Reader Response 2
And here's a comment from Steve over at A Rainbow Flag in Narnia, discussing his own struggles with homosexuality in response to my post on Gay Pagans Leading Worship.
What an interesting topic.Steve, I didn't respond immediately when I first saw your comments because I was right in the middle of a move, and I wanted to make sure that anything I said would be thoughtful (and that I'd be able to follow up on it, rather than leave you hanging should you respond to comment further). So apologies if it felt like you got ignored - hopefully you are still reading and we can take some time to dialog on this. Thanks for sharing, and I'll try and actually respond to this tomorrow...
I did everything I could to resist being gay. From age 17 until 34, I tried living traditional life. I got married, and tried to act my way into heterosexuality. I remained faithful to my wife, but continued to experience same-sex attractions (even though I never acted on them). It drove me to alcoholism, and brought me to the brink of suicide. I was fired from my job, my wife divorced me, and at my bottom, I got sober. Shortly afterward, a friend invited me to church.
I told the pastor, and several of the 20-&-30-somethings there, that I'd been a drunk, a spendthrift, and a general waste of space on earth. They told me about this guy Jesus, who had a penchant for the outcast, the diseased, and who had a habit of transforming lives. Who wouldn't be attracted to that kind of offer?
But I also knew that alcoholism and financial irresponsibility was one thing, especially since I'd repented and left that life behind. However, homosexuality was quite another thing - how do you repent of what you are? So for 13 years, I took my place in the church, spent almost every day praying, crying out, waiting for God to cure me, transform me, to somehow just fix me. I served as worship leader, lay preacher, gave children's sermons, was a choir member, Stephen minister, council member.
I went forward to Billy Graham, at Promise Keepers conferences, and I've even been to seminary. I pledged my life to celibacy (which, before you ask, is where I've been for the last 12 years) in order to serve God. I am still a celibate; so I'm not doing any of the things that Levitical law would have me killed for.
Which prompts me to my first question: do you know for a fact that Bob is a "practicing, self-avowed homosexual"? Has anyone asked the question? Is he actually having sex with other men? Because even the strictest OT reading shows us that just being homosexual is not a sin. And having people gossip about "is he or isn't he?" surely isn't in the Christian standard, either.
Then ask yourself the question: if Bob was straight, and you believed that Bob was having extra-marital sex with a woman, would that disqualify him as well?
But I guess my two main questions about this whole thing would be in the realm of (a) fruits of the spirit and (b) being honest and open about your moral standards.
By your own words, the fruits of this man's contributions to your worship are "a very positive influence on singing and praise." Galatians 5 tells us that "when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (5:22-23, NIV).
It sounds like your "gay pagan" is exhibiting the fruit of Spirit-led service, whether he in fact professes to be a believer or not. Does anyone else see that this as a blessing, and not a problem?
I found the idea that worship of God is somehow tainted by the presence of unbelievers or sinners to be more than a little problematic. If sinners can't lead worship, and "there is no one who is righteous, not even one," then who will lead worship?
And I'm completely undone by the idea that unbelievers somehow stain or damage worship! Can no one worship unless they believe? How will unbelievers ever learn to believe unless they are surrounded by a community of welcoming believers? Certainly the people in my first church did the work of Christ - because took me, a pretty unregenerate, vulgar, angry man, and taught me.
They helped me buy my first Bible; they taught me that asking the embarrassing and tough questions about the Bible was OK. Did they do wrong, somehow? Should I have been seated out in the narthex during worship until I came to belief, and then allowed in? Is that what Jesus did with sinners, thieves, and lepers? Hmmm...it might have been, but that's not what the Bible says... Seems to me that the first person to whom Jesus spoke his lordship was the woman at the well. Would she have been welcome in your worship?
But more importantly, I truly believe that if your congregation feels strongly about homosexuality, then you owe it to yourself and to Bob to address it up front, and be honest with him. If you and your congregation feel that you are "accepting the unacceptable" simply in order to have an accompanist, then I'd say you have the wrong accompanist and he has the wrong church. Otherwise you're just using him - period.
Let's look at this another way, and take the "homo" portion out of this. If Bob was living with Susie, instead of David, would you be having this conversation? And if Bob would not repent of living with Susie, would your decision be the same?
For that matter, if your worship leader were straight, happily and faithfully married, wealthy and came to worship Sunday morning in a Lexus sedan, and yet gave nothing to help feed the hungry or care for the sick in town, would you reject HIM as a worship leader? After all, Matthew 25:31-46 tells us that what separates the sheep from the goats will not be who Bob's sleeping with...
I will suggest to you this is how most evangelical churches approach gays: "Well, friend, you see, God loves sinners - but your particular brand of sin is unacceptable to us. But we want you to know you're welcome here as long as you try to overcome that sin and become acceptable."
That approach doesn't work much. It particularly doesn't work well for guys like me, who fought the way I was made for thirty-five years. I have never "abandoned natural desires" (Romans 1) because I've never had them, to begin with. I've fought to manufacture them, for more than 3 decades - but in the end, I've failed miserably.
So your acceptance of me "until I am healed of my homosexuality" would hve to be a long-standing one...
If that's the message you're looking forward to sharing with Bob and his gay friends, do yourself a favor: don't bother. No matter what the sin, if your message is, "Come on, hang out here, even though we know you're basically not acceptable to us or God. We won't outwardly expect you to change, but inwardly, that's really what we're hoping for, and that's why we're putting up with your sinful nature to begin with...", then your efforts are pretty much doomed.
I'm going to urge you and your to find a copy of Stranger at the Gate, by Mel White. And then read it cover to cover. If you really want to understand about what goes on with gay Christians, it's a challenging (but accurate) description of a very common experience among us.
I am not looking to debate anyone; and I'm done with trying to be changed. But if you want to hear the story of an authentic gay believer, then look here, here and here.
Again, there's no need to spam me with comments about how I'm going to hell. Absent the saving power of Christ, that's absolutely right. Just offering you a chance to see things from the other side of the ledger.