This blog presents two articles on the subject of homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Both were written in a kind and gracious manner. One is biblically sound—the other is woefully incorrect.
This first article was written by David Prince Pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church.
Pastor Prince received the following note via email:
“I believe church should be for all of God’s children. No exceptions. I am a gay man. My question is, would I be fully accepted with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church?”
Here is the pastor’s response to that email:
Welcome home to the beautiful Bluegrass. It is great to hear from you and to hear of your previous connection with Ashland. What a ministry this church has had for almost 100 years.
As to your question, it depends on what you mean by “I am a gay man” and what you mean by “accepted completely with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue?”
If by “I am a gay man” you mean that you struggle with same-sex attraction, recognizing any sexual activity outside of a covenant marriage between a man and a woman is sinful and that you desire Christian discipleship to walk in line with the Gospel as you struggle with this temptation, then we would rejoice at your honesty and openness and receive you gladly at Ashland. We have faithful and accountable members right now in that very situation and attempting to live celibate lives to the glory of Christ.
Of course, this is really no different than a man who struggles with heterosexual sexually immoral desires or any of the myriads of sinful desires we all struggle with as disciples of Christ. Sin is an equal opportunity offender and something that every Christian struggles with in unique ways.
If by “I am a gay man” you mean that you embrace a lifestyle of homosexual activity and you refuse to recognize it as sin no matter what the Scripture says and you are looking for a church that will affirm homosexual activity and/or same-sex marriage that would be a different matter entirely. But there is no uniqueness to homosexual sin in regard to this approach. The same would be true if a man came to us and said “I am a ‘name the sin’ man” and by that he meant he planned to keep on sinning in that way and embracing it as a lifestyle no matter what the Scripture says. There is a world of difference between struggling with a sin and embracing a sin. God saves us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us where we are. He is at work conforming his people into the image of Christ.
As far as whether or not you would “be accepted completely with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue” that would depend on what you mean as well. We welcome all to attend our public worship services. Consider this your invitation to worship with us. We would love to have you in attendance. If you mean that you desire help in an accountable community of faith to struggle against sin then I would say that we are a community of believers whose hope is in the finished work of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins—not our goodness. We are all struggling sinners attempting to follow our Lord and Savior and encouraging one another to do so.
On the other hand, if you mean that you want a church where any behavior you participate in will be affirmed and accepted in the membership of the church then the answer would be “no.” I do not think you would want to be a part of a congregation that would tolerate any behavior or action among its members.
We are all broken in our sin and are in great need of acceptance by God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We are all guilty sinners who have rebelled against a holy God and who desperately need to respond to Christ in repentant faith. It is the awareness of our sin that reveals our need for redemption in Christ. Self-acceptance must not replace repentance and the liberating love of Christ that delivers us from bondage to our sins. Faith, sin and repentance are Christ-directed. Self-justification is man-directed and fashions God as a sort of divine therapist who helps us to accept ourselves.
You are right that God’s gospel is about his “love, acceptance, non-judging, and forgiveness for all” but such is the fruit of believers who trust God and agree with God about their sin in repentant faith. The comfortable and convenient thing would be to do away with the notion of sin altogether but such an approach would abandon the biblical gospel and would not be a demonstration of Christian love.
The apostle Paul told the church at Corinth,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Paul paints a beautiful picture of love, acceptance, and forgiveness for those who come to Christ in faith and repentance of sin. If we lose Paul’s grammar, we lose his gospel. If we shift his words to the present tense and say, “And such are some of you,” we are left with no one washed, no one sanctified, and no one justified.
I hope this response provides you respectful and direct answers to your honest questions. I struggle with my own sins so I could easily remove “homosexuality” from this letter and put my sins in those spaces and apply this letter to myself. The good news is that I do not have to be defined by my sins and neither do you. We can be forgiven of our sins and have our identity rooted in Christ and his grace.
I am thankful for the dialogue and your interest in my thoughts. I hope to see you soon at Ashland.
Blessings in Christ,
David E. Prince
This second article was written by Tony Campolo and posted on his website on June 8, 2015.
As a young man I surrendered my life to Jesus and trusted in Him for my salvation, and I have been a staunch evangelical ever since. I rely on the doctrines of the Apostles Creed. I believe the Bible to have been written by men inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. I place my highest priority on the words of Jesus, emphasizing the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus makes clear that on Judgment Day the defining question will be how each of us responded to those he calls “the least of these”.
From this foundation I have done my best to preach the Gospel, care for the poor and oppressed, and earnestly motivate others to do the same. Because of my open concern for social justice, in recent years I have been asked the same question over and over again: Are you ready to fully accept into the Church those gay Christian couples who have made a lifetime commitment to one another?
While I have always tried to communicate grace and understanding to people on both sides of the issue, my answer to that question has always been somewhat ambiguous. One reason for that ambiguity was that I felt I could do more good for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters by serving as a bridge person, encouraging the rest of the Church to reach out in love and truly get to know them. The other reason was that, like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right.
It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.
For me, the most important part of that process was answering a more fundamental question: What is the point of marriage in the first place? For some Christians, in a tradition that traces back to St. Augustine, the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, which obviously negates the legitimacy of same-sex unions. Others of us, however, recognize a more spiritual dimension of marriage, which is of supreme importance. We believe that God intends married partners to help actualize in each other the “fruits of the spirit,” which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, often citing the Apostle Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ’s sanctifying relationship with the Church. This doesn’t mean that unmarried people cannot achieve the highest levels of spiritual actualization – our Savior himself was single, after all – but only that the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth.
In my own life, my wife Peggy has been easily the greatest encourager of my relationship with Jesus. She has been my prayer partner and, more than anyone else, she has discerned my shortcomings and helped me try to overcome them. Her loving example, constant support, and wise counsel have enabled me to accomplish Kingdom work that I would have not even attempted without her, and I trust she would say the same about my role in her life. Each of us has been God’s gift to the other and our marriage has been a mutually edifying relationship.
One reason I am changing my position on this issue is that, through Peggy, I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own. Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end. We in the Church should actively support such families. Furthermore, we should be doing all we can to reach, comfort and include all those precious children of God who have been wrongly led to believe that they are mistakes or just not good enough for God, simply because they are not straight.
As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church. When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am”, I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.
Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.
However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.
I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.
PASTOR DAVID’S TWO-CENTS WORTH
If you carefully read both articles, you noticed that both writers appealed to the authority of Scripture to support their views. How can this be? I can understand why many sincere and honest folks say: “Pastor David preaches one thing and Tony Campolo says the opposite! How can we really know what God says? Can the Bible really be understood, or is its meaning just up for grabs?” My heart goes out to all the precious souls that find themselves in this quagmire of confusion. If you are struggling with this issue, I have three suggestions for you.
First, go to our website and listen to the message that I preached on May 17, 2015. It is entitled “Homosexuality and Gay Marriage”. You can find it at: http://bbcwaky.com/homosexuality-and-gay-marriage/
In that message, I mention every Scripture passage that touches on this important subject and I explain how people (with good intentions) like Tony Campolo misinterpret what those passages actually say. I also provide carefully thought-out answers that will help you understand the biblical view. I encourage you to give your undivided attention to the message and to take notes. If you have questions, please contact me.
Second, be aware of the “Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation” that says: “When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages indicate clearly otherwise.” Think about it. Since God used words to communicate His truth, and since those words have meaning—you should not try to change the meaning of the words simply because you really, really, really want them to mean something different.
The Bible says what it means and means what it says…period. On the issue of homosexual marriage, some people absolutely do not want to believe what the Bible says, so they find (and follow) a teacher/preacher who “explains away” its clear meaning. They willingly allow themselves to be DECEIVED by “rationalizing away” the plain teaching of Scripture. It is no accident that on this specific subject God said: “Do not be DECEIVED: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10) I advise you to interpret and apply the Bible in the light of what the entire Bible actually says—regardless of what your personal desires might be, and regardless of how many very nice people you know (even professing Christians) who disagree with God on this issue. Don’t allow yourself to be duped by a gentle, well-intentioned teacher who is as self-deceived as he is skillful at twisting the meaning of Scripture.
Third, remember this: When you leave this life, you will not answer to Tony Campolo or to David Harper. You will answer to God Almighty—the Author of the Scriptures! You will give an account to Him for how you have studied, interpreted, and applied His Word to your life. Therefore, I strongly advise you to be honest with yourself as you think and pray about this important issue. Your eternal destiny depends on it. (I Cor. 6:9-10)