How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality

I managed to make it through college, seminary, and grad school with most of my prejudices intact. I won’t overstate my bigotry: “I had gay friends,” but I was the kind of person who would use that phrase when defending my prejudices.

What changed me was being a pastor. I was entrusted with the spiritual care of real live human beings. My first appointment was to a small church in rural, red-state, Bible-belt Alabama, which was the last place, in my naiveté, I would have expected to face questions of gender identity and sexuality. (Now, I realize I should have known better—but I should have known better about a lot of things.)

Nor did I expect that God was going to do heart surgery on me through the people God introduced to me. Within the span of a few  months I met several persons who walked into my office and told me either that they were gay or had struggled with their gender identity. One described the way a former church had tried to exorcise him of the demons of homosexuality. He said it was terrifying. Another talked about the way he had finally just given up trying and decided to be promiscuous, which ended badly. Another, taking the Bible literally, cut off his offending member rather than have his whole body cast into hell.

In spite of the pain they brought into the room, they also brought faith of a caliber that shamed my own. I was not worthy to be pastor to these wounded faith giants. I felt both the weight of the moment and an almost giddy sensation that the Holy Spirit was coordinating this whole thing. Sometimes I felt nudged to speak, and other times I felt prompted to hush. Each story was uniquely painful and grace-filled. After describing the burdens they had carried for years and decades, I was astonished that any of these people decided to stick with church. We cried and prayed together.

After one such conversation, my visitor left. As soon as the door clicked behind him I got on my knees, not because I’m a particularly holy person who kneels to pray, but because my legs couldn’t hold me up. I remember saying, “God, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. How am I supposed to think about this stuff? What am I supposed to say? How am I supposed to be this person’s pastor?”

Feeling compelled to read the Bible, I dragged myself to my table and sat down to look at the text I was studying. And I read these words:

“…[the Pharisees] tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them…” (Matthew 23:4)

I couldn’t catch my breath.

Several things clicked at once: These guys had burdens placed upon them by others (people like me) that had nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus said his interpretation of religious Law, his yoke, was easy and his burden light (11:38). His opponents, the religious leaders, accused him of abolishing the Law (5:17) and ignoring their pet scriptures about holiness and who was “in” and who was “out.” The fundamentalists of Jesus’ day were threatened by his message of an easy yoke, and they made his followers out to be “abolishers of the law.” In response, Jesus  commanded his followers to out-love, out-pray, and out-give his detractors (5:21-7:27).

Choose your yoke- heavy or light?

This is what a yoke looks like.

I suddenly had a new focus for my ministry. I was supposed to be a burden-lifter, one who removes the barriers that religious leaders often put in the way of folks who need Jesus. I read more.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13-15)

Locked out of the kingdom. An evangelical program of hate. There are no better words to describe anti-gay Christianity.

Although I’ve never preached an anti-gay sermon, I had listened to them with a sense of smug approval. Like Paul, I had held the cloaks of people who had been throwing rocks at others. This was my own Damascus-road moment, when I knew that God was not finished bringing people into the kingdom, and God wanted to change my heart and mind. I went back and devoured the story of the early church in Acts and the letters of Paul, and I read with new eyes the stories about the hot-button issues of their day: circumcision and meat sacrificed to idols.

So many things changed for me in the following weeks and months: the meaning of the word evangelize, to spread good news; the meaning of the word salvation, healing; all the words in the New Testament related to yokes and burdens and Jesus’ conflicts with religious leaders, and why they couldn’t recognize Jesus’ divine mission because of who  his friends were. Like Paul, I felt that I had been blind, but that God was restoring my sight. As I think about my past, I’m still learning that God was working on me decades before I imagined writing about God’s impartiality.

I’m writing this not to be self-congratulatory. I live with white, male, heterosexual privilege in a world that is oriented toward my success, and I am a relative latecomer to this worldview. I’m writing this because it was being a servant-leader in the church that really changed me—not social pressure, not my academic education. It was being given responsibility for leading others.

Being a pastor is more about being willing to be led by God and changed by the people I meet than issuing infallible decrees from a pulpit, more about admitting I’m wrong and sharing my frailty than pretending I know God’s will on a given subject. One friend describes preaching as a “homiletical wager,” and I’ve come to believe that pastoring, presuming to be a spiritual leader, is bit like gambling with God, where the stakes are very high but I’m betting the game is rigged toward grace.

I also know that plenty of folks have turned their backs permanently on the church, on religion, on Jesus, because they have struggled with heavy yokes and been locked out of the kingdom of God. I’ve had the privilege of helping a few hear the good news in the Good News, and seen them stand up straighter when the yoke is lifted off their shoulders. The church is still a place where prisoners are released and slaves are set free.

There are other pastors out there who keep on tying up heavy burdens that they will never have to lift. They give me plenty of work to do as a burden-lifter. If any of you pastors are reading this, please hear me: the easy yoke is a lot better. Letting prisoners go is a joy. Don’t be afraid of the people who tell you you’re abolishing the law by doing so. Don’t let them make you ashamed of the gospel. Out-give, out-pray, and out-love them. That knot of fear inside you will finally relax, and you may find freedom, too.

98 thoughts on “How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality

  1. I wish I could find a pastor like you. If there were more like you who lived this life instead of condemning the sinners to hell I may go back to church and bring my children.

    • They are out there, I would suggest you start by looking for a United Church of Christ congregation in your area. Many of them are “Open and Affirming” accepting LGBT folks into the life and leadership of the church.

    • Hi, Celeste – thank you for your compliment. As Amy and Jeff say, there are actually plenty of pastors who believe similarly. You can check out https://www.rmnetwork.org and other similar sites to locate nearby churches that are inclusive. Go visit some and see if they fit! Many would be delighted to have you on board.

  2. I once had an experience, when trying to become a pastor, of “gate-keepers” who thought (or at least acted as though) their job was to prevent certain folks from coasting into ministry roles. It really hurt. From that experience, the way I’ve come to understand “gate-keeping” is imagining a medievil town at dusk – the gates are about to be closed for the night. During the day, yes, the gatekeepers made people leave their weapons outside of the gate and supervised who could go in (law, yes) but as night falls, they call out to the weary, those pulling heavy carts and carrying burdens, they go out to them and bring them in to safety. They make sure there is a way in – part of their job is mercy.

  3. This is beautiful and I like the feelings and thoughts expressed; but it peters out short of giving concrete descriptions of what you, as a pastor, changed in your actions or message, so I’m not sure how comforted we should feel.

    That is one of the things that drives me mad about even the more open-minded Christians and especially pastors, that they often fail to speak out and act strongly for justice and equality. I have this recurring discussion with a Methodist pastor friend who has the kindest of intentions, and wants to see some issues — and specifically, that of homosexuality — as nuanced, but has not come to grasp with the problem that all the “nuances” are always asked of the same side, that you kand be just a little bit equal.

    • Mechanteanemone, would it help for you to know that Dave is in the process of planting a new church to specifically minister with the LGBT community & anybody else who may have been hurt by the church in the past? Because he is a highly educated & outstandingly capable pastor, I have a strong sense that he chose this course of action over several cushy, lucrative
      options. In these parts he’s a
      real Christian hero among those if us who seek Christian justice. He walks the talk.

    • Thanks for your comment. I hear what you are saying and appreciate your skepticism. Now that public opinion is changing rapidly, there are plenty of people coming out in favor of gay marriage, and it takes no courage to do so. Fifty years hence people will claim this legacy of liberation who have no right to it, much like white people appropriate Martin Luther King, Jr. There are also plenty of Christians who dress up the same tired theology in tattoos and hipster glasses and expect to win people over by being “edgy” and talking about “just loving on people.”

      I can’t really distinguish myself from either of those two categories except by winning trust one person at a time (as grannyoh said). I try not to attach strings to my gospel. If you want to read my book (God Shows No Partiality), it’ll be discounted on Kindle soon.
      Peace,
      Dave

      • Love this entire article and how you’ve allowed people who most ‘church people’ would be offended by, change your heart and your perspective in ministry.

        I love your response here the most and how you are winning trust one person at a time. Bravo! Your book sounds intriguing – will look for it on kindle.

  4. I am supposed to bring people to Christ.
    I am supposed to love people.
    I do not save people, but I can help open eyes.
    It is not my job to judge others.

  5. i believe the grace of God is so radical that when I seek to express it fully others may think I am accepting and affirming the actions and lifestyles of those to whom I am seeking to minister. I am willing to run that risk because I believe grace is the good news. When I am seeking to deal with a heterosexually addicted person, I love and accept that person but recognize the pain that person is inflicting on others and upon himself.

    • Hi, Maxie! It’s an honor to have you commenting on my post. I’ve used some of your writings in my teaching and ministry and I want to say I affirm your dedication to the gospel and I appreciate what you do.

      Where we part ways, I suppose, is the use of perversion rhetoric to describe homosexuality. Homosexual persons are no more “addicted” to the persons they love than I am “addicted” to women in general or to my wife in particular.

      I believe if Paul were alive today, he would apply this same rhetoric to those who claim homosexuality is a sin: “I wish they would castrate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12). When I stand before God, I don’t want that comment directed at me. I cannot require of someone else something I am not willing to do, or ask them to bear a burden I do not. The early church believed that this was the wrong kind of stumbling block to put before people who wanted to come to Christ (Acts 15:10-11).

      I suppose if I’m wrong and am teaching in error, I’ll just have to depend on the grace of God for salvation. But I don’t want to begin in the Spirit only to end in the flesh (Galatians 3:3). It is not being straight that saves me, but the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

      • I found it fascinating that Maxie used (erroneously, perhaps) “heterosexually addicted” instead of what he may have intended to say. That being said, I confess that I have had some addictions that may have been labeled heterosexual addictions! Suffice it to say there are addictive and destructive habits in sexuality of all sorts. But of course this only further points to our need for a Savior. And grace. I just praise God that he has delivered and is redeeming.
        Thanks for a wonderful post! It truly resonated with my Spirit.

  6. Wow – this was a great read and I found it very moving. I loved this line:
    I’ve come to believe that pastoring, presuming to be a spiritual leader, is bit like gambling with God, where the stakes are very high but I’m betting the game is rigged toward grace.

  7. I am happy to see some progression with the “acceptance” of gays and a more welcoming spirit towards them amongst many Christians. I myself was completely anti-gay just up until this last year. But with my changing stance on accepting gays, I also feel like it opens up even more questions about my beliefs. For example, now that I have come to believe that homosexuals are actually born that way and aren’t a result of childhood trauma or that they are perverted in some way, the question that presents itself is, “Why would God create a homosexual only to forbid their love by calling it a sin?” So then, after that question comes another question, “If I’m not sure homosexuality is a sin, then what are my thoughts on absolute truth with regards to the scriptures?” , etc. It seems that one question begets another. What are your thoughts on this, have you ever felt the same? What is your stance on homosexuality being a sin?

    • (You asked for his thoughts, not mine, but)
      I think: go ahead and ask the questions. When we talk about our “faith” but it’s built over a muddy foundation of questions that we’re scared to ask, I think people sense that and find us unconvincing. Asking the questions and working our way through to the answers – or to the fact that we don’t have answers – makes our faith more real and meaningful.
      And there’s nothing wrong with the fact that we don’t have one single level of certainty for everything that is (or that we think is) in the Bible. I’ve turned over questions about God’s reality and Jesus’ resurrection many times and keep on ending up confident in them. In contrast, I’ve got no flipping idea what to make of some weird or horrible incidents in Joshua. And that’s OK. It’s popular in some circles to assert that every word of the whole thing, plus every extrapolated claim, must be valued equally and must be accepted or rejected together, but that’s an artificial position that’s meant to demonstrate a particular kind of theological loyalty; it’s not a way of thinking that you’d apply to any real-life situation. You don’t emigrate when you see the three-fifths rule in the Constitution, and you don’t file for divorce if you suspect that the chocolates he “bought” you during your second month of dating were really re-gifted from his aunt.

      • Hi, Catherine – I love this comment about “literal” reading: “that’s an artificial position that’s meant to demonstrate a particular kind of theological loyalty; it’s not a way of thinking that you’d apply to any real-life situation.” Spot on.

        Yeah, GG, everyone has a lens through which they read the Bible. In my reading, it is possible to consider the Bible authoritative without believing it to be completely without errors or contradictions—because real life is full of contradictions and ambiguity (Proverbs 26:4-9 is one of my favorite sections). The ancient Jewish sages (and Jesus) gathered around the text, scrutinized it and debated its meaning. They had a saying: “The Torah has 70 faces”— they didn’t believe it was only to be read one way. I wish we Christians had more of their spirit.

    • Greeneyedgert, you are not the first, and I sincerely hope not the last person to find these questions open new questions about how we are to read the Bible. Happily, we have some thoughtful, faithful people who have written some excellent books to help us. I would commend to you Peter Gomes’ “The Good Book” or Marcus Borg’s “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time” as fruitful reflections on exactly the questions you ask. I am sure others will have other suggestions. But at least know that you are not alone, and many of us have found ways to, in Borg’s words, “take the Bible seriously but not literally” and remain faithful Christians.

    • Why would God create homosexuality? That’s not God…the creation of homosexuality occurred at the same time that a lot of other things began…. body odor, being overweight, acne, dirty laundry, labor pains and the list goes on….. Sin entered the world when man & woman made a choice that was not part of His plan. [aka Adam & Eve]
      So………..YES, that means that I was born like this. But this was no more His will for being part of my life than the other things that we as humans face on a daily basis. I stopped “expecting” God to cure me from my thoughts and feelings a long time ago. I walked down a road of marriage and ministry, just to see so much of it fall apart due to the fact that I was trying to push a square peg through a round hole. My feelings and accepting those feelings as being part of my life don’t change what God’s Word says…….and I’m not going to try to change what God’s Word says about “gluttony” just because I see a gifted pastor standing behind a pulpit that weights 300 pounds.
      “The Church” needs to realize that we have no authority to categorize specific issues. God has not called us to be comfortable, and we need to realize that life is a journey. Everyone’s road looks different, and we aren’t all at the same place in our journey. It isn’t my responsibility to make sure someone has “arrived” in their thinking or journey. It is my responsibility to walk with others and share with them what I have discovered about God’s grace in my own life. That sometimes means that I am going to be uncomfortable in the process. It also means that I might not agree with someone’s choices regarding an abundance of things, but there are times that they won’t agree with me either…..I will leave it up to God to change that person….or maybe change me regarding those things. BOTTOM LINE……most of those issues and differences have nothing to do with my salvation and eternal security.

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  9. Thank you…beautiful. Inspiring, especially this: Being a pastor is more about being willing to be led by God and changed by the people I meet than issuing infallible decrees from a pulpit, more about admitting I’m wrong and sharing my frailty than pretending I know God’s will on a given subject.

  10. Being raised with the traditional understanding of the scripture, I, for a long time considered homosexuality sin. Now I don’t know what I think about it in terms of being sinful. I still struggle with the scripture and what it all means. I think I’m at a place of letting God figure all that out, but I do know that gays should not be discriminated against and I think my resolve in that area increased after being in a church where a straight person was not even granted an interview for membership simply because she said she could not affirm homosexuality as being sin. Being in the middle of that situation where I was trying to run interference between her and the membership committee was painful at best. They could not get past their convictions and she was deeply hurt, particularly because she had previously been a Wiccan and endured the harassment of Christians and now as a Christian she still felt like she was being abused. That situation got me to a place of seeing how our polity can end up hurting people and somehow I don’t think God is pleased with that. To not even be able to get to a place of having dialogue–that really got me to thinking.

  11. How does anyone graduate seminary with their prejudices on this issue fully intact? In Christ, there is neither male nor female, nor Jew nor Greek, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ( Gal 3:28). In seminary we created an entire week of thoughtful, educational and well informed LGBT worship. To bring this enlightenment to a church takes ALOT of courage. It is difficult and many pastors simply abide in existing prejudices because they have not done the deep soul work that is required. This in turn, makes it easy for a pastor to simply fall in line with a church’s collective prejudice, and thus the deep communal soul work is not done by the pastor nor the community. a vicious ongoing cycle indeed! Press on! Using scripture to uphold these prejudices is not ministry. Using scripture to deeply explore these prejudices is ministry. Ultimately, it is all about how we define, unlearn, relearn and redefine what it means to Love as Christ asked us to love.

  12. Love wins. Yes. But I wonder how you reconcile this worldview with the entirety of the Bible. Leaving aside the Old Testament, which contains many commands/beliefs no longer adhered to – How do you interpret such scriptures in the New Testament as Romans 1:24-27; I Timothy 1:10, Jude 7, First Corinthians 6:9-11? It’s popular for pastors to bend to cultural pressures and ignore controversial scriptures – I wonder if that’s the case here or if you’ve seen a way of interpreting these passages that makes homosexuality acceptable. This isn’t an aggressive question, but a curious one – these words are in the Bible you believe, please explain them.

    • I’d also like to hear a reply to this question. How do these scriptures fit into accepting a continued homosexual lifestyle?

    • Hi, Sarah,
      Thanks for your grace-filled and respectful question. I think one of the best blog posts of alternative readings of those passages is Mark Sandlin’s “Clobbering Biblical Gay-Bashing” (http://www.thegodarticle.com/7/post/2011/10/clobbering-biblical-gay-bashing.html). I’ll go ahead and say I don’t necessarily interpret those passages the same way as he does, but I think it’s a good intro to critical reading and alternative interpretation of them. You may have already heard these arguments or seen versions of them elsewhere.

      I observe that in most arguments, people supporting inclusion of homosexual persons are asked to explain the verses you mention, but people supporting exclusion do not get asked to interpret Romans 2 (especially v. 11 & 29), or Acts 15:1-12, or Galatians 3:28. To me, this issue for the contemporary church is no different than the issue of circumcision for the ancient church. I have yet to hear someone explain to me how these issues are different. The Jewish Christians of the early church certainly had *more* reason and scriptural support to exclude uncircumcised Gentiles than we have for excluding LGBTQ persons.

      I think modern people often fail to recognize how abhorrent it would have been to some homeland Jews of Jesus’ day to say Samaritans and Greeks would be saved by grace and not by works of the flesh. Likewise, I believe we have made heterosexuality into an extrabiblical “work of the flesh.”

      Anyway, that’s a summary of how I read the Bible on this issue, and I hope that helps you understand my perspective. Thanks again for your respectful question. It’s a refreshing change.

      • Acts 15, in light of what I saw the Holy Ghost doing in the lives of the LGBT seminarians who were my classmates, was the final tipping point for me. There was no way I could explain away the legitimate workings of God in their lives, or their legitimate love for Jesus. This old fundy had to conclude resistance was futile, and these people are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

  13. Thank you for sharing this. As a Christian, Iive struggled with this issue, and through much prayer I’ve come to believe that the loving God I gave my heart to, loves ALL of His children and desires their happiness. I don’t believe He would require LGBT persons to live their lives without love. I thank God every day for blessing me with a trans-gender child who opened my eyes to the hypocrisy I had gone along with for too long. God bless you!

  14. Thank you, Dave! My faith walk has been full of potholes and contradictions. This I am sure of, that Jesus loves us no matter what our frailties. A wise elder told me, “God doesn’t make junk.” It’s my spiritual goal to love the best way I possibly can, and that involves keeping an open mind about others.

  15. Hi Dave et al….thank you for your transparency.I have also one to a new place of trying to love, listen, show grace (all horribly flawed)…..but trying to let it flow just the same. My brother, Dr. Peter Enns, was kicked out ofWestminster Seminary for interpreting the O.T as non literal/ more narrative which has very much helped me understand and come to see that maybe we need to see Gods working thru His people who are who they are based on the time, place and culture wherein hey exist. He has written a few oops that On my way! My ind helpful. Thanks for sharing your journey Dave.

  16. Soooooo hate auto correct!…….my last post…I meant to say “he has written a few books that some may find helpful”…….sheesh

  17. I loved this article. I’m proud to be a member of an open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ, where the ministerial staff continually speak out and act strongly for justice and equality for all, including the LGBT community.

  18. I was really glad to read your post. Wow… this is what happens when pastors choose to love people more than they love their ‘position’ in the church. Good for you. The folks in your new congregation are blessed. Thanks for calling Maxie on his (thus far) immovable and very clear position. I can’t imagine anyone making the mistake that he is “accepting and affirming” of LGBT persons as he suggests, at least not on the basis of anything he’s written or said publicly. I’m an Asbury grad, “Beeson Pastor” and former UMC clergy, happy to be finally “out” and in an affirming denomination. Again, thanks.

  19. Wow! Thank you for writing this. We read and hear about the journeys of people who have come to realize they are gay, and we read and hear about the journeys of people who would vilify being gay, but I don’t think I’ve ever read many accounts of the journey of a person who went from nonacceptance to acceptance. As an Episcopal priest, this change in my own life as I work with my parishioners, is something I’ve also experienced. Since I am gay, it hasn’t been in the same area, but in so many other areas of my life and thinking. If I had to sum it up, I would have to say God has softened my heart and made me so much more compassionate toward people from all walks of life, even those who would vilify my very existence.

  20. Thank you, Dave, for this post. My journey from gay-indifference to gay-affirming held many moments that were similar to those described in your first few paragraphs. I do, however, really appreciate what Mechanteanemone voiced as far as falling short of a concrete description of belief. I will take a closer look at your book on Kindle – thanks for pointing that out.

    On a very different note, may I humbly suggest a closer look at the word “yoke”? In addition to the law, the Rabbis would have their own interpretation of how to fulfill the law … these rules were called his yoke. When a student was placed under the instruction of a particular Rabbi, they took on that Rabbi’s yoke. And, if I’m not mistaking, there was a literal cloth representing which Rabbi’s rules one adhered. Thanks for letting me mention this.

  21. How intriguing that God brought you to those verses in Matthew 23! Despite many years attending church, I don’t recall hearing any sermons on this passage which applied it to contemporary Christians. Not in general, and definitely not in the context of the things that some insist LGBT people must do to be “acceptable”.

    I long for the day when it will be easy to find a church which will embrace everyone and anyone. Blessings in your new church; may many find it and find rest and peace in Christ there.

    • Please come visit City of Edinburgh Methodist Church. Being British our embrace may not be physical (hugging is not for everyone) but there will be tea (some days coffee is more popular), chat, and help, if needed, regardless. While individuals may have their comfort zones our church actively seeks to be a place for everyone. We have a chapel out of the rush of children and clink of cups and general chatter, if peace and rest need quiet. We hopefully will have our renovated buildings (expected done last July and now expected, maybe, this September) open all week with people around to open our embrace to anyone Christ sends. Perfection no, but the best that everyone and anyone Christ brings together in our place can do, can’t be sneezed at.
      It will never be easy, but always be wonderful.

  22. This post supports my own drive toward ordination in the UCC and my goals as a pastor. Thank you so much for revealing this struggle and your own pathway through the hard parts.

    As a separate note, it’s helpful sometimes to remember that what scripture was addressing was the perceived problem of men failing to procreate and increase the people of Israel. The modern term “homosexuality” was used for the first time ever anywhere in 1869 in German academic literature; it first appeared in English in 1892. The concept of sexual identity–of any kind of individual identity–was not part of the social consciousness of the people of Israel or the people of Jesus’ time in Palestine. We are not smarter, or more sophisticated, but we do think differently than did those folks who wrote these texts, and we live in different cultures with different values. So of course we read the texts differently. Either we must find the ways that the scriptures speak to us in our own context, or we must agree that they cannot and discard them, or we must return to the cultural memes of the Ancient Near East–which means giving up medicine and indoor plumbing, among other things. I’m not ready for option B or C just yet. Just sayin’…

  23. Seriously though, GOD or the universal entity is the decision maker as to who goes where and does what… Anyone making that Judgement call for themselves is violating the first rule of the Philosophy…Judge not lest ye be judged…AND that MEANS ANYONE. There are no exceptions I’ve ever read in there…

  24. Thanks for some great encouraging words. The lighter burden is by far better but much more difficult to allow people to see!

  25. I wonder if our human desire to know absolute truth traces its roots back to a tree in the garden…maybe just not ours to “know”.

    • You should re-read that story. The temptation was to be like God, not merely gain to knowledge.

      I think it’s more appropriate to say that the desire to know absolute truth comes from the desire to know the God who is absolute in His perfection.

      It is the height of foolishness to infer that a desire for knowledge of absolute truth is sin. If anything, the preference for relativism has at its core the escape from he deserved condemnation for sin. Get rid of absolutes and “poof” sin magically disappears in a postmodern cloud of smoke. But then if you step into the smoke you smack your leg on the reality that you’ve just denied.

  26. I’m really sorry that you think God’s Word might have errors. God promised to preserve his Word, and He promises that every word of it is true. It’s popular today to ignore the Bible’s clear stance on homosexuality, but if you believe that God’s Word is every bit true, you can’t ignore it.

    • Hi, Eillis — I don’t think God’s Word has errors, because God’s Word is Jesus Christ (John 1:1). Nowhere do the authors of the Bible claim that it is free of error. I believe that even using the language of “error” misses the point of the Bible It’s as if someone walked into the Sistine Chapel, looked at the ceiling, and said, “Nope, no errors in that.”

  27. Dear Pastor: THANK GOD FOR A PASTOR LIKE YOU! Your congregation is VERY lucky to have you leading them! I was raised in South Carolina and in the Southern Baptist Church. My father was a rock-ribbed conservative Christian that believed with every fiber of his being that The Bible – every last letter, word, comma and period – was the Divinely written word of God and was infallible and not to be questioned. In my father’s world, there was no excuse for missing church, except hospitalization or death. Our house was across the street from our church and when the doors were unlocked, WE WERE THERE. I became a Christian saved by Grace, forgiven of my sins, and baptised into The Family of God somewhere around age 8. At the age of 18, my father was Chairman of the Deacon Board, his brother was Chairman of the Board of Directors, my mother was the church Treasurer, and I was the church Organist. At the same time – I WAS GAY !! I was so far back in the closet, I smelled like mothballs! When I was a junior in high school, my father decided, under the guise of my getting a better education, to send me to a religiously affiliated boarding school (the real reason was that he feared I was Gay). I was kicked out of that school when a dorm monitor caught another student trying to have sex with me, i.e., I wasn’t having sex with him – he was kissing me and groping my genitals – and on the five hour drive home, my father told me that he would rather see me dead and buried that to be a homo. When Jerry Falwell came up with The Moral Majority, I left the baptist church, tried the Methodists, and eventually settled in the Episcopal Church, where I’ve been welcomed with open loving arms. My father sent me to three psychiatrists and was told there was nothing wrong with me. So he decided to beat the gay out of me – literally – with a belt at AGE 17 !! I tried to commit suicide, but by the grace of God was found by my mother and an aunt that was a nurse, who proceeded to rip my father apart! I have seen first hand what life-long damage can be done by hatred, bigotry and fear all in the name of “religion”. Please keep up the work that God has set before you, and know that God has a purpose for putting you where he did – you are needed. May God bless you and your ministry.

  28. I am so happy a friend of mine posted a link to this on Facebook today. Although I live in the Pacific Northwest now, my hometown and roots are decidedly Southern. (If possible, even MORE Southern than Birmingham!) I loved your post, and have loved reading through the archives. Definitely bookmarking you!

    And I am quite heartened by the level of respectful discourse and even disagreement here in the comments on a couple of issues that can so easily overheat: eg. whether gayness is a sin and whether we can know God’s judgment.

    On that note, I want to reiterate what another commenter said above about how outreach to the LGBT community really requires more than simply stating an acceptance. The level of pain and trauma so many have experienced in the name of God creates a deep suspicion even of stated acceptance. One can’t help but wonder, “Is everyone really accepted here? Or am I being accepted here on the condition that one day I will see the light and agree that being gay is a sin and a flaw?”

  29. Pastor Dave,

    Are your convictions so weak and arguments so soft that you only post comments with which you agree? Why does a man with so many degrees respond in such a cowardly way to opposing points of view? You should be able to easily confront and demolish our arguments with your vast intellect. Having previously clicked to follow this post, I KNOW that you’ve deleted comments which disagree with your position including my own.

    Come on. Engage us. Maybe you can turn us from our bibliolatry and bigotry. Isn’t that what a good Christian should do?

    • Hi, Joel,
      I curate comments because this is my blog. But I am also planting a church, so your previous comment (along with plenty of similar ones) will remain unposted. “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)

      • Because the work of a true pastor and church planter is not to make false analogies to weasel out of defending your arguments. One of your major purposes is this: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Cor 10:4-5

        If those who disagree with you are morally in the wrong (as you strongly imply) it is your task to confront and tear down their false ideas. For their sake and for the sake of your amen corner here, you need to correct them.

        You’re not fooling anyone with the false heroics. It’s just one more bad interpretation.

  30. Thank you for sharing this story, Jay. Having been on the other side of the desk from you, I appreciate it all the more.

    • Sorry – Dave… was reading a post from Jay Bakker when I wrote this.. got my pastors mixed up 🙂

  31. Reblogged this on Queer Landia and commented:
    I don’t buy the whole “god thing”, but for those who do, here’s an interesting take on the issue of preaching the Word. If you believe, there’s important information here.

  32. Thank you for sharing your story! And I commend you for confronting your prejudices. It’s terrifying and takes a lotta lotta courage.
    And praise Jesus for grace!

  33. I leave the judging up to God–I’ll take ministering instead. I love my job, and if anyone requires me to judge people (instead of caring for them whoever or wherever they are) I quit)

  34. Pingback: How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality | katyandtheword

  35. Hi,
    I am genuinely trying to understand exactly what you are saying. I am apposed to the mistreatment of homosexuals, just as I am apposed to the mistreatment of any human. The church should embrace all people with grace, and I understand that it has largely failed at this. But what exactly are the burdens you are speaking of? Is asking a homosexual to live a celibate life tying them up with burdens we are not willing to bear? Are you saying that when Christian’s teach that homosexual actions are sinful, they are tying up burdens that they are unwilling to carry? Or are you speaking more of the hateful tone that comes from some quarters?

    • Thanks for asking. Yes, I think asking a homosexual person to be celibate, when I myself am married, is the equivalent of tying up a burden for someone else that I do not have to bear. For the early church, it would be like Jews who were circumcised as infants requiring adult Greeks to have their foreskin removed: it would be an unreasonable burden to require someone to make a painful choice I didn’t have to (Acts 15).

      In comparison, I think requiring a homosexual person to change their orientation, or separate from a faithful partner, is a far more unreasonable barrier to coming to Christ than asking someone to be circumcised. A man can get over circumcision in a few days. He may never get over separating from a spouse.

      Paul said that requiring circumcision was the equivalent of trusting in “works of the flesh” for salvation (Galatians 5). I believe requiring homosexual persons to change their orientation or remain celibate is similarly a reversion to “works of the flesh” instead of trusting in the grace of Jesus Christ.

      I recognize that some homosexual persons (as well as heterosexual ones) choose to live a celibate life. That may be an honorable thing, and I can respect them for it. I just can’t require it of someone else if I have chosen otherwise. Thanks again for your clarifying question.

  36. Dave’s perspective was definitely worth the read and thinking about. I found myself feeling great sympathy for his struggle and his compassion for the homosexual Christians who came to him, confessed to him, and told him about their rejection by other Christians/churches. And I understood his reference to the heavy yoke and burden some Christians will put upon others.
    I was surprised, however, by his careless use of the word hate which he loaded on to the necks of Christians who disagree with homosexuality (and homosexual marriage which he also supports in his article) as a legitimate ‘alternate’ lifestyle. (Quote: “An evangelical program of hate. There are no better words to describe anti-gay Christianity.”)
    Frankly, I think there are many better words to describe those he labelled as ‘anti-gay’ Christians. Although there are no doubt some who may legitimately be described as ‘haters’, to paint the Christian community, (or at least those who speak out against homosexuality and the gay lifestyle), with such a broad brush is not only wrong, it is offensive, and might even beg the question whether he ‘hates’ those Christians he so labels.

    He would have done much better to have described the (if I may call it) ‘Orthodox’ Christian community as Pro-gospel, Pro-truth, Pro-salvation, Pro-community, and certainly Pro-love in speaking what they believe in their hearts is right and good and true whether anyone, including Dave Barnhart, agrees with it and/or feels offended by it or not. Moreover, I question Dave’s assertion that these people in speaking and trying to practice and get others to practice what they believe the Bible teaches are trying to put a yoke and a burden on anyone’s neck other than the easy and light one Jesus proclaimed for those who believe in and follow him. To call them anti-gay, is simply politicking of the worst kind.

    Certainly, Jesus did not care that the Jews were offended by him and his preaching. He preached the truth anyway…and yes, he had compassion on the sick, on sinners and even those who hated and persecuted him, for as he hung dying on the cross he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I have no doubt his compassion included homosexuals. Jesus wanted all the world to come unto him and embrace righteousness, but he also knows what we are made of and will forgive us when we fail (70 x 7 times, i.e.: indefinitely), but that does not mean that Jesus accorded anyone license to continue as they were before.

    That those Christians which Dave Barnhart disdains for having a different opinion than his should be labelled by him as ‘haters’ is way off the mark. No doubt, Mr. Barnhart would be only too ready to stamp ‘gay/homosexual hater’ on my forehead if he got the chance. But he would be wrong because I don’t hate anybody and if I argue against homosexual marriage and other libertarian ideals, I do so with sincere and reasoned belief which does not deserve his or anyone else’s censure, but rather respect, and hopefully, the same audience and consideration he wants for himself.

    I have to wonder whether ‘tolerance’ may be Dave’s highest value rather than love, and I suspect that he may be quite confused as to the difference between the two. If so, and if he continues to value the coils of tolerance above truth until that beast has become unstoppable, he will find he will no longer have the right or the ability to judge anything as either right or wrong, good or bad, lesser or greater, best or worst, but everything under his mantra of tolerance will be equally good and acceptable with everyone defining right and wrong for himself and going his own way. Then Dave Barnhart may find himself and all he draws unto himself, walking up to their necks in a smelly swamp with unsure footing beneath threatening to cause them to slip and be lost for ever beneath the slime of political and religious correctness.
    Something else to think about.
    love to all,
    Rick

    • Actually, Rick, I do not indiscriminately label people who disagree with me as haters. I have worked in many churches with diverse people and love those I disagree with. However, when anti-gay “evangelicals” support legislation in other countries that calls for the death penalty, do you think Jesus’ statement that “crossing sea and land in order to make others twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” is language that is too harsh? Who is Jesus talking to, here? When you read Matthew 23, do you hear Jesus talking to other people or to you?

      Follow-up question: What kind of Pharisaic missionary activity would “twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” describe? Can you think of something else that would fit that rhetoric better?

      I never used the word “tolerance.” I believe that’s the argument you want to hear, not the one that I am making. I deliberately chose to use personal narrative rather than abstract argument against “others,” because I heard God speak to me through scripture. Maybe you hear something different in the Bible. That’s fine.

    • Yes there is a difference two and Dave’s highest is LOVE with no confusion; tolerance is loving someone DESPITE their faults. Love is loving INCLUDING and accepting of their faults. Who wishes tolerance when they can be truly loved? Love is the safe place to be who you are completely and without burden, particularly the heavy burden of other peoples’ tolerance.

    • If you “speak out against homosexuality and gay life style” you are by actual dictionary definition anti gay.

  37. I, too, am a pastor. I, too, have sought to be compassionate to those whose sexual inclinations toward the same sex are ostensibly immutable. I, too, have grieved with them that they cannot seem to simply leave those desires behind.

    But I wonder if you’re making a false dichotomy: one must either excoriate those with such inclinations or encourage their pursuit of them? Is there no room for listening, welcoming, sharing life, inviting into abiding fellowship and friendship, while at the same time calling them to restraint of those desires, for which a plausible and defensible case can be made? Is there room in your thinking for the testimonies of those like Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet, Joshua Gonnerman–those who do not deny their inclinations but who nonetheless refuse to pursue them?

    I affirm your compassion. I just wonder if you’ve considered a third way?

    • So you are suggesting, as your third alternative, that they NOT seek a loving partner and relationship?

      Figures.

      For the record, I am gay and have been celibate FOR YEARS; my choice and unrelated to my sweet Christ. But make no mistake, I am gay, my Savior knows, and He made me.

    • Have you simply left your desires behind? Shall we grieve with you that you have not done so?
      3rd way? Gay – be celibate or sin “Straight” – be celibate, marry and express your desire without sin, or sin.
      Equality of burden or none.

  38. I wish I had grown up in a congregation that fostered these same ideals; maybe if I had, I would not have turned from the church as a teen. Because of my experiences, I have a stance of hesitant faith but a marked mistrust of religion as an organization. With more men like you out there, maybe eventually that will change for me and many others like me.

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