How long do you reckon it will be before homosexuality will be completely acceptable to the church? By homosexuality I mean practice of same sex relationships – even same sex marriage.

Whatever your views on this issue – and mine are pretty conservative – I believe it is only a matter of time before we see a major shift in how we view this issue.

I was reflecting last night on how we have shifted in our stance on the issue of divorce in the last 30 years. We went from a church where divorce was totally unacceptable and divorcees were ‘unwelcome’ to a place where the opinion on divorce ranges from ‘oh well’ to ‘still wrong, but sometimes the only way’.

I doubt there would be too many mainstream churches that would have a similar view on divorce to what they do on homosexuality. Yet as I read the Bible divorce is spoken of in numerous places as wrong – possibly even more blatantly than homosexuality. What’s with the way we make these decisions?!

What was the impetus for the shift in our view of divorce?

I tend to think it came from the increasing number Christians who for whatever reason (I realise there are good and bad reasons for divorce) chose to leave their marriages – or were left by another. It started as a trickle, but soon it became a flood and we needed to accomodate a cultural shift so we went back and re-interpreted scripture so that these folks could be welcome within the church.

My understanding of how we see divorce now in church is that it is still considered wrong – at very least ‘not what God had hoped’, but that there is forgiveness and grace so we can move on and re-marry etc without carrying the ‘sinner’ stigma. Our growing acceptance of divorce has – funnily enough – seen a growth in its occurence…

Now church leaders who divorce can be back in positions of authority and influence within a matter of months and very few people bat an eyelid.

My point is not to debate the merits of our theology of divorce or our theology of homosexuality, but it is to observe the trend within western Christianity to accommodate the shifts in lifestyle practices with an accompanying shift in theological framing.

With the growth in both acceptance and practice of homosexuality especially among younger people I imagine it will be only a matter of time before something shifts and we a) welcome them into the church as practicing homosexuals rather than as ‘recovering homosexuals’ or defective second class Christians b) accept that if you’re part of the body then you are as eligible for leadership as anyone else c) see it as a dead issue

So with that in mind I predict that in 30 years time we will have homosexual leaders in most conservative evangelical churches and we will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Given the potential for mis-understanding and misinterpretation with most of what I have written above I am tempted to just think this but not say it…

But it is a really important issue ie. how we form theology, so I’d just ask that we ‘play nicely’ in the comments. My own view continues to be a conservative one, yet not without awareness of the complexity of the issue and our own duplicity as the church on issues like this.

And he hit ‘publish’…

70 thoughts on “Shift

  1. Wow, are you ever gutsy. I have thought the very same things but not even dared to question this outloud. I too have a very conservative stance on this issue but also realize the vastness of Grace in a very broken world as well as the cultural shifts that have occured even during my lifetime.

    Hope the blogworld is kind to you on this one.

  2. i too am conservative on this but i tend to think that there will be a polarisation in the denominations where some churches will decide to be compatible with a practicing gay pastor. i would like to think two things here: grace on the part of the church but also grace on the part of the gay clergy to accept that they won’t necessarily be accepted. don’t try to maintain a pastoral position in the church if 85% of your congregation struggle with your lifestyle choice. simple. let grace abound, both ways.

    you’re also probably right that it will normalise unless society fails to find the holy grail of genetic imprint and goes about a shift in thinking towards it.

    probably more problematic is whether someone who is in de facto relationship should be allowed to minister—gay or straight.

  3. 30 yrs. may be too long of an estimate. Here in the US the battles have already begun at the local church and denominational level in five mainline denominations where open homosexuals have already been ordained into positions of leadership in the local church and in the denomination. There is obviously more uproar than acceptance but for many it seems to be OK.

  4. This is one of the bravest posts I’ve read mate! It’s not just brazen and ridiculous, but is carefully thought through and courageously published.

    One of the things I often bring up in conversation with other Christians is:

    “Looking across history with things like divorce, what do you think we’ll look back on in 50 years and think, ‘what the heck were we so concerned about?'”

    I think you’re spot on.

  5. Why, why, WHY are all the ‘big’ questions being raised for me at the moment lol!

    I have a real hard time with this topic (like many Christians.) I have a good friend who is a homosexual and that makes it even more difficult at times.

    I myself, like you all above, hold a quite conservative view on homosexuality. I also go to a church that is EXTREMELY anti-homosexuality. In fact, just at this time my church is seriously questioning the ‘shifts’ the church has made over the last 100 years.

    The point has been made many tims that mankind ‘seems’ to tend TOWARDS sin, rather than away from it. Even God’s people in the OT, in relationship with God, tended to move ‘away’ from God. A strong case can also be made for the church, from 0-1500 ad ish moving gradually ‘away’ from, rather than towards God.

    It is with this idea in mind that we do need to be wary. Just because something becomes ‘mainstream’ doesn’t mean it becomes right. Indulgences were quite wide spread in the Catholic church…but I don’t think you would find too many people who would argue FOR them now.

    It is my opinion that the day we start just ‘accepting’ homosexuality into the Church is the day we take another step away from God. HOWEVER, at the same time, I believe the Church in many ways spends too much time fighting societal laws governing homosexuality. Homosexuality in society…totally different kettle of fish to homosexuality in the church.

    I agree that what you have stated will LIKELY happen, I just don’t think it is what God wants to happen. The more we start allowing these things into the Church, the sooner I think God may well instigate another reformation.

  6. Regardless of the theological position on the issue, the body of evidence on human genetics and behaviour is shifting towards sexual preference not being a matter of choice – that said, how we relate to others is entirely a matter of choice and so, homosexual relationships like heterosexual relationships still fall within boundaries of morality. The question for me is, can the boundaries of morality established by the church encompass relationships between people of the same sex.

    I guess it would come down to whether or not you consider the relevent passages of the bible to be the literal word of God – much of leviticus would see most of us stoned to death some years past.

    The passage in I Corinthians 6:9 that is often used as a reference has been interpreted in various ways – however this is condemnation by Paul, not Jesus and given his rather strong views on a number of areas that today we may disagree with I suspect that eventually churches will find a way to disagree with Paul’s view on this issue as well.

  7. The picture for this post is very appropriate.

    I do not believe homo-sexuality will ever be acceptable by the Church. However, I believe that homo-sexuality will always be present in the church on earth. I don’t believe that people who are attracted to the same-sex should be forbidden from pastoral roles, but I believe that the same standards should apply to them as to everyone else. Resist the temptation and strive to live purely. Resisting the temptation to practice gay-sex is no different from resisting the temptation to give into straight-sex, or pornography, or idolatry of any kind.

    There needs to be integrity in our pastoral leaders. There needs to be a striving towards holiness and purity. Therefore, I would suggest that people who are attracted to the same sex should not be forbidden from pastoral roles, but rather that they should strive – just like the whole body of Christ should – to live with integrity and purity. We should submit our bodies to Christ.

    I don’t think I would have a problem if my pastor was attracted to the same sex, but I would have a problem if he engaged in sexual activity. The same would apply with a straight pastor. Likewise, if my pastor told me that he craves spending $200,000 on a Porsche, I would not have an issue with it. But if he actually purchased that Porsche, his integrity would be severely compromised.

  8. Do you think there’s a difference between the two though, since divorce is a one-time occurrance that is sort of the summation of a series of hard-to-detect (sometimes) problems, and homosexuality is an ongoing, blatently-obvious (it’s pretty easy to figure out) sort of deal?

    Also, in my experience, most churches have a very hard time with pastors who have sex-before-marriage or have an affair. Now granted, I’ve not been a part of the most liberal denominations (in which it’s a big deal), but for most of “evangelicalism”, which seems to be the vast majority here in the states (at least, of “practicing” Christians, and yes, I realize it’s different in Oz), relationships in which sex is involved all seem to take a critical view from the church … even the sanctioned ones sometimes.

    Now, of course, the most noise comes from the polarized sides of the debate. The SBC and Pentecostals and such vs. mainlines. But it’s the SBC and Pentecostals that are growing, not the mainlines – they’re shrinking, incredibly quickly given that fifty years ago the SBC was barely on the map.

    I think that often with divorce, the issue we have with it is that one side is a “victim” and the other is the “sinner” (even though it obviously takes two in most circumstances). However, in homosexual relationships it’s very obviously both parties participating; there’s no real way to construe any of it as “un-chosen”. I’m not saying it as an excuse for divorce, but as an explanation for how quickly it’s become accepted.

    I’m sure that there will be openly gay pastors serving in mainlines in a few years – some already are. But as for generalized western acceptance of the idea? That one’s harder to swallow, especially in light of the fact that the church in the west is evolving itself out of existence ANYWAY. It’s the Global South churches that are growing, and they’re VERY clear on the homosexuality AND divorce issues – so much so that African churches struggle with the issue of polygammy for converts (do you divorce your other 30 wives who will then have no way to support themselves?).

    Just my ten cents.

  9. The picture for this post is very appropriate.

    I do not believe homo-sexuality will ever be acceptable by the Church. However, I believe that homo-sexuality will always be present in the church on earth. I don’t believe that people who are attracted to the same-sex should be forbidden from pastoral roles, but I believe that the same standards should apply to them as to everyone else. Resist the temptation and strive to live purely. Resisting the temptation to practice gay-sex is no different from resisting the temptation to give into straight-sex, or pornography, or idolatry of any kind.

    There needs to be integrity in our pastoral leaders. There needs to be a striving towards holiness and purity. Therefore, I would suggest that people who are attracted to the same sex should not be forbidden from pastoral roles, but rather that they should strive – just like the whole body of Christ should – to live with integrity and purity. We should submit our bodies to Christ.

    I don’t think I would have a problem if my pastor was attracted to the same sex, but I would have a problem if he engaged in sexual activity. The same would apply with a straight pastor. Likewise, if my pastor told me that he craves spending $150,000 on a Porsche, I would not have an issue with it. But if he actually purchased that Porsche, his integrity would be severely compromised.

  10. It’s a brave comment – but it’s hard to see the debate heading any other way. I do think it will easily take the 30 years you’re suggesting – because there are a bunch of pretty hardline conservative christians in their late teens/early twenties who will take some budging.

    I must admit that I’m still a conservative (on this one), but 2 or 3 years ago couldn’t have had a conversation like this without wanting to get defensive. So things are moving. I’m just not sure I want them to move further.

  11. You’ve prompted me to revisit our pastoral response to divorce, Hamo! And this is the issue, we try to make a pastoral response (as we should) but things slowly slide from grace to acceptance – there’s a difference. But I take another posters point on the difference between a one time event and a lifestyle. (I know sexual orientation is complex, but until proven otherwise, I simply do not believe anyone is ‘born’ gay.)

    Anyway, I think there’ll be a polarisation. The Anglicans (and some others) are still arguing over women in ministry. Most of us just accept it. Same will go with homosexuality for a long time to come.

  12. The challenge for the God’s people is to work out how to critique the shifts in thinking and morality in the area of sexual ethics that our culture might be going through. Where do we get a grid to critque the morality of a particular shift.

    Inside the church as the bible is marginalised false teaching about human sexuality is embraced. In my denomination there are competing and mutually exclusive grids for critquing the sexual ethics of our culture. Which one should we use?

    Further, let’s not leave it to merely the issue of same sex practices but a false sexual ethic for heterosexuals as well, as our culture rejects God’s blueprint for human sexuality in the creation and the Scriptures. Heteros are equally challenged to live right.

    When you reject a biblical world view anything is possible just ask Caesar…


  13. “Grace is different to acceptance” – excellent note Alex.

    However I think we are probably at the point of acceptance with divorce so that’s a challenge.

    I know we like to think we are theologically shaped by the Bible, but I tend to believe we are kidding ourselves if we don’t see the degree to which we all let culture shape our theology.

    Gav – knowing what is biblical and what is a preference can be tricky. When William Wilberforce was advocating for the end of slavery he was a lone voice.

    In our view it was clearly wrong – but not to the mass of Christians back then for whom it was ‘normal’.

    So maybe the influence works both ways – for good and ill – depending on how you define ‘good’ and ‘ill’.

    I do think we have made way too much of homosexuality as an issue and have neglected many more obvious concerns – but then that is a reflection of the lens we view life thru.

    Grendel – I don’t think any of us are pulling out Leviticus on issues these days!! 🙂

    Paul on the other hand is a complicated man…

  14. It’s interesting that we refer to Divorce as a one off occurrence but what about a divorced person remarrying? most of us sanction that and that is definitely a lifestyle choice which seems contrary to Biblical directive.

  15. I voted “Greens” (much to the shock and horror of some of my Christian friends.

    One of them asked, “How can you vote Green when you know what their stand is on homosexuality? A Christian wouldn’t vote that way!”

    I asked why the church would have no problem voting for someone leading a “Christian Party” on a second (and maybe even a 3rd – shock awe) marriage, but would be appalled at a policy affirming gay marriage. In my reading of the bible there seems to be more said about divorce than gay partners…although it IS there 🙂 I am fully part of the culture you speak of Hamo, the one that has a rule in my mind for one sin and another for the other sin, I am comfortable handing out grace to a Christian divorcee, or a porn addict but feel a tendancy to want to hand out rebuke and discipline to the practicing homosexual believer, for this inconsistency I am uncomfortable!

  16. You are a brave man! And I respect you for it.

    I want to read this book as I feel it deals with the crux of the matter. I too have a conservative stance on the matter about practising homosexuals in the church and leadership roles. I also suspect homosexuality is something many of us DON’T struggle with so that’s why we focus so much on the issue….and neglect many other issues that we don’t want to face…..which have become ‘respectable’ in the church.

    I believe Christ’s calling on our lives is so much much more than basing our election vote on where a party stands on homosexual marriage. That is only one part of it.

  17. The basic thrust of your article is entirely correct. The sad truth is that we gradually abandon what the Bible teaches us bit by bit, usually in those areas where we get the most criticism from the world or where we feel under the most moral pressure to allow ourselves more leeway. It doesn’t really matter what the issue is, the world gradually ‘squeezes us into its mould’- accepting divorce, accepting homosexuality as a valid lifestyle, accepting consumerism while others around us starve, accepting abortion, accepting IVF treatments as valid to get the baby you want, accommodating evolution into our understanding of origins, dismissing any hint that male and female differ in any way, etc , etc.

    Let’s face it – in all of these areas, all we are really doing is saying “Did God really say…..?” because the alternative seems so plausible and knowledgeable and suits our taste more.

  18. “My point is not to debate the merits of our theology of divorce or our theology of homosexuality, but it is to observe the trend within western Christianity to accommodate the shifts in lifestyle practices with an accompanying shift in theological framing.”

    While this trend is undoubtedly true, I think we would be wise to recognise that at times our theological framing has been in error, and that God has used shifts in lifestyle practices to convict us and cause us to reframe our theology. An obvious example would be the almost total lack of interest in stewarding the earth – Christians have considered the Great Commission to replace the original commission, and/or understood ‘rule over’ in terms of exploit rather than uphold.

    On divorce, David Instone Brewer has done some very thoughtful work, showing that there are biblical grounds for divorce, as well as divorce for reasons that are not biblical; and challenging a significant mis-interpretation of Jesus on divorce which arises from translation combined with a lack of knowledge of the context he was addressing – in which men were claiming a ‘grounds for adultery’ clause by which they could dismiss their wives for trivial reasons.

    On homosexuality, my concern is our polarisation. To those who say, homosexual orientation is part of God’s diversity, I want to say, are you willing to entertain the possibility that it is an expression of our brokenness? and to those who believe it is an abomination, I want to say, are you willing to entertain the possibility that a homosexual relationship can reflect, however imperfectly (as heterosexual relationships do, imperfectly) something of the love of God? Because when we claim to be infallible, we set ourselves in God’s place, which was satan’s prideful error. Sadly, I think too many of both views have painted themselves into a corner and have too much to lose to be open to any other possibility.

    Let’s see changes in society not as something we need to accommodate, but not as something to fear either: rather, as a God-given opportunity to ask questions of our theology, open to the possibility that God may want to move us. Truth is not something we have a monopoly on, and need to defend. It is a journey with the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    I think it sad that we so often have more confidence in the ability of the devil to lead us away from truth, than we have in the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

  19. Sorry, meant to add on my point about the environment, we used to consider the earth as expendable, because it was going to be replaced by a new earth. Then the Green movement came along, and God convicted us through that, and now it is on the Church’s agenda. And we have Anglican bishops discovering that the ‘new’ in new heaven and new earth is not ‘replacement’ but ‘renewed, made new.’ That God wants to transform this earth from one degree of glory to another until it is imperishable, just as he is doing with us. Societal shift. Theological reframing. Repentance and new belief…

    Of course theological reframing can move us away from God. But sometimes it is necessary in order to move closer to him. Certainly, Martin Luther would have put money on that, had he been a gambling man 🙂

  20. Mate. Two things. the Bible is very clear on a range of subjects such as hospitality, helping the poor and fighting injustice to name a few. For generations we have had christian leaders who do none of the above….in many cases the opposite. Why then has Homosexuality become the line in the sand? No wonder the same homosexual community feel picked on. The inconsistancy on this matter by most of the conservatives is appalling. Secondly….as far as I know no one is trying to make it compulsory!

  21. I tend to side with Andrew Dowsett on his point regarding the dynamic nature of theological framing, although not sure if we would end up at the same outcome.

    Why do we think our historical conservative theological stance on homosexuality was correct in its original interpretation and ensuing application? Why, when the church reframes its theological framework on lots of issues like women in leadership, tithing, paid leadership, gifts of the spirit etc do we often applaud a clearer, more faithful understanding of scriptural “truths”, but when we consider changing our theological stance on issues like homosexuality, any changes made are labeled the result of being duped by cultural relativism?

  22. “But it is a really important issue ie. how we form theology, so I’d just ask that we ‘play nicely’ in the comments. My own view continues to be a conservative one, yet not without awareness of the complexity of the issue and our own duplicity as the church on issues like this.” Hamo

    “I tend to side with Andrew Dowsett on his point regarding the dynamic nature of theological framing, although not sure if we would end up at the same outcome.” otherendup

    Hamo hits the nail on the head in recognising that the issue is how we form theology. I’d say my view on homosexuality continues to be a conservative one, but that I am open to the possibility that my view might change. So, I can’t clarify for otherendup whether we’d end up at the same outcome 🙂

  23. “…and we needed to accomodate a cultural shift so we went back and re-interpreted scripture so that these folks could be welcome within the church.”

    Can people still be welcome in the church if we think they’ve done or are doing something seriously wrong?

    It might not be easy, but it seems better to welcome people anyway than to re-interpret scripture to permit whatever people do.

  24. Course it will happen – it will be politically incorrect for it not to happen from the politically correct institutions who’s past and future has not and will not be so Biblicaly correct who continue to speak on behalf of all – at Easter and Christmas.

  25. I try to be conservative in judgement and hatefulness – liberal in grace and love. I have heard the sorrow of homosexuals as they strive to love Christ and exist in this world. The sound that rings from their broken hearts resinates with the same sound that my heart makes when I realize I am a sinner in need of redemption as much as my brothers and sisters all over the world in every condition in every situation. In regard to leadership – how can we argue with anybody that stands before men (and women) and claim God has called them to preach, or lead or serve in a capacity that they believe God has laid upon their hearts or called them to do. Our Christian forefathers were not perfect and yet God choose to bless this wicked world through imperfect people. He continues to do that and will continue to do that. I look forward to what God has in store for ALL his children – lay, ordained, young, old, straight, lost, saved, black, white, yellow, brown, males, females, broken, mended, hungry, thirsty, hated, loved, alive, dead, depressed, joyful……on and on. Christ died for everybody – grace is enough for everybody. This post was guttsy and it made me sad because I do not want one single soul to perish without knowing that God’s love is sufficient! Thanks Ham for making me feel sorrow again – I have been suffering from a cold heart :0)

  26. Maybe this would have been a gutsy post 15-20 years ago, but not today. This can was opened a long time ago. And yes, I agree with you that there will be a large number of churches that accept people into various leadership positions who are participating in active homosexual relationships.

    It is beautiful that Christ gathers all broken people from varying broken backgrounds and practices in forming his church. But, as a recovering porn addict, I’m afraid that many churches are allowing our highly sexualised world to dictate our understanding of God’s wonderful gift of sexuality.

    Yes, Christ meets us as incredibly broken people. But is Christ incapable of healing us? Does he love us so much that he leaves us exactly where we are? What does Jesus expect of his disciples washed by his blood, filled with the Holy Spirit? When Jesus calls his people to repent, what does that mean? Do we allow our leaders to continue to objectify women while equipping us for good works? Do we turn the other way as our leaders tear apart more families and children through divorce? Should our leaders lead sexually unhealthy, confused and broken lives while teaching us how we should relate to one another?

    Then again, our world may have taught us that there is no kind of sexuality that needs healing. Jesus may not care about how we relate to one another sexually.

  27. Interesting post. For me personally I could not vote for someone who is opening gay and practising to be in leadership at a church I attended. This is based on my personal worldview which has been influenced by society, prayer, the media, the Bible, my gut feel,sermons on the subject and spending time working with people who are gay. Whether or not I could vote for a person who is “recovering” would depend on the person themselves and if I felt they were right for the role. Time will tell though if I still feel the same in 30 years time.

    As a side note. Divorce in Western Australia was only made legal in the mid 1970s. From that time on it gradually became more accepted in society.

  28. love the post Hamo and esp the way you’ve approached it. I seem to agree with the majority here that it is all about the way our theology is formed. And although we may continue to want to discuss how we “should” form our theology or how it does take place…the fact is the general public isn’t wanting to hear that…they simply want to hear what our opinion is on gay clergy. i.e: “don’t tell me the the thinking is flawed, etc, you can sort that out yourselves…just give me your answer mate.” And if we take too long trying to sort out the answer, we may find that when we’re ready to give it, no one waited around to hear it. Is there room to suggest that maybe we know the correct answer on where we stand with gay clergy…we’re just struggling to provide a clear pathway to how we get there theologically? In other words…how can we justify what we feel is the right answer here so that we’re not condemned as being hypocritical?

  29. Ok – I’m going to come out (pardon the pun) and post my colours to the mast.

    I don’t believe that a person’s sexual orientation is a choice. I don’t think any heterosexual person would disagree with me regarding their own orientation. I think most heterosexuals would emphatically agree that it is the most natural thing in the world – in fact it is how God made them, and should be celebrated. In fact, most heterosexual christian people even go so far as to say that when pray for a lifelong partner to spend the rest of their lives with and as part of that, believe the intimacy that is shared by two such people is an act of worship – fulfilling the design of God for their lives.

    To then tell a certain group of people that their sexual orientation is not how God designed them, but that they are inherently flawed and must either remain celibate for life, or choose to go against their natural attraction orientation, and in doing so, somehow please God – is down right unjust.

    SO, based on that, I do believe that one day we will have gay clergy, gay elders, gay sunday school pastors (openly gay that is – you’d be a fool to think we don’t have undercover gay people in all those positions now). Not because we change our theology to be more “seeker sensitive” or because we have become lost in the post-modern relativism, but simply because we have learned to love one another the way God loves us, and rejoice in that together.

    I’ll go into hiding now…

  30. i forgot the other option for gay people… to pray for healing and get their gay-ness exchanged for some sweet hetro loving.

    back into the bunker i go…


  31. but we all have dispositions to sin….you are saying homosexuality is not a sin…..sin being defined as something which is against the nature/commands of God.

    So many addictions and ‘sin’ issues are heridetary…or have a physical aspect to them.

    Alcoholism….anger/violence….just because it feels right to us…that does not make it right.

    To risk being classed as all right wing fundy…..there are certain behavioural practices which are sinful….as revealed in the scriptures.

    Now…I am heading off into my bunker…because I suspect I may need it more than you, after these statements. 🙂

  32. Mark, I see what you are saying but I think there is a fundamental difference – alcohol, drugs, gambling etc are not an emotional relationship between two people – they can impact on relationships sure, but of themselves are are but the addiction.

    I’m not sure I could support a logic that compares the ‘sin’ of homosexuality with the ‘sin’ of alcoholism, Besides which, if they are both sins then why to we more readily accept an alcoholic than a homosexual?

  33. 1st point….But the sexual relationship is the problem. And I imagine it is a terribly hard ‘addiction’ or pattern of behaviour to break. And I dont understand why people grow up that way. I dont think it is all choice, I think there may very well be a genetic ‘bias’ towards it. But that does not make it right. All of us have ‘sinful bias’ we have to deal with. I wish I could drink beer and get fat, and do nothing all day…sometimes……..but that would be gluttony, laziness and a waste of a God given life.

    As to your second point….I agree. For too long the church, and I include myself, have been homophobic, and marganalised those with this bias, and not loved those who ‘sin’ in this way, for whatever reason.

  34. I think you’re right to underline who morals and ethics shift. Try this on. Edward abdicated the throne to marry a divorcee at a time when carpet bombing in WWII was the norm. Now, we don’t turn a hair about remarrying a divorcee and in warfare, civilians are avoided at all costs. This is not to suggest that the past was some sort of golden age of ethics. It just highlights how we have shifted to underscore your point.

  35. Who would you say would be the forerunners to this shift in the church (apart from the Anglicans). If we look at those who would most influence our thinking from different teaching and books that we read, I would be interested to know where people might see thhis coming from. Also have just read an article by Brian Mclaren who appears to be one of the leading figures in the church in USA today on his views regarding this subject and I am not sure that he is sure what he thinks, particularly regarding the authority of the scriptures. Any way here it is if anyone is interested.

  36. The majority of people posting here are straight, which makes it easy for us to throw our ideas around – in the end, there are options for the ‘straighties’ to attend, lead and openly practice Christianity without fear or concern.

    And I tend to think that the majority of us tend to have between one and 4 people who are openly gay involved (somehow) in our lives.

    Whilst it would be difficult to get a proper or full sense of heterosexual love, passion, sex, frustration, desire, obsession etc from 2 guys and 2 girls not in relationship with each other, so it is difficult to get an idea of ‘what is gay really all about?’ from the few openly (and practicing) gay people that might be in our lives.

    So, right off the bat, our cultural understanding (again, this is generally speaking) is flawed, because our sample is small, and possibly skewed.

    Then we talk about the Bible; particularly the NT.

    I don’t believe that the NT was written to teach individuals how to live their lives. Primarily, I believe that it is the story of the early church and how they got their groove thang on, and then letters to these churches, answering particular questions that had arisen, out of particular cultural normatives that prevailed at the time.

    The fact that we then take isolated verses (medicalisation at it’s worst!) from different letters written at different times to different church groups by different authors and try and make a consensus argument out of it regarding an issue and culture far removed from the one it was written to…


    This is why I’m too darn scared to have an opinion on how someone else should live their life!

    I don’t believe that my own experience or the information I find specifically in the Bible qualifies me to make such an assessment.

    And, I believe that unless we find a new way to deal (generally) with previously (or currently!) ostracised groups, and unless we learn to read the Bible in the manner for which it was written, we will never find an answer that we can agree on, or truly reflects the heart of God.

  37. “I don’t believe that the NT was written to teach individuals how to live their lives”

    With respect, that is a ridiculous statement. Of course the NT is about story, but the story informs the principles for living our lives.

    “16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    By the way, here is a great article by Packer which might add something.

  38. Otherendup (fellow sociologist’s view) and Toddy’s posts really fall in line with my past (emotional) comment. They were able to express themselves more intellectually than I. We are God’s children and are a work in progress. The more we find out about our physical bodies (nature) and the way our enviornment impacts our behavior (nurture) the closer we come to understanding how creation shapes who we are and how we relate to one another and how we relate to God. The Bible is God’s word, however, as we are shaped individually and collectively (society) we are able to use His truth to guide us in the decisions we make for life. That is why it is called “The Living Word” that is why it was able to guide past generations, today’s generations, and future generations. Back to the issue at hand – how can a church expect to transform the lives of people they ostricize? How can a church expect to be a conduit of the Holy Spirit if they throw water on the flame? The door needs to be thrown wide – like in the wedding feast of the lamb – and allow all people to come inside. As far as leadership – if an individual believes they are being called to serve in a particular ministry and there is an afirmation for that call from a particular body or people recieving the care than let them serve — and let God work out the question of their sexual orientation. Because, if God is working through that individual than God has the power to set “straight” what needs to be set “straight.” Hamo, I love your can of worms. The wonderful thing about worms and dirt is that the worms make the dirt more fertile and better able to sustain life. So does discussions such as this :0)

  39. Ok so this is a very vexed issue.

    Where I struggle is that I know my theology is partly a response to scriture but more influenced by culture than I am comfortable with.

    Let’s be honest – that is prob the case for most of us. None of us comes to scripture as a blank page and “able to hear the voice of god on issues without any ambiguity.

    While I continue to hold a conservative view I must admit that I could a) be wrong b) change my mind in the years ahead.

    I tend to think that the “get out of jail” card for the church inthe future will be that of genetics – if god created like this then who am I toquestion will be our argument when it becomes accepted.

    The older I get the less I am dogmatic about – that said I believe I can humbly hold a conservative view recognizing my fallibility and foolishness

    Appreciate the discussion

  40. After posting my last comment I pulled a dusty story out of my past and posted it on my blog. My life has shaped me into a strange follower of Christ with strange views on leadership, ministry, and service in Christ’s Body and in the World. God continues to whisper that I’m on the right track and everything will be okay. You’re welcome to read my story.

  41. One of the issues I see in this kind of discussion is we separate the theological and emotional discussion from the reality of lifestyle. I’ll make a generalisation here, but it’s not an entirely unfair one: homosexuality is a very risky lifestyle. It tends towards a high degree of promiscuity and higher rate of certain infectious and lifestyle diseases. That doesn’t make it wrong in itself, and not every homosexual is promiscuous, I’m sure, but it does indicate some wider issues.

  42. Alex – is the promiscuous lifestyle statement based on specific evidence? I’d be interested to see a comparison between various age groups of homosexual and heterosexual people.

  43. no point, just more information to show how lots of sectors in our community engage regularly in risky behaviour – just adding it to Alex’s comments. And I couldn’t find any info on bungee jumping and camel racing 😉

  44. At the risk of continuing to be ridiculous… the way that people use the NT to make cases for and against all kinds of things is, I consider, offensive. Paul, John and the other Beatles didn’t set out to write a ‘how to’ manual for us.

    God inspired? Absolutely… just not a manual.

    Oh, which ‘scripture’ was being refered to in that case (Paul writing to Tim)? I’ll give you a hint… it wasn’t the NT!! (cos it didn’t exist then, for those who were wondering)

    It’s this grabbing a verse here and there to prove a point that has been at the root of the dangerous claims Christians have made in regards to behavioural legalism throughout the ages. My point is not that the NT has no basis or validity (far from it), but that we mangle it by trying to get it to say what we think it should say.

    We’ve done it for generations on many issues… divorce, dancing, use of alcohol, tithing, paid pastors, issues of the Sabbath, slavery, use of gifts, workings of the Holy Spirit, roles in the church, roles in the home etc…

    My fear is that we (the church at large) are doing it again, because it’s what we know how to do. Not right, but familiar.

    We will only get the truth out of The Truth, when we properly understand how to apply it. I’m not (unfortunately) putting forward a magic bullet to solve the problem; just raising the point that the problem is as much with us as it is with the homosexuals ‘we’ legislate against.

    We need to slow down before making a judgement we will later regret.

  45. I’m with Darryl why is that gay relations become the line in the sand?The UK Bible Society has just published it’s Poverty and Justice Bible,”highlighting more than 2000 passages that speak of attitudes to poverty and injustice”.I pause in despair that churches,bishops,and pastors split and argue and divide over sex but somehow or other dont seem to have the same passion about injustice.

  46. Toddy, I am not in disagreement about the whole ‘proof text’ thing….

    but…’when the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense’…

    And as to your ‘interpretation’ question, I would hate for us to be sliding towards a gnostic system of interpretation, setting up a group of gurus who interpret the bible for us.

    I think the average Aussie has been given enough to understand what the writer of the text is seeking to say, and be prescriptive about.

  47. Good discussion.

    If discipleship–the spiritual formation of it’s members–were the true mission of the church and if people were attracted to the church based upon what they saw in those individuals who were increasingly becoming like Christ, then these issues would largely take care of themselves.

    I know that sounds simplistic, but I think it really is true. If Christlikeness of it’s members becomes the first aim of the individual church then it’s leaders are in a position to deal with these issues in the wisdom and knowledge of Christ.

  48. Gnostic? Sorry to bang on about this, but I’m just looking for an answer better than I’ve seen thus far, therefore I’ll continue to play DA…

    I’m not looking to ‘re-interpret’ the bible into some lame ‘anything is ok if you think happy thoughts’ kind of thing… more that I’m concerned that the previous interpretations (from pretty early on) may have strayed a fair way from the culture, context & chronology of what was written by the original authors.

    I’m trying to get more radical (root-oriented), not less.

    In terms of the homosexuality issue (before we even get to clergy etc), my most significant concern is that it is sooo easy to ‘bash’ gays, that it can’t possibly be right to do so. However, most of the steps I’ve seen to address the ‘gay-bashingness’ over the past 35yrs have been simply to temper that approach, not to re-think it.

    So, the attitudes of most mainstream churchies swings (at least) a bit to the ‘bashing’ side, but we now call it ‘tolerance’.

    Now to reiterate my original point that I would dearly love some ‘constructive’ analysis of…

    I am concerned that (generally) our reading of the bible (esp NT) has for a long time been biased by our own culture and thoughts, and the way in which we do church.

    I am concerned that (generally) our experience of homosexuality comes from the extreme left or extreme right, rendering our opinion of the subject to extreme bias, one way or the other.

    I am concerned that there are some gay men & women who are making such sensible decisions in so many areas, it will be difficult for ‘us’ to continue to ignore them.

    I am therefore concerned that the church is in chronic danger of looking very silly very soon, unless we relook at the methodology of our theology.

    We got it wrong with flat earth, slaves, latin services & women in leadership.

    IF we are wrong here (please understand, I’m questioning the method of the answer, more than the answer itself), then we risk being laughed at for the last time.

    Is this resonating with anyone? If not, I’ll gladly make it the last post in this vein.


  49. I’m right with you on the core issue Toddy.

    it disturbs me to think we may have got it wrong because obviously it opens the door to wondering what else we got wrong – that we think we got right…

    I guess part of getting a little older is being able to live in the peaceful knowledge that only God is omniscient and that while I do some stuff for sure there is plenty that I need to be content with not kwowing as surely

  50. lets go the other way.

    show me why homosexuality is natural, God ordained, and a great way for a victorious Christian to live their life.

    Show me one biblical story in which a homosexual person is …

    put into leadership

    encouraged to continue in their lifestyle.

    I can show you stories of women in leadership positions…..which was counter cultural then.

    I hear the intent here…the church has got some things wrong, maybe we have got this wrong. I dont believe that we would ever say it was right or Gods way.

  51. Ohhh no……

    Next there will be divorced men proclaimming from the pulpit:

    7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

    I’m off … going to go and find me some stones … “who’s going to throw the first one? Not me I am with sin, disqualified.” Right wingers pretty hard on the gays, those same people refuse to obey Jesus Christ themselves and that is hypocrisy.

  52. Show me a NT paid pastor, supported by their local church (not a travelling apostle/evangelist)…

    Show me where couples get married in their late 20s and start having children via IVF in their late 30s…

    Are these things wrong? (I’m keeping my counsel on these – I’ve stirred enough manure for a week!)

    It appears I’m being counter-cultural to the counter-cultural… I didn’t know I had it in me! 🙂

    I’ll explore some other areas for a while, and leave off from here for a bit (on this matter).

    Thanks for trying


  53. Well it’s all died down here by the time I came across it, but that won’t stop me from saying my bit!

    I think it all gets back to your view of Scripture. And we have a fair range of views already outed in this blog so far: (i) Scripture is culturally negotiable; (ii) Paul’s writings can be ignored when you don’t like what he’s saying; (iii) Scripture is a ‘story’ and not prescriptive for our lives… and so on.

    Then we have the logically absurd arguments, such because some are allegedly ‘hypocrites’ for not doing social justice, etc. then their arguments against homosexuality don’t count. Yes, it’s as blatant a non-sequiteur as that.

    Then we have the statements that this matter is akin to the past controversies about dancing, cards, etc. Well, that’s nonsense. Scripture says nothing about cards or dancing. But it does say something about homosexuality. The passages are well-known, and they are clear and unambiguous. It has only become a ‘vexed’ issue since we started feeling the pressure to capitulate to society’s agenda.

    Where the struggle is for me as a pastor, is how to deal redemptively with people struggling with homosexual impulses. How do we counsel people, assuming they accept the Bible’s view that “those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God”? How do we help them grow in godliness?

    Welcome to the struggle of being a Christian, folks. A struggle those tempted to thieve have — but we would never accept the unrepentant practitoner of thievery into the church fellowship, would we? A struggle those tempted to grope girls at bus stops have — but we would never accept the unrepentant practitioner of groping into our church fellowship, would we? A struggle those… ah, I hope you see my point.

    If we think that Scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, then we won’t try to pretend that a sinful bent is merely an ‘orientation’ worth affirming. Yes, we will welcome those tempted to thieving, groping, and even sodomising into our churches — but with the grace comes from the Gospel, *and* the call to godliness that comes from the very same Gospel. For here is the point at which true discipleship begins. Who’s up for it?

    Like I said at the start, it all gets back to your view of Scripture. Once you’ve fiddled with that, it all starts cascading. Because suddenly, we “cant’ be sure” of what Scripture is saying, the matter is “difficult”, we need a more “nuanced” approach to the Bible, Paul’s views are “just one point in a trajectory to acceptance” etc. etc. etc.

    Which takes me back to Hamo’s original question: “How long do you reckon it will be before homosexuality will be completely acceptable to the church?” Well, if you’re talking about the Baptist churches, I think the process has already begun. I’m just guessing here, but maybe within the next 10 years someone will raise the matter at Assembly?

  54. Some great thoughts there Mike, exactly right in your assesment about pressure in society etc…

    But I dont agree with your last statement. Where does that come from?

    The latest I have heard about this was about 4 or 5 years ago when Andrew Landsale (?) I think…brought a motion to BU WA which was passed which basically stated something like…homosexuality is a sin, like any other sin….we dont condone its practice..etc…pretty clear.

  55. G’day Mark,

    It think it was probably Andrew Lansdown and I have a feeling it was more like 10 years ago when he was still the pastor of Collie Baptist Church.

    Thanks for asking me about my last statement; I should have been clearer. It’s really just me taking a bit of a punt. I think that the process may already have begun because I think the views of Scripture that permit an acceptance of homosexuality as a ‘valid lifestyle option’ etc. may well be already in our midst. So I think the foot is on the proverbial slippery slide.

    To further clarify, let me say that I have not actually heard anyone articulate such a view. It’s just that I think the conditions may well be ripe for its emergence.

  56. Mark, you may well be right — and I welcome you questioning what I say. I think we can agree that second-guessing denominational trends and directions is probably not as easy as many imagine.

    In my defence, I did use the words “may” and “a punt” and “I think“, etc. — in other words, I’m cautious about my own view. It’s just what I consider may be the case; and like you, I’ve been watching our denomination for a while. Views people thought would never gain ascendancy 20-30 years ago, are now commonplace. What might the next 10 years hold?

    I’d also hesitate to draw any conclusions from people’s silence. It could just be people have said their bit and feel it’s time to move on to another topic for discussion.

    But you and I could always have a cuppa to chew the fat further if you like — I’m up for it if you are!

  57. To me it’s pretty much an issue of faith. What do I have faith for? My faith foundation starts at the 10 commandments. (And we know Jesus said it wasn’t all about what we did, but what we imagined to do in our hearts. So we’re all in the same boat. We all need to know the truth of what’s in our hearts. So He can deliver us of the bad and fill us with the good.)

    The issue to me is, how clean do I want to be? And, more importantly, how clean do I think the Lord wants me to be? The 10 commandments filter out the unclean. And the point isn’t just about cleanliness. It’s about being FILLED!

    It’s all by the Spirit. If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you’re never going to get off home plate. We NEED the Holy Spirit. Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit redeems us — He convicts us and delivers us and fills us and enables us. It’s all about the Holy Spirit. The love, light, and life of God that Jesus gave His life and rose for us to have. Be filled, brethren. Be filled.

  58. Of course it’s all well and good to sit back and ponder in the safety/anonymity of the internet;

    “When will the Church do this…” and “When will the Church accept that…”

    But I think we need to remember here that WE ARE the Church.

    We might well ask ourselves “How long do I recon before homosexuality will be completely acceptable to ME?”

    If you feel that the Spirit is nudging you with this question … and given the number of responses to this post I think it’s safe to assume that’s happening for some of you…

    Then, as a DSG* person and a Christian, can I offer some suggestions for engaging this nudging:

    Invite the homosexual (or DSG) people you know over for dinner and ask them to share their stories (Hopefully they feel safe enough with you to open up)

    You may want to visit a DSG church / or DSG service in your area. For Perth, St Andrews in Subiaco have a DSG Service at 6pm every Sunday. Or you may want to attend a “Uniting Friends” group event. Talk to Bev Fabb on 9481 1077 or

    You may want to attend some gay events; the pride parades / mardi gras or fair / picnic days. Pride month is Oct in Perth. Coming along to Fairday in Russell Square Northbridge will introduce you to the diversity of the Queer community.

    You may want to read some autobiographies of people coming out in the church. “Stranger at the Gate” by Mel White is a very famous one. Or for an Australian perspective you could try “A Life of Unlearning” by Anthony Venn-Brown or “Memoirs of Moving On” by Dorothy McRae-McMahon.

    There’s DVDs you could watch. (In Perth try Planet Video in Mt Lawley or Future DVD in Bedford) Try “The Laramie Project” “Before Stonewall” “After Stonewall” “The Hidden History of Homosexual Australia” Or the episodes of Morgan Spurlocks series “30 days” called “Straight Man in a Gay World” and “Same Sex Parenting” (You could even try “Brokeback Mountain” if you’re desperate)

    You may want to visit some DSG Community Services and talk with some of the staff there. For Perth you could visit; GLCS – Gay & Lesbian Community Services, The Freedom Centre – A Youth Group for DSG young people.

    And there is always the web:

    So I’ll ask again…. “How long do you think before homosexuality is acceptable to you?”

    ….. and will it take you 30 years do you recon ?

    *DSG – Diverse Sexuality and Gender – This term is inclusive of same sex attracted and gender diverse people who may or may not identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Intersex, Queer or Questioning.

  59. G’day Matt

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on here. No doubt you know the terrain of this question in a completely different way to those of us who can only ponder it theoretically.

    To answer your question… the truth is I really don’t know.

    I wouldn’t have seen divorce as acceptable 30 years ago. Now I do… sort of… Will I shift in my views on homosexuality?

    I can’t say yet.

    I do think that it would be almost trendy/edgy to do so, but I don’t have the conviction to change my position.

    I do see its incongruities with other issues and as such have become more gracious generally.

    If it were simple we probably wouldn’t be discussing it! 🙂

    Cheers mate


  60. Hamo,

    I always enter into discussions very late.

    Sorry about that. Here are some my thoughts.

    I did some counselling training which included a Christian unit a number of years ago and we looked at divorce. I remember something that was very helpful for me in understanding this area better was the concept of the “death of a marriage” versus divorce. Divorce being the date that the legal marriage is dissolved and “death of the marriage” being when the relationship died.

    So you can be married, not divorced but with a dead marriage/relationship. We were challenged to contemplate whether the sin is in the killing of the relationship or in the signing of legal documents. So often when you deal with divorce and this issue you are dealing with a situation where the “sin” has caused its damage and you are looking to facilitate rebirth or in other cases separation, as no relationship remains.

    I share this because for me I think with sexuality within heterosexual relationships we get very muddled between the cultural and legal understanding of marriage and what the bible talks about. The bible spans so many different cultural and legal understandings of “marriage”. This includes Kings and men with multiple partners, stories where sexual intercourse was the precursor and deal sealer for marriage. So I am not so sure about the posts about the bible being obvious on these issues.

    I suspect the bible does say some stuff on relationship but they are things like; Sex is powerful, don’t unleash it before it time (see Song of Solomon and idea of Not awakening love until is desires). God of the bible is into monogamous relationships, us with one God. So there is something about following this God that has a call to the one ongoing relationship and that there is a richness in it.

    I reckon that is very different to the culturally based definite positions we have.

    I have less to say about homosexuality, I do not have great confidence around the topic. But, I am beginning to suspect that there are similar issues at play. Because it some of the themes around the concept of relationship that are critical and probably go beyond some of cultural understanding.

  61. lol, i love entering into a debate thats old and lost in the reeds. For me personally I have no probs with gays in the church or in leadership, the thing that changed me was the realisation that ultimately sexuality is between the person and Jesus. If someone is called to serve what metter their sexuality? Is it sinful, personally I don’t believe so. Would i sit in a church with an openly gay pastor, absolutely. Sexuality does not determine if someone is called by God, and if they are who are we to tell them they cant serve where God has appointed them. I realise in a lot of peoples eyes this wouldnt make me a very good christian, but, i have never claimed to be a good christian. To stretch the point further if being gay is a sin i would sooner have a gay pastor who is open than an adulterous or addicted pastor that hides their sin.

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