August 21, 2013
Last year when Anderson Cooper, CNN news journalist, announced to the world that he is gay, he received congratulations and warmth from many people because he'd come out of the closet. This made me wonder --
What would happen if homosexuals in the Body of Christ came out?
Yes, homosexuals in the Body of Christ. What if they came out of the closet? What type of welcome would they receive--from the church and from the world?
By homosexuals in the Body of Christ, I am speaking of homosexuals who are believers in Christ, believe and want to follow the Bible, including being sexually pure, just as a single Christian heterosexual would (or should). And to be clear, by homosexual I do mean attracted to the same sex.
Did you even know Christian homosexuals exist?
I didn’t either (or had never given it any thought) until I met my good friend Mary (not her real name) at my previous church, about ten or eleven years ago. She led the missionary prayer group at church and served faithfully for years in the Women’s Ministry and other areas of the church.
Mary shared her Christian conversion story with a group of friends one evening and how she had come out of a homosexual lifestyle after receiving Christ. Her openness that night led another single woman to share that she had the same background.
I learned later that there were women on the church staff and others actively serving in the church, who had come out of a homosexual lifestyle as well.
Mary said she'd been told by a church leader to be careful with whom she shared her story (i.e. “keep it to yourself”), but she felt sharing it was what God wanted her to do. Interestingly, although she had been involved in the Women’s Ministry for years, she had never been asked to share her testimony from the stage as so many other women had. I'd heard testimonies from women of varied backgrounds, but never from any of the women who'd come out of a homosexual lifestyle.
It's no doubt that the church doesn’t know how to deal with this subject. And I understand that. Since the Bible tells us homosexuality is a sin, what on earth do you do with a Christian who is a homosexual? Is it even possible that someone can be a Christian homosexual? Can’t they simply pray for God to remove their attraction to the same sex? If we acknowledge them won’t we be promoting sin? Wouldn’t this be opening up a mammoth barrel of snakes? Or maybe it’s an issue that should remain in the four walls of a counselor’s office where the homosexual can work it out and the church not have to deal with it at all.
There's only one problem: Christian Homosexuals do exist.
It wasn’t until I met Nancy that this subject started tugging at my heart.
Nancy had been serving about a year in a ministry my husband was leading. She surprisingly called one night to say she was stepping down. After his attempt to encourage her to stay on she told him why she was stepping down.
“I have decided to have a relationship with another woman, and I am leaving the church.”
It was no surprise that Nancy ended her homosexual lifestyle when she became a Christian. She was open about that. But this announcement was a shock. I couldn’t help but feel for her and how she must've struggled as she attended church each week and volunteered every Monday in ministry reaching out to help others, yet who was reaching out to her?
Was there something I, my husband or the church could have done prior to Nancy's decision? I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to her as her sister in Christ.
With the world denouncing biblical beliefs and moving towards gay marriage, I imagine it would be extremely difficult for Sexually Pure Gay Christians not to be tempted to leave the church and go where they can be accepted and understood.
In the church they must hide and no one knows they exist.
And if they weren't in hiding, would they be understood? Would there be compassion?
Years ago, when Mary experienced temptation (with another woman), she sought counsel from a leader at church but was accused of sin even though she had not done anything. She was immediately removed from ministry. She was condemned when she was trying to get help.
I wonder if a heterosexual woman experiencing temptation with a man would have been treated the same?
This demographic-- Sexually Pure Gay Christians -- must be the most misunderstood and in some cases disliked people in the world. By the Body of Christ, because we don't acknowledge they exist, don't want to or condemn them to hell. And by the secular world, because they desire to live out their lives according to the Bible, in sexual purity, not conforming to the secular gay movement. In either case, the Sexually Pure Gay Christian causes upset and neither group knows how to deal with it.
This leaves someone like Nancy vulnerable to falling back into her former lifestyle, to be accepted into a community who acknowledges her true existence.
This subject concerns me for several reasons. 1) The church has a responsibility to all believers in the Body of Christ. 2) I'm concerned that like Nancy many Gay Christians will leave the church. Only we, the Church, would never know because they are isolated and hiding and we don't know who they are. 3) This is a group of people that can make an impact in the world, in and outside of the church.
Recently, I heard a pastor say that he had been invited to pray at a public event, and then uninvited because he was accused of being homophobic. He went on to ask, how can we as believers reach out to Gays and Lesbians if we're seen as homophobic and not asked to public events?
My immediate thought was - - It won't be the typical Christian heterosexuals that will make an impact. It will have to be the homosexuals who are Christians. But wait a minute...they can't make a difference either because they are still hiding in the closet. No one knows who they are. No one knows they exist.
If they are hiding in the closet, can they be fully effective for Christ?
Whenever I hear of another famous person announce that they're gay, and they get a warm fuzzy reception from the world, I think of the Gay Christians who are still hiding in the church closet.
The church needs to be the one to open the closet doors and welcome them out. Rallying around them, vowing to come alongside and help them live their lives to the fullest in Christ.
I know this may seem a huge concept to swallow. But it really isn't. It's the way of our Lord. He set the example when He did the same with the adulterous woman, and asked her accusers "who of you has not sinned?" And then told her to "go and sin no more," her life forever impacted by that encounter with Christ.
At my previous church, in addition to Mary and Nancy, there was Janice who always sat in the back of the church. There was Noreen who worked in the church office. There was Kim, who served faithfully in the Women's Ministry and had gone on many mission trips. There was Gloria, a missionary, and Ann another missionary.
And those are the only ones I knew of. There were many others. I name these women (not their real names) because they are real people. They have names. And they have a relationship with Christ. Just because they are hidden or invisible doesn't mean they don't exist.
If they don't exist to the Body of Christ, how can they exist to the world and be true witnesses for our Lord?
And how does He see them? With love and compassion. Just as He sees us all. I wonder if the church will ever learn to do the same?
(P.S. I wrote this not thinking about political correctness so I'm using terms interchangeably even though that may not be considered the correct terminology. I hope the post makes sense nevertheless.)