Churches Today: Pro-Gay or Nay?
By Joe Dallas
Harvest House Publishers
CBN.com Excerpted from The Gay Gospel?
What Do We Find in Churches Today?
So a curious mixture is brewing in Christendom. Major denominations may be filled with women and men committed to biblical integrity, yet a pro-gay contingent has been allowed to flourish alongside them. So when a homosexual person seeking truth enters a mainline church, what might he find today?
In Mainline Denominations
In the Episcopal church, he might encounter some “progressive” bishops who have been ordaining openly homosexual priests for “decades—more than 100 since 1977, by some estimates.” In 1994, he’d learn, a number of Episcopal bishops signed a statement agreeing that homosexuality and heterosexuality are “morally neutral,” that both “can be lived out with beauty, honor, holiness, and integrity,” and those “who choose to live out their (homosexual) orientation in a partnership that is marked by faithfulness and lifegiving holiness” should not be excluded from the ministry. The congregation he visits might well agree. Indeed, a 1993 survey in the National and International Religion Report indicated that 75 percent of U.S. Episcopalians think sexually active gays can still be faithful Christians.
Among Presbyterians he would find an ongoing debate dating back to at least 1970, when a church panel declared that “sexual expression cannot be confined to the married or about to be married.” The panel’s recommendation was narrowly voted down. The discussion continues, though the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1991 rejected a similar report that claimed a “moral right” to sexual expression for “all persons, whether heterosexual or homosexual, single or partnered.”
Among the United Methodist congregations, the visitor might stop by the Foundry Methodist Church in Washington, DC, that has been home to, among others, former President and Mrs. Bill Clinton. There he might hear a visiting speaker describe the apostle Paul as a “self-hating gay man,” or he might listen as Foundry’s pastor considers whether or not Jesus was a cross-dressing “drag queen.”
Also, when looking into the Methodist church, the visitor could choose between two diametrically opposing programs that coexist in the same denomination. Should he wish to embrace his homosexuality, he might join the Reconciling Congregations
more liberal counterparts. Yet since 1987, my work counseling Christians with sexual problems leads me to believe there is something amiss in many conservative churches as well.
In Conservative Denominations
By and large, these churches are taking a clear stand against homosexuality while, however, showing indifference to or ignorance of the many believers in their own ranks who struggle with same-sex attractions. When homosexuality is mentioned from the pulpit, it’s usually framed as a problem “out there in society.” When denouncing it, though, few pastors add, “Perhaps someone here is wrestling with this sin, as well. Resist it—God will be with you as you do. And so will we.”
As one who has known countless women and men who have renounced homosexual practices and who resist, sometimes daily, temptations to return to them, I can attest to the world of difference one encouraging remark like that from a pastor can make.
This neglect of a significant problem among believers can be found in Christian outreach or support programs as well. Special ministries exist in many churches for people dealing with chemical dependency, alcoholism, marital problems, postabortion trauma, emotional dependency, and eating disorders. Yet the question I heard the gay minister pose in 1978—“Why don’t they do anything to help us get over our sin?”—remains largely unanswered.
One possible reason is ignorance. Conservative Christians may simply be unable to believe that such a problem could be plaguing one of their own. “I’ve never run across that in my church,” a local minister assured me when I tried to acquaint him with my ministry to repentant homosexuals. Ethics and common sense kept me from informing him that his own choir director came to me twice a week for counseling.
Reluctance to tackle the messy issues homosexuality raises might be another reason to avoid the topic, though there’s a certain inconsistency in that. I remember a friend of mine once suggesting to a pastor that his church might develop a support group for men wanting to overcome homosexuality. “That’s unnecessary,” the minister retorted. “We believe in the power of the Word to transform lives. We teach people the Bible and send them home; we’re not professional counselors.”
No, they are not, and no one was asking them to hire any. But this same church had, weeks earlier, started a support group for people who were “codependent.” Moreover, a group for the chemically addicted had been meeting there for years. And sadly, one of this man’s former associate ministers had fallen into homosexuality and died of AIDS.
So why the double standard? Why weren’t the codependent, the drug-addicted, and the alcoholics also just “taught the Bible and sent home?" Why the willingness, in this church and so many others, to let pastors or group leaders address complex problems like addiction and dependency while relegating the homosexual issue to “professional counselors?" Of course, many fine churches have no support groups of anysort, and who’s to say they should? But among the thousands of churches that do offer special care for a myriad of other problems, doesn’t it seem odd that so little support is offered to the repentant homosexual?
Where Is the Real Help?
So the homosexual is caught between two voices: the liberal and the conservative Christian, both of whom are repeating part—but onlypart—of Christ’s words to another sexual sinner, the adulterous woman:
“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
“Neither do I condemn you,” the liberal theologian comforts today’s homosexual. “Go and sin.”
“I do condemn you,” the conservative Christian too often seems to retort, “so go and sin no more!” Or else he just says, “Go!” The sinner is then left alone to figure out just how to “sin no more.”
No wonder the gay Christian movement looks so appealing to the woman or man struggling with homosexuality. It offers them acceptance and understanding that they may never have found in the church. That doesn’t absolve them of responsibility if, like me, they decide to embrace pro-gay theology. But if we have offered them little help on their way toward making that decision, don’t we bear some responsibility too?
Ron Rhodes makes a good observation on this point:
A person does not usually join a cult because he has done an exhaustive analysis of world religions and has decided that a particular cult presents the best theology available. Instead, a person generally joins a cult because he has problems that he is having trouble solving, and the cult promises to solve these problems.
Sadly, we seem to forget that we evangelical Christians can promise solutions too. We can address the expanding gay Christian movement, refute its claims, and equip ourselves to answer its revisions of the Bible. We can learn to intelligently debate pro-gay advocates in our denominations by knowing their arguments and the reasoning behind them. And we can promise to develop a more effective response to the repentant homosexuals in our churches who crave—and deserve—our support. Having done that, we can address the broader gay-rights movement by faithfully serving in both truth and love, refusing to compromise one for the sake of the other.
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Joe Dallas, past president of Exodus International, lectures extensively at churches and seminars and directs a biblical counseling practice in Tustin, California. He is the author of Desires in Confict and When Homosexuality Hits Home. His articles have been featured in Christianity Today, Christian Research Journal, and the Journal of the Christian Association of Psychological Studies.
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