"I'm about to teach about homosexuality...help!" My response.
“In August or September, I am going to lead our Sunday School class in a series of lessons on homosexuality. I’m starting to realize that the Wesleyan Quadrilateral that I fell in love with is not so lovable when you have to apply it to real issues. I’m having trouble drawing a box around this one and, of course, I’m starting to learn that God never stays in my boxes. So what do you think about homosexuality and how do you defend your position on that?”
Here’s a statement I would make public:
All humans are welcome into the family of Church X. This means that every person, no matter the person’s race, education, sexual orientation, or background is welcome to participate in the ministries of Church X. All are sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Yet, once one becomes a disciple of Jesus, that person reorients her/his entire lifestyle to the teachings of Jesus because He is Lord (= ”boss”). Therefore, we at Church X commit to doing our best to obey the teachings of Jesus (and the early Christians).
Ancient Greeks and Romans routinely practiced all kinds of sexual behavior. Even though philosophers of various kinds might condemn certain homoerotic behavior (esp. when males crossed “down” the social level to have anal intercourse), it was nevertheless commonplace for homoerotic behavior of all types. Jews were extremely different. Jesus’s view fitted perfectly within his first-century Judaism. Jesus taught (as every single Jewish author did) that God, the Father, designed human sexuality to be experienced solely within heterosexual marriage, which was instituted at the first creation of humanity (fullest treatment is in Matt. 19:3-12). Therefore, any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is a sin (English translations often translate the Greek as “sexual immorality,” which would constitute any sexual behavior not within heterosexual marriage). This is the uniform, consistent witness of all Jewish literature in antiquity, and the early church taught the same (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:1, 9; 11; 6:9, 13, 18; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; 1 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 13:4; Jude 1:7; Rev. 2:14, 20-21; 9:21; 17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2; 21:8; 22:15; the Patristic authors also univocally condemned it). Therefore, it is sinful to commit adultery, sexual acts with someone to whom you are not married, bestiality, incest, pederasty, and homosexuality (note: attraction is not a sin; behavior is). Thus, Church X does not condone nor participate in any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, including same-sex marriages, nor allow our building to support such events. Nor do the Elders/Deacons permit anyone from teaching contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the early Church.*
*The New Testament is adamant that what is taught as doctrine is extremely important. Elders will be held accountable to God at judgment for how well they took care of the souls of those they oversaw in this life (Heb 13:17). Teachers will be judged more strictly than non-teachers (James 3:1). False teaching (from prophets or teachers) is to be constantly avoided and false teachers and prophets will receive God’s condemnation (e.g., Matt 7:15; 1 Tim 1:3-4; 6:3-5; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 19). The overall assumption is that false teaching leads others to sin, which is a grievous sin (Matt 18:6-7).
This is the standard, definitive work on the subject: The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics
You can also search for his name on YouTube and see great stuff.
1) Can there by LGBTQ Christians?
Yes, if you mean, “can a person be attracted to the same sex and the person still be saved by the death/resurrection of Jesus.”
No, if you mean, “can a person regularly (i.e., not just when a person fails in their struggle) practice same-sex behavior and still be saved.” Paul said so explicitly: “8 But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters! 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners (in Greek: this refers to the “passive” partner”), practicing homosexuals (in Greek: this refers to the “active partner”), 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. 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. 6:8-11 NET)
2) If there can be LGBTQ Christians, can there be gay church members?
Since there is no biblical concept of membership, I don’t have a strong opinion on this one.
3) If there can be LGBTQ church members, are there limitations on what they can do?
The same here on membership. But, considering “limitations,” no person who is deliberately disobeying the teaching of Jesus should be in any type of leadership position at most, or at minimum, should never be in a teaching position. Jesus and the early church spoke very often on false teaching and leading people to sin (e.g., Luke 17:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3ff; James 3:1; etc.). If a person were to teach that practicing homosexual behavior was a righteous behavior, then they would be teaching false teaching.
4) If you place limitations on what gays can do, how do you respond to the inherent hypocrisy? There will always be hypocrisy - a sin you don’t limit church membership on.
Absolutely true. All church attenders and members sin. Yet: in the NT, there is a difference between what a non-Christian does and what a Christian does. Non-Christians are never to be judged by Christians. Christians ARE to be judged by Christians (as Paul says explicitly in 1 Cor. 5:9-13; cf. Matt 7:1-5). That is, we are to judge/condemn sinful behavior among Christians. And, based on multiple texts, the early Christians we adamant that when a person comes under the authority of Jesus, they are to “deny their wills” (as Jesus said) and live a holy lifestyle (found throughout the NT, such as 1 Thess. 4:1-8.). So, if a person in the church deliberately gossips, steals, lies, murders, has sex outside marriage, etc., the exact same thing must be done. Their sin must be pointed out in gentleness (Gal. 6:1) and given a chance to repent…and if they don’t we are to assume that they are not Christians (read Matt. 18:15-20). What we must NEVER do is say that a sinful behavior is righteous or “not really that bad” if it says it’s a sin in the NT.
And…we can’t see almost any sin. That’s certainly true. We need to make sure that what the NT actually teaches about sins is taught repeatedly and that people are constantly encouraged to be held morally accountable to one another (like in James 5:16). Certainly there are numerous people who are secretly embracing sin in their private lives…but that doesn’t make it right. We don’t bless the sin because it’s difficult to know who is sinning. Instead, we do our best to hold all people accountable to all sins because Christians are supposed to live like that former life is dead! (e.g., Rom. 6) We’re not the moral police; we’re people who are desperately trying to help save people’s souls from hell! (Jesus said so! Matt. 5:19-20; 18:6-9; and see Jude 22-23)
We have completely lost the profound importance and weight of holiness in the church. In today’s church in N. America, if you bring up sin or holiness one is immediately labeled a “rule monger” or “legalist” or “fundamentalist.” They didn’t call Jesus that in His ministry…
I say more here:
5) If there are LGBTQ Christians church members, then why not marry?
Because that is absolutely against the explicit teaching of Jesus. Either He’s our boss or He’s not. Period.
6) At some point, haven’t we moved so far down the line that it doesn’t matter? Why worry about whether being gay is a sin or encourage celibacy as an alternative? If gay Christina can do everything, then it doesn’t matter. How do we then apply Romans 6?
Good question. While I certainly don’t “worry” about it, I do my best to interpret the Bible within its historical context and apply it by the grace of God. And, if Jesus, the early church, and Scripture are still the chief authority (in that order, it seems to me), then it most certainly still matters how we behave. Moreover, if this explicit teaching of the Bible is ignored, what else is? Why stop there? Why not ignore every single sin that is accepted by pagans? Why even need the death of Jesus if we’re not that bad after all?
7) How can I argue that Paul’s limitation on women doesn’t apply today but not apply the same argument on homosexuality?
Great question. Context. The role of women in certain first-century churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the moral issue of doing anything sexual outside of heterosexual marriage. The point is, they are not related. What I have found to be true is that most Christians have no idea what Paul really meant in those texts which speak of women “being submissive” etc.. Ben Witherington, III has done the best work on this I think (click here).
What most people think is that people are capriciously following some texts (to pick on the gays) while ignoring other texts like ones about women. That’s simply false. If Jesus/Paul really taught that women should be limited at all times and all places like they do about homosexual practice, then we had better be limiting women! But, that’s not what they taught. (E.g., at no point is women in leadership or ministry called a sin!)
Other common charges:
Jews and the early Christians were only talking about raping people or visiting prostitutes.
That’s false. That’s not what the ancient data demonstrates.
They had no idea of a loving, monogamous gay relationship.
That’s false. Greeks and Romans had long-term, gay relationships.
Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Jews didn’t know anything of sexual orientation.
That’s false. They didn’t use that term, but they talk about that idea throughout the literature.
The term “homosexual” is a modern term, not found in the Bible.
That’s true. So what? The concept of same-sex attraction and behavior is spoken of throughout Greek and Roman literature, and same-sex behavior is spoken throughout the Bible.
It’s all about love.
Yes and no. It’s all about “agape” love, not “eros” love. Christians are commanded to “agape” love everyone; we have very, very strict rules about who we “eros” love. (Remember: Jews were extremely weird in their ancient contexts about sexual behavior. Egyptians could legally marry their siblings! Nearly everyone, besides some high-class philosophers, had the "anything goes" mentality in the ancient world.)
It’s my body; who cares?
God does. He designed us. He designed human sexuality.
I have a strong inclination. I can act on it because it’s only natural.
Not in Christianity. In the Christian worldview, our inclinations most certainly cannot be trusted. We’re all tainted by sin. The very last thing we should do is to trust what seems “natural.” Moreover, who cares if it seems “natural”? It’s “natural” to have sex, but I’m not morally allowed to rape; etc. Morality is not “what is,” but “what ought to be.” And you cannot get an “ought from an is.”
This just spreads hate and death.
At no point in the entire teaching of Jesus or the early church are we told to go make fun of or go hurt people who sin. When a person does that, s/he is NOT acting like Jesus. Our job is to get people to Jesus; Jesus does the rest.
Those are my quick thoughts. I hope you can read/listen to the stuff I suggested. It’ll help, I think. For more, click here.