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‘Gay, but celibate’

But time to be very wary …


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Imagine this scenario. You’re an officer in an evangelical church. The congregation has been thriving and the spirit is good.

But now comes a thunderbolt. Your assistant pastor has just made it known to your church’s leaders that he struggles with a lifelong sexual attraction to other men. Not only that, but he has begun, through social media and otherwise, to let the public know about this. Through his dress, manner, and associations, he demonstrates his preference for a personal identity and lifestyle that is frequently associated with homosexuality. But he assures you that there’s no cause for worry, since he is sexually celibate.

How’s a church to respond? Well, probably not by doing what the Roman Catholic Church has been doing for the last few generations. By most accounts, the Catholic hierarchy has willingly trained and ordained priests who self-identify or are otherwise known as homosexual—all on the promise that they will be celibate. But those promises have been violated to such a degree that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has called for the “eradication” of “homosexual networks” within the clergy that are now “widespread in many dioceses, seminaries, [and] religious orders.”

Archbishop Viganò points specifically to former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, previously the powerful archbishop of Washington, D.C., who has been widely and credibly accused of abusing his power over many years in order to sexually exploit seminarians and young priests. As to sexual abuse of minors, Archbishop Viganò points to the report of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which found that over a period of more than 50 years, the vast majority of “child” victims of priests were male (81 percent) and were aged 10 to 17 (86 percent).

Offering positions of church leadership to people who embrace and celebrate sexual disorders, all on the promise they will be chaste, is foolhardy.

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., noted in August that “in the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual—almost exclusively homosexual—acts by clerics. We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all.” Bishop Morlino explained: “There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the [publicly]-deplorable acts of pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia—this despite clear evidence to the contrary.”

The Roman Catholic Church in America is now paying dearly for buying into the theory that men who embrace a homosexual identity can be church leaders—so long as they promise “chastity.” It is a theory that has been tried and found wanting.

Protestants and evangelicals should be forewarned. Reaching out with helpful compassion to those entrapped by homosexual temptation is one thing. If some of us need to be taught how to be more welcoming on that front, such is altogether within the spirit of this column. There are those who suffer from same-sex attraction who do not celebrate homosexuality as an identity, and who resist their temptation appropriately without inviting scandal.

But offering, or even allowing, positions of church leadership to people who embrace and celebrate sexual disorders, all on the promise they will be chaste, is foolhardy.

Bishop Morlino is kind but firm when he says: “For my part—and I know I am not alone—I am tired of this. I am tired of people being hurt, gravely hurt! I am tired of the obfuscation of truth. I am tired of sin. And, as one who has tried—despite my many imperfections—to lay down my life for Christ and His church, I am tired of the regular violation of sacred duties by those entrusted with immense responsibility from the Lord for the care of His people.”

So the next time you’re confronted with a candidate for leadership in your own church (or school, or mission, or other institution) who boasts that he is “gay but celibate,” you may do well to remember the clear and present agony of a growing host of your Catholic brothers and sisters. Every single one of the priests who stand guilty of sexual abuse started with a promise of chastity.


Joel Belz

Joel is WORLD’s founder. He contributes regular commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. Joel has served as editor, publisher, and CEO over three decades at WORLD and is the author of Consider These Things. Joel resides with his wife, Carol, near Asheville, N.C.

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SamIamHis

Well said, Joel.  I have long been fearful of the evangelical church giving a special place to the sin of homosexuality and of allowing same sex attracted individuals to celerate their abnormal desires instead of dying to them.  There is no indication that the early church found this to be the correct way to love people, to let them stay in their sin or to celebrate deviant desires.  Jesus died to set us free.  We all have to lay down the sins that beset each of us on a daily, sometimes hourly or by the minute basis. 

I gave my personal testimony before our congregation and I didn't white-wash what my sin looked like or how I struggled with drugs, alcohol and sexual sin. But praise be to God that is an old story that has been rewritten by our wonderful Savior.  My final testimony today is all about Him, not about me.  There is no idea or plan of man that makes us right in our sin or that allows us to soft pedal sin.  It is only God's great plan of saving us from our sinful selves, solely by the precious blood of Jesus, that makes us overcomers.

Big Jim

"people who embrace and celebrate sexual disorders"  Whoa, there's a hard bit of truth there. Joel, thank you for saying something that is extremely unpopular with many of our countrymen but, frankly, needs to be said. You look older to me so I think you'll be OK but for our younger truth tellers I fear the day is approaching when a person will be jailed for expressing such sentiments.

BobK

As the article says it is not wise to celebrate same-sex attraction even if one promises celebacy personally.  However, it is also not wise to hide it.  Single pastors and church leaders (like the apostle Paul) will have sexual temptations.  We need to see those who struggle with heterosexual and homosexual sin as the same.  The world tells us they are different and homosexuals "can't help it and must be who they are."  But the Bible says differently and treats us all the same.  We are all sinners, but the Holy Spirit can help us all to be holy.  Honesty will help put people in the right positions as well.  Don't ask a theif to count the offering, don't let a heterosexual man have a slumber party with the teen girls, etc.  But is it safe to be honest in our churches?