Both society’s and the church’s attitude toward homosexuality has changed dramatically in the last fifteen or so years. In Canada, same-sex marriage is both legal and an accepted part of society. Even within the church, attitudes have changed. Certain denominations not only perform same-sex marriages but also have openly gay pastors and other leaders. This is not just within liberal churches, but even within some evangelical churches. You can read about one recent example in England here. I have a number of friends and colleagues within my Baptist denomination that would describe themselves as welcoming and affirming, that is they welcome homosexuals into their church and they affirm the homosexual lifestyle.
To be honest, there is much about my personality that would lean toward a welcoming and affirming position. I tend to push the boundaries, standing up for groups that are attacked by some of my more conservative friends. I am known to speak up for Muslims and to challenge people’s attitudes toward homosexuals. In a former church, I knew a bisexual young man and I was always happy to have him sit with my family in church or to have him over to visit our family. I am always pleased to see homosexuals attending churches I have pastored or have belonged to. I am firmly within the welcoming camp.
There is a part of me that would like to be affirming but honestly I just cannot take that step. My problem is the Bible. I have looked carefully at what the Bible (Old and New Testaments) says about homosexuality and I just cannot see any biblical support for it. I have listen to the arguments such as the sin of Sodom being inhospitality or Paul only condemning pederasty and I am not convinced. That God’s intention for humanity is a committed, monogamous heterosexual relationship seems to be the message of the Bible. To become affirming, I would have to set aside the teaching of Scripture for other interests.
As I have listened to my affirming colleagues, I have noticed that this position is based not on a serious study of Scripture but on interactions with gays and lesbians. Once you get to know a person, it is harder to demonize a person based on their label. Homosexuals are just as likely to be nice and friendly as a heterosexual. When a person is so nice, how can you say their lifestyle is wrong? Then there is the problem of what the church should expect of Christian homosexuals. How can we tell people to remain celibate? That just seems so unfair.
I am sympathetic to all of those feelings. That is why I respect my affirming friends. However, I still cannot set aside the witness of Scripture just because it is critical of the actions of some really nice people. I will continue to be welcoming. I will pray to see more homosexuals in church. I will hope to become friends with homosexuals. I will not show hate toward homosexuals or attempt to demonize them. However, I cannot affirm homosexuality as a lifestyle as long as the Bible is the guide for my faith.