HOMOSEXUALITY: HOW SHOULD THE CHURCH RESPOND?
Homosexuality is an ever-increasing issue within American society. You can’t turn on the television or read a newspaper without being confronted by a cauldron of emotions from the gay rights movement. Closer to home, parishioners are being faced with having a gay family member and struggle between acceptance and rejection. In recent years, several mainline denominations have abandoned traditional interpretations of Scripture and have embraced the Gay-Christian movement. Are people born gay, or is it a choice? Can sexual orientation be changed? Questions abound and many Christians are confused as to what they should believe or how to respond. What does the Bible really say about homosexuality, and what is the responsibility of believers in dealing with this volatile issue?
I. God’s Plan for Sexuality
A. God’s intention for human sexual relationships is limited to hetero-sexual union between man and woman in marriage (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:18, 23-24). God’s plan is for us to be one flesh in marriage, male and female.
B. Sin has warped our perspective of healthy sexuality (2 Peter 2:2-3a, 3:3). There are many distortions in sexuality because of the effects of sin.
C. God’s power can bring healing and restoration (Romans 1:18-32). God is able to intervene in a person’s life and bring deliverance.
II. What the Bible Says About Homosexuality.
A. Under Levitical law, homosexuality was one of many abominable practices punishable by death (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). God clearly condemns the act of homosexuality.
B. Homosexuality is a symptom of fallen humanity. We are not born gay (Romans 1:26-27). One of the clear evidences of rebellion is a turning away from God’s standard for purity and morality. (See Information sheet for studies related to scientific evidence.)
C. Environmental factors greatly contribute to the developing of the homosexual lifestyle. Factors that should be considered are:
1. Early sexual abuse or violation
2. Emotional detachment from the same-sex parent
3. Cross-gendered identification
4. Poor gender role modeling
5. Peer degradation
(See Information sheet for testimonies related to these environmental factors. You may also want to ask some members of your congregation if they would like to share personal testimony about coming out of the gay lifestyle.)
D. Homosexuality is a forgivable sin as one repents of their sin and turns to God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Isaiah 53:6; 1 John 1:9). God is clear about the consequences of an unrighteous lifestyle such as homosexuality, as with other sinful lifestyles. Jesus took our sin upon Himself. When we recognize our need for Jesus and repent we are born again and receive forgiveness of sin.
III. How Should Christians Respond and Reach Out?
A. Do not fear homosexuals. They are not as different from you as you think. All of us have been involved in varying sinful lifestyles. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
B. Realize that at the core of the homosexual struggle, there is a deep-seated sense of rejection.
C. Ask the Lord to open a door of communication.
D. Be vulnerable about your own personal struggles and temptations.
E. Communicate acceptance–not rejection. Express love and commitment to the person (1 John 4:9-10).
F. Instill hope for change (I Corinthians 6:11). Thousands of men and women have overcome homosexuality and are able to lead celibate lives. Many continue in their healing and marry and have families.
G. Pray for them. Love and commit to them.
“Remember those in prison, as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).
H.B. London Jr., vice president, Ministry Outreach Division
Stan Kellner, manager pastoral care, Ministry Outreach Division
John Paulk, homosexuality and gender specialist, Public Policy Division
Exodus North America is a worldwide coalition of Christian ministries that offers support to men and women seeking to overcome homosexuality. Many of these ministries have specialized services for family members and friends, including support groups, one-on-one counseling, and literature. For a free packet of literature on the work of Exodus, in a complete list of referral ministries, contact:
Exodus International–North America
PO Box 77652
Seattle, WA 98177
National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is an organization of nearly 700 professionals across the country who treat homosexuality from a variety of perspectives. Contact them by writing:
16633 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1340
Encino, CA 91436
PO Box 451
Regeneration Books has many excellent books to help you understand the issue surrounding homosexuality. You can receive a free catalog by contacting them at:
PO Box 9830
Baltimore, MD 21284
Eventually, every church will encounter someone who is struggling with homosexuality. Your response is critical to encouraging their healing and walk with God. Some titles to look for are:
Setting the Record Straight–What Research Really Says About the Social
Consequences of Homosexuality
Larry Burtoft, Ph.D., Focus on the Family
Mona Riley and Brad Sargent, Broadman & Holman, ISBN 0-8054-6156-6
Someone I Love Is Gay–How Family and Friends Can Respond by Anita Worthen and Bob Davies, InterVarsity Press ISBN 0-8308-1982-7
A Strong Delusion–Confronting the “Gay Christian” Movement by Joe Dallas, Harvest House, ISBN 1-56507-431-9
Coming Out of Homosexuality–New Freedom for Men and Women
Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel, InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0-8308-1653-4
Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth
Jeffrey Satinover, MD, Baker, ISBN 0-8010-5625-X
Exodus International http: / /www.messiah. edu
NARTH http: / /www.narth.com
The Portland Fellowship http: / /www. portlandfellowship . com
Ex-gay Testimonies http: / /www. stonewallrevisited. com
Exodus International has developed an extensive library of practical booklets on issues relating to homosexuality. Many will offer specialized information for parents, friends, spouses, pastors and counselors.
Resource Categories are: Church and Theology
Counseling and Ministry
Family and Friends
Homosexuality and Society
Prevention and Recovery
Each booklet is written from the experience of professional authors and counselors. Some are excerpts from outstanding Christian books, others are based on lectures and workshops presented at the Exodus national conferences.
Background information that can be used to support II. B.–Sermon Outline, “Homosexuality is a symptom of fallen humanity. We are not born gay.”
According to an August 2, 1998 New York Times/Gallup poll the majority of Americans believe that nature is more important than nurture in determining the cause of homosexuality; however, they are unconvinced as to its causation. Even in mainstream, evangelical churches, the origins of homosexuality fuels heated debate. In recent years, several studies have grabbed headlines around the world as “proof” that homosexuality is inborn. In the August 1991 issue of Science, Simon LeVay of the Salk Institute in San Diego published a study on differences in brain structure between homosexual and heterosexual men.
The study, however, had at least two glaring weaknesses: It was based on a small group of 35 men, with I9 homosexual men who had died of AIDS (a factor that could have biased the results), and the control group of 16 men were “assumed to have been heterosexual.” In fact, said a professor of medical science at Brown University, in Time magazine, “My freshman biology students know how to sink this study.”
In another study, psychologist Michael Bailey of Northwestern University and psychiatrist Richard Pillard of the Boston University School of Medicine showed that homosexuality occurred much more frequently among identical twins than fraternal twins. But their 1991 study had a major flaw: All of their twins grew up together. The researchers did not compare their findings with a control group of twins raised apart, which would have isolated other factors, such as parental relationships and other family dynamics. Further, only about half the identical twins studied were both homosexual; if it was purely genetic, the correlation should have been 100 percent.
Finally, five researchers led by Dean Hamer at the National Cancer Institute released a study last July that attempted to link homosexuality in men with a specific genetic region of their X chromosome. “This is by far the strongest evidence to date that there is a genetic component to sexual orientation,” Hamer reported. Not so, said other highly qualified professionals. “The idea of a specific gene for a specific behavior is generally considered highly unlikely by geneticists,” says Joseph Nicolosi, director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, California. “Homosexuality is much more complex than mere behavior.”
Many psychologists are treating homosexuality successfully today, “changing sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual,” says Charles Socarides, president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (an organization uniting therapists and other professionals who believe homosexuality is not inborn and can be changed). “Such a change would be unthinkable,” Socarides says, “if there were any truth at all to the biological or hereditary causation of homosexuality.”
Nicolosi told Newsweek, “Psychology and psychiatry have abandoned a whole population of people who feel dissatisfied with their feelings of homosexuality.” Stanton I. Jones, professor of psychology at Wheaton College, says, “Every study ever performed in conversion from homosexual to heterosexual orientation has produced some successes,” ranging from 33 percent to 60 percent. “Let research conclude what it may about the causes of homosexuality,” concludes Joe Dallas, who left a homosexual lifestyle 10 years ago. “Genetic origins do not justify sinful behavior.” Leaders of ex-gay ministries around the country recognize hidden barriers that prevent churches from embracing those struggling with homosexuality. But church leaders who have taken the risk of venturing into this type of ministry have seen their churches affected positively. “Our people are proud that we are a church that is true to the Bible, but living it out in progressive ways,” says one pastor from a San Francisco Bay area church. “We are not compromising truth, but the congregation is thrilled that we are living out grace.
Anecdotal comments from former homosexuals to be used in support of II. C.-Sermon Outline, “Environmental causes greatly contribute to the developing of the homosexual lifestyle.”
“My parents separated when I was four, due to Dad’s excessive drinking. Their divorce came a year later. As a result, I felt inferior around my peers. They all had two parents and ‘normal’ families, while I lived with my mother and two older sisters. With no father, I lacked a role model for my masculine development. I began to feel inadequate around other boys and became emotionally dependent upon my mother.”
–Mike Babb former homosexual man
“A man followed me into the grocery store and began molesting me. I ran outside and told my father, who dashed in to find the man. His search was unsuccessful; when he came out he, was very angry. My father didn’t explain that he was angry at the other man-not at me. I must have displeased Daddy, I thought. I think from that day on, I began rejecting men.”
–Patricia Allan former lesbian
“When I was 13, I was raped by a family friend. I was too afraid to tell anyone, especially my dad. So I ‘stuffed’ down the fear and anger for the next 15 years. Bitterness brewed inside. In fact, my real self, my femininity, was buried by it, although I didn’t realize it for years. My father warned me to never trust men. In my third year of college I met a woman who gave me the unconditional love I’d been seeking for years, but never received at home.”
–Starla Allen former lesbian
“Early life for me was traumatic. My uncle who was so dear to me was arrested for homosexual activity, my father died and the minister of my new church was sent on his way. His replacement was a young man who was soon to take over the role of father in my life. This minister encouraged me to embrace homosexuality.”
former homosexual and the founder of the Ex-Gay movement
“All my life I was tortured by the fact that I never felt loved and accepted by my dad. My sense of masculine identity was developed by a tight-knit relationship with my mother, so I searched for my father in the arms of other men. When I eventually overcame my homosexual desires, I was able to embrace true love from Christian men.”
former homosexual, Focus on the FamiIy
“I had never been emotionally nurtured by my mother. She seemed weak and passive. My father on the other hand was strong and outspoken. But I never measured up to his expectations. I soon learned that a strong, confident woman could meet my emotional needs.”
“I was afraid to play with boys since they called me ‘sissy’ and ‘momma’s boy.’ Since my father was emotionally cold and unavailable, and seemed to only value femininity, I fantasized about being a woman.”
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, 1999. THIS MATERAIL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.