Calvin Brown is the Executive Director of The Renewal Fellowship.
We hope and pray that the Assembly Committee that is studying the place of homosexuals in our Church will take seriously what our Anglican sister communion is saying so that we may live in continuity with Christians around the world and through the ages who have given strong pastoral counsel regarding biblical sexual norms. Our Church Doctrine Committee in the Acts and Proceedings of last year gives an excellent analysis of this matter. It is irresponsible to our youth and other members of the church to gloss over the sin of homosexual practice. To pretend it is not a sin on the one hand, or to foster an attitude that would lead people to despise those for whom Christ died, whatever their sin, are equally heinous. A way needs to be found to truly hate the sin but authentically love the sinner. I suppose one way to approach it is to substitute the name of another sin into whatever statement we come up with and see if it would be a reasonable Christian response. For example, insert the name adultery, gossip, theft, bestiality, fits of rage, or drunkenness — all of which are also condemned in Scripture as sin in the place where we mention homosexual practice. If the way we minister in those situations is faithful then it will be a good test to see that we are as faithful in ministering in this situation. We need to ask: Is our response maintaining our integrity as Christians and also acting in a way that leads sinners in the loving arms of our Father?
A real temptation for the Committee will be to downplay the sinfulness of the lifestyle and follow the world's attitude talking as if it were only one of many acceptable lifestyles and then emphasize the great gifts that many gay and lesbian people can offer to our church as a way of excusing sin or tempting the Church to overlook it. Such an approach I believe will be a betrayal of those in our Church, who in faithful obedience to the teaching of the Scriptures and the Church and in obedience to Christ, have turned from a gay lifestyle at great cost, and it will also be a betrayal of those who have had to take courageous and costly public stands against endorsing such a death-embracing lifestyle. (All sinful lifestyles are death-embracing.)
Finally, it will be a betrayal of our youth and confusing to our members who need clear moral teaching about scriptural sexual norms.
The Church also needs to address a pastoral response to the parents and relatives of those who have chosen a homosexual lifestyle. Many will have different responses to their loved ones "coming out" — from rejection, through confusion to various types of acceptance. In all this they need guidance about Christian responses, which we acknowledge may be different in different cases, since not all circumstances and all people are the same.
Nevertheless, certain guiding principles could be articulated, not least of which is the admonition to do to others as you would want done to you.
This is an opportunity not only to deal with a single sin but the whole accountability that we as the body of Christ have for one another.
Another issue will be to address in pastoral ways those who either, on the one hand, disagree with the Church's wisdom in defining a homosexual lifestyle as sinful, and those, on the other hand, who acknowledge it is a sin and are struggling to be free from its bondage.
It is hoped that the Committee will not succumb to the usual "excusing" rhetoric or use this as a political exercise to "change the Church's mind" which is not its mandate and would be an exercise which is wearisome to the soul and disrespectful of the Church.
We have an opportunity to give strong leadership and be an authentic help, not only to our own denomination but to other churches of Christ dealing with this matter. Let us pray the Holy Spirit will help us find the way of grace that expresses both truth and kindness.