Gays in the Church Part 7: The Pastor’s Quandary

Recently, Tony Jones made a plea for all Christian leaders who are affirming of same-sex relationships to publicly state their support and “come out of the closet” so to speak. I certainly understand Tony’s desire for others to show their hand and in the case of non-pastors, I completely agree with him. But when it comes to pastors, I don’t think it’s necessary and, in the end, could ultimately be hurtful. I have friends who are pastors that find themselves on both sides of this issue and I really do appreciate the way they all take the issue very seriously and continue to wrestle with how this issue impacts their communities.

For pastors, I don’t believe a heavy hand is helpful at all. This is an issue that has and will work itself out on the basis of the various consensuses that each church community or denomination builds on its own. And when a pastor does decide to step out and decide to publicly state his or her affirmation, one hopes they do so after listening closely to the heartbeat of their church. Yes, people will leave but the beauty of the power of consensus is that there are other churches out there with a consensus for all kinds of perspectives.

Selfishly, I really do understand Tony’s call for folks to damn the consequences and publicly state what they believe on this issue. For me this impulse is rooted in the desire to nudge progress along a bit faster than it’s current pace. But the good news for those on the affirming side of this issue is that the needle has been and continues to move in our direction. Recently, a poll was released in by the Des Moines Register showed that while folks in Iowa are pretty much split down the middle on the issue, 95% of those polled believe that since same-sex marriage has been legalized in Iowa, it has not impacted their lives negatively. Even at the recent Value Voters Summit, opposition to gay marriage has fallen dramatically as a key issue to only 7% of folks citing it as their most pressing concern (down from last year’s 20% result).

There seems to be a trend where the disconnect between Biblically literalism and direct human experience with homosexuals is growing further and further apart, much in the same way it is with the views of women’s roles in the Church. I’ve covered that ad nauseum so I’ll spare y’all the repetition. In short, as we continue to debate this issue, I do believe the cracks in the conservative dam are very real and widening ever more. Yeah, it would be great to take a wrecking ball to the dam and help progress along but I think it better to spend that energy convincing conservatives and moderates that the new river resulting from this faulty dam will ultimately be a very good thing. It might actually be enjoyable! That’s where the pastor should be be focusing their energy: promoting a new, gradually formed river. Not wrecking an already faulty dam. Leave the wrecking ball to evil, hedonist, secular, rock musicians who don’t give a shit about book deals with Christian publishers and conference organizers.

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3 thoughts on “Gays in the Church Part 7: The Pastor’s Quandary

  1. “This is an issue that has and will work itself out on the basis of the various consensuses that each church community or denomination builds on its own.”

    And it will only do that as people, including pastors, speak out and work to make a difference. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said that the arc of history is long but ultimately bends toward justice. This is true. But it doesn’t bend all by itself. Justice happens because people tirelessly work (and sacrifice) to see it through.

    The pace of change is related to the amount of effort (and risk) folks are willing to put in.

    We don’t repeal segregation, we don’t legalize women suffrage, we don’t end wars by refusing to speak out. Change comes from action. Pastors are part of that action. Pastors have always been part of the process of change-making and their prophetic voices and actions have helped to show us the way in the past.

    They must continue to do so today, on this issue (and others), or they abdicate one of their sacred roles.

  2. As an ally who practices the principles of non-violence I feel it is my calling and duty to ask silent allies to speak up for those who are discriminated against in churches and all over the world. Dr Martin Luther King jr said “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people”. He also said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Do we not see this? Why must the church always be the last to stand? Honestly, I feel your words give the silent leaders a pass not to lead and continue to put off taking a stand for a few more years. How much pain must people live through till we do the right thing? I have felt the rejection, the wrath and indifference of Christians and for me to not have passion for those experiencing the same would be sin.

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