- Religion and Philosophy
It's OK For Your Pastor to Be Gay, Says ELCA
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has sparked yet another controversy surrounding the acceptance of gay or lesbian clergy. Before their 2009 Church Assembly of the ELCA in Minneapolis, MN, voting members approved a social statement on human sexuality by an exact two-thirds majority. The day before the address was given by the Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Assembly decided to allow gay and lesbian pastors and those church workers living in same-gender relationships to minister in ELCA churches.
Rev. Noke told the 2,000 participants of the Assembly that "True unity is a gift... this gift is God's own work. And our hands are to serve that unity. I believe that the whole Christian Church will be served well if Lutherans can provide an example of living together in love, speaking truth, confessing the faith, and sharing one another's joys, challenges and conflicts. We are making an effort to carry this out in relation to the difficult issue of our times today, the one issue that occupied this assembly intensively during the last days."
After the Assembly met August 17-23, the repercussions came quickly. Although individual congregations can choose whether or not to accept a gay or lesbian pastor, some Lutherans who disagree with the ELCA are scurrying to find another church home.
One lifelong member of the ELCA says, "August 23 was the saddest day of my life. We said goodbye to our church telling the people who remained we would pray for them but also longed to be prayed for in search of a new church. Society cries out for gratification, Christians cry out for Biblical truth and GOD'S WILL."
Not only is there a threat of members leaving the church, but of whole congregations leaving the ELCA. There is a website called The Road to Christian Freedom which offers resources for congregations and leaders who are leaving the ELCA.
Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, says "The decisions by this assembly to grant non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA and the affirmation of same-gender unions as pleasing to God will undoubtedly cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA. It will also negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies.
The current division between our churches threatens to become a chasm. This grieves my heart and the hearts of all in the ELCA, the LCMS, and other Christian church bodies throughout the world who do not see these decisions as compatible with the Word of God, or in agreement with the consensus of 2,000 years of Christian theological affirmation regarding what Scripture teaches about human sexuality."
The Missouri Synod is the second largest Lutheran body in the United States with 2.4 million members.
What the Bible Says
To me, and many other Christians, the message is clear. All Christians are to believe that the Word of God is infallible, that there are no mistakes, that it speaks truth and that we are to do the best we can to live by these truths.
According to the Bible:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters or adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves due penalty for the perversion. Romans 1:25-27
In the passage from Romans, it states that God thinks women having relations with other women and men doing so with other men is unnatural and perverse.
Our Struggle with Sin
I want to point out, that just because I am a Christian doesn't mean I don't sin. We all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Christians are not perfect people, and neither are Christian leaders, including pastors. Even pastors sin. God understands that we sin, it is after all, a part of our human nature. However, we are not to keep on sinning when we know we are sinning.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left (Hebrews 10:26).
If we know someone is living in sin - say a man constantly cheats on his wife but he wants to be the pastor of a church - would he be allowed to do so? Probably not. Would a drunkard be allowed to become a pastor? Probably not. What about a thief? A prostitute? Again probably not? Why?
We are called to holiness. We are called to be Christ-like. When we fall short and sin, we are to ask for forgiveness. God grants us that forgiveness because of the sacrifice of His son. When we are not striving to be holy, we are living in sin, something God does not honor. How then can anyone who is not trying to turn from their sin think they should be a leader in the church?
I understand that there are Christians, including pastors, who struggle with sins in their lives. But if they are still striving to be Christ-like and ask for forgiveness for their sins, God offers them mercy and grace. A pastor might fall into sin, such as having an adulterous relationship, and when that happens it is up to the church elders to discipline that pastor accordingly. According to Hebrews 12:11 we are to be disciplined and trained by God. If we continue to live in sin it may seem we are ignoring God's discipline.
Culture Overcoming Truth
Unfortunately in this day and age, culture has overcome truth and that same culture is influencing how we perceive the truth. Many say that Christians are intolerant because we don't accept homosexuality. But are we also intolerant when we don't accept other types of sinful behavior? Jesus didn't. When He was confronted with a woman who was caught in the act of adultery He told her, "Go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:11).
Jesus did not accept her sin but he did accept her. Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin. We as Christians are called to love everyone; we are not called, however, to love the sin.
The pro-gay culture in which we live sees Christians as hating the person who is living in sin. It sees us as intolerant.They take issue with our "bigotry" and "hypocrisy" but isn't the culture doing the same to us by hating us because of our beliefs?
According to the Bible, If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. John 15:18
Our culture in today's society is of the world. We as Christians have been called out of the world that culture is a part of. What the ELCA has done, by accepting gay pastors in the church, is become part of a world that we are not supposed to belong to.
Research Shows that Homosexuality is Not Biological
But how can a homosexual be living in sin if God made them that way in the first place? Gay activists have done a great job convincing us that being gay is not a choice and that sexual orientation is likened to being a different race. They then demand to have rights. I would agree with this, if that was the case but I do believe either people choose to be gay or they have influences around them that make them feel they must be gay.
Unfortunately, people who want to revise the church's stance on homosexuality claim they need to do so because of new scientific evidence that suggests homosexuality can be inherited and that is permanent. These same people say homosexuality should be claimed as something that happens naturally and should be accepted as part of God's creation. This "gay gene" however, is not factual. According to the National Association for Research & Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH), there is no research that supports people are born gay and that it is unchangeable. Instead research suggests that one's sexual orientation comes from a combination of biological and environmental factors.
Some environmental factors that may cause one to think they are gay includes sexual abuse or other sorts of trauma. A more common contributor to same-sex attractions comes from how a person's gender identity is formed. Gender identity comes from relationships a child has with same-sex parents and same-sex peers.
Truth AND Grace
I do believe the Christian community needs help in knowing how to deal with homosexuality. We can't just go around acting like it's the ultimate sin. Sin is sin; there is not one sin that is worse than another. People living in same-sex relationships think that Christians hate them and I must agree that we have treated them unfairly.
There is a ministry that Focus on the Family has developed called "Love Won Out" that teaches Christians how to stand faithfully in their biblical beliefs about human sexuality while also reaching out lovingly to those affected by homosexuality. During their conferences they emphasize balancing biblical truth with Christ's grace.
That, I believe should be our role as Christians. It can't be all truth - we have to show grace just as Jesus shows us grace with our struggles. We need to live according to the Word of God and act as Jesus did. The church must stand firm in its faith and not give in to the ways of the world. More and more each day, we are emotionally swayed to give in to false ideas. In today's society it is more important than ever to educate ourselves on what is truth and what is false and then stand by that truth.