Why Talk About Homosexuality To Your Church?
There Is Confusion In The Body.
The question is whether evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over two thousand years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage.
The world is pressing this question upon us, but so are a number of voices from within the larger evangelical circle—voices that are calling for a radical revision of the church's understanding of the Bible, sexual morality, and the meaning of marriage. —Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge — A Response to Matthew Vines," 22 April 2014.
For almost 2,000 years Christianity spoke with one voice about homosexual behavior, calling it a sin. At the same time, the Church taught God's design for sexuality — that marriage is the life-long, exclusive union of a husband and wife and the only place for sexual activity. The Church also taught that some were called to life-long, chaste singleness, dedicating themselves to serving God. However imperfectly taught and lived, there was a Christian consensus that the pursuit of chastity, whether in marriage or in singleness, was God's intention for His people.
In 1955, Anglican priest Derrick Sherwin Bailey published the first real challenge to Christian teaching about homosexuality. Since then, revisionist theologians and teachers have produced numerous sermons, articles and books questioning God's design for marriage and sexuality, and casting doubt on whether homosexual behavior is sin, contributing to disarray in the church.
Some 70 years after that first challenge to Christian teaching by Bailey, several U.S. denominations have left biblical truth on the issue of homosexuality and have allowed the ordination of gay-identified clergy or have redefined marriage to include same-sex unions. These are primarily "mainline" denominations, and include the United Church of Christ,"United Church of Christ Firsts," The Episcopal Church,"LGBT in the Church." the Evangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaDavid Masci, "Where Christian churches, other religions stand on gay marriage," 18 June 2014; "ECLA votes to allow gay pastors," 21 August 2009. and the Presbyterian Church, USA.Niraj Warikoo, "Presbyterians in U.S. to allow gay marriage ceremonies," 19 June 2014. These groups have seen steep declines in membership and attendance and have had battles over other theological and cultural issues, with many conservative churches and parishioners leaving.
However, it's not just the mainline churches that have struggled with this issue.
Within recent years, evangelical churches, ministries and schools have seen confusion and disagreements around the issue of homosexuality. Here are a few examples:
- A Southern Baptist pastor, a graduate from Talbot School of Theology, announced that he no longer believes homosexuality is a sin, and his church voted to break with the Southern Baptist Conference and affirm same-sex relationships.Morgan Lee, "After Pastor's Son Comes Out, Southern Baptist Church Breaks with Denomination on Homosexuality," 5 June 2014.
- Christian-identified singer-songwriters, such as Ray Boltz,"Ray Boltz Comes Out," 12 September 2008 12. Clay Aiken,"Clay Aiken comes out: 'Yes, I'm gay'," 24 September 2008. Jennifer KnappMark Moring, "Jennifer Knapp Comes Out," 13 April 2010. and Vickie BeechingKate Shellnutt, "Worship Songwriter Vicky Beeching Comes Out as Gay," 14 August 2014. now identify as gay or lesbian.
- Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus North America, which began over 35 years ago as a coalition of ministries helping people find freedom from homosexuality, apologized for any hurt he had caused people, and said people did not really change and then shut down his organization.Melissa Steffan, "Alan Chambers Apologizes to Gay Community, Exodus International to Shut Down," 21 June 2013.
- Ken Wilson, a prominent pastor of a Vineyard Church, has written a book explaining how the Holy Spirit helped him become affirming of homosexual relationships.Joshunda Sanders, "Christians Reassess Biblical Views on LGBT People," 26 February 2014.
- Most Christian colleges and universities now have some sort of unofficial "gay-straight alliance," consisting of some alumni and current students, who are pressuring school administrators to accept homosexuality.See, for example, Libby A. Nelson, "No Longer a Silent Minority," 17 December 2012, and Kathryn Joyce, "LGBT Christian College Students Fight For a Voice," 14 February 2014.
- Matthew Vines, a young, gay-identified activist, posted a one-hour YouTube video, "The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality," which has been viewed almost 800,000 times. His book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, details the gay-revisionist theology espoused in his video. A self-described evangelical, Vines holds training sessions for those who want to challenge the biblical view of homosexuality in their churches.R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge — A Response to Matthew Vines," 22 April, 2014.
- Around 1,400 people attended the "Gay Christian Network's" 2015 conference in Portland, Oregon. Most attendees were gay-identified men and women who believe God approves of same-sex relationships.Stevie St. John, "Gay Christian Network Marks 'Huge Leap Forward' With Biggest Annual Conference," The Advocate, 18 January 2015.
These voices within the church have created confusion about what the Bible says about relationships, sexuality and marriage. Pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth workers and church leaders must offer clear loving instruction about God's design for human sexuality and marriage.
Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by LGBT parents. So when he became a Christian and a pastor, he had to learn to love his family and yet still hold on to his beliefs. His journey detailed in the book, Messy Grace, will help you show grace to others in your life.
Why Talk About Homosexuality To Your Church?
The Culture Is In Sexual Chaos, Including Its View Of Homosexuality.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. —Matthew 9:36
Homosexuality didn't cause the sexual chaos in our culture. That chaos is rooted in mankind's Fall and has been growing for decades. There are a variety of factors at the forefront, including the:
- sexual revolution;
- moral relativism of academic and cultural elites;
- growth in acceptance and use of pornography;
- states making divorce easier through the implementation of no-fault divorce;
- ready availability of contraception and the legalization of abortion on demand; and
- the breakdown of marriages and family due to cohabitation, divorce and single-parent homes.See, for example, "Marriage" (4-part series of articles)
But gay activism and the acceptance and celebration of homosexuality have certainly added to the chaos and confusion. And homosexuality has been a leading topic of discussion in our culture.
If Christian leaders aren't addressing this issue with grace and truth, with forgiveness and healing, who will?
Just think about some of what we've seen in recent years in various areas of our culture with regard to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist agenda:See, for example, http://equalitygiving.org/Equality-Goals
- Despite the fact that citizens in more than 30 states voted to define marriage as it has always been ― between one man and one woman — courts and legislatures have decided in state after state to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage."Status of State Marriage Laws"
- Citizens are losing their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, as a growing number of schools, towns, cities and states add sexual orientation and gender identity to non-discrimination policies and laws."Freedoms Threatened and Innocence Lost: The Impact of Adding Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression to Statutes and Policies"
- In many areas, the federal government has redefined "sex" — being male or female — to include "gender identity and expression," the sex a person believes he or she is."Title IX and Transgenderism: The New Threat in Your Child's School"
- The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) gave television programming for 2014 high accolades for including a wider-than-ever-variety of LGBT-identified people in scripted programming."GLAAD's Network Responsibility Index 2014," 1 October 2014
- Groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educators Network (GLSEN) claim that Gay-Straight Alliances are in place at more than 4,000 middle and high schools."Backgrounder: What Parents Should Know About GLSEN."
- State legislatures are moving to take away the right to counseling for minors with unwanted same-sex attractions."The Right to Counseling for Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions"
Many in the church are influenced by the culture. Hollywood uses engaging characters, like those on Modern Family or Will and Grace, to normalize homosexuality.See, for example: David Eldridge, "Biden 'comfortable' with gay marriage, cites 'Will & Grace'," The Washington Times, 06 May 2012. Slogans tout "Marriage Equality," rather than explaining what marriage is — the union of a man and a woman. And epithets, such as "anti-gay" and "hater," are frequently used to shut down dialogue and malign those who believe homosexuality is not God's best for people.
Your church members live in a world that stands more and more opposed to Christian teaching on sexuality, relationships and marriage. They need pastoral support and guidance to interact in such a world with courage, love and truth.
Why Talk About Homosexuality?
People are Struggling and Hurting
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart. —David, Psalm 38 (ESV)
Homosexuality profoundly affects individuals and families.
In fact, I struggled for years with unwanted same-sex attractions. I believed in Jesus at a young age, grew up in a church that stressed knowing, understanding and obeying Scripture, served as missionary in Australia and worked as an associate youth pastor for two different churches. But I still had homosexual thoughts, feelings and actions. And I was growing weary of the battle.
In my mid-twenties, I attended a conference called "Hope and Healing for the Homosexual." For the first time, I heard about factors that might have influenced my sexuality and that a Christian could find help to manage unwanted same-sex attractions in a biblical manner. I'd never before heard a pastor talk about help, healing and freedom from homosexuality.
Over the years, I've met and talked with thousands of people who wrestle with same-sex romantic or erotic attractions. Many also struggle with sexual addiction, pornography and unhealthy relationships. Most have fought their sin in silence for years, too afraid to talk to someone. Thankfully, the proliferation of ministries to those with unwanted same-sex attraction — together with a number of helpful books, articles and videos produced in the past 30-40 years — has made it easier for those with homosexual feelings to reach out and receive help. Sadly, however, those resources aren't enough for those struggling with this issue. Many remain trapped by shame, fear, distrust, hurt and lies; and churches must step into the gap to minister grace and truth.
Let me introduce you to some of those I've known over the years, as I've led ministries and support groups (I've taken some liberty with details, so one example may actually be a compilation of several individuals):
- The young man who attended a Christian college during the school year, but spent his summers working in gay bars. His first sexual encounter was shortly after graduating high school — with a former teacher. He became more and more involved with the gay "leather and Levis" (sado-masochism) scene, and died of AIDS in his early thirties.
- The wife and mother of three who struggled with lesbian attractions, a pastor's daughter. After coming to our group for a number of years, she approached her church board about inviting a guest speaker to talk about freedom from homosexuality. They said, "We don't have that problem at our church."
- A young man who had attended a Christian high school and was very involved in local Christian theater groups. While still in high school, he started meeting men in bathrooms for sex.
- The woman who'd been in a relationship with another woman for almost 30 years. She'd become a follower of Jesus, and was connecting with a local church; however she was still navigating her relationship with her former partner and with their network of friends.
And it's not just those with unwanted homosexual feelings who suffer:
- The parents who just discovered gay pornography on their 15-year old son's computer.
- The brother and sister-in-law of a lesbian-identified woman who has invited them to her "wedding."
- The mom whose adult son has just "come out of the closet" and wants to bring his partner home for the holidays.
We receive phone calls, emails and letters every day from such wounded, weary ones. Many of them are members of a church; however, they are afraid, ashamed and alone.
If the statistics are accurate— that lesbian-, gay- and bisexual-identified men and women are about 2-3 percent of the population — then most churches, including yours, will have some strugglers attending. Likewise, most churches will have families and friends facing this issue.
If people are in the church looking for help and support, but they never hear homosexuality mentioned from the pulpit or talked about in classes or home groups, it's easy for them to assume that God is silent on this issue, too. That He doesn't care. Addressing homosexuality in an honest, loving way may give people the courage and hope they need to come forward for help and support.
For guidance on how to address homosexuality with your congregation, check out our downloadable resource: "Talking to Your Church about Homosexuality: A Guide for Pastors and Church Leaders."