Should Homosexuals be Accepted into Christian Fellowship and Holy Communion?

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:

Homosexuality: Biblical Perspectives and Pastoral Concerns. Part .1
Homosexuality: Biblical Perspectives and Pastoral Concerns. Part .2

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”.

 

7 thoughts on “Should Homosexuals be Accepted into Christian Fellowship and Holy Communion?”

  1. So a homosexual who does not practice celibacy should NOT be accepted into Christian fellowship and communion, correct?

  2. The word “fellowship” when used alone, may suggest that Christians should not fraternize with homosexuals who do not practice celibacy. This would be a misunderstanding of what the post means. Notice that the word “fellowship” is used in conjunction with “communion”. Taken together the phrase refers to acceptance into “table fellowship and communion”, or partaking the Holy Communion that signifies full recognition of membership and mutual accountability in the household of faith.

    Christians observe the Holy Communion with all due reverence as it is a celebration of God’s covenantal mercies, premised on repentance which opens oneself to receive forgiveness and sanctifying grace. To partake the Holy Communion is to receive sanctifying grace which enables a repentant believer to live a holy life that pleases God. For the reason, the church will not accept practicing homosexuals into the fellowship of Holy Communion.

    On the other hand, Christians should welcome practicing homosexuals who visit their churches or home fellowships, just as they should welcome any one (regardless of their backgrounds) who seeks to befriend Christians or to understand the Christian faith better.

  3. My concern is that it’s very clear from your article and comment that you do not consider them ‘true’ believers at all, would you? In other words, it doesn’t matter how he’s confess Christ as Lord, or served his community or was baptised or his prayers or whatever – if he practices his homosexuality he’s not considered a repentant believer.

    What does this kind of perspective say about the grace of God, I wonder? God loves you and died for you but if you marry your gay partner, it’s all over?

    And What **other** sins would fall into this category? What about greed, gluttony and other forms of idolatry? How is a practising homosexual so different from other sins?

  4. To keep the discussion simple, maybe for the moment can restrict our reference to people who “profess” some Christian faith as non-Christians have other moral criteria.

    Traditionally, Christians feel ashamed when they know what they do is contrary to the moral commands of God. Some may repent, in which case they are assured of forgiveness and healing from God. Others may continue their sinful way of life even though they acknowledge that it is contrary to God’s word, although they are probably discreet or secretive about their sinful activities.

    Christians who swindle gullible people of their money and womanizers who commit adultery would generally hide their sins. There is a chance that they will admit their wrong when confronted, repent and ask for forgiveness and restoration.

    Homosexuals nowadays do not admit they have done anything contrary to God’s word; if they have not violated God’s word, then there is no need for repentance. Unlike adulterers, practicing homosexuals are proud of their way of life. In contrast, we never come across adulterers imitating the example of homosexuals who publicly and proudly declare their sin by organizing “Adulterers Pride Parade”.

    In short, nowadays many practicing homosexuals do not admit sin and guilt. Where there is no repentance, there is no forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God and his people. It should be noted that ministering to homosexuals who struggle with sinful homosexual activity is a different matter.

    Nonetheless, our Christian message should not be restricted to judgment and condemnation. The Good news is the promise of fullness of life for any sinner (adulterer, swindler or practicing homosexual) who repents and enters the holy and healing presence of God through Christ our Savior and Lord.

    “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:6-9)

  5. A recalcitrant non repenting homosexual is different from a homosexual who has repent but still struggle with homosexual urges and practices.
    The former will not come for communion.
    The later when come with a repentant heart ( but struggling with homosexual thoughts, urges), should be allowed to partake the communion. It is between him and God.
    We should not judge less we ourselves be judged
    How many persons who regularly came to church and partake communionhave Not continued to sin or did not struggle with sexual sins, arrogance/ proudness that leads to dispising and self righteousness ?
    How is the repentant homosexual who is still struggling with his homosexuality ( urges and tendencies) different from any of the member of the congregation who still struggle with their secret sin- there indeed is No different.
    We now recognised homosexuality ( act and tendencies) have epigenetic mechanisms that resulted in specific brain activation patterns that has lead to these aberrant sexual orientations.
    Shall we not than pity and helped them rather than condemn them.
    Abomination acts are different from the abominable mentioned in Revelation 21:8

  6. I suppose the non-homosexual Christian is ‘lucky’ in that his (continued) sins do not produce as much outrage as the practising gay’s, isn’t it? In fact, it’s such good news that it’s almost impossible to clearly identify greed and gluttony (the former’s known as investment or entrepreneurship, the latter as a Malaysian past-time), with the upshot being that we simply **do not have to repent** of such sins, do we? Can we imagine denying Communion to Christians who stuffed themselves after a wedding dinner? (And who’s to say that Christians are ‘proud’ of their wealth or eating?)

    If only we showed the kind of tolerance, kindness and love to practising homosexuals that we do to practising gluttons and money-makers. That’s the dimension I feel your analysis missed, Dr Ng.

    Peace.

  7. First, blog posts must be clear and concise. Issues are not addressed comprehensively, but are given focused analysis, post by post, each in due time. If we want to offer comprehensive treatments on issues, we write treatises. As it is, my posts are generally already too long for most readers. So, would be good to judge my post for what it says and not for what you think it ought to have said.

    It is natural that more attention has been given to the homosexual controversy since homosexual freedom has become a celebrated cause and a media issue. However, that I am presently focusing on the issue of homosexual practices should not be taken to mean that I do not take other sins seriously. After all, all sins are acts of disregard for the goodness and holiness of God. You are right. The church should be consistent in teaching and upholding God’s moral laws. May God grant us grace and wisdom.

    Second, your comment has shifted from analysis to emotional appeal. To be sure, appealing to emotions is appropriate if its goal is to get people to do something. We do this all the time when we talk to our church members in our sermons and pastoral letters. On the other hand, as a fellow academic you would agree that it is equally important that we offer clear analysis so that we have good reason to act in a way that is effective. Both emotional appeal and objective analysis have their places. Sometimes we mix them like when we preach our sermons.

    But this post is obvious analytical and diagnostic rather than pastoral. In an intellectual discussion, it would be a digression from serious analysis if we rely on emotional appeal or insist that one must first display genuine sympathy and fly a flag of emotional allegiance before one can comment on any issue like homosexual practices that claims to have God’s approval. Indeed, it is a matter of intellectual responsibility that we remain objective and focused in our discussion and not let emotions cloud our analysis.

    I appreciate your concern for some kind of display of “tolerance (would be good if you elaborate what this mean in the current context), kindness and love.” But obviously, we are discussing as fellow academics. We are not in a pastoral situation. If the reader is looking for pastoral care and counselling, I am happy to recommend some good pastors who would gladly help with sympathy and discretion.

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