The Absolute Absurdity of “Gay” Church Leaders

Title: The Absolute Absurdity of “Gay” Church Leaders

Text: 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-9, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27

Date: June 26th, 2009

 

Last week I talked about the “Absolute Absurdity of Gay Pride,” strongly objecting to the new president’s proclamation of June as “Gay Pride” month in the United States. Also, while I was on a similar subject, I then talked about the “Absolute Absurdity of Gay Churches,” pointing out the impossibility of reconciling homosexual practices with legitimate, biblical Christianity. Now, while still on the same general subject, I’d like to address the whole issue of so-called gay clergy within the church, by calling this talk “The Absolute Absurdity of Gay Church Leaders.” You may or may not be aware of the fact that in a few church denominations and in some local Christian churches there are practicing homosexual church leaders – pastors or elders or deacons or board member or church council members. In denominational structures there are even practicing homosexual bishops or overseers – or whatever the specific denomination may call them. Ever so often these gay church leaders receive attention in the national news reporting on their specific situations. For example, a few years ago news reports described the United Methodist Church embroiled in a controversy involving a lesbian pastor in a local church who was fighting for the right to remain in her leadership position within the Methodist Church. The report also indicated that she had an open lesbian lover. As it turned out, she was permitted to remain in her position as pastor. In a far more important and controversial case, an openly homosexual Episcopalian church leader was installed as bishop in New England. And while the Episcopal Church has been ordaining gay clergy for a number of years, it had never elevated one to the level of bishop or overseer before. A bishop is a position that provides leadership coverage not just on a local church level but also carries with it the spiritual responsibility of a whole region of churches and the leaders and members of these churches. So whether it is right or wrong, whether we like it or not, there are a number of recognized Christian churches that are placing into leadership at all levels openly acknowledging and practicing homosexuals. Now the question is not whether it is or isn’t taking place – it is. Rather, the question is, is it right or wrong, is it permissible by God or is it not? And the only way to answer that question is to return to the Bible, specially the New Testament — which is ultimately the final authority for matters of faith and practice within Christianity, and more specifically, in the Christian Church. When we turn to the New Testament of the Bible we find that there are very specific qualifications for church leaders. Besides the general qualifications for all Christians found in the whole New Testament, there are very specific qualifications for church leaders found primary in two places: the books of 1 Timothy and Titus. Any bona fide church leader must pass qualifications in these two places. So with that, I’d like to review the basic qualifications for church leaders. Then, I’ll review basically what the New Testament teaches about homosexuality. Finally, I’ll show that based on the qualifications the New Testament places on church leadership and based on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, there is absolutely no way a practicing homosexual can legitimately hold a position of church leadership. I never dreamed that I’d ever have to argue such an obvious case, but because more and more people are confused these days about such things, it’s obvious I need to spell it all out once again as clearly as possible. A practicing homosexual has no business in church leadership – at any level.

 

First, what are the qualifications for a church leader? 1 Timothy 3:1-13, “1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. 8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. 11In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 12A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” And Titus 1:6-9, “6An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” As we can see, there are definite spiritual and moral qualifications for church leadership. In addition to the basic qualifications for being a Christian and joining a local church in membership, a leader must meet even higher standards because he serves as a model and example for others in the church. Most of the leadership qualifications are character qualities – self-controlled, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, not overbearing, loves what is good, upright and holy, disciplined, temperate, and sincere. But other qualities are related to lifestyle practices – hospitable, a good reputation with outsiders, above reproach, husband of one wife, respectable, not given to drunkenness, manages his own family well, holds to the truth and is tested. Now the question is, can an openly practicing homosexual pass qualification with the above leadership requirements? Let’s continue.

 

Second, is there anything wrong with homosexuality? Leviticus 18:22, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” And Romans 1:26-27, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. 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 the due penalty for their perversions.” From the first book of the Old Testament to the last book of the New Testament – or in other words, from cover to cover, the Bible condemns homosexual practices. The Law of Moses in Leviticus 18:22 is clear and to the point, “Do not lie with man as one lies with a woman. That is detestable.” That clear moral prohibition carries into the New Testament strong in the Book of Romans where the Apostle Paul uses these strongly negative words to describe homosexual acts – “shameful lusts” and “unnatural” and “indecent acts” and “perversions.” Again, the Bible is very clear in both the Old and New Testament that homosexual activity is sinful and wrong. Now the question comes up from time to time, “What about homosexual urges, attractions and desires? Are these sinful?” In answer to this question, the Bible specifically condemns homosexual acts, “Don’t lie with a man as one lies with a woman,” and “Men committed indecent acts with other men,” but is less specific on addressing homosexual thoughts. It is clear from the words of Jesus that lustful thoughts are sinful and wrong, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” Matthew 5:27-28. The same warning against heterosexual lusts would apply to homosexual lusts. The Romans 1 passage mentions “shameful lusts” and “inflamed with lust for one another” to describe homosexual activity, and lust is certainly a component to any homosexual activity, but the condemnation is mostly concerned with homosexual practices rather than thoughts; as in the case with heterosexual sexual practices outside of marriage – the emphasis is on the condemnation of the practice — while at the same time the encouragement to resist and struggle against the temptation to lust. There’s an important distinction between struggling with lust, whether homosexual or heterosexual, and crossing the physical line of actually practicing the heterosexual or homosexual act. Christians are encouraged to struggle with their lustful thoughts but if they actually cross the line into sinful sexual activity more severe consequences will result. Christians are confronted and rebuked; church members are called to repent and rededicate themselves to God and God’s moral law; and church leaders are removed from office for crossing the line from lust to acting out sinfully in areas of illicit sex. 

 

Third, is it permissibly for a practicing homosexual to hold a church leadership position? Titus 1:7, “Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless.“ Based on the qualifications of leadership listed in the New Testament and based on the fact that the practice of homosexuality is a grave sin, it is impossible for a practicing homosexual to legitimately hold a leadership position in a Christian church. To begin with, I’ll just mention one of the many qualifications for church leadership that a practicing homosexual cannot meet – blamelessness. Some modern translations translate “blameless” as “without fault” or “of unimpeachable virtue” or “unimpeachable character” or “irreproachable.” Whatever word we use to translate the word blameless, it is impossible to couple that word with the words the Apostle Paul uses to describe homosexual activity. As I described before, in Romans 1 Paul uses these strongly negative words to describe homosexual acts – “shameful lusts” and “unnatural” and “indecent acts” and “perversions.” Now how can we couple the qualification for a Christian church leader to be “blameless” with a “shameful” homosexual act, an “unnatural” homosexual act, or a “perverse” homosexual act? It simply can’t be done. A practicing homosexual person in not blameless, is not without fault, is not of unimpeachable virtue or unimpeachable character or irreproachable. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A practicing homosexual is committing “shameful” and “indecent” acts and “perverse” acts. This is not blameless conduct. It’s shameful conduct. In addition, there are other Christian church leadership qualifications that a practicing homosexual fails to meet. For example, in Titus 1:8, one of the qualifications is to be “holy.” But according to the Bible in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, homosexuality is not holy, in fact, it is the very opposite – an abomination. To give a concrete example, when V. Gene Robinson became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, he made it clear that he was a practicing homosexual and would continue to live openly as a homosexual with his gay partner as bishop. Now according to biblical and historic Christianity he should have been confronted, called to repent, and if he didn’t rededicate his life to God removed from church membership. As a church leader he should have been removed from his church position – even if he did repent. Why? Because another one of the qualifications for legitimate church leadership is respectability (1 Timothy 3:2, 8). A practicing homosexual isn’t a respectable person according to the Bible. An ordinary church member would be called to repent and removed from membership if he didn’t. If he did repent he would be restored to membership after a period of recovery. But a church leader would be removed from church membership and restored to membership if he truly repented, but as far as church leadership, it might not ever be possible for a fallen leader to return to full leadership privileges in the church – that’s how severe this is! So in answer to the question, can a practicing homosexual hold a legitimate church leadership position, the answer is a clear — “No,” according to the Bible and Christian historic church teaching.

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