A Question posed by a reader: “I think the most challenging lowest denominator for me is when a Bible believing Christian says “when I read the Bible sincerely I find a God who accepts same sex marriage but of course it must be monogamous and there should be no infidelity in that marriage (such infidelity would be a sin). I also accept accountability for all other sins including pre-marital sex”. My challenge is even though I disagree with this brother or sister on his/her view of same sex marriage, should I accept him/her into the fellowship of the church and the Lord’s table? Tough one for me.”
Answer: The short answer is that persons who feel same sex attraction, but choose sexual celibacy and abstinence from homosexual practices out of obedience to the teaching of Scripture should be accepted into the fellowship of the church, including the Holy Communion. Indeed, the church should learn to love and give support to encourage such believers to grow in the Lord (The question of the reparative therapy is a matter to be discussed separately).
First, rather than reinvent the wheel, I shall quote Stanley Grenz from an earlier posts:
The Church’s message to practising homosexuals is the same message that she proclaims to all: Repent and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ! The Church’s message to practising homosexuals is that in Christ there is the forgiveness of God and the promise of eternal life
Homosexuality is but one manifestation of human sinfulness and the fallenness of human life. But the Church should also avoid the other extreme, namely ostracism and homophobia. This is because persons struggling with homoerotic temptations as well as practising homosexuals must be treated with dignity and respect because they too are God’s creatures. While not affirming their behaviour, the Church should nevertheless welcome such persons and extend to them the same ministry of forgiveness, prayer, nurture and deliverance that she extends to all. By explicitly and unequivocally rejecting their lifestyle but at the same time welcoming them, the Church hopes and prays that such persons would encounter Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, come to the saving knowledge of God and be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Given this approach, Christians can never condone or support homophobia, which is a prejudice against persons who are attracted to members of the same sex. In fact, Christians should speak out against such attitudes. Thus, according to Grenz, in patterning their lives after Jesus, Christians should ‘love and value all persons –including gays and lesbians –as persons whom God loves and values’. [From Stanley Grenz, Welcoming but not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality (John Knox Press, 1998), 147, 149]
I cite again from the earlier post:
Should a person with homosexual inclinations be allowed to participate in the worship of the Church? A person who struggles with homoerotic passions but who is determined to live according to the moral teachings of the Bible and the church should be allowed to participate fully in the life of the church. The church is the koinonia of sinners redeemed by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ. The members of Christ’s body have not yet attained perfection, but are being transformed by the power of the Spirit into the image of God. Christians must therefore encourage one another to deeper commitment. It is in the context of the community of believers that the Christian who struggles with issues of sexuality finds the strength to deepen his discipleship in Christ. And a significant way in which the believer grows spiritually is through the participation of the sacramental life of the Church. As a member of the body of Christ, the Christian with homosexual inclinations should not be prohibited from participating in the sacred meal, the Lord’s Supper. But in doing so, he must remember that ‘whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 11:27). He must watch and pray so that he will not fall into temptation and sin. This warning is not just for him, but for the whole community of faith.
Second, the question posed is premised on “fidelity in same-sex marriage”. This premise should be taken cautiously in the light of the results from many social scientific studies (which is not to say we ignore the problem of sexual promiscuity among heterosexuals in the West which is no less troubling).
The classic study by A. Bell and M. Weinberg, Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity among Men and Women (Simon & Schuster, 1978), shows that only 1 percent of the sexually active men had had fewer than five lifetime partner, and that almost half of the white homosexual males had at least 500 different sexual partners during the course of their homosexual careers. The authors concluded that “Little credence can be given to the supposition that homosexual men’s ‘promiscuity’ has been overestimated.” [p.82] The statistics is significant given that Bell and Weinberg concluded that homosexuals are not social misfits.
This was long ago in 1978. It is reasonable assume that Western culture has become even more promiscuous for both homosexual and heterosexual relations. This statistics is shared not to prejudge any individual, but to caution the need to take the often publicly repeated claim about sexual faithfulness among homosexuals.
More importantly, statistics should not distract us from the biblical understanding of the nature and purpose of sex. I quote again from Homosexuality: Biblical Perspectives and Pastoral Concerns. Part .1
It is a fact that some gays and lesbians strongly feel that theirs is the only form of love of which they are capable. To them, this love brings affection and erotic satisfaction. There can be no doubt that such love for them has profound personal significance, for even distorted love reflects the traces of some of love’s grandeur.
But the simple fact that some homosexual partnerships are founded on mutual love does not legitimise homosexual intercourse. To say so would mean having to argue from a strange form of logic. If an act itself is wrong, it does not make it right just because its participants feel it is right. The fault of this kind of argument is made immediately obvious when it is applied to paedophiles. On the basis of this logic it would be legitimate for a paedophile to have sexual intercourse with a young child because he truly loves and cares for that child. But this surely cannot be the case (even if the child concerned expresses approval). The Bible rejects all homoerotic sexual relationships and, by extension, does not condone such homosexual partnerships.
Third, Wesley Hill, a New Testament professor who experiences exclusively same-sex desires but is committed to living a life of sexual fidelity gave a powerful critique of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s endorsement of same-sex unions.
Love is defined here, presumably, as a gay Christian’s intention to care for and cherish her partner, and insofar as she does that, she is living up to the supreme ethical demand of her faith.
But this omits entirely the Christian tradition’s claim that love is only intelligible in light of the telos given to us as human creatures by our Creator. If I try to nurture, cherish, and will the good of someone to whom I’m not married by having sex with them, the Christian tradition would say that no matter how gently, kindly, devotedly, and self-sacrificially I feel and behave towards that person, I am not in fact truly loving them. Truly to love them, I would need not only to care for them emotionally; I would need also to will their greatest good in accord with how they were designed by God to flourish. I would need to reflect on the moral order built into the cosmos and seek to care for them in light of that, willing their good even when—or especially when—it may conflict with what I (or they) feel would be most satisfying. So, at any rate, has the Christian tradition argued. [Wesley Hill, “Why the Christian Philosopher’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage is Shallow,” (First Things Nov. 2016)]
Taken in isolation, the official declaration of the Church is easily misconstrued to be both legalistic and judgment. It is good to listen to Wesley Hill’s reminder to the church to approach to homosexuality in the context of the power of redemption and forgiveness of what God has done in Jesus.
I think, those texts and traditions and teachings as I see them from within the true story of what God has done in Jesus Christ—and the whole perspective on life and the world that flows from that story, as expressed definitively in Scripture. Like a piece from a jigsaw puzzle finally locked into its rightful place, the Bible and the church’s no to homosexual behavior make sense to me—it has the ring of truth, as J. B. Phillips once said of the New Testament—when I look at it as one piece within the larger Christian narrative. I abstain from homosexual behavior because of the power of that scriptural story… One of the most striking things about the New Testament’s teaching on homosexuality is that, right on the heels of the passages that condemn homosexual activity, there are, without exception, resounding affirmations of God’s extravagant mercy and redemption. God condemns homosexual behavior and amazingly, profligately, at great cost to himself, lavishes his love on homosexual persons. [Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Zondervan, 2016), pp. 76-77)]
Readers who have no access to Wesley Hill’s book can read his testimony and lecture given recently at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore. “Washed and Waiting”.