Just putting the words "church" and "homosexuality" in the title of this blog posting will result in numerous hits. Since the topic is so divisive, it will undoubtedbly result in a number of responses as well, either here or on Facebook and/or Twitter. In most cases, the responses will not be positive.
Nevertheless, the question must be asked.
Over the past few years the questions of church and homosexual acceptance has been very newsworthy. Some denominations have affirmed homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle choice while others state that it is not a choice at all, but part of an individual's identity. On the other extreme, there are churches and denominations that have spoken loudly in their condemnation of homosexuality and all things gay.
Then, of course, you have the fringe churches like the one in Kansas that protests American military funerals while holding placards proclaiming God's hatred of gays.
If you search the terms "Southern Baptists" and "homosexuals" you find a number of sites, blogs, news reports and opinions. Yesterday, a news report hit that a gay-rights group, presently unindentified, had propagated an elaborate hoax stating that the Southern Baptist Convention was on the verge of formerly supporting "gay marriage" and repenting of its stance on homosexuality. The hoax was backed with a press release, phone numbers and a website, all designed to look authentic. You can read the story on Baptist Press here.
At this year's Southern Baptist Convention, groups were protesting the SBCs stance on homosexuality and desired to deliver a petition requesting an apology to the gay community akin to the one given to African-Americans years earlier. In a surprise move, SBC president, Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, agreed to meet with the protesters for a between session dialogue.
It appears the meeting was good. However, there was no movement toward a denominational apology. I agree with Dr. Wright's statements regarding biblical authority and clear doctrinal teaching.
“If we’re going to be true to what God’s Word says, we’re not going to be able to come to common ground,” Wright said. “If we were to ignore what God’s Word is saying about sexual purity, yes, possibly, we could come to common ground. But looking at sexual purity from Scripture, we’re not going to be able to come to common ground. ... I hope you all would respect that we’re just seeking to follow Jesus according to the authority that He’s given us, and that’s the written Word of God. I would just ask you to respect us for that.”
Wright then offered the leaders a hypothetical illustration to demonstrate his point.
“Let’s say one of my sons comes to me and tells me he’s engaged in a homosexual lifestyle,” Wright said. “I hope I’m going to continue to show love, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with the behavior. And, if he came to the point to engage in that lifestyle and wanted me to affirm the relationship, it would be like a heterosexual son coming home from college and saying, ‘I’ve been living with this girl. Why can’t we stay together when we’re in your home?’ ... That would be condoning sinful behavior. It’s really no different.”
This did not meet with agreement with the homosexual activists, yet the meeting apparently remained very cordial.
There are some Christian artists and pastors who have recently changed their tune regarding gay rights and homosexuality. Some have even come out of the closet themselves to embrace the homosexual lifestyle. Some of my favorite artists for years such as Chris Willis, Ray Boltz (who has a new song out titled "Don't Tell Me Who To Love"), and Jennifer Knapp have made these choices. Then there are gay artists like Jason & deMarco who state they are gay Christians who bring their message of love to the community of faith. I say I am heart-broken because I believe these and others have fallen prey to the Liar. Some have forsaken the church due to its' "archaic" stance on homosexuality. Others have created or joined churches that affirm and even promote the homosexual lifestyle.
The discussion of ministering to homosexuals naturally leads to the popular stories and political movements of the day. It's hard not to go there. I have had numerous discussions on my views (which I feel are biblical) regarding gay marriage. Of course, this is the news item of the day. New York recently approved recognition of gay marriage. The celebration at the NYC gay pride parade was covered internationally. The mayor of the city and governor of the state were lauded as heroes in this fight for gay marriage. Celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris and his partner announced their upcoming wedding. Even conservative bloggers and columnists are stating that it is now most likely that other "blue" states will follow New York here and we will soon see federal legislation regarding this.
I still stand firm in my opposition to legitimize or legally recognize "gay marriage." I also don't agree with giving full marital rights to those heterosexual couples living together. Some say I am old fashioned and too traditional and intolerant. I even had one woman ask sarcastically "What does another couple's marital status have to do with you?" That led to a discussion that actually changed no one's opinions. However, according the Bible, marriage is clearly ordained by God to be between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:21-24, Matthew 19:4-6).
So, back to the question posed in the title of this posting. Can a church minister to homosexuals without condoning homosexuality?
I believe the answer is "YES" and it must be.
However, the natural tendency is to avoid the topic or use it as fuel for debates which are rarely tinged with love.
Some will state that I'm condoning homosexuality. Those who would say that are foolish. Those who know me, know that when it comes to biblical authority, I am an inerrantist and believe that I do not have the authority to pick and choose which verses to believe. As for condoning homosexuality, I do not and cannot. Why? Because the Word of God states that homosexuality is a sin. Verses such as Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 are some texts that reference this.
My heart breaks when I see believers compromising Scripture to support sinful lifestyles. Yes, I have Googled "Bible and homosexuality" and found numerous sites that state how conservative, inerrantists have mis-read Scripture to conform to their pre-conceived ideas and homophobic tendencies. I respectively disagree with the seemingly intellectual on this.
By the way - just to clarify, there are other sinful lifestyle choices besides homosexuality and my heart breaks when believers compromise to justify these as well.
Over the years we have had numerous teenagers and adults in our church who have struggled with gender issues. While I have met and prayed and tried to help a number of them (thankfully, these friends have felt comfortable enough to talk with me) some have just dropped off the charts, never to be seen in the church again.
When a church overtly begins to minister to those battling gender issues, it becomes a clear target for those in the gay-rights movment. We are called intolerant, unloving, unaccepting and mean. Yet, fear of being called these things and more cannot and must not keep the church from lovingly reaching out to those who are struggling with gender issues and same-sex attractions.
Not only must the church respond in love to the individual, but to the family members as well.
The culture and some gay-rights activists oppose ministries such as Exodus International because they state that people are born gay and there is no way to be formerly gay. I disagree based on the testimony of friends who have come out of the homosexual lifestyle. In fact, I met a young man in the exhibit hall at the SBC who leads a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attractions. He speaks from experience. This young man shared how God delivered him and is now using him to encourage and help others.
What can the church do?
We must be intentional.
We must be strategic.
People are hurting. Christian men and women are wanting help with this and often they look to the church and only see the anger when this issue is brought up.
I am not sure what this ministry will look like. In fact, it may become available, but not necessarily promoted widely. Why? That should be obvious. However, those in our community dealing with homosexual tendencies, gender confusion, same-sex atractions, etc. and family members of those dealing with these issues must see the church as a place where God's love abounds and help and healing are available.
What must the church not do?
In no way, can the church condone what Scripture says is sin. The Bible must be our authority, not public opinion or cultural shifts.
I have seen young people who have attended our church come out on Facebook (this apparently is the most popular way of coming out nowadays) and Christian friends and church members stating things such as "I'm so proud of you," or other affirming statements regarding the outing.
Don't misread here - the homosexual is to be loved, but the homosexual lifestyle is not to be affirmed. Why? Read the biblical references quoted above.
Christ loves homosexuals and died for them. . .just as He died for all sinners. Yet, it must be remembered that Christ died to set us free, not to keep us in bondage to sin.