Pastor Bob O'Bannon
Below is the second post from Pastor Bob in an ongoing blog series designed to help Christians think through the issue of homosexuality in a careful and Biblical way. For more on the reason for this series, click here.
Question 2: Are homosexuals welcome at your church?
Yes. Anyone is welcome at our church, no matter what is his or her race, age, gender, denomination, religion, occupation, political persuasion, or sexual orientation. We value diversity, because the church of Jesus Christ is the most diverse institution on the face of the earth. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Jesus died to ransom people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). By this I don’t mean that every particular local congregation is as diverse as it could be, because congregations tend to reflect the demographics of its community, but when the church universal is considered – the body of believers throughout the entire world and throughout all of history – the diversity is quite astounding.
So yes, homosexuals are welcome at New Life. I would personally extend an invitation to anyone to join us for worship on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am at our church at 8000 W. River Road in Yorktown.
However, I can not in good conscience stop there, because there is more to be said. A church can be welcoming to all kinds of visitors while also holding to certain qualifications for membership and for what is required of a person to serve in office. In fact, that’s what you’d expect of any organization, whether it be the American Bar Association or the local Lions Club.
To be a member at New Life, a person must be a Christian who has been baptized and who is willing to make a vow of obedience to Jesus. A person unwilling to subscribe to this is not welcome to be a member, whether that person is homosexual or heterosexual. To be an officer (elder or deacon), the requirements are a bit more demanding: the person must subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith, and must have demonstrated a pattern of holy living and service to the church. A person who doesn’t meet these requirements is not welcome to serve as an elder or deacon, whether that person is homosexual or heterosexual.
So, just as is the case with other organizations, there are certain requirements for membership and leadership. People who don’t meet those qualifications are welcomed and encouraged to worship with us on Sunday mornings, to join us at our pitch-in meals, to attend Sunday School, to participate in a life group, etc., but membership and leadership are not open to every single person without exception.
We do have people at our church who struggle with same-sex attraction, but out of their desire to conform their lives to Biblical teaching, they choose not to act out on those desires. Some choose to live celibate lifestyles. Some choose to pursue heterosexuality. People who struggle with same-sex attraction and who approach their sexuality in this way can become members and hold office. Every member and office holder at New Life struggles with various sins and is daily in need of the forgiving grace of Christ.
Incidentally, there are similar kinds of expectations for heterosexuals at New Life. A heterosexual single person desiring membership or wanting to serve as an elder or deacon, for instance, would be required to commit to a celibate lifestyle, and a heterosexual married person desiring membership or wanting to serve as an elder or deacon would be required to commit to fidelity to his or her spouse. So, the intent of these qualifications is not to single out homosexuals, but to seek a standard of sexual purity among all who follow Jesus and/or serve as leaders of Christ’s church. (1 Thess. 4:3).
However, if a person chooses to actively and unapologetically engage in the homosexual lifestyle, or in sexual immorality of any kind, then he/she would still be welcome to worship with us on Sunday mornings, but would not be accepted to serve as an officer or become a member.
Next week’s question: What right does anyone have to judge homosexuals?