the Bible teaches. Period. Love, not hate. Teaching right from wrong. Loving a sinner isn’t hating them.” — Teresa Lewis, member of the Mannford Church of Christ in Oklahoma

Alvin Poole

Alvin K. Poole

“I feel like we should be loving to all people. If we see that it is against God’s will, we need to be very loving and gentle in how we deal with people who are involved in that lifestyle. I am personally on a “journey” with this subject. I initially held to the traditional ‘it’s a sin’ thinking, but as I’ve gotten older, my stance has softened. I am still journeying and studying this.”    Alvin K. Poole, elder of the Bammel Church of Christ in Houston

“Gender and sexual orientation are not the same as sexual behavior, and too many Christians incorrectly equate the two. I want every individual to be in a loving, supportive relationship if they so choose with an ethic of mutual respect and concern regardless of gender or identity. If we abdicate teaching about respectful and ethical romantic relationships for our LGBTQ youth, what choice do they have but to seek those answers elsewhere?”— Dara Tinius, member of The Springs Church of Christ in Edmond, Okla.

“This is a sin like any other. How do we treat haters, gossipers, shopaholics, alcoholics, judgers, meanies?” —  Michele Sweeten, member of the Southern Hills Church of Christ in Buda, Texas

WANT TO RESPOND to this Dialogue? Email [email protected]. Be sure to include your full name and home city and state.

Filed under: CenterPeace culture Dialogue E3 conference Guy Hammond Marriage National News Partners Sally Gary same-sex marriage Strength in Weakness Ministries Top Stories

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