The recent Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage sent shock waves through the blogosphere and social media universe. Did your church talk about it at all?
And if so, what did they say?
Depending on the survey, 1.2-6.8% of the population identify as LGBT. So if you have a church of 100 people, that’s anywhere from 1 to 7 people in your congregation.
Not Talking About It
As a straight pastor, I can empathize with churches not talking about the gay marriage decision. Homosexuality is arguably the most polarizing hot button issue facing the church today. To talk about it is to create disagreement, and likely some angry people in your congregation. If one wants unity, it seems sensible to steer clear of this behemoth altogether.
But what about those 1-7 people out of the 100 in your flock? Or the 12-68 people out of the 1000 in your flock? Or the 120-680 people out of the 10000 in your flock?
However one decides to label it, if you are a churchgoer and have same sex attraction, struggle with same sex attraction and/or identify at LGBT, the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage certainly has been on your radar. It certainly has caused you to re-ask old questions. If you haven’t been thinking about your sexuality, you certainly are now. It’s maybe made you wonder about what the Bible really says about homosexuality. At the very least though, you are wondering what your church thinks about it. Namely, you are wondering what your church thinks of you.
Silence can be deafening when you’re trying to figure out where you fit into a faith community, or if you fit at all.
If the number one struggle in my life is homosexuality / same sex attraction and my church is silent about the topic altogether, what other takeaway am I to have except that this church has no place for me, has no answers for me, or does not care about me? More than that, this church is afraid of me, for they are afraid to talk about me or to me.
While some churches remained silent, others used the SCOTUS gay marriage decision as a chance to plant their battle flag in the ground and rally around their war cry. I’m fine with churches taking a stand against culture as it relates to sin, but it’s especially important when dealing with the LGBT community and the “gay agenda” that we remember that there is no corporate entity called the LGBT. The “LGBT” is actually just a collection of individuals. Some of whom attend your church. Some who are struggling. Some who are looking for Jesus.
What I mean is, when we have a bad experience at a large restaurant chain, we sometimes feel the right to let loose in a letter to an anonymous faceless corporation, saying words we would never say to the face of our friend’s son who was the cook on the line that actually messed up our order. When we blast the LGBT community or the “gay agenda,” the people reading or hearing those words are individuals who are gay / have same sex attraction, not some hypothetical CEO of a hypothetical institution. And when those individuals hear and read your words, they no longer see you as a safe person to confide in. They no longer see you as someone who wants them in their community. They no longer see you as someone who loves them.
You can speak truth and do it in love. You can talk about sin and do it humbly, as if you also are a sinner with your own unique temptations. You can instruct and admonish about sin without condemning and judging. In fact, it’s likely you already do this when you teach about the sins that you struggle with such as pride, arrogance, lust, selfishness, greed, gossip, or any number of other things, but when it’s time to teach, preach or write about homosexual practice, you pull out the double bazookas of condemnation and self-righteous judgmentalism. Why is this?
While I know gay marriage is a legal/political issue, people are not. Especially the people in your own congregation. We need to address the issue as it relates to people, not to global politics. We need to shepherd and talk to people, not to nameless, faceless entities. We need to approach the issue with grace and empathy, not bazookas and battle cries.
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Firstly, i think it is a huge stretch to say that because a survey says 2-7% of the population may be/is homo-sexual, that the Church population has the same numbers amongst it. They are two totally different populations.Secondly, if the Church condemned extra marital hetero-sexual sin with the same eyes it does homo-sexual sin, there would not be the same level of division there is at present between the two groups.The Church i.e. we Christians, need to view all sin through the same eyes and remember we all fall short.True repentance and grace is the only solution.
Thanks for a post that advances the conversation rather than rachets up the emotions. Know you take hits for not being stronger anti-gay so appreciate it when you write about this with compassion while upholding the Bible. May just be my impression, and it’s a bit of a broadbrush, but get this disconnect that until recently the only churches that welcomed gays were those who skewed/skewered the bible while those who held fast to the bible only welcomed/allowed for gays becoming straight. The need for churches that are biblical that can be a home for gay/SSA guys just got greater with the recent court decision. Growing up, it wasn’t just church, culturally going same sex was understood to be prohibited. . . conscience was stirred even if you weren’t religious. Now that gay sex and marriage will be within the social norm, it will be so much harder for conscience to win the struggle when SSA passions are stirred. Church will be the needed lone voice with God’s thoughts in a culture that has veered away from God’s ways. How important that that voice be clear, compassionate and biblical, like yours.
For guys seeking God struggling with SSA, church needs to offer more than ‘homosexuality is sin.’ That’s not helpful and it’s not enough. With homosexuality, church needs to get away from only using the Bible to say what’s wrong. What’s powerful about the Bible is what the Spirit speaks about Christ. What helps most in the struggle against SSA is knowing Jesus in a living way and the power of the Spirit experienced in seeing Jesus in His word. Life in the Spirit, Christ experienced as reality, makes the difference in the struggle against SSA, that there’s power in the Spirit present now to put to death the deeds of the body and live.
A tweak to your original question would do so much more when church talks about homosexuality, How is your church talking about Jesus? Thru all the talking is it Jesus who is seen? Do others meet Christ in a living way in us? Find that missing when the discussion of homosexuality and the Bible is only arguments about doctrine. Something is lost spiritually when ‘homosexuality is sin’ and ‘Jesus is Lord’ are only topics. At the end of the day, merely stating Biblical truths prove nothing. The reality of the thing believed isn’t proved by sincerely held beliefs or well thought-out arguments. Reality of spiritual truth is proved by the truth being living, something of the power of the Spirit being present.
What changed things for me, and still does, is living fellowship in Christ by the Spirit, knowing that, entering in to that. Even now, apart from abiding in Christ thru His Spirit, the bible prohibitions against things are unable to produce faithfulness when temptations come. In discussions about homosexuality, don’t stop at Leviticus and Romans and what’s wrong, bring Christ into view in a living way in what is said and how it is said. There is absolutely no chance, knowing and following Christ, of anyone in the hands of God not dealing with sin.
A good read by Eric Foley giving unexpected historic perspective…
“It Is The Church’s Own 1,000 Year-Old Marriage Equality Ruling That Is Its Greatest Problem, Not The One From This Month”
I think you’ve made some excellent points in your blog. Compassion is needed in the church family. I would venture to say, however, that whether members struggle with SSA/ are LBGTQ or not, they are all curious as to what their pastor has to say about it. I believe it to be true that not every church is for everyone. With that, hearing a pastor’s views on culturally and/or politically charged subjects could determine for members if that is the church for them. I have heard pastors speak about many political or cultural issues in the past, and the rigid harshness (or publicity stunt seeking) with which he or she treated topics that were important to me has led me to leave churches. Those sermons, whether it was the delivery or the pastor’s views, or even the perceived motivation behind the sermons, allowed me to see the man that I followed and decide that I did not agree with having him as my shepherd. Whether it was his ideals, aspirations, or intrinsic values, it was not the church for me.
Moreover, a pastor who will not address topics, I don’t trust. What are his motives for not addressing the issues? Cowardice? Rage? Political aspirations? Condemnation? It always makes me wonder, and truthfully, doubt. If I cannot trust my pastor, why am I there?
Just some ramblings that I hope you may find useful. At any rate, it is a good blog post that hopefully inspires compassion in teaching not just about homosexuality, but all sin. Well done.