Three reasons why pastors and church leaders should talk about homosexuality in the church | Focus on the Family Australia
Three reasons why pastors and church leaders should talk about homosexuality in the church
By Jeff Johnson
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There Is Confusion In The Body

The question is whether evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over two thousand years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage.

The world is pressing this question upon us, but so are a number of voices from within the larger evangelical circle—voices that are calling for a radical revision of the church's understanding of the Bible, sexual morality, and the meaning of marriage. —Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. 1

For almost 2,000 years Christianity spoke with one voice about homosexual behaviour, calling it a sin. At the same time, the Church taught God's design for sexuality — that marriage is the life-long, exclusive union of a husband and wife and the only place for sexual activity. The Church also taught that some were called to life-long, chaste singleness, dedicating themselves to serving God. However imperfectly taught and lived, there was a Christian consensus that the pursuit of chastity, whether in marriage or in singleness, was God's intention for His people.

In 1955, Anglican priest Derrick Sherwin Bailey published the first real challenge to Christian teaching about homosexuality. Since then, revisionist theologians and teachers have produced numerous sermons, articles and books questioning God's design for marriage and sexuality, and casting doubt on whether homosexual behaviour is sin, contributing to disarray in the church.

Some 70 years after that first challenge to Christian teaching by Bailey, the Uniting Church in Australia remain the only "mainline" denomination to have left biblical truth on the issue of homosexuality and have allowed the ordination of gay-identified clergy or have redefined marriage to include same-sex unions. However, it's not just the mainline churches that have struggled with this issue as several congregations within the Anglican church, the United Ecumenical Catholic Church in Australia and others are now supporting same sex marriage and evangelical churches, ministries and schools have seen confusion and disagreements around the issue of homosexuality.

These voices within the church have created confusion about what the Bible says about relationships, sexuality and marriage. Pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth workers and church leaders must offer clear loving instruction about God's design for human sexuality and marriage.

The Culture Is In Sexual Chaos, Including Its View Of Homosexuality

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. —Matthew 9:36

Homosexuality didn't cause the sexual chaos in our culture. That chaos is rooted in mankind's Fall and has been growing for decades. There are a variety of factors at the forefront, including the:

  • sexual revolution
  • moral relativism of academic and cultural elites
  • growth in acceptance and use of pornography
  • divorce made easier through the implementation of no-fault divorce
  • ready availability of contraception and the legalisation of abortion on demand
  • the breakdown of marriages and family due to cohabitation, divorce and single-parent homes

But gay activism and the acceptance and celebration of homosexuality have certainly added to the chaos and confusion. And homosexuality has been a leading topic of discussion in our culture.

If Christian leaders aren't addressing this issue with grace and truth, with forgiveness and healing, who will?

Just think about some of what we've seen in recent years in various areas of our culture with regard to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist agenda:2

  • Despite the fact that 40% of Australian citizens in 2017 voted to define marriage as it has always been ― between one man and one woman — our government has decided to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage.

  • Citizens are losing their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, as a growing number of schools, cities and states add sexual orientation and gender identity to non-discrimination policies and laws.

  • In many areas, the federal government has redefined "sex" (being male or female) to include "gender identity and expression," the sex a person believes he or she is."

  • The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) gave television programming for 2014 high accolades for including a wider-than-ever-variety of LGBT-identified people in scripted programming.3

  • State legislatures are moving to take away the right to counselling for individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions.4

  • Many in the church are influenced by the culture. Hollywood uses engaging characters, like those on Modern Family or Will and Grace, to normalise homosexuality.

Your church members live in a world that stands more and more opposed to Christian teaching on sexuality, relationships and marriage. They need pastoral support and guidance to interact in such a world with courage, love and truth.

People are Struggling and Hurting

I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
—David, Psalm 38 (ESV)

Homosexuality profoundly affects individuals and families.

In fact, I struggled for years with unwanted same-sex attractions. I believed in Jesus at a young age, grew up in a church that stressed knowing, understanding and obeying Scripture, served as missionary in Australia and worked as an associate youth pastor for two different churches. But I still had homosexual thoughts, feelings and actions. And I was growing weary of the battle.

In my mid-twenties, I attended a conference called "Hope and Healing for the Homosexual." For the first time, I heard about factors that might have influenced my sexuality and that a Christian could find help to manage unwanted same-sex attractions in a biblical manner. I'd never before heard a pastor talk about help, healing and freedom from homosexuality.

Over the years, I've met and talked with thousands of people who wrestle with same-sex romantic or erotic attractions. Many also struggle with sexual addiction, pornography and unhealthy relationships. Most have fought their sin in silence for years, too afraid to talk to someone. Thankfully, I found ministries for those with unwanted same-sex attraction — together with a number of helpful books, articles and videos produced in the past 30-40 years — which make it easier for those with homosexual feelings to reach out and receive help. Sadly, however, those resources aren't enough for those struggling with this issue. Many remain trapped by shame, fear, distrust, hurt and lies; and churches must step into the gap to minister grace and truth.

Let me introduce you to some of those I've known over the years, as I've led ministries and support groups (I've taken some liberty with details, so one example may actually be a compilation of several individuals):

  • The young man who attended a Christian university during the school year, but spent his summers working in gay bars. His first sexual encounter was shortly after graduating high school — with a former teacher. He became more and more involved with the gay "leather and Levis" (sado-masochism) scene, and died of AIDS in his early thirties.

  • The wife and mother of three who struggled with lesbian attractions, a pastor's daughter. After coming to our group for a number of years, she approached her church board about inviting a guest speaker to talk about freedom from homosexuality. They said, "We don't have that problem at our church."

  • A young man who had attended a Christian high school and was very involved in local Christian theatre groups. While still in high school, he started meeting men in bathrooms for sex.

  • The woman who'd been in a relationship with another woman for almost 30 years. She'd become a follower of Jesus, and was connecting with a local church; however she was still navigating her relationship with her former partner and with their network of friends.

And it's not just those with unwanted homosexual feelings who suffer:

  • The parents who just discovered gay pornography on their 15-year old son's computer.

  • The brother and sister-in-law of a lesbian-identified woman who has invited them to her wedding.

  • The mum whose adult son has just "come out of the closet" and wants to bring his partner home for the holidays.

We receive phone calls, emails and letters every day from such wounded, weary ones. Many of them are members of a church; however, they are afraid, ashamed and alone.

If the statistics are accurate— that lesbian, gay and bisexual-identified men and women are about 2-3 percent of the population — then most churches, including yours, will have some strugglers attending. Likewise, most churches will have families and friends facing this issue.

If people are in the church looking for help and support, but they never hear homosexuality mentioned from the pulpit or talked about in classes or home groups, it's easy for them to assume that God is silent on this issue, too. That He doesn't care. Addressing homosexuality in an honest, loving way may give people the courage and hope they need to come forward for help and support.

For guidance on how to address homosexuality with your congregation, check out our downloadable resource: "Talking to Your Church about Homosexuality: A Guide for Pastors and Church Leaders."

  1. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "God, the Gospel, and the Gay Challenge — A Response to Matthew Vines," 22 April 2014.
  2. See, for example, http://equalitygiving.org/Equality-Goals
  3. https://www.glaad.org/nri2014
  4. https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/labor-government-to-make-conversion-therapy-against-the-law/
© 2015 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Updated and used with permission. Published at focusonthefamily.com.

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