Church, You Have Got To Take a Stand on Sexuality
“I don’t know, Tom. I don’t like debate.”
I’d been talking with a pastor about his church’s position on homosexuality and gay marriage. His own position was conservative and biblical, but someone else in leadership had fired a gay-affirming shot across the church’s bow. I wondered what he was going to do about it.
“Would you think of opening up a simple pastor-guided conversation,” I asked him, “just to clarify matters for people who might wonder, ‘what now?’”
His distaste for disagreement led him to decline.
Speaking With One Clear Voice
Debate is risky, there’s no denying it. The Episcopal denomination fractured wide open over this issue. Presbyterian congregations have left the PCUSA over it. The United Methodists are in imminent danger of losing the “United” part of their name.
Gay activism is both loud and forceful, even in the churches. It would seem easier to keep your head down. Avoid the subject. Don’t make it an issue. Strive for peace and unity.
Keep It Under the Radar? Forget About It
Sorry, but it won’t work. Not for long; not if you hold to the biblical/traditional view on marriage and morality. Someone is going to bring up the issue in a way you just can’t evade.
A gay couple is going to come to church. They’re going to ask questions in Sunday School, and someone is going to have to answer. Or they’re going to work quietly to build a following — which won’t be hard, if you haven’t stated a strong position on the matter — then volunteer for a teaching position.
Wait until then to say no, and it’s going to explode around you. You can count on it.
Will that happen at your church? Maybe not. Maybe instead a student leader will identify as gay. Maybe a gay or lesbian who’s been a good friend to kids in your youth group will give up on being bullied at school and commit suicide. (It’s happened where I’ve lived.)
Prepared or Unprepared, What’s Your Preference?
I don’t know how it’s going to come up in your church, but it will. You don’t dare let it catch you unprepared. You’ll come under sudden and extremely heavy fire. You’ll find yourself in the untenable position of trying to explain your position calmly, biblically and rationally, while emotions are flaring all around you, and accusations are raging: “You’re a homophobe! You hate these people!” Not an enviable place to be.
Far better to take the heat now in the form of a more controlled burn, taking time to address the question carefully, thoughtfully and thoroughly. The accusations will still come — you can count on that — but not in such incendiary circumstances.
You’re in good company. Jesus was falsely accused.
Don’t forget, Jesus was falsely accused. You’ll be in good company. You won’t be well-liked by everyone. That’s okay. Neither was Jesus. Your church may shrink. So did Jesus’ following, as recorded in John 6. You’re still in good company.
And it isn’t as if you can hold on to the status quo forever anyway. Churches may lose members for stating their positions clearly. Churches that wait for the crisis, though, are at high risk of splitting right down the middle. Which would you prefer?
You can answer, “I’ll take option C: Neither!” But you’d better call that what it is: Wishful thinking. A vain hope. Blindly unrealistic in our day.
Not Divisive. Courageous.
A small group of gay activists has just launched an online project demanding “clarity.” Despite serious shortcomings in their approach, as Denny Burk has pointed out, there’s still something to be said for taking a stand.
Yes, clarifying your position can be divisive. You need not take the blame for that, though; not if you teach the truth with grace, compassion and clarity. You’re not the one who’s doing the dividing. Remember: The Church spoke with one clear undivided voice on this issue for almost two full millennia. Now some people say the Church was wrong all along. Who’s separating from the historic faith? Not you, if you hold firm to the truth. It’s the LGBT crowd that’s walking away.
And with all due respect to pastors who want to keep this matter under the radar, the Bible does speak (Acts 20:27) of not shrinking back from declaring the whole purpose or counsel of God. That’s a word of courage, besides being a word of faithfulness to God’s Word.
When the pastor told me he didn’t like debate, I answered him this way: “Pastor, you’re going to have to get ahead of this controversy, or it’s going to get ahead of you. You can’t avoid it. Because it isn’t slowing down for anyone.”
It’s been around long enough. It’s got biblical ramifications flowing all through it. Isn’t it time you took a public stand on it? Isn’t it time you stood up for what you believe?