Should Same-Sex Attracted People Serve in Ministry?
Rachel Dawson What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
- 2016 Mar 17
It wasn’t until I was in college that I really became aware of both the LGBT movement and Christians who were attracted to the same sex. It wasn’t something that I ever knowingly encountered as a child raised in a Christian, church-going family, but as a college student, I became friends with both men and women who identified as gay or lesbian. It was then that I started wrestling with what I believed the Bible said about same-sex attraction.
The college ministry I was involved in spent an entire semester discussing sexuality, and each week, a student would share their testimony with the several hundred students present. I heard powerful stories from both men and women who were attracted to their own sex, and it opened my eyes to how complex and challenging this sin was. I realized that although I didn’t deal with same-sex attraction, I, too, was a sinner in different ways. It was humbling to come to a place where I could graciously and lovingly interact with LGBT friends and also seek Christ in ministry alongside them.
As gay marriage has become legal in the United States over recent years, the debate among believers and non-believers about what is “right” has only gotten more heated. Whole denominations within Christianity are openly supporting and affirming same-sex marriages, while others still adamantly oppose them.
We are often quick to judge their sin and condemn, and we are just as quick to spout out Scripture (such as Genesis 2:23-25 or 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) to prove that they are “wrong” and we are “right.” Neither of these reactions, however, shows the love of the Gospel.
“We must be courageous enough to stand on the Bible and advance sacrificial gospel love without fear, and without anger,” Dave Zuleger said in his recent article, “Does Same-Sex Attraction Disqualify Someone from Ministry?”
“This is not an us versus them issue, because there are people — God-fearing, Christ-exalting people — living with same-sex attraction in many of our churches,” Zuleger explains. “Is there a place for people with same-sex attraction in the church? How about in your church? Could there even be a place for same-sex attracted people to serve and lead in ministry?”
Before you jump to a conclusion or click out of this article, I encourage you to keep an open mind to the thoughts Zuleger shares, as he does so gracefully and lovingly despite the intensity of this highly-debated topic.
Here are four observations from Zuleger that we should make when considering if same-sex attracted people should serve in church ministry:
- “Sin is serious and as a church we must take it seriously.” As with any other sin, if a ministry leader is actively acting in sin without repenting, that should be reason for concern and a prompting for serious conversation and personal reflection. To pursue a life of sin by choice is not in line with a life of faith, and no matter the sin, it should not be excused or ignored, but instead deliberately addressed.
- “None of these sins is elevated above the others.” This is a humbling fact for all of us to realize: we are all sinners, and no sin is greater than another. “There are not some sins that should cause us to question our standing while others we can feel secure in,” Zuleger says. Just because you do not wrestle with same-sex attraction does not mean you are off the hook.
- “We need to distinguish between same-sex sexual activity (‘men who practice homosexuality’) and same-sex attraction.” Attraction is not automatically sin-- it’s when we decide to act upon it as sinful lust or sinful sexual activity that it becomes something God does not approve of. All of us struggle with sin-- that comes with being human. There will never be a perfect, sinless ministry leader in our world. It is when we choose sinful behaviour that we are acting out of God’s will for our lives.
- “Paul makes it clear that there remains a place for people who experience same-sex attraction in the church.” The blood that Christ shed on the cross to save us covers us from all sin, even same-sex attraction or past same-sex sexual activity. This doesn’t mean the sin vanishes, never to be dealt with again, but that Christians can, with the strength of Christ, fight the temptations.
“Therefore,” Zuleger concludes, “we must say that there is a place for those experiencing same-sex attraction in our churches.”
Zuleger goes on to share more about same-sex attracted men or women serving as elders and pastors, and you can read those thoughts here.
What we as Christians know is this: the God who created us desires what is best for us, and sin gets in the way of that. We are all sinful, and we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). A Savior came to cleanse us of our sins and offer us the opportunity to live in relationship with Him, despite the temptation to give into our sinful desires. We can choose a life of sin, or we can choose a life of faith full of repentance from our sin as we grow closer to the God who loves us and yearns for a relationship with us.
“By all means, let us take sin seriously,” Zuleger says. “Let’s help one another fight against it by finding our supreme joy in Christ and by loving each other like Christ loved us. Let’s make sure we get our answers and methods from the Bible. Let’s not isolate or exclude out of a fearful and angry response to the cultural celebration of sin. Many Christians in the church who struggle with same-sex attraction don’t agree with that celebration of sin either. The Bible does not disqualify them from the ministry. Will you?”
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Publication date: March 17, 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com